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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Indian Express reports that a couple of Israeli geeks have set up a low-cost wi-fi network in Dharamshala, spread over 70 acres, more than 7,000 ft above sea level.

"Thirty-eight-year old David's technological expertise and perhaps even nimble athleticism (courtesy his Mossad training) proved useful in setting up the network in the mountainous terrain. Antennae were erected in the most unlikely places (in one case the tower was painted with the insignia 'Om' and served as the spire of a local temple), the Linksys routers were re-engineered to make them power-efficient(most of them run on solar energy) and the towers were made "monkey resistant" after it was found that the primates found perverse pleasure in dangling from them.

Other "sabotage" bids were similarly thwarted. There was one last year in the form of a Distributed Denial of Service Attack (DDSA) on the website of the Tibetan Technology Centre. Says Ginguld: "It is difficult to pinpoint who did it but it started after an extensive series of scans which happened somewhere in China. The same URLs were loaded to access the database repeatedly..." In a written reply to The Sunday Express, the Chinese Embassy said it was "unaware of any such thing".

Schools, hospitals and other NGOs have benefited immensely from the service, though the network's limited bandwidth means it is not accessible to individuals and laptop-carrying tourists. Says Dawa Tsering of the Tibetan Medical Institute: "Our earlier connection would break down frequently and wouldnít be repaired for long durations. The connectivity now is more or less uninterrupted." While the vision of BPO centres coming up in the region might be a bit too romantic, the network is being used to promote trade. Dolma Kyap of Norbulingka Art Institute says they offer Tibetan art works like Thangka painting and statutes for sale on the Net. But what Ginguld is particularly thrilled by is the sight of children using the network. "Computer labs in Indian schools have lots of computers but no internet connection, which is akin to having a sleek car without petrol. Today when I see 10-year-olds logging on to sites like hi5, chatting with people, I realise we are on the right path," he says."


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