Archive for March, 2009

I think it was 1998, two years after Bangladesh was allowed to have private VSAT in online ISP operation, I was posted to Dhaka. I did use online Internet while I had been on leave in Dhaka from my duty station, Rangpur. While I had a dial-up connectivity back home, I figured sharing a single dial-up connectivity for my office would make sense.

I was funded to join a Linux training in the same year, to facilitate corporate Internet/Intranet in our office. I must salute my visionary commander who spotted my aspiration towards connectivity and drove that to a direction benefiting my organization. Can you guys visualize me talking to my commander about Linux back in 1998!

For the whole month of training, I remember skipping my lunches only to join the gang who loves building connectivity. I still miss those days where I could go on learning nights after nights and yet joining office in time! Though, our trainers started with Redhat and gave some exposure to Slackware, but I preferred the later – it gave me the whole insight! Compiling kernels for network cards and dial-up ppp support were my favourite pass time. Automating tasks were challenging, but UNIX scriptings were lifesaver! Thanks to the training division to deliver all the linux networking “PostScript” documents [Linux Documentation Project, LDP] printed, helped us burning the midnight oil. We had a vast network including dial-up leased lines connecting our area of responsibility. Then I thought of give back time to the country, who has given so much!

Yes, It was published in Computer Tomorrow, a technology magazine, when Linux was getting popular – in phases. Well, you might wonder, what was I doing back in 1998 (to be more specific) on Internet! Surprise, surprise! Please look it up here. I was awestruck too. And, in the year 1996 and beyond? Go figure!

One thing I know for sure, I’m so much in debt to Internet, (how about a sample?), I’ll leave no stone unturned in pursuit of making Internet affordable in Bangladesh. Going forward, I need all your support.

Give something back to the country when it needs the most.

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Online, Offline and my Lifeline

Internet had always been a passion for me even long before joining military. Offline e-mails were godsend back in nineties! You could even browse Internet using offline ftpmail servers. It used to work like todays push-pull SMS services.

Come again?

Back in our days in 1990, we used to connect to local Dhaka mail servers all day long to send mails. People used to call those as BBS, Bulletin Board Services (BBS), spooled everyone’s mail until midnight when it used to connect to a foreign mailhost over dial-up lines. During that session, the local Dhaka mail server uploaded all the local mails and then received everyone’s mail.

Next morning, when I used to log in, my UNIX client, pine prompted arrival of new mails. “You have got mail”, the sweetest prompt ever from a Unix box, to be specific, it was a BSD variant terminal.

If you don’t have direct access to Internet, what would you do for downloading a page or a file from some distant servers? You could request some of your friends abroad to fetch that file for you. But, what if some programs can automate that thing for you? You need to send a series of commands over e-mail to fetch that file.

But, first sending a help command would return you all supported command that ftpmail server can process. Here is an example;

reply-to raqueeb_h@yahoo.com
open ftp.example.test.com
cd /pub/resources/windows/
get mirc11.exe

If you send an e-mail with these commands to a ftpmail server, it will connect to ftp.example.test.com, and send back the file mirc11.exe, an IRC client (gzipped and mime encoded) to raqueeb_h@yahoo.com.

As wiki says “FTPmail is the term used for the practice of using an FTPmail server to gain access to various files over the internet. An FTPmail server is a proxy server which (asynchronously) connects to remote FTP servers in response to email requests, returning the downloaded files as an email attachment. This service might be useful to users who cannot themselves initiate an FTP session—for example, because they are constrained by restrictions on their internet access.

FTPmail services were common in the 1990s, but have dwindled in importance as FTP lost popularity in favour of other methods for file transfer, notably HTTP which is available to virtually all internet users.

Have you ever heard of e-mail on HF radios?

I’ll cover that next month.

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