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Dinesh Nair @alphaque
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Dr Mohd Awang Lah, the father of Malaysian interwebz.
an unsung hero of the interwebz wars, most of you enjoy what you have today because of what he started and shepherded. but you never knew him or heard of him, he liked his under the radar yet over the radar profile.
story time, spilling tea as they say these days. but this is good tea, this is tea grown from the finest plants, dried exquisitely and a single sip which would overcome the senses in a most wondrous way. this is a story of mal.
for me it starts in 1992, the the AI Lab of USM. at 2am, as I was logged into csusm, then known on UUNet as !csusm!my. an old Sun 630MP, running SunOS when it was still BSD based, before Solaris came around.
at that point already writing code for Bill Jolitz's 386BSD, there was a bug which was making it's rounds on Usenet. back in the day, the time between exploits being known and fixed was long, it was a safer interwebz.

it was also when the phrase "encumbered BSD" came to being.
so 2am in the morning all alone in USM's AI Lab, decided to try the exploit on a host i'd seen around. mimos!my. then the only sink for Usenet in Malaysia, everyone else fed off it.

this was a time when telnet was a new thing, mind you.
long story short and a local privilege escalation later, was root on that boxen. and then typed out 'who' on the Bourne shell prompt. there was only one other user logged in then.

username mal, logged in for 9 hours plus. at 2am. and active running commands.
mimos# talk mal<CRLF>

and thus started the game of "who the fuck are you" which lasted 3 minutes before I realised he was authorized root and he knew I wasnt supposed to be there, let alone root.
once again long story short and after some shrunken gonads when i'd realised I was talking to the Deputy Director of the Malaysian Institute of Microelectronic Systems, there was probably the first case of responsible disclosure ever recorded in Malaysia.
the Dean of the School of Computer Sciences USM then was a Dr Zaharin Yusoff. who got an email from a Dep Director of MIMOS about one of his undergraduates.

3 days later, I was authorized root on csusm, then USM's only interwebz gateway.
a few months after that along with introductions to other folks in MIMOS including Rafee Yusof, USM had it's first TCP/IP connection to mimos.my using SL/IP. yay, we're now on Postel's BIND !

the first university in Malaysia to connect with the internet protocol
the network then was called RANGKOM, Rangkaian Komputer Malaysia. just like the Arpanet was to the interwebz, RANGKOM was the granddaddy of Jaring.

and Jaring only came to be because mal, Dr Mohd Awang Lah thought this should be expanded to everyone in Malaysia. all of us.
fast forward a bit and just after a very inebriated convocation, the first Malaysian commercial entity joins the new JARING, the Joint Advanced Research Integrated Networking Group.

the birth of Malaysian Internet Protocol based interwebz.
i'd joined a startup which was making waves in the stockbroking vertical, and bass.my then joined jaring.my, mimos.my and csusm.my as one of the few IP connected hosts in Malaysia.

90% of MY IP traffic in early 1993.
side story: one of my first jobs at BASS was tech specialist for the KLSE's Surveillance Information System. KLSE was then at Wisma Semantan, on the 7th floor and the MY international gateway was 2 floors down.

throw a Cat 3 cable down 2 floors, and woo hoo, there's 10Mbps !
back to main story, JARING then launched consumer/commercial services in '93. and within days the jaring.pcbase, jaring.general Usenet groups where created.

Usenet was like the twitter or facebook then, a community network which everyone had access to. like public forums.
and boy were those public forums active. of the non-tech personages on it, there was the late MGG Pillai, Nungsari Ahmad Radhi (who became an MP), Patrick Teoh (yeah, him). heck, even YB Lim Kit Siang much later in 1997.
The Malaysian internet community then was one when mostly everyone knew each other and liked each other. Except a few recalcitrant BBS operators who saw their rent being challenged.

Mostly peace in the galaxy, with the Jedi Council (as Dr Zaharin calls it) making sure things run
Internet access was on dialup then. V.32bis modems at 14.4kbps on a good day. I guess someone at the a Empire was wondering why 6 hour calls were made.

And Telekom Malaysia woke up to the interwebz.
back when mobile phones meant a briefcase sized device to access ART900, phones to most were fixed line with a single provider. Telekom Malaysia which evolved from Jabatan Telekom Malaysia.

billed at 10sen for local calls, no matter how long you spoke.
so the empire was wondering why a small segment of the rakyat were making 6 hour phone calls, at 10sen cost total. they also were a monopoly on leased circuits, of which largest customer was MIMOS. for JARING's international links.

and they decided they wanted in on the game.
meanwhile, a Dr Tommi Chen, a Malaysian who'd worked for SingTel, had returned to Malaysia. and pitched an idea to Telekom Malaysia. who predictably went, "apa itu interwebz ?"

the pitch caught though, and TNC (The Network Connections) was setup.

@harishpillay
a side story: at about the same time, the sysadmin of csusm.my had emailed me, I had left uni and was at bass.my. the sendmail logs were showing some funny stuff apparently, and there was some unaccounted for changes.

i went Holy SMTP, Batman !!
beeped mal@jaring.my/mal@mimos.my (the addresses were interchangeable) and he mentioned a few gomen depts. reporting the same anomaly. so, we dug into it.

yanked logs, dug into the sendmail code. and if you've ever exasperated about sendmail.cf, the code is a bitch.
yeah, one of those sendmail exploits. back in the day when latency between exploit and fix was measured in weeks. aussie chap had taken advantage of our weak security posture.

how did we track him ? oh, that was also when IANA kept detailed records of all IP addresses.
reported it to our contacts in AusCERT, one of the first incident response teams worldwide and within their jurisdiction. but these were days before computer crimes were considered crimes.

no clue what happened to the perp, but our computer crimes act came soon.
so, Tommi Chen and Telekom Malaysia formed TNC, and they came in offering ISP service as the small boys. JARING had the monopoly until then.

and they went big on marketing, they hit the media hard, they trolled jaring.pcbase and jaring.general.
and then the empire realised their real weapon, their Death Star. they controlled the fixed line network everyone was dialling in on, at 10sen/call unlimited. for as long as you wanted interwebz. already at V.42bis at 28.8kbps then.

eureka !
they petitioned Palpatine, and Palpatine agreed. a few years before the MSC was born.

to change our local phone call pricing from 10sen unlimited to 3sen a minute.

3sen a min. 3sen a min was a killer for the hobbyists, the hackers, the early ones who'd built our interwebz.
till today, i dont know if that dastardly plan was Tommi Chen's or not. he'd not liked me then, nor now. he interviewed me to run TNC/TMNet, and asked me if i knew what BGP was. i snorted and laughed. didn't get the job.

but the plan was evil. and brilliant.
the plan was simple. make sure that for every minute of a call to the dialup interwebz, you paid Telekom Malaysia more than you paid JARING. one large monopoly against a smaller monopoly.

in an age when a 64kbps leased line to the interwebz cost you RM10,000/month.
mal was Yoda, the under-sung leader of the Jedi Council. he was disturbed, and was hurt. for malaysia, he saw the need for everyone to get access to the interwebz.

it took the then young and more impetuous ones to get riled up.

and get riled up they did, sabers flared.
ERRATA: it was 13sen for an unlimited local call before and changed to 4sen/min. not 10sen or 3sen/min respectively. my memory fails me.

the issue remains the same, in principle.
nevertheless, the ground swelled then. probably the first rakyat based ground swell after the People's Live Telecast Fund of 1982.

this was war. how dare you corporate monopoly take our interwebz from us ?

very quickly jaring.general cobbled together a war party.
it was a war party across the cross section of urban middle class Malaysia. there was a retired accountant, a practising CFO, a GM of a cruise line, a Freemason (!!) and a hacker.

and a prepubescent @bytebot.
the rag tag bunch of rebels left the hidden base on Yavin IV (ok, actually the Batek Bar of the RLC) and went to engage the Death Star of the Empire in a last gasp attack to shoot photon torpedos into an exhaust port.

bloody thing worked, whaddya know !
but before that, before Tabung Harapan, the hat was passed around to collect funds. funds to run a full page ad in @staronline. ran on page 5, if iirc.

have the image somewhere in my archives, too lazy to look it up but it was four dice showing the numbers 1, 5, 1 and 1.

1511.
into the Death Star they went. i still remember and am in touch with the Grey CEO who tried to pacify us. Wedge Antilles, who'd shot womp rats back home, was in command.

we walked out without a resolution. then decided to place the ad for which the funds had been collected.
and ad which came out a week after that meeting. the ad in the @staronline

which was also Yavin IV, since it hosted the JARING User Group meetings. an ad paid for by the rakyat, for the rakyat. when the rakyat on the interwebz was but a fraction of what it is now.
Palpatine was freaked out, and this was before the MSC mind you. he told the minister at wisma Damansara to sort it out.

and thus the numbers 1511 and 1515 were born. 1.5/sen a min for interwebz, as opposed to 4sen/min for local calls.

a victory of sorts.
mal took it as the best that could be, and life went one after the euphoria of the win died out.

but though within the same halls of MIMOS, a KJ (no, not him !) was writing a paper called "Ripples into TIdal Waves".
it was the death knell for JARING, after TM came in with their marketing muscle. TNC soon renamed TMNet (it's website defaced twice in Jan 1997. buy me single malt for that story !)

But Dr Mohd Awang Lah, was a fighter for MY rights in IANA, ISOC, ICANN. he championed access
he hates being called mal, there're only a few around who he'd allow that. i count myself lucky. but Dr Mohd Awang Lah @mal177 is why you have free reign over an internet. why you have it.

before Palpatine came in with his MSC Bill of Guarantees. that's a diff thread though.
too many times we'd discussed salvaging the remnants of what JARING was, after TMNet, but by then commercial considerations had taken hold. a network built on technical excellence was no longer required.

the hoi polloi wanted their twitter, facebook and insta.
“I believe that if I did not start it someone else would. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time with good support to make it happen.” - Dr Mohd Awang Lah.

thestar.com.my/tech/tech-news…
and this is why @mal177 is my choice for TM CEO.
and the Jedi Council ? some became hermits on a desert planet, others went to Ahch-To where they drank milk.

And one chose the Dagobah system.
ENDS.
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