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You can easily buy a new ooredoo or Vodafone SIM on arrival at Doha International Airport

Once you have made it through customs it may be a good idea to buy a local SIM for use during your stay in Qatar. Qatar enjoys absolutely excellent mobile coms, with fast and reliable mobile data. You will need your passport for ID when buying a SIM in Qatar, and they will take a copy of your passport and register it against your SIM.

There are two mobile networks operating in Qatar; Vodafone and ooredoo. Both charge QR 35

to buy a new SIM. And both have very similar pricing for data and calls. It would take a great deal of comparison to try and decide which one to go for on price alone. And I would not want to be sued by either of them by saying one had a better network than the other. So the choice is yours. But ask them both about their Fexi plans because I believe they represent the best value for visitors.

As you step out of the automatic sliding doors that separate customs from land side arrivals you need to turn left if you want a Vodafone SIM, or right if you want an ooredoo SIM.

Vodafone Qatar

For Vodafone once you have walked to your left you will quickly come across a WH Smiths store. This is where you can buy your Vodafone SIM.

If you walk out of customs and turn right, you need to walk to the end of the building (follow signs for buses) and you will see a big ooredoo stand by the escalators.

Take you new SIM, pop it into your phone and you are good to go.

It’s easy to get FREE WiFi on Arrival at DOH

When you arrive in HIA (Hamad International Airport) Qatar or DOH as it will appear on your ticket, you can get access to the airports free WiFi. After disembarking from your aircraft simply turn on your phone and connect to #HIAQatar Complimentary

Select #HIAQatar Complimentary from available Wi-Fi to sign into the FREE HIA Wi-Fi
Select #HIAQatar Complimentary from available Wi-Fi

After connecting to #HIAQatar Complimentary you should see the screen below. There are two ways to get free internet at HIA, if you flew with Qatar Airways you should select [Connect using QR booking] if you arrived with any other airline you need to select [Connect using SMS]. If you select [Connect using SMS] you will need to enter the phone number of your mobile.

Select if you have a QR booking code or Connect using SMS if you flew with another airline other than Qatar Airways
Select if you have a QR booking code or Connect using SMS

WARNING: The only disadvantage of using the [Connect using SMS] option is that you must have roaming enabled on your phone to receive the SMS Access Code if you are not using a Qatari SIM. If you are enabling roaming on your phone you may want to ensure that data roaming is turned off to avoid incurring expensive data roaming charges. Make sure you turn off data roaming before turning off your phone during takeoff.

You will receive your Wi-Fi Access code via an SMS if you chose the SMS option
You will receive your Wi-Fi Access code via an SMS if you chose the SMS option

Once you receive your Wi-Fi Access code, you simply enter it and your free WiFi will begin. Then you can turn off all roaming on your phone if you need to.

Now you can use the free WiFi to chat with whoever is meeting you on the other side in arrivals, and let everyone back home know you have arrived safely.

 

From 10th August 2017, Barzan Digital have become Approved resellers for Rapiscan 20170822_152107Systems baggage scanning and metal detector products in Qatar. Working in partnership with Quest Security Equipment, Barzan now offer a full range of products to enhance security in Qatar’s premium hotels.

As well as offering training and service facilities Barzan will have their own fully qualified installation team for Rapiscan products.

Barzan Digital can be contacted on +974 704 54321 and ask for Brian Candy.

Rapiscan Systems Logo

Actually it’s an early birthday present as my birthday is not until the end of the month. But he wanted me to have it early to try and prevent me dying before the 29th June.

Now here is the thing; My son is a fully qualified personal trainer. He is a dietitan and a complete health and fitness freak. He trains some of Qatar’s elite in a gym appropriately named Q Gym Elite here in Doha. And that gym has very kindly given me completely free use of their facilities. But I don’t go to the gym, and my son is afraid that his constant nagging about my health will stress me to the point where the stress actually kills me.

So he cunningly bought me this watch to try and get me moving again. He knows I love data and information, and figured the watch would motivate me to at least walk.

It worked. I love the watch. And it is indeed motivating me to walk regularly and vigorously.

At present I am walking 4km a day at a fast pace. I am capable of more, but don’t want to pick up an injury from over doing it. So I am being sensible. I know if I push, something will get strained or torn or worse. And I don’t want to have to rest because of injury and never start again. Which is what happened when I injured my ankle back in 2014: 3 months after injuring my foot it’s still agony and now it’s starting to go numb in places, so off to @HMC_Qatar I go

I’m loving the data/feed back from the watch. I love the maps, the graphs and the motivating messages. And apart from my poor aching legs, I’m loving getting out there.

One of the nice things about the Samsung Health APP, is it encourages you to grab a photo of your workout. So recently while out walking I have used my phone to grab shots of stuff that will help me remember the route I was taking.

Soon enough you will learn from me if this latest fitness effort is just a fad or a long term commitment. Obviously my son wants it to be long term to try and keep me alive as long as he can. And I hope the technology keeps me motivated by showing me improvements as they happen. I will report back again in a month.

For expats living in Qatar, one of the things that can keep them in touch with back home is the ability to watch TV content from their native country. In the past I have written about various ways of achieving this via VPN or Magic DNS. Both of which require annual subscriptions. However, there is a completely free way of streaming TV content from all over the world using a wonderful piece of software called KODI.

KODI is extremely controversial because it allows the viewing of content that would normally have to be paid for. Yet KODI itself is not illegal to download, own or use. This is because it has many completely legal and useful features. It’s a powerful media player bringing all of the content on your networked or single devices together.

Whilst KODI is legal and easy to download for free, as well as easy to use. There are numerous free Add-Ons that give you access to TV stations and the ability to stream movies (even movies still showing at theatres right now) as well. And these add-ons would most certainly be classed as pirated content. KODI can be installed on Windows computers and also on small dedicated devices running other operating systems such as Linux and Android which can easily plug into your TV using a HDMI cable. In the UK there have been arrests of vendors selling TV Box’s pre-installed with KODI which has been preconfigured to gain access to pirated content.

You can download and install KODI on your Windows computer right now if you want. Simply click on this link: https://kodi.tv/download

Follow the instructions and voilà you have a legal, powerful media player.

Now you can start installing add-on’s. Legal ones of course. If you install and use illegal ones, well that is up to you if your conscience will allow.

To install the YouTube add-on for example, click ‘Video add-ons’ and scroll down the list to YouTube. Click the install button and the add-on will download and install automatically. You will get a notification telling you that it was installed successfully. You will find your new add-on in the Add-ons section of the main menu.

Instead of adding your own add-ons one by one, you can also install what is called a ‘Build’. This is a pre-made pack of add-ons. A very popular ‘Build’ is one called Apollo.

If you are technically minded, follow the instructions located here KODI Build Install Instructions

Yes that’s right, for just QR 400 your old laptop can not only preform like new, it should perform even better than it did when you first bought it.

By replacing your existing Hard Disk Drive (HDD) with a new Sold State Drive (SSD) your laptop will startup in the blink of an eye, and your software will load so fast you won’t believe it’s the same computer.

Crucial 525GB SSD
Crucial MX300 2.5 inch SSD

A 275GB SSD from Crucial will cost you just £77.29 when bought from Amazon UK (QR 353) and after you have paid Aramex Shop & Ship to send it over here for you at a cost of QR 53 you will have spent just QR 406 in total.

I ordered the Crucial MX300 pictured above, which is a 525GB SSD (cost QR 572) and popped it into my 6 year old Sony Vaio and I can’t believe the difference.

Your old HDD (Hard Disk Drive) stores data on spinning magnetic disks. SSD’s are like USB memory sticks but many times faster. There are no moving parts which makes them blisteringly fast. They run cooler, quieter and are less susceptible to data corruption when knocked or dropped.

My Vaio cost me QR 6,000 six years ago, and I was about to give it away because it was performing so badly. After spending just QR 572 this computer (yes I am using it right now) has become super usable and there is no way I’m going to part with it. Saving me serious money as the laptop I was going to buy to replace it was going to cost another QR 6,000.

Of course you do have the tiresome task of backing everything up first and transferring it to your new SSD. But there are people who will do this for you for around QR 100 (message me if you can’t find anyone, I know someone who will do it for you).

 

 

 

This month I am meeting a representative from Linn who is travelling over from the UK to look at the Qatar market.

Linn are one of the most highly regarded vinyl turntable manufacturers in the world, ever. One of their turntables has been in production for over 40 years! As they state on their website “Unmatched over four decades, the LP12 is still the pinnacle of turntable design. A revolutionary icon.”

Unmatched over four decades, the LP12 is still the pinnacle of turntable design. A revolutionary icon.
Unmatched over four decades, the LP12 is still the pinnacle of turntable design. A revolutionary icon.

Unfortunately my company is not suitable to carry the Linn range, and so I am doing all I can to help them find a partner here in Qatar to work with. Simply because I want to do anything I can to help with the growth of the vinyl record industry, not only here, but everywhere in the world.

Lets hope they find someone to partner with and bring these wonderful devices to Qatar for us to go and experience them for ourselves.

Checkout their website here

Linn LP12 Turntables
Linn LP12 Turntables

 

New affordable wireless devices from loads of manufactures are now on the market to enable you to put together your own Home Automation System easily and without breaking the bank.

I work in the home automation sector. My company is a custom installers of home automation equipment. We control everything in your home from your lights, curtains/blinds, air conditioning and doors, to your TV, HiFi and media library. It’s not cheap. And although my company is extremely competitive, our solutions are targeted at errr…. shall we say above average income earners.

Also the type of home automation solutions we install are to a degree retro installable, but mainly aimed at new build where we can run lots of lovely cable around your home before you decorate.

There will always be demand for the type of system we design and install, but new technology advances are bringing home automation into the range of normal people, with normal incomes and normal homes that they already live in. Like me.

As I arrive at my apartment my lighting knows from my phone location that I am home, and by the time I open my front door my hall lights are on to welcome me. I can walk into my living room and simply say “Alexa Living Room lights on” and presto my lights are on. Then say “Alexa play ABBA Greatest Hits” and like magic Dancing Queen starts playing through the speakers in the room.

I could go on and on about things I can do in my home. But I won’t. I think you get the idea.

The thing is the technology is starting to emerge and is affordable and useable. It’s still early days and mostly being adopted by technical enthusiasts like me. But as time moves on this will become standard in more and more non techi homes.

You can start by ordering a Phillips Hue starter kit. I got mine on Amazon and had it delivered to me here in Qatar. It costs £150 (QR 670) and includes three colour LED light

Phillips Hue Starter Kit
Phillips Hue Starter Kit

bulbs and a device called a bridge. This will allow you to control three ceiling lights from your phone. You can put them all in one room or put them in 3 different rooms. You can also screw them into floor standing or bedside light fittings. You can then create lighting scenes and control them from your phone. You can add more bulbs as your confidence grows, and like me add wireless buttons to add more traditional control by placing them on the wall next to existing light switches, or stick them on your bedside cabinet. Additional Phillips Hue LED light bulbs cost £15 (QR 67) for dimmable white, or £50 (QR 223) for a full colour dimmable bulb. Everything is wireless so no need to run cables around your home.

Next you can order yourself some Amazon Echo Dot’s. They cost £50 each (QR 223). Or if you prefer the high quality audio option Amazon Echo at £150 (QR 670) each. I personal started by ordering three Echo Dot’s and placed one in my living room, one in my bedroom and one in my bathroom.

amazon-echo-dot
Amazon Echo Dot

These little devices are just the beginning of what we can expect as being normal in homes of the near future. They sit these and listen for a command word, in my case “Alexa”. Once they here this they wait for you to give them an instruction or ask them a question. They have built in speakers that respond with your answers, confirmations and play music you have selected. All wirelessly except for a USB style power cable. And they integrate seamlessly with Phillips Hue lighting.

amazon-echo
Amazon Echo

Examples of things I can get Alexa to do are; “Alexa turn on Living Room Light”, “Alexa Dim Living Room Light”, “Alexa play the latest album by Cold Play”, “Alexa tell me a joke”, “Alexa what is 100 ounces in milligrams”, “Alexa who stared in the movie Top Gun”. You can also set reminders by saying “Alexa set timer for 10 minutes” or “Alexa set alarm for 7am”. Now you can control your home without pressing a single button or reaching for your smart phone. Which is why I love the one in the bathroom because it’s easy to change what I am listening to, or adjusting the volume while in the shower. And because Alexa has access via the internet to all TuneIn Radio stations, I like listening to radio stations back in the UK.

The good news is that more and more companies are producing more and more devices that will talk to each other and work together. Standards are being established for manufacturers to adopt and so you will be able to control more and more aspects of your home in more and more ways.

If like me you buy the Phillips Hue and Amazon Echo, you can add Samsung devices that will control wall sockets so you can turn a fan or a kettle on. You can add sensors for security or convenience, and you can check the status of devises while you are away. Add security cameras, or thermostats. You can keep building your home automation system as you identify your needs and at an affordable pace.

Trust me this is the dawning of a new age in the modern home.

Feel free to contact me if I can help you with anything.

 

 

 

 

New easy way to use your Online TV Box’s without a VPN Router!

Ok so I have written about getting UK and US TV content here in Qatar before. And to use devices like NOW TV or Amazon Fire TV here you need a VPN Router. The Routers are hard to get in Qatar, and either involve paying a lot of money or getting someone who is a tech-head to sort it out for you. And VPN Routers tend to be slow causing buffering issues in the middle of something you are watching at certain times of the day.

GOOD NEWS!!

I have now found a much better way of doing it. No VPN! Instead you use something called Magic DNS. This gives you the full bandwith ooredoo or Vodafone are supplying you with to stream your TV channels. It’s super fast with no buffering. I can’t tell you how much better than VPN it is.

Ok it’s not free, it costs $40 (QAR 142) a year. But you can get a totally free 7 day trial by following this link Magic DNS then click on the Magic DNS link at the top of the page.

It’s super quick and easy to setup with no hardware to purchase (well as long as you know the Admin password for your existing router that is). But if you are having any problems get in touch with Barzan Digital located in Al Jazeera st, Bin Mahmoud, Doha and they will sort you out. They can even register you for Magic DNS using cash if you are having problems making payments online. And can help you configure your existing router if you are having problems with that as well (but I repeat, you must know your routers Admin password).

 

Stop messing around with the music APP on your iPad, and impress your guests with the awesome ‘Djay 2’ APP (available from the Apple App Store). DJ CableThis app lets you DJ like a pro. No more gaps in between tracks. Have your next track cued up ready to go then mix from one into another. Plus if you buy the Griffin DJCABLE you can use headphones to look for and listen to the next track while playing the present one through your sound system.

It’s like having your own DJ console in your hand. This turns a good party into an awesome party. You can order the cable from Amazon or Barzan Digital (+974 4492 9206) have limited stock here in Qatar.

I have been in Qatar nearly 6 years. For the first 2 I had no TV at all, and for the last 4 I have had OSN. I had the full OSN package to start with, then last year cut it down to a QR 200 package, because I didn’t consider it good value. 12 months on I got fed up with the English channels I had on OSN mainly being repeats over and over again. So I decided it was time to look at my options for bringing proper UK TV to me here in Qatar.

NOW TV - Amazon Fire TV

I already have a SKY subscription, an Amazon Prime subscription and also a Netflix account. But watching these on a computer/tablet, or having to plug the computer into my TV was so inconvenient I hardly ever used them. As I dearly wanted to cancel my OSN subscription and give them back their box, I decided I would bite the bullet and order an  Amazon Fire TV

Through my wonderful Aramex Shop & Ship account I received it within a week, hooked it up to my TV and my VPN router which points to the UK and voilà. I was instantly mega disappointed I hadn’t bought one of these ages ago. OMG I was shocked at how good it was. Within hours I had disconnected my OSN box and set it aside for collection. Live streaming UK Sky News, plus the opportunity to pick and choose on demand Sky News articles to watch. BBC iPlayer which on its own gives me more content than I can possibly watch in a week, Demand 5 which I really wanted for the Gadget Show and much, much more. Plus it has Netflix as well, and as soon as I entered my account details I had all that lovely Netflix content available to me. And last but not least all the Amazon Prime movies and TV shows as well. I didn’t know what to watch next.

Anyway being greedy, I then decided to order a NOW TV box from Sky. This arrived yesterday, and now I have really over done it. Seriously I am now on TV overload. All the UK terrestrials are represented. Live TV streaming and on demand content. Last night I enjoyed Britain’s Got Talent followed by Game of Thrones series 5. I was enjoying a typical UK weekend TV viewing experience along with some nice snacks, and I was loving it.

The costs:-

TV Subscriptions

Amazon Prime Membership £79 per year (£6.58 / QR 37 a month)

Netflix £5.99 a month (QR 34)

NOW TV Entertainment Pass £6.99 per month (QR 40)

TV Hardware

Fire TV Set Top Box £79 (QR 444)

NOW TV Set Top Box £34.99 including 6 month Entertainment Pass (QR 197)

VPN Subscription

Strong VPN $55 a year (QR 44 a month)

VPN Hardware

Linksys E900 QR 169

UPDATE: New easy way to use your Online TV Box’s without a VPN Router! Click Here

Ok here is the bad news; you need a VPN Router to connect these two box’s to. And VPN routers cannot be bought pre-configured here in Qatar. However you can buy a Linksys E900 from Jarir Bookstore for QR 169 and install software called Tomato or more specifically flash the routers bios with it. Tomato is free but you may struggle to install it yourself. I got a friendly Audio Visual company to set mine up for me (Barzan Digital Tel:5013 4502 ask for Joseph).

Once your configured Linksys E900 router is plugged into your existing home WiFi router you are in business. Anything you plug into the E900 appears to be located in the UK, and if you connect devices to it using its WiFi such as a tablet, that appears to be in the UK as well. Now you can connect NOW TV and Amazon Prime Set Top Box’s to your E900 and they will work just like they do back in the UK.

My total monthly cost including VPN, Netflix, NOW TV and Amazon Prime is QR 155. My rubbish OSN account was costing me QR 200 a month. I am happy big style 🙂