Thursday, May 13, 2010

India's 3G spectrum auction

India's 3G spectrum auctions have moved beyond (already wild) expectations.

When such things happen, I start to wonder about the economics of the situation. India's public is very fiscally-tight and the entire telecom market in India is cut-throat.

When 3G licenses touch regions of USD 3.3 billion (Approx Rs 150, 000, 000, 000 - 150 billion / 15,000 crores) for a single PAN India license, I begin to wonder how telecom companies can recoup their outlay in what is possibly the world's most competitive market.

For an example, a couple of prominent telco's claim that they have a subscriber base of over 100 million (one hundred crores). On the face of it, that means they can cover their license requirements by just earning Rs 150 (Approx US$ 3.40) from each customer. In terms of reality, it is not so simple.

First, the market is so competitive that earning Rs 150 from every customer is a daunting task, especially when you consider that there are some customers for whom this value is the total monthly bill, and in some cases (especially "lifetime" prepaid accounts) possibly the annual outlay.

Second, I assume the claimed subscriber base covers defaulters, inactive accounts, accounts sold but not activated, etc.

One can say that given the new features that can be unlocked with 3G, mopping up excess revenue may not be such a tall order after all; however, it is unlikely that there is going to be a great demand for 3G services, at least immediately.

India is a slow adopter of technology, and 3G is no exception. BSNL / MTNL (Government run telcos) have been offering 3G for about a year now, and there are very few takers for it, essentially because the advantages of 3G are neither economically viable nor visible to the common man. Most of India uses mobile phones to talk or text; MMS and Internet usage is marginal at best.

Taking advantage of 3G requires a new handset, new plan, new number and, for the most part, is not affordable when compared with available EDGE / GPRS plans.

Further, after spending so much on spectrum licenses, the telcos will also have to spend on additional infrastructure and advertising for 3G. They then cannot price the technology at a premium, because it will inhibit adoption, but I don't imagine they can deliver it cheap enough for people to want it, given all the financial outlay.

Some may argue that having got 3G spectrum, the players are in a whole new league, and can attract many more customers; but if I was one of the losers in the spectrum auction, all I would do is handout the money earmarked for the auction as discounts to new and existing customers; targeting those that don't want or don't care about 3G services, of which there are bound to be a huge majority.

The only real winner here is the Government, who will use this to mop up deficits in their budget. This too is a Pyhrric victory, because it will encourage further fiscal indiscipline.

3G in India is nothing but a buzz word to most of the public; the IT crowd and tech-savvy may go for it, but the bulk will simply shrug their shoulders and walk on. They may admire the results, but I don't believe they will adopt it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Petition request: Help prevent a nuclear disaster in India

This is about a new bill to be introduced into the Indian parliament.

==Begin quote:
The bill was made public today, it lets U.S. corporations go scot free in case of an accident at an Indian nuclear reactor. They would get away with paying a small amount, while Indian taxpayers bear the bulk of the cost. The bill is a clear case of socialize the risk, privatize the profit.The bill may be tabled by Tuesday- unless we stop it.

Don't let U.S. corporations off the hook

Can you help reach 50,000 signatures before Tuesday?

The petition says: "India must hold a public consultation before changing the liability rules for any nuclear accidents caused by U.S. corporations."

Over 60,000 of us have signed the petition asking the Prime Minister to stop the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage bill.
===End quote.

To register yourself in this petition, please visit the greenpeace site:

If you don't care, don't follow up on the link; and I apologize for wasting however many minutes it took out of your busy life.

To reiterate: I have no animosity towards anybody, especially the US, but it seems irresponsible to me to allow limitations on liability where disasters can be of an unimaginable scope.

Brings back to mind the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal.

Friday, October 23, 2009

How to create an Ubuntu All-in-one Live DVD

Get started by downloading all the desktop ISO images using Bittorrent.

I prefer to use the Terminal (Applications-Accessories-Terminal), and all below commands are to be entered in the Terminal. Since this is a slightly advanced topic, I assume that anyone trying this is familiar with the Terminal, paths, autocompletion, apt-get, etc.

Create a directory to hold your AIO (All-in-one) DVD structure, and copied the required files into it:

mkdir -p ~/ubuntuaio/isos
cp /downloads/cdimages/*buntu* ~/ubuntuaio/isos/

You will need Grub4dos; you can download it from here; (I used version 0.4.4, check all available versions here) extract the archive, and continue:

cp /downloads/grub4dos-0.4.4/grldr ~/ubuntuaio/

Create a suitable menu.lst file in the same directory which contains grldr; here's a sample below:

#start menu.lst

# This is a sample menu.lst file. You should make some changes to it.

timeout 30
default /default

title Ubuntu LiveCD
find --set-root /isos/ubuntu-9.04-desktop-i386.iso
map /isos/ubuntu-9.04-desktop-i386.iso (0xff)
map --hook
root (0xff)
kernel /casper/vmlinuz file=/cdrom/preseed/ubuntu.seed boot=casper iso-scan/filename=/isos/ubuntu-9.04-desktop-i386.iso quiet splash --
initrd /casper/initrd.gz

title Kubuntu LiveCD
find --set-root /isos/kubuntu-9.04-desktop-i386.iso
map /isos/kubuntu-9.04-desktop-i386.iso (0xff)
map --hook
root (0xff)
kernel /casper/vmlinuz file=/cdrom/preseed/ubuntu.seed boot=casper iso-scan/filename=/isos/kubuntu-9.04-desktop-i386.iso quiet splash --
initrd /casper/initrd.gz

title Xubuntu LiveCD
find --set-root /isos/xubuntu-9.04-desktop-i386.iso
map /isos/xubuntu-9.04-desktop-i386.iso (0xff)
map --hook
root (0xff)
kernel /casper/vmlinuz file=/cdrom/preseed/ubuntu.seed boot=casper iso-scan/filename=/isos/xubuntu-9.04-desktop-i386.iso quiet splash --
initrd /casper/initrd.gz

title MythBuntu LiveCD
find --set-root /isos/mythbuntu-9.04-desktop-i386.iso
map /isos/mythbuntu-9.04-desktop-i386.iso (0xff)
map --hook
root (0xff)
kernel /casper/vmlinuz file=/cdrom/preseed/ubuntu.seed boot=casper iso-scan/filename=/isos/mythbuntu-9.04-desktop-i386.iso quiet splash --
initrd /casper/initrd.gz

title commandline

#end menu.lst

You are now ready to create a DVD image. Ensure that you have enough free space left (approx 0.7GB per live CD included in your AIOLiveDVD / upto 9GB if you plan to use dvdisaster as outlined below). Give the command

cd ~
mkisofs -R -b grldr -no-emul-boot -boot-load-size 4 -o ubuntuaio.iso ubuntuaio/

This will create an ubuntuaio.iso DVD image in your home directory that can be burnt to any DVD+/-R/W.
One additional (optional) step: If you have more than 25% free space on your DVD, use dvdisaster to fill up the blank space in the DVD with ECC/RS02 (Error Correction Codec / Embedded ECC) so that your DVD can be read even with slight scratches on the surface:

dvdisaster -i ubuntuaio.iso -mRS02 -c

The ubuntuaio.iso image is now ready! You can test it out in virtual box, or by burning it on a rewriteable DVD.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I've been trying to make an Ubuntu All In One (AIO) live DVD for quite a while now. You can follow my progress (or lack thereof) on this thread at

Despite various attempts, about 15 physical "coaster" DVDs, I have not managed to succeed; until I read this post about (not-very-aptly-named) Grub4DOS.

This gave me the clue that I needed to create the UbuntuAIO Live DVD of my dreams.

Shown below are screenshots (Taken while running the UbuntuAIO in VirtualBox) :

bootup grub screen to select desired LiveCD:

Xubuntu LiveCD launch screen:

Kubuntu LiveCD launch screen:

Mythbuntu LiveCD launch screen:

You can also take a peek at this video showing off the Ubuntu AIO Live DVD.

In a later post, I will put details on how to make a custom Live DVD, though it's really laughably simple; it just involves copying the live ISO images to a single directory, then creating a relevant "menu.lst" file and copying it and "grldr" from Grub4DOS to the correct locations. This directory is then converted to an ISO image that can be burnt to DVD. Exact details here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Japan.. here I come... again!

I'm travelling to Japan the coming week, for about 7 days.

This is only my second trip in about 10 years.

Surprisingly, I cannot seem to remember anything about my first trip. (Except the station names Ueno and Akhiabara).

This time, I've resolved to lay out my trip in detail.

It may be helpful for other travelers, especially vegetarians ('cause another thing I remember from my last trip is that it was practically impossible to find vegetarian food).

I also hope it will serve me in the future.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Treo is dead.. long live the Treo

Well that's it. My PalmOne Treo 650 is finally and irreparably ruined.

Last week, one evening the touchscreen suddenly died. Attempting to self repair it (as I've done once earlier) caused the keyboard's upper and lower rows to die. I then decided to ignore the touchscreen until I got a replacement, and attempted to fix the keyboard problem. This led the display to die totally. Got the display working again, but in the attempt, managed to disconnect the internal speaker. So now:

a) No touchscreen
b) About 33% working keyboard
c) No internal speaker

I had this phone for over 3 years (that too, bought second hand) and loved it. The Treo was everything a phone-cum-pda should be. A lot of the newer phones cannot do as much as my fully loaded and efficient Treo 650.

I will miss it sorely.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What'cha gonna do... about Indian Airlines?

Recently, I've been reading a lot about Air India / Indian Airlines and their troubles.

Given their current situation, I do not believe that the Indian Government should grant them any bailout as they've requested.

Planning to cancel confirmed orders for new planes is also going to cause a huge hit to their collective pocketbook.

Instead, they should negotiate an "offset" of the manufacturing of the new planes ordered; eg. demand that portions of the new planes be manufactured in India.

This will allow IA/AI staff to be better utilized, thus avoiding layoffs, as well as serve as a boost to Indian manufacturing, small scale industries and micro-manufacturing units.