yahel's blog

Poor man's VoIP...

No doubt - the "killer application" used over our Mesh network is VoIP.
The ability to make high-quality voice (and video) calls over this low-cost infrastructure is mind blowing.
Couple that with multiple Asterisk PBXs which we run, to interface the PSTN and provide futuristic feature-rich telephony and you got people waiting in line to get connected.
At present, other then soft-phones, which requires a computer, a device disliked by many, the 2nd lowest-cost alternative for a stand-alone phone which we use are ATAs.

These ATAs must be also modified to support 12v PoE (they are mostly 5v) and by the end of the day it comes to a rather costly solution for Rural India.
(not to mention the two analog telephones - and people do like these "fancier" speaker phones with caller-ID, etc.).

My mentor regarding low-cost VoIP hardware is the Australian David Rowe.
During his last visit to Dharamsala, we talked much about his remarkable and fresh idea - to develop a low-cost embedded Asterisk...
Naturally, we can't wait to test the first prototypes here on the mounts..
Nevertheless... When it comes to any VoIP system, the major cost factor is the price of the telephones not the PBX not the PSTN interfaces, etc..
I was therefor thrilled, when David emailed me last week about his new $10 ATA idea.
Needless to say - this is something are welcoming with open arms.

Moreover, please consider this post as an open invitation to become involved - I doubt if David alone will be able to see through such a project, while we, here in Dharamsala can do little more then test and provide feedback.

Some general comments from my side - based mostly on gut feeling at this point:

1. People like feature-rich telephony and surprisingly are willing to pay for it.
So while a very limited RS232 phone should work - possibly it's not going to be adopted as widely as a fancy speaker-phone with a Caller-ID screen, speed-dials and message indicator.

WSFII delegation visit to TibTec.

WSFII team visited Dharamsala.

Yesterday morning we said our goodbyes to three honorable guests from WSFII who came to help with the preparations and planning for the AirJaldi Summit in October.

Bjarke NielsenFred Pook and Arun Mehta

Bjarke Nielsen ____________ Fred Pook and Arun Mehta

Bjarke Nielsen from the Djurslands International Institute of Rural Wireless Broadband had presented the most amazing project which he led in Denmark. Seems like Dharamsala has a long way to go, but we got lots of inspiration and it seems we are on the right track.

The visit was very productive and we are looking forward to continue the cooperation as soon as our guests return to their homes.

Here is a short quote from Bjarke's report on the visit:

Arun,Fred and I were then shown the beautiful TCV area, with antenna installations and all the places for the summit, which we filmed. It will soon be put on the website for the summit, so that everybody can see for themselves, that this is a beautiful place, which you can't help loving
Bjarke's full report can be found here:Report

TibTec at Wireless cities 2006 - Finland.

Yesterday I got back from a short (too short) visit to Oulu, Finland.
I was invited to present our AirJaldi Mesh project in the Wireless Cities 2006 Conference.
The atmosphere was very welcoming and friendly. The Finns and their guests from around the world showed lots of enthusiasm about the Dharamsala project and the potential of wireless ICT to the aid of developing nations.

closing panel – Wireless cities – Oulu, Finland
From Left: Prof. Olli Martikainen, Dr. Arto Karila, Yahel Ben-David, Prof. Timo Ojala, Mr. Juha Lampela – Nokia. In the background - the “AirJaldi” slide.
© Photo: Partanen Ville.

We are looking forward to future cooperation with the university of Oulu who had already donated equipment to TibTec, thanks to Prof. Ojala.
It seems that we are expecting a substantial delegation from Oulu to participate and assist with the AirJaldi summit in October – Welcome !

Hot day in Dharamsala.

Today was the hottest day, this year. We chose this day to install two antennas: The first was at a very remote, yet very holly Hindu temple! Anyone who spent some time in India knows how unusual things can become in this vast and colorful country. Today was no exception; in recent years this Hindu temple, strategically located above Dharamsala, had become the home for Mr. Shankar, a Hindu priest from Japan. The locals refer to him as “Japani Baba Ji”. I decided to call him “Digital Baba Ji”. Shankar, came from Japan armed with wireless laptops, which he plans to use for educating the local villagers about Internet and its uses. Three days ago Shankar appeared at our office (TibTec) with an entourage of locals from the small village near that temple. They where very direct, asking for Internet connection at the temple. We felt this is too special and unique to let it go. The locals seemed to have much faith in their “Japani Baba” and he seemed to be a very motivated, positive person. Shankar said that when he goes back to Japan, his friend - an Australian Baba, will come to replace him so that the technology education will continue. We plan to ask some local politicians to visit them at the temple, and to monitor the progress there. No doubt that our Mesh subscribers are becoming more diversified.
The 2nd site where we installed a new router today, was on the roof of Phuntsok’s house. This was the first out-of-the-lab installation of our new dual-radio router. With two antennas, one directional beaming McLoad and one omni to cover the nearby nunneries and aid institutes – future subscribers.

Air Jaldi Summit - Dharamsala - October 2006.

Air Jaldi Summit

- We are proud to announce the final dates for the Air Jaldi Summit -

Dharamsala’s Tibetan Technology Center Partners With International Experts to Present the ‘Air Jaldi Summit’ And Extended Training Workshops.

Click For the complete Press-Released.

Dharamsala – April 28th, 2006 – Today the Tibetan Technology Center (TibTec), a world leader in wireless mesh network development, announced that it will host the Air Jaldi Summit on wireless technologies in Dharamsala, India in October 2006. TibTec has partnered with the Djursland International Institute of Rural Wireless Broadband (DIIRWB), the European leader in community-based WiFi development, and will join the World Summits on Free Information Infrastructure (WSFII) to deliver a conference and extended wireless training workshops in October. The conference proper will be held from October 22nd through 25th in Dharamsala, India. The training workshops will span a two-week period directly after the conference. Further details on the workshops will be supplied in a separate press release.

“We’re delighted to host such a significant event”, said Phuntsok Dorjee, Chief Information Officer with the Tibetan Technology Center. “Over the past year we’ve put in a tremendous amount of work to make the Dharamsala community mesh network a reality. Technologists in the international community are beginning to take notice of the original work that we’ve done here, and they want to come and learn from us. We couldn’t have done this without the confidence and support that we’ve received from TCV, and we’re very grateful for that. The Air Jaldi Summit will be of tremendous benefit to the Tibetan community, especially our young technical experts. This is a very exciting and empowering time for us”.

Spring IT courses offered by TibTec.Org

***Please see Prof. Koch's forum for timetables of his classes ***

Thanks to Prof. Frank Koch from The Zurich University of Applied Sciences Winterthur (ZHW).

The Tibetan Technology Center can now offer some very interesting IT courses throughout spring 2006.
For further information about the offered courses, please see Prof. Koch's forum: http://www.tibtec.org/drup/?q=node/49

*** Please see Prof. Koch's forum for timetables of his classes ***

"The Exile Files"

*** NEW *** The text is now available online (without the nice photos).

An interesting article about our project was published in UK's leading Dot.Net magazine: http://www.netmag.co.uk/features/default.asp?pagetypeid=2&articleid=43318
Thanks to Oxblood Ruffin - www.hacktivismo.com for the story and ongoing support.

A nice review/comment about that article is already available online at:
"How inspiration from Little Lhasa can sort out your network" http://blog.networkproportal.com/?p=16

Cholla repeater site - now solar powered.

Tibetan Technology Center’s antenna installation team, this morning installed two solar-panels for the Cholla repeater.
The expedition led by Phuntsok Dorjee, returned safely, after a successful installation.
They brought back many photos, taken by David Bolshoy.
The photos indicate the team did a very good job.
Other then two broken slate roof-tiles, there where no damages.

Dhondup Namgyal, Technology Center’s Installations manager, on the fragile slate roof.
© Photo – David Bolshoy.

Two more eventful days in Dharamsala.

Yesterday, we replaced one of the antennas on the main Upper-TCV
mast. The new high-gain flat-panel antenna (18dBi) is now giving excellent signal to TCV-Gopalpur and Norbulinkga.

TCV-Dual-Radio mast
The new dual-antenna mast at Upper-TCV.
Langoor monkey
Antenna enemy – Gray Languor monkey - 100Kg.

While we where working on the roof, I got a sudden attack of pain in my toe. I hardly made it home, yet the pain was just getting worse. I used Skype to call Dr. Barry La. who leaves below TCV and gets Internet connectivity via the Mesh. Dr. Barry, immediately diagnosed the problem as a
Gout attack. Thanks to the high-speed Internet, the Dr. was able to find what locally available drug would best help me and to confirm that this medication will not interfere with other medicine which I’m taking. 10 minutes later, I got the medicine to my home. The pain was unbearable until about 4am, when I finally fall asleep. In the morning, the antenna team appeared at my door. I was not well enough for the climb to Cholla tower, but we decided that I can drive the bike as far as IndruNag tower, and they will continue alone from there. We drove 3 motorbikes up the semi-motor-able road to IndruNag. Lead by the expedition leader Phuntsok La, the team continued toward Cholla while I stayed behind to replace the solar-panel of IndruNag. The new 35w panel, should support a Mesh router and an Access-Point for 24 hours.
indrunag mast and solar panel

TCV Gopalpur is online !

After a long day of hard work, we got TCV Gopalpur school on the wireless Mesh today.
TCV Gopalpur is a very remote locaiton.
Until today the only connection was using a phone line and a 14.4kbps modem.
There are about 60 computers on campus which are connected to the Internet as of today.

(C) Photo - Yahel Ben-David.

Video conferences with Tibet and Solar-power

Today, another major Wireless-Mesh site above Dharamsala got disconnected from the electrical-power-grid.
It is now running on Solar power:

(C)Photo: Yahel Ben-David.
Equipment at this site is expected to work 24 hours a day, in all weather, using a small solar-panel and battery. Due to very unstable power at these remote mountains – 5 power supplies where burnt at that site in the past. Let’s hope that the solar energy will put an end to these high expanses for “charcoal”.
After descending from the mountain, I took Fred Pook to visit Norbulingka institute.
Today was a Tibetan holiday, so the little (yet very fancy) Cyber-Cafe at Norbulingka was full.
Both Fred and I, where amazed to see that 3 video (and voice) conferences where on simultaneously.
Fred - since he understand the technical strain in terms of latency and bandwidth which such applications put on the Wireless-Mesh network.
I was amazed to find out that these conferences where from Dharamsala to Lhasa in Tibet !
What a great rewarding feeling, to end a hard day.

(C)Photo: Yahel Ben-David.
Read more about it at: www.ditg.net .

Dharamsala Wireless Mesh

The latest addition to the Mesh is the Lower-TCV School.

Some children are happy about it:

Read more about it at DITG.NET

2006’s first DITG gathering

Last week all local members of DITG joined together for a tea party at Bhagsu.
Thanks for Summit-Adventures for hosting us at their restaurant.
A special thanks for Yael, for baking a home-made cake for the guests.

The Hon. Thupten Samdup had made important remarks and had revived the spirit of DITG activism. It was very exciting to see everyone together and listen to Sam’s very encouraging talk. Yahel & Phuntsok, gave a report about the progress of the Mesh project and the Tibetan Technology Center, as well as shared some of its future plans with the members.

We are looking forward for the next gathering.

Thanks everybody for coming!

Yahel & Phuntsok.

The Kalachakra is over:

One of the technological achievements during the teachings, was it’s simultaneous translation into 5 languages. We have built 5 sound-proof booths for the translators: Each booth was equipped with a TV monitor displaying a live-feed of H.H. The Dalai Lama's Face, Headphones with H.H. Voice and a fan (to ease the terrible heat). In addition, each booth had a microphone which was fed into a professional sound-mixing console.

Sound Mixing Console
Freddy at the sound console - ©Photo by Yahel.
From that console, the translations where routed to the corresponding FM-radio transmitters and to various media teams and recording devices. I would like to extend our gratitude to the various individuals who where kind enough to allow us the temporary use of their FM-transmitters, and who took the trouble of shipping these complex and expansive devices to us at Amaravati. All transmitters where set to 1w power, fed into various antennas. The channels we used where as follow:

English_____96.0 Mhz Chinese____103.0 Mhz
Amdo________88.0 Mhz Russian_____91.8 Mhz
Italian____107.0 Mhz

Professional FM Broadcast Transmitter
Professional FM-stereo Broadcast Transmitter

FM transmitters over monks
FM Broadcast transmitters over monks

VHF FM Broadcast antenna
VHF Broadcast antenna

Thousands of FM receivers where distributed to the crowds. The professional setup enabled crystal-clear translations to be heard over 1km away from the teaching site. Due to the immense heat, some people chose to stay away from the teaching site, while listening to the teachings on their FM radios, seated in the fancy Chonor-House restaurant or other cooler location of their choice.
We hope that the professional setup at this event will raise the quality standards for future translations of H.H. Teachings in India.

Uplink truck – for live TV broadcast over satellite
Uplink truck – for live TV broadcast over satellite
Another challenge was to provide sound feeds to so many media crews. Some wanted the original Tibetan sound, some a translation and some needed multiple feeds at the same time. We where able to accommodate all these requests. Parts of the teachings where broadcast live to various TV channels around the globe.

1st report from Amaravati - KALACHAKRA 2006

For details about the Kalachakra initiation see: http://www.dalailama.com/page.22.htm

Temporary cellular antennas - Unfinished Buddha statue in the background.
Pioneers from TibTec team arrived at Amaravati on December 27th to help the organizing committee with technical related issues.
The following day we have setup a WiFi Internet access for use by the many laptops of the staff. The network is encrypted using WPA2 to prevent any unauthorized access. Total bandwidth to the Internet of 2Mbps, is provided by BSNL.

"Kalachakra" Cell-site ID

More temporary, low height, cell sites.

Airtel's temporary cell-site

When planning the Kalachakra about six months ago, we feared that the available cellular networks in the small town will collapse due to the high sudden load. I’m happy to say that the local cellular companies learned about the event and all started to erect temporary cell-sites last week. Andra Pradesh is covered by six cellular companies. Five GSM operators: Airtel, Hutch, Idea, BSNL, Tata-indicom and one CDMA operator: Reliance. At present there are 18 additional temporary sector antennas which where added for the Kalachakra event. Airtel added two cell sites around the teaching area and they also give away free SIM cards for Kalachakra visitors; all you need to buy is a pre-paid recharge coupon.

More technical updates from the Kalachakra site coming soon…

A New, secret, Triple-Radio Mesh-Router is in testing.

Yesterday Cisco announced a new line of products:
The dual-radio Aironet 1500 will support Wireless-Mesh topology.
At $4000 per unit, it will take a long time to reach Dharamsala or any other rural area on the planet.

Nevertheless, it shows that Mesh topology is the way to go and that it is here to stay.

Secret reports from the Himalayan R&D facility in the small village BhagsuNag, confirms that there is already a new Mesh unit utilizing triple radios! Anonymous sources claim that the new unit will support a locally made "USB Antennas".
These new devices are high-gain panel antennas incorporating a WiFi radio which is built in the antenna enclosure.
The new antennas will connect to the new Mesh router, using USB cables, hence eliminating the need for a costly and high-loss coaxial cables.

The estimated cost for the new triple-radio Mesh routers is only $400 which includes 3 high gain antennas!

Urgent help for the Wireless Mesh !

Here is a recent post to the DITG mailing list.
The original post can be found here:

DITG mailing list

Hi all,

We are facing a small crisis with the on-going development of the Mesh, and we need your urgent help:

To build the Mesh routers, we use an SBC board (Single Board Computer) made by a large Taiwanese company called Broadcaom.

On that board we run a special version of home-brew Linux and many other packages beneath it.

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