Browsing Posts in Technology

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.

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.

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..

I wrote this piece for the Y! magazine. One reason to post it here is that I said I’ll post my published articles in this blog.Another reason is also to get some practice in categorizing the content within Word Press. Ciao!!

Visit Y! at http://www.yzine.com.np

download Issue 12 at Download

-gaurab

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10’s – Touch, Cloud and Go

A new decade is always interesting. Contemporary historians tend to generalize trends in terms of the decades gone. 80s was for the PC, 90s for the Internet, the first decade of the millennia for the Youtube, Facebook and everything that survived the Dot com Crash. What’s in store for this year and then onwards for the decade? How would you flashback in a few decades?

The past 30 years of innovation and challenges in end-user computing has been enormous. This has peaked in the last decade with much more innovation happening from a user experience perspective. The cell phone which at the beginning of the decade was at least half a kilo brick is now a sleek device not much larger then a Dairy Milk pack.  As Nokia claims – adding a phone to the phone made them the biggest camera manufacturer in the world diluting the line between consumer electronics and communications devices.

Then came the iPhone, which can be credited to starting this focus where users had the world at their fingertips – literally.  Then Kindle revolutionized the e-Book world. We will have to wait and see how iPad impacts the world.

The next decade will be how people use the more easily available wireless connection to enrich their online experience with more video. The iPad and other sleeker internet access devices with larger screens are possibly the devices that will make it easier for people to watch video on the move. Instead of the grainy small resolution video, you will be able to watch full screen and even High Density (HD) videos on these devices. You then connect the audio through a blue tooth headset. Your video may be stored locally or be streamed over the network.

These days we don’t think twice before uploading our pictures to flickr, facebook or some other photo sharing site.  With bandwidth becoming more affordable, and content being easier to access over the network, we’ll start seeing more personal videos being uploaded to Youtube and similar sites.

The other big semi visible but important part of technology progress is the increasing use of cloud computing infrastructure. When we use Gmail, or Hotmail or yahoo for e-mail, search and storing information, we are already using a remote computer system and trusting our data to it. While these were limited services, cloud computing itself as a product can enable lots of small business and even individuals to setup online businesses and platforms. It will enable smaller organizations with limited budget to be able to utilize more complex system with a fee. Computing will then becoming a utility brought to you through the internet.

While these are the visible icons of the progress, there has been a lot of other innovation which lie underneath the visible progress. Every year in the past few years, technologies have enabled companies to pack in more components into ever smaller scale. Dual-core and quad-core CPUs enable massive computing power that until a few years ago was only available at specialist labs. Technologist realized that instead of packing in too many components into the same chip, running multiple CPUs actually increased the parallel processing power and at the same time reducing heat dissipation, enabling to build efficient machines.

On the other hand, for those who work in the industry, the greater problems lie in how to manage power and cooling for large cloud computing clusters. Since there are no mechanical parts in computers, almost all energy is radiated out as heat – creating a massive cooling problem when you have larger numbers of computing systems in one place. Research is ongoing on how efficient cooling system can be designed along with efforts in reducing the heat radiation from devices.

There is a lot more happening in this area for those who are interested.

But, what interests us today is how all of this comes to impact us in our daily lives. In the next decade, we can assure ourselves that we’ll be using more and more of wireless technology whether at home or mobile. As phones becomes replacements for computers, it’s obvious that wireless is the technology to watch. You may still have cables and fiber  that bring the internet to your homes and offices, but you will possibly use wireless connection for access – whether it be WiFi or through GPRS or may be even 3G connection.

In Nepali context, we may be able to get the ubiquitous Blackberry service finally in Nepal, producing our own share of crackberries. We may also start seeing more organizations finally sensing the ubiquitous ness of the Internet and choosing to use it more. Banks have been in the forefront of encouraging customers to use e-Banking services without much success – but this will change. It took ATMs the last decade to be the preferred means for personal banking in Nepal, and  eBanking will take at least half of that time frame to be widely used.

Another aspect of usage will be the increased focus in education institutions on the use of the network for students use. Universities and colleges have been spending a lot of money and resources in building libraries, but as many international publications and journals make internet the preferred means of delivering texts, research materials as well as other teaching resources, Nepali institutions will need to connect with high speed Research and Education Networks like the Internet2 (US), GEANT (Europe), APAN (Asia) if they want the students to have access to resources. The connection to these international networks will in fact make the local students a lot more competitive when they go abroad, having had access to the resources already.

Last but not least, there are progressing signs that Nepalis, who went abroad 10-20 years ago  have finally made a mark in their own fields in their adopted home countries. They are now poised to help the industry, academia and the government in Nepal with expertise and knowledge in their specific areas. They are interested to share their knowledge with local youths and professionals. The use of video conferencing facilities have made this a lot more easy then in the past – whereby they had to travel to Nepal for such knowledge sharing activities. Organizations in Nepal and US are now working to create a regular series of such knowledge transfer initiatives. Computer Association of Nepal with its US chapter has successfully piloted this last year already.

Kathmandu University will soon start regular lectures over video conferencing facilities with faculty in Europe. Doctors at Kathmandu Model Hospital do a video conferencing session with doctors in its satellite hospital in Dolkha every morning, and all of them are regularly joined by experts in New Mexico, US for regular consultation and medical discussion. They are sometimes joined by helath workers in Nangi, Myagdi, also over video conferencing.

The future is there for those are able to use the technology for making their lives easier, and the next year and the decade will be no different. Innovation in technology, Ingenuity  in usage and Improvement in user experience is all what’s for us in 2010.