Category: Home Automation

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. :wink:

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.


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. 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.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new and improved discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls, free SMS messaging, free 911 alerts, and free in-network calling for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Paradise Found: The Holy Grail of Mobile Communications » Meet the OBi202

Much has been written about the quest for Unified Communications where all real-time communications services are transparently accessible by phone, by email, or via the web using multiple devices and various media types. But the Holy Grail of Business Communications is a bit different from our perspective. For the modern business person, business telecommunications comes down to a 3-way time slice between a home or home office, a real office with a real phone, and a cellphone whenever the person morphs into a road warrior or telecommuter. What the business person really wants is transparent integration of his or her smartphone into existing home and office phone setups. In other words, when we’re at home with a cell phone, we want to answer incoming cell phone calls on a house phone rather than scrambling to find a ringing cellphone on the other side of the house. And when we’re at the office, we want incoming cellphone calls to either ring on our desktop phone or be redirected to the office PBX when we’re unavailable. For many businesses, the only phone number that a customer ever has is the business person’s smartphone number. So, when we place outbound calls from home, or the office, or the cellphone, we want the customer to always see the cellphone number in the CallerID display. For accounting purposes, we’d also like all of the calls to be recorded in the cellphone log so that we can actually track call activity without reviewing logs in three different places. Well, we’ve finally got it!

Google Voice™ solved some of this cellphone integration with its new service. You can actually have calls ring on multiple devices simultaneously including your cellphone, your office phone, and your home phone. But there are several limitations. First, it’s only available in the United States. Second, some folks just don’t want Google knowing everything about your call history. Third, there’s a flexibility issue when using Google Voice to forward calls to your home or office. Without a lot of hands-on daily management, the incoming calls get forwarded to your alternate numbers whether you’re there or not. So, for example, if you’re on the road, you probably don’t want incoming business calls to your cellphone picked up by either your spouse or the office switchboard because there’s no way to easily route the calls back to you.

 

And that brings us to a pair of terrific new products from ObiHai. Last year we were provided a prerelease version of the OBi202™ at no cost, but frankly we hadn’t had time to play with it until a business opportunity presented the perfect case for the OBi202. In addition to being a terrific standalone VoIP phone system, the OBi202 also supports an analog fax machine using Google Voice as well as T.38 digital faxing with a CallCentric trunk. And then we discovered the OBiBT™ Bluetooth® Adapter which we actually purchased. Lo and behold, for under $100, the Holy Grail of Mobile Phone Communications was staring us in the face. So let’s begin with a quick summary of how all of this works, and then we’ll show you how to do it yourself. As with all of our Amazon links, you are obviously free to buy products wherever you like. Where prices are competitive or availability is a factor, we often recommend Amazon because Amazon provides financial support to Nerd Vittles through its referral links. That really does help keep the lights on so thanks in advance for your understanding.

The way The Holy Grail works in our SOHO setup goes something like this. I carry a Bluetooth-enabled, Galaxy Note II smartphone. While away from the house, the smartphone works like any other cellphone. I can make and receive calls as well as email and SMS messages. The only difference is that I have the phone connected through a Google Voice number so that incoming SMS messages are also delivered as Gmail messages. When I return home, the OBi202 with the OBiBT adapter senses that a smartphone is within range. You can pair and prioritize up to 10 of them. Incoming calls still ring on the cellphone, but they also ring on some POTS cordless phones scattered around the office. The POTS phones are connected to the first of two phone connections on the OBi202. CallerID actually shows the same thing as the cellphone CallerID. And incoming SMS messages also appear in the CallerID display of the cordless phones. If an incoming call is not answered in two rings, the OBi202 transfers the call to our Incredible PBX™ running on a Raspberry Pi®. It then processes the call through an AutoAttendant and delivers the call either to all of the house phones or to the desired person in the house. If there’s no answer, the call is handled by the voicemail system in Incredible PBX, and the message is also emailed to the desired recipient.

While at home base, outbound calls from the POTS phones in the office are always placed through my cellphone using the Bluetooth connection in the OBi202. Depending upon how you set up your Google Voice interaction with your cellphone, outbound calls will show either your cell phone number or Google Voice number as the CallerID. When we leave the office, the office phones no longer ring, just the Galaxy Note II. And outbound calls from the SOHO cordless phones are handled using a preconfigured SIP provider or Google Voice trunk in the OBi202 instead of via Bluetooth and the smartphone.

This may sound trivial to some of you. Suffice it to say, it’s not. You won’t find any commercial PBX that can do it. And the Asterisk Dev Team has been working on a Bluetooth connector called chan_mobile for as long as we can remember. It still doesn’t work reliably. You can follow the progress of our half dozen chan_mobile pioneers here.

Getting Started with the OBi202. Before you can tackle Bluetooth, you need to get a perfectly functioning OBi202. Plug it in with a network cable behind your router which must provide a DHCP address to the device. Plug a POTS phone into PHONE 1. Now make a test call to OBiTALK by dialing **9 222 222 222. Next, decipher the IP address of your device by dialing ***1. Make sure your device is running the latest software by dialing ***6. Using a browser, go to http://www.obitalk.com. Create an account and then log in. Choose Add Device and follow the prompts to get your new device registered. If you want to use Google Voice, now is the time to set up your account. Choose Configure Voice Service Providers, choose your provider, and specify what phone port to use for the service. By default, both phone ports will work with whatever service provider you first configure. If you want to register your OBi202 as an extension on your Asterisk® server, now’s the time to do that as well. We also recommend you create an account with VoIP.ms and obtain a free INUM trunk. You can read how to set this up and why in this Nerd Vittles article. The advantage of having this trunk is that you can use it to route calls between your OBi202 and your Asterisk server at no cost. Just create and then register separate subaccounts on VoIP.ms for both your Asterisk server and your OBi202. Build a trunk and an inbound route on your Asterisk server to route calls from your INUM DID to wherever you’d like incoming INUM calls to go, e.g. an extension, a ring group, or an IVR. INUM DIDs look like this: 88351000XXXXXXX where the last seven digits are your personal number. Use SP4 on your OBi202 to set up your VoIP.ms subaccount. Be sure all of the accounts you create get properly registered.

Configuring Bluetooth on the OBi202. Setting up the Bluetooth functionality is straightforward. Plug in the OBiBT. Dial *28 from a phone connected to the OBi202. Within two minutes, open the Bluetooth network settings menu on your smartphone and pair it with the OBi202. If prompted for a passcode, it’s 0000. Refresh your OBi Dashboard, and click on Edit BT icon in the Voice Service Providers frame. Set the device up as shown above. Click the Submit button.

At this point, incoming calls on your cellphone will also ring on the POTS phones connected to your OBi202. And calls that you place using a phone connected to the OBi202 will be routed out through your cellphone. This may be sufficient for many of you. We wanted the added functionality of routing inbound calls to our PBX when there was no answer on the OBi202-connected phones. At least with AT&T and StraightTalk, two rings is about the most you can allow without risking a voicemail pickup through your cellphone provider. Here’s how to set it up.

From the OBi202 Device Configuration Menu, click on the blue OBi Expert Configuration button. Acknowledge that you know what you’re doing and then click on the blue Enter OBi Expert button. In the left column under Voice Service, click OBiBlueTooth. Edit the Calling Features section and make it look like what’s shown above, replacing xxxxxxx with your personal INUM DID assigned from VoIP.ms. Click the Submit button when you’re finished. Now incoming calls will ring twice on your OBi202-connected phones and then be transferred to the INUM DID configured in Asterisk.

You can check the status of your OBi202 at any time by launching OBi Expert and clicking System Status. Enjoy!

Originally published: Monday, February 4, 2013


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 Forum. It’s the best Asterisk tech support site in the business, and it’s all free! Unlike some forums, ours is extremely friendly and is supported by literally hundreds of Asterisk gurus and thousands of users just like you.


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.


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Android 3 Deal of the Year: Acer Tab for Under $300

We’ve never done back-to-back reviews of similar devices, but this week’s Target ad changes all of that. As you might expect, Acer has covered all of the bases with their entry into the dual-core Android 3 tablet sweepstakes. You may recall that we weren’t huge fans of the Motorola Xoom which promised a lot and delivered a boatload of vaporware. The Acer Iconia Tab A500 is not the Xoom. You not only get a microSD slot and Flash that actually work, but Acer has thrown in an HDMI port that can output 1080p video as well as a USB port that lets you connect your favorite USB devices including external hard disks. It performs this magic with an 8-10 hour battery life. And this week (only at Target) you can pick up this WiFi-only device for half the cost of the Motorola Xoom. In fact, after the gift card, it’s only a dollar more than the single-core Vizio Tablet that we reviewed last week.

Update: See the comments for equivalent deals just announced at NewEgg and CompUSA.

It’s difficult to describe the feel of the Acer Tab. Suffice it to say, it’s dimensions coupled with its sleek and sculpted design put it in the league with the iPad2 unlike the Xoom which felt chunky and clunky despite being an ounce lighter than the Acer.

As we mentioned last week, we don’t dive too deeply into the technical weeds in our reviews. If you want the technical assessment, check out this PC World review. What we prefer to evaluate is real-world usage of these devices. The Acer Tab has stunning performance. In addition to reading email and browsing the web, here’s the suite of applications which we think matter to most folks. We want to watch videos from YouTube and NetFlix. We want to stream music from Google Music and Spotify and read our Kindle books. We like to use Skype. And, yes, we also like Flash video support which works perfectly on the Acer tablet.

In addition to running Android 3, the Acer Tab boasts impressive hardware specs running a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 250 dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of ROM. Add another 32GB easily with the microSD slot. The 10.1-inch tablet has a 1280-by-800 pixel display with a 16:10 aspect ratio that’s perfect for HD video content. We always prefer testing devices with real-world video content that we’ve shot so we can compare it to performance on other devices. Our Pawleys Island Parade video didn’t disappoint. It’s performance and color were as good or better on the Acer Tab than on Apple’s top-of-the-line 27″ iMac featuring a quad-core 2.93 GHz Core i7 processor with 8GB of RAM plus L2 and L3 cache. The same can be said with playback of complex Flash video. Netflix unfortunately is still a few weeks off although rooted Acer devices reportedly run it just fine.

On the music front, it doesn’t get much better than the Acer Tab. With Google Music or Spotify, the music world is your oyster. And the silver lining is that the Acer Tab is the one and only device that includes Dolby Mobile audio. Once you adjust the equalizer to match your taste in music, you’ll have sound quality to match that 20-pound boombox gathering dust in your basement.

In the communications department, Skype performed well although video calls are not yet supported. That’s unfortunate given the impressive specs on the Acer Tab’s two cameras. The Iconia Tab has a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera with flash in addition to a 2-megapixel front-facing camera for video conferencing. Finally, making and receiving free phone calls using either an Asterisk® server with CSipSimple or Google Voice using a $50 Obihai device and the free ObiON client for Android both worked great.

There’s only one word you’ll need to remember to take advantage of this Target deal: H-U-R-R-Y! This is a one-week only special, and Target offers no rainschecks. So call around until you find one. You won’t be sorry. And, as usual, Target offers a 90-day, no questions asked return policy which is second to none.

Google+ Invites Still Available. Need a Google+ invite? Drop us a note and include the word “Google+” and we’ll get one off to you. Come join the fun!

Our Favorite Android Apps. We’ve listed a few of our favorite apps below for those just getting started with Android. Enjoy!


Originally published: Tuesday, August 16, 2011




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


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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

How Good Can a $298 Android Tablet Be?

Pretty damn good in the case of the new 8″ Vizio Tablet. While it’s not going to take any speed awards when compared with the new Galaxy Tab 10.1, it does have a 1GHz processor with 512MB of RAM which delivers respectable performance with incredible battery life that rivals any iPad. Storage capacity is limited to 2GB, but you can add a 32GB microSD and meet any computing demands you may have. Currently the device is WiFi only.

As you might expect, Vizio knows a thing or two about televisions, and there’s a silver lining with the Vizio Tablet. Not only is an IR blaster included in the hardware, but you also get a giant TV remote that controls any combination of TVs, cable and satellite boxes, DVD and BluRay devices, and about 95% of the other video and audio components you will find on the planet. And it works as well or better than any of the pricey, high-end touchscreen (with a little screen) TV remotes that would easily put you in the Poor House. Say goodnight, Logitech. There’s also a front-facing 640×480 camera which easily suffices for video conferencing. No current video conferencing apps work, by the way, but it’s only been on the street for a week. The best news of all, you can pick one up at Costco or WalMart if you want one today. Or order it from Amazon if you prefer tax-free.

We don’t dive too deeply into the technical weeds in our reviews. If you want the technical assessment, check out this SlashGear review. What we prefer to evaluate is real-world usage of these devices. The Vizio Tablet passes with flying colors. In addition to reading email and browsing the web, here’s the suite of applications which we think matter to most folks. We want to watch videos from YouTube and NetFlix. We want to stream music from Google Music and Spotify and read our Kindle books. We like to use Skype. Sorry, Apple, we also like Flash video support which works perfectly on the Vizio Tablet even though it’s currently running Gingerbread.1

Last, but not least, being a phone nerd, we obviously want to make and receive free phone calls using either an Asterisk® server with CSipSimple or Google Voice using a $50 Obihai device and the free ObiON client for Android. Both work great!

Of course, the usual Android favorites including Google+ with the exception of (the currently non-functioning) Huddle for video conferencing with up to 10 participants, Maps, Navigation, and Google Talk all work flawlessly. Gallery is perfectly synched with your Picasa photo collection which now can store unlimited photos at no cost through Google Plus. If you want to actually take professional photographs and make feature films, this isn’t the device for you. With the exception of Skype which is not yet available for this device (which was just released), everything else we’ve mentioned works great especially if you’re living on a budget. And, with the addition of Huddle in Google+, the absence of Skype support really doesn’t much matter any more. If you happen to need a Google+ invite, here’s a link compliments of Nerd Vittles. Finally, and pardon us for repeating, if you’re sick of wrestling with a half dozen remotes to watch television, this device is worth its weight in gold. You’ll be asking yourself why no one but Vizio was smart enough to think of it.

Vizio also had a better idea when it came to the Android user interface. As you can see in the photo above, there’s a top section where you can install your Favorite Apps. Immediately below that is your entire Applications collection. At the very bottom, there are five buttons which you can assign to your Must-Have Apps such as email, your web browser, the Google Market, Settings, and whatever else you happen to like.

Another nice touch that hasn’t been mentioned in many of the reviews is that Vizio has added a new keyboard option. If you remember the ergonomic keyboards that had the keys divided into two sections, Vizio has done much the same thing on the touchscreen which greatly improves typing for those that actually learned how. This keyboard, of course, can be toggled on and off depending upon your personal taste.

In conclusion, we think Vizio has hit a home run with this device. The price point, the feature set, the form factor, and the incredible battery life are just about perfect. We’ve listed a few of our favorite Android apps below to get you started. Enjoy!


Originally published: Wednesday, August 10, 2011




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


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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Honeycomb has been promised for down the road. []

Orgasmatron 5.2: The Secure Swiss Army Knife for Asterisk

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks watching the overwhelmingly positive response to our release of Orgasmatron 5.1. With this version, we introduced a new Asterisk® security model that took into account the ever-increasing security risks posed by exposing web and telephony servers to direct Internet access. The bottom line is this. If your telecom requirements still can be accomplished by placing a server securely behind a $35 hardware-based Internet firewall with no Internet exposure, then it makes absolutely no sense to dangle such a tempting target in front of the world’s most nefarious creeps.

News Flash: Incredible PBX 4.0 is now available with FreePBX 2.10 support!

Coming January 19: Incredible PBX 11 & Incredible Fax for Asterisk 11 and FreePBX 2.11

Our experience suggests that the only trade off with this new approach is the inability to receive anonymous SIP calls… a small price to pay considering the potential financial and computer risks involved. You still can place outbound VoIP calls as well as placing and receiving calls using any of the phone numbers registered on your new PBX in a Flash server. And, thanks to Google Voice, SIPgate, and IPkall, all inbound calls are free, and all outbound calls to numbers in the U.S. and Canada are free as well.

If a SIP URI and your own Freenum/ISN number are simply features you can’t live without, sign up for a voip.ms IAX account, and you’ll get a SIP URI for free. Inbound SIP URI and Freenum/ISN calls will set you back $1 for every 1,000 minutes billed in 6 second increments.

Or you can sign up for a free IP Freedom CallCentric account and configure a new SIP trunk in FreePBX by following these directions. Once configured, your new server SIP URI will be 1777xxxxxxx@in.callcentric.com where xxxxxxx is your assigned 7-digit CallCentric number.

Keep in mind that a new security vulnerability has been found with either Asterisk or FreePBX almost monthly. The chart below tells you why. With virtually limitless attack surfaces because of the number of interrelated components in CentOS, Asterisk, and FreePBX comes enormous and recurring potential for remote compromise of these systems. Rather than play this cat-and-mouse security game with the underworld, the Orgasmatron design changes the paradigm. It lets you use any (secure or insecure) version of Asterisk and FreePBX without worrying about any outside attacks. Do passwords on your new server matter? Not really… unless there is someone inside your firewall that you don’t trust. :roll: Are we going to secure them anyway? Absolutely. But instead of the constant worry over new security vulnerabilities, Orgasmatron 5.2 lets you enjoy exploring the world of Asterisk and VoIP telephony with an incredibly rich feature set that you won’t find anywhere else, period! We’ll resist making any other device analogies, but the idea here is to protect the good guy (you!) while keeping the bad guys out. No penetration. No worries. Simple as that.

In our former life working for a living, we actually procured and managed multimillion dollar PBXs as part of our “other duties as assigned.” Without qualification, we can tell you that the feature set that Orgasmatron 5.2 brings to the table for free runs circles around anything you could buy (then or now) in the commercial marketplace. And, at one time or another, we purchased every Nortel feature good money could buy. There’s one other difference. Orgasmatron 5.2 runs swimmingly on a $200 Atom-based PC that you can purchase at any Best Buy as well as hundreds of other stores including Amazon, NewEgg, and Buy.com. We paid more than $200 to provision an additional extension on our Nortel switch! You, of course, can add as many extensions as you like. De nada.

So, why a new version of Orgasmatron in only a few weeks? Well, it’s not security-related. In fact, there is nothing wrong with continuing on with Orgasmatron 5.1. Unfortunately, it relied exclusively upon SIPgate to make free Google Voice calls in the U.S. and Canada. And SIPgate required an invite using an SMS message from a U.S.-based cellphone. That pretty well knocked out all of our friends living outside the United States. Today’s version fixes that by letting anyone sign up for a free IPkall phone number in Washington state. All you need is a valid email address. The setup process is a bit more complex because IPkall doesn’t support registered connections to their servers. But we’ll walk you through the additional steps and, once completed, your server will be just as secure as the SIPgate approach we set up with Orgasmatron 5.1. And few, if any, Linux skills are required to set up or manage Orgasmatron 5.2. As we’ve noted previously, if you can handle slice and bake cookies, you’ve got the necessary skillset! Be aware this is about a one-hour project, and you need to track through the article carefully, or the entire house of cards comes down.

New Asterisk Security Model. Orgasmatron 5.2 maintains our design goal of running an absolutely secure Asterisk PBX from behind a hardware-based firewall with either NO INBOUND PORTS exposed to the Internet with SIPgate or an IP-address-restricted IAX port for IPkall. Don’t defeat this security mechanism by exposing additional ports on your PBX in a Flash server to Internet access. And choose your NAT-based firewall/router carefully. All of these devices are not created equally. Not only do some perform better than others, but certain models are notoriously bad at handling NAT-based routing tasks, a critical requirement in the Asterisk VoIP environment. In almost every case of problems with one-way audio, the real culprit can be traced back to a crappy router. For $35, you really can’t go wrong with the dLink WBR-2310. If you want traffic shaping functionality as well, take a look at dLink’s Gaming Router, our personal favorite.

As long as your router, Google Voice, SIPgate, and IPkall passwords are secure, you can sleep like a baby. We use an intermediate SIP provider for Google Voice to set up free outbound Google Voice calls in the U.S. and Canada because Google Voice actually places two calls to connect you to your destination. First, you get a call back. And then the party you’re calling is connected. The SIPgate or IPkall trunk is used by Google Voice to call you back so the inbound call is always free. We handle the interconnection magic with Asterisk transparently so your calls appear to be processed as if you were using a standard telephone to dial out. Just refrain from using extension 75 in Asterisk for personal conferencing!

The choice is yours. You can use SIPgate with no incoming ports exposed to your server from the Internet. Or you can use IPkall and map UDP port 4569 (IAX2) on your hardware-based firewall to the internal IP address of your new PBX in a Flash server. Even with the IPkall setup, we’ve locked down IPtables (our Linux firewall) to restrict IAX access to several specific IP addresses so your server remains absolutely secure. We’ve also included support for FonicaTec’s IAX offering for those that want a backup IAX provider. We’ll have much more to say about IPtables in coming weeks.

If you’ve already installed Orgasmatron 5.1 and it’s working for you, do you need to upgrade? NO. With the exception of the new IAX support for IPkall, the code in Orgasmatron 5.2 is identical.

We, of course, continue to recommend that you sign up with Vitelity so you have an alternate communications vehicle in the event of a problem with your free service. Vitelity also can provide 911 emergency service for your home or home office. You can save a little money while supporting the PBX in a Flash project by using the links at the end of this article.

Swiss Army Knife Inventory. There’s no need for a Swiss Army Knife if you don’t know what all the blades are for. So, for those that are wondering what’s included in the Orgasmatron 5.2 build, here’s a feature list of the components you get in addition to the base PBX in a Flash build with CentOS 5.4, Asterisk 1.4, FreePBX 2.6, and Apache, SendMail, MySQL, PHP, phpMyAdmin, IPtables Linux firewall, Fail2Ban, and WebMin. Please note that A2Billing, Cepstral TTS, Hamachi VPN, and Mondo Backups are optional and may be installed using the scripts that are provided.

Prerequisites. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Broadband Internet connection
  • Rock-solid NAT router/firewall. Recommend: $35 dLink WBR-2310
  • $200 PC on which to run PBX in a Flash or a Proxmox Virtual Machine
  • Free Google Voice account (HINT: Under $2 on eBay)
  • Free SIPgateOne residential account (Use cell to get SMS invite) OR
  • Free IPkall IAX account

Learn First. Install Second. Even though the installation process is now a No-Brainer, you are well-advised to do some reading before you begin. VoIP PBX systems have become a favorite target of the hackers and crackers around the world and, unless you have an unlimited bank account, you need to take some time learning where the minefields are in today’s VoIP world. Start by reading our Primer on Asterisk Security. Then read our PBX in a Flash and VPN in a Flash knols. If you’re still not asleep, there’s loads of additional documentation on the PBX in a Flash documentation web site.

Today’s Drill. The installation process is straight-forward, but a little different than the Orgasmo 5.1 scenario because of the need to accommodate IPkall. Just don’t skip any steps. In a nutshell, here are the 6 Steps to Free Calling and an incredibly versatile, preconfigured Asterisk PBX:

1. Install the latest version of PBX in a Flash
2. Run the Orgasmatron 5.2 Installer
3. Configure a softphone or SIP telephone
4. Configure Providers for Orgasmatron 5.2
5. Enter your Google Voice and SIPgate/IPkall credentials
6. Change existing passwords to secure your system

Installing PBX in a Flash. Here’s a quick tutorial to get PBX in a Flash installed. We recommend you install the latest PIAF 1.6 beta on a new Atom-based PC. This beta is virtually identical to version 1.4 except it uses CentOS 5.4 instead of CentOS 5.2. This means it works better with newer hardware including Atom-based computers and newer network cards. Unlike other Asterisk aggregations, PBX in a Flash utilizes a two-step install process. The ISO only installs the CentOS operating system. Once installed, the server reboots and downloads a payload file that includes Asterisk, FreePBX, and many other VoIP and Linux utilities. We use the identical payload for versions 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, and 1.6 of PBX in a Flash. The beta label simply means we haven’t had time to sufficiently test CentOS. But this is not a Microsoft-style beta so fear not!

Download the 32-bit, PIAF 1.6 version from SourceForge, Vitelity, Cybernetic Networks, or AdHoc Electronics. The MD5 checksum for the file is e8a3fc96702d8aa9ecbd2a8afb934d36. Burn the ISO to a CD. Then boot from the installation CD and type ksalt to begin.

WARNING: This install will completely erase, repartition, and reformat ALL disks on your system! Press Ctrl-C to cancel the install.

On some systems you may get a notice that CentOS can’t find the kickstart file. Just tab to OK and press Enter. Don’t change the name or location of the kickstart file! This will get you going. Think of it as a CentOS ‘feature’. :-)

At the keyboard prompt, tab to OK and press Enter. At the time zone prompt, tab once, highlight your time zone, tab to OK and press Enter. At the password prompt, make up a VERY secure root password. Type it twice. Tab to OK, press Enter. Get a cup of coffee. Come back in about 5 minutes. When the system has installed CentOS, it will reboot. Remove the CD promptly. After the reboot, choose A option. Have a 10-minute cup of coffee. After installation is complete, the machine will reboot a second time. Log in as root with your new password and execute the following commands:

update-scripts
update-fixes

When prompted, change the ARI password to something really obscure. You’re never going to use it! You now have a PBX in a Flash base install. On a stand-alone machine, it takes about 30 minutes. On a virtual machine, it takes about half that time.

NOTE: So long as your system is safely sitting behind a hardware-based firewall, we do NOT recommend running update-source on the Orgasmatron builds because of parking lot issues in the latest releases of Asterisk.

Running the Orgasmatron 5.2 Installer. Log into your server as root and issue the following commands to run the Orgasmatron 5.2 installer:

cd /root
wget http://pbxinaflash.net/orgasmo52.x
chmod +x orgasmo52.x
./orgasmo52.x

Have another 15-minute cup of coffee. It’s a great time to consider a modest donation to the Nerd Vittles project. You’ll find a link at the top of the page. When the installer finishes, READ THE SCREEN!

Now run passwd-master1. Set your FreePBX passwords to something very secure but different from your Linux root password.

Next, type status2 and press Enter. Write down the IP address of your new server.

If you’re using IPkall, now’s the time to log in to your hardware-based firewall/router and map UDP port 45693 to the private IP address that you just wrote down. This tells your firewall to pass all IAX2 traffic from the Internet directly to your new server. Don’t worry. We have severely restricted which IP addresses can actually send IAX data through the PBX in a Flash IPtables firewall which is an integral part of this build. And, remember, no hardware firewall adjustments are necessary if you’re using SIPgate instead of IPkall.

For good measure, we recommend you reboot your server at this point. The command to type is simple: reboot4

Configuring a SIP Phone. There are hundreds of terrific SIP telephones and softphones for Asterisk-based systems. Once you get things humming along, you’ll want a real SIP telephone, and you’ll find lots of recommendations on Nerd Vittles. For today, let’s download a terrific (free) softphone to get you started. We recommend X-Lite because there are versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux. So download your favorite from this link. Install and run X-Lite on your Desktop. At the top of the phone, click on the Down Arrow and choose SIP Account Settings, Add. Enter the following information using 82812661 as the password for extension 701 and the actual IP address of your PBX in a Flash server instead of 192.168.0.251. Click OK when finished. Your softphone should now show: Available.

Don’t Forget! After you change your extension passwords later in this tutorial, you will need to update the password entry in X-Lite, or you will no longer be able to place calls! In fact, you will get locked out of your server for 90 minutes after three failed password attempts. So put this on a sticky note so you don’t forget, or you’ll regret it in about 15 minutes.

Either a free SIPgate One residential phone number or an IPkall number is a key component in today’s project. And there’s really no reason you can’t use both if they’re available in your location. Do NOT use special characters in your provider passwords, or nothing will work! Continue reading whichever section below applies to you.

Configuring SIPgate. If you live in the U.S. and have a cellphone, we’d recommend the SIPgate option since no adjustment of your hardware-based firewall is required. Otherwise, skip to the IPkall setup below. Step #1 is to request a SIPgate invite at this link. You’ll need to enter your U.S. cellphone number to receive the SMS message with your invitation code. Don’t worry. You can erase your cellphone number from your account once it is set up. Once you receive the invite code, enter it and choose the option to set up a residential account. Next, choose a phone number and write it down. The area code really doesn’t matter because Google Voice is the only one that will be calling this number after we get things set up. For now, leave your cellphone number in place so that you can receive your confirmation call from Google Voice in the next step. After that, you’ll want to revisit SIPgate and remove all parallel calling numbers. Finally, click on the Settings link and write down your SIP ID and SIP Password. You’ll need these in a few minutes to configure PBX in a Flash. Now place a call to your new SIPgate number and make certain that your cellphone rings before proceeding.

Configuring IPkall. If you’ve opted to use IPkall, here’s the drill. First, you’ll need to register for a free IPkall number. This is actually a two-step process. Set it up as a SIP connection when you first register. Then we’ll change it to IAX once your new phone number is provided. So your initial IPkall request should look like this:

We recommend area code 425 for your requested number because IPkall appears to have lots of them. If they don’t have an available number, your request apparently goes in the bit bucket. You’ll know because IPkall typically turns these requests around in a few minutes. Don’t worry about the mothership entry. We’ll change it shortly. The other issue here is your public IP address. If you have a dedicated IP address, no worries. Just plug in the IP address for SIP Proxy. If it’s dynamic, then you’ll need to set up a fully-qualified domain name (FQDN) with a provider such as dyndns.com. Once you’ve got it set up, enter your credentials in the Dynamic DNS tab of your hardware-based firewall to assure that your dynamic IP address is always synchronized with your FQDN. Then enter the FQDN for your SIP Proxy address in the IPkall form. Be sure to make up a VERY secure password. Now send it off and wait for the return email with your new phone number.

When you receive your new phone number, you’ll need to revisit the IPkall site and log in with your phone number and the password you chose above. Make the changes shown below using your actual IPkall phone number instead of 4259876543:

It’s worth stressing that these settings are extremely important so check your work carefully. Be sure the IAX option is selected. Be sure there are no typos in your two phone number entries. And be sure your FQDN or public IP address is correct. Then save your new settings.

We’re going to be making some entries in FreePBX which is the web-GUI that manages PBX in a Flash. For now, we simply need to enter your new IPkall phone number so that incoming calls to your IPkall number will actually ring on your softphone. Later, we’ll make some further adjustments once we get Google Voice humming along.

Using a web browser from your desktop, log in to FreePBX 2.6 at the following link substituting your server’s private IP address for ipaddress: http://ipaddress/admin. You’ll be prompted for a user name (maint) and password (the one you just created with passwd-master).

When FreePBX loads, choose Setup, Trunks, ipkall (iax). In the USER Context field, enter your 10-digit IPkall phone number. Click Submit Changes, Apply Configuration Changes, Continue with Reload to save your settings.

TIP: Be aware that IPkall cancels an assigned phone number after 30 consecutive days of inactivity. If you will be using your number infrequently, it’s a good idea to schedule a Weekly Reminder to call the number with a prerecorded message. This will assure that your number stays functional.

Now let’s test your new phone number. Call your IPkall number from a cellphone or some other phone. Your softphone should ring. Answer the call, and be sure you have voice in both directions! Do not proceed without success here, or the rest of the adventure is a waste of your time.

Configuring Google Voice. Google Voice still is by invitation only so the first thing you’ll need is an invite. If you’re in a hurry, then stroll over to eBay where you’ll find lots of them for under $2. Once you have your invite in hand, click on the email link to set up your account. After you’ve chosen a telephone number, plug in your new SIPgate or IPkall number as the destination for your Google Voice calls and choose Office as the Phone Type. Trust us.

Google then will place a call to your number and ask you to enter a confirmation code that’s been provided. When your cellphone (SIPgate) or softphone (IPkall) rings, answer it and punch in the number. Wait for confirmation. Then hang up.

As we mentioned earlier, there’s no reason you can’t set up both SIPgate and IPkall forwarding numbers in Google Voice. Just repeat the drill with the other provider’s number if you wish to activate both numbers for use with Google Voice. They’re not both going to ring simultaneously as you will see in a minute.

While you’re still in Google Voice Settings, click on the Calls tab. Make sure your settings match these:

  • Call ScreeningOFF
  • Call PresentationOFF
  • Caller ID (In)Display Caller’s Number
  • Caller ID (Out)Don’t Change Anything
  • Do Not DisturbOFF

Click Save Changes once you adjust your settings. Under the Voicemail tab, plug in your email address so you get notified of new voicemails. Down the road, receipt of a Google Voice voicemail will be a big hint that something has come unglued on your PBX.

Finally, place a test call to your new Google Voice number and be sure your cellphone or softphone rings. Don’t move forward until you’ve been able to successfully place a call to your phone by dialing your Google Voice number. Once this is working, revisit SIPgate and remove all parallel calling numbers including your cell number.

Adding Your Credentials to PBX in a Flash. We’re ready to insert your Google Voice credentials and SIPgate/IPkall number into PBX in a Flash. You’ll need four pieces of information: your 10-digit Google Voice phone number, your Google Voice account name (which is the email address you used to set up your GV account), your GV password (no spaces!), and your 11-digit SIPgate or IPkall RingBack DID (beginning with a 1). Don’t get the 10-digit GV number mixed up with the 11-digit SIPgate/IPkall RingBack DID, or nothing will work. :-)

Log back into your server as root and issue the following command: ./configure-gv. Check your entries carefully. If you make a typo in entering any of your data, press Ctrl-C to cancel the script and then run it again!!

Configuring FreePBX. Now shift back to your Desktop and, using a web browser, log in to FreePBX 2.6 at the following link substituting your actual IP address for ipaddress: http://ipaddress/admin. You’ll be prompted for a user name (maint) and password (the one you just created with passwd-master). Depending upon which intermediate provider you’re using, do the following:

SIPgate Setup. When FreePBX loads, choose Setup, Trunks, sipgate. In Peer Details, replace both instances of sipID with your actual SipGate SIP ID. In Peer Details, replace sipPassword with your actual SipGate SIP Password. In Register String, replace sipID with your SipGate SIP ID, replace sipPassword with your SipGate SIP Password, and replace 3333333333 with your 10-digit SipGate Phone Number. When finished, the Register String should look something like the following:

7004484f0:B8TTW3@sipgate.com/4155201234

Click Submit, Apply Configuration Changes, Continue with Reload to save your changes.

SIPgate and IPkall Setup. While still in FreePBX with your browser, click Setup, Inbound Routes, gv-ringback. In DID Number, replace 3333333333 with your 10-digit SIPGate or IPkall Phone Number. In CallerID Number, replace 7777777777 with your 10-digit Google Voice Number.

Click Submit, Apply Configuration Changes, Continue with Reload to save your changes.

Securing FreePBX. You’re almost done. While still in FreePBX, choose each of the 16 preconfigured extensions on your new server and change the extension AND voicemail passwords. Here’s the drill: Setup, Extensions, 501, Submit. After changing secret and Voicemail Password, repeat with the next extension number instead of 501. Then Apply Config Changes, Continue when you’ve finished with all of them.

Now change the default DISA password: Setup, DISA, DISAmain, PIN, Submit Changes, Apply Config Changes, Continue.

Don’t forget to adjust your X-Lite password to match the password entry you made for extension 701!

Orgasmatron Test Flight. The proof is in the pudding as they say. So let’s try two simple tests. First, from another phone, call your Google Voice number. Your softphone should begin ringing shortly. Answer the call and make sure you can send and receive voice on both phones. Hang up. Now let’s place an outbound call. Using the softphone, dial your cellphone number. Google Voice should transparently connect you. Answer the call and make sure you can send and receive voice on both phones. If everything is working, congratulations!

Solving One-Way Audio Problems. If you experience one-way audio on some of your phone calls, you may need to adjust the settings in /etc/asterisk/sip_custom.conf. Just uncomment the first two lines by removing the semicolons. Then replace 173.15.238.123 with your public IP address, and replace 192.168.0.0 with the subnet address of your private network. Save the file and restart Asterisk with the command: amportal restart.

Choosing a VoIP Provider. For this week, we’ll point you to some things to play with on your new server. Then, in the subsequent articles below, we’ll cover in detail how to customize every application that’s been loaded. Nothing beats free when it comes to long distance calls. But nothing lasts forever. So we’d recommend you set up another account with Vitelity using our special link below. This gives your PBX a secondary way to communicate with every telephone in the world, and it also gets you a second real phone number for your new system… so that people can call you. Here’s how it works. You pay Vitelity a deposit for phone service. They then will bill you $3.99 a month for your new phone number. This $3.99 also covers the cost of unlimited inbound calls (two at a time) delivered to your PBX for the month. For outbound calls, you pay by the minute and the cost is determined by where you’re calling. If you’re in the U.S., outbound calls to anywhere in the U.S. are a little over a penny a minute. If you change your mind about Vitelity and want a refund of the balance in your account, all you have to do is ask.

The VoIP world is new territory for some of you. Unlike the Ma Bell days, there’s really no reason not to have multiple VoIP providers especially for outbound calls. Depending upon where you are calling, calls may be cheaper using different providers for calls to different locations. So we recommend having at least two providers. Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum to get some ideas on choosing alternative providers.

Kicking the Tires. OK. That’s enough tutorial for today. Let’s play. Using your new softphone, begin your adventure by dialing these extensions:

  • D-E-M-O – Nerd Vittles Orgasmatron Demo (running on your PBX)
  • 1234*1061 – Nerd Vittles Demo via ISN FreeNum connection to NV
  • 17476009082*1089 – Nerd Vittles Demo via ISN to Google/Gizmo5
  • Z-I-P – Enter a five digit zip code for any U.S. weather report
  • 6-1-1 – Enter a 3-character airport code for any U.S. weather report
  • 5-1-1 – Get the latest news and sports headlines from Yahoo News
  • T-I-D-E – Get today’s tides and lunar schedule for any U.S. port
  • F-A-X – Send a fax to an email address of your choice
  • 4-1-2 – 3-character phonebook lookup/dialer with AsteriDex
  • M-A-I-L – Record a message and deliver it to any email address
  • C-O-N-F – Set up a MeetMe Conference on the fly
  • 1-2-3 – Schedule regular/recurring reminder (PW: 12345678)
  • 2-2-2 – ODBC/Timeclock Lookup Demo (Empl No: 12345)
  • 2-2-3 – ODBC/AsteriDex Lookup Demo (Code: AME)
  • Dial *68 – Schedule a hotel-style wakeup call from any extension
  • 1061*1061 – PBX in a Flash Support Conference Bridge
  • 882*1061VoIP Users Conference every Friday at Noon (EST)


Click above. Enter your name and phone number. Press Connect to begin the call.


Homework. Your homework for this week is to do some exploring. FreePBX is a treasure trove of functionality, and the Orgasmatron build adds a bunch of additional options. See if you can find all of them. For starters, you’ll want to activate CallerID Lookups in FreePBX. Choose Setup, CID Superfecta, Default and enter the maint password you created with passwd-master. Then choose Tools, Module Administration, CallerID Lookup, Enable, Process and Save the Settings. Then edit each of the Inbound Routes and choose CallerID Superfecta as the CID Lookup Source. Save your changes. Finally, choose Setup, CallerID Lookup Sources, CallerID Superfecta and be sure your maint password created with passwd-master is correct here, too. If not, update it. For additional tips, visit the forums.

Be sure to log into your server as root and look through the scripts added in the /root/nv folder. You’ll find all sorts of goodies to keep you busy. s3cmd.faq tells you how to quickly activate the Amazon S3 Cloud Computing service. And, if you’ve heeded our advice and purchased a PogoPlug, you can link to your home-grown cloud. Just add your credentials to /root/pogo-start.sh. Then run the script to enable the PogoPlug Cloud on your server. All of your cloud resources are instantly accessible in /mnt/pogoplug. It’s also perfect for off-site backups!

Also check out Tweet2Dial which lets you use Twitter to make Google Voice calls, send free SMS messages, and manage your new Asterisk server. Don’t forget to List Yourself in Directory Assistance so everyone can find you by dialing 411. And add your new number to the Do Not Call Registry to block telemarketing calls. Or just call 888-382-1222 from your new number. Finally, try out the included Stealth AutoAttendant by dialing your own number and pressing 0 while the greeting is played. This will reroute your call to the demo applications option in the IVR.

Continue reading Part II.

Continue reading Part III.

Continue reading Part IV.

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! We maintain a thread with the latest Patches for Orgasmatron 5.1 and 5.2. Please have a look. Unlike some forums, ours is extremely friendly and is supported by literally hundreds of Asterisk gurus and thousands of ordinary users just like you. So you won’t have to wait long for an answer to your questions.

Coming Attractions. In our next episode, we’ll walk you through the process of adding a second, third, fourth, and fifth Google Voice line to your server so that you’ll never run out of free calling on your server. Enjoy!




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


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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. passwd-master is the PIAF utility for setting a master password for FreePBX access with the maint user account. []
  2. status is the PIAF utility program that displays the current status of most major applications running on your server. []
  3. Mapping a port on your firewall to a private IP address unblocks certain Internet packets and allows them to pass through your firewall directly to an IP device “inside” your firewall for further processing. []
  4. reboot is the Linux command for restarting your server. It’s functionally equivalent to shutdown -r now. []

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