The IT and India's domain name registrar

India's domain name registrar has failed to capitalise on the Internet explosion. Globally, over 10,000 `' IP addresses are taken everyday while India till date has only 1506 `dot in' top level domains (TLI). At this rate, the Prime Minister's dream of IT - India Tomorrow - is a long way off. While it is true that there is much more to information technology than to Internet. It is the Internet that is driving the technology and also a large part of the global economy. In India, an young entrepreneur looking for a `dot in' is to face a lot of hassles inasmuch as there are a lot of conditions one has to meet before getting a country code TLD (CCTLD). The domain name that one asks for should be derived from the name of the organisation or in the name of the trademark registered by the organisation."Generic names are not allowed under co-in sub-domain.Under this rule we will not have a or an".

To register a domain name on the Internet, in India one has to be registered with the Registrar of Companies (RoC) , which makes the process highly time consuming and obliges Indian start-ups to be registered as a `dot com' rather than a `dot in'. The other irritating condition to get a `dot in' TLD is that one should have an office in India, an unbelievable proposition in an era when Internet is forcing a borderless world. The most regressive condition is that a `dot in' domain is given only if the name server is in India and the services of an Indian ISP are used. Free availability of `dot in' domain name is not a big attraction since a dotcom address can be had for US $35 per annum.

Many of the ICANN accredited registrars provide domain names for free and also include cheap hosting services. Some even give a lot of bandwidth free. With all these available it is unlikely that a company will want to go in for a `dot in' TLD. Firstly, it is difficult to attract hosting to Indian ISPs with the kind of services they provide. Secondly, one needs boxes that can work with active server pages (ASP), an emerging global standard where India is far behind and only some ISPs have come as far as providing Common Gateway Interface (CGI) services. There are two things that India should do. The government needs to give incentives for setting up modern day Web servers to host sites for dotcom, other TLDs and mirror sites in India. It must drastically cut bandwidth cost to push Web hosting to India. [Adapted].

— The Financial Express 8 March 2000

Good bye full text databases?

The US court ruling of September 1999 might make this happen if authors across the world wish so. The case in question was about author's rights vs. publisher's practice of putting print material on electronic media. Publishers have generally taken for granted that once authors assign them the rights for print version, it automatically holds for electronic version too. This case, fought between National Writers Union vs New York Times, Lexis and Nexis, and others, refutes this assumption and lets the authors have and decide the first publication rights and the rights for specific electronic version. New York Times et al. lost the case.

It is not difficult to imagine what this would lead to. All the full-text databases of the world offered by online hosts like Dow Jones and Reuters, Dialog and STN will have to take out the full-text from their site. For, none of their information providers would have, in the past, obtained rights for the electronic version of the full-text separately from their authors. The same could happen to ADONIS and IEEE's IEL. Today, an author's article , once published in a journal, becomes visible as something worth reading because a number of databases that cover the same article take it to a wider and diverse segment of audience whom the author could never have reached through the first publication in print alone. All these databases indeed do a great service to the authors by keeping their articles perpetually alive and circulated which simply is not possible from one printed issue of a journal.

Authors may argue that it could be so if they write for recognition and unrestricted dissemination only. What if they also want to share the trickles of revenue that electronic database publishers and online hosts collect and share among themselves? ProQuest Direct, the full-text database system for 6,000+ journals from Bell & Howell (formerly UMI) offers about a few million full-text article, say, from several million authors. How would they ever share their subscription revenues with all these authors? How will their publishers who license them the full-text content, ever keep track of subscription revenues for a journal and transaction revenue for an article and track it for each author and distribute? It is practically impossible to design a system for tracking revenues and distributing payments to several million authors. It is like writing a million cheques every month for a few cents or rupees , rarely crossing double digit.

Authors may hail this as a millenium victory. But it will prove to be a nuisance and nightmare to publishers and database producers. This ruling may completely alter and reshape the future of content industry more than what the Internet has done. [Adapted]

— The Informatics Newsletter 2000, No.2

Clinical Trials

US congress has asked for a comprehensive registry of clinical trials for serious illnesses. The National Library of Medicine has opened its Internet registry The database contains over 4,000 studies and more from drug company trials will be added in the next few months. Also of help is for clinical trials on experimental drugs that may not be known to doctors. It has been made mandatory for Web sites to be consumer-friendly, where one can ask why researchers think a particular treatment would work better than the standard one. Patients can ask how many of those with a similar problem have been tested earlier, the side effects, the kinds of tests and procedures they need to undergo, and importantly, if any of these hurt.

— The Statesman 7 April 2000, p.7

Train, air timings at click of a mouse

Now one can check out on the latest train or air timing, get information at the click of a mouse as to the availability of hotels, tour packages, the distance between any two cities, the weather in different cities and the exchange rates of currencies across the globe using the new portal www.indiatravelinfo-com , launched by Services International, an agency serving mostly Western tourists for more than decade. The user-friendly site helps one to plan his own tour. It also provides pictorial information on the various hotels, places of tourist interest and has discussion boards, mailers, etc. The site has mutual links with a large number of state tourism sites that enables the traveller to penetrate into wide ranging information throughout the country. [Adapted]

— The Hindu 5 April 2000, p. 3

Surf the Internet without a PC

The SmartPhone developed by Telenor, Norway's state-owned telecommunication company along with the Samsung of South Korea and Alcatel of France, and claimed to be the world's first ISDN-based Web screen telephone was recently launched in Norway. It will allow ISDN and e-mail subscribers to surf the Internet without a PC through a desktop device that also acts as a conventional phone.

Gadget enthusiasts can use the device instead of bulky home PCs as it takes space equivalent to an answering machine and is claimed to be easier to use than a PC. Users can press the screen or tap it with an electronic pen to check mail, surf the Net, view the Yellow pages and pay bills. Without log on a red light indicates if there is a voice or email message. Anyone can use or surf the Net without having any knowledge of PCs.

SmartPhones will not replace televisions or computers as Internet devices because their screen size make protracted surfing uncomfortable. Neither it can be used as fax machines, nor it can receive pictures or sound files via email, nor it can be linked with a smart card to authenticate banking applications.

Samsung and Alcatel decided to market the phone initially in Norway since the country has the highest ISDN penetration rate in the world (Five lakh business and private ISDN subscribes out of country's forty lakh residents). The developers of the phone are eyeing to other European countries with high ISDN penetration including Germany for a market. The product will cost $356 to $415. [Adapted].

— The Business Standard 6 April 2000, p. 8

Ayurveda on the Net

The Web site launched recently by the Capital-based NGO Ashtvaidyan Ayurveda Foundation in New Delhi explains the fundamentals of Ayurveda to the layman in plain and simple language. The objective of the launching of the school on the Web site is to spread the knowledge of our ancient sciences among the masses.

— The Hindu 11 April 2000, p. 3

Chemical business is the first and only business-business e-commerce site for online buying and selling of all chemicals in our country. The volume of business in chemical industry equals fifteen percent of our GDP. Thirty major manufacturers have already registered on the site, notable among them are: Nocil, Mafatlal Industries, Reliance, ICI, Bayer, India Glycols, Vam Organics ansd Coastal Wartsila. HDFC Bank will provide the payment gateway. [Adapted]

— The Statesman 11 April 2000, p. 9

Net's victim

The Internet has finally claimed his first victim from the publishing world. The famous John Smith & Sons in Glasgow has decided to close down after it lost battle against book superstores and online discount shopping. The bookstore was the favourite halt of the poet Robert Burns. Willie Anderson, the Managing Director, said, "I feel sad, but we could not see how we could claw back sales". [Adapted]

— The Statesman 20 April 2000, p. 7

Instant messenger, a leading Indian portal network, has launched an instant messenger service. A first for any Indian portal, the messenger has been developed by an in-house team of technicians and is claimed to be ahead of the existing technology. The services include instant communication, buddies lists and parameters, automatic online alert, multi-parameter search, and post reminder services. The messenger is also placed unobtrusively in the task bar until activated. The memory required for it is one megabyte _less than the others in the market. It can be downloaded from [Adapted]

— The Times of India 25 April 2000

World's biggest library goes cyber

The Library of Congress is opening a Web site for children and showing off a reconstruction of Thomas Jefferson's own library _ the core of the world's biggest collection. The Library's collection includes 9,429,184 books, including music, bound newspaper and other printed material; 53,120,327 manuscripts and over 13 million films, prints, photos, drawings and posters, almost 119 million items in all. They include 4,000-year old clay tablets providing information about Sumerian civilisation. The Library has been putting about a million items annually on its Web site called American Memory. The Web site www.Americaslibrary.Gov went online with 3,000 educational items for children and families. [Adapted]

— The Times of India 25 April 2000

Constitution Review Panel launches Web site

The Constitution Review Panel headed by Mr. Justice M N Venkatachalaiah has launched a Web site of its own at The office is located at Vigyan Bhavan Annexe, First Floor, Maulana Azad Road, New Delhi _110001 (Phone nos. 3022080, 3022081, Fax no. 3022082). The Web site will disseminate such information as the Government resolution appointing the Commission with effect from 22 February 2000 by a gazette notification, its terms of reference, duration of its existence, and the names of the chairman, members and the secretary. The proceedings of the two meetings held by the Commission so far, progress of its activities like identifying ten core areas, appointment of subgroups on each topic to be co-chaired by an expert of repute and headed by a member each, are also available. The purpose of the site is to enable people to access the Commission to know its uptodate progress.

The proposed questionnaire and consulting papers on each of the identified areas would be put on the site to elicit views from a wide spectrum of interest groups having computerised access. [Adapted]

— The Hindu 27 April 2000, p. 7

Education for all

To know how the Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS) is sweeping the rural areas of Madhya Pradesh, log on to The EGS has created about 26,000 primary schools in the remotest villages, mainly inhabited by Dalits and tribals. Under the EGS the state government has promised to provide primary schooling facility within 90 days in any area where at least 25 children who live at least one km from any other school want it.

The EGS has won the first Commonwealth International Innovation Award in 1998 and was even reported to be adopted by the Indian government as a national model in 1999. Fundaschool offers any citizen of the world a partnership in basic education by seeking donations from them. The EGS will regularly post information and pictures about schools students and their performance on Fundaschool. [Adapted]

— The Statesman 27 April 2000, p. 7

Public Information Kiosks in A.P.

Hyderabad-based National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD) took the initiative in establishing recently two rural development information centres in Andhra Pradesh (AP). These two centres resemble the Pondicherry Information Village Centres of M S Swaminathan Research Foundation. In 1998 when NIRD organised the National Workshop on Rural Libraries and Information Centres under Panchayat Raj in Hyderabad it accepted one of the recommendations of the workshop, viz. establishment of Public Information Kiosks (PIKs), and set up two on an experimental basis - one at Tenali in Guntur District and the other at Vikarabad in Rangareddy District.

A major difference between the Pondicherry model and the Andhra model is that the kiosks are located in public libraries in AP whereas the Village Information Centres in Pondicherry are independent. The PIKs are designed to act as multi-purpose resource centres. They offer information services to rural people on various socioeconomic aspects as well as resource profiles of the regions in which they are located. They create databases on various development schemes in areas like health, education, and employment opportunities which are considered useful to the rural population.

This is done with the help of officials of the Pahchayat Raj institutions, agricultural extension and other departments at mandal and district levels. Television and radio programmes are closely monitored with a view to disseminating agricultural, meteorological, educational and disaster-related information. The PIKs are equipped with telephones, STD/PCO, fax, e-mail and photocopying facilities on payment basis. They will also have in due course, Internet dial up connectivity. Each of them has two project assistants, trained in operating the equipment as well as acquiring and processing of information using computers. [Adapted]

— MALA Newsletter 2000, 13

Powerful processor built from off-the-shelf PCs

A parallel-processing machine with the number-crunching capabilities of a modest supercomputer at a fraction of the cost of latter has been assembled from off-the-shelf personal computers by Japan Science and Technology Corporation. Built from commercially available PCs , this poor man's parallel processor is capable of performing 6.8 billion calculations per second but would cost less than $ 100,000 to assemble. Leading companies including manufacturers of cars and drugs, often invest millions of dollars on supercomputers that can help them design and develop their complex products.

That kind of computing muscle is out of reach of smaller players, however, because of the high cost of the hardware. But global efforts are underway to develop Beowulf-class clusters such as the ones assembled here, which are parallel processors of tremendous power assembled from inexpensive parts. The processor developed by Kitano Symbiotic Systems incorporates a total of 33 PCs in a series and runs on the Linux operating systems and freeware for parallel processing developed by Argonne National Laboratory. Although its processing capacity, viz. 6.8 gigaflops is significantly smaller than 1,000 gigaflops of the newest generation of supercomputers but the entire machine can be built for the monthly rent of a supercomputer. The team built the computer for $150,000.00 using components produced at the end of 1998. With PC prices having moved sharply lower since , the total cost now could be almost one-third of that.

Computer technology is advancing rapidly making supercomputers quickly obsolete. But with the Beowulf-class-cluster concept, the performance of a supercomputer system can be easily upgraded by simply replacing parts. Another advantage is that a cluster takes up much less room than a supercomputer. Supercomputers are often used for applications like weather forecasting, major scientific programmes, car and drug design, customer database analysis and stock market forecasting. However, because the machines are so expensive, their use in the private sector is largely limited to multinationals. Parallel processors on the other hand , are within the budgets of most universities and venture companies.

— Science & Technology in Japan, April 2000, p. 9-10

Wearable computers as museum guides

Museums have been trying to increase the effectiveness of the information about the items displayed to the visitors in their exhibitions. Walking around museum with a compact-disc player and headphones is certainly a step above bulky old cassette players, but a new wireless system featuring "wearable" computer peripherals takes information presentation to a whole new level. Through their joint research, the researchers at Electrotechnical Laboratory at Waseda University have developed a system that people can wear as they stroll around the museum looking at displays. It consists of a computer, a wireless local area network, and a combination of CCD camera and LCD panel.

When the visitor stops in front of an exhibit, the video camera takes a picture to send via the LAN to the computer. The computer then compares this picture with its database holding images of the museums collection, finds the match and transmits information about that particular display back on the small LCD screen, which is fixed near one eye. Users are thus free to walk around the museum and read detailed information about anything on exhibit without having to peer at printed descriptions on panels beside the exhibits. The screen is so close to the eye that the user barely have to shift their field of vision to reference the information. The research is representative of the cutting- edge science being promoted in the Real World Computing Project under the aegis of MITI.

In a more whimsical use of technology, the researchers imagine the camera/LCD unit being combined with a wearable computer so people would never have to forget a name again. It would operate something like this. When users wearing this system meet someone unknown to them, that new person's face and name would be stored in the computer. The next time the two meet, the computer would reference the face and transmit the name and other information to the screen for ready reference by forgetful users.

— Science & Technology in Japan, April 2000, p. 10-11

Information Today & Tomorrow, Vol. 19, No. 3, September 2000, p.25-p.28