Category: Home Automation

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…

    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…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tablet of the Year: iPad Air 2

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

    Multimedia Device of the Year: Roku 3

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

    VoIP Product of the Year: Vitelity’s vMobile

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

    VoIP SOHO Hardware of the Year: CuBox-i

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

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

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

    Must-Have Product of the Year: Amazon Echo

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

    2014: Cloud Computing Reinvented

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

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

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

    Merry Christmas!

    Originally published: Monday, December 22, 2014



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


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


    ​​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 Poor Wise Man’s Burglar Alarm System with Asterisk: Under $10/month

    If you’re like us, spending $50 a month or more on a home security system is a bit like pouring money down the toilet. Add to that the complications of getting one to work reliably with VoIP without spending another $50 a month on a Ma Bell vintage telephone line just adds insult to injury.

    So perhaps you can share our elation when an email arrived last week announcing Straight Talk’s new Remote Alert System, a $10/month cellular-based system that uses Verizon Wireless to provide SMS and phone call alerts for up to eight numbers. And actually it’s cheaper than that. $100 buys you a year of service. That’s less than $8.50 a month. Today we’ll show you how to transform your Prius-like Remote Alert System into a Tesla that will rival virtually any intrusion detection system on the market… at any price! The extra hardware required: any Asterisk-based server including the Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone Black.

    Read and weep, ADT!

    If we didn’t already have three Straight Talk lines of service, we would have filed this in the Too Good To Be True pile and moved on. But we’ve had terrific Almost-Unlimited™ AT&T Wireless service with Straight Talk for less than $500 a year. It’s not only indistinguishable from AT&T’s own offerings costing at least 50% more, but it’s also contract-free so we can bring any AT&T smartphone including iPhones to the party and never miss a beat.

    We decided to take the bait and ordered the home security bundle. This gets you the Remote Alert wireless controller plus a wireless motion sensor plus a year of service for $229.99. If you prefer a one-month gamble, the bundle is only $139.99. Down the road, you can add additional motion sensors and window/door sensors for about $30 each. The add-ons now are available at Wal-Mart.

    Shameless Plug. We obviously don’t charge for access to our articles. But you can assist the Nerd Vittles project financially by using our referral link with eBates® to make your purchase if you decide to try this. It doesn’t cost you a dime but returns 13.5% of your purchase price to the Nerd Vittles project. It’s just a couple of clicks. Start here to access eBates. Then Search for Straight Talk and click on the link. After the Straight Talk web site displays, click on the following link to access the Straight Talk Security Bundle. And, THANK YOU!

    So… back to our story. The controller supports four zones for monitoring. Zone 4 is reserved for sensors you want to monitor while someone may still be moving around in the house, for example while only some of your family may be sleeping or if pets are roaming. The other three zones typically would be used for motion sensors that trigger alerts when anything moves… after giving you 30 seconds to leave and return, of course. You can activate Home or Away monitoring using either the controller, an optional $25 key fob, or a free app for your iPhone or Android smartphone.

    You get to decide what happens when the system is armed and an alert is triggered either by motion or a monitored door or window being opened. For us, silence was the name of the game. Using the Android Remote Alert System, click the Silent ARM icon once you leave the house, and you’re done. When you return, click the Disarm icon within 30 seconds of opening the door, and monitoring is disabled. You can also enter your 4-digit alarm code on the controller to disable monitoring.

    Remote Alert System Setup. Once you get the equipment, it’s a 5-minute phone call to get set up. Install the backup batteries in the controller and motion detector, and plug the controller into an A/C power source. Press the required sequence on the controller to activate it, and you’re in business. The motion detector is already paired with the controller when it arrives, but adding new sensors is a 15-second task. All of the commands are documented in the manual which accompanies the system. But the tutorials also are available on line if you want to have a look.

    Step #1 is changing your security alarm password. The next step is entering your phone numbers. Straight Talk goes to great lengths warning you that this is not a home security system because it has no external siren and can’t make 911 calls. They obviously haven’t heard of Asterisk®. 🙂 But let’s get through the standard setup before we talk about Asterisk integration. You get to set up three numbers to receive SMS text messages when an alarm is triggered. And you get to set up five phone numbers to receive calls when an alarm is triggered. What the called party will actually hear is an obnoxious alarm tone which continues to play for 15 seconds. If you had multiple properties with alarm systems and no Caller ID, you’d never know the source of the alarm! But people with multiple properties probably aren’t smart enough to use this system to begin with so let’s move on. You configure the SMS and phone numbers by entering a special code on the controller to program each of the eight destinations. Then you enter the 10-digit number twice, and you’re done. Easy Peasy!

    If you’re new to home security systems, the key to motion sensors is placement. Straight Talk recommends placement about seven to ten feet off the floor with a wide field of view. The range of the motion sensor is about 26 feet. It obviously depends upon the layout of your house or apartment, but we had much better success placing the motion sensor on a window sill at about 5 feet high and aiming it at the center hall of our home. It improved the motion detection dramatically. Trial and error is your friend!

    The next step is positioning your controller. A mounting bracket is included so that you can place it almost anywhere you like. Our preference is to hide it so long as it still has Verizon cellular coverage and a source of electricity. You can test it by arming the controller with your smartphone and then triggering the motion sensor. If you get an SMS message or a call, it’s working. We also prefer silent mode. An intruder is obviously going to attempt to destroy your controller if they hear it. Yes, the intruder may leave, but they’ll probably carry some of the family jewels with them. With an Asterisk server in place, we’d prefer to send the police without alerting the intruder that something has gone wrong.

    Asterisk Integration. Speaking of Asterisk, here’s what we’ve developed to add 911 alerts and telephone alarms to this system. It’s a 5-10 minute project! The way this works is to first add a phone number to your controller that calls a dedicated DID on your Asterisk server. Calls to that DID trigger the special context [st-remote-alert] which verifies the CallerID number of your alarm system. As configured, if the CallerID doesn’t match, the call is immediately disconnected although you could easily modify our code to use an existing (non-dedicated) DID if you prefer. Just route the non-matching CallerIDs to whatever context you traditionally use to process inbound calls. If the CallerID of the alarm system is matched, then the call is disconnected AND an outbound call is placed to 911. When the 911 operator answers, a prerecorded message is played at least twice that says something like this using REAL information:

    This is an automated security request for assistance from the residence at 36 Elm Street in Podunck, Arkansas. The owner of this residence is Joe Schmo at phone number: 678-123-8888. An intruder has been detected inside the home. A suspected burglary is in progress. All of the residents of the home are unavailable to place this call. Please send the police.

    The phone number from which this automated call is being placed is 678-123-4567. If the owners have a working cell phone, you can reach them at the following number: 678-123-9999. Please dispatch the police to 36 Elm Street immediately, whether you can reach the owners or not.
    A suspected burglary is in progress. Thank you for your assistance. This message will repeat until you hang up…

    You can either use Flite and Igor to play the message, or you can record your own message to be played to 911. Use the FreePBX® Admin -> System Recordings option. We recommend the latter especially since you’ll be sending these emergency calls to 911. You obviously want the 911 operator to be able to quickly decipher what’s being said.

    Legal Disclaimer. We cannot stress strongly enough that you need to test this carefully on your own server by placing test calls to some number other than 911 until you are positive that it is working reliably as determined solely by you. Be advised that this system will not work at all in the event of an electrical, Internet, or server outage. As delivered, this code will NOT place calls to 911. The choice of whether to modify the code to place 911 emergency calls is solely yours to make. Be advised that false and inadvertent calls to 911 may result in civil and criminal penalties. DON’T BLAME US!


    NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING THE IMPLIED WARRANTY OF FITNESS
    FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND MERCHANTABILITY, ARE BEING PROVIDED.

    BY PROCEEDING WITH IMPLEMENTATION AND INSTALLATION OF THIS SOFTWARE, YOU AGREE
    TO ASSUME ALL RISK AND COMPLETE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY AND ALL CONSEQUENCES
    OF IMPLEMENTATION WHETHER INTENDED OR NOT AND WHETHER IMPLEMENTED CORRECTLY
    OR NOT. YOU ALSO AGREE TO HOLD WARD MUNDY, WARD MUNDY & ASSOCIATES LLC, AND
    NERD VITTLES HARMLESS FROM ALL CLAIMS FOR ACTUAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES.
    BEFORE IMPLEMENTING AUTOMATED 911 CALLS, CHECK WITH A LOCAL ATTORNEY TO MAKE
    CERTAIN THAT SUCH CALLS ARE LEGAL IN YOUR JURISDICTION.

    IN THE EVENT THAT ANY OF THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS ARE RULED UNENFORCEABLE,
    YOU AGREE TO ACCEPT $1.00 IN COMPENSATION FOR ANY AND ALL CLAIMS YOU MAY HAVE.

    THIS SOFTWARE IS FREE AND YOU AGREE TO ASSUME ALL RISKS WHETHER INTENDED OR NOT.
    YOU ALSO ACKNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTAND THAT THINGS CAN GO WRONG IN TECHNOLOGY.

    WE CANNOT AND DO NOT WARRANT THAT THIS CODE IS ERROR-FREE OR THAT IT WILL
    PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY, YOUR LOVED ONES, OR ANYONE, OR ANY THING IN ANY WAY.

    IF YOU DO NOT AGREE WITH THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF USE, DO NOT PROCEED!

    Asterisk Implementation. First, you’ll need a dedicated DID that can be used to receive incoming calls from your Remote Alert System. Hopefully, you won’t be receiving many calls on this number so any of the inexpensive pay-by-the-minute DIDs will suffice. Or you can use a free DID from ipkall.com. The only gotcha with ipkall.com is having to make a call to keep the number active at least once every 30 days. But this could be accomplished with a weekly telephone reminder that only connected for a few seconds. Just don’t make the weekly call using the CallerID of your alarm system. You obviously do not want to trigger a 911 emergency call.

    Next, you’ll need an outbound trunk on your Asterisk server that’s previously been registered with E911 support and that already is configured to place outbound 911 calls from your server. Google Voice trunks will not work! Your name, address, and phone number as they were registered with E911 will be important pieces of information to relay in your automated emergency call to 911. You’ll also need a cellphone number that can be provided with your 911 calls so that emergency responders have a way to contact you to follow up on automated emergency calls from your server.

    Temporarily, you’ll also need a 10-digit number to which to deliver the automated emergency calls for testing. Your cellphone number would suffice. Once you’re sure everything is working, we’ll show you how to modify the dial plan code to replace this number with 911 when your system goes “live.”

    Installation. Once you have all of the required pieces in place, you’re ready to begin the installation. Log into your server as root and issue the following commands to begin:

    cd /root
    wget http://nerdvittles.com/wp-content/st-remote-alert.tar.gz
    tar zxvf st-remote-alert.tar.gz
    rm -f st-remote-alert.tar.gz
    ./st-remote-alert.sh
    

    Once the install is finished, use FreePBX to modify the DID Trunk that will receive the incoming alerts from your Remote Alert System. Change the context entry to: context=st-remote-alert

    Test. Test. Test. Testing is critically important before you actually turn on automated calls to 911. Once you’ve installed the software, activate your Remote Alarm System and then trip the motion detector to trigger a call to the dedicated DID on your Asterisk server. There’s typically a 30-second delay between tripping a motion detector and the commencement of the alert calls. Within a minute, you should receive a call on the emergency number you set up for testing. You can follow the progress of the procedure using the Asterisk CLI: asterisk -rvvvvvvvvvv. We recommend testing this repeatedly for at least a month before even considering 911 deployment. Make certain that everyone in your household knows how to disable the alarm system when they return home after arming it. Make certain that everyone in your household knows to never arm the system with motion detectors activated when anyone or any animal inside the house could potentially trip the alarm. At least until everyone is accustomed to these new security procedures and has a proven (successful) track record, NEVER DEPLOY SILENT ARMING OF YOUR REMOTE ALERT SYSTEM! If you change to silent arming of the Remote Alert System, test for at least another full month with no inadvertent failures before considering 911 deployment.

    Making Changes. The st-remote-alert.sh installer has been designed to let you run it over and over again to replace or update your settings. So don’t be shy about making changes.

    Substituting a Personally Recorded Message. If you’d prefer to record your own message to be delivered to 911, then review the script above and make yourself a cheat sheet before you begin. Then use a browser to open FreePBX. Choose Admin -> System Recordings and enter an extension number on your system to use for recording. Click the Go button to begin. Then dial *77 from that extension and record your message. Press # when you’re finished. Be sure to listen to the recording to make sure it’s what you intended. If not, rerecord the message until you get it right. You can dial *99 to listen to your recording a final time. When you’re sure it’s correct, name the recording nv-alert. Click Save.

    Now you need to tell the automated alert dialer to use your recorded message instead of Flite and Igor.
    Edit /etc/asterisk/extensions_custom.conf. Search for the line containing “pickrecording”. Change Extension: 4 to Extension: 5. Save the file and reload your dial plan: asterisk -rx "dialplan reload"

    Do some additional testing if you have substituted your own recording!

    Adding Audible Alarms During Emergencies. If you prefer a little noise sprinkled around your home during burglaries, then we’ve put in place the necessary components to sound alarms on SIP phones that support AutoAnswer after feeding an extension to the speakerphone. For example, assuming you have deployed a Yealink T46G with an IP address of 192.168.0.10 and default admin credentials, you could add this additional line just before the final s,n,Hangup line in the [st-remote-alert] context of /etc/asterisk/extensions_custom.conf:

    exten => s,n,System(curl -s -S --user-agent "Alert" http://admin:admin@192.168.0.10/servlet?number=25276)

    To add additional Yealink phones, just add additional lines to the dialplan with the IP address of each phone. For other phone models, you’ll need to do a little research. 😉

    Going Live with Automated Emergency Calls to 911. When you and everyone in your household are absolutely comfortable with the arming, disarming, and motion detection procedures, then you can decide whether to reroute the automated notifications to 911. Be advised that, in some states or municipalities, it may be illegal to auto-dial 911 from a non-human caller/system. Before doing this, check with an attorney or local authorities in your jurisdiction to make sure you are in compliance with federal/state/local laws.1 If you elect to proceed, edit extensions_custom.conf in /etc/asterisk. Search for the line containing “SEND-HELP-REQUEST-TO”. Replace the temporary number that you set up with the number: 911. Save the file and reload your dial plan: asterisk -rx "dialplan reload". Sleep well!

    Originally published: Monday, July 14, 2014


    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…

    1. Autodialers that make emergency calls to E911 as part of a burglar alarm system are specifically exempted in some states such as Illinois. This comports with federal law under The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (47 U.S.C. § 227). Emergency robocalls are specifically exempted from the new PSAP Do-Not-Call Registry rules. See also this article about E911 laws in the Northeast. In most cases, but not all, these laws target abuse of the E911 system. Surprisingly, one town that reportedly prohibits ALL autodialing to 911 is Palo Alto, CA. And Paris, Tennessee also has joined the illegal club. Special thanks to @TheMole on the PIAF Forum for his excellent research. []

    The Ultimate Android Tablet: Meet the Microsoft Surface Pro

    We were fully prepared to hate the Microsoft Surface Pro. After all, it was designed and produced by Microsoft, and we haven’t seen many flashes of brilliance from Redmond since the XBox. That was more than eleven years ago! Yes, Microsoft has new smartphones, but they’re too little, too late in our opinion. So why is the Surface Pro different? For openers, it runs pure Windows 8, not the Windows RT crippleware. While we’re not much of a Windows cheerleader any more (we were for the first 25 years), it is worth noting that Apple has one operating system for desktops and notebooks and a different (crippled) one for smartphones and tablets. And Google has one operating system for its notebooks and a very different one for its smartphones and tablets. Microsoft, on the other hand, had a better idea. The same operating system runs on both its desktop computers, its notebooks, and its latest tablet, the Surface Pro. What that means is the same application that runs on your desktop computer can now perform equally well on a tablet. And it can do it with or without the Surface’s revolutionary, portable keyboard. Application portability is huge especially if your company happens to still be a pure Microsoft shop. And it’s especially important if you or your employees happen to travel for a living.

    It Just Works. So much for the theory. The bottom line for us was whether our existing PBX in a Flash, Incredible PBX, and Android platforms could live and breathe on the Surface Pro. The short answer is a resounding YES. This is not the crippled, proprietary Windows RT platform found in the original (klunky) Surface. This is a fully functional Windows 8 machine with an Intel processor, blazing performance, and both microSD and USB 3.0 slots, nice additions that you won’t find on a lot of tablets. If an app will run with Windows 7 or Windows XP, it works just as well or better on the Surface Pro. And with BlueStacks, you can run 750,000 Android apps on your Surface Pro as well. We quickly downloaded our favorite Android VoIP app, Groove IP, from Google’s Play Store using BlueStacks. Then we performed a couple of quick calls using a Google Voice account. The calls were flawless even with our shaky DSL connection on a very snowy day in the mountains. Adding BlueStack’s Cloud Connect will let you push existing apps from your Android phone or tablet to your Surface Pro. Pretty cool.

    For a complete technical review of the Surface Pro, visit ZDnet or TechRadar. Just pray you never need repairs.

    The only thing we’ve found missing hardware-wise on the Surface Pro is a PrintScreen key on the awesome keyboard which is a must-have, by the way. To print screens, you’ll need to use the tablet trick: VolDown + Home. But, as you can see from the screenshot above, it works fine. Because of the high resolution screen however, you lose something shrinking the images down to 650 pixels. On the software front, there were few surprises. WiFi is rock solid, and links to MiFi devices make the Surface Pro truly portable. If ass-backwards scrolling with the touchpad drives you crazy, use RegEdit and search for the mouse entry for FlipFlopHScroll. Change the decimal value from 0 to 1. The Chrome browser works fine with the keyboard and mousepad, but you’ll be using Internet Explorer to work with the touchscreen in tablet mode. Hopefully, that will get fixed shortly.

    SAMBA connections work fine after the usual tweaks to the Windows Registry and a reboot. NeoRouter as a VPN client or server functions just as you would expect after telling Windows 8 to run the main programs as Administrator. Windows 8 is a bit more picky about this even when you’re logged in as an Administrator. Oracle’s VirtualBox as a virtual machine platform for Linux appliances works swimmingly, and performance is AMAZING. We built an Incredible PBX server using the latest .ova template in under 5 minutes, and we were making free calls and sending out faxes through Google Voice in under 10 minutes. Amazing!

    Family Feud. There’s only one major shortcoming worth noting. Microsoft has taken their feud with Google to a whole new level with Windows 8. It’s not so much the Bingification of every Windows utility that bothers us. It’s what appears to be a conscious effort to banish Google from the Windows platform entirely. Think Apple! Those using two-step authentication for Google services are S.O.L. when it comes to Gmail. You’re left having to deploy Gmail as an IMAP mail service to get your mail at all. Giving Microsoft the benefit of the doubt, you could give them a pass on this if it had just been the initial Windows 8 release. But there have been plenty of patches and updates since Day One, and two-step authentication for Google services remains MIA. If the United States is going to retain its lead in the software development arena, Microsoft and Google and Apple had best bury the hatchet and learn how to work together to make their offerings complimentary. Consumers aren’t going to tolerate this kind of seventh grader nonsense in this day and age. So, wake up, Microsoft. Ruining an otherwise promising platform while trying to shaft Google is a lousy business decision, and it’s going to backfire. Consumers will simply move exclusively to their platform of choice, and guess what? That platform isn’t going to be Microsoft. More importantly, this article is a testament to what actually can be accomplished in Googlifying a Surface Pro with a little Yankee ingenuity. For all practical purposes, our Surface Pro is the best Android tablet we’ve ever owned, and we’ve owned a few. So here’s a little tip for Microsoft: Remember what made Windows a hit! Ubiquity, not exclusivity!

    Originally published: Monday, February 18, 2013



    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 new whos.amung.us statistical web site and check out what’s happening. It’s a terrific resource both for us and for you.


     
    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…