So, you have arrived into Kathmandu early in the morning, either from New Delhi or Doha, and depart the next day late at night on the many late night flights out. Or you’ve just arrived by the overnight bus from Sunauli, and need a quick run in Kathmandu before heading to trek. Or well, you’ve just got 36 hours in Kathmandu. If so, this is what I’d do.

First stop – laze around Thamel, get your bearings. Start your day with tea or coffee at the Kathmandu Guest House. Then wander over to the New Orleans cafe for a proper breakfast. Kathmandu has some of the best bakery on the sub continent, so get some before you head back to the hotel. Wander around, and on the way back drop by the used book shop to find your own gems. Nearby local areas of Chettrapati, Pakanajol, Shrokhuttee should engage your senses.

Morning Band

It’s midday and now time to head over to the Patan Durbar Square for some real action. We first have lunch at Lakpa’s Chulo. Take a cab, to this slightly hidden restaurant in Jhamsikhel. This local eatery has a good take on fusion of some local dishes – like the cheese momo. The mains are excellent as well. Along with the ambience, they have real coffee and tea.

Once your senses and stomach are filled, explore Patan. You can start by walking out from Lakpa Chulos’, through the narrow lane towards the Ugrachandi Temple. After that continue towards the left. Cross the main streets towards the durbar square. There are plenty of nooks and corners to stop by, and getting hold of a map for the walking tour of Patan is helpful.

Patan Durbar Square requires a stop at Patan Museum, and then at one of the local eateries for a tea and to watch the world go by. More adventurous would go get some snack at Honocha’. From the Durbar Square, walk towards the Bagalamukhi and Khumbeshor temple and then walk back to  Patan Dhoka. Walk the alleys, look for ancient houses in between modern concrete buildings. And don’t be afraid to walk through small doors into courtyards, you might be surprised. When you get tired, just take a cab back to your hotel.

Tripureshwor

It’s evening, and the Kathmandu night life is coming into Action. Head to Rum Doodle, not just a pub, but an institutions in itself. In there, write your own memories on the foot of the yeti at the 40000 1/2 feet bar. Order the hot rum punch, and say hello to Yog, the manager and bar tender who has meet all Everest summiteers. Buy the book, but make sure you’ve read ‘Annapurna’ by Maurice Herzog.

Though Rum Doodle has good grub, head over to the Thakali Bhancha, now behind the old royal palace, for some Thakali action. Eat buckwheat roti, and gulp down some jwhai khatte. If it’s the weekend, you can indulge in some late night clubbing at the Attic next door or just go back and sleep.

Its morning again, and you go on the requisite Mountain Flight. Your hotel or any of the numerous travel agents would be able to sell you a ticket. Mountain flights take you amazingly close to four (out of eight) 8000m peaks in Nepal in the Everest Region. It’s worth the money, specially if you are not trekking.

Depending on the weather and time of year, you’ll be back in your hotel for breakfast after the flight. Skip the hotel breakfast and walk over to Asan/Indrachowk through Teuda, Bhedasingh, and Akash Bhairab temples. Enjoy your breakfast of hot jeri swari and halwa. Add the milk tea to the mix, and you’d have enough sugar rush for the entire day.

Asan is full of Life, Always

After breakfast, continue exploring the Kathmandu Durbar Square area, it’s various alleys including the famous ‘hash street’ from the 60s hippy era. Try to bargain for trinkets in the big open square and visit the museum which chronicles the 250 years of Shah Kings in Nepal.

Kathmandu Valley is made up of three ancient districts, Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. You have now done the first two, time to cab it to Bhaktapur. The drive will take you through the core of Kathmandu commercial markets and new developments. Once in Bhaktapur, make a bee line to the Nyatapol Café. It’s the view of the entire square with some hot tea that makes you feel that you’ve left the rush of the valley behind and are just content letting time pass.

Alley in Bhaktapur

Once your feet are rested and you are energized, explore Bhaktapur. If you don’t already have a guide, many of the friendly guides loitering around will offer their services. It helps to have a navigator in Bhaktapur.

After your afternoon at Bhaktapur, try to beat the rush hour traffic and head to Boudha. A clever cab driver will avoid the main roads and take you through the back roads, and let you enjoy the villages and vegetable fields in the heart of the valley.

Boudha is rich with Tibetan heritage, and your place to understand Thankas and have a afternoon snack of Tibetan momos. It’s also your place to buy Tibetan music and prayer beads. Go around the Stupa for a good measure and have salted tea on the teashop around the stupa. Wait until it gets dark for the candle lightings and light a few yourself. You can then take a short cab ride or even walk down to the Pashupati temple and immerse in the evenings pooja sounds.

It’s your last few hours in Kathmandu, and so you want a nice dinner after all that hard walk. So indulge by going for dinner at Krishnarpan, a restaurant at the exquisite Dwarika Hotel. Over a course of 22 course dinner, you’ll get served with various staples of Nepali food and entertained with cultural dances from different parts of Nepal.

Open Fields in Kathmandu Valley

Now that your time is nearly over, time to head over to the Airport, happy that your time has been well spent, and you’ll sleep well on the plane. I’d grab a beer at the Radisson run Airport Restaurant before boarding. Bon Voyage.
continue reading…

I have been nominated for the election to the APNIC Executive Council (EC). I accepted the nomination and am now looking for support from all friends in the Asian Internet community for their votes.  The EC is the board of APNIC, the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for the Asia Pacific Region.

Most of you know that I have been a regular attendee at APNIC members meetings since 2002. APNIC 31 is the 18th Meeting I am attending. In the last decade of attendance, I have served as a speaker, policy proposer, BoF organizer, IX-SIG Chair and lately as the Chair of the Policy SIG. Policy SIG is where the public policy process that is so critical in the RIR system takes place..

APNIC is in cross roads. We have run out of IPv4 addresses and members are looking at APNIC Secretariat to provide guidance. Members are also bringing in policy proposals to change the way of thinking in v6 allocations. APNIC will need to evolve during the transition and adapt their workings to the IPv6 world. This will mean more work for the membership, and also for the secretariat.

While we operators of networks look at ways to deploy and extend our IPv6 services, the staff and the host-master must contend with new challenges of varying degree. All the while, APNIC will also have to contribute and continue to represent our community at critical Internet Governance Foras. The challenge for APNIC is to work closely with its members to align its own interests with the interests of its members and all other stake holders in the Internet Community. This will require better co-ordination with other RIRs, more outreach to non-members, and extending services to members..

I believe that with the engagement I have had with operators, regulators, R&E Networks, ccTLD operators in the AP region, I’ll be able to contribute to this evolution of APNIC. I should be able to contribute towards a better positioned APNIC, and continue to be an active player in the Internet in Asia Pacific..

Before I end, In the last 10 years, I have also attended and helped to organize the SANOG and APRICOT meetings, brining me closer to the AP Internet Community. In various roles with these meeting organization, I have taught workshops, done tutorials, chaired meetings, organized Peering Forums and brought lots of new people to the event.  In all the works that I have done, I think I have tried to keep to the spirit of the Internet and hope that I can get the support to continue doing that by being on the APNIC EC..

My Bio for the election is at http://meetings.apnic.net/31/elections/gaurab-raj-upadhaya.

If you are an APNIC members, please vote. You can start from http://meetings.apnic.net/31/elections.

I have travelled a lot. i don’t dispute that. I have travelled extensively within Nepal – possibly been to more than 70% of the country. And then since 1999 travelled many parts of the World. But it was in 2003 that I did rather large amount of International travels, and eventually got my Frequent Flier Gold status by May 2003.

One of the most interesting trip I did that year didn’t include any Star Alliance carrier until I was on my way home. This was possibly one of the longer trips I had taken at that point, almost three weeks. Destinations wise I went to Kampala, Uganda; Nairobi, Kenya; and Kabul, Afghanistan.

The first segment of the trip was on Gulf Air. I distinctly remember this flight. It was what they called ‘Gulf Traveller’ aircraft. So, there was no business class, but they had the front section empty and only few passengers in that segment. I think given my ticket was in a higher booking class, I was in the front section. While I was treated well enough, I was appalled by the treatment meted to the other passengers though. The majority of the passengers were people headed to the Gulf region to work, and clearly for them this was possibly their first time on an aircraft. Their English was non existent. And clearly, the Flight attendants were not interested in helping the passengers, but more inclined to despise them. I thought I’d not be flying Gulf Traveller ever in Future.

The second segment was rather unique, now that I think of it. It was from Abudhabi to Dubai in Gulf Air proper. I didn’t realize until we were airborne and landed that the flight lasted like 20 minutes, and the two airports were 116 KM apart. There was also a special bus service between the two airports, but since I couldn’t figure out the visa regulations, whether the airport to airport bus was airside or landside, I had asked the travel agent to put me on a plane. This flight was good for what lasted. There wasn’t anything to report. The flight took off and then landed. Must be one of the shortest scheduled flights anywhere.

Third segment was also my first flight on Emirates. I flew Dubai (DXB) to Entebbe (EBB). The plane stopped in Nairobi, where they cleaned the plane with all the continuing passengers onboard. This was my first trip to an AFNOG. AFNOG was in Kampala. The airport to the city drive is about an hour or more, and at the airport you can clearly see signs of the civil war that had ruined Uganda for many years. It was also at Entebbe Airport that Israeli Commandos had stormed a hijacked plane and rescued its citizens. So there was history. Interestingly, the laptop i was carrying drew attention of the customs officials there, and so I resorted to flashing my UN identification, which was still valid. That cleared all ways automagically. I do have to add that I got visa on arrival, though a month earlier I had spent time and effort and lost about INR 2200.00 in trying to get a visa for Uganda in New Delhi.

But otherwise, Uganda was good. Kampala had nice variety of foody joints, and we even managed to find time to go and watch the 2nd installment of the Matrix Series. I think the Indian Restaurant at the Mall was rather good and we went there a few times. Later, a group of us went on a tour of Lake Victoria – the source of the Nile River. We went to the exact source, and also stopped by in the town of Jinja. Jinja is a interesting place. It used be a major trading hub dominated by businessmen of Indian Origin. But Idi Amin one day in 1972 decided to throw them all out. They all left, most went to UK, I am told. The town somewhat reminded of the older houses in semi-urban India – definitely there was Indian influences in those houses. Interestingly, during our trip there we also found out that MTN- the pan-African Telco was laying fiber from Kampala towards Kenya. So on the road to Jinja, we could see the progress being made. During the conference different groups of people were going to Lake Victoria each day, and so we even measure progress per day on the laying of fiber.
We all went to the source of the Nile river.
After Kampala, the next stop was Nairobi. Flew on Kenya Airways. First time to Kenya for me as well. Given that I had been advised that Nairobi was better known as Nairobbery, I was cautious. But then I had good company. We were 3 people who flew from Entebbe, and Bill Woodcock and I were in the same hotel, it was smooth. Apart from visiting the KENIC, KIXP and bunch of other ISPs, we took one day off to go visit the National Park. It was great experience in the open Jeep. And of course, when in Nairobi, you are eventually taken to the ‘Carnivore’. It’s a restaurant near the National Park, where game meat is served alongs side regular meat. If you don’t eat meat, this is probably not the place to go. Though, in later visits, I realized that they did have non-meat items of the menu.

From Kenya, I flew Kenya Airways to Dubai. I think some aspects of service was better on Kenya Airways was better then Emirates. In Dubai, I had a bit of a tricky time trying to find out where my United Nations (UN) flight to Kabul departed from. Finally, found out that it went from the other terminal. Found the bus that took me across, and then spend the time in the small terminal. It was in this terminal, I found a Nepali Guy working the counter at the Sandwich shop. In the past, I had rarely seen any Nepali worker in a position dealing with customers. Generally, it’s the Filipino in the customer facing roles, Indians in mid-management/supervisory roles and Nepalis/Bangladeshis and the rest in the backroom. While this probably still the overwhelming case, as more experienced Nepali workers go abroad due to domestic conflict, I have seen more and more in front office roles. A few years later, checking-in to hotel in Qatar – everyone from the hotel security, checkin to bellboy were Nepalis.

I’ll write about the visit to Kabul some other time. But, two weeks after departing Dubai, I was back there again heading towards Kathmandu. I was flying Thai through bangkok. I had just attained Gold Status with Thai the previous month. But I didn’t have the card, so I brought a print out of the site. This was going to be my first visit to the lounge. This was a small lufthansa lounge. I had arrived quite early around Four in the afternoon, for a flight that departed almost around mid-night. I went to the lounge, talked to the guy at the counter. He was indeed very friendly, and called up Thai to verify that I was indeed Gold. Once verified he let me in and I was happy. Later around eight, I went out and got my boarding pass. And was back home the next day in the afternoon, after about a month.

A long time ago, in 2002, I wrote a story and entered a competition. I was one of the winners in the competition. Recently I was trying to get hold of the copy, as my sister said she wanted to read it. I had multiple versions of the story on my computer, and given the time lapse I wasn’t sure which was the one I submitted. Thanks to Archive.org, I found the actual online copy of the story. It’s posted below.  Thanks Archive.org.

The article is available on archive.org at http://web.archive.org/web/20021126174005/www.iicd.org/base/story_read?id=4899.
The stories competition site is at http://web.archive.org/web/20021020194820/www.iicd.org/stories/

Marrying radio with Internet in Nepal

Author : Gaurab Raj Upadhaya
Date added : 2002-04-13

Brief Project Background

Radio Sagarmatha is the first community FM radio in the entire south Asia. Radio Sagarmatha is broadcast on FM 102.4 in the Kathmandu valley.

Nepal was connected to the Internet only in 1995. Yet, the majority of population cannot benefit from this new medium due to higher cost, low availability and lack of exposure. It also requires a minimum working knowledge of English.

But at the same time, there is no question that in urban and rural Nepal radio is the ubiquitous media. A radio is available at as low as Rs. 60.00 (less than US$ 1), and literacy is not a barrier. Taking the information resource of the Internet to people through radio was an idea that originated over cups of coffee and the need of IT related program at the Radio Sagarmatha.

With aim of providing newer means of information to the public at large, the Internet radio programme was designed to act as an interface between the users and the Internet. In early March 2000, a senior producer at the radio station, sat down and drew the sketch of the program. The first broadcast of the program was made on the 17th of March 2000. Since then, in the last two years, we have increased the duration of the program from 15 minutes to 30 minutes, done live transmissions from ICT events, done interviews, live internet browsing and a lot of other things that were not conceivable before. The 113th episode was broadcast on 10th April, 2002.

The senior producer left the station in July, 2000 to pursue further career at BBC, and since then the program has gone through ups-and downs, but has been continuing through my efforts. I now am the producer, presenter as well as writer. There are a few friends who help in producing periodic contents. The efforts have been entirely voluntary on my part, for the larger public good.

In Nepal, people like to talk over cups of tea. In the shadows of the mighty Himalayas, the village folks like to gather at the village centre to chat and discuss everything under the sky. A step further in this is community radio. Success of community radio in the Americas and Canada is well known, and in Nepal too this revolution began when Radio Sagarmatha became the first community radio station to be established in the entire South Asia. Radio Sagarmatha is run by group of environmental journalists, and the success has spawned more than five community stations in different part of Nepal. Sagarmatha itself means Mount Everest in Nepali, and continues to be on top of the world for its unique bearing in the field of community radio.

The open nature of Sagarmatha, as it is fondly referred to, meant constant discussion over continuous cups of teas over new program ideas. Over many cups of the light brown liquid, in March 2000, we started thinking about doing an Information Communications Technology (ICT) show on the radio. Public radio was a new concept and there were no rules. Jitendra Raut, senior producer at Sagarmatha at that time, liked the idea and immediately found a 15 minutes slot on Fridays. We named it “Sagarmatha Site.” It was a recorded programme, consisting three segments.

The first part consisted of what we call “browsing on the radio” where we talk about a web-site. Initially, when we started, we tried to talk to the web-site creators about the site. But soon, we discovered that it is not possible, as there simply is much more information in web-sites created elsewhere, than sites created from Nepal. The abundance and appropriateness of the information found in international web sites like apc.org, oneworld.net, and ELDIS were something we wanted to share about. Thus in later episodes, we started browsing the Internet over the radio. We recorded the program in front of the computer, as we browsed the Internet.

In the second part, “Sabdartha” which stands for “meaning” in Nepali, one technical jargon related with the Internet was explained. This was the most popular section, which received more requests for information in specific topics then any other. We covered topics like Domain Name Service (DNS), web server, Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML), streaming audio etc.

In the third part of the program, we talked with an experienced Internet user to explore tried and tested ways to get valuable information from the internet and ways to get practical benefits from the information acquired. We have tried to bring diverse and people from various fronts in this segment of the program. We already have had students, journalists, businessmen, engineers and professional from other fields share their ideas with us on the radio.

After five months, in July, fortunately for Jitendra, he got selected for the BBC’s Nepali Service and unfortunately, there was a question of how the program would continue. So, when he left for London, I decided to take over. In five months I had enough experience to become a producer. I continued with the old format of broadcasting recorded programs.

Then suddenly someone at the Computer Association listened to the program and they decided to provide a grant. The grant meant that the Sagarmatha could afford to increase the airtime. We got the prime time slot on Wednesdays. Support from the association meant that the program got popular, and got renamed to “Suchana Prabidhi dot com” which literally means “Information technology dot com”
.
At this time, I became confident enough to change the program format, and also conduct live shows. I adopted what is called “open-format” in radio parlance. There was no fixed way in which the program was conducted. This was necessitated because people requested detailed information on topics rather then snippets of information that we were feeding on air. Thus, after the change, if I invited an expert for an interview, he would get the full half hour, and if it was a web site I was browsing, it too got full emphasis.

New experiments followed, and we did live browsing of the Internet from the studio. People would call in with their specific request of information, and we’d use the internet access in the studio to answers questions on air. We also did live broadcast of big IT events taking place in Kathmandu, through use of telephones, and at least in one case the use of mobile phones.

The live browsing experiment, though successful, could not be continued. First, the studio was not designed to have a telephone line or any form of internet access point. It was actually the friendly technician who hacked the sound cables running into the studio to connect the telephone lines. Also, there was loss of air-time, as web-sites took time to load, and a few times, we were disconnected abruptly.

But live broadcasts through telephone lines have continued. While on field visits to ICT related project outside Kathmandu, I have done various interviews with pioneers to be broadcast from the radio station. Other colleagues at Sagarmatha also collect sound bytes on my behalf, when they see an interesting use of ICT.

As the program has progressed, we have received lots of request for specific information, and have tried to address those issues. We also tried to cover relevant web-sites on special days. On the world environment day, we covered the WWF Nepal web-site. And on the world population day, we covered the UNFPA web-site.

Increasingly, we have received computer related questions and how to fix computer hardware and software problems. While this itself doesn’t fit directly with the initial objectives of the program, we have welcomed such queries, as increased number of ICT users indirectly helps in meeting the objectives.

The latest addition to the program has been the radio quiz. Since March 27, 2002 we started the radio quiz. The idea was borne in rounds of brainstorming with friends, again over cups of tea and cookies. There hadn’t been any change in the program format for long, and spice was needed to generate interests. While there was a constant flow of questions, there was no way to gauge the amount of listeners’ participation. With helps from friends in the IT industry, we managed to get gifts in form of free training for winners, and this probably was catalytic in increasing user feedback.

The effects of the radio quiz has been tremendous. The number of letters and e-mails has grown 200%. This week the number of letters and e-mails combined crossed fifty. And I even received faxed replies, a first in two years.

The project continues to evolve, and now a few friends have been regularly contributing indirectly through referrals and by sharing expertise. Though at times, I felt I am the only one pulling on with it, I was proved wrong. At least in one occasion, when the program couldn’t be broadcast because I was stuck outside Kathmandu, there was a deluge of letters enquiring what had happened. Another case, in which a previously broadcast recording was mistakenly re-broadcast, there were immediate phone calls from people and the correction could be made.

Results

When we started the program, we had never thought it would come so long. I was actually amazed that I alone have produced more than 100 radio programs in the past two years, and I am a network and systems administrator, who enjoys routers and Linux as much. The results from the program cannot be measured directly in terms of economic benefits or indicative measures. But, for us the measure of success has been the letters from listeners. After the incident when the program was not broadcast, there were volunteers who were willing to help with the program. At least one listener wrote “If it is financial problems, we can form a listeners’ club to sustain the program.”

Yet, the definite result has been the proof of concept. Taking ICT to people doesn’t necessarily means that you need to put a computer into every village. What you actually need to take to is the information that can make a difference. ICT is not an end in itself, rather a tool that needs to be adapted for local use. The radio show has proven this concept.

A profiling of letters received and general indicative questions have shown that people are actually interested in use of technology, specially the young generation. The willingness of these youths to contribute can be used in greater perspective of using ICT for development.

In a more substantive, there is a collection of almost 50 hours of audio content on issues relating to ICT. More than a fifty experts have shared their experience on the radio and many budding youths have come to tell their adventures about the Internet on air. A very interesting reply from a witty young guest in the program “I like computers, because I have never won a chess game with it. I will not stop until I get it done.”

One of the very visible but indirect impact of the program has been the full automation of Sagarmatha’s broadcast operation. The program actually de-mystified the technology to producers and technicians at the station. When the program started, there was a single computer, but now there are almost 10 computers. Many programs are directly recorded in computers in MP3 format and played on air. The daily archives of the broadcast are also kept on CD-ROMs in MP3 format. The many experts that visited the studio for interviews and interaction also contributed by providing free consultancy. A CEO of an local ISP, ITNTI, actually provided free web hosting and e-mail service for the radio station after he came to the studio for the interview.

Other radio stations in the country have also picked up the idea and replication by at least two stations is flattering for something that had such humble beginnings over cups of tea.

Lessons

While people like to chat a lot in Nepal, they seldom pick up their pens to write letters to editors or send feed-back. So, it may not always be good to expect immediate feedback from people in Nepal of what you have done. You need an excitement, like the prize in the quiz, to entice users to write. Or you may stop the work, only to receive complaints.

An important lesson for me, is to have your audience participate in the program. When we took live phone calls, there were many calls. May be people felt it easier to pick up the phone and call, or may be they liked to hear their voice on air, participation is the probably the key. The more direct participation, the better.

The need to be time adaptive and change program formats to introduce new ideas and concepts is required, and the focus should remain on information rather then on technology so that you do not loose sight of your primary objectives.

Development Impacts

There have been lots of ups and downs for us. Only I have been a constant in the program, and when we think about taking it forward, with enough participation, the frequency can be increased, and people recruited to work on it full time and create a daily feature. May be there should be another round of tea.

Project Information

Organisation : Radio Sagarmatha
Total budget in US$ : US $ 0.00 (excluding operational costs)
Country of activity : Nepal

Are there any partners involved : yes
What is partners role?
From November 2000 to May 2001 the Computer Association of Nepal supported Radio Sagarmatha by sponsoring the program. This also helped to increase the air-time of the program from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. But the sponsorship was stopped after-wards, as money allocated was spent.

Since April, two private companies have agreed to provide gifts, in terms of computer training, to winners of the radio quiz conducted fortnightly in the program.

Contact Information

Gaurab Raj Upadhaya
GPO BOX 13655
Kathmandu
Nepal

This was published in Himal Khabar Patrika 16 Sept – 1 Oct, 2010, Issue 272 and online at  http://himalkhabar.com/news.php?id=3647.

प्रविधि र व्यापारको युद्ध

कल वाइपास नयाँ कुरै होइन (हे. हिमाल १-१५ असोज २०५८)। अहिले आएर शान्तिसुरक्षा जोडिएको र प्रविधिको विकाससँगै नियन्त्रण गर्न मुश्किल हुँदै गएको मात्र हो।

गौरवराज उपाध्याय

इन्टरनेट प्रयोग गरेर टेलिफोनसरह कुराकानी गर्ने प्रक्रियालाई भ्वाइस भर इन्टरनेट प्रोटोकल (भीओआईपी) भनिन्छ। नेपालमा केही किसिमको प्रयोग निश्चित गरेर दूरसञ्चार प्राधिकरणले भीओआईपी खुला गरिसकेको छ, जसअनुसार नेपालबाट अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय कल गर्न छुट छ। जसका कारण विदेशमा गरिने फोन शुल्क सस्तो भएको छ। १० वर्षअघिसम्म प्रति मिनेट रु.४० पर्ने अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय कलको दरलाई अहिले नेपाल टेलिकम, युटिएल, एनसेल आदिले रु.६ मा झ्ारेका छन्। साइबर वा पिसिओमा रु.१ मै पाइन्छ। तर अझ्ै पनि नेपाल बाहिरबाट आउने कल खुला गरिएको छैन, त्यसको अनुमति चार मुख्य दूरसञ्चार प्रदायकलाई मात्र छ।

गएको दुई दशकमा अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय रूपमा सञ्चारमा जति खुलापन अरू क्षेत्रमा आएको छैन। दुई दशकअघिसम्म देश-देश बीचको दूरसञ्चार सम्बन्ध अहिले कम्पनी-कम्पनी बीचमा छ। अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय कलहरू विभिन्न कम्पनीका नेटवर्क भएर एक ठाउँबाट अर्को ठाउँमा जान्छन्। खुला बजार अर्थतन्त्रअनुरुप अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय बजारमा सुन, तेल जस्ता वस्तुको मूल्यमा उतारचढाव भए जस्तै दूरसञ्चारमा पनि विभिन्न नेटवर्कमा जाने-आउने कलको मूल्यमा परिवर्तन र उतारचढाव भइराख्छ। उच्च प्रतिस्पर्धा भएका मुलुकका नेटवर्कमा जाने-आउने कलको मूल्य कम हुन्छ र मूल्य कम भएकाले कल धेरै हुने हुँदा ती नेटवर्कले फाइदा लिइरहेका हुन्छन्। यही कारणले नेपालबाट अमेरिका कल गर्न रु.१ मै सम्भव भएको हो।

दूरसञ्चारको यो व्यापारिक संरचनाबाट नेपाल पनि अछुतो रहन सक्दैन। विदेशबाट नेपालमा फोन गर्दा नेपाल टेलिकम लगायत मुख्य सेवा प्रदायकहरूले प्रति मिनेट ९ देखि १५ अमेरिकी सेन्ट लिन्छन् भने नेपाल बाहिर धेरै सेवा प्रदायकले नेपालमा फोन गर्न प्रति मिनेट ८ सेन्टमा कलिङ कार्ड बेचेका हुन्छन्। यो हेर्दै थाहा हुन्छ, नेपालमा गैरकानुनी रूपमा कल बाइपास गर्नेहरूले ती कलिङ कार्ड बेच्नेलाई सस्तो मूल्यमा दिएका छन्। यसरी गैरकानुनी कल आउँदा राजस्व गुम्ने मात्र नभई सुरक्षा निकायलाई कल पत्ता लगाउन पनि असम्भव हुन्छ। यसलाई नियन्त्रण गर्ने उपाय यसरी हुने सबै कललाई कानुनी दायरामा ल्याउनु नै हो।

नेपालबाट अमेरिका कल गर्दा रु.१ (०.०१३ सेन्ट) मा गर्न सकिन्छ, तर अमेरिकाबाट नेपाल फोन गर्दा रु.९ (१२.५ सेन्ट) पर्छ। यसैले गर्दा नै गैरकानुनी प्रयोग बढेको हो र त्यसो गर्नेहरूले इन्टरनेट कनेक्सन लिएर मोबाइलको सीमबाट लोकल कलको मूल्य तिर्दा पनि फाइदा हुने भएरै गरेका हुन्। ठूला प्रदायकहरूको उच्च लगानी र ठूलो नेटवर्कका कारण मूल्य बढी हुनु स्वाभाविक हो। त्यसमाथि सरकारले दुई दशक पुरानै चलनअनुरुप अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय कलबाट हुने आयमा थप कर लगाउनाले पनि मूल्य बढेको छ।

नेपालबाट बाहिर जाने कलमा भीओआईपी प्रविधिलाई खुला गरेर दूरसञ्चार प्रदायकहरूलाई घाटा भएको छैन, बरु यसबाट समग्रमा नेपालभित्र दूरसञ्चारको पहुँच बढेको छ। नेपाल भित्रिने कललाई पनि यसैगरी सरलीकरण नगरेसम्म गैरकानुनी प्रयोग नहट्ने प्रस्ट छ। नेपाल दूरसञ्चार प्राधिकरणका अध्यक्षले गएको वर्ष यसलाई कानुनी बनाउने प्रक्रिया शुरु गरेको सार्वजनिक गरेका थिए। यसरी समस्याको दीर्घकालीन समाधानको पहिचान भएर पनि खुला गर्न किन नसकेको हो, बरु त्यसप्रति ध्यान गए सबै दूरसञ्चार प्रयोगकर्तालाई फाइदा हुनेछ।

Where is Culpeper ? What are you doing there ? For the entire last two weeks, that’s the most common question I was asked. While there were a few thumbs up from people who knew what was going on, I tried to explain to other techies about DNSSec and the significance of the key signing ceremony. For others, I just resorted to saying that it’s a place near Washington DC where there was a technical meeting I had to attend. ‘DC’ and ‘meeting’ in the same line was enough explanation for them, me thinks.

While I am detailing the DNSSec protocol in laymen’s term further below, the signing ceremony was not different from a well written IETF protocol draft, where every actor had a role, and parts were scripted like it was an act on stage. The 35 pages long script will possibly be made public by ICANN in near future, but the attention to details, pedantic execution and timestamps at each step lasted almost seven hours. In seven hours, we incorporated the seven crypto officers and seven recover key share holders, initialized the HSM, generated the KSK, processed the request from Verisign  and made arrangements for continuation of the procedure in the West Coast facility. From Verisign, we received the Key Signing Request, containing ZSKs generated by Verisign, signed those and returned them a Signed Key Response, they will use those ZSKs to sign the root zone. Exceptions were handled by the ceremony administrators with utmost care. The main ceremony was in a secure room with multiple secure layers involving a man trap at the second stage.  The event was recorded, and was watched by more people in an external room in the same facility. We had an auditor present to keep notes of the proceedings, and a armed guard to make sure that we didn’t deviate.

I was one of the seven crypto officers selected for the East Coast facility, which is in Culpeper.  In essence, at least three out of the seven crypto officers need to be present in future key signing ceremonies for the east coast. We hold safe keys where the crypto smart cards that will be needed to operate the key signing hardware every time new keys are generated and used for signing the root zone key are stored. So, in a way, for popular consumption, I now hold keys to the DNS system on the Internet.

As was noted by various people, this was quite a significant ceremony. This makes DNS -one of the most fundamental tenets of the Internet more secure. DNS has long been one of the most open protocols on the Internet, and over time a model of how successful protocol design works. The cryptographic signing of the root zone possibly indicates the changes that has happened to the Internet over the years, and the way it’s headed.

Personally, I think it was a great step forward, but at the same time I wonder if we continue the push to crypto- encrypt everything on the Internet, the free and wild wild west nature of the Internet will still be there in a decade or so. Only time will tell.

Explaining DNSSec:

To give some background, DNSSec is short for Domain Name System Security Extensions. DNS is what links names like www.gaurab.org.np to Internet Protocol (IP) Addresses. IP addresses are like phone numbers on the Internet and DNS is the telephone directory.  DNS is very widely distributed network of hierarchical servers spread around the world. For example, for www.gaurab.org.np, there are separate servers that handle the ‘org.np’ part and the ‘www.gaurab’ part. The ‘org.np’ part is spread out over as many as nine name servers all over the world. Of the nine, few are distributed even further with a technique called Anycast. That makes it potentially about 80 to 100 servers for ‘org.np’ who can tell an inquiring machine about ‘gaurab.org.np’. Further, ‘gaurab.org.np’  has three authoritative servers spread between USA and Nepal.

When you go further above ‘org.np’ then we end up in the root zone. If you think of DNS as a inverted tree with the root at the top, with country codes branches like ‘np’, ‘nz’, and gTLD branches like ‘com’ which then further branch out to ‘org.np’ , ‘com.np’ and so on,  you get fairly close to the concept. The way the early DNS system was designed, there is no way to verify the integrity of the data you receive from these servers. With enough technical skills, someone in the middle can modify valid response and send false data. They can also pretend to be one of the servers and send bad data. There are also other known problems like cache poisoning that can inject false data into the Internet system.

To address this problem with maintaing the integrity of the data, DNSSec was developed many years ago. It’s been a known protocol for many years. DNSSec uses public key cryptography and embeds the information which can be used to cryptographically validate the response with each response. The bits included with each response is called a ‘signature’. Your computer, or ‘resolver’ as it’s called in DNS parlance, can then verify this information by comparing against well known set of published data. This process is called validating the response. If the signature doesn’t validate, then the resolver will not accept the response and try again. Of course, this is very simplified version of the entire process.

Despite being around for a while, the root or the top level of the DNS system wasn’t using DNSSec. The main issue that delayed it for so long was the ownership and management of the root zone cryptographic data.  There were also other issues with DNSSec deployment that were identified and resolved in the mean time.  But by 2009, many organizations were pushing for deployment. The Swedish ccTLD .se was one of the first ones to be signed. In mid 2009, .org – a major gTLD was signed.  The pressure was on for the actors responsible for root zone management to sign the root.

It’s important to understand that unless the root zone was signed, the hierarchy couldn’t be verified. It meant the full benefit of using DNSSec wasn’t there.  Sometime in 2009, IANA, ICANN, Verisign and NTIA all agreed on a way to get this done.  They are the primary actors in the management of root zone management. Under the arrangement, Verisign – as maintainer of the root zone, was to keep and maintain the zone signing key (ZSK), and ICANN would issue and maintain the Key Signing Key (KSK), that would be used to cryptographically sign the ZSK.

The ceremony in Culpeper was where ICANN in the presence of 14 chosen community representatives as well as many other external witnesses created the KSK to be used for signing the root zone. And it accepted the first key signing request by Verisign to use the KSK to sign the ZSK.  ICANN will maintain the keys in two different locations in the US. The signing ceremony in Culpeper was the first of the two and the second one will take place in Los Angeles on 12th July 2010. Once the keys are safe and the 7 more community representatives incorporated for the West Coast facility, the root zone will finally be signed on 15th July 2010. DNSSec will be in production after 15th July, 2010. A major milestone on maintaining the integrity or the domain name system and subsequently the Internet.

The details of the root DNSSec are on the http://www.root-dnssec.org/ site. It also includes names and details of all the community representatives and other actors in the process.

I find Japan charming. It’s got its quirks, and the language doesn’t really help, but people make up for it. My recent visit was the fifth since 2003, and third in as many years.  First the visa – of the many countries and embassies that I go to for visas, Japan is unique that it requires original letters of invitations. printed or e-mailed ones are not acceptable. They need the paper with the squarish red stamp on it. But once you get that piece of invitation, it’s kinda straight forward. No questions asked. I think being the fifth time they weren’t as meticulous as they’d be on a first time visitor though.

Flights to Japan are non-incident in general. But if you fly Thai Airways, you can be sure that the flight to Tokyo possibly gets one of the best planes on the fleet. When i flew last week, it was the latest 777-200ER that they leased from Jet Airways. Given that this was Extended Range (ER) air-craft meant to fly India – USA non-stop, the seat pitch even in economy was really good. So, it was indeed a good flight.

Arrival in Tokyo is fun. They land on the never finished runway with a farm right there in the middle.  The well known story is that the farmer who owns that piece of land didn’t like the way government officials mis-using imminent domain rules to expand the airport that he fought back and the courts ruled in his favour. Meaning that the government can’t force him to sell it. so, the runway remains far shorter then it would have been. you can see this picture http://www.airliners.net/photo//0874120/M/.

The charm of Japan is in its service standards. Even before you hit the Immigration official, you’ll pass through at least two other ‘helpers’ who will check if you have the forms and another one who’ll come walking the queue to see if your forms are filled correctly. I believe that this does save time eventually, but also helps visitors, who has been confined to the airplane for long hours. Even frequent fliers tends to make mistake after being in the sanitized air of an air-craft for longer hours. A little bit of help, does help.

Sometimes the Japanese can overdo the ‘stewards’ bit though. It’s common to walk through a conference or an event in Japan with two stewards standing every corner and every hallway with signs. I’d rather believe that most people attending these events are more than capable of finding their way.

Japanese food is another of its charm. You can get equally interesting boiled, fried, baked and even raw stuff. I prefer shoba noodles to ramen. This time around I got to try some interesting Ekonomi-akai Osaka style- in tokyo. Though for some reason, I didn’t eat any sushi. Time was well spent on other foods.  Even at Narita Airport, there are some good food places now in the Airport Mall. And my highlight was the Hagen-Diaz icecream vending machine.

Departure proceedings in Japan are fairly straight forward, and the ANA lounge was great. I was invited into the first class section by my friend Mr. Toyama. Irrespective of which lounge you are – ANA possibly are the only airlines which has a proper kitchen in the lounge and you can get your choice of noodles at the noodles bar.

Before ending, just so that you don’t think I was in Japan to just have fun, I was there for a reason. I was speaking at a major Japanese Internet Conference -  Interop-Japan. One of the founders of the event Toru Takahashi from IAJ had asked us to be part of a panel on Internet Exchange Points around the World. I was speaking about IXP Trends in Asia Pacific Region. While I didn’t go to any other sessions, as most were in Japanese, the exhibition was enormous. I’ll spare the details, but the highlight was a 100GigE circuit between two Cisco CRS-3. Now beat that.

I suddenly felt the urge to write about an older trip today, while I am waiting for my next flight to Tokyo.  One of my favourite pastimes at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport is to check out the departure screens for flights to destinations that I can’t pronounce in a single go. The many times that I have flown through different airport, I haven’t seen flights to such unique destinations from one locations.  Where would you find flights going to Yekaterinburg, St Denis de la Reunionn, and Tashkent on a display screen. I find Bangkok unique in that aspect. On a broader scale, of course lots of flights to secondary cities all over Asia and to major cities in Africa.  And there is variety too. A few years ago, I counted that I could fly almost a dozen airlines from Bangkok to Singapore or Hongkong.

But now, back to my flights from a few years ago. It was August 2005. I did a crazy routings of flights. In the first phase, I went to Karachi – my first time to Pakistan. It was fun. The PIA experience – I was given a seat in business class in the Kathmandu – Karachi sector,  – but with economy service. It was one of their A310.  Of the five people who actually were going to Karachi, I was one. The rest were all connecting to destinations in the Gulf.  The details of my security escort in Karachi is a story for another day. But I did enjoy the food and the people I met in Karachi and we setup the ground for hosting the first SANOG in Pakistan in 2006.

After Karachi, I flew PIA to Delhi. I spent about 12 hrs in Delhi. While I was expecting hassle at IGI, it was as smooth as it could get. I could see that the Immigration guy was relieved to see a non-Indian or a non-Pakistan passport. Less work for him, I believe.  My 12 hrs in Delhi was spent visiting friends and eating lunch and dinner. I had a car pick me up from the airport, go around town all day with me and then drop me off at the airport again in the evening. Delhi can be intimidating for first time visitors, but definitely it’s fun , if you know your way around the system there.

In fact, I had no real reason for being in Delhi – other then how my flights got done. I was en-route to to Ulan Bator in Mongolia. If you use the Great Circle Mapper (http://gc.kls2.com), you realize that Karachi to Ulan Bator is about 2670 miles or roughly 6 hrs flight duration. But then I was booked Karachi- Delhi – Singapore – Seoul – Ulan Bator, turning it into roughly a 33 hours long run.

The flights themselves were not that interesting, but I had a misconnect in Singapore, but SQ were so good that when I arrived, they had already moved me to a later flight and prepared new boarding pass to Seoul – Incheon. From Seoul to Ulan Bator, I flew the Mongolian Airlines (MIAT). It was a nice new 737 Aircraft. Of course, my bags didn’t make it to ULN that night with me. It arrived the next day. I never figured out if it was left in Singapore or in Seoul. The bag was tagged with so many pieces of paper that it was a jumble.

After a week in ULN doing BGP Multihoming with the good Dr. Smith, the return was not eventful at all. Korean Airlines (KE) to Seoul. Both Philip and I thought we had business class seats, but then there was no visible difference from the Economy class.  I flew back to Delhi on Singapore Airlines from Seoul. Bags made it with me.

But this was not the end. A few months before this trip, I had a trip to Mumbai cut short  due to massive floods in Mumbai. It was now time for me to finish that trip. So I flew the excellent Jet Airways to Mumbai and back. And finally back to Kathmandu.

On this one trip, I had flown on 5 Airlines, flew 7,300+ miles to cover a distance of 2670 miles, had misconnected, missed bags and was now back home in about 3 weeks.  I had visited 3 countries, and transited through two more.

I know how I ended up with this complex routing. For the non-regular travelers, it may not make sense – but it does if you look at it deeper. The choices of flying to Ulan Bator were limited, either I had to fly through Beijing or through Seoul.  Flying back to Kathmandu from Karachi would also have resulted in another set of flight that would have taken me to Beijing or Seoul via Bangkok. So, in terms of absolute number of flights or time – it wouldn’t have really made a difference. On the other hand, I still had the un-utilized Delhi-Mumbai- Kathmandu portion of my ticket from the aborted trip a few months earlier. Thus if I flew to Delhi from Karachi, I would have the return already covered. In the short of it – by going via Delhi, I saved myself one Kathmandu – Delhi Flight. Make sense, doesn’t’ it.

Even if it doesn’t, don’t worry  – now you can fly direct from Kathmandu to Seoul on certain days, and hopefully the non-regular flight between ULN and BKK will become regular one day.

Safe Travels !!

On my recent trip to Europe, an amazing confluence of travel and technology made it a lot more fun. I travelled from Kathmandu to Kosovo via Abudhabi, Frankfurt and Vienna. Abudhabi and Vienna were uneventful and were only transit stops. Frankfurt, I had some work to finish off, so was a proper stop. That is where it was interesting.

For those of you who travel a bit more then usual, Dopplr.com is a site that I’ve been using for a while. I think I got an really early on invite to the site – and then have been using it. Nice thing is once i update my Dopplr account with my travel data, i can subscribe the feed to my calendar.  Of course, like any web 2.0 application, you add friends and links and networks in Dopplr and then connect to it  from Facebook. The Facebook linkage is fun. Dopplr, once you give it permission, will send nice updates to your Facebook wall with your travel plans and a map.

So, this trip to, my Facebook Wall was automatically updated that I was traveling to Frankfurt. A friend of mine, whom I haven’t seen for a few years was traveling from Vancouver to Cape Town – also through Frankfurt. Once in Frankfurt and on the Internet, he spotted that I would be in Frankfurt Airport as well and send me a message.  I wasn’t in the Airport, but then got the message and then we meet up for beer and dinner at the Airport. How Cool.. !!

This is not the first or the last time I guess combination of different online social networks will help us socialize more,  but do concede that I was amazed at the speed which this interaction took place.

More about this trip on a later blog..

So, it’s been a while I haven’t been on an international flight, 21 days to be exact.   The last time I nearly got onto one – but didn’t –  it was unusual (my travel agents words, not mine), it ended up good, as the subsequent flights and my return flights got cancelled due to the Icelandic Volcano, which of course like everyone else, I can’t pronounce or spell. Going back into this trip, I had to cancel going to Riyadh, because the visa didn’t come through on time. So, from being on a trip that would have taken me to Riyadh, Frankfurt and Brussels, I stayed home all the time. -well not really – I went to Pokhara.  The turn of events was, I agree, unusual. I was going to fly Etihad Airways for the first time – that has to wait too now.

So, how is it to be not on the ‘road’ for almost a month. I think not much different. But, all the time you spend traveling, you end up doing other stuff.. which might have taken a back seat. Like this blog setup. All it needed was a few hours to tweak around. I hadn’t had the time to do that for more than two years now. That brings to the next question – was I being more productive just because I had lots of time or  because most people thought I was on the road, and had no expectations of me in Kathmandu ?  I have no idea. But at least the first 3-4 days after I was supposed to have flown out – I didn’t get any calls other than from my Travel Agent.

Anyway, it’s getting around the time for lunch, so let’s talk about food. I think when I am in Kathmandu, I do go to a fair number of foodie places. So, sometime in the last thee weeks, I did manage to go the not-so-new anymore Pizza Hut in Durbar Marg. The pizza was pretty good, I’d say.  And also this new place called ‘Caferina’ – which is in Sherpa Mall – the food is hit or miss. But, Lakpa’s Chulo in Jhamel still wins hands down on both food and ambience. The service is also great. I also found out that Rum Doodle has moved locations within Thamel. The new place is large and airy – but quite not the cosy atmosphere from the old location. Rum Doodle still has the best Rum Punch in town and that’s what matters more than the location.

What else.. being in Kathmandu, I had my scooter repaired, upgraded RAM on an older Laptop, found time to look through some old backups to get them onto this laptop and so on. I also found time to upload pictures to Facebook. Quite interesting to see that I had people commenting even before the entire album was uploaded.

The world is connected even if you are not on the road.