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BSNL GPRS on Ubuntu 9.10

As I travel frequently  in connection with my official and no-official engagement, my internet presence is disrupted. I have tons on mails and rss feed entries to be read after each journey. I was thinking of buying a netbook.
I recently bought a Toshiba NB200 netbook at a discount rate from my cousin. It came with 160 GB hard disk 1GB RAM, intel atom processor and Windows XP was pre-installed.
The first thing I did with the netbook was to remove windows. I installed ubuntu netbook remix 9.10, All the hardware except sound was instanly recognised by ubuntu. My next task was to  make it internet ready. I looked for various solutions like evdo from BSNL , netconnect from reliance etc. They all looked costly.
Finally I decided to go in for GPRS connection from BSNL. I  am already an unlucky owner of Nokia N72 , which is recognised only from windows. Fortunately the GPRS modem on N72 is accessible from linux . Here is what I did with my BSNL prepaid  phone connection to get it ready for my net book.

1) Enable GPRS on the phone

The GPRS can be enabled on BSNL connections by sending an SMS to  53733 with the following  word.  GPRSPRE. (I use a prepaid connection). They charge heavily    for GPRS usage 10 paise per KB.  However, they have some schemes which provide unlimited Internet access.
If you are a sporadic traveller, unlimited gprs access  for one day can be availed at Rs.20. For ardent travellers, an unlimited connection for one month can be subscribed at Rs 230. For availing the special schemes, you have to send sms to 53733 with the word GPRS20 (or GPRS230). You need a minimum balance of Rs 75 in your prepaid account for availing GPRS20. Once you send the sms,BSNL will ask you to confirm the scheme by sending another sms with GPRS20Y to 53733. (Sometimes it takes an hour or so  to get back the sms asking for confirmation. Being an Indian, you have to be patient.)

2) Configuring the Modem.

This was rather easy as my N72 GPRS modem was recognised as soon as I plugged the data cable.
I verified its presence  by looking at dmesg output on a terminal.

I installed wvdial from the ubuntu repository .

$ sudo apt-get install wvdial

Next, I ran the following command.

$ sudo wvdialconf

It created a minimal configuration file for wvdial  /etc/wvdial.conf.

/etc/wvdial.conf was then edited as shown below.

[Dialer Defaults]
Init1 = ATZ
Init2 = ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
Init3 = AT+CGDCONT=1,”IP”,”GPRSSOUTH.CELLONE.IN”,””,0,0
Modem Type = USB Modem
Modem = /dev/ttyACM0
Baud = 115200
Dial Command = ATD
Phone = *99***1#
Username =9194461xxxxx
Password =9194461xxxxx
New PPPD = yes
Stupid Mode =yes

Use your phone number as username and password. I entered the phone number including the country code as shown above. Also look at the Init3 entry. If you are in south India, you can use the above line. For other regions look at this page.

Now you can access internet by dialling out using wvdial.

$ sudo wvdial

The internet speed is reasonable.

I am posting this from Venad Express on my way back from Model Engineering college where I delivered a lecture  on free software. The netbook was really handy for the presentation too.

Installing LTSP on Ubuntu 9.04

Installing LTSP and enabling thin clients to boot from your ubuntu 9.04 machine is very  easy.

I did the following steps.

a) Install ubuntu 9.04   ( aka Jaunty) desktop   with a static IP.    (  A static IP is needed as your ubuntu box is going to act as a server. My IP is 192.168.0.1). Set up Internet access on this machine. You need to download a lot of packages  from the net to complete the installation.

b)  Install  the packages  ltsp-server-standalone and openssh-server

# apt-get install ltsp-server-standalone
# apt-get install openssh-server

c)  Build the LTSP client environment.

#ltsp-build-client

This  command will download all the necessary packages from Internet and build  your environment.

Have a look at /opt/ltsp/i386. This directory will  now contain the chroot environment for the thin clients.  If you want to tweak any settings  you cna do it here.

d) Edit the  /etc/ltsp/dhcpd.conf to suit your network setting. This file  will serve  the ip range  192.168.0.20 192.168.0.250 by default. If your network uses this range you can leave it  as it is. (The default file worked for me as my server IP is 192.168.0.1)

e) Run the following commands.

#ltsp-update-sshkeys

#ltsp-update-image

The first  command above will export the ssh keys of the server  to the ltsp client environment. The  ltsp-update-image command will rebuild a squashfs image from the ltsp chroot environment and place it under /opt/ltsp/images directory.  This image will be exported to the thin client as root file system by the NBD daemon on the server.

Your LTSP server is ready.  Try booting form a client via pxe or etherboot. You can also try to boot the thin client in qemulator.
There is a sample script for this in /usr/share/doc/ltsp-server/examples/ named qemu-ltsp.

Note:    If you change any thing under /opt/ltsp/i386 , you must rebuild the image for the change to be reflected on the client. Also, if you change the IP address of the server you must do an ltsp-update-sshkeys followed by  ltsp-update-image.

Mohanam and Bhoopali

Mohanam and Bhoopali
Mohanam and Bhoopali

My summer vacation has just started and I am trying  my hands on several things.. This morning while searching for some components in my junk box, some old audio cassettes came out. In fact, I had a collection of around 200 rare cassettes in the 90s. Most of  them are useless now.

One of the cassettes that came  out was a Jugalbandi recital from Dr. Blamuralikrishna and Pt.Hariprasad Chaurasia .   I remembered the sweet mohanam/bhoopali jugalbandi from the maestros   and instantly decided to recover it and make Mp3s.  My first problem was finding out a cassette player .After some search, I located an old Videocon cassette player.  Its power supply was faulty.. I was able to play the cassette  after 3 hours of hard labour.

Audacity was used to grab the tracks and convert it to mp3. The music is very much mellifluous.  Later ,   I searched   the Internet for  details about the volume.  It is  is listed on music india online. You listen to it here. I could not find any on line shops selling this particular volume.

fsfs.in and Proprietary software.

I am just back from fsfs.in. The event had several renowned participants and and exhibition on free software.  I was responsible for setting up the stall of IHRD. We show cased LTSP and  remastering Ubuntu.  I was busy with the stall yesterday and day before yesterday and could not attend any sessions.

At our stall with a Thin Client on the table.

Today morning, I went to the convention centre at Mascot hotel. I was planning to attend a few technical sessions. I was shocked to find  many speakers running Windows Vista and power point presentations.  I thought the guys running the show were hard core GNU fanatics. ( Ricard Stallman was present on the opening day of the conference.).

I was listened to two talks , one on  GRAILS and the other on Javafx. The guy who spoke on grails used GNU/Linux and openoffice impress. The  talk on Javafx was simply crap. The speaker seemed  to know very little of Java.

I asked him whether the Javafx is available on any free platforms and whether it is  free software.  He said  some bla bla and quickly wound up. Any way,  took some photgraphs of his presentation. I think he was trying to carefully hide windows and powerpoint.


Teach yourself   free software   with  Windows XP  in 21 days

Back in the exibition pavallion, I scanned around for  proprietary  stuff. I could spot them on a couple of stalls.

Hands on Free Software with Windows VISTA. 😀

Finally, the Linux user group was running a windows  theme on  one of their Laptops 😀

Learning  windows (theme) on Linux

You cannot get rid of proprietary software even in a conference on freedom and free software 😀

PS: I use windows if it is absolutely needed.

3 day training program at academic staff college

I was  teaching  computers to   music college teachers  for the past 3 days in connection with a training program organized at academic staff college,University of Kerala. Here are some snaps of the program.


The course was organized to improve awareness of music college faculty about the opportunities offered by new generation technologies. There were classes on recording techniques ,Sound engineering Internet
technologies etc. Beside myself Sri.Pradip Somasundaran and Dr. Achchut Shankar took classes.  The course was coordinated by Dr. Madhu Vasudevan from Maharaja’s College Ernakulam. It was a very enjoyable experience for me and my interest in music has  been rekindled by the event.