Category: Cellular

The XiVO Adventure Continues: Adding Incredible PBX Goodies to Your Sandbox

We began our XiVO adventure last week by introducing a terrific new communications platform for both businesses and hobbyists. This week we begin the task of incorporating the Incredible PBX Goody Bag into an already amazing PBX, and we’ll cover about a dozen new topics. We’ll also address a few XiVO basics such as where to find and how to use the backups that XiVO makes every morning while many of us are still sleeping. Since a new XiVO release is imminent, we also want to show you how easy it is to upgrade your server. Before we get to the good stuff, we want to take a moment and document a fourth platform for XiVO that will appeal to many large organizations and perhaps some of our pioneers. It’s our platform of choice for development of new applications.

Installing XiVO as a VMware Virtual Machine

If your organization runs VMware, you may not need to worry about finding your own platform for XiVO. You can get your IT guys to build you a XiVO VM using XiVO’s Debian-based ISO. Then again, you might have followed our tutorial and chosen to run your own VMware ESXi server. In either case, a quick refresher on getting XiVO installed may be helpful. Begin by downloading XiVO to your Windows desktop. Then log into VMware vSphere Client on your Windows machine to access ESXi.

First, you’ll want to upload the XiVO ISO as a VMware guest operating system so that it can be used to create virtual machines at any time. From your inventory, click on the Configuration tab. Then click Storage under the Hardware listing. When your Datastore appears, right-click on datastore1 and choose Browse Datastore. Finally, click the Upload Files to this Datastore icon in your Datastore Browser and choose Upload File option. Choose the XiVO ISO from the Upload Items menu to upload it into your Datastore.

Now we’re ready to create a Virtual Machine. Right-click on the IP address of your VMware server and choose New Virtual Machine. Leave the Typical Configuration option selected and click Next. Give the virtual machine a name and click Next. Select the Destination Storage device and click Next. For the Operating System, choose Linux and pick Debian 8 (64-bit) then Next. Choose the NIC to use for the VM and click Next. Choose your Virtual Disk Size and Thin Provision option then Next. Check the box to Edit Virtual Machine Settings Before Completion and click Continue. Click the Options tab in Virtual Machine Properties and click Boot Options. Check the Force BIOS Setup option on next boot. Click Finish.

Starting your virtual machine the first time is not exactly intuitive so follow these steps carefully and in order. Keep in mind that, on the initial bootup of your virtual machine, what we want to do is run the XiVO ISO installer just as if we had booted a standalone machine using a CD on which we had burned the XiVO ISO. To begin the boot process correctly, first highlight your new VM by clicking on it and then choose Power on Virtual Machine. Next, click on the CD/DVD icon in the toolbar, choose CD/DVD Drive 1, choose connect to ISO image on Datastore. Double-click on datastore1 and then double-click on the XiVO ISO we uploaded previously. Now click on Launch Virtual Machine Console icon in the toolbar. When the BIOS setup utility appears, click in the window and use the Right Arrow key to move to the Boot tab. Move the CD-ROM option to the top of the list by highlighting it and pressing the + key to move it up. Press F10 to Save and Exit from the BIOS Setup and boot into your XiVO ISO. Click Install option to begin the regular XiVO installation procedure. When you finish the install, log into your server as root and obtain your IP address: ifconfig. You then can exit from the Console window by pressing Ctrl-Alt and use a browser to complete the install by pointing to the IP address of your virtual machine. Don’t forget that root SSH access is disabled by default. Our original tutorial will show you how to fix it AND install the Travelin’ Man 3 firewall whitelist to protect your server.

Adding a RingPlus SIP Trunk for Unified Communications with Sprint

Last week we began the XiVO adventure by turning on free Google Voice calling in the U.S. and Canada. Today we want to integrate smartphones into the mix by providing an incredibly simple and dirt cheap way to expand your XiVO communications platform while transparently meshing it with a RingPlus smartphone and the Sprint cellular network. When we’re finished, calls to your smartphone will also ring on one or more XiVO extensions. And designated users of your XiVO PBX will be able to place free calls to U.S. destinations using a SIP trunk tied directly to your RingPlus cellular account. These calls won’t be cellular. They’ll be pure VoIP calls using Sprint’s Internet backbone so listen for that pin to drop. If you have a (free) unlimited calling plan with RingPlus, then you’ll inherit a (free) unlimited calling plan for your XiVO PBX. Stated another way, whatever calling minutes you have with RingPlus can be shared on your XiVO PBX as inbound and outbound VoIP calls. The silver lining is that voicemails left on RingPlus get transcribed and delivered to your email address in seconds. So you get the best of both worlds. That’s what Unified Communications is all about!

Don’t worry if you’re late to the party and not yet a RingPlus user. They announce new deals every week so just check every few days until you find a plan that meets your needs. You won’t have to wait long. Here’s a list of all the previously announced PROMOS to give you a good handle on the scope of the RingPlus offerings. Deals don’t last but a couple hours or days so check often or sign up for RingPlus Alerts on SlickDeals and you’ll be the first to know! There’s a terrific deal tonight only from 8 p.m. until midnight.



We’ve already documented the XiVO setup procedure on the PIAF Forum so hop over there to see how easy this is. Keep in mind that XiVO differs a bit from FreePBX® in the way Outbound Calls are managed. In FreePBX, you prioritized the routes by arranging them in a hierarchical list. In XiVO, you use unique dial strings, e.g. NXXNXXXXXX, for every Outbound Route. So, if you’re adding RingPlus to an existing XiVO server that already is using the NXXNXXXXXX dial string, then you’d need to use a different dial string to route calls out through the RingPlus trunk, e.g. 77NXXNXXXXXX with Stripnum=2. That tells XiVO that your users will dial calls to be handled by RingPlus with a prefix of 77 (RP), and then we want XiVO to strip off the first two digits before passing the call to the RingPlus SIP trunk for processing.

If you’re new to RingPlus, start with the original Nerd Vittles article for some background and then follow the RingPlus threads on the PIAF Forum and DSL Reports for the latest tips and tricks.

Adding a FreeVoipDeal (Betamax) SIP Trunk for Free International Calling

Before deploying a SIP trunk from one of the Betamax companies, read our latest article about Betamax for tips and tricks and land mines to watch out for. Then click the link below when you’re ready to deploy FreeVoipDeal as a trunk on your XiVO PBX:


Everything You Need to Know About XiVO Backups

Another feature of XiVO that separates the men from the boys is its documentation. In the case of backups, you’ll find everything you need to know here. All backups are stored on your XiVO server’s local drive in /var/backups/xivo. Be sure you have ample storage space available and, if you’re smart, you’ll copy both data.tgz and db.tgz from the local drive to a safe remote location periodically just in case disaster strikes. The documentation shows you how to quickly restore a backup should that ever become necessary.

Upgrading XiVO to the Latest Release

The XiVO development cycle is nothing short of miraculous. A new version is released every two weeks! The average time to close a bug has dropped from 315 days in 2009 to 28 days in 2012! You’ll probably want to keep your system current. 🙂

Upgrading XiVO is even easier than restoring a backup. Upgrade documentation is available here. Because we’ve added the Travelin’ Man 3 firewall, we recommend stopping IPtables during an upgrade and then restarting it when you’re finished. Your phone system is disabled during the upgrade. When upgrading XiVO, remember to also upgrade all associated XiVO Clients. Be sure to verify that things are back to normal once the upgrade procedure is completed: xivo-service status.

The commands to upgrade your XiVO PBX are as follows:

/etc/init.d/netfilter-persistent stop
xivo-upgrade
iptables-restart

Update: There’s a great tip from one of the XiVO developers on a better way to do this. See the first comment below.

Prerequisites for Today’s XiVO Adventure

If you’re just getting started with XiVO, DON’T START HERE. Read our first article. Be sure you have completed the following 8 steps before proceeding:

  1. Set Up Root SSH Access to Your XiVO PBX
  2. Set Up the Travelin’ Man 3 IPtables Firewall Using an SSH/Putty Connection
  3. Complete the XiVO Setup Using a Web Browser
  4. Create At Least One User with a 701 Extension
  5. Create At Least One SIP Trunk to Use for Outbound Calls
  6. Configure Outbound Call Settings for Your Trunk Using NXXNXXXXXX
  7. Configure an Inbound Route for Trunk Pointing to Your User Account
  8. If Behind NAT Firewall, Set externip and local network in General Settings -> SIP Protocol -> Network

Creating a MeetMe Conference Room for XiVO

There are just two steps to setting up a conference room. First, you need to add the extensions you will use for your conferences in the Default context. Then you add the Conference Room under IPBX Settings. Let’s set up a conference room extension 2663 (C-O-N-F). In your Default context, click on the Conference Rooms tab and enter an extension range of 2663-2664 and click Save. Then, in the Conference Rooms tab, click the + icon to add a new CONF conference room at extension 2663 in the Default context. You can experiment with the other settings when you have some spare time. The entries are pretty much self-explanatory. Click Save to activate your conference room. You won’t have music on hold for the first participant just yet. We’ll do that next.

Adding Music on Hold to XiVO

By default, XiVO doesn’t come with any music on hold. Fortunately, Digium has negotiated a music on hold license that you can use to add it to your PBX at no cost. While logged into your XiVO PBX as root, issue the following commands:

cd /
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/moh-xivo.tar.gz
tar zxvf moh-xivo.tar.gz
/etc/init.d/asterisk restart

Asterisk Application Development with XiVO

For those coming from the FreePBX world, here’s a quick introduction to Asterisk application development on the XiVO platform. First and foremost, there are more similarities than differences. In the FreePBX environment, custom dialplan code was stored in /etc/asterisk/extensions_custom.conf. For custom extensions that you wanted to add, that code had to appear in the [from-internal-custom] context. For custom dialplan contexts, those appeared immediately below the last entry in the [from-internal-custom] context. If your custom code appeared anywhere else, there was always the risk that it might be overwritten with your next FreePBX reload.

The XiVO design is quite different. As we noted last week, it is not an Asterisk code generator at all, unlike FreePBX. Instead, it has a realtime interface to Asterisk using its PostGreSQL database engine. Updates are nearly instantaneous without reloading Asterisk modules from disk.



The other advantage is you won’t have to worry about XiVO stepping on your custom code as long as you leave PostGreSQL alone. HINT! The good news is there still are hooks to add your own custom dialplan extensions and code as well as PHP/AGI scripts. And it’s easy. In XiVO, custom extensions are stored in xivo-extrafeatures.conf which you’ll find in the /etc/asterisk/extensions_extra.d directory. Don’t edit files in /etc/asterisk/extensions_extra.d from the Linux command prompt! Instead, use the editor built into the XiVO GUI by selecting Configuration Files under IPBX configuration. This will automatically assure that realtime updates are posted correctly. To add additional contexts to your dialplan, create separate files for each context and store them in this same directory. Again, the easy way to make certain that Asterisk is updated automatically when you add new code snippets is to create and edit them within the XiVO GUI. These files all will appear under IPBX Configuration -> Configuration Files as well.

In order to better mimic the FreePBX way of doing things so that your PHP/AGI scripts work in either environment, we recommend issuing the following symlink while logged into XiVO. We’ll do it as part of the SQLite3 install below.

ln -s /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin /usr/share/asterisk/agi-bin

Once you’ve established the symlink, PHP/AGI scripts can be migrated from FreePBX to XiVO directly using the same directory structure for storage: /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin. As with FreePBX, all files in this directory should be owned by asterisk with 775 permissions:

chown asterisk:asterisk /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin/*
chmod 775 /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin/*

There are many other powerful features in XiVO that weren’t available at all in FreePBX. We’ll cover some of them in coming months. In the meantime, this brief overview of the dialplan environment should be sufficient to let you start building.

Installing SQLite3 to Support Incredible PBX Applications

There’s one other difference between XiVO and FreePBX that we’ve already touched upon. But it bears repeating here. XiVO doesn’t use MySQL or MariaDB for its database management tasks. Instead, the XiVO development team chose PostGreSQL which is equally powerful, but different. For the Incredible PBX application suite, we’ve chosen to rewrite the ones that depend upon MySQL so that they can run under SQLite3 which is considerably less processor intensive than running both PostGreSQL and MySQL 24/7. We also didn’t want to interfere with the PostGreSQL setup of XiVO since it is an integral component of the product and will get upgraded automatically as part of the regular XiVO upgrade cycle.

Here’s how to put the SQLite3 and corresponding ODBC components in place on your new server. While logged into your server as root, simply issue the following commands:

cd /
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/sqlite3-xivo.tar.gz
tar zxvf sqlite3-xivo*
rm -f sqlite3-xivo.tar.gz
cd /root
./sqlite3-xivo.sh

Running a couple SQLite3 queries using the ZIPCODES and ASTERIDEX databases will give you a feel for the performance you can expect from SQLite3. The queries might look like this:

sqlite3 /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin/zipcodes.sqlite "select zip,city,state from zipcodes where zip=29401;"
sqlite3 /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin/asteridex.sqlite 'select name,out from user1 where name LIKE "%Airlines%";'

And here are the results of the two queries:

29401|CHARLESTON|SC
--------------------------------
American Airlines|8004337300
Continental Airlines|8005250280
Delta AirLines|8002211212
Frontier Airlines|8004321359
Iberia AirLines|8007724642
Midway Airlines|8004464392
Northwest Airlines|8002252525
Southwest Airlines|8004359792
Ted Airlines|8002255833
United Airlines|8002416522
WestJet Airlines|8005385696
Yemen Airlines|8009368300

We’ve included a bonus script in /root that will let you convert existing MySQL databases to SQLite3. For example, if you’re currently using AsteriDex on another Incredible PBX platform, it only takes a couple seconds to convert your MySQL database to SQLite3. The syntax to run the script should look like this:

./mysql2sqlite3.sh -u root -ppassw0rd yourdatabase | sqlite3 yourdatabase.sqlite

You obviously cannot run the script on your XiVO server because your MySQL databases and MySQL itself are missing. So move the script to the server on which your MySQL databases are stored and run it there using the above syntax. Then copy the asteridex.sqlite file to your XiVO server and save it in /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin.

Installing and Activating the Festival TTS Engine with Asterisk

We’ve got a couple more building blocks to put in place to support Incredible PBX applications. Then we’ll be ready to kick the tires with a few applications to get you started. In coming weeks, we’ll finish up the conversion of the remaining apps, and then we’ll publish an Incredible PBX installer for XiVO with all the pieces. But why wait? Finish up installing the remaining pieces today, and you’ll have something to play with. And, as we said, it will also provide you with simple scripts so you can actually see how Incredible PBX is put together.

Many of the Incredible PBX applications rely upon text-to-speech and/or voice recognition (speech-to-text) to work their magic. Neither comes installed with XiVO by default, but Asterisk was properly configured to support Festival so let’s work with that. Festival is the Big Brother of FLITE and includes some additional voices of fairly good quality. The XiVO Demo IVR will give you an idea of the TTS voice quality you can expect:

To get Festival installed and activated for use with Asterisk, issue these commands:

cd /
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/festival-xivo.tar.gz
tar zxvf festival-xivo.tar.gz
cd /root
./festival-xivo.sh

Installing Dial Plan Code for Sample Incredible PBX Applications

Now we’re ready to put today’s Dial Plan Code and IVR in place and load the PHP/AGI components necessary to make the sample applications work. Here’s how:

cd /
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/ivr-xivo.tar.gz
tar zxvf ivr-xivo.tar.gz
chown asterisk:www-data /etc/asterisk/extensions_extra.d
chmod 775 /etc/asterisk/extensions_extra.d
chmod g+s /etc/asterisk/extensions_extra.d
/etc/init.d/asterisk restart

Installing and Activating Voice Recognition for XiVO

Google has changed the licensing of their speech recognition engine about as many times as you change diapers on a newborn baby. Today’s rule restricts use to “personal and development use.” Assuming you qualify, the very first order of business is to enable speech recognition for your XiVO PBX. Once enabled, the Incredible PBX feature set grows exponentially. You’ll ultimately have access to the Voice Dialer for AsteriDex, Worldwide Weather Reports where you can say the name of a city and state or province to get a weather forecast for almost anywhere, Wolfram Alpha for a Siri-like encyclopedia for your PBX, and Lefteris Zafiris’ speech recognition software to build additional Asterisk apps limited only by your imagination. And, rumor has it, Google is about to announce new licensing terms, but we’re not there yet. To try out the Voice Dialer in today’s demo IVR, you’ll need to obtain a license key from Google. This Nerd Vittles tutorial will walk you through that process. Don’t forget to add your key to /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin/speech-recog.agi on line 72.

Taking XiVO on a Test Drive with the Incredible PBX Apps

Now set up a softphone using the IP address of your XiVO server and the Line credentials for Extension 701. When you obtain your credentials, double-check to make sure all of the fields for the Line are filled in correctly as shown below:

Once your softphone is registered, you can try out some of the sample applications:

  • 4871 (IVR1) – Allison’s Demo IVR
  • 411 (Voice Dialing) – Call by Name (try “Delta Airlines”)
  • 2663 (CONF) – MeetMe Conference with Music on Hold
  • 951 – Yahoo! News Headlines (TTS)
  • 947 (ZIP) – NWS Weather by ZIP Code
  • 53669 (LENNY) – The Telemarketer’s Worst Nightmare

You can review the Dialplan code in the GUI by choosing Configuration Files and clicking xivo-extrafeatures.conf. The sample IVR code is in ivr-1.conf.

Taking Nerd Vittles’ XiVO IVR for a Test Drive

There’s also a new Demo IVR running at www.pacificnx.com on their XenServer virtualization platform. Scott McCarthy, a leading outside XiVO developer and a principal at PacificNX, tells us they soon will have a $20 a month platform specifically tailored to XiVO. And that’s what you’ll be hearing when you call the Nerd Vittles IVR: 1-843-606-0555. Setup at PacificNX took less than a minute. Enjoy!

Published: Thursday, May 12, 2016





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


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


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

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

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

    No Brainer: Free Cell Service, Free Texting, Free Data Plan + Free SIP Trunk



    Suppose we told you there was a cellular reseller in the United States that would give you 3,250 minutes of free calling every month with a free Sprint phone. And, to sweeten the pot, you could also use those minutes as a SIP trunk on any Asterisk® server to make 3,250 minutes of free calls in the United States every month. Let’s not stop there. Suppose the provider would also throw in 3,250 SMS messages as well as 3,250 megs of data each month so you could surf the web, read your emails, and watch movies on your new smartphone. Crazy, huh? Too good to be true? Suppose we told you our family has been using this service since February with crystal-clear calling, zero outages, and flawless texting and Internet service on four phones! Suppose we told you we were using these same four lines to provide free calling on four different Incredible PBX servers scattered across the United States.

    Well, folks, it’s all true and today only starting at 5 p.m. Eastern daylight time until midnight, it’s your lucky day! What’s the catch? There’s a one-time, $32.50 non-refundable deposit to cover overages in minutes, messages, and data. If you’d prefer to borrow a Sprint-compatible phone from the company, there’s a deposit on the loaner phone. The cost ranges from $30 to $140 which is refunded when you return the phone in good condition. Complete plan details are available here.



    We’ve had running discussions about RingPlus on both the PIAF Forum and DSL Reports for a couple months so you can read all the history and comments if you’re interested. Our bottom line goes like this. What if RingPlus goes out of business? What’s my Breakeven Date, i.e. the day on which I will recover my initial deposit on the phone service plus the cost of the phone versus the cost of comparable service with a competitor? Frankly, that’s all you should care about. And, for today’s deal, that works out to less than two months regardless of which other provider you choose. Any free service after that date is pure gravy. RingPlus may last an extra month, or it still may be going five years from now. Either way, you win. And we’ll be looking forward to your Nerd Vittles donation on June 24 when you reach your Breakeven Date. Just click Help the Nerdy in the upper right corner of our site. 😉

    If you really believe in CYA and need a new smartphone anyway, then trot down to your local Apple Store today and purchase an unlocked iPhone SE for $399. Be sure to specify the Sprint model. It can be used to sign up with RingPlus at 5 p.m. And, if RingPlus croaks, this Sprint-model phone still will work with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or any Sprint MVNO. You also have 14 days to return it for a full refund!

    Today’s To-Do List. So you want to take the plunge. Here’s how to get started. First, go to RingPlus.net and click the Sign Up button promptly at 5 p.m. This plan is advertised on SlickDeals so the loaner phones will go quickly. Click Select Plan under the Elevator free plan description. When the Sign Up page appears, click Purchase a Phone at the RingPlus Store. Click on the Phones tab and choose Loaner Phones. If you prefer, you can also purchase a smartphone from about two dozen choices with prices starting at $65. Choose your phone and click Add to Cart. Then complete the rest of the checkout procedure to order your phone. When your phone arrives in a couple of weeks, you’ll receive instructions to sign up for the Elevator Free Plan. Our previous article on RingPlus will guide you through the rest of the activation process. Enjoy!

    Originally published: Sunday, April 24, 2016





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


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


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

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

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

    Smartphone Trifecta: 2016’s Very Best Cellphones with Two Awesome Surprises


    Every year we try to check out the latest and greatest smartphones with emphasis on finding those that are the best fit with Asterisk®. So this year is really special because our three favorite new phones all come with a couple of surprises. First, monthly cellular service can be FREE on all of them! Second, all of the phone numbers associated with the three phones can be used as free SIP trunks with Incredible PBX™ or your favorite Asterisk server.

    If you’ve been following Nerd Vittles since early February of this year, then you already know that RingPlus, a Sprint MVNO, is the best bargain on the planet. Over the past six weeks of weekly specials from RingPlus, we’ve managed to update all of our free RingPlus accounts to either unlimited calling, texting, and 2GB of monthly data or 3,000 minutes of calling, 3,000 text messages, and 3GB of data. For anybody (except teenagers) that’s sufficient monthly capacity to do almost anything you’d like to do with a smartphone except stream movies all day.

    We initially showed how to take dirt cheap Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile prepaid phones and repurpose them for use with RingPlus. Sprint apparently read our article as well because that loophole is going away on April 17. However, you still have time to find one and activate it on RingPlus following our previous tutorial. The only catch is that, if you ever deactivate it, you will lose the ability to reactivate it without first using it with Boost or Virgin for a full year. The landfills will be so happy with all these cellphone bricks because of Sprint’s latest attempt to shoot itself in the foot. We think there also are some legal issues that the FCC needs to address. These phones are sold as “contract-free” when, in fact, there is a very specific and undisclosed contractual requirement. If you don’t keep service with the provider for a year, your phone becomes a brick. In antitrust terminology, it’s called tying. And some would argue that it also constitutes false advertising. We plan to file a complaint and would urge all of our readers to do the same. Here’s a link.

    But enough about the Sprint mentality. It really is legendary, and it’s been the same for 20+ years. We doubt it will ever change unless the entire Sprint management team is replaced. So where do we go from here? Well we decided to upgrade most of our phones to the latest and greatest postpaid phones available, and we wanted to try out our 2016 favorites (pictured above). Here’s some really great news. Samsung’s new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge as well as Apple’s new iPhone SE work swimmingly with RingPlus as long as you purchase the Sprint-branded models at full retail price from either Best Buy or an Apple Store. Sprint and Target will refuse to sell you one unless you activate it with Sprint in the store. You also can’t buy the Sprint-branded iPhones on line from Apple without activating Sprint service, but that restriction doesn’t apply if you visit an Apple Store.

    It took a week to chase down a Galaxy S7 and almost two weeks to find a Galaxy S7 Edge at a Best Buy store. Don’t believe the store inventory on their web site. Neither of the phones we purchased was shown as available at the locations where we bought them. So you’ll need to call or visit a store at least while the new Galaxy phones remain a scarce commodity. As for the iPhone SE, it went on sale at Apple Stores this morning at 10 a.m. At the Charleston store, I was third in line and both of the people in front of me also were buying the Sprint-branded iPhone SE to use with RingPlus. The Apple sales folks said they had never before seen a run on Sprint phones. Guess why?

    Here’s the drill. Purchase your favorite phone after you read our mini-reviews below. Don’t open the box just yet. Instead, look on the bottom of the box and decipher the IMEI/MEID of your phone. Immediately run that number through the RingPlus Device Checker to be sure it will work on the Sprint network using a RingPlus account. There shouldn’t be a problem with any of these three phones, and all of them come with a Sprint SIM card so you won’t have to worry about obtaining one from RingPlus. Some have reported that the Best Buy phones were locked. We can only surmise that the customer delayed activating the phone with RingPlus which gave Sprint time to block the serial number which Best Buy reported. If this happens to you, we are told that Sprint will unlock the phone once you provide proof that it was purchased at full retail price. If all else fails, Best Buy has a 14-day return policy. Remember, anything is possible when dealing with Sprint.

    Once your phone passes the compatibility check, sign up for a new free RingPlus plan. These plans change weekly and sometimes are only offered for a couple of hours so you may want to hold off on signing up until a deal comes along that meets your requirements. Update: There are a number of excellent promotions at the moment which run through April 5. Our previous article explained in detail how these free plans work. Switching plans typically is limited to those that buy into the annual Member+ program. You can read all about the plans and programs on the RingPlus Community Forum. If you already have a RingPlus account with a registered phone, you can swap out the phone with one of these three new ones for a one-time charge of $1.99. All you’ll need is your new MEID and ICC ID numbers. The entire phone swap only takes a minute or two. Once it’s complete, turn on your phone. The rest is automagic!

    Comparing the Phones. We don’t often glow about reviews, but the TechRadar review of the Galaxy S7 Edge is a must-read. There has never been a better phone than this one. And, only an inch behind it is the Galaxy S7 which bears an uncanny resemblance to the new iPhone SE except for its 50% larger screen size. We actually are more comfortable carrying the Galaxy S7 with its all-metal construction. For whatever reason, the S7 Edge always feels like its about a millisecond away from slipping out of your hand. You will most definitely want a case for the S7 Edge.

    In terms of performance and camera quality, the new Galaxy phones are in a league of their own. Here’s a photo hurriedly snapped through a restaurant window with our Galaxy S7 earlier this week. If you’ve ever tried to take sunset pictures with an iPhone or cheapo Android device, you’ll appreciate what a challenge these shots can be. We’ll annotate this article with an iPhone SE photo if and when the opportunity presents itself. The other good news with the new Galaxy phones is they are at least waterproof for a few minutes. If you live near the water, that will come as a welcome addition as well. Finally, Samsung has closed the gap with Apple’s iPhones on backing up and restoring everything on your phone. For years, this has been Apple’s best feature in our humble opinion. Now Samsung goes Apple one better. If you happen to have two Samsung devices that you want clone, simply choose Backup and Reset from Settings. Then Open Smart Switch on both devices and hold the two phones back to back. It’s that easy. Or you can opt for the more traditional restore method that works precisely as it does with an iPhone using the Samsung Cloud. For some additional tips and tricks, visit the PCMag.com site and watch the video “Exploring the Galaxy S7” which includes a number of comparisons with Apple iPhone devices including the iPhone SE. Enjoy!

    We previously covered the SIP setup for RingPlus devices using their WiFi Fluidcall feature. It provides a free SIP trunk for Asterisk at a cost of zero dollars. For the complete tutorial, take a look at the original article. Enjoy!

    Originally published: Thursday, March 31, 2016





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


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


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

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

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

    Four Months in Paradise: Free International VoIP Calling From Your Cellphone

    Following our article documenting how to set up free cellphone service in the United States using the Sprint reseller, RingPlus, we received a number of questions seeking ways to add free or low cost international calling to the RingPlus offerings. Today we’ll provide a quick tutorial on how to turn any cellphone into a terrific platform to make free international calls, lots of them. As of this writing, for every 10 euros ($11.27) you deposit into your account, you’ll get 300 minutes a week of free calls to 44 countries for 120 days. You can also call anywhere else in the world at very reasonable per minute rates that compare favorably with other SIP providers around the world. In addition to the freebies, for the mathematically challenged, today we’ll also show you how to minimize international calling charges on any U.S. cellphone using Incredible PBX with DISA and your choice of SIP providers. Some provide all-you-can-eat international calling to certain countries for a monthly fee while others charge by the minute depending upon the destination. Do some Googling. The beauty of a PBX and SIP trunks is you can mix and match as many providers as you like to take advantage of favorable calling rates to multiple countries. We’re going to start with the almost-free option because we like to share great deals.

    There are a few things you need to know about the so-called Betamax VoIP services up front. Most importantly, they change rates and free countries more frequently than college kids change partners. Betamax also has dozens of companies offering similar services with differing rates and freebies. You can keep track of the daily changes on this Facebook page. Here’s a 5-year old spreadsheet that will give you a good idea of what you’re up against. Don’t depend upon it for the current rates. You’ll need to visit the actual site(s) of your choice for their current rate tables or visit the site maintained by Betamax for a country-by-country comparison by provider. That’s another way of saying DON’T BLAME US IF YOUR 3-HOUR CALL TO ANTARCTICA CHANGED FROM 20¢ PER MINUTE TO $1 PER MINUTE OVERNIGHT. IT PROBABLY WON’T, BUT THEN AGAIN IT MIGHT. Before making a lengthy call to a remote destination, spend the two minutes it takes to look up the current rate and make a snapshot of the web page for your records. Here’s another tip. If you make frequent calls to Antarctica, spend a little time doing your homework. Review the latest Betamax spreadsheet to track down the cheapest rates. Then double-check the actual sites for the current rates. There’s a $150 difference in the cost of a 3-hour call at €.20/minute from one Betamax site versus the €.906/minute rate at another Betamax site. THIS CAN AND OFTEN DOES CHANGE! As it happens, two of the lowest cost providers still offer the calls at the same two-year-old €.20/minute rate.

    Today we’ll be focusing on the company we’ve tracked for many years, FreeVoipDeal.com. Except for the domain name, the setup with other Betamax providers is similar but not identical. And, of course, you’ll have to kick in another deposit to make free calls from each site. The length of the Freebie period also may vary so read the terms carefully. FreeVoipDeal actually hasn’t changed much since our last visit about two years ago. In fact, we still had most of our ten euro credit so we could play all we wanted even though the calls were no longer free since our four month window had long since expired.

    Here’s last week’s Freebie list by country compared to two years ago. Don’t depend upon it! Check their actual web site or the Betamax country summary for current freebies and current rates. Here’s another neat little trick to remember. When you visit the FreeVoipDeal Rate Table, just click on the Out of Minutes tab for a quick listing of all the Free Calling Countries as well as the rates once you use up your four months of free calls. With two exceptions for mobile calls to Malaysia and South Korea, all of the “free countries” still had a rate of 1.1¢ per minute. Not bad!

    Here’s How the Free International Calling Procedure Works

    There are really two ways to make international calls from your smartphone. You can either load an app to make the calls if your cellphone supports it. Or you can dial a secondary number using the traditional dialer on your cellphone, enter an access code, and then dial the international number. We’re going to begin with the latter option because it works with any cellphone and it’s safer in numerous ways. At the end of the article, we’ll also show you how to load an app and make the calls that way if you like living dangerously.

    So let’s start with the basics. The way this will work when we’re finished today is you’ll pick up your cellphone and dial a phone number assigned to your own Incredible PBX. The call will be answered and a sweet lady named Allison will ask you for a password. Once you enter it correctly, you’ll get a secondary dial tone. You then can dial any international number that you have preauthorized on your PBX, and the call will be routed out through your FreeVoipDeal trunk to its destination. When the person answers, you will have made your first free international call using your cellphone.

    The key components include the Incredible PBX platform with the DISA application to provide secondary dialtone for processing international calls. A phone number and trunk will receive incoming calls bound for DISA from your cellphone. An inbound route will only forward incoming calls to DISA that match your cellphone number. A secondary trunk from FreeVoipDeal or other providers will be used to process outgoing international calls that are dialed using DISA. We’ll create an outbound route or rule for every country to which you want to authorize international calling. Each of these outbound routes will point to the least expensive (or free) trunk to complete the call. In the VoIP world, you actually could have dozens of outbound trunks that handle international calls based upon the country codes of each international call. This lets you take advantage of the best calling rates for each country. We will block international calls to country codes you have not specifically authorized.

    Just to restate the obvious, a misconfigured DISA application that allows the world to make international calls on your nickel can get expensive quickly. We’ll protect today’s setup with two layers of protection. First, we’ll require that the CallerID of the incoming call match your cellphone number. While this isn’t failsafe since CallerID numbers can be spoofed, it does reduce the risk considerably because the bad guys will have to know BOTH your cellphone number and the incoming phone number managing DISA on your PBX. Without those two phone numbers, nobody gets to the DISA application at all. Second, for incoming Incredible PBX calls from a number matching your cellphone number, the caller will be prompted for a six-digit password, and you can make it longer if you will sleep better. Just remember, compromising DISA on your PBX is just as risky as handing out your credit card to a stranger so follow the setup steps carefully. And then TEST, TEST, TEST to make sure strangers can’t access your DISA setup. We’ll show you how.

    Eight Is Enough: Choosing an Incredible PBX Platform for International Calling

    Before any of this will work, you’ll obviously need an Incredible PBX. The software is free. The cost of the hardware depends upon the Incredible PBX platform you choose. This could be a PBX hosted in the Cloud, or it could be a PBX running as a virtual machine on your desktop computer or VMware corporate server, or it could be a PBX running on dedicated hardware in your home or office. Here are some choices with approximate prices and links to the tutorials to set them up. After downloading the Incredible PBX software from SourceForge, the setup process only takes 30 minutes or less.

    1. Incredible PBX in the Cloud at CloudAtCost ($10.50 one-time fee)
    2. Incredible PBX in the Digital Ocean Cloud ($5 a month after 2 free months)
    3. Incredible PBX in the RentPBX Cloud ($15 a month with Coupon Code: NOGOTCHAS)
    4. Incredible PBX running under VirtualBox on your Desktop PC (free)
    5. Incredible PBX running on your company’s VMware server (free)
    6. Incredible PBX running on standalone Raspberry Pi 3 ($35++)
    7. Incredible PBX running on standalone Intel NUC ($200)
    8. Incredible PBX running on your favorite old clunker (free)

    Configuring Incredible PBX for International Calling with DISA

    Here’s an overview of the setup drill for today once you have Incredible PBX running. We’ll walk through each of the six steps below. Don’t get frustrated. There are a lot of steps, but none of them are difficult. Just don’t skip any.

    1. Set Up Your Trunk to Process Incoming DISA Calls
    2. Set Up Your Trunk(s) to Process Outgoing International Calls
    3. Configure DISA with a Very Secure Password
    4. Configure an Inbound Route to Limit Incoming DISA Calls to Your Cellphone #
    5. Configure an Outbound Route for Each International Country Code
    6. Test, Test, Test

    1. Setting Up a Trunk to Process Incoming DISA Calls

    Before you can make calls to your PBX, it’ll need a phone number (known affectionately as a DID). As installed, Incredible PBX includes preconfigured SIP trunks from about a dozen SIP providers. All you’ll need is credentials from the company you wish to use. Most providers of DID trunks offer a monthly flat rate for unlimited incoming calls. There’s a great deal from our Platinum Sponsor, Vitelity, at the end of this article. And their international calling rates are extremely competitive.

    In addition to SIP trunks, Incredible PBX is preconfigured to support Google Voice trunks for those living in the United States. These trunks are free and provide unlimited incoming and outgoing calls throughout the U.S. and Canada. Because this option is free, you’d be crazy not to use it for today’s application if it’s available where you live. The setup procedure is covered in detail in all of the Incredible PBX installation tutorials referenced above. So start there.

    2. Setting Up a Trunk to Process Outgoing International Calls

    We’re going to walk you through setting up a trunk with FreeVoipDeal to handle free international calls to certain countries documented above. This may not be the best fit for you depending upon the international destinations you wish to call. Figure that out first! Then adjust the trunk settings below to match each SIP provider trunk you wish to create. There’s no limit to the number you can have. And, with most of these providers, you pay by the minute for international calls anyway so there is no harm in configuring multiple trunks to take advantage of the best rates calling the countries of your choice. The same applies to all-you-can-eat and “free” trunks except there are varying fees for using the services so you’re probably not going to want a dozen of them even if some of the calls are free after making a periodic deposit. One other word of warning. Some Betamax sites such as powervoip.com have good calling rates, but they tack on a 3.9¢ connection fee to every call. If you make lengthy calls, it’s not a big deal. If you make numerous short calls, it drives your discount calling rates through the roof. So start with the pink and green entries on the old spreadsheet we referenced for the cheapest historical rates and then visit the actual sites and read the fine print. One of our favorite Betamax sites for many tourist destinations is HotVoIP.com.



    To add new trunks to Incredible PBX, use a browser to access the IP address of your server. Choose Incredible GUI Administration from the Admin menu of the Kennonsoft GUI (shown above) by clicking on User to switch. The default username is admin and the password is what you set when the install completed. Once the Incredible PBX GUI appears, click the Connectivity tab and choose Trunks -> Add SIP (chan_sip) Trunk.

    For Trunk Name, enter FreeVoipDeal. In the Dialed Number Manipulation Rules section, add a rule for each country code you wish to activate. You can decipher the Country Code for any country at this link. For example, for the United Kingdom, you’d enter a rule like this where 44 is the Country Code and each X represents a required digit in the local area code and phone number. The trailing period means the number includes one or more additional digits. NOTE: DISA calls will not have to be prefixed with 011 to place international calls. Just enter the country code and number to be called. And, I am told that only 441, 442, and perhaps 443 calls to the U.K. are free since those are the designated landline prefixes.




    If there are other countries, you wish to support with this trunk provider, you’d click Add More Dial Pattern Fields and insert an additional rule for each country following the example above. If you’ll be using this trunk to make calls in the U.S. and Canada as well, the correct Match Pattern is 1NXXNXXXXXX, and calls will need to be dialed with the 1 to avoid conflicts with international dialing. And, by the way, calls to Alaska and Hawaii are also free!

    Next, we need to enter the Outgoing Settings. For the Trunk Name, enter freevoipdeal. Clear out the entries in Peer Details section and enter the following using your actual FreeVoipDeal credentials for yourusername and yourpassword:

    authuser=yourusername
    username=yourusername
    secret=yourpassword
    type=peer
    qualify=yes
    nat=yes
    insecure=port,invite
    host=sip.freevoipdeal.com
    fromdomain=sip.freevoipdeal.com
    dtmfmode=auto
    disallow=all
    canreinvite=no
    allow=alaw&ulaw
    

    Finally, clear out the default entries in User Details and click the Submit Changes button and then red Apply Config button to save your new trunk.

    Spoofing Your CallerID. When setting up your FreeVoipDeal account, you can set up one or more numbers to use as your CallerID number on FreeVoipDeal calls. You simply verify the number with a code sent by SMS or phone call from their service. Once you’ve gone through the verification procedure, you can spoof the outbound CallerID on FreeVoipDeal calls using your actual cellphone number. Just add the following entries to your Trunk settings replacing 9991234567 with your cellphone number. Special thanks to @hillclimber on the PIAF Forum for the tip.

    fromuser=0019991234567
    sendrpid=yes
    

    3. Configuring DISA to Support International Calling

    In the Incredible PBX GUI, we’ll set up DISA by clicking the Applications tab and choosing DISA. Add your new DISA configuration by following this sample. Use a VERY secure password. It’s your phone bill. Once you’ve finished, click the Submit Changes button and then red Apply Config button to save your new DISA setup.



    4. Configuring an Inbound Route for Your Incoming DISA Calls

    Here’s where we lock down your setup so that Incredible PBX only accepts DISA calls from your cellphone number. If you want to allow additional people to use your DISA setup or if you have multiple cellphones, then simply create multiple inbound routes with the 10-digit numbers of each phone to be supported.

    In the Incredible PBX GUI, we’ll set up a new Inbound Route by clicking the Connectivity tab and choosing Inbound Routes. If you plan to support multiple phones, then create multiple inbound routes and give each of them a unique Description and CallerID Number that matches the phone number of the cellphone to be supported. Be sure to check the CID Priority Route checkbox and set the correct Destination for your incoming calls. Just fill in the blanks appropriately using this template as a guide. Once you’ve finished, click the Submit button and then red Apply Config button to save your new Inbound Route.



    5. Configuring an Outbound Route for Each International Country Code

    The DISA application is going to obtain the phone number to be dialed and will pass that to the Outbound Routes module. The job of the Outbound Routes module is to examine the phone number passed to it from DISA to figure out which trunk to use to make the outbound call. It then will pass the call to the appropriate trunk which sends the outgoing call on its way to the destination.

    For each Dialed Number Manipulation Rule in every Trunk that you set up in Step #2 above, you’ll need a matching Outbound Route if your PBX is used to place calls using multiple trunks. If you’re only using one provider for all of your outbound calls, then we can use a more generic Outbound Route. It’s always a good idea to create the one-to-one match between Outbound Routes and Trunks to make certain that outbound calls are sent to the correct Trunk for processing. So let’s do that using the U.K. trunk we created above.

    In the Incredible PBX GUI, we’ll set up a new Outbound Route by clicking the Connectivity tab and choosing Outbound Routes. When the template appears, notice in the far right column that there’s a listing of all your existing Outbound Routes. Calls are actually processed sequentially using the order that these Outbound Routes appear in the list. If there’s no number match in the top route or if the call via the top route fails, processing drops to the next route in the list until there is a match AND a successful connection. You can adjust the sequence by dragging the Outbound Routes to a different position in the priority list.

    It’s important to use specificity in your Outbound Routes (especially with International calling) to make certain that a call isn’t inadvertently processed by a secondary trunk. For example, if you have a Google Voice trunk in addition to a FreeVoipDeal trunk, we want to make certain that calls to England are processed by the FreeVoipDeal trunk and that 10-digit numbers starting with area code 440 (Cleveland) are routed out through Google Voice. The easiest way to do this is to require the Outbound Route Match Pattern for U.K. calls to be at least 11 digits, e.g. 44XXXXXXXX. (the trailing period is important in that it requires at least one more digit for a match). And we can force a Hangup if the FreeVoipDeal trunk is not available for some reason by adjusting the Destination on Congestion setting. This keeps the call routing from dropping down to the next available Outbound Route in the list if FreeVoipDeal happens to be off-line at some point. So our Outbound Route for U.K. calls should look something like this:



    The final step is to move the new Outbound Route for U.K. calls to the top of the Outbound Routes listing in the right column to assure that it is processed first. Once you’ve done that, click the Submit Changes button and then red Apply Config button to save your new Outbound Route AND the adjusted Outbound Route Priority List.

    Another alternative in creating Outbound Routes is to use a Dial Prefix that never matches a real phone number to direct calls to a particular trunk. For example, you might use 08 as a dial prefix for FreeVoipDeal calls. By placing 08 in the Prefix column of the Dial Pattern, it will get stripped off before the number is actually passed to the FreeVoipDeal trunk for processing. We actually prefer this setup because it adds an additional layer of security for international calls. If someone were to break into your DISA application by knowing your cellphone number AND your DID AND your DISA password, it’s unlikely they’d also know to prefix outgoing international calls with some arbitrary dial prefix. Just don’t use 08 in case they’re a Nerd Vittles reader. 😉

    6. Test, Test, Test!

    The easiest way to test the new setup is to place a couple of calls and to watch the Asterisk CLI (asterisk -rvvvvvvvvvv) and see how the calls are processed and who answers at the other end. Then you can apologize for reaching the wrong number.

    You can make up your own test methodology, but here’s one that works for us. There are several tests you need to make. First, call your Incredible PBX DID from your authorized cellphone and enter a correct DISA password to see if you get dial tone to make an international call. Then repeat the drill with an invalid password and make sure you don’t get a dial tone. Next, call your Incredible PBX DID from a phone other than your authorized cellphone. You should not get a prompt for a DISA password. Finally, we use the first three digits of a U.K. number to identify a matching NANPA area code. Then, we find hotels in the two matching cities. For example, one might attempt to call a hotel in Bath, England (44 1… ……) and a hotel in Bermuda (441-…-….). The U.K. call should go through, and the Bermuda call should fail. If you pass all three tests with flying colors, you’re good to go.

    Using FreeVoipDeal’s MobileVoIP App Instead of Incredible PBX with DISA

    FreeVoIPDeal also offers a MobileVoIP app that can be used directly on your smartphone (Android, iOS, and Windows phone versions available) using any Wi-Fi, UMTS, 4G/LTE, 3G, GPRS or EDGE connection. The drawback is the lack of the three extra layers of security protection that Incredible PBX using DISA offers. MobileVOIP lets you log in with your registered Betamax credentials and offers the option to use your existing VoIP credit from your smartphone. The downside is that anyone with the app and your credentials can call anywhere and talk for as long as they like on your nickel using any of your registered CallerIDs. You’ve been warned. For more information or to download the app for your mobile device, go here. Remember to dial the “+1” country code prefix for U.S./Canada calls. Enjoy!

    Originally published: Monday, March 21, 2016


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



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


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


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

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

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

    2016, The Year of (real) VoIP Choice: Introducing Elastix 4.0 with Incredible PBX

    Our crystal ball suggests that 2016 is shaping up to be a fantastic year full of VoIP surprises and excitement. We’ll be there to cover every new development. When it comes to graphical user interfaces for Asterisk®, the days of the one trick pony are officially over. Free At Last! And leave it to Edgar Landivar and Team Elastix® to be first out of the gate with Elastix 4.0. What a terrific new product it is! The Elastix project began nearly a decade ago, and every release continues to demonstrate why Elastix remains at the top of the leader board when it comes to true open source unified communications solutions. Whether you’re building a commercial call center or seeking an open source telephony platform for your organization, Elastix competes favorably with the best commercial brands in the business. We’ll put a little icing on the cake today by offering an all-new Incredible PBX release for Elastix 4.0. It adds a preconfigured and locked down firewall plus dozens of applications for Asterisk including text-to-speech and voice recognition applications as well as new SIP gateways to RingPlus cellular service and Google Voice communications. So let’s begin and take Elastix 4.0 for a spin! Download the ISO here.


    A Word of Caution. If you’re new to Incredible PBX, install a clean version of Elastix 4.0 with NO MODIFICATIONS before you begin the Incredible PBX install. All of the existing Elastix 4.0 setup will be modified as part of the Incredible PBX install, and these changes will wipe out any additions you’ve previously made to Elastix. So don’t make any! Once the Incredible PBX install is completed, you can make all the changes you wish in your Elastix configuration. The only major design change we’ve made is to rework the Elastix MySQL database tables into MyISAM format from InnoDB. This facilitates making future backups and restores of your server as well as providing the necessary platform to install current and future Incredible PBX components.

    Did We Mention Security? You also get a locked down, preconfigured IPtables Firewall WhiteList with all of the Travelin’ Man 3 tools plus the automatic update service to keep your server up to date and safe. There is a $20 voluntary annual license fee for the update service but, if you’d prefer to buy donuts, be our guest. But understand that voluntary is a two-way street. Running the update service costs us time and money and, when it ceases to be worthy of our time and financial investment, we reserve the right to discontinue the service down the road. The next time you log into your server after installing Incredible PBX, you’ll quickly appreciate why an automatic update service is important. We watch for and fix problems so you don’t have to.

    Getting Started with Incredible PBX and Elastix 4.0

    Here’s a quick overview of the installation and setup process for Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0:

    1. Choose a Hardware Platform – Dedicated PC, Cloud Provider, or Virtual Machine
    2. Install Elastix 4.0 – 64-bit CentOS 7 platform
    3. Download and Install Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0
    4. Set Up Passwords for Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0
    5. Activate Trunks with Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0
    6. Connect a Softphone to Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0
    7. Configuring SMTP Mail with Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0

    1. Choose a Platform for Incredible PBX and Elastix 4.0

    Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0 works equally well on dedicated hardware, a cloud-based server, or a virtual machine. Just be sure you have a sufficiently robust Internet connection to support 100Kb of download and upload bandwidth for each simultaneous call you wish to handle with your new PBX.

    For Dedicated Hardware, we recommend at least an Atom-based PC of recent vintage with at least a 30GB drive and 4GB of RAM. That will take care of an office with 10-20 extensions and a half dozen or more simultaneous calls if you have the Internet bandwidth to support it. Our favorite hardware platform remains the $200 Intel NUC, and you can read all about it here.

    For Cloud-Based Servers, we recommend RentPBX, one of our financial supporters who also happens to size servers properly and restrict usage solely to VoIP. This avoids performance bottlenecks that cause problems with VoIP calls. Yes, we have a coupon code for you to get the $15/month rate: NOGOTCHAS. The new image to support Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0 should be available shortly.

    Or you can install Elastix 4.0 on top of an existing CentOS 7 platform by following this tutorial.

    For Virtual Machine Installs, we recommend Oracle’s VirtualBox platform which runs atop almost any operating system including Windows, Macs, Linux, and Solaris. Here’s a link to our original VirtualBox tutorial to get you started. We suggest allocating 1GB of RAM and at least a 20GB disk image to your virtual machine for best performance. We actually used VirtualBox to build Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0.

    2. Install 64-bit Elastix 4.0 on Your Platform

    Begin by downloading the 64-bit Elastix 4.0 ISO. For dedicated hardware, burn the ISO image to a DVD and boot your server with the Elastix 4.0 ISO to begin the install. You’ll be presented with the CentOS 7 Installation GUI:

    Choose: Time Zone (click)
    Choose: Keyboard (click)
    Choose: Install Drive (double-click)
    Choose: Root Password (Make it Secure!)
    Wait for Install and Reboot to Complete
    Set MySQL Password to: passw0rd (MANDATORY: with a zero!)
    Set Elastix admin Password: minimum 10 alphanumeric characters with upper & lowercase

    For VirtualBox, create an Elastix 4.0 virtual machine of Linux (RedHat 64-bit) type by clicking New. Click Settings button. In System, enable I/O APIC and disable Hardware Clock in UTC Time. In Audio, enable Audio for your sound card. In Network, enable Bridged Adapter for Adapter 1. In Storage, click on Empty in the Storage Tree. Then click on the Disk icon to the right of CD/DVD Drive attributes. Choose the Elastix 4.0 ISO file that you downloaded. Click OK. Then start the virtual machine to begin the installation process. Follow the setup steps above to install Elastix 4.0 in your virtual machine.

    3. Download and Install Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0

    After completing the Elastix 4.0 install, log into your server as root using SSH or Putty from a desktop machine that you will use to manage your server. This is important with the Incredible PBX IPtables Firewall WhiteList so you don’t get locked out of your own server! Then issue the following commands to begin the Incredible PBX install. You’ll actually run the installer twice, once to upgrade CentOS 7 and Elastix 4.0 and a second time to install Incredible PBX.

    cd /root
    yum -y install wget
    wget http://incrediblepbx.com/incrediblepbx11elastix40.tar.gz
    tar zxvf incrediblepbx11elastix40.tar.gz
    rm -f incrediblepbx11elastix40.tar.gz
    ./IncrediblePBX*
    # after reboot, login again as root and...
    ./IncrediblePBX*
    

    4. Initial Configuration of Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0

    Incredible PBX is installed with the preconfigured IPtables Linux firewall already in place. It implements WhiteList Security to limit server access to connected LANs, your server’s IP address, your desktop computer’s IP address, and a few of our favorite SIP providers. You can add additional entries to this WhiteList whenever you like using the add-ip and add-fqdn tools in /root. There’s also an Apache security layer for our web applications. And, of course, Elastix 4.0 has its own security methodology. Finally, we randomize various passwords as part of the initial install process. You’ll also be prompted to set your MySQL and Elastix admin password again. Be sure your MySQL password is passw0rd with a zero, or nothing will work! Out of the starting gate, you won’t find a more secure VoIP server implementation anywhere. After all, it’s your phone bill.

    Even with all of these layers of security, here are 6 Quick Steps to better safeguard your server. You only do this once, but failing to do it may lead to security issues you don’t want to have to deal with down the road. So DO IT NOW!

    First, log out and back into your server as root with your root password to get the latest updates. Then do the following:

    Make your root password very secure: passwd
    Set your correct time zone: ./timezone-setup
    Create admin password for web apps: htpasswd -b /etc/pbx/wwwpasswd admin newpassword
    Set MySQL and Elastix admin PW: ./admin-pw-change (MySQL PW MUST be passw0rd with zero)
    Make a copy of your other passwords: cat passwords.FAQ
    Decipher IP address and other info about your server: pbxstatus

    Last but not least, Incredible PBX includes an automatic update utility which downloads important updates whenever you log into your server as root. We recommend you log in once a week to keep your server current. If you haven’t already done so, NOW would be a good time to log out and back into your server at the Linux command line to bring your server current.

    Incredible PBX Stand-Alone Apps. Currently, there are several standalone applications included with Incredible PBX that cannot be accessed from within the Elastix Dashboard because the Elastix Developer component for Elastix 4.0 still is under development. For all of these web applications except WebMin, you will need to set up Apache web credentials using the web apps password syntax documented above. Once you’ve done that, you can access the applications using a browser with the username admin. Just substitute your server’s IP address for 192.168.0.1 in the examples below. For WebMin only, use root as your username and your root password for access.

    • Config Edit: https://192.168.0.1/maint/configedit
    • phpMyAdmin: https://192.168.0.1/maint/phpMyAdmin
    • Sys Info: https://192.168.0.1/maint/sysinfo
    • Telephone Reminders: https://192.168.0.1/reminders
    • WebMin: https://192.168.0.1:9001

    5. Activate Trunks with Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0

    For those migrating from another aggregation including PBX in a Flash, this should be familiar territory for you. Using a browser, log into Elastix 4.0 at the IP address of your server using your admin password. Before you can actually make or receive calls outside your PBX, you’ll need at least one trunk. In the Elastix 4.0 GUI, click PBX -> PBX Configuration -> Trunks. Once you have your credentials from a provider, choose a provider from the list of preconfigured trunks on the right or create a new one. If you’re using one of the preconfigured options, remember to enable the trunk after adding your desired CallerID and credentials. Then save your settings and reload your Asterisk dialplan. That’s it. You’re ready to go.

    To display your trunk registrations: asterisk -rx "sip show registry"

    Google Voice Setup. If you wish to use Google Voice for free calling in the U.S. and Canada, you’ll need to sign up for an account with Simonics SIP to Google Voice Gateway service. Complete documentation is here.

    RingPlus SIP Gateway. If you’ve signed up for (free) RingPlus cellular service, you also can use your cellular account as a SIP gateway to Elastix. Complete documentation is here.

    Connection Issues. If you experience problems getting trunks to register with providers, add or remove the following entry in /etc/asterisk/sip_custom.conf: nat=yes. Then restart Asterisk: amportal restart.

    6. Configure a Softphone with Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0

    Incredible PBX comes preconfigured with two extensions (701 and 702) that let you connect phones to your PBX. You can connect virtually any kind of telephone to your Elastix 4.0 PBX. Plain Old Phones require an analog telephone adapter (ATA) which can be a separate board in your computer from a company such as Digium. Or it can be a standalone SIP device such as ObiHai’s OBi100 or OBi110 (if you have a phone line from Ma Bell to hook up as well). SIP phones can be connected directly so long as they have an IP address. These could be hardware devices or software devices such as the YateClient softphone. We’ll start with a free one today so you can begin making calls. You can find dozens of recommendations for hardware-based SIP phones both on Nerd Vittles and the PIAF Forum when you’re ready to get serious about VoIP.

    We recommend YateClient which is free. Download it from here. Run YateClient once you’ve installed it and enter the credentials for the 701 extension on Incredible PBX. You’ll need the IP address of your server plus your extension 701 password. You can find them in /root/passwords.FAQ. Fill in the blanks using the IP address of your server, 701 for your account name, and whatever password is assigned to the extension. Here’s what your entries should look like. Click OK to save your entries.

    Once you are registered to extension 701, close the Account window. Then click on YATE’s Telephony Tab and place some test calls to the numerous apps that are preconfigured on Incredible PBX. Here are a few numbers to get you started:


    123 - Reminders
    222 - ODBC Demo (use: 12345)
    947 - Weather by ZIP Code
    951 - Yahoo News
    DEMO - Allison's IVR Demo
    TODAY - Today in History

    7. Configuring SMTP Mail with Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0

    Outbound email support using Postfix is preconfigured with Elastix 4.0. You can test whether it’s actually working by issuing the following command using your destination email address after logging in as root:

    echo "test" | mail -s testmessage yourname@gmail.com
    

    If you don’t receive the email message within a minute or two and you’ve checked your spam folder, chances are your ISP is blocking downstream SMTP servers in an effort to combat spam. Comcast is one of the usual suspects. To enable outbound email service for delivery of voicemail and other email messages with a provider blocking downstream SMTP servers, you first need to obtain the SMTP domain of your ISP, e.g. smtp.comcrap.net. Next, edit /etc/postfix/main.cf and add your SmartHost entry [in brackets] to the line that begins like this: relayhost =. The line should look like this: relayhost = [smtp.comcrap.net]. Save your addition and restart Postfix: service postfix restart. Be sure to try another email test message after completing the SmartHost update. To use Gmail as your mail relay, see this tutorial.

    8. Homework Assignment: Mastering Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0

    We’ve put together a complete tutorial for the applications included in Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI. Most of it is fully applicable to Elastix 4.0 as well. That should be your next stop. Then you’ll be ready to tackle Elastix 4.0. Google is your friend. Do some exploring, and we’ll post links to great articles on this terrific platform as we discover them. Your suggestions are also welcomed!



    In the meantime, if you have questions, join the PBX in a Flash Forums and take advantage of our awesome collection of gurus. There’s an expert available on virtually any topic, and the price is right. As with Incredible PBX, it’s absolutely free. The same applies to the Elastix forum.

    And if all of that wasn’t enough, feast your eyes on the Elastix Add-Ons that are only a button click away:

    Download (PDF, 619KB)

    Originally published: Monday, February 22, 2016



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


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


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

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

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

    Mobile WiFi Shootout: Torture Testing the Best WiFi HotSpots for Your Vehicle

    What a difference a few years make. Bringing Internet connectivity to those in a vehicle who need Internet access but lack cellular data connectivity now is at the top of virtually every Road Warrior’s Wish List. Today we embark on our first major road trip of 2016 to test mobile WiFi hotspots from the four major carriers in the United States: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. We’ve decided to use a variety of devices with the carriers in order to give you a good picture of what’s now available in the marketplace. One reason we decided to mix apples and oranges was because few providers actually manufacture their own devices, and the actual manufacturers (Netgear and Novatel among others) tend to produce almost identical devices for every carrier.

    You’ve got a number of options to set up a WiFi Hotspot in your vehicle. Here are the main ones:

    • Tethering through an existing Smartphone
    • Connecting through a dedicated MiFi device
    • Connecting through a 4G LTE router
    • Connecting through a vehicle’s 4G LTE service

    As long as you’re paying by the byte, virtually all of the cellphone providers now support tethering on a wide variety of smartphones. The major drawbacks are you’ll want a high performance smartphone if you plan to use it for tethering. And tethering eats through battery life in a hurry. Unless your phone is connected to a charger or wireless charging pad in the vehicle, this can be problematic on a long trip.

    Virtually all of the car manufacturers, domestic and foreign, now offer some sort of WiFi connectivity in their higher end vehicles. But you’ll typically pay a fee for their middleware plus the cost of your actual Internet usage using either your existing smartphone plan or a dedicated 4G connection in the vehicle. If you remember the price gouging on cellular calling directly from your vehicle, you’re going to love Mobile HotSpot pricing. It’s worse.

    With the Audi Mobile Internet Plan, we can sum it up in five words: Hold On to Your Wallet!

    Ford takes a different approach and uses your existing smartphone via Bluetooth as a Mobile HotSpot with SYNC® and MyFord Touch® (for a fee).

    Chrysler’s UConnect® takes the Ford approach and is offered on about two dozen new vehicles including the popular Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee.

    Choosing WiFi Hotspot Platforms for Our Road Test

    For AT&T, we’ve chosen the integrated hotspot that is featured in many of the latest GM vehicles from Chevy, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac. For the complete 2015 and 2016 vehicle list, visit this GM site. Yes, trucks are included. On a monthly hotspot plan through GM’s OnStar service, 5 gigs of data runs $50 whether you subscribe to OnStar or not. Another option is to purchase a bucket of data which must be used within a year (which won’t be difficult). That runs $150 for 10 gigs of data with OnStar, or $200 without an OnStar subscription. A third option is the daily plan which costs $5 for each 250MB of data. Luckily, there is a more sane option for those that already have an AT&T Value Plan for one or more phones. You can add the hotspot in your vehicle for $10 a month, and it uses your existing bucket of data from your plan. The AT&T unlimited data plans for those with DirecTV service are not available for vehicle hotspots or any other hotspots or tethering for that matter. The two main advantages of the GM approach over many of the competitors are you’re not dependent upon a smartphone for your hotspot and there is a cellular antenna mounted on your roof which will generally provide better performance.

    StraightTalk’s Mobile HotSpot which also uses the AT&T network flunked on the basis of cost. $75 buys you 7GB of service for up to 60 days.

    For Verizon, we’ll be using the Verizon 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi® 5510L (aka JetPack) from Novatel Wireless. An excellent review of the device is available at PC Mag. For those that travel internationally, you may prefer the 4620LE which reportedly has double the battery life. We leave ours plugged into a USB port in the car so battery life is not really a concern. We’ve previously written about Verizon’s grandfathered unlimited 4G data plans and, if you’re lucky enough to have one, this option can’t be beat. Otherwise, like all things Verizon, data plans are expensive. $100 gets you 10GB which must be used within two months. $60 gets you 5GB for use within the same period. Although pricey, it’s half the cost of the GM plan without OnStar. And, trust us, Road Warriors won’t have to worry about not using up their bucket of data in two months.

    We’ve previously tested Verizon’s Tasman T1114 Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Broadband Router with Voice which is manufactured by Novatel. The main drawback of this device was that it required a 110 volt connection using a beefy 3 amp power brick. Our testing and that of PC Mag suggests it isn’t the best choice on the basis of performance either. Preliminary testing suggests the 5510L provides almost triple the data performance under identical conditions. And we found that to be true even after we added dual external antennas to the T1114. Don’t waste your money.

    For Sprint, we initially chose one of their MVNOs, Karma Go. And we were looking forward to giving it a workout on the highway. But it was not meant to be. If you follow the trade rags, you know that they originally promised unlimited data with their WiFi hotspot for $50 a month. That lasted about 45 days, and they cut the data rate from 5 Mbit to 1.5 claiming that some folks were using too much data. Duh! That approach lasted about two more weeks, and they implemented a 15GB cap on 4G service with throttled service thereafter that would have you yearning for your old 28.8 modem. Generally speaking, Sprint’s network isn’t that bad from a performance standpoint IF you have service at all. But, in light of all the bad karma surrounding this service, we wouldn’t recommend it to anyone at this juncture. We returned our device within the 45 day trial period for a refund. We’d suggest you do the same. In its place, we’ll be trying out the RingPlus phone that we wrote about last week and that also uses the Sprint network. Unfortunately, our phone lacks tethering capability.

    Boost Mobile’s MiFi offering which also uses the Sprint network didn’t make the cut either. It only supports 4G LTE which means you’re dead in the water once you’re out of range of a 4G LTE tower.

    An unlimited* 4G LTE data service on the T-Mobile network which we first considered was MetroPCS at $60/month ($55/month on a Family Plan). However, MetroPCS pulls the same stunt as AT&T in the fine print of their so-called “unlimited” plan. It indicates that your service will be “deprioritized” after reaching 23GB of LTE data usage. That’s the new word for crippled and throttled which these providers just can’t quite bring themselves to say.

    We saved the best for last. If you do have T-Mobile 4G service in your area (and most folks do as of the 2015 expansion), here’s a deal you can’t refuse. For $35 a month on the Simple Choice (post-paid) Plan, you get 6GB of data at 4G speeds and unlimited (throttled) data for the balance of the month. But there’s a silver lining with a 6GB or greater post-paid plan, you also get unlimited video streaming at DVD quality without additional cost for a couple dozen services including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, ESPN, HBO, and numerous other providers. If you have kids and travel, this is a no-brainer! The complete list of BingeOn providers is available here. For our WiFi device, we chose the ZTE Z915 4G LTE Hotspot (above).

    HINT: Use our referral link and we both get $25 when you sign up. 🙂

    Data Usage in a Nutshell

    Before we hit the road, let’s provide some points of reference on data usage. The simplest to understand is NetFlix. At their lowest streaming video rate, you will burn through .3GB per hour. At the medium SD rate, it’s .7GB per hour. At the best video HD rate, you’ll burn through 3GB per hour. And Ultra HD gobbles up 7GB per hour. You can set the playback rate in your account under Profile -> Playback Settings. At the very lowest data rate, you’ll get about 11 movies out of 5GB of data. With a 4G connection and the NetFlix automatic data settings, you’re unlikely to make it through 2 movies with a 5GB plan. So you’re well advised to hard-code your playback rate before you hit the road if your family is into movies… unless you choose the BingeOn option with T-Mobile.

    A Few Words About T-Mobile’s Binge On Service

    The reported Gotchas with the Binge On feature are that it’s a lower quality video stream and once you use up your 4G data allowance for the month, the Binge On feature ceases to function. So you’d want to carefully choose your plan and monitor your data usage to avoid any surprises. As for the quality of the video stream, we’ve read the complaints about this. But it’s a red herring in our testing. Video playback is at DVD quality, and we’re having a hard time believing most folks need something better for a ride in the car, particularly on smartphones and tablets. And we noticed no appreciable degradation even on a 13″ notebook. There’s also been some squealing that BingeOn violates the FCC’s Network Neutrality rule. Our reading of the rule suggests otherwise. First and foremost, BingeOn is an optional service. Any consumer that doesn’t want it can turn it off. Second, for anyone that has ever managed a network with limited bandwidth, the first thing you come to appreciate is the need to control streaming media content. T-Mobile is well within the network neutrality guidelines in doing so, and they’ve done it in a vendor-neutral manner by applying a throttling mechanism to all streaming content that can be identified as such. For those that use encrypted communications for streaming, T-Mobile has offered to work with them to find a way to identify their streaming content so that they, too, can be included in the BingeOn program. Others have suggested that providing video streaming for free while charging for data associated with web browsing also violates network neutrality. We believe the clear intent of the rule was to outlaw discrimination in favor of particular vendors with regard to similar types of Internet content. Any other interpretation would mean that services such as free calling and free text messaging would also violate network neutrality. While this might thrill the Bell Sisters (Verizon and AT&T), it’s difficult to see how this benefits any consumer using the Internet.

    Ready, Set, Go: Let the Journey Begin

    For our 300-mile trip today, we’ve chosen a travel path that provides a good mix of interstate highways and less traveled state highways. The topography ranges from flat terrain to sparsely populated mountain areas where cellphone towers are few and far between. In between, there are a few metropolitan areas including Charleston, Columbia, Spartanburg, and Asheville. These are mixed with tiny towns including Waynesville and Sylva, North Carolina near our destination. Interestingly, these small towns reportedly boast some of the best cellular data performance in the country. We shall see.

    At the Nerd Vittles home base in Charleston, South Carolina, the data performance of the four major carriers is fairly consistent depending upon the time of day and day of the week. During business hours, a typical 4G LTE speed test looks something like this, not great but not that bad either. It’s certainly adequate for any type of activity one would typically need while traveling in a vehicle:

    We’ll be heading up I-26 from Charleston for over three hours before making a left turn in Asheville, North Carolina to head west via the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway. During the 300 mile journey, we’ll have non-stop movies playing with our T-Mobile BingeOn account in the back seat while the other cellular services are used for more mundane (and less costly) tasks such as checking email and surfing the net. From point A to point B, it’s all four-lane highways or better, quite a change from 30 years ago. In fact, you can even make the trip in a Tesla with a one-hour free charging detour:

    We’re big Spotify fans so most of our AT&T testing will involve listening to the latest Spotify playlists using Apple CarPlay. If the music hiccups, we’ll know we have an AT&T problem. From time to time, we’ll activate a WiFi network connection on our iPhone to check out performance of the Verizon and T-Mobile HotSpots. One of our travelers is a big Facebook gaming enthusiast and, to support that endeavor, we’ll configure her tablet to use the AT&T WiFi HotSpot built into the vehicle.

    Mobile Internet Scorecard

    Well, the results were pretty much what we expected. Sprint calling and T-Mobile streaming worked well along the interstates and went from bad to worse once we hit the state highways. AT&T and Verizon didn’t miss a beat door to door.

    T-Mobile remains the best bargain for streaming unless you have an unlimited data plan without throttling. Even then, the cost difference is staggering. Our unlimited Verizon plan now runs over $100 a month while T-Mobile is a flat $35. There were some random hiccups in the T-Mobile streaming from time to time which we never experienced with Verizon. But you can’t beat the price! Both AT&T and Verizon have dramatically improved their “mountain coverage” in the past year. In the past, Verizon coverage at our cabin was non-existent and AT&T only worked by strategically placing your smartphone on the outdoor fireplace mantle. Now both have reliable 4G service. Our Verizon HotSpot provides consistent 10Mb download and 5 Mb upload speeds, about 5 times the performance of the DSL connection provided by the local telephone company.

    Originally published: Monday, February 15, 2016






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


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

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

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…