A new high
Here is a piece of great news for the airline industry. Qatar Airways has become the first carrier to fly an Airbus A340 plane on natural gas fuel. The plane is powered by Rolls-Royce engines using a 50-50 blend of synthetic gas-to-liquids (GTL) fuel. That will cut down sulphur, corrosion, carbon dioxide and other emissions. Additionally, this type of fuel increases the flying range of aircraft.

The airline industry has been asked to bring down emission levels by 10% in the recent G-20 summit. The world airline industry has 19,000 planes consuming 208 billion litres of fuel every year causing an emission of 540 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The Qatar Airways experiment seems like a viable answer.

World powers are constantly seeking alternative fuels to reduce emission levels. Earlier, the erstwhile USSR has used aircraft fueled with alternative fuel like liquid hydrogen, liquefied natural gas 20-25 years ago. The USSR had used propane-butane fuels to fly helicopters in the 1970s.

In gas-run planes a fuel leak can be determined immediately because vapours form a concentration measurable for gasometry instruments. A gas leak leaves the crew with a better probability of escape. Gas has a higher combustion value than aviation fuel, which could improve the weight characteristics of aircraft.

In addition, aviation fuel may last for another 20-25 years whereas gas reserves are expected to last for the next 100 years.

Qatar has the world's third-largest gas reserves. GTL, although more expensive than kerosene, has a higher density and high calorific value that implies that more can be pumped into a plane to extend its flying range.
- Dhruv Rathi [email protected].

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IIT ditches alumnus
 
Young graduate student Buddhi Vikram is still languishing in US prisons since 2006 for allegedly sending threat mails to the then President George Bush and all efforts of his father, another IIT alumnus, to garner support have failed. The IIT alumni were supposed to take up Vikram’s case with former President Bill Clinton during his address to the PanIIT 2009 conference held earlier this week at Chicago, but allegedly could not muster up courage to do so.
 
This has started a fresh debate among the IIT alumni about their annual conference itself. Moneylife has come across some chain mails that are doing rounds on the Internet about PanIIT’s failure to take up Vikram’s case.
 
Vikram was arrested in April 2006 and charged on 11 counts, including charges under US Code 871, which deals with threats to the US president and his successor. If proved guilty, he could be sentenced to imprisonment up to 60 years. Vikram graduated in mathematics with an MSc degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, stood first in the class and received a silver medal from IIT.
 
According to Dr Buddhi K Subbarao, a former defence scientist who worked with the Indian Navy, and father of Vikram, PanIIT association conference organisers at Chicago buckled under pressure from US authorities. "It is amazing to me to know the twists and turns from the events at the PAN-IIT Conference," said Dr Subbarao, who holds a PhD in nuclear technology from IIT Bombay.
 
Echoing the same feeling, one of the attendees at the PanIIT conference, Ajeet Saxena, said, "These (the PanIIT fellows) are the guys who were not even known within their own batch and are now looking for some public recognition and scenes of importance by holding some 'public' office. They are goody-goody, out to maintain status quo, please all those in authority and somehow pose for photo sessions. They have nothing to do with matters of truth, righteousness and justice—as advocating any of these three requires courage and involves risk. Championing the cause of truth and justice antagonises people in powerful positions—people on whose crumbs these creatures thrive, and one faces the danger of not only losing the privileges offered by the establishment but even the risk of being victimised. So, don't expect anything from them."
 
Another IIT alumnus, who attended the conference after some reluctance, Samir Kelekar has termed the behaviour at the conference as a "tamasha". He said, “I didn’t see any difference in the PanIIT tamasha in Chennai. In fact, nothing of any consequence of social political change was taken up or (issues of more importance) followed up. While some of us fight for democracy and freedom of speech, others just are not concerned, but just 'suck up' to authorities and perhaps are trying to strike good business deals."
 
Earlier in August, Dr Subbarao, in an appeal to SM Krishna, external affairs minister, India said, ”Vikram is awaiting his sentencing at a US prison in Chicago. In prison, he has been conducting himself in a dignified manner, teaching mathematics to inmates as per the formal program prescribed by the prison authorities, and in the rest of the time making a serious and in-depth study of US Federal Criminal Laws with the hope that a time would come where some US Court would apply its judicial mind to secure the ends of justice and his life and liberty would be restored to him.”
 
So while Vikram continues to languish in a US prison, his fellow alumni from IIT were not even bothered to help him. Do we have to say any more on why we, the citizens of India, lack patriotic spirit?
-Yogesh Sapkale [email protected]
 
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Government all set to kill wireless in the name of national security
For those who access the Internet over wireless here is some bad news. The Indian government has issued instructions to all Internet services providers to keep a record of each and every user using the Wi-Fi Internet, similar to records kept by cybercafés. This recordkeeping is so difficult that it could kill the Wi-Fi connectivity.
 
According to a government notification, it appears that the authorities are concerned about the use of Wi-Fi networks by 'anti-social elements'. However, instead of tightening the noose around those 'anti-social elements' the Department of Telecom (DoT) has found an innovative way to gag the registered users.
 
What does this new directive mean for a common Wi-Fi user? Firstly, it means you need to have a separate username and password to access your Wi-Fi connection at home, in case if the connection is not in your name. So you will have to assign username and passwords for all family members. It’s very simple, isn’t it? But wait... after assigning username and passwords to all your family members; you will have to maintain a record of everyone's usage. If this sounds like a difficult task, then imagine what will happen to colleges and offices which use Wi-Fi.
 
Here is the text of DoT's latest public notice... "In order to prevent misuse of Wi-Fi connectivity for Internet access by unauthorised users, all telecom service providers have been directed to implement online Centralised Authentication procedure for Internet subscribers. All Internet and broadband subscribers using Wi-Fi connectivity are required to get themselves registered with the respective Telecom Service Providers for completing the centralised authentication procedure within 60 days from the publication of this notice."
 
There are similar detailed authentication norms for Wi-Fi in public spaces and compliance by existing subscribers, and those users with their own Wi-Fi routers will also have to get themselves registered. This is in contrast with government's initiatives to promote Wi-Fi Internet connectivity in educational institutes and public domain hot-spots. The latest directives from DoT also put a question mark on the future of wireless cities. Unwire Pune and Unwire Bangalore networks are reportedly ready for a rollout while Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata have also launched initiatives towards full-scale or partial deployment of City Wireless networks in the near future.
 
The DoT notices are part of the government's initiatives to curb unauthorised use of Wi-Fi Internet following the series of bomb blasts that rocked Ahmedabad and New Delhi last year. Terrorists in India reportedly used hacked Wi-Fi accounts in Mumbai to send an e-mail message to news channels claiming responsibility for these blasts.
However, the notice fails to address the proper issues and instead has focussed more on curbing overall Wi-Fi usage. Ideally, the notice should have mentioned about implementation of new security standards and methods to be followed by every Wi-Fi user.
 
Moneylife came across some interesting debate on the Internet over the issue. One user said, "Nobody is interested in users having passwords to log into private networks, the notification asks for all users to be centrally registered with the ISP. This is a backdoor method to empower ISPs to begin identifying subscribers on the basis of numbers of users per subscription ID, and the logical next step will be differential rates. I am rather more interested in a regulatory framework that will govern the leaking of such personal information to third parties (at the moment, there is none, so....)"
 
Another problem is the lack of security measures on a home network. Almost all Wi-Fi networks are supposed to use Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) standards for security mechanisms. But recently, some computer scientists from Japan claimed to have developed a way to break the WPA encryption system used in wireless routers in about one minute. So this puts another big question mark on the security mechanisms used in Wi-Fi networks.
 
Wi-Fi Alliance, a consortium that promotes products based on the family of IEEE 802.11 standards, advises to use WPA 2 standard based on IEEE 802.11i which provides 128-bit AES-based encryption. WPA 2 also provides mutual authentication with pre-shared key (PSK; in Personal mode) and with IEEE 802.1X / EAP (in Enterprise mode).
 
According to Wi-Fi Alliance, the overall Indian Wi-Fi market, including WLAN hardware, systems integration and software services, not including embedded devices and laptops, is predicted to grow with a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 61.4% to over $744 million by 2012 from the $41.57 million in 2008.
 
Although there is no date mentioned on the DoT's public notice, it was issued on 15th October, so you have time till 15th December to 'fall in line' else your connection will be no more.
 
Looking at the opportunities and potential for Wi-Fi Internet connectivity, we hope the authorities will make necessary rectifications to their order. There is already an angry community of academics and experts who are gearing up to fight the move. But most people and corporates are completely unaware about the DoT notification.
–Sucheta Dalal with Yogesh Sapkale [email protected]
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