the NSLU2 audio streamer

bullet1 Radio Streaming under 5 W

Published: 16 Jan 2009

For a couple of months now, IT46 and SchoolNet Namibia are collaborating to deploy a Wireless Network in Okongo, Namibia. During our visit to Namibia in December 2008, we discussed the possibility of using the future wireless network to deliver voice educational services to the schools.

After one of the warmest years in Swedish history, the cold has finally arrived. No time for outdoor biking means plenty of time to catch up with some hardware hacking projects!.

I explored the possibility of using a low power device as the NSLU2 for media streaming. The NSLU2 is a network-attached storage (NAS) device made by Linksys. The device runs the Intel X-Scale CPU and has two USB ports to host external hardrives. Thanks to an amazing open source community, it is possible to run Debian in the NSLU2.

Reflashing the NSLU2 was amazingly straightforward and the installer worked flawlessly. After four hours and a good connection to a Debian repository a newly image of Debian 5.0 (lenny) was running in NSLU2 hosting a 1 GB USB memory stick. The unofficial image of Debian contains some proprietary IXP4xx microcode needed to get the built-in network port up and running.

After installing the basic Debian distro, I added lighttpd and php5-cgi. After installing and configuring the webserver. I looked into audio streamers. I found a very light-weight web-based browser streamer that could do the job: Musicbrowser. After installing musicbrowser I was able to stream audio to a few webclients. Nice! Great success!

But, could I actually use the NSLU2 to play the audio? Inspiring by the Campcaster project, I thought it was a good idea to use the NSLU2 as an automation hardware for audio streaming. The NSLU2 has an extra USB port.. could I get a USB sound dongle to work? In December I got a few dongles from Giovanni as I have been working with the celliax project. I plugged the dongle into the USB port of the NSLU2 and good news: C-Media USB Headphone Set was recognized and modules available in the kernel. The final trick was to ensure that the /dev/dsp and /dev/mixer were created at start up!. Fixing a bunch of startup scripts and I was set.

The result... an automated audio streamer connected to two USB speakers consuming less than 5 W!

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Photo: Lotta Rydström

bullet1 Media Sprinkler Demo

Published: 12 Dec 2008

During the 1st International Conference on Mobile Communication Technology For Development (M4D), held the 11-12 December, 2008, at Karlstad University, Sweden, IT46 had the opportunity to demonstrate the Media Sprinkler.

The Media Sprinkler is a GSM telephony gateway that bridges services of the global mobile network (GSM) with the Internet (IP). The main goal of the system is to provide a flexible architecture that helps to develop innovative applications that require the use of mobile phones and short message services (SMS).

Apart from being able to handle SMSs, the sprinkler also acts as a complex audio mixer, capable of routing GSM calls to the traditional phone network or linking calls between different GSM operators. What makes the sprinkler attractive is its portability which enables the possibility of deploying a SMS server without the need of being directly connected to the operator's wired network.

In a nutshell, the Media Sprinkler integrates in a single unit, a connection to the GSM (mobile telephony), the PSTN (fix telephony) and IP network (Internet).

Services

The sprinkler provides a simple way to develop new applications, hiding to the programmer the more complex aspects of dealing with Internet and GSM calls. The possibilities are endless as the platform can easily be adapted within hours to implement any new service. For example, the platform allows:

  • The creation of new information services via voice or SMS, suitable for campaigns, media coverage, password reminders, etc.
  • The interconnection of GSM phone calls between different operators
  • To record and play pre-recorded messages from and to any voice media
  • To publish SMS content into the Internet (web, mail, Twitter, etc.)

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Bush roads in Okongo.

bullet1 Wireless/VoIP Network in Owambaland, Namibia

Published: 3 Dec 2008

IT46 and SchoolNet Namibia are collaborating to deploy a Wireless Network in Okongo, Namibia. Okongo is a remote town located in Northern Namibia, close to the Angolan border. The area is poorly equipped in terms of both road and communication infrastructure. Most of the schools do not have electricity or access to the plain telephone network. Schools located outside of the town (10-30 kms radius) are not properly covered by GSM, which leaves few options for voice communication. Given the fact that all of the bush roads are covered in thick sand, a 4x4 is required to reach Okongo town in a reasonable time. One day walk in the hot sand is the only alternative for many if not most.

The purpose of the project is to enhance communication between local schools and give to the school staff a way to communicate with the outside world through PSTN, GSM and ultimately, the Internet.

IT46 is designed a Wireless Network that will interconnect at least 15 primary and secondary school located in and around Okongo town. The network will provide low cost local telephony (between schools), Internet access and a PSTN/GSM gateway to reach the outside world. As part of design, the network will also provide access to a local Resource Centre hosting educational material.

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Pick up the phone!

bullet1 Wireless Africa, Training Workshop

Published: 25 Nov 2008

During five intensive days in November, 40 members of the Wireless Africa initiative met in Pretoria, South Africa, to participate in the first Technical and Business oriented Training Workshop of the Wireless-Africa project. The workshop attracted participants from no less than 14 African countries, which shows the emphasis on a truly Pan-African project.

The workshop was divided in two strands, a business oriented strand and a technical strand. IT46 contributed to the technical strand with two days of training in Voice-over-IP.

The VoIP training focused on three concepts:

  • Asterisk installation and configuration
  • Billing with A2Billing
  • Open VoIP hardware with IP04

The training was both theoretical and practical, no less than four practical hands-on labs were carried out during the training:

  • Setting up an intercom with IP04
  • Setting up a local telephony system
  • Interconnecting VoIP networks
  • Installation and configuration of billing software

All training material delivered can be found here

Each of the country partners (10 projects) were given a set of VoIP hardware (IP04, ATA, phones) to bring back to their projects and deploy a testbed. A few days after the workshop ended, the Nigerian team from Fantsuam reported that a local intercom based on the hardware from the Wireless Africa workshop, had been setup!

For more information about the Wireless Africa workshop, visit the official Wireless Africa website.

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Celliax in a low power VIA PC

bullet1 Integrating GSM and Skype into VoIP Telephony

Published: 31 Oct 2008

IT46 has now integrated two new technologies into the Media Sprinkler Platform. The latest addition is Celliax and Skypiax, two new communication channels that provide a low cost access to the GSM and Skype networks. The author of Celliax is Giovanni Maruzzelli, an Italian open source developer with experience in applying technology in challenging areas.

During the last months, Celliax has been supporting IT46 in this new milestone in the development. The Celliax channel allows the connection of a low cost GSM phone to the system, opposite to an expensive dedicated hardware. The Skypiax channel allows to bridge calls from and to Skype/SkypeOut.

The first prototype runs on a low power PC (VIA Nehemiah) and consumes less than 15 W.

Features of Media Sprinkler CS release include:

  • Connects to a GSM network using a 40 USD GSM phone
  • Allows the possibility of sending and receiving SMS
  • Capable of exchanging calls from Skype network
  • Possibility of integrating CDMA

Thanks Giovanni!

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Third Spanish Edition WNDW

bullet1 Wireless Networking in the Developing Word (third spanish edition)

Published: 16 Oct 2008

The WNDW team is proud to announce the release of the third Spanish translation of Wireless Networking in the Developing World. This is the latest contribution to the growing collection of WNDW translations, which also include English, Arabic, French, and Italian.

In the developing world, one book can often be equivalent to a library. Access to books is difficult where there are few libraries or book stores, and there is often little money to pay for them. By releasing this book for free under a Creative Commons license, anyone is free to download, print, update, or redistribute it. We hope to reach the widest possible audience, spreading the knowledge of low-cost wireless networking to those who need it most.

The book, "Wireless Networking in the Developing World" is just one part of the WNDW project. In addition to the various translations, you will also find community forums and additional material on our newly redesigned website, http://wndw.net/.

The goal of the project is to help jumpstart wireless communications infrastructure projects all over the world by providing information and resources to the wireless community. Join us to help bridge the digital divide and bring wireless network access to everyone.

The publication of this work has been supported by Canada's International Development Research Centre, http://www.idrc.ca/. Additional support was provided by NetworktheWorld.org.

You can download the book for free or order a printed copy at: http://wndw.net/

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Afrigen - Screenshoot

bullet1 Afrigen - Creating 100 African locales

Published: 10 Oct 2008

As part of the African Network for Localization ANLOC, IT46 has developed an online tool that will help the creation of 100 African locales.

The locale is a fundamental building block of any localization project. Locales are used by computer software to know about the letters of a language, the calendar, presentation of numbers and dates, etc.

The tool is a completely new re-write of Localegen, that in 2006 was used to submit more than 20 languages to Unicode for standardization.

The project aims to complete the 100 locales by early 2009 thanks to the help of regional coordinators and volunteers in Africa.

More information about this initiative is available in the development website: http://o2.it46.se/afrigen/

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The Media Sprinkler

bullet1 Release: The Media Sprinkler

Published: 12 Sep 2008

The Media Sprinkler is a GSM telephony gateway that bridges services of the global mobile network (GSM) with the Internet (IP). The main goal of the system is to provide a flexible architecture that helps to develop innovative applications that require the use of mobile phones and short message services (SMS).

Apart from being able to handle SMSs, the sprinkler also acts as a complex audio mixer, capable of routing GSM calls to the traditional phone network or linking calls between different GSM operators. What makes the sprinkler attractive is its portability which enables the possibility of deploying a SMS server without the need of being directly connected to the operator's wired network.

In a nutshell, the Media Sprinkler integrates in a single unit, a connection to the GSM (mobile telephony), the PSTN (fix telephony) and IP network (Internet).

Read more »

Photo: Anloc

bullet1 Kick-off for the African Network for Localisation

Published: 4 Jul 2008

The African Network for Localisation (Anloc) seeks to empower Africans to participate in the digital age by removing the last inch limitations caused by language, a process known as localisation whereby information and communication technology (ICT) is adapted to the language and culture where it is used.

In order to do so, technology needs to be enabled, the tools that make localisation more effective must be built, training that increases African localisation skills needs to be developed and provided, and the status of language policy as it relates to localisation and to the usage of ICTs in local languages needs to be influenced.

In July 2008, project partners from the ten different sub-projects, met in Pilansburg, South Africa, to start the three year long research project.

IT46 is participating in two sub-projects of Anloc, the Locale project and the Terminology project.

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Representatives from the selected sites.

bullet1 Wireless Africa, Kickoff workshop

Published: 27 Jun 2008

How do we make Community Owned Information Networks work for the poor?

During the last couple of years, a number of Community Wireless Networks have been deployed across Africa. They have mainly been established with help of donor funds, with the intention of being self-sustainable after the project's end. Many of these networks are facing problems with sustainability caused by low level of scalability, lack of technical skills, limited client base, and lack of entrepreneurship.

The research focus of Wireless Africa is to support community based operators to roll out their networks in ways that are financially sustainable and technically appropriate. The initiative is keen to explore new network approaches based on Open Source Software and Open Hardware plus innovative business models and services.

The main technology focus will be on low cost wireless devices, easy to setup Voice-over-IP systems, bandwidth management and billing systems.

During the kick-off workshop held in Pretoria, 25-27 of June 2008, 15 country partners were invited to present their community networks. Representatives from Morocco, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique, South Africa, Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola participated in the three day long workshop.

During the workshop, three partners were selected to take part of first phase of research and implementation. The partners were selected based on their readiness in terms of local research capacity, technical skills and entrepreneurial skills.
The selected partners are the Community Wireless Resource Centre (Uganda), Fantsuam Foundation (Nigeria) and oneVillage Foundation (Ghana).

The Wireless Africa initiative is a partnership between the Meraka Institute (CSIR), IT46, Wire.less.dk, Link Centre and Kwantu Media.
The project is funded by IDRC.

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