FrontlineSMS testing and passion

Over the past few weeks I’ve been performing some testing on FrontlineSMS, a freely available software program, that can create a “communications hub” out of a laptop and a mobile phone (or broadband modem).  I’m fortunate in my workplace to have access to various GSM phones and modems, and I’ll be making arrangements soon to further this testing.  In some of the research I’ve conducted online, it seems those wishing to test FrontlineSMS in the US have difficulty getting their hands on modems that work.

A couple of weeks ago I tested a Sierra Wireless c885 modem, no problems, it worked like a charm.  In the US this was sold under the name “AT&T USBConnect Mercury Laptop Connect Device” – it’s a USB stick type.  It could send SMS as well as receive.  This modem type is listed on the FrontlineSMS Ning site as a recommended modem.  From what I’ve read, it sounds like the modems work out better than using a mobile phone…not sure why, but I’m definitely curious.  Anyhow, this is the modem I’m going to keep/buy (long story) and I hope to get at least one or two more.

Tonight, I tested a different modem (same SIM), this one is an older modem, another USB stick.  It’s manufacturer is C-motech and the model number is CGU-628A (Franklin)  and it was sold under the name Centennial HSPDA USB Data Modem — now this one I didn’t see on the list mentioned above on the FrontlineSMS community site.  However, it worked, not so elegant at first, but it worked.  It seemed like WindowsXP had a hard time loading the drivers and installing the modem, since it went through it’s little install more than a few times.  Either way it worked, and could send and receive SMS.  At one point in the “phone” tab it actually showed two modems connected, strange.  Unrelated to the modem, also had an error message pop up, when editing a group.  So that’s been sent in to the FrontlineSMS support team, for their review.

Tonight I also conducted some testing using keywords and auto-reply SMS, which is a very cool feature of the software.  To this point, I have not looked into the forms much, but I plan on doing that soon enough.  As I mentioned this is really a powerful application.

Where is all this going you ask?  Well after my trip to Uganda in the Fall I’ve become passionate about ICT4D and the information technology tools being used to enable development projects.  Not sure how I came across FrontlineSMS, but it was probably through Ken Bank’s blog Kiwanja. net In addition, I’ve read “SMS Uprising – Mobile Activism in Africa” – which details a number of projects using mobile tech for development initiatives.  The visit to Uganda really inspired me to stay involved at some level, and not just with the project we are working on with UMU.  Over the past 8 months I’ve been in contact with a number of NGO’s trying to find a fit where I can volunteer my skills and experience with networks and telecommunications – and of course something that’s reasonable.

This Summer I’ve had discussions with BOSCO-Uganda on assisting with technical consultation, I’m humbled and excited to say they have been open to my offer.  So, I’m testing FrontlineSMS in the hopes that BOSCO may be able to make use of the application in the future – as they are doing incredible work in Northern Uganda.

Wow – this has turned from a technical discussion on GSM modems and SMS to a philosophical rant about what’s driving me lately.  That’s OK, more to come later on my passion (or obsession) with Africa and ICT4D.


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