Category: Office Automation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google Glass Setup and Operation

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




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

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

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

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

Originally published: Wednesday, February 5, 2014




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


 
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…

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…

Introducing PBX in a Phone: Grandstream GXP2200 featuring Incredible PBX

One of the long-term goals of the PBX in a Flash™ Project has always been the desire to integrate a full-featured PBX directly into a desktop phone. For those that travel or support small branch offices, this would be the best of all possible worlds. We never quite achieved it with PBX in a Flash, but thanks to the Raspberry Pi™, Grandstream’s new GXP2200, a couple of screws, and a power drill, we’ve found the perfect couple. Imagine managing a virtual private network with your branch office PBX whirring away beneath your desktop phone and nothing more than a touchscreen browser built into your phone. And now you can appreciate what a milestone this is for the VoIP telephony community.

We introduced the GXP2200 in our Black Friday roundup last week, but here are the highlights for those of you that may have missed it. While there have been other VoIP phones built around Android, this is the first affordable unit (under $200)1 that also includes access to Google’s Play Store thanks to Grandstream’s firmware update released last week. This is significant because proprietary app stores mean the phone manufacturer keeps total control of what you can install on your phone while access to Google’s Play Store makes available virtually all of the Android software in the commercial (and free) marketplace.

Why Android Matters with a VoIP Phone

Using Android as the underlying operating system for a VoIP phone provides the best of all worlds with SIP access to your favorite Asterisk® server or Incredible PBX™ for the Raspberry Pi plus Skype, Google Voice, Microsoft Lync, YouTube, Pandora, Facebook, Twitter, and Angry Birds without leaving your chair. The GXP2200 supports six SIP lines, five-way conference calls, HD audio, Bluetooth, integrated PoE, and VPNs of many flavors. You also can add four 20-button sidecar expansion modules. GrooVe IP can be installed from the Google Play Store for plug-and-play Google Voice calling. That gives you the “VoIP Big Three” on a single desktop phone: SIP, Skype, and Google Voice. Plug in an SD card with your favorite tunes and videos, and they’ll play back flawlessly on the GXP2200. The PBX in a Flash RSS Security Feed can also be installed on the desktop of this phone. With the $5 IP Cam Viewer app, you can use your phone to monitor dozens of IP cameras in your organization or anyone else anywhere in the world. AsteriDex also can be used from the phone’s browser to provide click-to-dial calling with any SIP trunk you’ve set up on the phone. And, as we noted, the touchscreen browser lets you access FreePBX® to configure and manage Incredible PBX and your Asterisk server directly from your phone. Did we mention the 1,000-client phone directory and Google Calendar plus dedicated voicemail, call transfer, and conferencing buttons right on the phone? All of them work flawlessly with Asterisk as well as PBX in a Flash and Incredible PBX. While the version of Android is a bit long in the tooth, we haven’t found that to be a distraction when paired with a desktop phone. One of the consultants on the PIAF Forum mentioned that he had taken this phone to a customer site last week. The employees were so impressed with the GXP2200 that they told the boss they would subsidize the cost of the phones if he would purchase them for the office. When is the last time you had that conversation with your boss?

Hooking Up the Raspberry Pi with a GXP2200

The Raspberry Pi integration is accomplished easily because of the new design of the 512MB Raspberry Pi boards with two mounting holes (covered by the two brass-colored nuts above) plus the unique phone stand that is provided with Grandstream’s GXP2200. A quick trip to the hardware store for two one-inch screws and a couple minutes with a power drill, and it was easy enough for any fifth grader to mount the Raspberry Pi on the inner side of the plastic phone stand. Once you slide the stand into place on the phone, the Raspberry Pi is completely hidden inside the phone stand with plenty of ventilation to operate unobtrusively for years. A 6-inch CAT5 cable will let you take advantage of the spare network jack on the back of the phone to add network connectivity for the Raspberry Pi. Insert your SD card with Incredible PBX, power up the Raspberry Pi with a 5-volt adapter, and your branch office PBX comes to life. Fire up your phone’s browser, log in to http://incrediblepbx.local, and your entire PBX is quite literally at your fingertips:

By the time your GXP2200 is delivered, Incredible PBX 3.6 for the Raspberry Pi will be on the street featuring Incredible Fax.2 Then you’ll have everything any remote office could ever ask for, and it’ll all be neatly tucked away beneath your telephone with management convenience like you’ve never experienced. Enjoy!

Originally published: Monday, November 26, 2012




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. Some of our purchase links refer users to Amazon when we find their prices are competitive for the recommended products. Nerd Vittles receives a small referral fee from Amazon to help cover the costs of our blog. We never recommend particular products solely to generate Amazon commissions. However, when pricing is comparable or availability is favorable, we support Amazon because Amazon supports us. []
  2. If you have that pioneering spirit, you can take the Preview Edition of Incredible PBX 3.6 for a spin today. []

Introducing PPTP VPNs: The Travelin’ Man’s Best Friend

It’s been almost three years since we introduced VoIP Over VPN to securely interconnect Asterisk® servers. As LogMeIn® continues to squeeze the free Hamachi® VPN into oblivion, we’ll have a new, Really Free™ matrix VPN solution for you in coming weeks. This will let you interconnect up to 256 PBX in a Flash™ servers in minutes, not months, with no muss, no fuss, no fees, and no licensing worries. But today we want to begin VPN Month by turning our attention to those that need a virtual private network to connect back to a home office network or a home for that matter. This includes the traveling businessman or woman, the physician or lawyer with multiple remote offices, and any hub-and-spoke business such as a bank that has small branch offices that need to transparently link back to the mothership for network and communications services. The hidden beauty of PPTP VPNs is that all data (including phone calls) travels through an encrypted tunnel between the satellite office and home base. If you travel for a living and rely on other people’s WiFi networks for Internet access, a layer of network security will be a welcome addition.

Believe it or not, Microsoft introduced the Point-to-Point-Tunneling-Protocol (PPTP) with Windows 95. Back then we knew it as Dial-Up Networking. Suffice it to say that, in those days, PPTP was anything but secure. Unfortunately, the bad name kinda stuck. For the most part, the security issues have been addressed with the possible exception of man-in-the-middle attacks which are incredibly difficult to pull off unless you are a service provider or have access to the wiring closets of your employer. You can read the long history of PPTP VPNs on Wikipedia for more background. If you’re traveling to China or other democracy-challenged destinations, you probably shouldn’t rely upon PPTP for network security. If these security considerations aren’t applicable in your situation, keep reading because PPTP VPNs are incredibly useful and extremely easy to deploy for an extra layer of VoIP and network security in most countries that have severe wiretapping penalties in place.

PPTP VPNs also provide home-away-from-home transparency to home office network services. Simply stated, with a PPTP VPN, you get a private IP address on the home office LAN that lets you do almost anything you could have done sitting at a desk in the home office. There’s more good news. Fifteen years ago, we paid Cisco thousands of dollars for hardware boxes known as PPTP VPN Concentrators. You can still find some of them on eBay. For history buffs, a little company in California originally built these boxes. I think we paid about $3,000 for them. One year later Cisco bought the company and promptly doubled the price. Today, you can Do It For Free™ using your existing PIAF2 server platform. And, trust me, today’s 2-minute setup runs circles around the hoops we jumped through 15 years ago to install PPTP VPNs. Once deployed, they revolutionized mobile computing.

If you’re already running one or more PIAF2™ servers, then adding a PPTP VPN server to an existing system is a job for a Fifth Grader. Remember, you only need to do this on one server at your home base even if you have a dozen. The other good news is there are PPTP VPN clients for almost any platform you can name. Linux, Windows, Macs, Android, as well as iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch devices all have free PPTP VPN clients that can be activated in less than a minute giving you instant, secure home base access.

Getting Started. We’re assuming you already have a PBX in a Flash 2 server set up behind a hardware-based firewall. If not, start there. Next, we’ll need to download and run the installer for your PPTP VPN Server. Just log into your server as root and issue the following commands:

wget http://incrediblepbx.com/install-pptp
chmod +x install-pptp
./install-pptp

UPDATE: For those of you still running a PBX in a Flash 1.7.x server under CentOS 5, we have a separate install script for you thanks to the great work of scurry7:

wget http://incrediblepbx.com/install-pptp-centos5
chmod +x install-pptp-centos5
./install-pptp-centos5

The Server Install: Five Easy Pieces. The installer will walk you through these five installation steps, but we’ll repeat them here so you have a ready reference down the road.

First, on your hardware-based firewall, map TCP port 1723 to the private IP address of your PIAF2 server. This tells the router to send all PPTP VPN traffic to your PIAF2 server when it hits your firewall. If you forget this step, your PPTP VPN will never work!

Second, you’re going to need a dedicated IP address on your private LAN to assign to the PPTP VPN server. Make sure it’s not an IP address from your router’s DHCP pool of addresses, and make sure it’s not one of the addresses from Step #3 below.

Third, you’re going to need two or more sequential IP addresses on your private LAN to assign to PPTP VPN clients that connect to your server. Remember, the PPTP design makes every remote client a node on your local area network so each client needs a private IP address on your LAN. Figure out how many client devices will be simultaneously connecting to your server and add one to it. Make sure the addresses you choose are in sequential order and not part of your router’s DHCP pool of addresses. Don’t use the address reserved for your PPTP server in Step #2 above. The address range should look something like this entry: 192.168.0.41-49. If you get the syntax wrong, guess what happens? If you screw it up, you can edit your localip and remoteip entries in /etc/pptpd.conf.

Fourth, each user is going to need a username to access your PPTP server. We’re going to set up credentials for one user as part of the install. You can add extra ones by adding entries to /etc/ppp/chap-secrets. For an extra layer of security, make the username as obscure as a password. Just don’t use any special characters. Upper and lowercase letters sprinkled with numbers are perfect. We recommend a length of at least 8 alphanumeric characters.

Fifth, make up an equally secure password to access your PPTP server. Same rules apply as in Step #4.

You’re done. Review your entries very carefully. If all is well, press Enter. If you blink, you may miss the completion of the install process. It’s that quick.

Configuring PPTP Client Devices. As we mentioned, there are available PPTP clients for Linux and Windows machines and Macs as well as Android and Apple smartphones and tablets. We’ve documented the steps for the various client setups on the PBX in a Flash Forum. Come visit! You’ll also discover some great tips from our resident gurus. We also would encourage you to post any questions that arise in your use of PPTP VPNs in that thread. You’ll get a quick and courteous response.

Secure VoIP Calling. The collateral benefit of implementing a PPTP VPN on your PIAF server is that all calls between remote extensions and home base can now be transmitted through a secure VPN tunnel. The only adjustment necessary using a SIP client on either an Android or Apple device is to replace the public server IP address with the server’s LAN IP address, and all of the communications traffic will flow through the VPN tunnel. The way we set up our Android phone with the Bria SIP client is to allocate an extension from the home office PIAF server to the SIP client and then enter the private IP address of the PIAF server in the Bria configuration. Then, when you’re at home base with WiFi, the client just works. And, when you’re on the road, just turn on the PPTP VPN, and Bria will register through the VPN tunnel using the exact same settings. It’s that easy, and it works great with WiFi or 3G/4G.

Checking for Connected Clients. If you get curious about who is logged into your PPTP server, here’s the command that’ll let you know: last | grep ppp.

GPL2 License. The install-pptp application is open source software licensed under GPL2. It has been specifically tailored for use on PBX in a Flash 2 (and now PIAF 1.7.x) servers, but it can easily be adjusted to work with virtually any Linux-based Asterisk system. If you make additions or changes, we hope you’ll share them on our forums for the benefit of the entire VoIP community. Enjoy!

What’s Next? For a more traditional client-server VPN which still relies upon a central server but uses a star topology to connect remote nodes, see this new Nerd Vittles article on the NeoRouter VPN.

Originally published: Monday, April 9, 2012




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


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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Welcome to Frontier Days

One of my favorite vacations as a kid was spent enjoying Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming. If you’ve never been with your family, you need to add this to your Bucket List. It’s a week-long celebration that you’ll never forget. To commemorate this year’s event which is going on right now, we decided to celebrate by staging our own Frontier Days here at Nerd Vittles. It provides you an opportunity to join with us in kicking the tires of all the new stuff we’re working on this summer to write about in the fall. In the grand tradition of Cheyenne’s Frontier Days, expect a wild ride! If you’re a bit squeamish about knowing how sausage is made, today’s introduction to new projects may not be your cup of tea. For the pioneers, it’s Party Time! So let’s get started.

Introducing Asterisk 10. At the top of our list is the brand new Asterisk®, formerly known as Asterisk 1.10. You’ll want to read Kevin Fleming’s announcement of the name change, and then read Malcolm Davenport’s summarization of the new product. Here are a few excerpts:

A major focus of the Asterisk 10 development cycle was Asterisk’s support for media types. In versions of Asterisk 1.8 and prior, Asterisk supported a rather limited number of codecs due to some architectural limitations. Plumbing was ripped out, kitchens were remodeled, girders were swapped, and Asterisk 10 now has a media architecture that’s capable of handling both a nearly unlimited number of codecs as well as codecs with more complex parameters…

Asterisk 10 [also] provides basic video conferencing support. That’s right, if you and your friends have video-capable SIP devices, that all speak the same video codec and profile, you can create multi-party video conferences.

Asterisk 10 can also improve your faxing experience. Asterisk 1.4 is capable of T.38 pass-through, where one T.38 capable endpoint can send a fax directly to another T.38 capable endpoint – usually a couple of SIP peers. Asterisk 1.6.X and 1.8 are capable of T.38 termination, where Asterisk can read/write TIFF files from/to T.38 endpoints. Now, with Asterisk 10, transparency between non-T.38 and T.38 is possible.

Whenever there are major plumbing changes, there usually are some major surprises awaiting those of us that depend upon Asterisk to actually make calls. That’s where you come in. Tom King has quickly put together a new PBX in a Flash 1.7.5.6.3 ISO that includes PIAF-Red, aka the new Asterisk 10. We encourage you to try it on a non-production machine, and report any problems both to us (on the PIAF Forum) and to Digium® (in the Bug Tracker). Here’s a download link to get you started. Here’s the new Cepstral TTS installer.

Introducing Incredible PBX 2.0. Frontier Days wouldn’t be complete without a new version of Incredible PBX. In this beta release, we’ve reworked Google Voice support and added one of the most requested features, the ability to enter dial strings for trunks in outbound routes the old-fashioned way.

On the Google Voice front, we’ve replaced the hard-coded Google Voice code in Incredible PBX 1.8 with Marcus Brown’s new FreePBX® module. It not only makes Google Voice usage optional, but it also lets you add and remove multiple Google Voice trunks to your heart’s content. And the setup process takes less than a minute to enter your credentials.

Incredible PBX 2.0 also includes Andrew Nagy’s new Swiss Army Knife Module for FreePBX. This module adds some of the most requested features that currently are missing from FreePBX 2.8 and 2.9:

  • Export a CSV file of your Dial Patterns from Outbound Dial Plans
  • Use Textbox Dial Patterns for Outbound Routes
  • Modified Blacklist Module allowing any value, not just numbers
  • Coming Soon: reg-exp black/white list module

If you’d like to take Incredible PBX 2.0 for a spin, here’s a download link with instructions. Be aware that this version is NOT suitable for use on any system that is not also protected by a hardware-based firewall. For example, don’t use it on a hosted server such as RentPBX.com just yet. We use a different security model on hosted and cloud-based systems, and it is NOT included in this build. Finally, Incredible PBX 2.0 is not yet compatible with Asterisk 10 and PIAF-Red, but we’re working on it.

Introducing Google+. Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you probably have heard that Google has a new little product of its own. In less than 3 weeks, Google+ has grown to over 20 million users, and it’s still by invitation only. You can read our writeup of it on Nerd Vittles. Suffice it to say, it is a game changer for those of us in the technology business. It’s an almost perfect tool for carrying on a problem-solving dialog, and we plan to make extensive use of it in coming months to support PBX in a Flash and Incredible PBX. Don’t be shy. We’ve got plenty of invites. All you have to do is drop us a note and include the word Google+ so we’ll know what you need. We’re turning requests around in less than a day. One final hint. Use your real name on Google Voice, or the Soup Nazi may remove your account. It’s become a bit of a brouhaha at the moment… as one might expect during Frontier Days.

Introducing OS X Lion. Apple has not been asleep at the wheel either. Their new operating system release is extraordinarily good but only available as an over-the-air update to an existing OS X 10.6.8 system. You can read our writeup of the gotchas for a quick and painless install. And, if you’re in the market for a new notebook, we can’t say enough good things about the new MacBook Air. It’s in a league of its own.

Introducing Google Chromebooks. Last but not least, we need to say a few words about the amazing new Chromebooks running Google’s Chrome OS. As with cellphones, Google is not making the hardware. So you have a choice of Samsung or Acer at the moment. The Samsung model starts at $429 for the WiFi only model. The comparable Acer machine is $80 cheaper. We opted for the Samsung WiFi machine which is well made, has an incredible battery life, and just works. For 95% of what we do, it’s a perfect device. There’s a short list of gotcha’s. First, you’ve got to have network connectivity since everything is cloud-based. Second, if your requirements include a lot of graphics manipulation and editing, this probably is not the machine for you quite yet. Finally, if movies (NetFlix) and music (Spotify) are must-have’s, you’d better wait a month or two until those products are available for the Chromebook. Google Music, which allows you to put your own music collection in the cloud, works fine today! There’s an add-on extension to Chrome for Google Voice. As of yesterday, it works flawlessly to make and receive calls. In summary, if your computing requirements primarily involve surfing the web, email, and SSH, then you’re going to be very happy with the Chromebook.

In our case, we’re trying to alternate our use between a Chromebook and the new MacBook Air. So far, we’ve been very satisfied with both. And the Chromebook is 1/4 the cost! Pioneers Forever! Enjoy!

Originally published: Tuesday, July 26, 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…

Donate Now To Claim Your $299 Web Appointment System

hitAppoint Demo

It's back-to-school time in the United States, and we want to lessen the pain of the transition with a deal you simply cannot refuse. Here's how it works. Every fall we solicit contributions to Nerd Vittles so that we can keep the lights on for another year. We try to reward our readers with great deals whenever we find them but especially during donation season. So this one is especially for you, our loyal readers! You'll find a PayPal Donate button just to the right. It works with every major credit card whether you have a PayPal account or not. For everyone that makes a contribution to Nerd Vittles this month, we'll forward a portion of your contribution to Ward Mundy & Associates, an organization we know and love, to purchase on your behalf a fully licensed copy of hitAppoint to run on a server of your choice. Ward Mundy & Associates already has purchased an unlimited distribution license to hitAppoint. We hope you'll consider running hitAppoint with PBX in a Flash or the Incredible PBX because, over the next few months, we'll be writing a new module for hitAppoint that lets you add Telephone Reminders and Client/Patient Confirmations when the software is run on PBX in a Flash systems. Who knows? We may even get energetic and write a module to let folks schedule appointments using their Plain Old Telephone.

What's the Catch? Sorry. There isn't one other than our assumption that you're a loyal Nerd Vittles reader. We obviously have no way to check. Just make a donation to Nerd Vittles this month and patiently await an email from us telling you how to download your software. If you're a long time reader of Nerd Vittles, you already know about our previous contributions to the open source and shareware communities. And today is no different even though this is commercial software. Yes, the Little Mrs. is not going to be happy. So there goes the new house... again.

Can I Pass the Software On? No. Your copy of hitAppoint will be licensed just to you or the entity making a donation to Nerd Vittles. And it's for use on a single server. This is the identical commercial software product that can be purchased from the hitAppoint web site for $299.

What Are Typical Uses for hitAppoint? The hitAppoint web site lists a number of real-world examples of how hitAppoint is being used. These include scheduling of medical appointments, fitness and wellness appointment scheduling, piano or guitar lessons, tutoring appointments, photographic services scheduling, workout class appointments, hair salon scheduling, carpet cleaning services, and almost any other trade or profession that involves scheduling of people's time or facilities.

Is it Full-Featured? You bet. It's one of the best in the business. That's why we chose it! Here's an overview of hitAppoint functionality in the latest release:

    Appointments

  • Appointment packs
  • Multiple seats at a time if needed
  • Customer can request/cancel appointment
  • Provider can create/accept/reject appointment
  • Manage past appointments
  • View appointments during any time period
  • Color for appointment status
  • Customizable automatic confirmation emails
  • Export to Outlook, iCal apps, Google Calendar
  • Export to Excel or any CSV-capable software
  • View apptmt by customer, provider, location
  • Day appointments visual view
  • One screen print view
  • Review appointments before scheduling
  • Configure service, location, provider, time
  • Move appointment to another location
  • Reassign appointment to another provider
  • Reschedule appointment to different time
  • Custom additional fields for appointments
  • Recurring Appointments
    Payments

  • Paypal integration
  • Authorize.Net integration
  • SagePage integration
  • Accept offline payments at your office
    Customers

  • Configure to allow registered users only
  • Require customer email validation
  • Require admin approval for new customer
  • Additional information fields for customer data
  • Search for customers by any field
  • View customer appointment history
  • Use of customer database from other apps
  • Temporarily suspend users
    Providers

  • Assign provider to any service and location
  • Flexible availability schedule for providers
  • Specify individual time off
    Services

  • Variable duration and pricing for sessions
  • Lead-in and lead-out times
  • Flexible availability for every service
  • Configure providers and locations for service
  • Define when advance booking is possible
  • Define when appointment cancellation is possible
    Locations

  • Flexible availability scheduling by location
  • Configure services and providers by location
    System

  • Tailor look and feel with themes
  • Integrate with WordPress
  • Integrate with Joomla
  • Multi-language support

Prerequisites. Here's what you'll need on your host machine which could be either Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X:

* Apache web server
* PHP (version 4.1 or greater or PHP 5)
* MySQL 3.23 or greater
* phpMyAdmin (strongly recommended)

In the Windows world, the easiest way to get everything you need is to install WampServer 2. With Mac OS X, we'd recommend XAMPP. For Linux, all you need is PBX in a Flash. If you plan to run hitAppoint in a hosted environment (e.g. WestNIC, LunarPages, BlueHost), we'd recommend you choose a provider that includes cPanel. This makes it easy to set up your MySQL database and credentials. The three providers we've listed all provide the necessary software to run hitAppoint, and we've used all three of them with good results. The three are ranked in our order of preference.

Downloading & Installing hitAppoint. If you're installing this on a PBX in a Flash server, it's incredibly simple and takes less than a minute. Log into your server as root and issue the following commands. Then skip down to the Running Setup section below:

cd /root
wget http://pbxinaflash.com/hitappoint.tgz
tar zxvf hitappoint.tgz
./hitappoint.sh

For those not installing hitAppoint on a PBX in a Flash server, download the hitAppoint software from the link that was provided in the email from us. The link changes regularly so download it as soon as you receive your email confirmation. Unzip the file in the root directory of your web server so that hitAppoint can be accessed using a web browser pointed to:

http://your-server-ipaddress-or-FQDN/hitappoint/

Step #2 is to create a MySQL database and user with permissions to manage hitAppoint.

On cPanel hosted systems, there will be a MySQL Databases option. Choose it and create a new database called hitappoint. This will actually create a database called nerd_hitappoint where nerd is your cPanel account name. Now add a new username and call it hitappoint as well. Then choose a very secure password for this username. Then click the Create User button. Finally, move to the Add User to Database option and specify nerd_hitappoint as the database and nerd_hitappoint as the user (using your own cPanel account name obviously). Then click the Add button.

On systems with phpMyAdmin, use a browser to open the application. Click on the Privileges option in the center column. Then click Add a New User. For Username, choose Use Text Field and enter hitappoint. For Host, choose Local and it will default to Localhost. For Password, choose Use Text Field and enter a very secure password twice. In the Database for User section of the form, choose the radio button marked "Create database with same name and grant all privileges." Now move to the bottom of the form and click the Go button.

Now you're ready to configure hitAppoint to use your newly created MySQL database. Use your favorite editor to open db.rename_it.php in the new hitappoint directory on your web server. Change the default entries so that they look like the following but use your actual password instead of yourpassword for the MySQL user account you created:

define( 'NTS_DB_HOST', 'localhost');
define( 'NTS_DB_USER', 'hitappoint');
define( 'NTS_DB_PASS', 'yourpassword');
define( 'NTS_DB_NAME', 'hitappoint');

If you're on a hosted platform, don't forget to add your prefix (e.g. nerd_) to both the DB_USER and DB_NAME entries. Then save your changes and rename db.rename_it.php to db.php.

Running Setup. You're almost finished with the installation. Using your favorite browser, call up the following page and follow the prompts:

http://your-server-ipaddress-or-FQDN/hitappoint/setup.php

When you finish running the setup procedure, delete setup.php in the /hitappoint directory.

Language Support. hitAppoint has been designed to support multiple languages. Unfortunately, it has not yet been translated into German, French, and Spanish. The entire translation process takes only an hour or so. If you are fluent in both Spanish and English, please drop us a note, and we'll walk you through the translation procedure. In addition, we'll share your handiwork with the rest of the hitAppoint community.

Getting Started. After you've downloaded and installed the software, review the hitAppoint Getting Started Guide for instructions on configuring the software to meet your needs. Here's an example of what you can create in less than 10 minutes. And, as you can see, integrating the live application into existing web sites, forums, or blogs takes only a couple minutes. Feel free to make some sample entries. We won't bill you. :wink: 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...

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