Category: Internet/Web

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. :wink:

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.


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

FMC: The Future of Telephony with Vitelity’s vMobile and Asterisk in the Cloud




If making phone calls from a web browser is what you’ve always longed for, then you’re in good company with Google and its future direction in the telephony space. Call us old fashioned but this strikes us as a solution in desperate need of a problem. What’s wrong with a Plain Old Telephone or a smartphone for making connections with friends and business associates? The real head scratcher is the fact that the WebRTC and Hangouts push demonstrates that the wizards at Google are seriously out of touch with the next generation. Will our 14-year-old daughter use Skype or Hangouts or FaceTime? Sure. About once a month to chat with Grandma or to interact with cousins scattered around the country, it’s a terrific option. And the same is true in the business community. When you need to collaborate with a half dozen colleagues, conferencing applications are invaluable. But to meet 95% of day in and day out business requirements, a telephone or smartphone is the clear device of choice. So join us today in celebrating the end of Google Voice XMPP service and the beginning of a new and even more exciting VoIP era… sans Google.


Of course, if it were up to the next generation, telephone calls might completely disappear in favor of text messaging, Snapchat, Instagram, and any other platform that includes recorded photos or videos. Note the subtle difference. Kids really are not interested in live video interaction. They find posed images that tell a story much more appealing. Why? Because recorded photos and videos let users present their best face, their movie star pose, and their expression of what they want others to perceive they’re really like. In short, live video is too much like real life. Our conclusion for those targeting the next generation is you’d better come up with something better and quite different than Skype, Hangouts, and FaceTime.

It’s Fixed-Mobile Convergence, Stupid!

Now let’s return to our primary focus for today, the current business community. Suffice it to say, there are a dwindling number of what we used to call “desk jobs” where an employee arrives at his or her desk at 9 a.m. and leaves at 5 p.m. As more and more jobs are headed off shore, the telephone and smartphone have replaced the corporate desk as the most indispensable corporate fixture. Particularly in the American marketplace, what we see with most businesses is a management layer and an (upwardly) mobile force of salespeople, consultants, and implementers that interact primarily through PBXs in an office headquarters or home office together with smartphones for those that generally are on the road. Many of these Road Warriors don’t even have a home phone any longer.


The telephony Holy Grail for this new business model is Fixed-Mobile Convergence (FMC). It’s the ability to transparently move from place to place while retaining your corporate identity. Every employee from the night watchman in Miami to the salesperson making calls from a Starbucks in California to the CEO in New York has an extension on a PBX in the cloud together with the ability to accept and place calls using the company’s CallerID name and number, transfer calls, and participate in conference calls regardless of whether the phone instrument happens to be a desktop phone or a smartphone. Is this even possible? Well, as of last week, the answer is ABSOLUTELY.

Vitelity has been a long-time corporate sponsor of both the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash open source projects so we were thrilled when we were offered a free, Samsung Galaxy S III to try out the new (live) vMobile service that took Best in Show honors at ITEXPO Miami in January. As Vitelity’s Chris Brown would probably tell you, it’s one thing to demonstrate a new technology at a trade show and quite another to bring it into production. But Vitelity did it:

What we want to stress up front is that we’ve received no special treatment in getting this to work. We received the phone, opened a support ticket to register the phone on Vitelity’s vMobile network, and plugged our new credentials into the phone so that it could be integrated into our PBX in a Flash server. Once the smartphone became an extension on our PBX, we could place calls through our PBX with the S3 using both WiFi and Sprint 3G/4G service. Switching between WiFi and cellular is totally transparent. The CallerID for all outbound calls was our standard PBX CallerID. We also could place calls to other extensions on the PBX by dialing a 4-digit extension while connected to WiFi or the Sprint network virtually anywhere. If you have 3-digit extensions, those are a problem over the Sprint network but we’ll show you a little trick to get them working as well.

Keep in mind that every call from the S3 goes out through the PBX just as if you were using a standard desktop phone as a hardwired extension. And it really doesn’t matter whether the S3 has a WiFi connection or a pure cellular connection on Sprint’s network. You receive calls on the S3 in much the same way. It’s just another extension on your PBX. If you want to add it to a ring group to process incoming calls, that works. If other users on your PBX wish to call the S3 directly using the extension number, that works as well. If you want to transfer a call, pressing ## on the S3 initiates the transfer just as if you were using a phone on your desk. When we say transparent convergence, we really do mean transparent. No recipient of a call from the vMobile S3 would have any idea whether you were sitting at a desk in the corporate headquarters in New York or in a seat on a Delta jet after landing in San Francisco. Both the call quality and the corporate CallerID would be identical. And your secretary on maternity leave at Grandma’s house still could reach you using her vMobile S3 by simply dialing your corporate extension.

So that’s the Fortune 500 view of the new VoIP universe. How about the little guy with a $15 a month PBX in a Flash server in the RentPBX cloud1, a couple mobile sales people, and a handful of construction workers that build swimming pools for a living? It works identically. Each has an S3 connected as an extension on the PIAF cloud server. And calls can be managed in exactly the same way they would be handled if everyone were sitting side-by-side at desks in an office headquarters somewhere. The silver lining of cloud computing is that it serves as the Great Equalizer between SOHO businesses and Fortune 500 companies. Asterisk® paired with inexpensive cloud hosting services such as RentPBX lets you mimic the Big Boys for pennies on the dollar. We think Vitelity has hit a bases loaded, home run with vMobile.


vMobile Pricing

We know what you’re thinking. “Since you got yours for free, what does it really cost??” The Galaxy S3 (or S4) is proprietary running Trebuchet 1.0, a (rooted) CyanogenMod version of Android’s KitKat. You can purchase these devices directly from the Vitelity Store. Currently, you can’t bring your own device. The refurbished S3 is $189 including warranty. Works perfectly! That’s what we’re using. Next, you’ll need a vMobile account for each phone. Unless you’re a Nerd Vittles reader, it’s $9.95 per month. That gets you free WiFi calling and data usage anywhere you can find an available WiFi hotspot. And text messaging is free. For calls and data using Sprint’s nationwide network, the calls are 2¢ a minute and the data is 2¢ per megabyte ($20 per gigabyte). For us, a typical day of data usage with an email account and light web use costs about a quarter. YMMV! So long as you configure Android to download application updates when connected to WiFi, data usage should not be a problem unless you’re into photos and streaming video. Android includes excellent tools for monitoring and even curbing your data usage if this is a concern.

vMobile Gotchas

Before we walk you through the setup process, let’s cover the gotchas. The list is short. First, we don’t recommend connecting vMobile devices to a PBX sitting behind a NAT-based firewall, or you may end up with some calls missing audio. The reason is NAT and quirky residential routers. If you think about it, when your S3 is inside the firewall and connected to WiFi, it will have an IP address on your private LAN just like your Asterisk server. When your S3 is outside your firewall on either a cellular connection or someone else’s WiFi network, it will have an IP address that is not on your private LAN. Others may be smarter than we are, but we couldn’t figure a way to have connections work reliably in both scenarios using most residential routers. You can configure your S3′s PBX extension for NAT=No or NAT=yes, but you can’t tell Asterisk how to change it depending upon where you are. One simple solution is to deploy these phones with a VPN connection to your Asterisk server sitting behind a NAT-based firewall. The more reliable solution is to build your PBX in a Flash server in the cloud with no NAT-based firewall. Then use an IPtables WhiteList (aka Travelin’ Man 3) to protect your server. From there, you can either interconnect the cloud-based server with a second PBX behind your firewall, or you can dispense with the local PBX entirely. Either way will eliminate the NAT issues with missing audio. In both cases, use NAT=yes for the vMobile extension.

Another wrinkle involves text messaging. Traditional text messages work fine; however, MMS still is problematic unless you initiate the outbound MMS session with the other recipient. It’s probably worth noting that Google Voice never got MMS working at all despite years of promises. This wasn’t a deal breaker for us, but it’s a bug that still is being worked on.

Finally, there’s Sprint. You either love ‘em or hate ‘em. We really haven’t used Sprint service in about eight years. In the Charleston area, the barely 3G service still is just as lousy as it was eight years ago. But, if you live in an area with good Sprint coverage and performance, this shouldn’t be an issue for you. And vMobile works fine in Charleston. You just won’t be surfing the web very often unless you have hours to kill… waiting. Additionally, dialing numbers with less than 4 numbers is a non-starter with Sprint, but we’ll show you a simple workaround to reach 3-digit local extensions from your vMobile device below.

With a service as revolutionary as vMobile with Sprint’s new FMC architecture, we can’t help thinking there may be other cellular carriers with an interest in deploying this technology sooner rather than later. But, given the vMobile feature set, Sprint is good enough for now especially when WiFi connectivity is available almost everywhere.




vMobile Configuration at Vitelity

For the Vitelity side of the setup, you first configure your smartphone using the (included) My Phone app. When the application is run, your cellphone number will be shown. Tapping the display about a dozen times will cause the phone’s setup to be reconfigured. Vitelity will provide you the secret key to activate your account. Next, you’ll log into the Vitelity portal and choose vMobile -> My Devices under My Products and Services. The account for your vMobile device will already exist. Clicking on the pull-down menu beside your vMobile device will let you create your SIP account on Vitelity’s server. Enter the IP address or FQDN of your Asterisk server and set up a very secure password. Your username will be the 10-digit phone number assigned to your vMobile phone. Save your settings and then choose the Edit option to view your setup. The portal will display your Username, Password, and FreePBX/Asterisk Connect Host name. Write them down for use when you configure your new extension using FreePBX®.




vMobile Configuration for Asterisk and PBX in a Flash

On the PBX in a Flash server, use a browser to open FreePBX. Choose Applications -> Extensions and add a new generic SIP device. For Display Name and User Extension, enter the 10-digit phone number assigned to your vMobile device. Under Secret, enter the password you assigned in Vitelity’s vMobile portal. Click Submit and reload FreePBX when prompted. Then edit the extension you just created. Set NAT=yes and change the Host entry from dynamic to the FQDN entry that was shown in Vitelity’s vMobile portal, e.g. 7209876542.mobilet103.sipclient.org. Update your configuration and restart FreePBX once again. Finally, from the Linux command prompt, restart Asterisk: amportal restart. If you’re using a WhiteList with IPtables such as Travelin’ Man 3, be sure to add a new WhiteList entry for your vMobile Host entry. Finally, add your vMobile extension to any desired Inbound Routes to make certain your vMobile device rings when desired.

You now should be able to place and receive calls on your vMobile device. If you want to be able to call 3-digit Asterisk extensions on both WiFi and while roaming on the Sprint cellular network, then you’ll need to add a little dialplan code since Sprint reserves 3-digit numbers for emergency services and will reject other calls with numbers of less than 4 digits. Here’s the simple fix. Always dial 3-digit extensions with a leading 0, e.g. 0701 to reach extension 701. We’ll strip off the leading zero before routing the call. The dialplan code below works whether you’re calling a local 3-digit extension or a 3-digit extension on an interconnected remote Asterisk server. Simply edit extensions_custom.conf in /etc/asterisk and insert the following code at the top of the [from-internal-custom] context. Then restart Asterisk: amportal restart. Note that we’ve set this up so that, if you have an extension 701 on both the local server and a remote server, the call will be connected to the local 701 extension. If you have different extension prefixes for different branch offices (e.g. 7XX in Atlanta and 8XX in Dallas), then this dialplan code will route the calls properly assuming you’ve configured an outbound route with the appropriate dial pattern for each branch office.

exten => _0XXX,1,Answer
exten => _0XXX,n,Wait(1)
exten => _0XXX,n,Set(NUM2CALL=${CALLERID(dnid):1})
exten => _0XXX,n,Dial(sip/${NUM2CALL})
exten => _0XXX,n,Dial(local/${NUM2CALL}@from-internal)
exten => _0XXX,n,Hangup

Vitelity vMobile Special for Nerd Vittles Readers

Now for the icing on the cake… We asked Vitelity if they would consider offering special pricing to Nerd Vittles readers and PBX in a Flash users. We’re pleased to report that Vitelity agreed. By using this special link when you sign up, the vMobile monthly fee will be $8.99 instead of $9.95. In addition, your first month is free with no activation fee. We told you last week that there was a very good reason for choosing Vitelity as your SIP provider. Now you know why.

And, if you’re new to Cloud Computing, take advantage of the RentPBX special for Nerd Vittles readers. $15 a month gets you your very own PBX in a Flash server in the Cloud. Just use this coupon code: PIAF2012. Enjoy!

Originally published: Thursday, May 15, 2014





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


 
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 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. 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! 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. RentPBX also is a corporate sponsor of the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects. []

Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle: More RedHat Legal Shenanigans with CentOS


As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of CentOS, the Community Enterprise Operating System, all is not well in Open Source Land. If you haven’t heard, CentOS “joined forces” with Red Hat while you were enjoying the Christmas holiday. And RedHat wasted little time attempting to morph CentOS into a Trademark Minefield much as RedHat has done with its other “open source” projects. If you look at the new CentOS.org web site, RedHat proclaims a New Look and New CentOS. New, indeed. You won’t see many changes other than a healthy mention of RedHat and a vast new Legal section proclaiming RedHat’s ownership of the CentOS trademark and severely restricting acceptable use of the CentOS product. It’s more than a little ironic that RedHat actually pulled off a similar stunt against CentOS back in 2005. The initial problem this time around is that RedHat doesn’t actually own the trademark, nor has RedHat attempted to register it. There are some good reasons why, and we’ll get to those in a minute.

The RedHat Legal Theory of Trademarks goes something like this. We just don’t want people to confuse other products with our brand even though we all use the same, freely available open source brands. Get it? Well let’s try again. RedHat doesn’t mind using Apache’s brand name, and SendMail’s, and MySQL’s, and about 40,000 other trademarked and copyrighted products of open source developers. But God help you if the word “RedHat” appears anywhere in your open source software aggregation.

Now RedHat would like to extend this philosophy to CentOS for the betterment of the community, of course. If successful, RedHat bullying would wipe out virtually all of the current CentOS packages available from the following providers, and thousands more would disappear as well. Here’s the list from CentOS’ own web site, but don’t expect the list to remain around very long. The mere existence of this list proves CentOS acquiescence in the development methodology employed by Amazon Linux AMIs that include CentOS as part of the AMI, AsteriskNOW, BlueOnyx, BlueQuartz, CactiEZ, CentServer, ClarkConnect, ClearOS, Elastix, FAN, FreePBX Distro, OpenNode, OpenVZ, OS Office, OVH, Parallels Virtuozzo Containers, PBX in a Flash, Proxmox images that include CentOS, SipX, SME Server, Snaplogic, trixbox, trixswitch, VicidialNOW, most of the Virtual Machines and hosted platforms that rely upon CentOS with any other included application. And the list goes on. To give you some idea of how pervasive CentOS is in the products of other developers, try Googling: built atop centos. It returns over 21 million results.

In a nutshell, the new RedHat Terms of Service outlaw use of CentOS in any productunless the combined distribution is an official CentOS distribution.” In short, the open source community would be transformed into the functional equivalent of the Windows and Mac platforms. End-users could independently install CentOS and then acquire apps to run under CentOS, but CentOS could no longer be included with the application itself. Well, not so fast, Mr. RedHat.

Even though the evidence trail is quickly disappearing, there’s still plenty of CentOS history that suggests things may not work out quite as well for RedHat this time around. First, there is the CentOS “Social Contract” with the Open Source Software Community and The cAos Foundation’s Open Source Software Guidelines, both of which have conveniently disappeared from the CentOS web site. For history buffs, the cAos Foundation was the developer of the CentOS aggregation. If there’s one overriding principle in both trademark law and open source software development under the GPL, it’s this: YOU CAN’T UNRING A BELL. A license once given cannot be withdrawn at the whim of a new owner, even RedHat. Here’s an excerpt from their “Social Contract.” Pay particular attention to the last paragraph:

Another problematic issue is ownership of the trademark itself. You can certainly own a trademark without registering it with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. But… since inception, the cAos Foundation has gone to great lengths not to ever enforce, proclaim™, or protect its trademark in CentOS. The reason is simple. They viewed CentOS as a community project which was free for everyone in the community to use and integrate as they saw fit. Thus it is more than a little puzzling that a single developer would finally file a USPTO trademark application for “CENTOS” (note the capitalization and compare to RedHat’s view of the universe) six months ago claiming that he individually owned the mark. Quite the contrary, the cAos Foundation referenced its CentOS brand as early as 2004.

This, of course, raises some additional problems with RedHat’s claim of CentOS trademark and service mark ownership. From a legal standpoint, owners of trademarks are obligated to police the use of their marks to avoid Dilution either by third parties or by tarnishment. Without delving too deeply in the legal weeds, suffice it to say the CentOS mark suffers from dilution on both counts over a period of almost 10 years! This is as it should be actually. CentOS was intended to be a community resource for everyone in the community to be able to use, integrate, and build upon. Because of its inherent non-commercial character, it was never intended to be a brand for independent marketing.

A third trademark infirmity for the CentOS brand is the fact that it’s suffering from genericide. In Plain English, CentOS has become a household word. In the Linux community, it signifies a generic open source Linux operating system. Just as with aspirin and thermos bottles, “a majority of the relevant public [has] appropriated the name of the product… [and, in essence,] the owners are victims of their own success.”

And then there’s the matter of licensing. In addition to the “Social Contract” referenced above and upon which many developers relied, there’s also a financial angle. Individual developers reportedly have been given either express or implied authorization to integrate CentOS into their software products in exchange for financial contributions to the “CentOS project.” We’ll have more to say about that in our Petition for Cancellation and Opposition to Registration of the CentOS trademark, if the trademark is ever approved for publication. We trust many other developers will file petitions as well. You can review the procedure here. You can follow the CentOS trademark saga here. Be advised that an Opposition to Registration (section 202) must be filed with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board within 30 days of the date a mark is approved for publication in the USPTO’s Official Gazette. A sample Petition for Cancellation (section 307) is available here. You do not have to be a lawyer to file it. You do have to pay the $300 filing fee. The safest way to monitor approval is by regularly checking the Status of the CENTOS Trademark and Service Mark Application.

Licensing issues aside, there’s a more serious issue moving forward. Most companies used CentOS so they wouldn’t have to pay for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Now Red Hat has bought CentOS. Guess what? Is it just a matter of time until CentOS is crippled so that it cannot serve as a drop-in replacement for Red Hat’s Cash Cow? Duh! Did the CentOS development team care about this? Probably not. Might not have even considered it. They got money and cushy jobs out of the deal. But, just because Red Hat offers financial rewards to a handful of CentOS developers is no reason to scuttle the development efforts of thousands of independent developers over the last decade. Better think twice, RedHat. The open source community will be watching.

Originally published: Monday, January 20, 2014




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


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


 
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 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. 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! 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…

Adventures in Twitterland: You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Today is Twitter’s Coming Out Party with what could be 2013′s Biggest IPO. By the closing bell today, the U.S. probably will have a couple new billionaires. As one commenter on USA Today’s site noted, “I can’t get into the IPO. I’m too busy tweeting.” Unfortunately, we’re not.

Having just returned from a quick visit to New York earlier this week, we were greeted by the following message when we logged into our Twitter account:

Why is my account suspended? Well, it could be that you’ve violated “The Twitter Rules” or maybe Twitter suspects that your account was hacked or compromised. I’m reminded of the old playground adage: It’s For Me To Know and You to Find Out. Urban Dictionary has an interesting take on what that really means.

Imagine if you will that you’re walking down the street in your favorite town minding your own business when a cop grabs you by the collar and says, “You’re under arrest.” The natural inclination would be to ask why. Rather than tell you, the police officer hands you a copy of the municipal code with the admonition that you can always appeal.

Welcome to The World According to Twitter. Here you are assumed to know what you did wrong. And, if you don’t like the consequences, you can file “an appeal” after reading “The Rules”. All of that, of course, is perfectly fine if you actually broke “The Rules” and know what you did. Joseph Heller couldn’t have made this up. If you’ve read Catch 22, you’ll recall that “the term was introduced by Doc Daneeka, an army psychiatrist who invokes ‘Catch 22′ to explain why any pilot requesting mental evaluation for insanity — hoping to be found not sane enough to fly and thereby escape dangerous missions [during World War II] — demonstrates his own sanity in making the request and thus cannot be declared insane.”

We, of course, use Twitter for fun and to support our open source projects so there’s no financial hardship from Twitter’s antics while we endure “the appellate process.” But, put yourself in the position of a business person with thousands of followers and suppose you actually used Twitter to announce new products and merchandise sales. Don’t!

As you can see from the screenshot above, all of a sudden you have 0 Followers. So your entire business model is basically down the toilet at the sole discretion of Twitter. In case you’re curious, no, we haven’t violated any of Twitter’s rules. We still used to send a couple of tweets a day as we have since opening our account years ago. Has our account been hacked? Obviously not. We still can get into it, and there are no tweets from us offering you a million bucks for managing some African prince’s business affairs.

In becoming a public company today, one would hope this situation will be addressed. But then I’m reminded of our Comcast adventures and some of the horror stories you hear about Facebook, and it’s probably safe to conclude that the Borg was probably right: “Resistance is futile.” We’ve been patiently waiting 2 days for “our appeal” to be processed. We’ll let you know if we ever hear anything further. In the meantime, I’d hold off on that Twitter stock purchase.

If you happen to have a (working) Twitter account, do us and your friends a favor. Send a tweet to your followers about this article by clicking on the link below. Happy Tweeting!

1 p.m. Update. Surprise! Well, we’re back… kinda, sorta. Twitter let us out of jail but kept our pants and car keys. Following = 0, Followers = 0. No call. No email. Not even a tweet. Love means never having to say you’re sorry. Nice!

2:30 p.m. Update. Pants and car keys returned. Thanks a billion, Twitter. You’re the best.

Originally published: Thursday, November 7, 2013

WebRTC: Asterisk Joins the Brave New World of Real Time Communications

This week we’ll be wading into the world of real time communications and the Asterisk® 11 implementation of WebRTC, a JavaScript API that makes it easy to build click-to-call systems and softphone interfaces using nothing more than a web page. To simplify the task of creating an Asterisk 11/WebRTC platform, we’ve created a free virtual appliance for you that can be deployed in a matter of minutes on any Windows®, Mac®, Linux® or Solaris® desktop using Oracle’s VirtualBox®. In producing this WebRTC implementation, the Asterisk Dev Team has introduced an impressive new set of (stable) features formerly lacking in Asterisk: SRTP for secure communications, ICE, STUN, and TURN to allow NAT clients to better communicate with Asterisk. As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. So let’s begin with a one-minute video that actually demonstrates Asterisk WebRTC in action. Using nothing more than a Chrome browser, we’re connecting to a web site hosted on the PBX in a Flash™ appliance to dial a news application that’s part of the included Incredible PBX™ 11 build.


Before we walk you through deploying your own WebRTC platform with Asterisk 11, let’s quickly cover some of the WebRTC basics as they apply in the Asterisk environment.

Rolling Your Own. If you’re one of the purists that prefers to roll your own server, then the starting point for your build should be the Asterisk Wiki. The other important component is sipml5, Doubango Telecom‘s terrific HTML5 SIP client. It’s the actual interface demonstrated in the YouTube video above. And this link provides a failsafe recipe for bringing up WebRTC on any Asterisk 11 server. Our appliance just saves you the one-hour hassle. We’ve chosen not to deploy WebRTC2SIP, the middleware that’s currently necessary if you want to add video support to Asterisk WebRTC. And our current build only works with the latest Chrome browser; however, WebRTC4all is available if you prefer Safari, Opera, Firefox, or Internet Explorer. All of the documentation for these components is provided in the links above for our pioneers.

Why WebRTC? Some of you may be asking, “What’s the big deal? Why would I want to deploy WebRTC?” The short answer is that it eliminates the need to install and configure a proprietary softphone on every customers’ desktop computer before they can communicate. Instead, all they need is a web browser that supports Real-Time Communications. By pointing their browser to a server address that you provide, the customer instantly gains a communications platform that’s as feature-rich as you choose to make it. And it’s comparable to the dedicated clients of old… without the cost or hassle of marrying a softphone to every customer’s particular desktop operating system! And your web page could easily provide a directory of supported contact names and numbers as part of the user interface.


The other beauty of WebRTC is it allows you to create your own (secure) Skype-like communications system without a Man in the Middle. And all you need is a browser at both ends. The WebRTC video above demonstrates a video conversation between a Chrome user at Google and a Firefox user at Mozilla.

Deploying PIAF-Green-WebRTC. So much for the theory. Let’s get your own server set up so you can experiment with this yourself. Here are the steps. It’s about a 10-minute procedure once you’ve downloaded our virtual machine appliance from SourceForge.

  1. Install Oracle’s VirtualBox on your Desktop computer
  2. Download PIAF-Green-WebRTC
  3. Import PIAF-Green-WebRTC into VirtualBox
  4. Start the PIAF-Green-WebRTC Appliance
  5. Using Chrome, Access the WebRTC Page Hosted on PIAF-Green-WebRTC
  6. Configure sipml5 to Make a Connection Using an Asterisk Extension
  7. Place Your First Call

1. Install Oracle’s VirtualBox. Download the VirtualBox installer for your desktop platform from VirtualBox.org. Run the installer and accept the default settings. For details, here’s a link to Oracle’s VM VirtualBox User Manual.

2. Download PIAF-Green-WebRTC. To get PIAF-Green-WebRTC installed on your desktop is quick and easy. Because the image tips the scales at over 2GB and due to the 2GB file size limit on many systems, we’ve chosen to split the download into two pieces. You need both of them! Just download them onto any flavor desktop from SourceForge. Once you’ve downloaded the two files, reassemble them into a single file known as an Open Virtualization Appliance (.ova). Then verify the checksums for the reassembled file to be sure everything is in its proper place. Finally, double-click on the .ova file which will initiate the import process into VirtualBox.

So let’s begin by downloading the two halves from SourceForge: PIAF20631aa and PIAF20631ab.

The reassembly procedure depends upon your desktop operating system. For Windows PCs, you’ll need to drop down to the Command Prompt, change to the directory in which you downloaded the two files, and type the following command:
 
copy /b PIAF20631aa + PIAF20631ab PIAF-Green-WebRTC.ova

To check the MD5/SHA1 checksums in Windows, download and run Microsoft’s File Checksum Integrity Verifier.

For Mac or Linux desktops, open a Terminal window, change to the directory in which you downloaded the two files, and type the following commands:
 
cat PIAF20631a{a..b} > PIAF-Green-WebRTC.ova
md5 PIAF-Green-WebRTC.ova (use md5sum for Linux)
openssl sha1 PIAF-Green-WebRTC.ova

The MD5 checksum for PIAF-Green-WebRTC.ova is 946c149c6adb53602ccfcd3ace10e13b. The SHA1 checksum is 285a5b999c761fcbef13d1a97b4c335a81e1cb0d. If you have a match, proceed. Otherwise, rinse and repeat.

3. Import PIAF-Green-WebRTC into VirtualBox. You only perform the import step one time. Once imported into VirtualBox, PIAF-Green-WebRTC is ready to use. There’s no further installation required, just like an OpenVZ template… only better. Double-click on the .ova file you downloaded to begin the procedure and load VirtualBox. When prompted, be sure to check the Reinitialize the Mac address of all network cards box. Read and accept the license agreement. Then click the Import button. Once the import is finished, you’ll see a new PIAF-Green-WebRTC virtual machine in your VM List on the VirtualBox Manager Window. You need to make a couple of one-time adjustments to the PIAF-Green-WebRTC Virtual Machine configuration to account for differences in sound and network cards on different host machines.

Click on PIAF-Green-WebRTC Virtual Machine in the VM List. Then click Settings -> Audio and check the Enable Audio option and choose your sound card. Save your setup by clicking the OK button. Next click Settings -> Network. For Adapter 1, check the Enable Network Adapter option. From the Attached to pull-down menu, choose Bridged Adapter. Then select your network card from the Name list. Then click OK to save your setup. Finally, click Settings -> System, uncheck Hardware clock in UTC time, and click OK. That’s all the configuration that is necessary for the PIAF-Green-WebRTC Virtual Machine. If you blinked, you probably missed it.

4. Start the PIAF-Green-WebRTC Appliance. Once you’ve imported and configured your new Virtual Machine, you’re ready to go. Highlight the appliance in the VM List on the VirtualBox Manager Window and click the Start button. The boot procedure with CentOS 6.3 will begin just as if you had installed PBX in a Flash and Incredible PBX on a standalone machine. You’ll see a couple of dialogue boxes pop up that explain the keystrokes to move back and forth between your host operating system desktop and Incredible PBX.

Here’s what you need to know. To work in the Virtual Machine, just left-click your mouse while it is positioned inside the VM window. To return to your host operating system desktop, press the right Option key on Windows machines or the left Command key on any Mac. For other operating systems, read the dialogue boxes for instructions on moving around. Always shut down your virtual machine gracefully! Click in the VM window with your mouse, log in as root, and type: shutdown -h now. Or, from the VirtualBox Manager Window, Ctl-Click on the PIAF-Green-WebRTC VM and choose Close -> ACPI Shutdown.

Always run Virtual Machines behind a hardware-based firewall with no Internet port exposure!

To begin, position your mouse over the VM window and left-click. Once the virtual machine has booted, log in as root with password as the password. Change your root password immediately by typing passwd at the command prompt. Now set up a secure maint password for FreePBX as well. Type passwd-master. If you’re not in the Eastern U.S. time zone, then you’ll want to adjust your timezone setting so that reminders and other time-sensitive events happen at the correct time. Issue the following command to pick your time zone: /root/timezone-setup. Now type status and write down the IP address of your appliance. Finally, edit /etc/asterisk/sip_custom.conf and replace the secret=8000 entry with a very secure password. This is your WebRTC extension password. Restart Asterisk: amportal restart.

5. Access WebRTC Page Hosted on PIAF-Green-WebRTC Using the latest Chrome browser from a machine on the same subnet as your appliance, point to the WebRTC web page of your appliance using the actual IP address of your virtual machine: http://192.168.0.141/myphone/call.htm.

6. Configure sipml5 to Make a Connection to Asterisk. There are two configuration steps before you can log in and start making calls through your Asterisk server. First, click on the Expert Mode button. Fill out the form as shown below using the actual IP address of your server. Click Save when you’re finished, close this browser window, and return to the main WebRTC page.

Next, fill out the Registration section using the actual IP address of your server and the extension 8000 password that you created above. Private Identity is 8000, Public Identity is sip:8000@ipaddress, Realm is Asterisk ipaddress.

Once you’ve completed your entries, click Login to make a connection to your Asterisk server.

7. Placing a Call with WebRTC. Once you’re logged in, it’s just as if you had registered a softphone to your Asterisk server. Calls from other extensions can reach you by dialing extension 8000. And you can place outbound calls using the Call Control panel. To demonstrate how this works, try the following. To retrieve Today’s News Headlines, enter 951. Then click the Call button. To retrieve the latest Weather Forecast for your city, dial 949 and say the city and state when prompted. You can’t enter touchtone keys so just ignore the “press pound” instruction and wait for the timeout.

We have intentionally not walked you through configuring an outbound trunk even though one can easily be used to make outbound calls. Before doing so, make very certain that your appliance is behind a hardware-based firewall with no Internet port exposure. It’s your phone bill. Enjoy!

WebRTC Conference and Expo. The 2013 WebRTC Conference and Expo is returning to Atlanta on June 25. For everything you ever wanted to know about WebRTC, that’s the place to be. You can sign up now at WebRTCWorld.com. The Half-Price Early Bird discount ends on March 1. And you can save an additional 15% by using Coupon Code: AA.

Originally published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013



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

 


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The Bluetooth Revolution: Watch What We Can Do

If ever there’s been a sleeping technology giant still worth watching, it’s got to be Bluetooth. Originally developed by Ericsson, the Swedish telecommunications company, Bluetooth is a proprietary wireless technology for exchanging data over short distances using fixed and mobile devices. If you use it at all, it’s probably to answer phone calls and play music in your car using your smartphone or to walk around looking like a lunatic talking to yourself because you have a Bluetooth headset for your cellphone hanging out of your ear. Or you may be using our Bluetooth Proximity Detection utility to automatically forward calls from your PBX in a Flash server to your cellphone when you leave the office. Well, that’s so last week!

What’s coming in tomorrow’s vehicles (unless the federal government gets too crazy) is literally a revolution in the way vehicles interact with your smartphone. Rather than buying all of your existing cellphone technology again in every car you own, Bluetooth will give you a dashboard with the rich feature set of your existing smartphone without another monthly cellphone bill. That’s right. All of the data will be delivered to your dashboard via Bluetooth using middleware that translates existing information on your cellphone to a display on your dash. And you’ll be able to control the flow and type of information using a touchscreen in your car or truck that bears an uncanny resemblance to the display on your iPad or Android Tablet. See why you might really need a quad-core processor on your next smartphone?


I’m sorry. Did we say in tomorrow’s vehicles? You actually can get it right now in the Prius V with Entune. Of course, Toyota would like to replace your cellphone carrier and charge you monthly fees for services you’re already paying for on your cellphone, but that will sort itself out shortly. Why? Because there are some new open source experiments underway using Android instead of our old friend Micro$oft.

Meet The Watch. Suppose you were a nerd and just graduated from college with nothing to do except beg for a job flipping burgers. But then you had this idea to create a Bluetooth-enabled watch that could display content from your cellphone while you were driving, or running, or swimming. Well, you’d probably turn to KickStarter and try to raise $100,000 so you could build your dream watch. That was six weeks ago. They raised nearly $1 million the first day. And, by the time the fund-raising campaign ends in mid-May, it looks like this project will have raised nearly 10 million dollars!

Nice Surprise. So now you have the background on coming attractions. But there’s more. There’s the company that inspired Steve Jobs doing what they once did better than anyone on the planet, quietly churning out incredible products while nobody was looking. Meet Sony and the SmartWatch.

If you want a glimpse at what tomorrow’s vehicles will look like, the Sony SmartWatch is the one to follow. It’s in living color. It’s feature-rich. And it just works! Released in the United States three short weeks ago, there already are nearly 50 available Android applications (mostly free) that you can display on your watch. Here’s a sampling to give you some idea of the scope. We loaded a dozen on our SmartWatch in minutes!

You actually manage and download apps for your SmartWatch using Sony’s LiveWare Manager which lives on your Android phone. And, yes, almost any Android phone will work although a higher end device with more memory is a definite plus. You won’t want just a couple of apps once you get started.

We, of course, took one look at this watch and decided it was a perfect platform on which to display network management information about your PBX in a Flash communications servers or any other server. Keep reading!

One of the terrific apps for the SmartPhone is called Traffic Cams which does just what you’d think. It displays live web cam images from traffic cameras using GPS technology to figure out which ones are closest to you. Very slick! As you can see, we have some stunning ones within a mile of our home. And if you depend upon bridges to get to where you need to go, you’ll soon learn how indispensable these traffic cams really are. The camera shown above actually faces due east. For a real treat, come visit Nerd Vittles at 6:30 a.m. EDT (this time of the year) and enjoy the sunrise. Stunning!

HINT: The image shows the local time if you are timezone-challenged. It is refreshed every 3-4 minutes during the day.

Update: Wondering why this bridge is so empty? Check our SmartWatch! Pays to use more than one traffic camera when you set this up.

A bonus from the app is the ability to display your own 200×200 images on the watch from any public web site. So we whipped together a quick-and-dirty script that extracts status information about your PBX in a Flash server and converts it with ImageMagick (Don’t Forget: yum install ImageMagick) into a couple of jpeg images. Using FTP, these images then can be uploaded to a public web server and displayed on the phone. If you like the code and want to see what else is possible using the SmartWatch, come follow our progress on the PBX in a Flash Forum. Enjoy your new watch! Here’s a short list showing where to get a great deal on one.

Originally published: Monday, April 30, 2012




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


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 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. 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! 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 discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


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