Duty/Tax Exemption on Mobile Device Removed

Some Government Officials were talking about removing the Duty/Tax Exemption on Mobile phone brought into Pakistan via Custom Baggage Rules wherein, one device per passport per year was allowed to be registered duty free.

Official Notification of the same has yet to be issued and old Mobile Device Regularization Rules & FAQs are still up on FBR’s website till filing of this report. However, on PTA DRS website, when users tried to register a device, the text for User type of International Traveler used to mention (1st Device Free) which has changed to “International Traveler” now and no longer mentions the one device free part.

Duty/Tax Exemption on Mobile Device Removed

This was bound to happen as the said Baggage rule was being misused by people; where smuggled devices were purchased from the local market and being registered using this loophole. It is also worth mentioning that a lot of Passports’ data was stolen and used to avail duty free devices. A large number of cases are being filed by PTA/FIA for the same now.

It should be pointed here that if you are one of the people who applied for the Duty Free Phone as per Baggage rules before 30th June then you are probably safe as the duty was calculated then and there when you applied. Yes, the applications may still be showing as “In process” as someone from PTA has to go through and approve the uploaded proof of NICOP, Passport and Entry Stamp.

Are you effected by the said change? Feel free to share your thoughts below in comments.

Find your Polling Station

Election 2018 is just around the corner in Pakistan. The citizens will come out to cast their votes on 25 July 2018. There are two methods of finding your Polling Station for the Election 2018 in Pakistan.

1. Send SMS with your CNIC number to 8300

Simply send SMS to 8300 with your CNIC number (without any dashes) and you will receive your Polling Station details.


However, till filing of this report, the SMS service of 8300 is not yet giving complete address of the Polling Station. It is only giving the Census Block Code and Series in the Voter list. They will update these details later on I suspect but in any case, proceed to the option below to get your detailed Polling Station Name and Address after finding your Block Code.

2. Search in the Polling Scheme published by ECP for 2018 Elections

Many users are unaware of the fact that Polling Schemes are already published by ECP for 2018 Elections. They are uploaded on ECP website with the links below.

It is not a simple search and find database though – it should be but it is not. They have simply uploaded for each locality/seat in PDF to Google Drive – thanks to Google, the mostly scanned from paper PDFs are indexed with their OCR so you can simply search for your Block code, open the narrowed down PDF and then find the Block code with details of Polling Station. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Find your Block Code first by sending SMS with your CNIC without any dashes to 8300.
  2. Once you receive the response and know your Block Code. Note it down and enter in the steps below. For this example, we will use Block Code: 246090406
  3. Visit ECP Polling Scheme page here: https://www.ecp.gov.pk/frmGenericPage.aspx?PageID=3155
  4. Click your Province. This will be clear with a City name in the SMS you receive above.
  5. This will take your to the relevant folder they have uploaded on Google Drive. Simply search for the Block Code you received in the SMS response from 8300. Please note that the Search may not appear for you if you are not logged into your Google Account.
    Find-Polling-Station-2018-Election-2The related PDF files will be listed now. Please note that they have uploaded it on the basis of each Provincial and National Assembly seat, usually the Polling Station will remain the same for both but you can still confirm by opening and searching for your Block code in Both.
  6. Click any of the file that shows in the step above. This will open the PDF in a pop-up. Press CTRL + F on your Keyboard. Enter the Block Code and hit Enter.

    At this point, your result will be highlighted. However, you can click the zoom button to actually read it easily.
  7. Now we can see the complete details of the Polling Station i.e. for Males, it is Govt Boys Middle School Faisal Colony and for Females, it is DEO Office in the city.

This is not an ideal way to actually find your Polling Station and may not work from a Mobile or if you are not logged into your Google account. ECP should have a simple searchable database where the Block Code can be entered and the Polling Station details retrieved.

Here’s to hoping ECP pushes the Polling Station details along with the Block Code when SMS is sent out to 8300.

Login as root in Google Cloud VPS Compute Engine

New users without Server/SSH knowledge may struggle to login as root in Google Cloud VPS Compute Engine. You cannot login as a root user with a password. Google has disabled this by default due to security reasons and I will not be discussing how to change that. Instead, I will tell of a simple command that you can use after you login using the SSH that is provided for your instance on Google Cloud VM Instances page.

Log  in to Google Cloud and on the VM instances page under Compute Engine. You will see the list of VMs/Instances that you have running. Simply click SSH there.

Google Compute Engine VPS SSH access

Now a new window will open that will log you in as yourusername@. This is a non root account. Simply use the command below to change to the root user:

sudo su root

And you are done!

Check PTCL DSL Line Statistics

Your PTCL DSL Connection is slow? I know it usually is but you have to identify the reason. It could simply be bad wiring in your home, some rust on your connect in PTCL DP or something else from their end but you should always start with checking your PTCL DSL Line Statistics i.e. (1) SN Margin or SNR Margin (2) Line Attenuation.

  1. Check on the backside of your PTCL provided Modem/Router combo for its IP address, Admin Username & Password.
  2. Visit the IP address from any Browser on your Computer usually if you have not changed it yourself.
  3. Enter the Username/Password as mentioned on the back sticker of your device.
  4. Click Status > Statistics and you will see the details:PTCL DSL Line Stats
  5. SNR Margin and Line Attenuation will show now.

Please note that the values in this example are shown as 0.1 dB which will be reflected in your stats. If it this then read SNR Margin = 344 as 34.4 and Line Attenuation = 88 as 8.8. Rare but perfect values for PTCL DSL service thanks to a Fiber backbone.

Check the Downstream SNR Margin and Line Attenuation, comparing with the values below sourced from DSLReports.com:

SN Margin (AKA Signal to Noise Margin or Signal to Noise Ratio)
Relative strength of the DSL signal to Noise ratio. 6dB is generally the lowest dB manufactures specify in order for the modem to be able to synch. In some instances interleaving can help raise the noise margin to an acceptable level. Generally speaking, as overall bandwidth increases, your signal to noise ratio decreases. So a customer that upgrades from 1.5 to 6.0 service will typically see a corresponding decrease in the signal to noise ratio. The higher the number the better for this measurement.

  • 6dB or below is bad and will experience no synch or intermittent synch problems
  • 7dB-10dB is fair but does not leave much room for variances in conditions
  • 11dB-20dB is good with no synch problems
  • 20dB-28dB is excellent
  • 29dB or above is outstanding

Line Attenuation
Measure of how much the signal has degraded between the DSLAM and the modem. Maximum signal loss recommendation is usually about 60dB. One of the biggest factors affecting line attenuation is distance from the DSLAM. Generally speaking, bigger distances mean higher attenuation. The lower the dB the better for this measurement.

  • 20dB and below is outstanding
  • 20dB-30dB is excellent
  • 30dB-40dB is very good
  • 40dB-50dB is good
  • 50dB-60dB is poor and may experience connectivity issues
  • 60dB or above is bad and will experience connectivity issues

What to do if the values are not ideal?

  • Make sure you are using a Filter for your Phone line because that is the leading cause of deteriorating Line Stats.
  • Make sure the wire coming from PTCL DP to your home and onwards to your Phone is not damaged and should ideally be without any patches or cuts in between. The ideal setup would be PTCL DP > Modem, no junctions in between.
  • Call 1218 and file complaint for bad line, someone will be sent to check the issue.
  • If that does not work, find the concerned person in your local PTCL Exchange and deal accordingly.
  • If all else fails and you do not have any alternative ISP in your neighborhood to change to then file a complaint with PTA.

Some Modems/Routers will have the Line Stats under Maintenance or some other tab. Let me know your Modem/Router model number if you are having trouble finding them.

This page was last updated on: 30-June-2018

Enforce HTTPS redirect on RunCloud NGINX + Apache2 Hybrid setup

Normally, you are required to add the following lines to your WordPress .htaccess file:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} domainname\.tld [NC]
RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://domainname.tld/$1 [R,L]

The above however or any other such rule, would not work on RunCloud NGINX + Apache2 Hybrid setup. You will be getting redirection error with the above. You have to instead add the following to make it work:

RewriteCond %{HTTP:X-Forwarded-Proto} !https
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://%{SERVER_NAME}/$1 [R,L]

Let me know if this has helped you!


Fix Error: Your database is offline on RunCloud.io

I have been playing around with RunCloud.io with Google Cloud VM/VPS. While the installation creates a default username/password for accessing the DB; for some reason, on my server, the password was not the same as what showed up at end of the installation.

I do not know why this happened. Perhaps re-install process was the culprit. Anyhow, I was not able to create a Database or User. I would enter the information but upon refresh, no Database was present. When I checked in the Error logs however, the error that came up was:

Your database is offline. Please start your database to add new database.

This was solved by fixing the password as per instructions of RunCloud.io when you go to add a Database:

If you have changed your root database password, please insert your new password in /etc/mysql/my.cnf or adding new database won't work.

Just SSH as root to your server and add the correct password for MySQL root in the config file /etc/mysql/my.cnf