Monday, December 31, 2007

(Expecting) Affordable Internet Plans

Nowadays, more and more activity and transaction we can do via internet rather than just via conventional way. Indonesia with increasing of Internet usage penetration up to 8.9% (according to Internet World Stat) needs a strong infrastructure to support the growth. Yes, the key is INFRASTRUCTURE to connect user and ISP. Indonesia is not lack of ISP and internet connection choices, especially big cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung and other major cities. But that's all can't meet demand, supply and buying power of most population.

A most common connection is using dial-up modem with maximum speed of 64Kbps. This connection type is most widely available as it use PSTN network as its medium, and most ISP has dial-up service, prepaid and post paid. But priced at Rp. 165/min (US$ 1 = Rp. 9400) Telkomnet, the mostly used dial up service, we cant really it's satisfy.

Recently Telkom, the biggest telecommunication provider in Indonesia, has just upgraded some of its network to digital line on some major cities which is available for ADSL-level connection. With ADSL connection the maximum speed can be reach is 512Kbps (downlink) and 64Kbps (uplink). This speed is quite reasonable compare to its price. But as Telkom more focus on its CDMA Telkom Flexi, fixed line expansion growth is almost zero. So area that is not covered yet, we have no idea if Telkom plan to cover it or leave it to be covered by wireless.

Thankfully, there's more and more public available WiFi. And also some area has local available internet backbone. But as it serve a limited area only, we can not rely and hope them to cover some not-so-promising area such as rural and urban area.

Last choice, the most public available connection, is by wireless company provider (GSM and CDMA). But for its price at average Rp. 12/Kb and Rp. 3-5/Kb for GSM and CDMA respectively, can you imagine if this connection is use for daily activity that may consume up to 1GB data per day ? There is plan for 250MB - 4GB per month, with variance price from one provider to another. As it has limitation, I always feel uncomfortable to use it. There's unlimited plan price at Rp. 350.000/month with external ISP, but they limit the speed at max. 64Kbps even newest 3G modem is used. Forget the HSDPA and 3G claims for data speed rate !

My last word is, if you're a wireless internet provider (GSM and CDMA), please consider to launch an affordable internet plan. I think the price should be no more than Rp. 100.000-150.000/month. Be different ! I believe this will bring a very promising revenue for your company.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Creating Your Own GSM SMS Server

Short Message Service (SMS) is one of GSM killer application that brought from first generation and remain its popularity even now we're at 3G where support broadband data access. When GSM technology and infrastructure just have laid in Indonesia, all telecommunication company (telco) still count on voice call as main revenue sources. Now, SMS revenue is one of a main income for every telco beside voice call and VAS. And now, I believe now not less than 50 percent mobile user spent more time and money on typing max 160 chars message with tiny keypad than communicating by voice call.

As the SMS technology become easiest way to spread message in text, there's a lot side product inovation based on SMS. One of it, SMS VAS (Premium SMS), which is using special assigned number (shortcode), where require special connection to telco to operate it. But for most user/company, dont require to use these kind of number to make your own SMS Server. SMS Server here mean, an application that can send, receive, broadcast, auto-reply SMS through PC. And the service should be able to accessed by networked computer (intranet or internet).

By setup an SMS server, you can open a new channel to communicatio with your client, partner as well a SMS hotline instead of only voice call hotline. It's very easy and affordable as you just need these simple tool/application :
  1. A GSM handset with connection to PC. I recommend it uses wired connection than any wireless (IR or bluetooth) connection. Because we need a stable connection all the time. I prefer use NOKIA with DCT cable (monochrom Nokia phone e.g. 5510, 6610, 3210, 3310, etc).
  2. Application for read/send SMS from handset. I use Gammu, as it free and stable.
  3. A PC with Apache, PHP, MySQL installed as storage server and application server. LAN or internet connection required if you wish this system accessible from outside.
The main idea is read the sms in phone inbox and save to a database server. To send SMS, the agent simply read messages queue in outbox (at database) and push them to phone to be deliver as SMS. And as add-in to the main system module, we can plug (develop) an Auto-reply and message broadcast module. There's also phone book, accounting and report module can be added to system core.

Although all the third party application used here freeware (except if you use Windows Server, for example), but not my application itself. So if you need more detail about this system and how this system can help you, simply drop me a comment.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Installing and Using WURFL with PHP

To build a download site that compatible for most mobile device is a very challenging task where we need to gather all these device capabilities and match it to our available services. But every device manufacturer might have a different format for describing its device capabilities.

WURFL is a very original idea to combine all device into a standard format that can be contribute by anyone. Using single XML file as it database core, most wireless handset capabilities can be query to it. By the time I post this, there's new version, WURFLDB that using real database. But I still prefer WURFL. WURFL with PHP is one of the great combination, where PHP is the most popluar language for developing a web/wap site, WURFL can deliver a query just in a blink of eye.

To download WURFL for PHP simply go to . Select the latest stable version. Once downloaded, simply unpack it into a web accessible folder (if you plan to make this detection available for public) or just put it into a internal folder and using command line PHP to access it.

Edit the wurfl_config.php file if necessary. In my installation, I edit the DATADIR directive to "/opt/www/html/wurfl/data/" instead of relative path "../data/". Make sure set permission on the folder to public writeable. For linux user, I recommend "chmod
/opt/www/html/wurfl/data/ 666". For Windows user (with folder security and permission set on, right click -> Properties -> Security). For initial folder content, download the WURFL database file wurfl.xml and save into the data dir.

Once saved, you can test the installation by accessing check_wurfl.php with full URL. There's text box for you to input the user agent manually. But on the real working environment, you maybe need to pass user's UA string from http header value $_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT'] to the application. In my case, you can use PHP CURL function on wap site side and return the user agent using var_export($wurflObj->capabilities). You can also convert the result using any array to xml converter to switch the result's format. My sample installation is available here.

Once you get the data, it's now all up to you how to provide the appropriate service based on these data. Happy wurfl-ing !!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Global Warming

Global warming is a condition where temperature on earth surface is rising above normal level due to human activity that produces green house gases and also decreasing of natural mechanism that can balance these gases.

80% of green house gas is coming from Carbon Dioxide (CO2) which caused from fuel or coal or trees powered factory and engines. Every year, the use of energy never reduced, instead it's increasing year by year although there's so many invention low-enery consumption electronic devices and engines (cars).

Earth has experienced last warming period about 120.000 years ago and the temperature is about 4 - 5 degres higher than we experiencing now. At that time, sea level is 600 cm (240 in) higher than now. And as the planet earth orbit cycle turn into a position that further from the sun, earth temperature is decreasing and reach its climax and we call it last ice age. But now, the earth cycle is going to approaching the sun. So global warming is not just human activity to cause that, also caused by earth's orbit cycle itself. It's sooner or later will happen, but due to human activity, it happens faster than any expert expected. I'm not sure when it happen, but once upon a time, the water level on earth is as high as Grand Canyon, and if form the Grand Canyon as you can see now. Can you imagine what happen to human race and other living creature on earth when the sea level is as high as Grand Canyon ? Yes it's like Water world !

The real effect is, as the temperature increases, the ice at both earth poles melts into sea and increasing the water volume significantly. This is a very real thread for country like Indonesia which most of its region is consist of islands, and all surrounded by ocean. As the sea level risen, Indonesia could loose it's island one by one. And big islands, such as Sumatera, Java, Borneo and Sulawesi facing same thread. Most villages nearby the coast line will sunk into the sea, while its inhabitant forced move to higher ground. Cities nearby also facing same fate.

Main sea ports city, such as Jakarta, Semarang, Surabaya, Medan, all lies across island's coast line will need to build mechanism to protect the city from tidal wave or the tide itself. As we watch on TV or read news, it's common story to see North Jakarta is become water-world.

Bali road map is just the beginning of a chapter where human try to keep this planet inhabitable. Now everyone is talking global warming, saving the forest and energy efficiency, what have you have done today to slow down the warming progress of this vulnerable planet ?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Building a wap site

Nowadays, everything has go mobile. If you have any service, make it available on mobile phone version, you'll have your service access more than if you just make it available on web only. This all because, almost at least 80% of world population have access to mobile phone network. And mobile phone is the one we carry wherever we go.

To build a mobile phone enabled site, your have few options. There's rich HTML version (HTML v.4.0) that supported by latest device such as Nokia Internet Table, Apple Iphone and Smart phone (PDA-phone). The middle version is xHTML which is supported by newer mobile phone (with colour screen). If you going to make it available on most phone models, use WML (wireless markup language). Latest version of WML is 1.3. A basic WML page would be looks like :

<meta http-equiv="Cache-Control" content="max-age=0" forua="true"/>

<card title="{$page_title|htmlspecialchars}">
<p align="center"><img src="your-logo-here" alt=""/></p>



Since WML only support basic font display, it only support bold, italic and underline, but no fancy fonts selection. This is the model that I most recommend, especially on developing country like Indonesia where new technology adoption is slow. More reading and discussion about WML can be found at WML programming mailing list. And the easiest way to test out your page is using openwave phone simulator.

If you're going to build a transactional wap site, make sure your server is supported and registered by wireless service provider (telco) so any access to the site can be detected its msisdn (mobile subscriber isdn a.k.a phone number). This information and other useful header can be found on HTTP HEADER variable HTTP_X_FH_MSISDN values. If you're using PHP, you can read that as $_SERVER[HTTP_X_FH_MSISDN] vars. Variables the supplied from telco may vary. Please read the documentation.

To provide content that match to certain phone models, you can use User Agent Profile (UAProf) to identify certain specification of the phone. But due to every device manufactures has different standard, you can use WURFL to determine most phone capabilities and specification. Now you have all the information needed to build a wap site, wap charging and provide content as the device supported.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Indonesia Cellular Tariff

Indonesia is very strategic country for any purpose, huge market place for other country to market their products, and unlimited of natural resources potential from mining, plantation, and fishery. as it grow, there's more and more people need telecommunication, wired and wireless.

Since first time introduced in Indonesia, cellular network has become vital sector that related to most people daily activity. First established cellular network company is Satelindo (now had merged to Indosat). Later, until now there are Telkomsel, Indosat, XL, Hutchison established their service in Indonesia respectively with GSM platform.

While most of existing GSM user complaining the heaven-like GSM tariff, government policy approve another platform license to operate in Indonesia, CDMA, specialized for local (regional) connection only and at low-end tariff. But this policy does not work, as now GSM and CDMA as some CDMA company also operating nation-wide and with GSM-style dial number, where CDMA supposed to use only local-style number, like 021-XXX for Jakarta and 031-XXX for Surabaya. So, these companies are now head-to-head competing for larger market share. But actually some of it are same company that owned major GSM network, such as Telkom Flexi (own by Telkom, also has share on Telkomsel), StarOne (owned by Indosat), Mobile 8, Esia (Bakrie Telecom) and new comer SMART Telecom & Sampoerna Telecom Indonesia.

As the competition war is on, but binded to government regulation on Interconnection tariff (Dirjen Postel, DepkomInfo), all the provider can only "play" on intra-network calls. There are some offered Rp. 10/second, Rp. 1/second, and Rp. 1/minute for voice calls. Some provider offer even 0 (yes Zero cost) for these kind of calls/sms during off peak hours. In this situation of course the larger network subscriber share gain more advantages. Means when provider T with 60% market share has promted Rp. 10/seconds, mean it's subscriber will be able to call to 60% of cellular user with that cost. Compare to these even set Rp. 1/minute, but only have 1% market share. What I'm trying to say is, somehow this kind of promotion is just not appropriate neither effective.

As cellular user need grows, the demand for data calls is rising. But none provider has offered a significant tariff reduction for data. Without these incentive, the main objective to launch 3G (and HSDPA) will need more time to penetrate. We're not talking about speed, neither corporate user where cost is not in consideration list. We are talking about majority user, middle-class user (like me), and I believe this is the biggest portion of user segment.

For me, with current need and price scheme, GPRS is more than enough. And what ever the promotion, I'll still loyal to my number, current provider, "S" from company "T" since the first time I use cellular phone, eight years ago.

Global System for Mobile Communications
Code Division Multiple Access
General Packet Radio Services
High-Speed Downlink Packet Access

Nokia 6708 Firmware Update

Nokia 6708 is the only Nokia phone with Symbian UIQ platform. It has pen based touch screen with English and Chinese character recognition. Some claim this is a redesign of BENQ P31, but so far no official statement from Nokia about that claim. Since UIQ is now co-owned by SonyEricsson and Motorola, I think there will be no more UIQ phone come from Nokia in the future. Instead, Nokia likely to strengthen it's popular symbian based platform, S60 series.

Nokia 6708 come with two series firmware : APAC and PRC. APAC series firmware targeted on Asia Pasific user while PRC more focus on China (and Chinese-based country) use. The latest version of APAC firmware is 3.3.3 while PRC firmware version at 1.7.0. There's no significant different on these two firmwares as they're provide almost the same application and performances. But one important menu is not available on PRC version is fax messaging support. To check your Nokia 6708 (and most Nokia phones) firmware version, type #*0000# then OK(YES). If you found your 6708 has prior version of firmware, it's highly recommended for you to upgrade, as it will update some bug also increase your phone stability.

Upgrade Nokia 6708 is easy as you need only a common mini USB cable and a PC (and of course the Nokia 6708 itself). The hardest thing to find is the firmware file and flashing software. But with some small effort and thanks to google search, you can easily find it out with keyword "N6708_SW_PRC_ V1.7.0", "Nokia6708_ServiceTool_V1[1].8_setup.exe", "N6708 APAC V3.3.0".

Once you get these file, save on local hard drive. Install the required service tool. There's complete step by step instruction included in the service tool package. Before flashing, make sure you have backup all the data, fully charged your battery, remove the memory card from the slot. Phonebooks and SMS will be erased while some other application setting might remain. If you have any registered application installed, do forget to write down all the registration information, so you can reinstall it.

Fyi, this tools actually is not a shareware or even freeware. This application solely property of Nokia Care Center. But since it has been shared across the internet, and can be easily to use, I think it's fine if you want to try it yourself. One wise word from me, use on your own responsibility.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Indie music

Global music industry is now evolving to a new format. Before internet and portable music player is become as famous as now, we all listen to music from just a few sources.

Some old time player uses tape cassettes, some newer player come with disc player such as audio CD and laser disc. There's no way how people can make copy of these disc unless they have a very advanced sound system with double cassette deck player. huh !

Nowadays, c
opying music is no longer a very sacret word. Even street dealer now have mobile phone capable for playing music, most low-end laptop has DVD burner included, and when you have a USB capable device, you'll easily found a device to plug it in. It's no longer illegal, at least not in front of law. They call it share.

As you know, music sales is shrinking year to year. Business Week has the story. Less and less people buy music (at least with traditional way, buy CD or Cassete), they more like download and share among friends. There's not hard to find a song shared across internet. I wont mention any, because then Blogger might shut down this blog.

The most affected party in this situation is music label company such as Sony/BMG, EMI, Universal and Warner (known as BIG FOUR). But on other side, there's still large number of creative people working outside of the industry cage. Some people call them Indie Music. First time I thought it was a word related with Indonesie Music (fyi, I'm from Indonesia). Later I find out that's independent music. See related article on Wikipedia for more detail about indie music.

But due to circumstances the indie music is have less publishing & marketing power than big label company's music. But, I think in the future, the condition will change. There will me more more people publishing their own music without backed by a label.