Final Meeting Day
Wednesday, the 25thof October, started quietly. I got up after an uncomfortable night, dressed, and went to breakfast. Jim Forster and an interesting Israeli entrepreneur – Asaf Mohr, an ex Israeli Air Force pilot – was there. Breakfast was business talk as Jim and Mohr discussed the possible investment of a large communications company from India in rural Indian grass roots wireless networking .
Asaf had an unusual reason for showing up in Dharamsala. He originally wanted to trek to base camp in Nepal months ago, but was warned off from doing that when the Nepalese government was in crises. Maoists were intermittently violent. So he heard about climbing in the Himalayas above Dharamsala and went there instead. Where he met Yahel Ben-David, a fellow Israeli, who was already here – and who had spearheaded the mesh wireless for this Dharamsala region.
Asaf got excited, for he had started several chip manufacturing companies in California, was CEO of Fusion Dynamics, made some money, so was also looking around for more opportunities. He saw the vision. He brought out from his room a very small new radio, that only costs 5 Euro (about $7), and can support mobile wireless Wi-Fi networking with TWO SSIDS – one of which can be in an encrypted net, while the other can be public spectrum. Original and intriguing. All off a single chip. Reflecting the amazing progress in computer technology and miniaturization.
I wanted to know how that could be done with a single radio – jumping frequency bands? Jim didn’t know for sure, but he thought the processor was programmed to send alternative packets – one encrypted, one open on the same channel at the same time. Only feasible because of the fantastic increase in computer processor speeds over the past 25 years.
We all three rode to Dall-Lake in a hotel car. During the ride Mohr showed an interest in meeting Tsering Sherpa when he gets to Namche, enroute to an attempt to climb to 18,000 feet base camp. He too was fascinated by my success in the high Himalayas. The wireless work at Base Camp in 2003 and in Namche and Thame in 2004 still seemed to awe the wireless geeks. I told him he might be able to help Tsering extend wireless to four of the five new lodges Yeti Airlines were building on the corridor to Everest. That I was getting a little old to undertake such a new project. And that Tsering didn’t have the skills to set up radios in steep valleys with no line of sight, and requiring solar panel/battery power.
He got Tserings email address from me and promised to meet him when he finally got to ascend the Khumbu valley toward Everest.
We got to the Conference hall before 9AM for a 9:30 start and I was able to catch up, wirelessly, with my email, and send off Report #7 including some photos as attachments.
I had carried the brand new transparent mesh radio ‘Cube’ I was given in Djursland, Denmark two years ago that I didn’t know how to configure for a mesh plan to the conference hall. I am contemplating installing mesh for the residential area north of Old Colorado City’s business district, which is not served adequately by Quest DSL, and too expensive for me using traditional radios. Little broadband there. While the commercial buildings in Old Colo business district is now served with DSL at less than $40 a month, undercutting my $65 rates. I might develop a residential service that undercuts Qwest, even if they did have no high speed DSL available in the residential telephone code areas. (Unlike wireless, DSL has to go where telephone lines go, and their DSLAMs have to be set up within 18,000 feet of the homes they are trying to serving.) It could be a way to pay the bills for my $650 monthly office space and $450 a month T-1 link to the net. Thus affording and maintaining the antenna arrays on the roof of the Templeton Building and our servers in our office we have occupied for 22 years.
A young long haired mesh guru with an unpronounceable name speaking with an accent I could barely understand, from some European country helped me set it up. We got it talking to my laptop wirelessly. And I got a tutorial on just how, not only to set up a mesh network – with its ability to ‘route around’ obstacles (houses in the way of direct line of sight from our roof – but where to download the open source Linux code from Denmark from freifunk.org which will work in $80 Linksys WRT54GL which is the rage for community mesh wireless projects. While the ‘cubes’ are on the way out.
So I came away with one major objective and reason for going so far to a conference – how to set up a super low cost, open source code mesh radio network and what things, exactly, I needed to buy and download, to create a neighborhood cheap mesh network.
I would also be amused to get local Colorado Springs media publicity (oh yeah, I know how to generate that still) contrasting MY mesh wireless with the costly Tropos Mesh layout down town (where the access points cost about $5,000 each, and serves the business district downtown with a sweetheart deal renting City owned light poles.
I attended and participated in several conference sessions today, making the point that the organizers had neglected to include any bright teenagers at Summit meetings – that they should in the future. That set off a row over including minorities in the network movement. (there was plenty of participation by bright women in the conference. Even including one wild-haired woman I met in Dsjurland who is a very smart programmer, who goes only by the one name – Electra. From Germany I think.
I got challenged when, after a great session on spectrum and wi-fi regulation by governments, I said at the microphone that those ‘geek’ outfits who ultimately answer to government regulation of spectrum and permitted radio devices and networks needed a ‘Political’ arm added to their organizations, to track, document, lobby and deal with government regulators, to open up the spectrum and permit at least outdoor Wi-Fi in their countries, against the effort of the big phone companies to prevent that, who have platoons of lobbiests.
Some one from the audience said in answer to my rousing remarks that I was just the man to head up such a ‘Global Political Wireless Action’ group. Ha! That will teach me to make recommendations to the young geeks.
Then by late afternoon, Phunsok Dorjee, to whom I had emailed the day before – on his request – plenty of time to get it done, the text to be given the Dalai Lama, got the first draft printed out on a laser printer. It took the hot shot techs two days to get their printer to print, and then I found out that they had, midst ALL the computers and radios and kits for mesh networking, not a single copy machine or fax copier that could make copies of the letter with the signatures on it, for archive purposes!
Then there was a flap when Ben-David thought that everyone in the conference should ‘sign’ the letter, not just two ‘representatives’ of all the rest. That came after we printed out the letter and its signature blocks, and he asked me to read the letter aloud to the conference over the microphones. But time was running out, for it was already 3PM, and we had to get to the Dalai Lama’s residence in the Monastery before the reception office closed at 5PM, and I was leaving first thing in the morning.
So Dorjee, like most Tibetans and Indians, not liking to ‘offend’ anyone, set about reprinting the letter – one copy only - with added sheets for signatures, and then proceeded to go through the hall while the panel discussions were going on, getting everyone to sign. They were all willing, but it was going to take time – time we didn’t have.
Then, in the middle of that a German film producer who had asked to interview me on camera, and I agreed earlier, showed up wanting to do it – and ‘only’ take 15 minutes of my time, before we got the letter and scarf delivered! I was getting angry at the Keystone Kops handling of the whole episode. And he also wanted to tape me giving the letter and scarf at the Residence. So he got a mild mannered journalist whom I knew from the Djurland meetings, to carry a small video camera to accompany me to the Monastery.
(Earlier in the day, I got an email telling me to access the internet video movie made of me two days before by a German journalist, Ryanne. Its a 7 minutes long standard mp4 file. A pretty good monologue verbal summary of how I got into networked personal computing, then wireless, and some of my projects. An on-the-fly interview.
Just Click on this and it will play immediately.
That all took an hour, and when Dorjee got 80 some signatures on the sheets – all who were present in the conference hall at that time (Ben-David had actually suggested taking all the time needed to email all registered participants and get them to submit ???? to add their names). Hell if they couldn’t copy a signature, how would the emailed remote attendees add their names?
All very impractical, and losing the idea in the first place, to give a simple letter signed by two representatives, and the scarf, to the Dalai Lama. I was getting disturbed by another case of too laid back, loose operations, where people want to talk about what they want to do, rather than just do it – as expeditiously as possible.
So it was already after 4 when Phuntsok said he could not come with me, he had to continue to help wrap up the conference which was over at 5. I said where are we going to get at least two copies of the signed letter. He said ‘Oh you can get it copied at a shop on your way to the Residence.’ Well who knows where that is? So he got his main assistant to jump in one of their staff cars and start to drive to the Monastery via some unknown copying place.
Immediately we were slowed to a crawl going through pedestrian, and animal, not to speak of oncoming taxi car travel on the narrow streets. We finally at 4:25 pulled up to a tiny ramshackle ‘copying place’ whose one man band had an ancient copying machine that had to be hand fed for each copy, and which was so poor quality the first sheets were almost unreadable.
It took almost 15 minutes to get three bad copies of 5 originals, and pay for them. And I had to get a stapler from the backwoods proprieter, who had to search his drawers for one, to staple the originals.
Dorjee’s assistant then started off with us, and then got a cell phone call, to dump us and get back himself for the ‘closing ceremonies’. So he hailed a taxi for us that took more haggling and he left!
The traffic was so bad it took them until 4:55 to get us to the street level entrance to the temple and his residence where the reception office was. We told the drivers to wait, and I had to take the chance of leaving my computer bag in their taxi – it was too heavy to carry. I had to trust the taxi guy and his sidekick we didn’t know. The journalist wouldn’t trust them so he carried his bag, and camera.
Then we had to almost run to get to the Reception door up two flights of stairs (I almost forgot the Silk Scarf in the taxi) JUST as a female secretary was closing the door, being 5PM.
Of course we were so damned late – all caused by the flakey operation of the Conference and its Indian attendees – there was no opportunity to get a higher level assistant to come meet us. A courtesy. It took damned near 10 minutes to explain to the low level attendents what the hell we were trying to do. One of them said we should come back in the morning after 9AM, when there was ‘more time!’ I put my foot down hard, raised my voice, and said I was gone to America by that time, they have to accept it now. So they did.
But of course the minute the journalist raised his video camera to record the instant, which a producer had wanted done, one of the guards said no, we cannot tape the faces of the staff – security! (But we could tape outside the office)
So we did that. Tramped back to the taxi which was still there, and we took off back to Dall Lake. I was in no mood to rejoin the conference breaking up at the meeting hall, I was tired, and had to plan for the morrow, still had diarrhea. So when we reached Dall Lake, I paid 100 rupees and the journalist paid 150, he split off, and I told them to drive me to the Asia Hotel.
They started out and got lost! However there was an accidental break. The ridge road they took was open to the great snowy Himalayan ridge to the north. I told them to stop, and I taped it in the setting sun. Then they backtracked, took the right road, and the sun was just going down through a cloud bank – pretty – and told them to stop again. I took another picture set.
They got to the Asia Hotel finally, I paid them my half, and I got to my room after getting the front desk to help me double check with the travel agent that a car would be coming as I asked, at precisely 8AM.
That confirmed I went to my room, flopped down on my bed, then went to dinner an hour later.
And had my first beer of the trip.
New Delhi, Last Stop
So my faithful driver, Desh Raj, picked me up at the Ritz Plaza Hotel at 7:00am to check in and catch the 9:00 Decca Flight to Delhi.
Typical of ‘tourist’ hotels so far, they didn’t serve breakfast until 7:30, so I would have to miss it. Instead I grabbed a package in the room refrigerator of small cream filled cookies, and ate a bunch of those for breakfast.
You just don’t grab any food in India outside well cooked and declared safe stuff, or you may pay the price. Even though I had been careful, and ONLY drank ‘mineral’ water from a plastic bottle, I still was afflicted in an irritating and ‘look for the nearest bathroom’ way.
By the way, there ARE bathrooms in India, but I have yet to see one outside hotels with toilet paper!
Got to the pretty modern Amritsar airport, and since, with plenty of ‘show your passport and airlines reservation’ check points (with quite a few AK-47 armed soldiers standing around) Raj could not carry my bags in. So he left me there. But I enjoyed him on the long 6 hour ride the day before. I tipped him $20 cold cash. Only big tip I made, or would make, in India. He makes 2,000 rupees a month - $45. With a steady job as a driver with Summit Travel for the last 15 years.
The check-in routine was weird. And I kept asking myself, if I were a terrorist, how would I get through. Pretty easy.
They ran my big suitcase through the scanning machine, got all excited about some ‘round’ metal thing in it. So we had to search and search, messing up my packing. In the end it turned out to be a hanging trinket souvenir with a metal frame. BUT they then saw my small night flashlight, with 2 double AA batteries, and my GPS with two AAA batteries and insisted on removing them, causing my GPS to lose my recorded data, of course. Tossed the batteries back into the case loose. Then they cleared, tagged, the bag, putting a sort of plastic cord I would have to cut to get into the bag again, through the biggest closing zipper.
Sort of checked out for bad stuff so far.
They never checked my ‘carry on’ case at that point (I didn’t offer to run it through the same machine, as they apparently were only checking hold baggage at this point.
So then I went with both bags to the very small with temporary booths for tiny new start up airline Decca. They weighed the big bag and said it was xxx kilo over their weight allowance. I would have to pay a surcharge. The turbojet propeller aircraft with about 80 passengers had more weight allowances restrictions than any other airline I was flying. Thank goodness I didn’t take TWO suitcases, with one filled with radios. I prepared to pay the charge (not big) when the new manager of the new airline, waved it off and said to the woman clerk to accept it as is. So they took the suitcase away. No charge.
Then I had to go, as all passengers from all airlines through the personal and carry on bag security check to get to the gate waiting room. Manned by military people this time.
A woman attendant at Decca, as she walked me across the large room to the bag and person check asked me whether I had any liquids in my bag. I forgot that I had BOTH my mosquito repellent AND a small version water bottle in it, and said no. She walked away leaving me for the last routines.
That was where they scanned my computer, full and heavy, carry on case. They didn’t even ask me to take the laptop out of the bag, and though it had to show everything including the Sony cam with two lumpy batteries in their scanner, the big burly Indian Army man running the machine just let it go through. They never checked the bag for anything, including liquids.
Then I was to go through the frames you walk through scanning your body. I said I have a pacemaker, and they knew what that was and sent me to a tall soldier to do a body scan instead. (a few women were made to go into a tent like room to be body searched, but men passengers were searched in the open. He was pleasant, and required me to take off my boots to check with a wand my feet, and when I pointed to my pacemaker, he asked whether I had a card for it. As a matter of fact I did, and the Medtronics Pacemaker card, with my name that matches my boarding pass name, was in my money bag around my neck. So he checked it against the name – mine – on the boarding pass. That was the only time on my entire trip, though I was body searched rather than go through the electronic screener that anyone asked for my pacemaker card.
He did not pat me down and let me through. I had about 40 minutes in the waiting area for the plane to be called, and started to read my new book about the Golden Temple which is a fascinating history of the Sihks and their 500 years of wars, with their religious neighbors. Including savage ones when the Muslims of Afghanistan took over what is now Pakistan and where the Sihk’s live, persecuted, occupied and defeated repeatedly by everyone including Mongols.
And killed tens of thousands of them, including killing their captured or arrested leaders in as many ways as they could invent – live dismemberment, being killed under a code that let them be killed but with no ‘weapon’ penetrating their skin. Like boiling them alive. Of course there were decapitations, and whole wagonloads of Sihk skulls were brought to Lahore.
Ironically the early Sihks were totally tolerant of other religions, and made the temples that ended up THE Golden Temple open to all. In religious matters they were tolerant. Not so the Muslims who attacked, persecuted, invaded, all other religions, including Buddhists and Hindus.
If anybody thinks we, in Iraq and Afghanistan are not in a War of Civilizations – Islam versus every other religion – with their Koranic obligation to either convert or kill all Infidels which goes back to the very beginning of Islam, is dreaming.
Co-existence with Islam is impossible.
While waiting for the plane, in the public, after security check waiting space, I took out the water bottle repeatedly to take a sip, as my mouth was very dry – caused by my dehydration from the diarrhea. Nobody seemed to notice or care.
Yes, a smart terrorist with suicide intent could have gotten through.
While waiting, a very small, dark, but obviously older Indian man sat next to me. He preoccupied himself with notebooks and his pack. He struck up a conversation with me when he noted my Welsh logo on my sweater. Wondered if I was Welsh, and said his faculty advisor for his Doctorate was a Welshman. Spoke tolerable English, and having plenty of time waiting for the plane to be called, we got into a lively intelligent discussion of everything from where and what was West Point, the Iraq war, to why pushing women into the workforce, loved by corporations (cheap labor) was destroying the ability of families to raise children properly. He was a Professor of Economics at Madrass University in Madrass, India.
He was so interested in the discussion, he had a small notebook, and wrote down in miniscule script every ‘fact’ I gave him. His notepad was his memory bank.
When it was time to enplane he wanted to continue talking, that we could sit together (it was open seating on this flight), but when we got on there were no two seats open and the plane was full. But an Indian man heard us talking while standing in the aisle, and volunteered to move to another seat next to a stranger. (everybody had gone for window seats.)
Polite gesture in a country where, because of crowding, there is a lot of pushing and shoving rudeness. Especially by women,
The whole flight – about an hour and a half, we talked. And he wanted to continue to be in contact. He uses email and the Internet at the university.
When we landed – a nice flight which was quieter with its props than a jet with service – I sipped orange juice in a box. 40 rupees – we headed to pick up our suitcases. Did so, but when I approached the inside fence, behind which the public coming to pick up people, no one was holding up a sign that said ‘David Hughes’ - the normal way.
I thought this might be the first screw up, for I was supposed to be met by a Summit travel representative. I knew that Milap had told all his drivers and reps that I would be wearing a Stetson – nobody else in billion person India would be, so I could be found even if I could not find them. So I stood and waited. For about 15 more minutes. No one showed up (I knew Delhi traffic could slow things down a lot. One traffic jam or accident could slow one up a half hour at least). I knew I could get a taxi to my hotel, but the Professor told me I should wait a little more time. He hung around concerned I would get what I needed. He was going to take a taxi to his destination. Nice guy. 63 years old. One time in the Indian Army – an educator.
Then he suggested we walk outside where my guide might have stayed. We did. He was right. There was a crush of people behind yet another fence all holding up signs with names on them. One was my guy. So my guide, and a turbaned driver carried my bags to the jammed parking lot, and we were off for the Connaught hotel.
We agreed he would pick me up two days later, the 29th, at 8AM, to get to the International Airport for my 3-4 hour in advance going through US Customs (in India before leaving) and then boarding pass ticketing and wait for the American Airlines flight to take off at 12:30PM back to Chicago. (ugh – 16 hour flight to come).
I would have the rest of the day today, the 27th (from 2 PM to night) and all day the 28th to myself. I would have the time to look around a bit.
After I checked in Room 421 – a little roomier than the last time I was at the Connaught – I went to the office where they offered ‘The Internet’. A couple were there, fighting the Internet – molasses slow, and he couldn’t bring up the Holland stock quote he wanted. So his wife, who spoke better English and I talked while he struggled, with two young women staff who were having trouble too. I suggested he try to find the stock code with Google. He they did. It worked. He got his stockmarket quote. He, 70 and as hard of hearing as I, asked if I would be around this evening. I said yes I would eat in the hotel dining room. He and she wanted some intelligent conversation also.
They had, the day before, gone to see the Taj Mahal. But it was a very long car trip from early in the morning, and got back late, it was 250km, cost them $200. I had considered doing that, but I was not really up to that kind of all day. I was getting trip weary, and still had the trots a bit and was dehydrated. I had seen the Golden Temple, which was, with all surrounding it, more interesting, and beautiful too. The Taj Mahal would simply be prettier, and I was not going to get as spectacular a picture with my Sony as I could buy from a shop.
They left, and I tried to use the Hotel’s Internet. At LEAST I could use my memory stick that goes into a USB port to send my Report 7 which I put on the stick before coming to the room.
It was hopeless – the bandwidth was so poor, I could not even, by this time in the afternoon, get cnn.com to come up. So I abandoned it for now, told the attendant I would not pay for no service (its 100 rupees – or about $2.50 a half hour. And I headed out to walk the streets of New Delhi for the late afternoon of my last day.
I knew I would be beset by taxi drivers, hustlers, street sales types, beggars, and what not. And I was, in spades. But I knew the game so I barked NO at most of them while I walked in increasing India heat, half a mile to the nearest marketplace/sales stores. While pushing off vendors all the way.
I got to a shop area and browsed, finally going into several which had the kind of things I wanted for gifts to bring back, and made some good gift purchases. I then found an Internet shop, but its computers were too old to accept my USB port stick, so I ignored that.
Went back to the Hotel and planned to do serious shopping for the 14 members of my family who live in Colorado Springs, tomorrow, the last day in India.
On the way I saw more urchins, street people ( four sleeping soundly on a grassy median which I photographed because they so looked like the four dogs I snapped, who were sleeping on the sidewalk outside a building with street level fans that cooled them a bit.)
I bought a gift from a street vendor and by 4:30 I was tired, hot, and had exhausted the shops in walking distance.
So I got lost walking back, and had to ask directions.
Got back, flopped on my bed, and slept in the airconditioned room for 3 hours.
Then I went to the Dining room, by 8PM, ordered beer and chicken. (I am ALSO tired of their culinary offerings. Unpronounceable names, visually indistinguishable food, everything too spicy. And 16 ways to order mediocre lamb.
And within 15 minutes my companions came in and we had a great time talking for 2 hours while a four person Indian ensemble sang and played bad music too loud.
But they had to break it off at 10:30, because the brave souls wanted to do another 300 km drive to an obscure place in neighboring Bhutan, where he was researching some religious history. And they had to leave at 5AM.
So I then went into the 24/7 Internet office (one computer only on the net), where the male attendant was more knowledgeable. And the network worked.
Just an issue of crappy bandwidth.
So I got to send my #7 to David to forward, got into edodo and learned there had been a blizzard in Colorado Springs, and I uploaded a bunch of pictures off my stick to my Linkingeverest site in the Airjaldi Gallery, and went to bed by midnight.
Slept well, ate breakfast, finished up this, will try to send it by the slow hotel internet (but its Saturday, so the load may be down), and will go out and sightsee Delhi more, and finish shopping.
So I will carry my quilted coat on the plane, for when I land in Colorado Springs, Sunday afternoon.
Still on track for arriving from Chicago at 11:13am, the 29th on United 5819.
Hope somebody meets me.
Will turn on my cell phone in Chicago and call between flights and no later than 8:30 Colorado time.