Category: Living in India

Drinking Water on Indian Railways

Last week I had to visit IIT KGP and Calcutta. I managed to get a ticket at the last minute and quickly settled on Shalimar express. Most of my companions were Bengali revellers returning after touring god’s own country.
Before reaching Varkala a vendor with water bottles came. I bought a one litter bottle. Then I noticed that most of my Malayalee co-passengers were buying water bottles where as the Bengalis were travelling with cans filled with water. The train reached Chennai next morning and most of the Mallu crowd was gone. Lot of people from Andhra and Orrisa came in. Almost all had water bottles filled at home.
Many of them were refilling the bottles at stations. The remaining Mallus on the train were buying bottles. When the train reached Vijayawada there was a small queue in front of a counter which displayed ” Bring in your bottle and fill at Rs 1 “. People were seen confidently using public taps in North India. However, in Kerala you can see passengers buying packaged mineral water and throwing away bottles. Is the quality of our water so low? Or is it just another Mallu prevention ?
Anyway on the way back home, I filled two bottles form IIT guest house and carried with me. It lasted till Vijayawada. I refilled them at ” Bring in your bottle and fill at Rs 1 ” and used it till Chennai Egmore. I had plenty of time at Egmore waiting for my connection train to Trivandrum. I looked around for a tap and found out one. But I turned skeptical at the last moment and bought a bottle.
I have a few questions now. Why the railway is not providing quality drinking water through public taps on the platform? If you look out of a compartment you can see thousands of empty water bottles on both sides of the track. Why we are not bothered about the environmental problems it creates ? How good is the packaged water that we get on the railway?
Look at any public function or TV discussion , you can see mineral water bottles on the dais, even though no one drinks. It is a fashion for even small meetings in our college to place few bottles of packaged water in front of the guests. When did this trend begin ?
Packaged drinking water is available in almost all shops in Kerala. It seems the next generation will be afraid of drinking well water.

Updates on BSNL

The guys from BSNL seem to be reading this blog after I posted my letter here.  I examined my traffic logs today and found two  referrals  from  kttp://kerala.bsnl.co.in .  Anyway,  several  officials are visiting  our street regularly after my blog post. Yesterday, they replaced the junction box. See the pictures  below.

BSNL DP
BSNL DP

It seems they had  an under ground cable pair running. They dug up the road and connected the three lines that come out of the junction box to the  under ground cable. See the following pictures of the professional job they have done. 😀 . Also look at the box closely. They have   put the key on the box itself.   Probably it is the safest place to keep it.  😀

UG cable to DP
UG cable to DP
New connections to the line
New connections to the line
The connection to my neighbour
The connection to my neighbour

I am planning to stop complaining about  the joints. Other wise , BSNL may allocate (in the next budget)  several crores of public money to teach their line staff about how to crimp a cable pair to a junction box.   Now ,  the section from the junction box to the phone remains to be fixed.  I am firing off a letter thanking the CMD for  changing the junction box.

BSNL seems to  be trying to close the case . See the status update on their site.

bsn

Meanwhile , I  have brought the issue to the notice of our residents association.  The residents association  president told me that several  residents are facing similar problems.  He showed me several other open junction boxes and over hanging wires in our street .  He has also  promised   me to write a formal letter to the chairman and managing director about the problem.( I am sure no other official will respond ).   Let me see if I can get some more pictures  from the street .

Blogging can work wonders   in India too . 😀  Please stay tuned for more update.

I have just sent this Email to all the concerned officers.

Sir
This has reference to my complaint  in Kerala Circle Circle PG cell vide KRL/CO/2009/14224  and my blog post. Thank you very much for taking the initiative to change the DP.
I have posted  my additional comments on the problem  here.
http://brainstorms.in/?p=577
The case is being closed with out  replacing the faulty cable joints. My dial up internet is getting disconnected every time  some electrical disturbance occurs.   .  Please refer to this picture of the connection inside the house.
http://brainstorms.in/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/bsnl7-300×225.jpg
This is remaining the same.
I am too fed up with dealing with your engineers and field staff who have no clue to what a customer needs.  I  am actively  considering the  idea of shifting over to some other player.
Thanking you for all the help.
Regards

Sunil

Update   :25th September Friday 2009

I  received this reply from BSNL today.

–Sir,Even though the service is restored ,the docket is kept still pending at our end and we are waiting for a detailed report after redressal of the grievance .As per the field report a new DP is erected  and the action is being taken for   proper fixing of the rosette and the  wiring at suboffice .Thank u for your feed back .AGM(PG)

Update 5th October 2009 8.30PM

I am back home after a long journey.  Someone from BSNL claiming to be Sub divisonal engineer called me up just now.  She asked me what time I am available at home. I told her  “8pm to 8 am ” .  She  told me that BSNL is not working at such odd times and advised me to  be available at home  during their working time  so that they can fix the joints.

How ridiculous the BSNL employees are ?  They are still in 20th century and they expect a customer to wait for them.   I can get a  new phone from reliance or TATA round the clock and they will attend you at your convenience.  I am sure Goverment of Inda will disinvest this monster  shortly.

My complaint is pending with them  for  the past 25 days and they are still looking for excuses.

My letter to BSNL

I have a land line connection at home.  It is from  BSNL, the state owned Telecom giant in India.  I am too disgusted with their service and shot of the following email today to all publicly visible BSNL officers.   Let us see whether email work in India.

The exact nature of the problem cannot be described in words , so calling customer care is useless.  See the pictures below to have a general idea of problems with my  BSNL land line. I live in a urban area. If the connection is like this in a city,  the situation  in villages will be much more pathetic.

BSNL phone line  -Open junction  box on the pole
BSNL phone line -Open junction box on the pole
Hanging wires coming to my home
Hanging wires coming to my home
BSNL style copper pair joints
BSNL style copper pair joints
How to join two cable  - BSNL style
How to join two cable - BSNL style

To
Nodal Officer
Public Grievances
Kerala Circle BSNL

Sir,
I am an unfortunate customer of BSNL having the land line no. 0471-xxxxxx . This phone has never worked for 3 days at a stretch. The connection coming to my home is hanging on the poles and is within the reach of even small children. Every time a vehicle passes the cable breaks. There is no RJ 11 outlet inside the house. The connection to the instrument is given is the most unprofessional manner.
I have booked umpteen number of complaints . Each time they come and cut the overhanging cable and fixes it . In effect , if I want to make a call I have to go to the neighbour and file a complaint first.
Dejected and disgusted with the kind of service and the personnel dishing out the service, I am surrendering the phone. I know emails wont work in a government company like BSNL, so I am CCying the mail to all addresses that I can find right from your minister to the local exchange. So please excuse me if you have received this mail in mistake.

Also, I am writing an entry in my blog on the status of Consumer Satisfaction in BSNL. Please read it here.   I have some interesting pictures too.

My letter to BSNL


Thanking you for the services rendered so far.

Yours faithfully

Sunil T T

CC to gm_o_kerala@bsnl.co.in, MOCIT@nic.in, dgmpgkrl@bsnl.co.in, agmpgkrl@bsnl.co.in, cmdbsnl@bsnl.co.in

Update :  4pm September 10 2009

There seem to be some  one who is reading email in BSNL.  I got the following e mail  one hour back ( I am removing the persons name and phone no.)

agmpgkrl@bsnl.co.in

to me

show details 1:56 PM (1 hour ago)

Sir This is in acknowledgement to ur detailed mail and blog.Ur grievance has been registered in Circle PG cell vide KRL/CO/2009/14224 and a detailed report is avwaited after redressal.If you dont mistake kindly wait for surrendering ur telephone connection as your grievance has been borught to the notice of all concerned .The inconvenience caused is regretted. and  we assure our best services always at our level.Tou can track  the status of your grievance on line on website
http://bsnl.in/pgstatus.htm or www.keralatelecom.co/grievances by feeding the above docket Number and first two letters of your name ie “su” .

XXXXXXXXXXX  XXXXX
Assistant General Manager (PG)
O/o CGMT, BSNL Kerala Circle, Thiruvananthapuram-33
Tel.: 0471-xxxxxxxxx,   , [12727 (Toll free)]
Fax : 0471-xxxxxxx, Mobile: xxxxxxxxxx
email : agmpgkrl@bsnl.co.in

But wait,  look at the web links they have forwarded.

http://www.keralatelecom.co/grievances

This gave me an address not found error.  May be our assistant  general manager has mistyped it. I also make mistakes. It seems they have know idea about the  .in domain

I looked at the other  URL  and got the following screen.

BSNL Grievence online
BSNL Grievence online

Let us see how it turns out.

Update : 11 am 11 Sept. 2009

A line man from BSNL appeared today. He was looking violent.  I had warned my wife and children about a possible attack from BSNL personnel.

He pulled down two leaves from my coconut tree . See the picture  below. Tried to fix some joints.

Cocunut leaves Pulled down by BSNL
Coconut leaves Pulled down by BSNL

Finally , he located the fault to one of the joints that I posted yesterday. The original  joint was replaced with the joint give below. This is inside the house.  I think , I have to take fire insurance for  the house thanks to BSNL.

Oh!  I forgot to mention , BSNL  it self is providing insurance . See this .   How   thoughtful  they are, expecting  this kinds of hazards for the customers.

New generation BSNL wire Joints
New generation BSNL wire Joints

He then replaced the original phone with another. Now , the phone is working.  But the overhanging wire and the open junction box remains the same.    My phone works for  now and possibly it will work  till this evening .

I used to use dial up internet some time back. I plugged in my lap to the line and tried to access internet .  As expected the data rate is  some thing like 1bit/sec.   The idiots manning the lines have no idea how I use the  phone. For them , phone is just for making local calls. No wonder people are massively surrendering  land lines.  Hail reliance and Tata, at lease their personnel are user friendly.

I am sending the following email to BSNL so that my complaint is not closed prematurely.

To agmpgkrl@bsnl.co.in

Dear Madam,
They fixed the phone . I have posted some more pictures for your kind reference on my blog. Also, posting them to my twitter account and other activist group  emails. I know your men will close the complaint immediately .   I have got this kind of fix several times already .  I want a permanent solution to the open DP and  the wire joints.

Thanking you for the services rendered so far.

Yours faithfully

Sunil T T

Update: 14th  September 2009

I got another email from CMD bsnl as below.  This seems to be a routine reply.

Dear Sir,

We acknowledge receipt of your mail. The same has been forwarded to KERALA

Telecom circle / Telephones for necessary action with intimation to you.

With Kind  Regards.

AGM (Cordn. – I)

CMD SECTT


Update :19 September 2009

Great going with BSNL.  A lady claiming to be Sub Divisional engineer visited my home just now. She was accompanied by a few other staff looking sullen. I showed her the entire problem and told her that the cable is patched at several places and that I am unable to access dial up.   She advised me to take BSNL broadband . I thanked her and told that enough is enough  with BSNL.  She was on the verge of  argueing with me .   I showed her the open junction box (DP) and told her that any kid can pull it out.   She said that is none of my b


How to become a HAM radio operator in India

Several friends have asked me to explain the procedure and formalities of becoming a ham radio operator in India. Unlike many of the western countries , the active population of amateur radio operators in India is very minuscule. The major reason for this is the cumbersome procedure and the lack of interest from concerned authorities.

Obtaining a license can be a tiresome process. The general algorithm for obtaining a license is some thing like this.

1) Decide whether you are really fascinated by the hobby.

2) Get hold of the application forms and fill them out.

3) Send them to the nearest monitoring station

4) After 2 to 4 months you will get get an intimation from the monitoring station, asking you to appear for the ASOC examination.

5) Write the examination and forget about it. If you are successful, you will get another  intimation from the monitoring station  within 2 to 3 months.

6) Get yourself into an infinite loop. This will allow the government to verify about your antecedents

7) If you are lucky, the Ministry of communication will interrupt you to remit the license fee ( you are still in the loop :D)

8) Once you remit the fee, you may get a license in another 2 ( may be more) months.

By this time any reasonable Indian will have lost his interest in the hobby.

I will now attempt to give more information on tackling the algorithm.

Step 1

This is the most important step in the process. Read about the pros and cons of becoming a ham. Whether you will have the time ( and money) to build and operate a station. Interact with a nearby ham about the virtues. If you are a geek, you have a better chance.

There are several website giving information on ham radio. Look  around them. You can start with  this and this.

Get hold of a decent radio ( ordinary broadcast band radio with short wave band.) . Most of the amateur operators in India work on 40M and 20M. You can easily tune to 40M on an ordinary radio. The 40m band is from 7.0 to 7. 1.Mhz. Most of the radios will have 41M marked on their dial. So our 40M band is just below that.

Build a simple VFO and place it near the radio. When you turn the  tuning  capacitor on the VFO , you will get a sharp whistle on the radio. Now,attach  a long wire to the telescopic Ariel  of the radio. Make the length about 10m and  hang it horizontally. Tune around 40m band.

The circuit of a simple 40m VFO is given here.

Most of the amateur activity on 40M band is around 7am to 8.30am  IST  on weekdays. On Sundays, you can find some stations through out the day. However,  better band conditions prevail during mornings.

Listen for some days and see whether you like to be a ham.  A  good ham station can be built at a cost of say   Rs 1000.  You  can alternately purchase equipment costing lot of money. For building a station you need to put in lot of time and effort. Think well before starting out.

Step 2

For me this was the most difficult step. I will give you the details.

In India. there are four kinds of amateur licenses. They are:

1) Advanced grade

2) Grade 1

3) Grade 2

4) Grade 2 (restricted)

These licenses are issued by the Wireless Planning and Coordination section(WPC) of Ministry of Communications Government of India.( They have a website but seems to be down for some time ) For obtaining the license, you must appear for an examination conducted by WPC. The examination will cover topics in basic electronics, radio regulations and Morse code. This examination is called Amateur Station Operator’s Certificate (ASOC) examination. The rules regarding amateur radio is here. The syllabus for the examination is also available along with the rules.

Depending on your license, the power output and frequencies that  you can use vary. For reasonable operations on the air, you need at least a grade 2 license.

The application forms for the examination is here. You have to fill out the form. Against item no 9 (Particulars of apparatus used), you can write “home brewed”. You  need to fill in 4 copies of personal details . and   4 photographs.

Take a Demand draft (DD) for the required amount. The draft must be purchased from State Bank of India.( This is very specific,no other bank acceptable. )  You can apply simultaneously for grade 1 grade 2 and grade 2 restricted. It is a good idea too. So purchase a draft for Rs 40. in favour of " PAY AND ACCOUNTS OFFICER (HQ), Department of Telecommunication " payable at Service Branch, New Delhi .  The guy at the bank counter looked at me scornfully when he saw my application for  demand draft. The DD commission was around RS 25.  He also warned me that I may not be able to cancel the DD later on.

There are few attachments to be submitted .

a) Nationality certificate . The format of nationality certificate is here. The certificate must be from a  Gazetted officer of the state or central government or from the Principal of a school/college.

b) Personal details 4 copies.

c) photographs (4 nos)

d)(Optional)  If you have a B Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering, you can furnish a copy of the certificate. You will get exception from  part 1 of the examination.

Step 3

Once you have filled in the application and collected all certificates , send the application to the nearest wireless monitoring station. The  list of monitoring station are available here. Please note that your DD is payable at New Delhi, even though you are sending the documents to  a local monitoring station.

The examination will be conducted once in three months in most of the monitoring stations. They will  intimate you the date of examination approximately 2 weeks before the examination.

Step 4

Preparing for the examination

Now you have to prepare for the examination. There was a book named ABC’s of Amateur Radio in India published by EFY. I think it is almost out of print. You can download the book ” A Guide to ham radio ” from Vigyan prasar.

Learning Morse code

There are several software’s available for learning Morse code. Links to some of them are listed below.

There a good tutorial CD published by ARRL. You can buy it here.

Alternately, you can download lessons teaching Morse code in KOCH method from here.

PC  based tutorials are available on the Internet. You can try cwcp on GNU/Linux systems.

Learning Morse code can be difficult for some people. But if you practice it consistently , it can be mastered in 3 weeks time. The Morse code test has 2 parts. Morse code sending and receiving. Sending part is pretty easy .

Step 5

The actual examination is a silly affair. There will one only one or two candidates  present. The WPC officials conducting the examinations are  generally helpful.

See this post for some sample question papers.

Step 6  7 and 8

You don’t have much to do other than  waiting for a letter from WPC.

There will be a police verification.  But it is done in  a clandestine manner. Don’t bother about it, if you have a clean record.

Once you get it remit the fee  and get hold of a call sign and enjoy your hobby.

Probably, you will be 2 to 3 years older by this time.

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.