Category: Internet/Web

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.


​​3CX is a software PBX that’s easy to install & manage. It includes integrated softphones, WebRTC conferencing and essential add-ons out of the box, at no additional cost. Try the free edition at www.3cx.com.

  • Run on Premise or in the Cloud, on Windows and soon Linux
  • Softphones for iOS, Android, Win & Mac
  • Easy install, backup & restore, version upgrades
  • Automatically configures IP Phones, SIP Trunks & Gateways

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

    Mobile Internet: A 2015 Update on Caribbean Cruising and WiFi-Enabled Travel

    We decided to spend Christmas a little differently this year and joined 10,000 of our closest friends on cruises to the Western Caribbean taking in Cozumel and Grand Cayman with a few extra days at sea. If you haven’t tried it, put it on your bucket list. Christmas week is a bargain and about 50% cheaper than the same cruise to ring in the new year. Rates start at about $300 per person for the 5-day cruise. You’d be hard-pressed to dine out for a week in your home town at those prices. Today we want to provide an update on the dramatic changes in Internet connectivity not only aboard ship but also in navigating 1,000 miles of highway to get there. Let’s start with the glamorous part.

    Surfing the Internet Aboard Ship

    What a difference a couple years has made. On previous cruises to Alaska and the Eastern Caribbean, Internet service was spotty at best and cost prohibitive on sea days. Typical connection rates were $25 or more per hour. You found yourself scrambling to find a bar with cheap Internet service every time you hit a port. But that was then. Here’s our 2015 update.

    Carnival which owns the majority of the cruise ship companies (9 different brands) prides itself on making cruising affordable for almost any traveler. So we qualified. They’ve also revolutionized Internet service with rates on some ships (including ours) as low as $5 a day for unlimited (but basic) Internet connectivity. Here’s a typical pricing plan, but ours was even less expensive. $70 got us unlimited premium Internet service including Skype (one user at a time) for the entire 5-day cruise, and performance was surprisingly good, roughly triple the speed of the $5 a day plan and equivalent to or better than cellular 3G service regardless of the time of day. During early mornings, dinner hours, and when docked at a port, the speed difference from DSL was barely noticeable. Part of this is due to Carnival’s new hybrid Internet technology which blends satellite service with strategically placed Internet towers along your itinerary. The way it works is simple. You login with your account number and birthday, and you can stay logged in as long as you like. If another member of your family wishes to use the service, they simply login on a different device with the same account number and birthday. They’ll be prompted whether to bump you off. Clicking YES transfers the Internet connection to their device and terminates your connection. With three people, it worked amazingly well and was a wonderful testament to what it means to share. Complete details of the WiFi@Sea Internet program are available here. The rollout will be complete by the end of the first quarter in 2016.

    We made roughly a dozen Skype calls to test the quality of the calls. With a couple of exceptions, the calls were roughly equivalent to what you would expect using a cable modem connection. With the two bad calls, it was obvious within a couple seconds, and the simple solution was to hang up and try again.

    If you’re an Asterisk user, connectivity to an office or home server was easy by making a free call with Skype Connect which we documented just last week. Once connected to an AutoAttendant on the home server, using DISA to make secondary calls to other destinations at minimal cost was a no-brainer. The setup is simple, and we showed how to do it over 10 years ago. Today, it’s built into the GUI. We routed the incoming Skype calls to a Stealth AutoAttendant on the Asterisk server. By pressing an unannounced key during the welcome message, we were prompted for our DISA password. After entering it successfully, we were prompted for a number to dial. In our setup, this includes any number supported by our dialplan: local extensions, 10-digit NANPA numbers throughout the U.S., Canada, and 18 other north American countries as well as special dial codes to retrieve voicemails and other Asterisk functions.

    Bottom Line: Do your homework before you book a cruise. Decide what your must-have’s for the cruise are and then compare prices.

    Surfing the Internet from Your Car or Motorhome

    The other eye-opener was the advances in cellular service along America’s interstates. 4G service now is available almost everywhere. Average download speeds were in the 20-40 Mb range. We used 7.18GB of data during 16 hours of travel. That works out to roughly a half gig per hour of travel with three users. YMMV! Funny how quickly 4G service rolled out once the (not so) Baby Bells got their monopoly back and could charge by the megabyte. We were one of the lucky ones to snag one of the few remaining Verizon unlimited data plans on eBay. Verizon now has tightened the screws and doesn’t allow transfer of the plans to others. But, if you’re one of the lucky ones that still pays over $100 a month for an unlimited data plan (Verizon just quietly raised the monthly charge by $20), then here’s some information for you. First, as part of the FCC’s 4G spectrum auction, bidders (Verizon in this case) were required to agree to the following condition as laid out in 47 C.F.R. 27.16:

    (b) Use of devices and applications. Licensees offering service on spectrum subject to this section shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice on the licensee’s C Block network, except:
    (1) Insofar as such use would not be compliant with published technical standards reasonably necessary for the management or protection of the licensee’s network, or
    (2) As required to comply with statute or applicable government regulation.

    When Verizon won the auction, they reluctantly acknowledged a customer’s ability to move a SIM card from one device to another so long as the new device was on Verizon’s approved devices list. It doesn’t mean Verizon hasn’t dragged its feet on adding new approved devices, however. The important takeaway from this is that moving between approved devices appears to be safe even though there have been some reported problems. You’ll know whether you’re using a Verizon-approved device by examining your Verizon account to see if a picture of the new device shows up once you insert your SIM card.

    So what does all of this have to do with surfing the Internet from your vehicle? Well, you have two choices. You can use your existing smartphone, enable tethering, and have multiple passengers surfing the Internet at 4G speeds with unlimited bandwidth. Or you can purchase a Verizon-approved Novatel T1114 4G Router on eBay and move your SIM card there for trips. Just be sure you buy one with the required 3.5W power adapter. Then add a $20 150W Power Inverter, and you’ve got a Mobile WiFi powerhouse plus a POTS phone connection… in your car.

    If you’re one of the unlucky ones that doesn’t have an unlimited data plan with Verizon Wireless, there’s now another option if you live in an area with Sprint service. HINT: Sprint works great along most interstate highways in the United States. For $50 or less per month, you can set up a WiFi HotSpot in your vehicle with unlimited data using Karma Go. If you use our signup link, you get $10 off, and we get a $10 referral credit. There’s a 45-day money-back guarantee. For a great review of Karma Go, go here. And 2016 promises more choices with most new GM vehicles sporting an integrated WiFi HotSpot.


    UPDATE: Karma Go this week began backing off from its unlimited Internet pledge. Seems these companies never learn the bait-and-switch lessons from those that preceded them… or they don’t want to. You can read all about it here.

    1/18 UPDATE: Karma Go today announced that they were restoring the original 5 Gbit performance of the product but would cap usage at 15GB/month after which performance would be throttled to “speeds good enough for emailing and messaging.”

    NEWS FLASH: Beginning January 12, 2016, unlimited Internet plans return to AT&T Wireless for those that also subscribe to DirecTV or U-Verse. Details available here.

    There’s more good news from our 1,000 mile travel adventure. We were late to this party, but what an awesome addition for those that travel for a living or just for vacations. If you’ve never tried Waze, add it to your smartphone right now! Not only do you get turn-by-turn directions to any destinations, but you also get road hazard alerts, automatic traffic rerouting to avoid bottlenecks, cheap gas price alerts, and… did we mention that in 1,000 miles it didn’t miss alerting us to every single speed trap. Police departments are government bureaucracies that have grown just like the rest of federal, state, and local government agencies. We counted nearly 100 police vehicles doing nothing but traffic enforcement. On 70 mile per hour Interstate highways, our unscientific survey showed that speeds increased to 75 miles per hour with no police presence compared to 69 miles per hour when a speed trap had been identified. It was readily apparent that truckers and frequent travelers have been using Waze long before us. What we kept asking ourselves was whether the cost of 100 police officers + 100 police cars + an enormous fuel bill was really worth it to slow folks down (momentarily) by 6 miles per hour. We hear a lot about government waste, but the police seem to get a pass on frugality by claiming they’re saving lives. We just didn’t see much of a correlation. It looked more like a game of cat and mouse. Happy New Year everybody. Don’t Drink and Drive!

    Originally published: Monday, December 28, 2015





    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.


    ​​3CX is a software PBX that’s easy to install & manage. It includes integrated softphones, WebRTC conferencing and essential add-ons out of the box, at no additional cost. Try the free edition at www.3cx.com.

  • Run on Premise or in the Cloud, on Windows and soon Linux
  • Softphones for iOS, Android, Win & Mac
  • Easy install, backup & restore, version upgrades
  • Automatically configures IP Phones, SIP Trunks & Gateways

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

    Rolling Your Own: Creating a Custom Incredible PBX ISO for Asterisk

    We promised to provide the Incredible PBX 13.2 ISO build environment for those of you that wanted to learn how to roll your own ISO. Why would you want to do such thing? Well, we can think of a number of reasons. First, you may just want to learn how sh*t works. Or you may want to impress your boss by building a custom ISO with the corporate logo splattered all over the place. Then there are those that want to add a feature or function that we haven’t included yet so you can share your creation with your friends. For us, the motivation was to provide an Asterisk® aggregation that others could build upon without legal hassles about copyrights and trademarks… you know, a real open source project based upon the GPL license.

    Regardless of your motivation, today’s your lucky day. We’re providing an exact duplicate of the build environment that was used to create the Incredible PBX 13.2 ISO. It’s released under the same GPL license that applies to the ISO itself. Copy it, enhance it, give it to your friends, and share your additions so that all of us can learn from you. In addition to the code, we’re actually going to document how to modify it and use it… you know, real instructions.


    The Schmoozers were back in full force last week with one accusing us of “stealing” their code and another with this gem:


    For the record, we use GPL code of others with full credit to the authors. That’s what the GPL and Asterisk aggregations have always been about. Let’s compare that to our Sangoma® friends who rip the covers off RedHat’s GPL ISO, brand it as their own, and then have the balls to distribute it as closed source code. Repeating a lie over and over doesn’t make it come true!


    Getting Started. Before you can use today’s code, you’ll need a suitable platform on which to play. You’ve got a couple of choices. First, you can actually install Incredible PBX 13.2 using last week’s ISO. A second option is to build yourself a virtual machine or a cloud-based server with Scientific Linux 6.7 or even CentOS 6.7 minimal. We recommend 32-bit architecture because the Incredible PBX 3.2 ISO build environment as configured is 32-bit to assure maximum hardware compatibility. The server hardware platform doesn’t really matter. Cheaper means it takes a little longer, but you’ll get the same results.

    Installing the Incredible PBX 13.2 ISO Build Environment. Once you have your server up and running, log in as root. This usually isn’t a good idea for a build environment, by the way. We’re doing it because we’re assuming you have a machine dedicated to just building ISOs on which to experiment. Issue these commands to put the ISO build platform in place:

    cd /root
    setenforce 0
    yum -y install wget nano
    wget http://incrediblepbx.com/create-ISO-new.tar.gz
    tar zxvf create-ISO-new.tar.gz
    rm -f create-ISO-new.tar.gz
    

    Creating Your First ISO. Why waste time? Let’s actually build an Incredible PBX ISO to show you how easy it is. Issue the following command to kick off the process: /root/create-ISO-new. Depending upon your server’s specs, the whole build procedure should take a minute or two to complete. When it’s finished, you’ll have a shiny new ISO that can be burned to a DVD or USB thumb drive following the steps documented in our previous tutorial:

    ls -all /root/kickstart_build/*.iso
    
    -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 890241024 Nov 24 12:45 /root/kickstart_build/IncrediblePBX13.2.iso
    

    ISO Design Overview. There are lots of ways to design an ISO architecture. We’ve chosen a hybrid approach with a two-phase install. When you first boot from the ISO installer, you get the operating system platform. The server then reboots, and Phase II downloads and then runs the latest Incredible PBX installer. Our main reason for choosing this design is that you don’t have to create a new ISO every time you make changes in the Incredible PBX installer. For those of you that remember the Asterisk@Home and trixbox days, this was a major shortcoming. The ISOs were released about every three to six months, and invariably a major glitch was discovered about a week after the new ISO was introduced. With our two-phase installer, slipstream changes are easy to implement by simply adding a line to the Incredible PBX install script. The ISO itself never has to be updated until a major operating system refresh is necessary.

    Adding Packages to Your ISO. With Incredible PBX, RHEL 6.7-compatible packages are added to new servers in a couple of ways. First, there are packages actually included within the ISO itself that are loaded during Phase I of the install, i.e. when Scientific Linux 6.7 platform is installed. These packages must include all necessary dependencies. The kickstart process actually resolves and loads package dependencies as part of the Phase I ISO install procedure. Once the base install is completed, the end-user’s server reboots and then the Phase II install kicks off by downloading and running the Incredible PBX 13-12R installer. Additional RPM packages and a number of other applications in tarball format are downloaded and installed during this Phase II process. Today, we’ll show you how to modify both pieces of the ISO install procedure.

    To add RPMs to the ISO itself, keep in mind that the new RPMs must match the architecture of the default build environment. In the case of Incredible PBX, it’s a 32-bit architecture which means you’ll need 32-bit versions of RPMs you wish to add. Otherwise, you will need to replace all of the packages in the build environment with their 64-bit cousins.

    There are 3 steps to adding new packages to the ISO build environment.

    First, create a temporary directory (/tmp/packages) to use for gathering up the RPMs to be added. This is so you can check your work without screwing up your build environment. To add an RPM, you first need to download it from a repository to your temporary directory. The syntax looks like this where NetworkManager is the name of the RPM you wish to install:

    yum -y install --downloadonly --downloaddir=/tmp/packages NetworkManager
    

    Second, move the RPMs from /tmp/packages into your build environment. This must include RPM package dependencies (as was the case when adding NetworkManager):

    mv /tmp/packages/*.rpm /root/kickstart_build/isolinux/Packages/.
    

    Third, add the names of your new RPMs to the kickstart config files (ks*.cfg) in /root/kickstart_build/isolinux. The package names go in the section of each kickstart file labeled %packages.

    NOTE: You do not have to add the names of RPMs being added because of dependencies in step 3. You DO have to add the actual RPMs and RPM dependencies in step 2. For example, with NetworkManager, only NetworkManager itself needed to be added to the %packages list in the ks*.cfg config files. But the collection of NetworkManager RPMs and its dependencies for step 2 looked like this:

    avahi-autoipd-0.6.25-15.el6.i686.rpm
    dnsmasq-2.48-14.el6.i686.rpm
    libdaemon-0.14-1.el6.i686.rpm
    mobile-broadband-provider-info-1.20100122-4.el6.noarch.rpm
    ModemManager-0.4.0-5.git20100628.el6.i686.rpm
    NetworkManager-0.8.1-99.el6.i686.rpm
    NetworkManager-glib-0.8.1-99.el6.i686.rpm
    ppp-2.4.5-10.el6.i686.rpm
    rp-pppoe-3.10-11.el6.i686.rpm
    wpa_supplicant-0.7.3-6.el6.i686.rpm
    

    Changing the ISO Default Boot Menu. Once you have burned the ISO to a DVD-ROM or USB flash drive and booted your server-to-be, a default kickstart menu will be presented: /root/kickstart_build/isolinux/isolinux.cfg. Edit it to customize the splash screen and make any desired changes in the screen title and options displayed to those using your ISO. WARNING: If you modify the ks*.cfg options in the file, you also will need to make similar modifications in the create-ISO-new build script as well as adding new matching ks config files in /root/kickstart_build/isolinux.

    Modifying the Phase II ISO Install Procedure. The Phase I install setup already provided in the Incredible PBX ISO will work for any number of ISO requirements you might have because it provides a robust Scientific Linux 6.7 base platform. Now for the fun part. You can modify the Phase II install in any way you like by simply adjusting the download script and hosting it on your own public server.

    The Phase II magic is housed in the %post section of the kickstart config files (ks*.cfg). The initial setup in this section will work for almost any setup. It addresses the quirks of getting a working network connection functioning on most server platforms. This got much more complicated with the introduction of UEFI on newer Intel-based servers. But we’ve addressed all of that. To customize the install to run your own Phase II script, you need only modify the last few lines of the %post section:

    /bin/echo "cd /root" >> /tmp/firstboot
    /bin/echo "/usr/bin/wget http://incrediblepbx.com/incrediblepbx13-12.2-centos.tar.gz" >> /tmp/firstboot
    /bin/echo "/bin/tar zxvf incrediblepbx13-12.2-centos.tar.gz" >> /tmp/firstboot
    /bin/echo "/bin/rm -f incrediblepbx13-12.2-centos.tar.gz" >> /tmp/firstboot
    /bin/echo "./Inc*" >> /tmp/firstboot
    /bin/chmod +x /tmp/firstboot
    eject
    %end
    

    These last few lines tell the ISO installer where to find your Phase II script and manage the procedure for downloading it, untarring it, and then running it. To deploy your own Phase II install script, simply modify lines 2, 3, 4, and 5 above. In line 2, provide the public server location of your script in .tar.gz format. In line 3, untar the script in the /root folder of the new server. In line 4, remove the .tar.gz file after it’s been decompressed. In line 5, run the shell script included in your tarball. The remaining lines shown above should be preserved as shown. Once you finish making changes in ks.cfg, copy the %post section to your other kickstart config files and then rerun /root/create-ISO-new to build your new ISO. Enjoy!

    Originally published: Friday, December 11, 2015


    Support Issues. With any application as sophisticated as this one, you’re bound to have questions. Blog comments are a terrible place to handle support issues although we welcome general comments about our articles and software. If you have particular support issues, we encourage you to get actively involved in the PBX in a Flash Forums. It’s the best Asterisk tech support site in the business, and it’s all free! Please have a look and post your support questions there. Unlike some forums, ours is extremely friendly and is supported by literally hundreds of Asterisk gurus and thousands of users just like you. You won’t have to wait long for an answer to your question.



    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.


    ​​3CX is a software PBX that’s easy to install & manage. It includes integrated softphones, WebRTC conferencing and essential add-ons out of the box, at no additional cost. Try the free edition at www.3cx.com.

  • Run on Premise or in the Cloud, on Windows and soon Linux
  • Softphones for iOS, Android, Win & Mac
  • Easy install, backup & restore, version upgrades
  • Automatically configures IP Phones, SIP Trunks & Gateways

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

    The 30-Second PBX: Introducing Proxmox 4 for the Intel NUC and Asterisk 13

    With the advent of cloud-based computing and desktop virtual machine platforms like VirtualBox, we haven’t played with dedicated hardware for Asterisk® in a couple of years. WOW! It’s just amazing the quantum leaps in miniaturization, price, and performance that have transpired during our absence. Last week, we introduced a dedicated server platform for under $200 that could serve as a small business PBX for almost any 20-30 person organization. Today, meet Big Brother. You’re looking at all the components that make up the $500 Intel® NUC D54250WYK with a Core i5 dual-core processor, a 250GB mSATA drive, and 16GB of RAM. While you install the RAM and disk drive yourself, if you can unscrew 5 screws and have 5 minutes to spare, you can handle this. With the addition of the just released (free) Proxmox 4 virtualization platform, it can run a half dozen powerful stand-alone applications without ever breaking a sweat. Little wonder that Digital Ocean and CloudAtCost are all but giving away server resources. They almost have to given the developments in stand-alone hardware.

    Buying Your Hardware

    So here’s how we started. Of course, you can adjust the components and the merchant to meet your own requirements. For us, Amazon1 works great, and the prices are competitive. Who else delivers on Sunday? Despite the notice that the computer would be here on Monday, we knew better. And sure enough it was in the box with the other Sunday goodies. Remove the four screws from the bottom feet of the computer, and the case opens easily. Next, unscrew the screw from the bottom of the motherboard that holds the SSD drive in place securely. Snap in the mSATA drive and the two memory sticks, replace the screws, and you’re in business.

    Initial Setup of the Intel NUC Platform

    Our unit actually came with the latest BIOS preinstalled, but you’ll want to always upgrade the BIOS on any Intel motherboard. Everything generally gets better with each new upgrade. The rest of the firmware is fine as is unless you plan to use the computer as a Windows machine. You’ll find all the downloads here. The firmware you want is version 0041, and the file you want is WY0041.BIO. Copy it to the top level directory of a DOS-formatted USB flash drive using any desktop computer. On the Intel NUC, plug in a USB keyboard and mouse as well as the USB flash drive and a USB CD/DVD drive. Then connect a network cable. Finally, connect a monitor using a microHDMI to HDMI cable, and you’re all set. Once we’re finished configuring the Intel NUC, you can stick it on a shelf that has power and a network connection. No other peripherals are necessary as everything can be managed through SSH or a web browser.

    To upgrade the BIOS, boot the computer by plugging it in and pressing the power button on top. Press F7 during the initial POST, choose the USB flash drive, select the .BIO file, and press ENTER. Once the BIOS is loaded, the machine will reboot.

    Introducing Proxmox 4.0 Virtual Environment

    When it comes to virtualization, we’ve been big fans of Proxmox for a very long time. We introduced Proxmox for VoIP virtualization over six years ago. Things have come a long way since then. And Proxmox VE 4.0 is the culmination of years of hard work by a very talented development team. You can read all about the new feature set and support for KVM and Linux Containers here. Our own take on virtualization is that OpenVZ templates were appealing because they installed and loaded quickly. The downside was they shared a single (proprietary) kernel which often led to security issues and made firewall implementation at the virtual machine level difficult. Of course, any applications such as DAHDI that required kernel implementation were extremely complex to implement and use. Now that almost all of Intel’s and AMD’s processors support virtualization extensions (Intel VT or AMD-V), we were not one to shed tears when Proxmox dropped support for OpenVZ and replaced it with Linux Containers. In fact, for our purposes, they could have left out Linux Containers as well. They suffer from some of the same quirks that made OpenVZ implementations problematic. The platform we’ve chosen for VoIP implementation has full support for virtualization extensions which means you can load and run complex applications such as Windows and Incredible PBX just as if you were using standalone hardware. The only real difference is we’re going to provide a template for building KVM-based Incredible PBX virtual machines in under 30 seconds. So you’ll get the best of both worlds, standalone computer functionality coupled with jaw-dropping implementation speed. For those that train or support multiple independent organizations as well as those that love to tinker and experiment, our solution has no equal.

    To begin, download the Proxmox VE 4.0 ISO and burn it to a CD or DVD.

    As we mentioned last week, if you don’t happen to have one, LG’s tiny USB-powered DVD Writer is the best $25 you will ever spend. And they keep getting cheaper!

    Installing Proxmox VE 4.0 on the Intel NUC

    Now we’re ready to get started. Insert the Proxmox VE 4.0 CD into the drive connected to your Intel NUC and boot the machine. Press F10 during POST and choose the CD/DVD drive to start the Proxmox install. Accept the license agreement and fill in the blanks. The important piece is to give your server a hostname. Just be sure it starts with proxmox4, e.g. proxmox4.incrediblepbx.com or use your own domain: proxmox4.yourdomain.com. The actual domain becomes important only if your server will be directly connected to the Internet in which case the FQDN obviously matters. Otherwise, Proxmox needs the hostname to manage things internally. Assign a permanent IP address for your server or use DHCP to obtain an IP address and then reserve that IP address for use by Proxmox in your router’s settings. Either way works fine, but you don’t want the IP address changing down the road.

    BIOS Adjustments to Support Proxmox VE 4.0

    Once the Proxmox install completes, it’s time to reboot. During the POST, press F2 to access Intel’s Visual BIOS. If you followed along last week, you’ll recall that we made some changes to accommodate Legacy booting of the server in lieu of UEFI. This week we need a different approach because of some quirks in the Proxmox server implementation procedure. We pulled our hair out (what little is left) for a couple days wrestling with this because the server wouldn’t automatically boot in either Legacy boot mode OR UEFI mode. The reason is because Proxmox puts a GPT label on the drive signifying that it’s a UEFI-compatible device whether UEFI is disabled in the BIOS or not. This confuses the Intel NUC bootloader. So you end up with a boot failure and the cryptic message “No boot device found.” Proxmox blames Intel for a buggy BIOS even though Intel developed the GPT specification. If you enjoy food fights, break out the popcorn and enjoy the dialog on the Proxmox Forum. Suffice it to say, there’s a difference of opinion about who should fix this. Here’s the easy way to resolve the impasse.

    In Visual BIOS, click Advanced tab. Click Boot tab. Click Boot Priority. Make it look like this:

    If the BuiltIn EFI Shell option doesn’t appear, don’t worry about it. Just press F10 to save your changes anyway. When your server reboots, it will drop into the EFI shell. Type the following commands pressing ENTER after each entry:

    fs0:
    echo "fs0:\EFI\proxmox\grubx64.efi" > fs0:\startup.nsh
    startup.nsh

    At this point, your server should boot into Proxmox. On reboot, the EFI shell will appear momentarily followed by an automatic boot into Proxmox. Solved!

    Using Incredible PBX with Proxmox 4.0

    You now have a functioning Proxmox server. When you reboot and login as root, the server will tell you how to access the Proxmox GUI with your browser. Before we put the necessary pieces in place to support Incredible PBX, we want to provide a very brief technical overview of how best to use Proxmox virtualization based upon our testing. Using a methodology similar to that demonstrated by AVOXI using Docker at this year’s AstriCon meeting, we use a backup image to instantiate “KVM containers.” We hear some of you saying, “There’s no such animal.” And right you are. The nomenclature is different, but the concept is similar. In fact, our simulated KVM Containers work exactly like OpenVZ and Linux Containers with none of the drawbacks of a shared kernel. And the good news is Proxmox 4 implements this perfectly through its backup and restore mechanisms. New kernel-based virtual machines can be created in under 30 seconds. Following initial login to a new KVM as root from the console, we individualize the KVM by randomizing passwords, creating new SSH credentials, and setting up a custom whitelist for the Incredible PBX IPtables firewall. The initialization procedure takes less than a minute and is only run the first time you log into your new KVM as root. The bash init script is here: /etc/profile.d/helloworld.sh.

    Preliminary Setup Steps with Proxmox 4.0

    The most important setup step is to put your Proxmox server behind a hardware-based firewall or configure the built-in firewall to keep out the bad guys. Proxmox has had their share of security vulnerabilities over the years so this is really critical. It’s beyond the scope of this article to walk through the entire firewall setup process, but you’ll find plenty of literature on the Proxmox Wiki and Forum as well as on the Internet. Each of your KVMs will have its own preconfigured whitelist using the IPtables firewall, and any of the Incredible PBX tutorials can walk you through adding and changing entries in those whitelists.

    To use the backup and restore functionality of Proxmox, you’ll need to create a backup storage directory in the Proxmox GUI. After logging in as root, click Datacenter in the Server View, click the Storage tab, click the Add button, and choose Directory from the pulldown list. Fill in the blanks like this using VZDump Backup File for the Content type:

    If you have access to a Cloud-based or local NFS device, it’s just as easy to create an additional backup directory on your NFS server. Follow the same steps and choose NFS from the Storage pulldown. With NFS, you must first set up a storage directory with NFS permissions for the IP address of your Proxmox server.

    Last, but not least, you need to learn your way around in the GUI. proxmox4 is the name of your server if you followed our recommended setup for your hostname. Under the server, you will find entries for each of your KVM, Linux Containers (LXC), and other drives, e.g. local, backup, and synology.

    To add a new LXC image to your server, choose local -> Content -> Templates, pick the desired LXC image, and click Download.

    To add new ISO images to your server for building KVMs, choose local -> Content -> Upload, pick ISO Image as the Content type, choose the ISO from your desktop by pressing Select File, then click Upload button.

    To start up Virtual Machines once you have created them, click on the VM number under proxmox and click Start. To access the virtual machine once it has begun booting, click Console.

    To shutdown a KVM, click on the VM number under proxmox and click Shutdown. Or you can type halt after logging into the KVM as root from the KVM’s Console.

    For a list of all available content, choose proxmox4 -> local -> Content.

    Loading the Incredible PBX 13 Components into Proxmox 4.0

    We need to put two pieces into place to get things rolling with Incredible PBX 13. There are two ways to create Incredible PBX 13 KVMs. You can do it manually from the IncrediblePBX13.iso just as you would on a stand-alone machine. Or you can restore from the IncrediblePBX13 KVM backup image to create a new KVM. The first method takes about 30 minutes. The second method takes less than 30 seconds. The choice is all yours. The results are exactly the same.

    Before you can create KVMs, we need to put the Incredible PBX 13 backup image and the Incredible PBX 13 ISO in their proper places. To save some time and steps, we’re going to load the backup image by logging into the Proxmox server as root. For the ISO image, we’ll use the GUI.

    To install the Incredible PBX 13 backup image, log into your server as root using SSH and issue these commands:

    cd /
    wget 'http://downloads.sourceforge.net/project/pbxinaflash/IncrediblePBX13-12 with Incredible PBX GUI/IncrediblePBX13-KVM.tar.gz'
    tar zxvf IncrediblePBX13-KVM.tar.gz
    rm IncrediblePBX13-KVM.tar.gz
    

    To install the Incredible PBX 13 ISO image, first use a web browser to download IncrediblePBX13.iso to your desktop from SourceForge. Next, login to your Proxmox GUI and choose proxmox4 -> local -> Content -> Upload, pick ISO Image as the Content type, choose IncrediblePBX13.iso from your desktop by pressing Select File, then click the Upload button.

    Your Incredible PBX 13 backup image should now appear under proxmox4 -> backup -> Content.

    Your Incredible PBX 13 ISO image should now appear under proxmox4 -> local -> Content.

    Building Your First Incredible PBX 13 Virtual Machine

    To create a new Incredible PBX Virtual Machine, click the options in the order shown on the image above. Use any VM number desired. In less than 30 seconds, you’ll have your first 10GB Incredible PBX 13 Virtual Machine in place:

    Initializing KVM Network Device MAC Address. If you ever create more than one KVM from the same backup image, you must initialize the network device’s MAC address before starting the KVM. Otherwise, you will get a conflicting network connection and a mess. Best practice: ALWAYS initialize the network device MAC address when you first create a new KVM from a backup. Click on the VM number in the left column under proxmox4. Then click the Hardware tab, click Network Device, and Edit. Erase the existing MAC address and click OK. Now it’s safe to start the KVM. The telltale sign that you forgot to do this will be a flaky network connection on one or more of your KVMs. If it happens, just delete the offending KVM and create a new one. You won’t forget but once. 😉

    To start your new Incredible PBX Virtual Machine, click on the VM number in the left column under proxmox4. Then click the Start button on the right side of the Proxmox GUI header. The Tasks list at the bottom of the GUI will show it loading. Now click on the Console button at the top of the GUI to open a QEMU console session with your virtual machine. At the login prompt, login in as root with the default password: password. The startup script will complete the customization of your server in less than a minute. Then you’re ready to go. Complete the same configuration steps that you would on any new Incredible PBX server:

    Change your root password and make it very secure: passwd
    Create admin PW to access Incredible GUI and FreePBX® GPL modules: /root/admin-pw-change
    Set your correct time zone: /root/timezone-setup
    Create admin PW for web apps: htpasswd /etc/pbx/wwwpasswd admin
    Make a copy of your Knock codes: cat /root/knock.FAQ
    Decipher IP address and other info about your server: status

    Now it’s time to pick up the Incredible PBX 13 tutorial for CentOS and continue on with your adventure if you’ve never done this before. Then take a good look at the Incredible PBX Application User’s Guide to get the most out of your new server.

    Building a second, third, and fourth KVM is just as easy as building the first one.

    Backing Up Incredible PBX 13 Virtual Machines

    The real beauty of virtualization and Proxmox in particular is that you can make instantaneous backups of your virtual machine at any time whether the virtual machine is running or not. Those backups can be copied to off-site storage for safe keeping. The critical component of any server is the reliability of and ease with which you can recover from a catastrophic failure. It doesn’t get any easier than this.

    To make a backup of your virtual machine to your backup directory, click on the VM ID number in the left column. Then click Backup -> Backup Now. Fill in the blanks of the backup template.

    To make a backup of your virtual machine to a local or off-site NFS device, it’s just as easy. Click on the VM ID number in the left column. Then click Backup -> Backup Now. Fill in the blanks of the backup template. Makes you want to run right out and buy a Synology NAS/NFS device, doesn’t it?

    Restoring a virtual machine from a backup is just as easy as it was to create the virtual machine image from our backup above. Just choose your backup image instead of the one we provided.

    Backing up your virtual machines is only half the story, of course. It also is important to get a backup of the whole enchilada, i.e. the entire Proxmox server. Luckily, the latest version of Clonezilla works perfectly after you have applied the UEFI BIOS patch as documented above. Enjoy!

    Originally published: Monday, October 19, 2015






    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.


    ​​3CX is a software PBX that’s easy to install & manage. It includes integrated softphones, WebRTC conferencing and essential add-ons out of the box, at no additional cost. Try the free edition at www.3cx.com.

  • Run on Premise or in the Cloud, on Windows and soon Linux
  • Softphones for iOS, Android, Win & Mac
  • Easy install, backup & restore, version upgrades
  • Automatically configures IP Phones, SIP Trunks & Gateways

  • 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 Voice Recognition Revolution: Move Over Siri and Meet the New Kids

    The automobile manufacturers had the right idea years ago. Make it easy to change the temperature in your vehicle. Just say “cooler” or “warmer.” That project went about as well as their GPS interfaces are progressing today. So let’s give credit where credit is due. Apple’s Siri revolutionized voice recognition by making it something really useful on the smartphone. If you’ve wondered who Siri actually is, wonder no more. You’re in for a pleasant surprise. Meet Siri from Australia. And Siri U.S.A.:

    Google, of course, is not one to be left behind. There was a reason they were offering to transcribe your voicemails for free all those years. They were putting in place the building blocks for a similar system on Android-based phones. Hey, Siri. Meet “OK, Google.” And the competition has transformed both products into incredibly useful additions to every smartphone.

    Then the latest Silicon Valley Wannabe got into the picture. Let me introduce Alexa for your kitchen or living room masquerading as Amazon’s Echo, a fascinating new half-baked product. If the Echo weren’t so transfixed with selling you music and other stuff from Amazon, it could be a terrific product. Not to be outdone, Google wasted little time introducing their look-alike, OnHub, which makes half-baked look really useful. OnHub does absolutely nothing but serve as a home router with more antennas than the Mars Rover. And now both Apple and Google are circling back to the automobile promising to revolutionize the way in which you talk to or even drive your car. Stay tuned. It’s going to get interesting. And, on the living room front, you’re probably going to need to buy another round of hardware. Even though many building blocks were in place with OnHub, Google left out a microphone… unless they use the one on your smartphone or watch. 😉

    So what does all of this have to do with Asterisk® and VoIP telephony? Well, nothing actually… until today. Most of the cool things you can do with your smartphone or sitting in your living room simply weren’t available using a Plain Old telephone. We decided to fix that.

    For the tinkerers and experimenters of the world, Google has generously offered free access to their voice recognition software. And today we’ll show you how to put it to good use. In the time it takes to drink your morning coffee, you’ll have a platform on your PBX that’s every bit as capable as Siri. And it’s all free!

    Meet Star! When we’re finished today, you’ll be able to pick up any telephone and dial * to obtain the latest weather, news, stock prices, sports scores, time of day, and anything else that an almanac at your fingertips provides. In addition, you’ll be able to call anyone by saying their name or phone number. Not bad for free, huh? Down the road, we’ll work on adding text messaging, email, and scheduling reminders. But today’s release should whet your appetite for what’s possible.

    Putting in Place the Star Platform

    We don’t own or control most of the components that actually make Star work! That means you’ll need to sign up (for free) for a couple key pieces before the puzzle actually takes shape. Here’s the three-step process.

    First, install one of the Certified Incredible PBX builds on either a dedicated server, a virtual machine, or in the Cloud. This tutorial will walk you through the easiest 20-minute installation procedure.

    Second, you’ll need to obtain and set up the credentials for two of the third-party components that will bring Star to life. You’ll need a Google Speech Recognition key and a Wolfram Alpha App-ID. Then add an AsteriDex entry to tell Star the zip code of your hometown, and you’re ready to go.

    Third, you’ll spend less than a minute installing the Star software on your server.

    1. Adding Speech Recognition Support to Incredible PBX

    To support many of the Star features, we rely upon Google’s speech recognition service and Lefteris Zafiris’ terrific speech-recog AGI script. Unfortunately (for some), Google now has tightened up the terms of use for their free speech recognition service. Now you can only use it for “personal and development use.” If you meet those criteria, keep reading. Here’s how to activate speech recognition on Incredible PBX. Don’t skip any steps!

    1. Using an existing Google/Gmail account to join the Chromium-Dev Group and Chromium-OS-Dev Group.

    2. Using the same account, create a new Speech Recognition Project.

    3. Click on your newly created project and choose APIs & auth.

    4. Turn ON Speech API by clicking on its Status button in the far right margin.

    5. Click on Credentials in APIs & auth and choose Create New Key -> Server key. Leave the IP address restriction blank!

    6. Write down your new API key or copy it to the clipboard.

    7. Log into your server as root and edit the speech recognition script:

    nano -w /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin/speech-recog.agi
    

    8. When the nano editor opens, go to line 70 or so and look for: my $key = "". Insert your API key from Step #6 above between the quotation marks and save the file: Ctrl-X, Y, then Enter.

    9. Finally, let’s be sure you have all the necessary packages in place to support text-to-speech and speech recognition:

    yum -y install perl-XML-Simple libesd.so.0 sox perl-libwww-perl
    

    If you’re not on the Incredible PBX platform: yum -y install mpg123

    2. Adding Wolfram Alpha Support to Incredible PBX

    To use Wolfram Alpha by phone, you first must obtain a free Wolfram Alpha APP-ID. Then issue the following command replacing APP-ID with your actual ID. Do NOT change the yourID portion of the command:

    sed -i "s|yourID|APP-ID|" /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin/4747
    

    3. Adding Your Hometown ZIP Code to AsteriDex

    1. Using a browser, visit the IP address of your server.

    2. Click on the Nerd Vittles AsteriDex button in the Kennonsoft GUI.

    3. Click on the Admin tab in AsteriDex.

    4. In the Add Entry column, enter the following data using your hometown ZIP code:

    Contact Name: Weather
    Contact Phone: 947
    Dial Code: your local 5-digit ZIP code

    5. Click the Add New Record button to save your entry.

    Installing or Upgrading Star

    We’ve designed the Star install so that you also can easily update the application by simply running the install-star command again. After logging into your server as root, here are the commands to install or upgrade your Star application:

    cd /root
    wget http://incrediblepbx.com/install-star.tar.gz
    tar zxvf install-star.tar.gz
    rm -f install-star.tar.gz
    ./install-star
    

    10/10 UPDATE: Star apparently was too popular for Google to absorb, and they’ve imposed new limits on TTS playback. So, for the time being, we’ve switched Star back to FLITE for text-to-speech. To update your server, just run the installer again: /root/install-star

    Taking Star for a Spin

    Here’s a quick summary of the available commands that Star currently supports:

    And here are some sample Wolfram Alpha queries to get you started:

    Weather in Charleston South Carolina
    Weather forecast for Washington D.C.
    Next solar eclipse
    Otis Redding
    Define politician
    Who won the 1969 Superbowl? (Broadway Joe)
    What planes are overhead? (flying over your server’s location)
    Ham and cheese sandwich (nutritional information)
    Holidays 2015 (summary of all holidays for 2015 with dates and DOW)
    Medical University of South Carolina (history of MUSC)
    Star Trek (show history, air dates, number of episodes, and more)
    Apollo 11 (everything you ever wanted to know)
    Cheapest Toaster (brand and price)
    Battle of Gettysburg (sad day 🙂 )
    Daylight Savings Time 2015 (date ranges and how to set your clocks)
    Tablets by Samsung (pricing, models, and specs)
    Doughnut (you don’t wanna know)
    Snickers bar (ditto)
    Weather (local weather at your server’s location)

    For late-breaking updates and news about the Star platform, visit this thread on the PIAF Forum. Enjoy!

    Originally published: Tuesday, October 6, 2015



    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.


    ​​3CX is a software PBX that’s easy to install & manage. It includes integrated softphones, WebRTC conferencing and essential add-ons out of the box, at no additional cost. Try the free edition at www.3cx.com.

  • Run on Premise or in the Cloud, on Windows and soon Linux
  • Softphones for iOS, Android, Win & Mac
  • Easy install, backup & restore, version upgrades
  • Automatically configures IP Phones, SIP Trunks & Gateways

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

    Firewalls and Internet Security: Separating FUD and Fiction in the VoIP World

    Some of us have spent years developing secure VoIP solutions for Asterisk® that protect your phone bill while bringing Cloud-based solutions within reach of virtually anyone. So it’s particularly disappointing when a hardware manufacturer spreads fear, uncertainty, and doubt in order to peddle their hardware. In this case, it happens to be Session Border Controllers (SBCs). We want you to watch this latest “infomercial” for yourself:



    To hear Sangoma tell it, every VoIP server protected by merely a firewall is vulnerable to endless SIP attacks unless, of course, you purchase an SBC. And since implementation of Cloud-based servers traditionally limits the ability to deploy an SBC, most Cloud-based VoIP solutions would become vulnerable to SIP attacks. In the words of Sangoma:

    And with telecom fraud and PBX hacking on the rise, it’s important to keep your network secure. For most enterprises, it’s not a matter of if-but-when their [sic] network experiences an attack, potentially costing you valuable time and money.

    Now Sangoma is touting an article in a blog from the U.K. that begins with the headline “Why Firewalls are not Enough.” The purported author is Jack Eagle, who is otherwise unidentified. Not surprisingly, the owner of the blog happens to be a reseller of Sangoma hardware. Here’s what Jack Eagle suggests:

    In addition, the inherent function of firewalls is to deny all unsolicited traffic. Whereby, the act of making a phone call is an unsolicited event, thus, firewalls can be counterproductive to an effective VoIP deployment by denying VoIP traffic.

    For the benefit of those of you considering a VoIP deployment either locally or in the Cloud using Asterisk, let’s cut to the chase and directly address some of the FUD that’s been thrown out there.

    FUD #1: Internet SIP Access Exposes Asterisk to Attack

    False. What is true is that unrestricted SIP access to your server from the Internet without a properly secured firewall may expose Asterisk to attack. Perhaps it’s mere coincidence but the only major Asterisk aggregation that still installs Asterisk with an unsecured firewall and no accompanying script, tutorial, or even recommendation to properly lock it down and protect against SIP attacks happens to be from the same company that now wants you to buy a session border controller.

    FUD #2: Firewalls Aren’t Designed to Protect Asterisk from SIP Attacks

    False. What is true is that the base firewall installation provided in the FreePBX® Distro does not protect against any attacks. In a Cloud-based environment or with local deployments directly exposed to the Internet, that could very well spell disaster. And it has on a number of occasions. The Linux IPtables firewall is perfectly capable of insulating your Asterisk server from SIP attacks when properly configured. With PBX in a Flash and its open source Travelin’ Man 3 script, anonymous SIP access is completely eliminated. The same is true using the tools provided in the latest Elastix servers. And, Incredible PBX servers have always included a secured firewall with simple tools to manage it. Of course, with local VoIP hardware and a hardware-based firewall, any Asterisk server can be totally insulated from SIP attacks whether IPtables is deployed or not. Just don’t open any ports in your firewall and register your trunks with your SIP providers. Simple as that.

    FUD #3: SIP Provider Access to Asterisk Compromises Your Firewall

    False. Registering a server with SIP or IAX trunk providers is all that is required to provide secure VoIP communications. Calls can flow in and out of your Asterisk PBX without compromising your server or communications in any way. Contrary to what is depicted in the infomercial, there is no need to poke a hole in your firewall to expose SIP traffic. In fact, we know of only one SIP provider that requires firewall changes in order to use their services. Simple answer: use a different provider. Consider how you access Internet sites with a browser from behind a firewall. The connection from your browser to web sites on the Internet can be totally secure without any port exposure in your firewall configuration. Registering a SIP trunk with a SIP provider accomplishes much the same thing. All modern firewalls and routers will automatically handle the opening and closing of ports to accommodate the SIP or IAX communications traffic.

    FUD #4: Remote Users Can’t Access Asterisk Without SIP Exposure

    False. Over the past several years, we have written about a number of methodologies which allow remote users to securely access an Asterisk server. That’s what Virtual Private Networks and Port Knocking and Remote Firewall Management are all about. All of these solutions provide access without exposing your server to any SIP vulnerabilities! We hope the authors of this infomercial will give these open source tools a careful look before tarnishing the VoIP brand by suggesting vulnerabilities which any prudent VoIP deployment can easily avoid without additional cost. Just use the right products!

    Originally published: Thursday, April 23, 2015



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


     
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