Category: Streaming Devices

Mobile Internet: The 2016 Road Warrior’s Guide to Choosing New Wheels


OK. We’re not going to bring Mobile Computing down to the teepee level, but we have decided to dedicate a column regularly to Mobile Internet developments in the marketplace. Of course, our major focus will remain the impact on unified communications and especially Asterisk®, FreeSWITCH™, PBX in a Flash™, and Incredible PBX™. The idea here is to document a design that lets road warriors travel with the same communications dexterity that they have at home or in the home office. In other words, our vision is a mobile computing environment that makes travel status transparent. Things that worked a certain way in the office should work similarly on the road or in the comfort of your Motel 6 suite. :-)

To get 2016 started on the right foot, we want to lay out some of the technology that’s available to the road warrior who spends a significant amount of time in an automobile. Our objective today is to help you choose that next set of wheels, the proverbial perfect vehicle. We began documenting some of what we’re looking for in our December Mobile Internet column. Today we’ll follow up with more details and some real-world feedback. What we’ll be covering in coming months applies equally to those that travel for pleasure as well as those that do it for a living. Unless you prefer hiding in your Man Cave, we hope you’ll find something useful that makes travel away from your home office amenities easier and less intimidating.

Let’s begin by documenting some of our inexpensive must-haves. These can round out your vehicle shopping list without much impact on the cost of a vehicle: cup holders (lots of them), cigarette lighter connections (lots of them), USB ports (lots of them), and compartments especially those with access to power or USB ports. Another must have for us was a fold down table for the back seat. These come standard in Mercedes S Class sedans as well as the Jaguar XJ. For other vehicles, you’ll need to consider aftermarket options which is a little surprising when you consider that every airline seat has had fold down tables FOREVER. In their haste to roll out the latest gee whiz features, many car manufacturers have forgotten the basic essentials that make all of this technology useful. But there’s hope. General Motors is among those that have finally awakened to the 21st century. Our best advice is this. Before you get swept away by the self-parking car, take a quick look inside the cabin and consider whether the vehicle has the road warrior essentials.

Now for the fun stuff. Take a quick look at this AutoBytel article which ticks off some of the more interesting high tech features that are available in the marketplace today: GPS-linked temperature control, a sensor that provides a text alert if someone is hiding in your car, a collection of audio and visual alerts if the car senses that you are distracted or falling asleep at the wheel, self-parking vehicles, night vision with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control that adjusts your speed based upon the speed of the vehicle in front of you, blind spot detection that provides visual warnings on your side view mirrors when a vehicle is cruising along beside you at 70+ mph, lane departure warnings which include console alerts, buzzing your seat, or adjusting your steering wheel to guide you back into your lane. And, last but not least, the latest Tesla which can drive itself under certain highway conditions. In case you haven’t guessed, none of this technology comes cheap. Typically, the features first appear in the high end cars and require the purchase of even higher priced, factory-installed options. Then they trickle down to less costly vehicles as the price of the technology drops.

Here’s our two cents worth of advice on some of these features. We happen to live in the southeastern United States so we really don’t need a GPS to tell us to turn on the air conditioner. Almost any road warrior’s dream machine will have automatic temperature control. That’s as much technology as you need to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

A sensor to tell us someone is hiding inside our car is another clever idea, but we much prefer a vehicle that can lock itself when you leave the vehicle or when you place the vehicle in motion. Newer GM vehicles can also sound an alarm if someone sticks a hand into your window while you’re stopped at a traffic light. Works great unless people are passing you things while parked in a carpool line.

If you’re a road warrior that does a lot of night driving, all of the high tech features you can find that help you drive and stay awake at the wheel are terrific additions. Not mentioned in the AutoBytel article is one of our favorites that’s actually been around for decades. The head-up display (HUD) appears on the lower part of the driver’s windshield. It shows information such as your speed and the speed limit without taking your eyes off the road. For the science behind it, see this article.

If you’re a road warrior that spends considerable time commuting in heavy traffic or driving on interstates, adaptive cruise control is the best invention since sliced bread. It doesn’t completely drive the car for you, but it reduces your need to stay 99.9% focused on what’s in front of you every second of the trip. You simply set the separation distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you, and radar in your vehicle does the rest, adjusting your speed to keep you at or below the cruise control speed you set for your vehicle while preserving the spacing you predefined. Newer versions of adaptive cruise control include support for bringing your vehicle to a complete stop at traffic signals. The best testimonial we can provide is this. Once you have a vehicle with adaptive cruise control, you’ll never buy another vehicle without it. It’s that good!

Blind spot detection is another radar-based feature. Visual side view mirror alerts are provided whenever something is hiding in your vehicle’s blind spot. Of course, you can accomplish much the same thing by adding supplemental wide-view (blindspot) mirrors to your existing side view mirrors at considerably less cost. However, the radar-enhanced version typically is bundled with features such as adaptive cruise control and lane departure alerts so there is no additional cost for the convenience. Just be sure to test them for accuracy before dispensing with turning your head to check for vehicles. We’ve actually had a vehicle in which the sensors were incorrectly positioned. Merging into traffic without any visual warning of what’s beside you is a quick ticket to the body shop, both for the car and for you.

Lane departure alerts and autocorrection are equally important for those that spend endless hours on long stretches of boring highway. The other essential ingredient for every road warrior is the smartphone app, Waze. Between hazard alerts, speed trap notifications, and directions, it’s the single-most important traveling enhancement that’s come along in a very long time. Think of it as you free copilot. It can watch for things up ahead and alert you to problems before you actually encounter them. Because its data is based upon real-time data and feedback from thousands of road warriors, it has no equal in terms of accuracy. See our first article in this series for more details.

Wireless charging is another feature that has been touted by many of the Android device manufacturers. In the case of Samsung, the technology was available in the Galaxy Note 4 except for the back cover which can be replaced easily. Surprisingly, Apple has completely ignored it thus far. There are, of course, aftermarket cases that will bring wireless charging to any smartphone including the iPhones. Beginning with some 2014 models, General Motors, Chrysler, and Toyota began integrating wireless charging stations into the center consoles of some of their vehicles. By 2017, most car manufacturers probably will support it either as an included or add-on accessory.

No review of automotive technology would be complete without mention of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the two smartphone integration systems from America’s finest software development companies. One can only hope that the car manufacturers see the light and drop their insistence upon their own proprietary consoles. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto provide navigation, messaging, and numerous music platforms including Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, and Apple Music. Many newer vehicles offer one or the other, and some offer both. The systems also are available as aftermarket add-ons. For an excellent review of the two competing systems, take a look at this CNET review. Our only complaint with Apple CarPlay at the moment is the inability to add applications other than those that Apple has chosen for you. That means no Google Maps and no Waze, at least for now. For an excellent interview with the man behind both technologies at General Motors, see this article from The Verge.

So which vehicle did we choose for our Mobile Internet Lab? Well, come back next month and we’ll take you for a ride as we review the best WiFi Hotspots to complement that new set of wheels. We’ll consider offerings from Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T so there will be something for almost everybody with a smartphone.

Originally published: Monday, January 18, 2016





Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.


 
Awesome Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a terrific discount for Nerd Vittles readers. You now can get an almost half-price DID 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. When you use our special link to sign up, Nerd Vittles gets a few shekels down the road to support our open source development efforts 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 our 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 and four simultaneous channels for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. NOTE: You can only use the Nerd Vittles sign-up link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! 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. Any balance is refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

The Last Sunset: Saying Goodbye to Google TTS… Hello Pico TTS



Despite the heroic efforts of Lefteris Zafiris to keep GoogleTTS afloat for use with Asterisk®, Google has made it increasingly clear that they intend to blow everyone’s apps out of the water (except theirs) if you choose to use their text to speech engine, even in open source, non-commercial products. As much as we’ve loved the voice quality and Google’s previous generosity in sharing their work product with the open source community, there comes a time when the mud wrestling simply is no longer worth the effort. Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Steven Mirabito, we all now have a choice. Steven took the work of Lefteris on GoogleTTS and retrofitted it to support the free SVOX Pico TTS engine. While Pico lacks a bit of the voice quality of GoogleTTS, it’s a quantum leap improvement over Festival and FLITE and perfectly suitable for Incredible PBX TTS apps.

Unlike FLITE which has no voice alternatives to Lurch, Pico for Android has a rich assortment of 40+ male/female voices supporting 25+ languages. Many of them are free. Hopefully, it’s only a matter of time until someone documents how to move them over to the Linux platforms. For today, our default install includes support for US English, British English, French, Spanish, and German. After the install, you’ll find them in /usr/share/pico/lang. Changing voices and languages in your Asterisk scripts is simple. Replace the default language identifier, en-US, with the voice of your choice, e.g. en-GB for British accents, fr-FR for French, es-ES for Spanish, and de-DE for German. If you wish to generate wave files at the command prompt, the syntax is shown below. Here’s the command we used to generate the sample sound file above.

pico2wave --wave sample.wav -l en-US "Here is a sample, using the PICO text to speech engine."

We’re getting a little ahead of ourselves here. Before you can use Pico TTS, we first need to get it installed. There are two different procedures depending upon whether Incredible PBX is running on the CentOS/Scientific Linux platform or Debian/Ubuntu/Raspbian. The installation procedure below will install all of the necessary components for Pico TTS on an existing Incredible PBX platform. It also will modify the Incredible PBX apps that currently rely upon GoogleTTS. And, as of yesterday, all new Incredible PBX 13 installs include Pico TTS by default.

To get started, log into your server as root and choose the installation steps documented below for your particular platform.1

Installing Pico TTS on the CentOS/Scientific Linux Platforms

cd /
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/picotts.tar.gz
tar zxvf picotts.tar.gz
cd /root
./picotts-install.sh
sed -i 's|en)|en-US)|' /etc/asterisk/extensions_custom.conf
sed -i 's|googletts|picotts|' /etc/asterisk/extensions_custom.conf
asterisk -rx "dialplan reload"

Installing Pico TTS on the Debian/Ubuntu Platforms

cd /
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/picotts.tar.gz
tar zxvf picotts.tar.gz
cd /root
rm -f picotts-install.sh
apt-get update
apt-get install -y libttspico-utils
sed -i 's|en)|en-US)|' /etc/asterisk/extensions_custom.conf
sed -i 's|googletts|picotts|' /etc/asterisk/extensions_custom.conf
asterisk -rx "dialplan reload"

Installing Pico TTS on the Raspberry Pi Raspbian Platform

cd /
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/picotts-raspi.tar.gz
tar zxvf picotts-raspi.tar.gz
rm -f picotts-raspi.tar.gz
cd /root
echo "Installing Pico TTS..."
./picotts-install.sh

Post-Install Testing of Pico TTS with Incredible PBX

The easiest way to make sure everything is working properly is to pick up a phone on your server and dial 951 for the latest Yahoo News headlines. Keep in mind that Google Speech Recognition (Google STT) still works for apps such as Voice Dialing (411), Voice Messaging (767), Wolfram Alpha (4747), and Star (8). However, these apps require a free API key before use. The procedure to obtain and install one is documented in this Nerd Vittles article.

Changing the Pico TTS Voice with Incredible PBX

All of the Incredible PBX application scripts are saved in extensions_custom.conf in the /etc/asterisk directory. To change the default voice for Pico TTS apps, simply search and replace en-US with the desired voice: en-GB, fr-FR, es-ES, or de-DE. Save your changes. And then reload your Asterisk dialplan: asterisk -rx "dialplan reload"

Originally published: Monday, January 11, 2016





Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.


 
Awesome Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a terrific discount for Nerd Vittles readers. You now can get an almost half-price DID 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. When you use our special link to sign up, Nerd Vittles gets a few shekels down the road to support our open source development efforts 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 our 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 and four simultaneous channels for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. NOTE: You can only use the Nerd Vittles sign-up link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! 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. Any balance is refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. If you’re using an older version of CentOS, see the install tips documented on the PIAF Forum. []

Santa’s Technology Roundup: The Best Products of 2014 with Some Surprises

Once a year we like to pause and take a look back at 10 technology products that really grabbed our attention. 2014 will be remembered as a spectacular year. So here’s what made the Nerd Vittles short list for 2014…

Smartphone of the Year: It’s a 5-Way Tie

And the winners in no particular order… Galaxy Note 4, iPhone 6+, LG G3, HTC One M8, and Moto X.1 So which should you choose if you can only have one? Visit AndroidHeadlines.com for a detailed feature comparison. You can’t go wrong with any of them. In our family, there’s one of almost all of them.

Desktop Computer of the Year: Apple’s 27‑inch iMac with Retina 5K display

If you work with a computer for a living, there is no competition. It scales to any feature set you may need. Run, don’t walk, to your nearest Apple Store and get in line. We waited two months for ours!

Portable Computer of the Year: Apple’s MacBook Air with Retina Display

Hah. Just kidding. It would have been the hands-down favorite in 2014 except for one minor detail. It hasn’t been released… yet. If you absolutely have to have a retina display-quality notebook, then you’ll have to settle for the slightly thicker Macbook Pro this Christmas. For us, we’re waiting for 2015 and what will surely be the MacBook Air with Retina Display.

Tablet of the Year: iPad Air 2

If you’re starting to think we’re charter members of the Apple FanBoy Club, then you haven’t been following Nerd Vittles for very long. We can be one of their harshest critics. But the bottom line is that Apple products are compelling because of their tight integration to Apple’s closed society. If you’re a member of that club, then you’ll want the iPad Air 2 to add to your collection. It’s a terrific tablet at a compelling price.

Multimedia Device of the Year: Roku 3

If you’re into Netflix and Amazon Prime and movies, nobody needs to tell you that the streaming device hardware market is a crowded place. The Roku 3 isn’t the cheapest device in the market, but it’s still the one we always drop into our suitcase when we hit the road. It’s simple to configure and supports WiFi almost anywhere. It just works!

VoIP Product of the Year: Vitelity’s vMobile

It’s taken a few starts and stops to get the kinks out, but Vitelity’s vMobile smartphone is a truly revolutionary offering. It provides seamless integration of the smartphone into your PBX infrastructure. The phone becomes “just another extension” on your PBX except the device is 100% mobile which means it works with WiFi or it works anywhere Sprint has a tower. For any organization with staff that travels, this is a must-have device. Anything you can do with a traditional PBX extension, you can do with your smartphone using the vMobile technology. It’s the hands-down winner as VoIP Product of the Year. Use our special signup link and help support the Nerd Vittles, PBX in a Flash, and Incredible PBX projects.

VoIP SOHO Hardware of the Year: CuBox-i

We’ve tested lots of small footprint hardware in search of the perfect VOIP platform for the home or SOHO office. The search is over. The hands-down winner is the CuBox-i. It’s tiny, powerful, quiet, and has every feature you could possibly want in a VoIP server. Read our full review here. They’re 25% at NewEgg if you hurry.

VoIP Deal of the Year: $15 Pogoplug with Incredible PBX

If there’s one thing all of us have in common, it’s a burning desire to find the best bargain on the planet. In the VoIP marketplace, look no further than here. Repurposing a PogoPlug for less than $20 (and some of them went for $5), is the perfect way to learn about VoIP without breaking the bank. Our tutorial on the VoIP Deal of the Year will tell you everything you need to know to get started.

Must-Have Product of the Year: Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo is still an invitation-only device, but you need to get in line NOW. During the introduction, Amazon is selling them for $99. Or you can get one on eBay for about triple that amount. It’s money well spent. Think of it as a desktop version of Siri. But it’s so much more. With Amazon Prime and Prime Music accounts plus a free iHeartRadio account, you get access to a collection of over a million songs just by saying the name of the artist or song or playlist or radio station of interest. You also can upload 250 of your own songs not purchased through Amazon Music at no charge. Or, for $25 a year, you can upload up to 250,000 tracks much like iTunes Match. The sound quality of the device is nothing short of spectacular. My teenage daughter and I spent over two hours playing with it the first night it arrived. And the excitement hasn’t waned. It’s the go-to device for all of our visitors to explore new and old music. And, yes, Amazon Echo knows the weather, the time, and just about anything else you care to ask about. You’ll have it in your living room in no time. Not only will it speak the results while playing your favorite song, it’ll send the results and to-do list to your smartphone.

2014: Cloud Computing Reinvented

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a gradual migration of server platforms to the cloud thanks in large part to ever falling prices on the Amazon EC2 platform. But 2014 saw some new cloud strategies. First came the pay-once-use-it-forever platform of CloudAtCost.com. Wait for the next sale and save half on almost any of their server platforms. If you follow us on Twitter, we’ll let you know when it happens. We’ve had several servers for almost a year with no hiccups. In fact, we now keep backup images of the Nerd Vittles, PBX in a Flash, and Incredible PBX web sites running 24/7 on these Canadian servers. Check out the performance for yourself.

Then there was Digital Ocean with its pay-by-the-hour pricing coupled with the ability to create virtual machines for almost any platform in under a minute. It truly is a developer’s dream come true. Frankly, it’s our platform of choice for development of all the great software you read about here. Use our signup link and get a $10 credit to try things out. The beauty of the technology is you can create a server with 512MB of RAM and a 20GB drive, work for a half a day, take a snapshot of your project, and then delete the server until you feel like working again. Total cost for use of the platform and storage of your snapshot: about 2¢.

With any great new technology, of course, competition is not far behind. Meet Vultr, the Digital Ocean knock-off promising more memory, more server locations, and more features for less money. Is Vultr really better? We’ll let you know after we’ve had more time to play. Our first look uncovered a few wrinkles. First, you had to request enabling of port 25 for outbound SMTP mail support. Not a big deal if it were documented that you had to request it, but it isn’t mentioned anywhere on the site. Second, virtual machines take a bit longer to create and much longer to become fully functional on Vultr. We got spoiled by the one-minute spin up at Digital Ocean. But, the good news is a penny-an-hour server gets you a gig of RAM, 20 gigs of storage, and 2 terabytes of data transfer a month for $7. And it is fast! So stay tuned for a full review and…

Merry Christmas!

Originally published: Monday, December 22, 2014



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.


 
Awesome Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a terrific discount for Nerd Vittles readers. You now can get an almost half-price DID 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. When you use our special link to sign up, Nerd Vittles gets a few shekels down the road to support our open source development efforts 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 our 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 and four simultaneous channels for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. NOTE: You can only use the Nerd Vittles sign-up link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! 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. Any balance is refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Some of our purchase links refer users to Amazon and other sites when we find their prices are competitive for the recommended products. Nerd Vittles receives a small referral fee from merchants to help cover the costs of our blog. We never recommend particular products solely to generate commissions. However, when pricing is comparable or availability is favorable, we support Amazon and other merchants because they support us. []

The Disappointing iPhone 6: Eight Generations of iOS and Bluetooth Still Sucks

Our technology reviews are a little different than the dozens of reviews you’ve probably already seen that read more like Apple press releases. First of all, we typically buy products to actually use. And second, we base our smartphone evaluations on real-world requirements rather than best case scenarios that you’re unlikely to ever experience in the real world.

So we begin our review of the iPhone 6 with the simple question: “Can it make calls?” Funny as this sounds, it’s been a huge problem with previous iPhone models if you planned to use a reasonably priced provider such as StraightTalk instead of one of America’s “Big Four.” To Apple’s credit, they finally got it right in the AT&T model of the iPhone 6. StraightTalk works out of the box, something Android mastered years ago. You still cannot manually configure the cellphone provider specs, but at least it now works.

We’re not going to spend a lot of time on Apple’s continuing push to lock users into the Apple universe. Suffice it to say, the lock in marches on with each new release. To some it’s a good thing. To others, it’s not. If you’re going to fork over $1,0001 for an iPhone 6 in order to use StraightTalk for $45 a month, then you’re probably committed to and comfortable with Apple’s ways of doing things. We’re pretty much an observer of the iPhone cosmos except to assure that our VoIP products still work reliably on the platform. On the other hand, our teenager and all of her teenage friends have iPhones, period. Just the mention of Android conjures up visions of nerds hanging from trees to hear them tell it. In other words, lock in is a good thing in their view. All of their apps work exactly the same on every person’s smartphone. All of their emojis are compatible for texting. And messaging is pure Apple with no worries whether SMS and MMS work or not. By the way, messaging is still a mess if you switch between Apple and Android with your SIM card without first disabling iMessage on the iPhone. It’s almost as if Apple likes it this way. 😉

Did we mention that the iPhone 6 is gorgeous? Hands down, it is the best looking smartphone ever. We won’t get into whether it bends or not. Ours didn’t, and we carry it in our pocket like every other guy on the planet. Not sure I’d do it if I rode on a tractor all day but in typical everyday use, it holds it’s own.

We were especially curious about the camera given the numerous reviews documenting that the iPhone 6 is not the megapixel wonder you’ve come to expect with Android phones. We’ve typically been able to take much better real-world photos using Samsung’s Galaxy S4. So we’re including two marsh photos taken with a Galaxy S4 as well as iPhone 5c and iPhone 6 portrait shots to let you judge the quality for yourself. Keep in mind that all four of the images below are screen captures rather than the actual photographs. We came away from the experiment very impressed that the newer iPhones can hold their own against the Android devices with far better technical specs. While it’s still a bit of a knuckle drill to export a photo from your photo stream to iPhoto to email to a download to your desktop, it’s at least intuitive. Bottom Line: We no longer worry about photo quality when we don’t have an Android phone along for a trip.

With the camera testing behind us, that left us with two burning questions: how’s the WiFI and how’s the Bluetooth connectivity with cars?

Not to beat a dead horse, but WiFi typically hasn’t been Apple’s strong suit unless you happen to be using their access points. That seems to be resolved with iOS 8. 5G WiFi connectivity worked great with download and upload speeds matching the limits of our broadband service. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that Bluetooth is still a mess after years and years of problem reports. If anything, iOS 8 is a step backwards judging from the reports on Apple’s own support forum. Our results with one of the latest General Motors vehicles were terrible. While the iPhone 6 could be paired with the vehicle, nothing worked afterwards. No calls, no Pandora, nothing! When every $100 Android smartphone can pair with almost any vehicle and work, we get back to our initial question: “Can it make calls?” Unfortunately, unless you want to step back in time and hold your shiny, new iPhone 6 next to your ear, the answer is a resounding NO. And, yes, we jumped through all of the Apple hoops attempting to resolve the Bluetooth problems even though nobody should ever have to endure that! For $1,000, one would expect all of the basics on a smartphone to function correctly just as you expect your brakes and windshield wipers to work when you buy a new car. The fact that Apple has dropped the ball on Bluetooth for years is yet another reason we won’t be switching from Android anytime soon. In fact, the Bluetooth problem is a deal breaker for us so we’re returning the phone.

Finally, a word to the Apple fanboys. Don’t post comments. We won’t publish them. We are not Apple haters. Quite the contrary, we have more Apple hardware under our roof than any other brand. What Apple has done in the educational arena and to foster the image of technical support as a good thing is legendary. But you can’t drop the ball on the basics and expect people that depend upon technology to be impressed. Drop everything that deals with the shiny new watch for a few days and fix Bluetooth. It’s that important!

Originally published: Monday, October 13, 2014



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.


 
Awesome Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a terrific discount for Nerd Vittles readers. You now can get an almost half-price DID 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. When you use our special link to sign up, Nerd Vittles gets a few shekels down the road to support our open source development efforts 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 our 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 and four simultaneous channels for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. NOTE: You can only use the Nerd Vittles sign-up link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! 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. Any balance is refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Actually, the sales price for the 128GB iPhone 6 with AppleCare+ and sales tax came to a whopping $1,028.59 []

Don’t Hurry: A First Look at Google Glass with Google Glass Frame

It’s one thing to read about new technology, and quite another to actually try it out. We’ve been holding off on Google Glass awaiting support for prescription lenses. Well, it’s finally here. And Nerd Uno was one of the first to receive the new Google Glass Frames. Having spent the better part of a week with the new technology, here’s our review.

Let’s start with the price tag. Ours came to $1,868.75. That’s before you add the cost of prescription lenses, some of which are now subsidized by vision insurance plans. So the $2,000 question is whether you’re ready for that type of investment in order to assume the mantle of PIONEER. And, make no mistake, Google Glass is a beta project in every sense of the word. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Pardon our morphing into a male chauvinist pig for a moment. Can you picture your significant other ever wearing a pair of these glasses? Seriously? If the answer is no, then put yourself in her shoes and ask the same question. Looks aside (and some of us need all the help we can get), much of the resistance to Google Glass boils down to the privacy issue. It’s one thing to carry a hidden pen camera when nobody knows they’re being recorded. It’s quite another to advertise what you’re up to. As Engadget put it:

It’s a headset with a projected display, a camera and a data connection that could revolutionize the mobile device industry. It could also cause a public uproar over privacy concerns.

People can and should be a bit concerned about someone walking in a public restroom with Glass on and, since you can’t fold them up and stick them in your pocket, finding something to do with them while you do your business is a challenge.

Take it from us. Your friends are going to disown you if you wear these things around them. Nobody (except people that work for Google or would like to) wants to be on camera all the time. And nobody except the Glass wearer knows whether the camera is on or off. Therein lies the problem. All it takes to send a photo to the Google Cloud is the wink of an eye. Ask yourself this question. Do you really want to live in a world like this? We haven’t even gotten to the way you can expect to be treated by strangers. Consider, for example, the poor guy that got dragged out of the movie theater because of a claim that he was illegally recording the movie. He wasn’t! But there was a parking lot full of police and FBI interrogators anyway. Then there are the restaurants and bars that will throw you out just for wearing a pair of wonder glasses. And finally we’ve got the Eager Beaver traffic cop that couldn’t wait to make his first Google Glass bust. So let me repeat the question. Do you really want to live in a world like this? Perhaps the better question is this. Do you think other folks want to live in a world with people like you wearing Google Glass? You can probably guess our answer, but the world does not stand still. So… we will see what we see.

Google Glass Setup and Operation

If you’ve set up an iPhone or Android phone with Gmail using your Google credentials, then you already know the drill for setting up Google Glass. It’s a breeze with the MyGlass app for your smartphone. In 5 minutes, you’ll be ready to tilt your head up and take Google Glass for a spin. The magic word to activate Glass is “OK, Glass.” So far, so good. In the default setup, you can make phone calls, check the weather, participate in Hangouts (you can see them but they can’t see you), read emails, send dictated email messages, take photos and videos as well as perform Google searches and navigate to a destination with Google Maps. The ability to schedule reminders has been removed in the latest software release. Unfortunately, messages sent to Gmail accounts (with or without a photo) go to Hangouts, not to Gmail.




You can take photos by blinking your right eye after enabling the feature. The photos are immediately uploaded to your Google account in the sky. There also is an option to forward a photo to an email address. But choosing a recipient was problematic. If you have an extensive list of Contacts as we do, it’s almost impossible to navigate through the list or to use it reliably with the Glass speech-to-text function. Oftentimes you will find yourself inadvertently sending something to the wrong person with no notification as to who that person was. And there’s no quick way to cancel delivery. That is a major shortcoming of virtually all the Glass features presently. There is no “go back” or “never mind” or “hangup” voice command to cancel an activity. We often found ourselves tapping, swiping, and yelling at Glass in order to cancel some action. Painful is the kindest adjective we can muster. Do you have any idea how stupid you look tapping on the side of your head all the time? People really will think you’ve lost your marbles. Let’s put it this way. If the Google self-driving car worked as well as Glass, you’d be in a ditch or dead in a matter of minutes.

There are a whole host of additional features you can add to Glass. Google calls them Glassware. The process is straight-forward, much like adding an app to a smartphone. Here’s a partial list to give you some idea of what’s already out there:

With all these potential applications, you’re undoubtedly asking yourself about battery life. In a word, it’s HORRIBLE. If you get a half day out of Glass even with minimal use, count yourself among the lucky ones. If the idea is that folks should wear Glass instead of glasses, you’re not going to be a happy camper. While Google has taken steps to shut off Glass when you’re not actively using it, this is an uphill battle. Glass depends upon Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and regularly communicates with your cellphone and the closest WiFi access point. That’s a battery-consuming activity that is not going to be easily remedied without a bigger battery or better battery technology. As someone described it in the Google forum, “It’s like watching the gas gauge on a Ford Expedition with a 454 engine going up a mountain.” There’s a reason that over half the inside of a smartphone is reserved as a battery compartment. Unfortunately, Glass doesn’t have that luxury of space.

In conclusion, we were tempted to keep Glass only because of its novelty. Everybody likes to play with the latest toy. And we have a reputation to uphold. But the battery life and privacy issues are truly dealbreakers for us. Before it’s over, we suspect there will be overwhelming public demand for a little red blinking light on Glass to tell others when you’re doing something that might affect them. If you’ve seen the way people react when you point a movie camera at them with a blinking red light, you’ll at least know what you have to look forward to. There has been no bigger Google Glass evangelist than Robert Scoble. Check out his comments on why Google Glass is doomed. Then read today’s comments from Jeff Jarvis before you take the plunge. We’re saving our money for the self-driving car. Here’s hoping the people that make ours don’t read this review.

Originally published: Wednesday, February 5, 2014




Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.


 
Awesome Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a terrific discount for Nerd Vittles readers. You now can get an almost half-price DID 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. When you use our special link to sign up, Nerd Vittles gets a few shekels down the road to support our open source development efforts 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 our 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 and four simultaneous channels for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. NOTE: You can only use the Nerd Vittles sign-up link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! 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. Any balance is refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Taking a Page from Asterisk: How Far We Have Come

We’ve never written about paging technology before, and this is one of those areas of VoIP telephony where it certainly paid to wait. What a difference a few years makes! At least in the Asterisk® context, SIP-based paging traditionally involved issuing a Page command with a list of extensions in your dialplan. The wrinkle was that each VoIP phone manufacturer had its own SIP header to trigger autoanswer on its phones. And, without autoanswer, paging becomes next to worthless with desktop phones. Then came FreePBX®. It took all the pain out of the process by using the *80 prefix to issue a page to almost any type of SIP phone. The one wrinkle was that Grandstream and a few other phones require that autoanswer be enabled for paging in the device configuration. Aside from that, any user can pick up a phone on a PBX in a Flash system and dial *80707 to page extension 707 with duplex voice communications through the speakerphones, meaning both parties can talk and listen to each other, the perfect VoIP intercom. And, there’s more good news. Paging works with almost all of the major phone manufacturers’ phones: Aastra, Digium, Grandstream, Linksys/Sipura, Mitel, Polycom, SNOM, and Yealink. In addition, the SIP-compatible Cyberdata ceiling speaker and Cyberdata POE Doorphone/Intercom with Keypad function just like a SIP phone.

For small groups of phones, paging now works equally well using the FreePBX Paging Module which allows an administrator to preconfigure a group of phones, specify whether to skip busy extensions, barge into busy extensions and place existing callers on hold, or whisper the page to the busy extensions. You can even enable or disable duplex communications during the page. Think of it as instant conference. The module also provides the flexibility for individual phone users to block pages from one or more extensions or even all extensions. Finally, the module lets you create and save multiple configurations for different purposes, and you can designate an Announcement message that plays to every page recipient. For a historical look at the evolution of paging on the Asterisk platform, see Chapter 11 of Asterisk: The Definitive Guide (4th edition). Better yet, buy the book!

So why do we need paging? In the corporate setting, it provides a perfect emergency broadcast service for fires, earthquakes, patient escapes from the loony bin, etc. In a school setting, it could inexpensively replace costly public address systems requiring dedicated wiring, speakers, and amplifiers. The Asterisk paging solution has the added benefit of letting anyone broadcast from anywhere by simply picking up a nearby phone and dialing some (hopefully password-protected) extension number. Separate RTP streaming IP addresses also could be configured on departmental phones to allow automobile dealership zone paging for parts, sales, or service. So a receptionist could park a call and then announce it to a particular department by pressing a softkey on the sidecar. And you still could have an additional emergency channel that reaches everybody. Just set up a different number to page each zone as well as the entire organization.

So that’s where we were until a week ago when Brian Kelly of PIAF Forum fame began exploring Multicast RTP Paging with Asterisk and AirPlay. Think of Multicast RTP as a radio station that streams data on a particular IP address and port. If you happen to have Multicast-aware SIP phones, they can “tune in” to particular channels of interest. And, whenever a stream is broadcast on one of the channels the phone device is preconfigured to listen to, it will go off hook just as if it had received a page as outlined above. The major advantage to RTP streaming is that there is only a single stream of data on a single channel whereas paging to multiple extensions requires a channel of data for every extension. If you want to follow along with today’s project, just configure one of the Multicast RTP streams on your phone with the port and IP address shown below.

The wrinkle is your phone devices must support Multicast RTP streaming, and many current models do not. Our VoIP Phone of the Year, the Yealink T46G, qualifies. So do some of the Aastra, SNOM (v7), and Linksys/Cisco phones (with quirks!). And the Cyberdata speaker and doorphone (above) support Multicast RTP streaming as well. Digium Phones currently do not. If you know of other phones that support Multicast RTP streams, please post a comment. You’ll know if your particular phone supports it if it has a configuration section in the manual that looks something like this:

The good news is current versions of Asterisk including 1.8, 10, and 11 support Multicast RTP Streaming and PIAF-Purple and PIAF-Green come preconfigured for RTP Multicast Streaming. A single line of dialplan code is all you need to initiate a broadcast:

exten => 1234,1,Dial(MulticastRTP/basic/224.0.0.1:1234)

This would cause the Multicast RTP Stream broadcast to begin on port 1234 of IP address 224.0.0.1 as soon as someone on your PBX in a Flash server dialed extension 1234 and began to speak. Every phone or SIP device listening for broadcasts on port 1234 from IP address 224.0.0.1 would receive the listen-only page on their speakerphone.

Of course, Brian was not content to merely issue a page from Asterisk to his SIP phones. He wanted all of them to be able to listen to his iTunes music collection using his iPhone or iPad. This required AirPlay, but AirPlay can only stream to iOS devices. Well, not so fast. An enterprising guru on SourceForge created his own AirPlay emulator called Shairport4w. This is a Windows application that works just like an AirPort server. It “listens” for content from an iPhone or iPad that has designated Shairport4w as its AirPlay device. iTunes has the ability to stream music to any AirPlay device including the Shairport4w. So that was half of the puzzle. That got iTunes music playing great on the Windows desktop.

But we needed the other piece of the puzzle. We needed to push the music from the Windows machine to the SIP phones using Multicast RTP streaming. Brian found the missing piece of the puzzle for that as well. It’s called Multicast Streamer for Windows and it’s available at no cost from CodeProject. Simply download and unzip the bundle of goodies and run Multicast Streamer on your Windows desktop together with Shairport4w. Shairport4w captures the incoming AirPlay stream and pushes it to the sound card.

Now we simply need to configure the sound card as the input device for Multicast Streamer and make the appropriate settings to broadcast the RTP stream to port 1234 on IP address 224.0.0.1. This was the listening port and IP address we configured on our SIP phones. Be sure to also adjust the Samples per second to 8,000 and the Bits per Sample to 16.

Your mileage may vary but in our case the only output device showing on Multicast Streamer was Microphone. What we needed was Stereo Mix to capture data from the sound card rather than the microphone. If yours is missing, do the following. Right-click on the Speaker icon and switch to the Recording tab. If you don’t see Stereo Mix, then Right-click on an empty area and make sure that both “Show Disabled Devices” and “Show Disconnected Devices” are checked. When the Stereo Mix option appears, Right-click on it and check Enable. Set the level to 100. Now it will also appear as an input device when you restart Multicast Streamer. Choose it as the default input device, make sure all your other settings match what we outlined above, and then click Start to begin the stream. Now stroll over to your iPod music player app on your iPhone or iPad, choose Shairport4w as the AirPlay output device, and play away. To cancel the stream on any phone, just hangup the speakerphone. Enjoy!


Deals of the Week. There are a couple of amazing deals still on the street, but you’d better hurry. First, for new customers, Sangoma is offering a board of your choice from a very impressive list at 75% off. For details, see this thread on the PIAF Forum. Second, a new company called Copy.com is offering 20GB of free cloud storage with no restrictions on file size uploads (which are all too common with other free offers). Copy.com has free sync apps for Windows, Macs, and Linux systems. To take advantage of the offer, just click on our referral link here. We get 5GB of extra storage, too, which will help avoid another PIAF Forum disaster.

Originally published: Monday, July 22, 2013




Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.


 

Don’t miss the first-ever FreePBX World on August 27-28 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. For complete details, see this post on the FreePBX blog.


 

We are pleased to once again be able to offer Nerd Vittles’ readers a 20% discount on registration to attend this year’s 10th Anniversary AstriCon in Atlanta. Here’s the Nerd Vittles Discount Code: AC13NERD.


 
Awesome Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a terrific discount for Nerd Vittles readers. You now can get an almost half-price DID 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. When you use our special link to sign up, Nerd Vittles gets a few shekels down the road to support our open source development efforts 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 our 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 and four simultaneous channels for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. NOTE: You can only use the Nerd Vittles sign-up link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! 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. Any balance is refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…