Category: Apple Macs

Installing OS X Lion: The Short List of Gotcha’s

It’s been a wild ride for the past 24 hours since Apple released OS X Lion. For those of you contemplating the move, here’s the short answer: Just Do It… after you make a backup.

A lot has changed and much has improved. On the pricing front, it’s one of the best bargains available at $29.99. That’s the price to load it on all your Macs, not just one. You’ll need to get a current version of Snow Leopard running on your existing Mac before you can install Lion because you need access to the Mac App Store for this download-only software. For those still using a PowerPC-based Mac, sorry. And say goodnight to Rosetta-based apps as well. The road ends at Snow Leopard for you. For everyone else, it’s a No Brainer!

There are a few things you need to know before you begin the install. First, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t have any PowerPC-only apps that you desperately need because those are all toast once you move to Lion. Of course it’s been 6 years since Apple began the transition to Intel from the PowerPC so this shouldn’t be overly traumatic for most folks. The major apps that won’t work include Adobe Creative Suite (CS2 and earlier), AppleWorks, FileMaker Pro (version 8 and earlier), MacroMedia Studio and Freehand, Microsoft Office (2004 and X versions), Quicken (almost everything… lazy bastards!), and some older games. You can check for compatibility by selecting each app in your Applications folder and choosing Get Info. In the Kind field, if it says Universal or Intel, you’re O.K. If it says PowerPC, you’re S.O.L.

The second cautionary note concerns the Migration Assistant. This is an Apple utility that lets you migrate your data from one Mac to another. If you plan to transfer your data from another Mac to the new Mac on which you are installing OS X Lion, then you first must get the other Mac updated to Mac OS X 10.6.8. Otherwise, you cannot migrate the data as part of the Lion install. You’ll also need to install the updated Migration Assistant on this other Mac running Snow Leopard 10.6.8. Here’s the link to download the new Migration Assistant from Apple.

The final gotcha you need to be aware of is that the OS X Lion installer self-destructs once the install is complete. If you want to burn a copy of OS X Lion to either a DVD or an 8GB USB Thumb Drive, you must do so before you kick off the actual install by clicking on the Continue prompt on your Desktop. Once you purchase OS X Lion, a copy of the installer will be downloaded into your Applications folder. It’s called Install Mac OS X Lion.app. The links above will tell you what to do next. Or you can wait until August and Apple will sell you a Lion Thumb Drive for $69. :roll:

To play it safe, cancel the install after making your DVD or thumb drive. Then reboot while holding down the Option key and choose the DVD or USB installer you just made to perform the install. In this way, you’ll know you have a good installer to use with your other Macs. Then you can preserve it for posterity. At this point, the original installer still will be available in your Applications. But, be aware, it still will be deleted at the end of the install even if you’re using a DVD or thumb drive. So rename it if you want to preserve it.

Where to Go Next. The premiere platform for getting all of the latest and greatest tips on Lion (and almost everything else) is Google’s new Google+. We’d love to help you get started. Read our Google Plus article for some great tips.

Want an invite? Just drop us a note and include the word Google in your message. We’ll get one out to you promptly. Once you’re signed up, be sure to circle us for the latest tips and tricks.

Originally published: Thursday, July 21, 2011




Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.
Or Try the New, Free PBX in a Flash Conference Bridge.


whos.amung.us If you’re wondering what your fellow man is reading on Nerd Vittles these days, wonder no more. Visit our new whos.amung.us statistical web site and check out what’s happening. It’s a terrific resource both for us and for you.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID and 60 free minutes from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month and you get a free hour of outbound calling to test out their call quality. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! After the free hour of outbound calling, Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Incredible PBX: Adding Google Calendars with Asterisk 1.8

One of the exciting new features in Asterisk 1.8 is external calendar integration including iCal, caldav, Microsoft Exchange, and ews. Hats off to Terry Wilson at Digium® for his great work on the calendaring API. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much written about integrating the calendars into FreePBX®-based Asterisk® systems… until now. Because we’re all about free, our focus today will be Google Calendar integration, but we’ll provide you some links to get any of the other calendar types integrated into PBX in a Flash and Incredible PBX if that’s what floats your boat. In addition to being free, Google Calendar is one of the best calendaring apps on the planet. Its beauty lies in the incredible flexibility it provides for group scheduling and the sharing and transparent integration of dozens of calendars (both public and private) not to mention real-time updating with your favorite Android smartphones. Apple does much the same thing with iCal on the Mac and iPhone… for an annual fee.

The rainbow of colors you see in the left column of the screenshot above each represent a different calendar. All of the calendar entries from all of these calendars are integrated into the single calendar display on the right with a simple color scheme to identify where each calendar entry originated. As mentioned, these calendars can not only be from your friends and business associates, they also can be publicly available, read-only calendars for subject matter such as holidays, schedules of your favorite sports teams and rock bands, school calendars, etc. Take a look at iCalWorld to get a quick handle on what’s available. See also this Google resource.

The one bit of advice we would provide in setting up Google Calendar is don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Create separate calendars for different individuals and for different types of events. And don’t mix business with personal. Also keep internal business events separate from those that you might want to share with customers. Down the road, this facilitates sharing just the information of importance to different groups of friends and business associates. Bottom Line: Spend a little time thinking about organization of your calendars. It will pay off handsomely down the road.

Once you integrate Google Calendar into Incredible PBX, you can use it to alert you to upcoming appointments, to schedule and activate conference calls, and even to log the date, time, length, and recipient of all your outbound and/or incoming phone calls.

For today, we’ll get the software installed and functioning. And we’ll help you set up a simple reminder system based upon appointment entries in your Google Calendar. We’ll also give you some good reference materials so that you can experiment a bit on your own. In coming weeks, we’ll build a time slips system to keep track of all your phone calls.

Prerequisites. As mentioned, you’ll need a Gmail account as well as Asterisk 1.8 and PIAF-Purple with Incredible PBX 1.8 to follow along in today’s tutorial. All of the pieces are optional except for Asterisk 1.8 and a fairly current version of FreePBX, but we’ll leave that exercise for the pioneers. The script is licensed as GPL code so knock yourself out.

The Gotchas. Nothing is ever easy, is it? There always are a few surprises to worry about. Here’s the current short list for Asterisk Calendaring. When you schedule a meeting or appointment with Google Calendar, there is an option to set an alert to remind you of the meeting at any time you like on a per appointment basis. So, if you have a meeting 50 miles from home, you could set the alert for 90 minutes in advance while a meeting next door could be set with a 5 minute alert. All of that works fine in Google Calendar. Unfortunately, in Asterisk 1.8.4, there’s a math bug that subtracts the hour differential between your time zone and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) from these alert times. If you happen to live in the GMT time zone, there’s no bug. However, those living on the East Coast of the U.S. will find their reminder calls arriving four hours too early. If you set an alert for 60 minutes before a scheduled meeting, Asterisk will call you 5 hours in advance. For our West Coast friends, it’s an 8 hour bug. Fortunately, the Asterisk Calendaring config file provides an option to override these alerts with a reminder call at a fixed number of minutes before each appointment. While it lacks the individual appointment flexibility to schedule alerts of different durations, it does work. So, for the time being, we’ll be using that.

Asterisk Calendar alerts also were supposed to be triggered only for events in which your Status has been set to Busy. A typical example would be a medical appointment. Instead, the alerts are generated for all calendar entries. So, if you’ve got 12 children and you’ve set all-day calendar entries to remind you of their birthdays each year, be forewarned that using your default Google Calendar will trigger a friendly reminder call at 11:50 p.m. on the night before each of your kids’ birthdays. Unless you and your spouse are both Night Owls, this might lead to some “WAF issues” if you get our drift. The workaround that we’ll implement today is to create a secondary appointments calendar and reserve it just to schedule meetings and appointments for which you wish to receive reminder calls at 10 minutes before each event. You can change the notification time to any fixed number of minutes desired. As we mentioned, one nice feature of Google Calendar is that entries on secondary calendars will automatically display on your main calendar. Just be sure to schedule the appointments on the correct calendar (we’ll show you how) if you want a reminder call.

Setting Up a Google Appointments Calendar. Before we get Asterisk configured for calendaring, let’s first set up your secondary Google appointments calendar. Log into the Gmail account that you either already use or will begin using for scheduling Calendar entries. Just click on the Calendar tab at the top of the screen and set up your default calendar if it doesn’t already exist. Once it’s set up, there will be a calendar list in the left margin under My Calendars. Just below your existing Calendar(s), there will be a Tasks entry, and below that will be an Add link to add a new calendar. Click on Add and fill in the main pieces of information as shown below. Use appointments for the name of the calendar and make sure you set the correct Time Zone for your hometown. Then save your entries by clicking the Create Calendar button.

Once you have created your new appointments calendar, we need one other piece of information to use it with Asterisk. Under My Calendars in the left margin, click on the down arrow beside appointments and choose Calendar Settings. That will bring up a form that looks like this:

The next to the last section of the form is entitled Calendar Address. You’ll see an entry to the right of the section title called Calender ID with a long alphanumeric string followed by @group.calendar.google.com. Write down the Calendar ID or copy it to clipboard. Don’t include @group.calendar.google.com! You can ignore the statement that the link is inoperative unless you make your calendar public. It actually works just fine with your Google credentials which we’ll configure as part of the Asterisk setup below.

Configuring Asterisk for Google Calendar Integration. PBX in a Flash and Incredible PBX come with most of the components you’ll need to get calendaring to work. However, there are a few missing pieces at the moment. These will require that Asterisk be recompiled, and we’ve built a little script to do all of it for you. Just log into your server as root and issue the following commands:

cd /root
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/setup-cal.sh
chmod +x setup-cal.sh
./setup-cal.sh

After you enter your Google credentials and Calendar ID, the script will temporarily shut down Asterisk, download the missing components for calendaring, recompile Asterisk, and customize the calendar setup with your Google credentials. Then the script will complete the setup and restart Asterisk. The whole process takes about 5 to 10 minutes.

Asterisk Calendar Configuration. Here are the pieces in the default Google Calendar config file that will be replaced with your personal settings:

[GoogleCalendar]
type = caldav
;url = https://www.google.com/calendar/dav/username@gmail.com/events/
url = https://www.google.com/calendar/dav/CalendarID@group.calendar.google.com/events/
user = username@gmail.com
secret = userpassword
refresh = 10
timeframe = 120
;
autoreminder = 10
;
channel = local/8005551212@from-internal
context = from-internal
extension = 225
waittime = 45

If you should ever need to make changes to these settings again, you’ll find the entries with your Google credentials at the end of the calendar.conf config file in /etc/asterisk. Remember to restart Asterisk after making any changes. The commented out URL entry is the one you’d use to access your main Google Calendar instead of the secondary appointments calendar we created above. If the GMT bug is ever fixed, this would be a step forward.

Extension 225 (C-A-L) is the extension that will be called to actually play back the reminder information. You’ll find this block of code at the top of extensions_custom.conf in the [from-internal-custom] context. You can make any adjustments you’d like. We simply set this up to give you a template to follow. As configured, the reminder will read you a summary, the starting time, location, and any description associated with each calendar entry. If you have a Cepstral voice in addition to Flite, just change the Flite entries to Swift. Then restart Asterisk: amportal restart.

Asterisk Calendar Test Drive. Asterisk keeps track of your scheduled events by checking your Google Calendar every 10 minutes. We recommend configuring reminders for calls 10 minutes before any scheduled event in the appointments calendar. What this means is you probably should never schedule an event expecting to get a reminder call if the event is less than about a half hour in the future. If you use a setting for the autoreminder time other than 10 minutes, this will obviously be different for you.

So let’s schedule an appointment for an hour from the current time. Click on the Calendar tab in Gmail. And then click on the down arrow beside the appointments calendar in the left column. Choose Create Event on this Calendar. You’ll get a form that looks like this. Click Save to store your new Calendar entry. Then go have a beer and wait for your call.

Where To Go From Here. We’ve just scratched the surface of what you can do with Asterisk 1.8 using Google Calendars. We recommend you now review the chapter in the new Asterisk Definitive Guide book that covers calendaring in some detail. It will give you a good handle on what’s possible. For a more technical discussion, take a look at this contribution from one of the PIAF Forum regulars. Amazing stuff! There’s also a good article in VoIP Today that’s worth a careful read. Be aware that, if you recompile Asterisk to add support for Microsoft Exchange, you probably will break the Google Calendar connection that we’ve outlined today. At least, we never have been able to get the two to coexist. If you have better luck, please post your results. The reason for the problem is that the Exchange connector depends upon neon-0.29 which is not yet part of CentOS 5.x. We’ll keep you posted on our progress. Enjoy!

Originally published: Monday, May 23, 2011



Changes in PBX in a Flash Distribution. In light of the events outlined in our recent Nerd Vittles article and the issues with Asterisk 1.8.4, the PIAF Dev Team has made some changes in our distribution methodology. As many of you know, PBX in a Flash is the only distribution that compiles Asterisk from source code during the install. This has provided us enormous flexibility to distribute new releases with the latest Asterisk code. Unfortunately, Asterisk 1.8 is still a work in progress to put it charitably. We also feel some responsibility to insulate our users from show-stopping Asterisk releases. Going forward, the plan is to reserve the PIAF-Purple default install for the most stable version of Asterisk 1.8. As of June 1, Asterisk 1.8.4.1 is the new PIAF-Purple default install. Other versions of Asterisk 1.8 (newer and older) will be available through a new configuration utility which now is incorporated into the PIAF 1.7.5.6.2 ISO.

Here’s how it works. Begin the install of a new PIAF system in the usual way by booting from your USB flash drive and pressing Enter to load the most current version of CentOS 5.6. When the CentOS install finishes, your system will reboot. Accept the license agreement, and choose the PIAF-Purple option to load the latest stable version of Asterisk 1.8. Or exit to the Linux CLI if you want a different version. Log into CentOS as root. Then issue a command like this: piafdl -p beta_1841 (loads Asterisk 1.8.4.1), piafdl -p 184 (loads Asterisk 1.8.4), piafdl -p 1833 (loads Asterisk 1.8.3.3), or piafdl -p 1832 (loads Asterisk 1.8.3.2). If there should ever be an outage on one of the PBX in a Flash mirrors, you can optionally choose a different mirror for the payload download by adding piafdl -c for the .com site, piafdl -d for the .org site, or piafdl -e for the .net site. Then add the payload switch, e.g. piafdl -c -p beta_1841.

Bottom Line: If you use the piafdl utility to choose a particular version of Asterisk 1.8, you are making a conscious decision to accept the consequences of your particular choice. We would have preferred implementation of a testing methodology at Digium before distribution of new Asterisk releases; however, that doesn’t appear to be in the cards. So, as new Asterisk 1.8 releases hit the street, they will be made available through the piafdl utility until such time as our PIAF Pioneers independently establish their reliability.




Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.
Or Try the New, Free PBX in a Flash Conference Bridge.


whos.amung.us If you’re wondering what your fellow man is reading on Nerd Vittles these days, wonder no more. Visit our new whos.amung.us statistical web site and check out what’s happening. It’s a terrific resource both for us and for you.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID and 60 free minutes from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month and you get a free hour of outbound calling to test out their call quality. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! After the free hour of outbound calling, Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Tips, Tricks & Apps to Get the Most Out of Your iPad 2

Rather than providing another glowing review of the iPad 2®, we thought it might be more helpful to sketch out the daily use potential of this incredible device based upon our experience and that of our 10-year old daughter. Yes, we’re one of the 30% who purchased an iPad 2 having already owned a number of first generation iPads. With double the RAM and nearly double the processing power of the first generation device, the one cautionary note that potential purchasers should heed is don’t buy the $499 model. Our daughter has survived a year with a $499 iPad only to find it completely full when she attempted to load Garage Band. And you will want Garage Band which is a storage hog by iPad standards. That’s not to suggest that Katherine’s iPad hasn’t served her well. She has almost 150 applications plus substantial collections of photos and music. What she doesn’t have is movies and video clips. With the addition of two cameras on the iPad 2 as well as Camera, AutoStitch, Movie, and Photo Booth apps and once you see what’s possible with iMovie, you’ll be begging for more storage capacity. Keep in mind that your storage capacity choice is irrevocable! There’s no way to add more storage later unless you buy a new device. And there’s no external storage other than removing apps and data through the iTunes interface. Perhaps more than anything else, that’s why the absence of a microSD slot on the iPad 2 is both a significant shortcoming and a huge disappointment.

The other suggestion we would offer to first-time iPad 2 purchasers is this. Get organized early. What we mean is decide early on how you’re going to use the 10 screens to organize your applications. Before the year is out, you will use all 10 screens assuming your bank account survives. At least now you can also create folders within a screen if you run out of room. Here’s our methodology, and it has served us pretty well. Screen 1 is reserved for the apps we use every day. The other screens are reserved for categories of applications: business, news and books, social, drawing and graphics, music, games, location-based services, and system/network management. If you’re a big gamer, artist, or musician, you may want to reserve two screens for your favorite category. The point is to spend a little time up front deciding how to organize applications. And, fortunately, you can move things around with the iTunes interface down the road so long as you leave one screen available for reorganizing.

You can also place six apps at the bottom of the display, and these are accessible from all 10 screens. Here’s where you’d want your browser, email or Gmail buttons, App Store, and Settings. That leaves you two more must-have apps. If you play music all the time, you’d probably want the iPod app. If you look at Photos all the time, you’d want the Photo app. But you get the idea, use Screen 1 for Daily Use Apps and the 6 bottom slots for your must-have at all times apps. If you don’t heed this advice, then you’ll find yourself having to search for apps on Screen 0 every time you want to use an application.

Favorite Apps. That brings us to our favorite apps. For ease of reference, we’ll cover these in the same way they are organized on our iPad 2. And, we’d love to hear about your favorite apps, too. Just post a comment. In the Daily Use category, here’s our list:

Calendar
Contacts
Mail
Maps
Videos
FaceTime
Camera
Photo Booth
EyeTV
YouTube
Hulu Plus
SlingPlayer
NetFlix
Bria
Travelin’ Man
OBiON
Pandora
Pulse News
Flipboard
iSWiFTER
 

Most of the above applications are self-explanatory, but we’ll mention a few. If you have a Mac, then EyeTV is a must-have addition. It lets you play and record all your favorite TV shows. Removing commercials from a one-hour show is about a 2-minute click-and-drag operation. And it’s incredibly easy to export your favorite recordings in either iPhone or iPad format. So long as iTunes is running on your Mac desktop, you can play your recordings or live TV at any time using either a WiFi or 3G network connection. SlingPlayer does much the same thing (only worse) with no recording capability, but it works with Windows machines as well as Macs, and it’s a standalone device. The Netflix app lets you stream movies and TV shows to your iPad for $7.99 a month, and it supports 6 simultaneous devices including many current generation HDTVs. OBiON is the VoIP app that lets you make free Google Voice calls in the U.S. and Canada using your $49 OBi device. You can read all about it here. If you have an Asterisk® PBX, then you’ll want Bria and our Travelin’ Man app for secure, remote, and free SIP communications. Finally, there’s the new iSWiFTER app which brings Flash video back from the dead on the iPad platform. It’s free for a limited time and, believe it or not, it’s available in the App Store.

Books & News. We spend every morning at the breakfast table with the Books & News page on our iPad. Here’s our list:

Kindle
iBooks
Friendly (Facebook)
Twitterific
AccuWeather
ABC News
ABC Player
CBS News
CNBC RT
CNN
Huff Post
Newsy
NYTimes
News Pro
USA Today
WSJ
Wash Post
The Daily
TV Guide
Tweetdeck
 

We don’t watch much Faux News which has become more akin to Incitement TV. We really hoped The Daily would be different. It’s not. But… to each his own.

Business Apps. This is kind of a catch-all page for stuff we use frequently as well as some apps we’ll probably never use again. Here’s our list:

iMovie
Keynote
Pages
Notes
Bento
Sorted
2Do
Todo
Zenbe Lists
Voice Memos
aNote Lite
Dictation
Due
FlipTime XL
MobileNoter
Pad Info
PaperDesk LT
News Rack
GoodReader
textPlus
 

Of all the ToDo applications that are available (and we’ve tried most of them), we like Todo the best. But, for quick reminders, you can’t beat Due. GoodReader, Keynote, and Pages are must have business apps, and iMovie is every bit as good as the app on the Mac. It’s about perfect for an on-the-go, need-it-in-a-hurry project.

Navigation & Wi-Fi Apps. When we’re on the road or looking for a WiFi Hot Spot or good place to eat, here’s our list:

CoPilot HD
Charts & Tides
Navionics Marines
ShipFinder HD
GPS Drive HD
GPS HD
Hurricane HD
UrbanSpoon
Epicurious
Where To Eat
ZAGAT
Zillow.com
WiFiGet HD
Dash Four
Mifi
World Atlas
Skobbler
SpeedBox
WiFon
Trapster
 

GPS navigation on the roads is hit and miss on the iPad. Nothing comes close to Google Maps navigation. CoPilot could be a contender except for the outdated maps and copy protection paranoia. On the water, both Charts & TIdes and Navionics Marine are fantastic. We compared both of them to a $10,000 Nav system on a very fine boat only yesterday. There was virtually no difference in the information available with the exception of the radar-enhanced features. If you’re always shopping for real estate, there is no finer app than Zillow, period. If you’re in to fast cars, there is no finer app than Trapster.

Games. Last but not least, everybody needs a diversion once in a while. Here’s a list of some of our favorite iPad games:

Game Center
GearedHD
Frogger
Foosball HD
AirCoaster
Angry Birds
Asphalt 5
JirboBreak
Doons HD
ElectroRacer
FarmVille (WAF)
Hit Tennis 2
iFooty
Pac-Man
Pinball HD
RealRacing HD
RealRacing GTI
Snowboarding
Checkers HD
Wacky Circus HD

 

This will probably be the category that changes the quickest with the new lightening-fast graphics and dual core processor on the iPad 2. Stay tuned!

Originally published: Monday, March 14, 2011


Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum or Wiki.
Or Try the New, Free PBX in a Flash Conference Bridge.


whos.amung.us If you’re wondering what your fellow man is reading on Nerd Vittles these days, wonder no more. Visit our new whos.amung.us statistical web site and check out what’s happening. It’s a terrific resource both for us and for you.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID and 60 free minutes from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month and you get a free hour of outbound calling to test out their call quality. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! After the free hour of outbound calling, Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Introducing PogoPlug: Cloud Computing for $100 per Terabyte

Introducing PogoPlug

Ever wished you could build and manage your own Cloud Computing Center with minimal cost and no recurring charges… ever? Well, today’s your lucky day.

It takes a lot to get us excited about a new product offering. But this one is a real winner! For under $130, Cloud Engines provides you your very own PogoPlug 2.0 device that connects to your router and shares up to four USB drives over the Internet. At today’s prices and ignoring sales tax, that means you can put eight terabytes of Cloud Storage on line for a one-time cost of about $100/terabyte. To give you a point of reference, Google will rent you the same space for $256/terabyte… per year. And Google is one of the least expensive Cloud Computing resources out there. Here’s the math for naysayers:

4 – WalMart1 2TB WD MyBook Drives @ $169 each = $676
1 – PogoPlug 2.0 Device @ $129 each = $129
ONE-TIME, NON-RECURRING COST: $805/8TB or $100/TB

For those that don’t need 8 terabytes, the 2 terabyte setup including the drive and PogoPlug device is still just over half the one-year rental rate of equivalent storage from Google. And, just to be clear, this isn’t merely a storage device (like Amazon S3) requiring downloads before the files can actually be used. PogoPlug’s software makes these USB drives an integral part of your Desktop just like any other attached storage devices. Think WebDAV! So it makes a perfect home for your music, movie, and photo collections. There also are loads of Open Source applications for PogoPlug for those that like to tinker. And you can use PogoPlug to keep synchronized backups of your important files.

Other Options. Be aware that for about $50 less, you can purchase the Seagate FreeAgent DockStar Network Adapter which includes a single year of PogoPlug Internet support. After that, it’s $30 annually. Translation: By the end of the second year, you’re better off with the PogoPlug. So the choice is a No-Brainer in our book. But, the fact that Seagate is also standing behind the PogoPlug design should make everyone sleep more soundly.

Deployment. After a one-minute, one-time setup over the Internet, you can securely access all of your USB drive resources via PogoPlug using either a web browser or one of several free desktop applications that are available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux as well as Android phones, iPhones, and (earlier today) Blackberrys. And you get free support and a terrific forum. The device works flawlessly behind either a DSL or cable modem AND a NAT-based router so there are no firewall issues to address. Just enter the serial number on the bottom of your device when you access the PogoPlug web site, and configuration is automatic.

Uploading Files. One of PogoPlug’s slickest features is its automatic cataloging of files which are uploaded. Once uploaded, you can view your Music, Movies, and Pictures by simply clicking on one of the buttons. Photos are cataloged into directories by the month in which the photos were taken. Music is indexed by artist, album, and genre. In addition, music by artist, album and genre as well as photo albums can be shared by entering email addresses for those that can access the materials, by enabling public viewing (assuming you have legal rights to do so), or by sharing items using your Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace credentials. We’ve shared a photo album just to give you an idea of how this works. The security and logistical nuts and bolts all are managed by Cloud Engines’ servers. You can review and modify the materials you’re sharing by clicking on the Files I Share link in your browser. Finally you can automatically alert those with share privileges when folder content is updated. Very slick!

Give PogoPlug a try. By clicking on one of our links, you also help support the Nerd Vittles project. We think you’ll be as thrilled as we are with this terrific new creation. Enjoy!




Need help with Asterisk®? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.
Or Try the New, Free PBX in a Flash Conference Bridge.


whos.amung.us If you’re wondering what your fellow man is reading on Nerd Vittles these days, wonder no more. Visit our new whos.amung.us statistical web site and check out what’s happening. It’s a terrific resource both for us and for you.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID and 60 free minutes from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month and you get a free hour of outbound calling to test out their call quality. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! After the free hour of outbound calling, Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. The in-store pricing at WalMart is actually cheaper than on line for these particular drives. []

Apple’s iPad: A Home Run for Education

We’ve been anything but a cheerleader for Apple lately. And that applies in spades to the iPad. If you follow us on Twitter, here’s a sampling of our comments since the iPad was introduced last week.

The Computer Illiterate’s Dream Machine: Meet the iPad. Thinking you’ll slip your existing AT&T or T-Mobile SIM into Apple’s new iPad? Think again.

iPad: The Good http://tr.im/ipadg, The Bad http://tr.im/ipadb, and The Ugly http://tr.im/ipadu

iPad: Uh, but wait, No Camera http://tr.im/ipadc, No Flash http://tr.im/ipadf, No Multitasking http://tr.im/ipadm. No thanks.

Funny: Hitler’s take on the iPad. http://tr.im/ipadah

Why Apple Doesn’t Want Flash on the iPhone and iPad? It Finally Makes $ense. http://tr.im/theflash

The Vote That Really Matters: A 16-year-old’s view of Apple’s iPad: iFail http://tr.im/ipad16 (via @scobleizer)

Michael Dell demos what the iPad coulda/woulda/shoulda been. http://bit.ly/czYPww (via @engadget) #android Mini5

iPad Web Surfing: Here’s what the future holds. http://tr.im/noflash (via @gadgetweb) #surfsdown

RT @cultofmac: “Pundits On The iPad’s Closed System: It’s Doom For PCs, No It’s Great” http://bit.ly/cpFV4v

Apple iPad Micro SIM guarantees that you’ll be paying for two wireless data plans instead of one. http://bit.ly/bYipZP

Funny: iPad v. A Rock http://bit.ly/b50XP2 (via @TechCrunch)

RT @TechmemeFH: Apple reinventing file access, wireless sharing for iPad (Prince McLean/AppleInsider) http://bit.ly/awHJzG

Today’s Math Lesson: Hulu + Flash = Free Internet Movies. iPad – Flash = Megabucks for Apple from iTunes Movie Store sales

RT @dcagle: The library of the future, courtesy of the iPad http://bit.ly/bFvDAE #apple #toon

So what’s with the headline? Have we changed our mind? Well, no. It’s a lousy machine for us and for anyone above the age of puberty. But sometimes you need to look beyond the forest to find the nugget in the trees. And we’ve found the iPad’s Sweet Spot: It’s Lower School Education, Stupid!

For all the reasons that make the iPad an undesirable computing device for adults, it turns out these same qualities make it an almost perfect learning platform for young children, ages 3 to 12. In fact, we think it has the potential to revolutionize preschool and elementary education.

For openers, we can all probably agree that the key to a good education is good teachers. And that’s especially true when it comes to computer education. The problem, of course, is that teachers of young children don’t have the time or the resources to keep up with computer technology because they’re so busy doing all the things that parents should actually be doing to raise their kids. So, other than turning kids loose with a computer game, PCs have been all but worthless in lower school education because the teachers never had time to master the devices themselves. The iPad fixes that because of its incredibly simple learning curve. Any teacher can master the richness of the iPad interface in an hour. And it turns out that’s probably true for young children as well. If you don’t believe it, hand a kid your iPhone and come back in an hour.

A computer is important in early education because it’s much more patient and individually focused than any teacher ever could be. A computer doesn’t care how many times it takes a kid to master a specific topic. And, for young children, they need the repetition at their own pace until they actually get it. The iPad can handle all of these repetitive tasks while freeing the teacher up for observation and pinpoint coaching. So it levels the playing field by getting the “slow learners” up to speed without the usual frustrations of dealing with kids with different levels of comprehension. And the iPad accomplishes this while making education fun instead of frustrating!

Young kids learn with their hands. Walk in any lower school classroom if you don’t believe it. The iPad is a hands-on device. You use your hands literally for everything: a mouse, a navigation instrument, a drawing tool, and for writing and typing. So it’s a natural for kids, just like a hammer.

If you’ve ever visited a Montessori school, you’ll come away appreciating how critically important group collaboration can be to early education. Working in teams enhances learning in so many ways. The iPad is a natural collaboration tool. It can be used to encourage kids to jointly develop rich multimedia reports pulling from the web, their textbooks, images, and their classmates. iWork for iPad at $9.95 per application is the perfect development tool. And, as Steve Jobs demonstrated, the iPad makes a perfect presentation tool. Teaching kids to stand in front of their peers and tell a story is probably the single most important thing kids can learn in elementary education. You learn a lot more teaching others than you’ll ever learn as a student. Most of today’s adults never got it… nor did they have the opportunity that the iPad presents.

We could write a book about the advantages which would flow from getting rid of hardback books. Not only would it save trees and natural resources, but it also could turn books into living, breathing educational tools with rich multimedia presentations instead of static images. Instead of kids lugging around a backpack full of textbooks which will be obsolete in a year or two, they could carry an iPad with all of their learning tools, their schedules, their homework, and their presentations. Think about the possibilities, and you’ll come to appreciate why the iPad really could revolutionize education as we know it. We hope so. Go talk to the educators in your community and get them excited about this Golden Opportunity. You’re only young once!

For a well-balanced, thought-provoking review of the iPad, head over to emergent by design.

We’ll leave you with Neil Curtis’ 3-minute, adjective-laced version of Steve Jobs’ iPad Introduction. And, just in case you missed the Grammy Awards last night, there was an iPad Presentation there as well. Funny stuff!


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Free At Last: The Emancipation of the Apple TV

We’ve never quite forgiven Apple1 for bricking some of the original iPhones because some owners chose to jailbreak their private property to learn how it worked or to add additional functionality. It may turn out to be Steve Jobs’ billion dollar blunder! The stunt was especially egregious when one considers that both the iPhone and much of Mac OS X are based upon open source software for which Apple didn’t pay a nickel. Apple certainly added a pretty wrapper, but the internals of both the iPhone and Mac OS X contain loads of pure open source code including dozens of Mach 3.0 and FreeBSD 5 applications. Destroying people’s cellular phones for accessing soft- ware that was licensed to Apple as open source code just doesn’t pass the smell test.

Courtesy of Apple, Inc.

Thus it was with mixed emotions that we unwrapped our Apple TV during Christmas 2007. Like the iPhone, it was locked up tighter than a drum even though the internals of the product read like a Who’s Who of the Open Source Movement: awk, bzip, cut, grep, find, ftp, finger, gzip, more, nano, openssl, perl, sed, tail, tar, touch, uname, whois, zip, and on and on. In fact, Mac OS X arguably is a better Linux than Linux. Suffice it to say, we read numerous articles outlining the lengths to which some talented users were going to unlock their Apple TVs. The process required disassembly of the unit, removal of the hard disk, and then a tedious unlocking scenario that was akin to breaking into Fort Knox. We chose to leave our Apple TV in its shrink wrap.

So what’s wrong with the Apple TV? Well, nothing… if you don’t mind paying Apple over and over again to reacquire media content which you already have licensed and if you don’t mind jumping through the iTunes hoops to transfer that content to a device which is perfectly capable of being self-sufficient. Let’s see. $1.99 to watch a TV show or play a music video that’s already sitting on your TIVO machine or that’s already freely (and legally) available from numerous sources on the Internet. Apple has added YouTube access, but the design really limits you to the most popular content. That makes it unsuitable (or worse) for anyone under the age of 13… or over the age of about 25. :roll:

Fast forward to 2009, and we decided it was time to take another look at the Apple TV landscape. WOW! What a difference a year makes. You now can create a bootable USB flash drive in a couple minutes, plug it into your Apple TV, and have a perfectly functioning, (true) open source appliance with DIVX and AVI support in less than 15 minutes. The FrontRow-enhanced Apple TV provides access to virtually all media content in every format imaginable with incredibly slick user interfaces thanks to the XBMC Media Center, Boxee Social Media Center, Nito TV, and Hulu. Most were originally designed for Microsoft’s Xbox. Uploads and downloads of media content can be performed using either your Apple TV controller and a television, or a web browser, or SAMBA networking, or SSH. So thanks to a resourceful bunch of talented, open source developers, we finally have an Apple TV worth owning that also happens to be fun to use. Incidentally, this whole metamorphosis can be accomplished without damaging the Apple TV’s existing user interface or its out-of-the-box functionality… at least until the next update from Apple. :-)
So proceed at your own risk!

Freeing Your Apple TV. Since October, 2008, the emancipation of the Apple TV has become a simple, 5-minute exercise. What you’ll need to get started is an Apple TV2 with version 2 software, a 1GB USB Flash Drive, and ATVUSB-creator which is free. The drill here is to create a bootable flash drive that can be used to reboot the Apple TV and transform its closed and proprietary shell into an open source platform. The preferred machine for creating your bootable flash drive is a Mac running Tiger or Leopard although a Windows XP/Vista solution is also available now. The only precaution we would add is to unplug all of the USB drives connected to your PC before creating the bootable flash drive. Then you won’t accidentally reformat the wrong USB drive. The one-minute CNET tutorial is here. A better one is here.

Once you have your bootable USB flash drive in hand, unplug your Apple TV and plug the USB drive into the unit. Now connect your Apple TV to a television. Power up your Apple TV and marvel at the installation process which takes under a minute. Whatever you do, don’t boot your Apple TV with the flash drive more than once! When the install completes, you should see a message indicating that your Apple TV can be accessed with SSH within a few minutes at frontrow@appletv.local. The password is frontrow. The IP address for your Apple TV also can be used for SSH access as well. Remove the flash drive and reboot. You’ll see a new menu option for XBMC/Boxee. Just follow the menu items to install both applications. After another reboot, you’ll be all set. Click on the CNET video above to watch a demo.

After installing the apps, launch and then configure XBMC. If you get an error that reads “Cannot launch XBMC/Boxee from path,” it means you forgot to install the software through your TV menu. If you enable the web interface, you’ll be able to go to any browser on your LAN and manage XBMC through the following link using the IP address of your Apple TV: http://192.168.0.180:8080. For complete documentation, check out the XBMC Wiki.


Before you can use Boxee, you’ll need to visit their web site and sign up for an account. A tutorial on the application is available at UberGizmo. As luck would have it, this application only became publicly available in Alpha last week so we’re just in time. Don’t sweat the Alpha status too much, it previously ran on the XBox platform as well as Windows, Macs, and Linux. There’s social networking support via Twitter, FriendFeed, Tumblr, and NetFlix. While it’s running on your Apple TV, you can access the interface remotely with a browser from anywhere on your LAN at http://ipaddress:8800 assuming you have enabled the web server interface.

Hulu is another terrific resource for movies, TV shows and music videos. It is available through Boxee. There are a few ads but not many. For a lot of the movies, you’ll also need to set yourself up an account there and configure your uncrippled Apple TV accordingly.

But What About Asterisk®? We knew someone would ask. Sure. An Asterisk for Mac solution should work on the Apple TV if you don’t plan to use it as a media center. For best results, compile everything on a separate Tiger Mac, and then move it over. Keep in mind that the device is limited to 256MB of RAM so simultaneously using the Apple TV as both an Asterisk PBX and a media center more than likely will cause unacceptable performance degradation in both your phone calls and your music and video streams. Someday perhaps we’ll give it a try. In the meantime, enjoy your new open source media center!


Want a Bootable PBX in a Flash Drive? Next week to celebrate the beginning of Nerd Vittles’ Fifth Year, we’ll be introducing our bootable USB flash installer for PBX in a Flash with all of the goodies in the VPN in a Flash system featured a few weeks ago on Nerd Vittles. You can build a complete turnkey system using almost any current generation PC with a SATA drive and our flash installer in less than 15 minutes!

If you’d like to put your name in the hat for a chance to win a free one delivered to your door, just post a comment at this link with your best PBX in a Flash story.3

Be sure to include your real email address which will not be posted. The winner will be chosen by drawing an email address out of a hat (the old fashioned way!) from all of the comments posted over the next couple weeks. Good luck to everyone!


New Fonica Special. If you want to communicate with the rest of the telephones in the world, then you’ll need a way to route outbound calls (terminations) to their destination. For outbound calling, we recommend you establish accounts with several providers. We’ve included two of the very best! These include Joe Roper’s new service for PBX in a Flash as well as our old favorite, Vitelity. To get started with the Fonica service, just visit the web site and register. You can choose penny a minute service in the U.S. Or premium service is available for a bit more. Try both. You’ve got nothing to lose! In addition, Fonica offers some of the best international calling rates in the world. And Joe Roper has almost a decade of experience configuring and managing these services. So we have little doubt that you’ll love the service AND the support. To sign up in the USA and be charged in U.S. Dollars, sign up here. To sign up for the European Service and be charged in Euros, sign up here. See the Fonica image which tells you everything you need to know about this terrific new offering. In addition to being first rate service, Fonica is one of the least expensive and most reliable providers on the planet.
 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID and 60 free minutes from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month and you get a free hour of outbound calling to test out their call quality. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! After the free hour of outbound calling, Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Disgruntled customers reportedly have filed over a billion dollars’ worth of lawsuits over their bricked iPhones claiming Apple did it intentionally. Great PR move there, Steve! []
  2. The Apple TV actually runs a modified version of Tiger (aka Mac OS X 10.4). []
  3. This offer does not extend to those in jurisdictions in which our offer or your participation may be regulated or prohibited by statute or regulation. []

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