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The OpenBTS project creates a stand-alone cell phone network

By Forrest Cook
September 10, 2008

On September 3, 2008, Harvind Samra announced the new OpenBTS project:

The Open BTS Project is an effort to construct an open-source Unix application that uses the Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP) to present a GSM air interface ("Um") to standard GSM handset and uses the Asterisk software PBX to connect calls. The combination of the ubiquitous GSM air interface with VoIP backhaul could form the basis of a new type of cellular network that could be deployed and operated at substantially lower cost than existing technologies in greenfields in the developing world.

OpenBTS is currently a work in progress, released components (and the associated pile of telecom acronyms) include a Gaussian minimum-shift keying (GMSK) radio modem and interface code for the USRP hardware, GSM forward error correction (FEC) coders and decoders, GSM L3 message serializers/deserializers, a hybrid GSM/SIP control layer, and a partial short message service (SMS) stack implementation. There are plans for expanding the functionality of the various components of the code.

The fairly short project FAQ notes a potential legal issue with a proposed workaround solution: "Although the project founders have built a more complete GSM BTS (base transceiver station), some of that code may be the subject of a legal dispute. While the authors deny any wrongdoing is this matter, it would still not be prudent to release all of the code in these circumstances... Hopefully, the incomplete parts can be replaced quickly."

The OpenBTS developers ran a recent alpha-level system field test at the 2008 Burning Man art/technology festival in the Nevada desert. They applied for and received a temporary FCC license, memorialized by this poster, in order to keep everything legal with the licensing authorities. Around $7000 worth of radio equipment was assembled. To top it off, everything was powered by a small wind generator and a 12V battery.

A WiFi backhaul connection was made to a nearby satellite ground station to provide VoIP connectivity to the external world. Some interesting technical problems were encountered, including being flooded by connections from active cell phones that were looking for connection points when the system was first activated. Another issue discovered was a "security hole" involving unlimited external long distance dialing. After sorting through the various issues, the system was declared operational. Many in-system and external voice and text connections were made, the alpha test was declared a success.

The live field test resulted in exposing a lot of real-world problems that led to numerous code improvements. There's no doubt that sitting in a tent in a hot and windy desert is a fairly difficult environment to develop code in, but progress was made nonetheless. The OpenBTS project illustrates the kind of technical advances that can be made by a small, but dedicated group of people using open-source software and open hardware.

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System Applications

Audio Projects

PulseAudio 0.9.12 released

Version 0.9.12 of the PulseAudio sound server has been announced. See the change log for more details.

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Database Software

PostgreSQL Weekly News

The September 7, 2008 edition of the PostgreSQL Weekly News is online with the latest PostgreSQL DBMS articles and resources.

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pysqlite 2.5.0 released

Version 2.5.0 of pysqlite, a DB-API 2.0-compliant database interface for SQLite, has been announced. "This is a release with major new features."

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Networking Tools

Net-SNMP: 5.4.2 released (SourceForge)

Version 5.4.2 of Net-SNMP has been announced. "net-snmp provides tools and libraries relating to the Simple Network Management Protocol including: An extensible agent, An SNMP library, tools to request or set information from SNMP agents, tools to generate and handle SNMP traps, etc. I'm happy to announce the release of version 5.4.2 of Net-SNMP, which is the newest version in the development of the project and contains many bug fixes over the 5.4.1 release."

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SkipoleMonitor 0.8 released

Version 0.8 of SkipoleMonitor has been announced. "SkipoleMonitor is a free network monitor for Windows and Linux. On running the program, a GUI window appears, and hosts can be added, which Skipole Monitor will regularly ping, showing the results via a built-in Web server. Hosts can be grouped, so the Web server will show group symbols which the viewer can open to inspect the hosts, or further sub-groups, within. As hosts (and groups of hosts) change status, SkipoleMonitor can be set to send email and syslog alerts."

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Web Site Development

Django 1.0 released

Version 1.0 of the Django web development platform has been announced. "No, you’re not hallucinating, it’s really here. Around three years ago, Adrian, Simon, Wilson and I released some code to the world. Our plan was to hack quietly on it for a bit, release a solid 1.0 release, and then really get the ball rolling. Well. What happened, of course, was that an amazing community sprung up literally overnight — our IRC channel had over a hundred people in it the day after release, and it’s never been that “empty” since." See the release notes for more information.

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Midgard 8.09.0beta2 released

Version 8.09.0beta2 of Midgard, a web content management system, has been announced. "When finalized, the 8.09 "Ragnaroek LTS" will be a Long Term Support version of Midgard for which bug fixes and minor feature improvements will be supplied by the Midgard community for several years. It is recommended that all Midgard users upgrade their installations to the Midgard 8.09 series for stability, performance and maintenance reasons."

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Rails 2.1.1: Lots of bug fixes

Version 2.1.1 of the Rails web development platform has been announced. "Rails 2.1.1 is another maintenance release that includes a bunch of bug fixes and a fix for the REXML vulnerability. I’ve extracted all the changes from the CHANGELOGs into a single Gist. Enjoy!"

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web2py 1.40 is out

Version 1.40 of web2py, a Python-based web development platform, has been announced. "version 1.40 includes: - Database Abstraction Layer for SQLite, MySQL, PostgreSQL, MSSQL, FireBird, Oracle, and the Google App Engine. - More handlers for wsgi, fastcgi, mod_python and cgi (for the google app engine). - Setup scripts for production deployment."

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Andutteye: 3.0 is released (SourceForge)

Version 3.0 of Andutteye has been announced. "Andutteye is an open source systems management platform that automates enterprise data centers and keeps them running. Andutteye provides a full featured and central monitoring and management solution."

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Desktop Applications

Business Applications

PostBooks: 3.1 beta 2 (SourceForge)

Version 3.1 beta 2 of PostBooks has been announced, it includes several new capabilities. PostBooks is: "Fully integrated ERP, CRM, and accounting for small to midsized businesses. Graphical client runs on Linux, Mac, and Windows (built with open source Qt framework). Business logic resides in PostgreSQL database server. Fully international-ready."

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Data Visualization

python-graph 1.2.0 released

Version 1.2.0 of python-graph has been announced. "python-graph is a library for working with graphs in Python. This software provides a suitable data structure for representing graphs and a whole set of important algorithms."

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Desktop Environments

GNOME 2.24.0 Beta 2 (2.23.91) Released

Version 2.24.0 Beta 2 of GNOME has been announced. "You all know what you have to do now. Go download it. Go compile it. Go test it. And go hack on it, document it, translate it, fix it."

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GNOME Software Announcements

The following new GNOME software has been announced this week: You can find more new GNOME software releases at

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KDE Software Announcements

The following new KDE software has been announced this week: You can find more new KDE software releases at

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Xorg Software Announcements

The following new Xorg software has been announced this week: More information can be found on the X.Org Foundation wiki.

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Encryption Software

GPA 0.8.0 released

Version 0.8.0 of GPA has been announced. "GPA is a graphical frontend for the GNU Privacy Guard. GPA can be used to encrypt, decrypt, and sign files, to verify signatures and to manage the private and public keys. This is a development release. Please be careful when using it on production keys."

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Libgcrypt 1.4.2 released

Version 1.4.2 of Libgcrypt has been announced, some new capabilities have been added. "The GNU project is pleased to announce the availability of Libgcrypt version 1.4.2. Libgcrypt is a general purpose library of cryptographic building blocks. It is originally based on code used by GnuPG. It does not provide any implementation of OpenPGP or other protocols. Thorough understanding of applied cryptography is required to use Libgcrypt."

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Financial Applications

LedgerSMB 1.2.16 released

Version 1.2.16 of LedgerSMB, a web-based financial system, has been announced. "This version corrects one issue introduced in 1.2.15 and a variable scoping issue which prevents Perl 5.10.0 from working as expected in some cases. Users are advised to upgrade, but those who are using pricematrix logic and who are using versions prior to 1.2.15 should put the release through some light testing before putting it into production."

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cocos2d 0.3.0 released

Version 0.3.0 of cocos2d has been announced, it includes new features and bug fixes. "cocos2d is a framework for building 2D games, demos, and other graphical/interactive applications."

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Wine 1.1.4 announced

Version 1.1.4 of Wine has been announced. Changes include: "Substantial chunks of WinHTTP are implemented. More JavaScript support. Beginnings of shell AppBar implementation. Several fixes for Google Chrome support. Chinese translations. Various bug fixes."

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Elisa Media Center 0.5.9 released

Version 0.5.9 of Elisa Media Center has been announced. "This release introduces a number of important new features, among which: - Login to restricted services (therefore allowing more functionalities for said services inside Elisa for logged in users); currently supported:; next on the list: Flickr. - A search engine: currently allows you to search for music in your local collection and on if logged in. - A tight integration of the brand new, an online music service (currently limited to Spain), in the UI, allowing local collection completion among other cool features. - Photo browsing by date."

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Office Applications

Chandler Desktop 1.0.1 released

Version 1.0.1 of Chandler Desktop has been announced. "The Chandler Project is an open source, standards-based information manager designed for personal use and small group collaboration. Chandler Desktop 1.0.1 is a bug fix update to the previous full release, 1.0. For more information, see the following blog post:"

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libquantum 1.0.0 and 1.1.0 released

Versions 1.0.0 and 1.1.0 of libquantum have been announced. "libquantum is a highly optimized C library for the simulation of quantum systems, especially of quantum computers. Prominent features include simulation of decoherence effects, quantum error correction."

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Speech Software

eSpeak 1.39 released

Version 1.39 of eSpeak, a text to speech converter, has been announced. "Fix for crash with some SSML tags. From the ChangeLog file: Minor language improvements: French, English/US Fix missing phoneme translations for mbrola French voice."

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Web Browsers

Firefox 3.1 Alpha 2 now available for download

Version 3.1 Alpha 2 of Firefox has been announced. "The second developer milestone of the next release of Firefox - code named Shiretoko Alpha 2 - is now available for download. Shiretoko is built on pre-release version of the Gecko 1.9.1 platform, which forms the core of rich internet applications such as Firefox. Please note that this release is intended for developers and testers only. This Alpha of Shiretoko / Gecko 1.9.1 introduces several new features".

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Google Launches New Browser (MozillaZine)

MozillaZine discusses the new Google Chrome browser. "Google has launched a new open source browser, Chrome. The new browser boasts a minimalistic UI, a new Javascript engine dubbed V8, and sandboxed tabs to prevent one tab from crashing the browser. Chrome uses components from Apple's webkit and Mozilla Firefox."

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aria2: 0.15.3 released (SourceForge)

Version 0.15.3 of aria2 has been announced. "aria2 is a utility for downloading files. The supported protocols are HTTP(S),FTP,BitTorrent,Metalink. It can download a file from multiple sources/protocols and tries to utilize your maximum download bandwidth. This release fixes the bug in chunk checksum validation and infinite loop in FTP downloads and segmentation fault when downloading gzipped file from Metalink. Turkish translation was added and German and Russian translations were updated."

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Languages and Tools


GCC 4.4.0 Status Report

The September 9, 2008 edition of the GCC 4.4.0 Status Report has been published. "Trunk in in Stage 3, so only bug fixes, documentation changes and new ports are generally allowed, subject to the discretion of individual maintainers. I discussed the nature of that discretion and how some maintainers need to be more conservative than others..."

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Caml Weekly News

The September 9, 2008 edition of the Caml Weekly News is out with new articles about the Caml language.

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ftputil 2.3 released

Version 2.3 of ftputil, a high-level FTP client library for Python, has been announced. "ftputil has got support for the ``with`` statement which was introduced by Python 2.5. You can now construct host and remote file objects in ``with`` statements and have them closed automatically (contributed by Roger Demetrescu)."

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Jython 2.5 Alpha 2 released

Version 2.5 Alpha 2 of Jython, a Java-based Python implementation, has been announced. "Django runs pretty well on this release. I am attending Djangocon where Jim Baker and Leo Soto will be presenting on Django on Jython, and I wanted them to be able to tell people to grab a release instead of telling them to grab Jython from svn. There are many bug fixes, but also many bugs that have not yet been fixed."

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Python-URL! - weekly Python news and links

The September 9, 2008 edition of the Python-URL! is online with a new collection of Python article links.

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Tcl-URL! - weekly Tcl news and links

The September 4, 2008 edition of the Tcl-URL! is online with new Tcl/Tk articles and resources.

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Tcl-URL! - weekly Tcl news and links

The September 10, 2008 edition of the Tcl-URL! is online with new Tcl/Tk articles and resources.

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Emacs 22.3 released

Version 22.3 of Emacs has been announced. "Emacs 22.3 is a bugfix release."

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DrJava: Stable Update 20080904 (SourceForge)

Stable Update 20080904 of DrJava has been announced. "DrJava is a lightweight programming environment for Java designed to foster test-driven software development. It includes an intelligent program editor, an interactions pane for evaluating program text, a source level debugger, and a unit testing tool. Available for download at This is a minor update to the recent stable release, fixing a bug in the execution of unit tests."

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Version Control

monotone 0.41 released

Version 0.41 of the monotone distributed version control system has been announced. "This version mainly fixes some annoying bugs and adds few new features, mainly in the automation area."

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yap: Yet Another (Git) Porcelain

An early release of yap has been announced. "After starting yap several weeks ago, I feel it has reached a level of maturity that makes it suitable for public consumption. yap is three things, in increasing order of relevance: 1) A git porcelain implemented in python 2) A git porcelain with a friendlier, more orthogonal interface 3) A extensible git porcelain"

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