Arun Mehta | 28 Sep 05:15 2015

Fwd: Strength of mobile signals

Does anyone have any advice for Gautam? I am sure this is a problem that an increasing number of people face -- even the Prime Minister complains of call drops...

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Gautam Doshi <>
Date: Sat, Sep 26, 2015 at 6:20 PM
Subject: Strength of mobile signals
To: Arun Mehta <>

Hi! Arun,

Lately I find that the signal strength of my reliance connection varies a lot. Sometimes it is 3 bars and sometimes it goes off. This is at home. I want to switch over to another vendor. How does one find out which mobile service provider has the best signal strength at my house?

I hope you can give me some leads to answer this question.

Warm regards,

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Arun Mehta | 24 Sep 08:22 2015

the encryption rules fiasco

when you attempt to make laws in secret, you must rely on the knowhow of the small number of people in the loop. When those people happen to be idiots, or ignorant of the subject matter. That is when you come up with such stupid rules that need to be taken down so fast. This time was record speed, though...

Arun Mehta
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ken | 14 Sep 14:02 2015

Google to provide Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity at 400+ railway stations across India

Google Fiber is a name that is famous among tech lovers and geeks alike who love speed for browsing, streaming or downloading content on the internet. Google fibre currently provides speeds up to 1 Gbps in Kansas city in the USA and has plans of expanding to other cities in the country. On numerous occasions, we have heard about the possibility of Google Fiber making its way to India. Telangana State’s IT minister K T Ramarao has also signed an agreement with Google for setting Google’s biggest campus outside US in Hyderabad.

TelecomTalk has learnt that the tech giant has ambitious plans for India and is in the process of setting up a nationwide network of Wi-Fi hotspots across key Railway stations and Junctions to provide seamless connectivity to passengers making their way across the labyrinthine rail network across the length and breadth of the country. Google is working in closely with Railtel, a PSU having a Pan India Optic fiber network running along railway tracks in rural and urban regions covering 70% of India’s population.

“The Indian Railways has currently undertaken a pilot project in combination with google under the code name of ‘Project Nilgiri‘ under which in phase 1 we will be setting up Wi-Fi hotspots at approximately 400 stations across India over a span of 4 months from now. Wi-Fi connectivity will be made available for free to passengers after mobile number verification through a one-time password sent over SMS. First 30 minutes will be high speed after which speed will be reduced but connectivity will still continue” an insider source who did not wish to be named revealed to TelecomTalk.

Currently, companies like MTS and Oxygen provide Wi-Fi connectivity at railway and metro stations in urban regions but this is sporadic and not uniform Pan India, the endeavour by google will change this completely. At present, Indian railways provides Wi-Fi connectivity in moving trains for select routes like Rajdhani express using satellite communication technology. Google in phase 2 expansion plans to provide Wi-Fi on board moving trains Pan India using cutting edge technology.

 TT perspective:

This seems to be a rather exciting project and since it’s undertaken by Google we inevitably have high hopes. As visible in the screenshot the network will be high speed and be provided free of cost after SMS verification, which in itself is quite a promise. Currently, the download speeds are somewhere in the 7 Mbps range while upload speeds are in 5 Mbps range. In a month or two WLC’s will be set up in Mumbai and Chennai after which latency will fall to 1-2 ms and speeds will increase. So we are totally looking forward to this welcome move.

Most cordially,

Ken DiPietro
Cumberland MD
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Ramnarayan.K | 13 Aug 19:30 2015

question about bsnl and post paid roaming packs


Apologies in advance for this trivial question on mobile billing.

This is the link to the bsnl post paid tariff for TN

my mother has the 725 plan, but it seems that when she is on roaming  that the mobile data charges are extremely high,

Am unable understand what it actually says about data, 3 g data and data on roaming.

there is this
4.7 Free Data Usage in Home LSA (MB) 500 MB

10 Data usage charges (from home LSA &                      
National Roaming) (Ps/10KB) except APN 'BSNL Stream'       
1.00 (i think this means 1 rupee and not 1 paisa)

11. Data usage charges (from home LSA &                       0.25
National Roaming) (Ps/10KB) for APN 'BSNL Stream'

No where else is there a mention of data on roaming, or 3g usage on roaming

So is there a special add on pack that is required to be subscribed too.

It seems at some point of time this scheme was called the 3g scheme - but it seems to me that it excludes any roaming data at all.

So does one actually have to subscribe to a second postpaid 3 g plan (as in this link)

to add that 3g data on a prepaid BSNL phone is available for national roaming at
Rs 259 for 30 days and 1 GB data.

would appreciate inputs and advice on how to minimize 3g on roaming costs for BSNL, apart from the obvious minimization of usage.

thank you
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Arun Mehta | 12 Aug 06:28 2015

some progress on privacy

Vickram, do we have you to thank for this?

Aadhar card will not be mandatory for availing benefits of government's welfare schemes, the Supreme Court ruled today as it barred the authorities from sharing personal biometric data collected for enrolment under the scheme. A Constitution bench of the apex court will also decide the larger question of whether collecting biometric data for preparing Aadhar cards infringed an individual's privacy and if right to privacy was a fundamental right.

Read more at:
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Ratnendra Pandey | 11 Aug 17:49 2015

Were some TV channels served show cause notices ?

Is it true that
the show cause notices were served on prime television channels invoking the Programme Code of Cable
Television Network Rules asking why action should not be taken against them for casting "aspersions
against the integrity of the President and Judiciary". 

The above question is composed of a sentence copied almost entirely from an article in Hindustan Times by
Sitaram Yechury. 

Personally, I do not have a strong opinion on death sentence but do oppose any kind of restriction on speech
even is speech is full of hatred against a person or community, endangers social harmony, poses law and
order risk, threatens integrity and unity of a country, risks diplomatic relations of a country with
others, or, even if the speech is equivalent of shouting FIRE in a crowded theater.

Ratnendra Pandey

Sent from my iPad
ken | 9 Aug 10:40 2015

Internet search engines may be influencing elections

“What we’re talking about here is a means of mind control on a massive scale that there is no precedent for in human history.” That may sound hyperbolic, but Robert Epstein says it’s not an exaggeration. Epstein, a research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research in Vista, California, has found that the higher a politician ranks on a page of Internet search results, the more likely you are to vote for them.

“I have a lot of faith in the methods they’ve used, and I think it’s a very rigorously conducted study,” says Nicholas Diakopoulos, a computer scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park, who was not involved in the research. “I don’t think that they’ve overstated their claims.”

In their first experiment, Epstein and colleagues recruited three groups of 102 volunteers in San Diego, California, who were generally representative of the U.S. voting population in terms of age, race, political affiliation, and other traits. The researchers wanted to know if they could influence who the Californians would have voted for in the 2010 election … for prime minister of Australia.

So they built a fake search engine called Kadoodle that returned a list of 30 websites for the finalist candidates, 15 for Tony Abbott and 15 for Julia Gillard. Most of the Californians knew little about either candidate before the test began, so the experiment was their only real exposure to Australian politics. What they didn’t know was that the search engine had been rigged to display the results in an order biased toward one candidate or the other. For example, in the most extreme scenario, a subject would see 15 webpages with information about Gillard’s platform and objectives followed by 15 similar results for Abbott.

As predicted, subjects spent far more time reading Web pages near the top of the list. But what surprised researchers was the difference those rankings made: Biased search results increased the number of undecided voters choosing the favored candidate by 48% compared with a control group that saw an equal mix of both candidates throughout the list. Very few subjects noticed they were being manipulated, but those who did were actually more likely to vote in line with the biased results. “We expect the search engine to be making wise choices,” Epstein says. “What they’re saying is, ‘Well yes, I see the bias and that’s telling me … the search engine is doing its job.’” 

In a second experiment, the scientists repeated the first test on 2100 participants recruited online through Amazon’s labor crowdsourcing site Mechanical Turk. The subjects were also chosen to be representative of the U.S. voting population. The large sample size—and additional details provided by users—allowed the researchers to pinpoint which demographics were most vulnerable to search engine manipulation: Divorcees, Republicans, and subjects who reported low familiarity with the candidates were among the easiest groups to influence, whereas participants who were better informed, married, or reported an annual household income between $40,000 and $50,000 were harder to sway. Moderate Republicans were the most susceptible of any group: The manipulated search results increased the number of undecided voters who said they would choose the favored candidate by 80%.

“In a two-person race, a candidate can only count on getting half of the uncommitted votes, which is worthless. With the help of biased search rankings, a candidate might be able to get 90% of the uncommitted votes [in select demographics],” Epstein explains.

In a third experiment, the team tested its hypothesis in a real, ongoing election: the 2014 general election in India. After recruiting a sample of 2150 undecided Indian voters, the researchers repeated the original experiment, replacing the Australian candidates with the three Indian politicians who were actually running at the time. The results of the real world trial were slightly less dramatic—an outcome that researchers attribute to voters’ higher familiarity with the candidates. But merely changing which candidate appeared higher in the results still increased the number of undecided Indian voters who would vote for that candidate by 12% or more compared with controls. And once again, awareness of the manipulation enhanced the effect.

A few percentage points here and there may seem meager, but the authors point out that elections are often won by margins smaller than 1%. If 80% of eligible voters have Internet access and 10% of them are undecided, the search engine effect could convince an additional 25% of those undecided to vote for a target candidate, the team reports online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That type of swing would determine the election outcome, as long as the expected win margin was 2% or less. “This is a huge effect,” Epstein says. “It’s so big that it’s quite dangerous.”

But perhaps the most concerning aspect of the findings is that a search engine doesn’t even have to intentionally manipulate the order of results for this effect to manifest. Organic search algorithms already in place naturally put one candidate’s name higher on the list than others. This is based on factors like “relevance” and “credibility” (terms that are closely guarded by developers at Google and other major search engines). So the public is already being influenced by the search engine manipulation effect, Epstein says. “Without any intervention by anyone working at Google, it means that Google’s algorithm has been determining the outcome of close elections around the world.”

Presumably Google isn’t intentionally tweaking its algorithms to favor certain presidential candidates, but Epstein says it would extremely difficult to tell if it were. He also points out that the Internet mogul will benefit more from certain election outcomes than others.

And according to Epstein, Google is very aware both of the power it wields, as well as the research his team is doing: When the team recruited volunteers from the Internet in the second experiment, two of the IP addresses came from Google’s head office, he says.

“It’s easy to point the finger at the algorithm because it’s this supposedly inert thing, but there are a lot of people behind the algorithm,” Diakopoulos says. “I think that it does pose a threat to the legitimacy of the democracy that we have. We desperately need to have a public conversation about the role of these systems in the democratic processes.”

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Vickram Crishna | 9 Aug 10:12 2015

Fishing in troubled waters

A news report, carried in several newspapers, reports that the Orissa state government has set up a service for fisherfolk, with five or six messages a day, in text and voicemail, providing ocean/weather data. Many years ago, following the disastrous typhoon of 1998, listmembers had advocated creating such early warning systems, based on community radios, in order to take care of both disaster preparedness and impact mitigation, plus the use of open data networks built and supported by local communities to create the expertise needed to build networks on the fly at refuges and camps for survivors.

The first part has been made possible by the eventual spread of accessible and more affordable mobile connectivity, although the investment in this has been made by private parties. Of course, on public spectrum delivered into their private hands, at the cost of any public alternative, but the good news is that the numbers of fisher deaths have fallen to a third in the first year since the service began, and it now has some 2 lac registered users.

Arguably, whether something worthwhile is done by private or public organisations should not be of much concern. However, the actual messaging service is in fact at public cost, by the state government. That kind of takes the gloss off of the achievement for me. Curiously, telco promoters have been repeatedly nominated to the Rajya Sabha. I'm sure that is entirely a coincidence.

The anointing of Mr Sharma to TRAI (which may or may not have actually taken place by now) is another indication of present policy thinking on such things, since his previous achievement has been foisting the UIDAI upon the country. If the present slew of cases against it (disclaimer: this writer is a fellow petitioner in one of the cases) are successful, the disastrous exercise will be outlawed, but destroying the data collected to any minimal level of surety will cost us an unknowable amount more than the suspected (but not officially admitted) 15,000 crores spent on endangering 900 million persons for the yet uncomputed benefit of Indian and foreign private enterprises (and possibly the NSA and CIA, due to their connections with the private companies that were contracted by UIDAI for de-duplication). Actually, it is quite hard to put a fixed number on the value of identity theft, which is a movable feast, related to the numbers of actual users in a digital economy.

The lack of interest on the part of both central and state agencies to foster public involvement in the coastal safety service, and countless other such valuable (but not Stock Exchange linked values) initiatives remains exactly where it is, a festering sore.


Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

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Arun Mehta | 6 Aug 09:26 2015

Indian censorship of porn now stupider

India's Porn Ban Reversal Is Essentially Bullshit

 ISPs were given the incredibly vague directive from the Communication and Technology ministry that they are “free not to disable any of the 857 URLs,” provided the sites are child-porn free. There is, however, no mechanism in place for determining this kind of content.


So now, in fear of contempt of court, ISPs will actually require their employees to monitor porn sites. It's a tough job, looking at large numbers of porn video and images, but between the courts and the IT ministry, it's been decided who is going to employ the people to do it.

The government is dragging its feet on Internet censorship, it is the courts -- and the vigilante idiots who go to them with such matters -- taking the lead.

Arun Mehta
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ken | 7 Jul 11:50 2015

India launches solar-powered Wi-Fi system

In a bid to advance the Digital India initiative, C-DOT launched four broadband products today, including a solar-powered Wi-Fi system, according to an official statement quoted by Hindustan Times. C-DOT is the research and development institute of the Department of Telecommunications.

Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad unveiled the solar-powered Wi-Fi along with 100Gbit/s optical fibre cable (OFV) link, long distance Wi-Fi system and C-DOT's next generation network (NGN) in MTNL network. The launch was part of the Digital India week.

Operating in licence-exempt bands of 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz, the solar-powered Wi-Fi system is designed to be used in outdoor environments and inaccessible terrains, where power is in short supply, according to C-DOT. It can also function in harsh conditions and with variable input voltages. In addition, the system can be used for cellular base stations and base station controllers, Wi-Fi hotspots, database servers and ATMs.

The OFC link will address the growing demand for superior bandwidth, power efficiency and high speed, while the long distance Wi-Fi system will extend Wi-Fi and IP connectivity to India's isolated parts. Cost-effective and power-efficient, the system can provide 100Mbit/s of broadband speed, C-DOT claimed.

Finally, the NGN solution takes care of the need of the evolving telecom industry and helps telecom firms to have a smooth shift from legacy time division multiplexing (TDM) technology to advanced VoIP Telecom technology.

C-DOT earlier tested the developed live network for 1,000 landline connections of legacy public switched telephone network (PSTN) technologies to its IMS-compliant NGN network technology, and the result turned out to be a success. The trial will allow MTNL to implement services, such as voice, video and data, through several access-based network on IP.

Moreover, C-DOT said that it is now viable to move its 3.5 million MTNL landline subscribers to an IP-based network.

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Banibrata Dutta | 3 Jul 13:36 2015

Is BSNL blocking facebook and google ?

Since this morning, I am unable to reach facebook or google via my BSNL ADSL in Bangalore. All other websites work fine. Also I am able to reach those sites using anonymizer proxies and private VPN. With facebook, the issue is the page never loads, but with Google, it appears that I'm being forced to download what is made to appears like FlashPlugin update, but in a very fishy way.

Am I the only one, and being paranoid ?
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