Category: Cellular

Straight Talk: Keep AT&T Humming While Chopping Your Cellphone Bill in Half

It takes a lot to get us excited about a cellphone service deal these days. But, we’ve got two terrific deals to tell you about today, and both of them are thanks to WalMart. If you have an iPhone or Android smartphone or any other GSM phone plan with AT&T in the United States and you’re the lone wolf or only have a few phones on your plan, you don’t want to miss this opportunity. You can cut your monthly rate as much as 2/3 while remaining on the AT&T network. Here’s our recent Speed Test using an iPhone 4S with the $14.99 $4.99 StraightTalk SIM. Coupon code: SIMSAVE

To put it down where the goats can get it, let’s review the current AT&T subscription plan. With an iPhone on a 2-year plan, $70 a month buys you 450 anytime minutes and 2GB of data per month. Actually the 2GB data plan is no longer available so it’s $75 a month with 3GB. If you want text messaging and anticipate sending or receiving more than a couple text messages a day, then that’s another $20 a month. After taxes and fees, it comes in just under $100. If you actually talk a lot on your phone, then add $30 more for unlimited calling in the U.S. only. That brings you to $135 a month after taxes and fees.

Would you believe you can get the exact same service on the exact same AT&T network for $45 a month by switching to Straight Talk? Did we mention there’s no long-term contract? Does your phone have to be unlocked from AT&T? No. Does your iPhone have to be rooted? No, unless you want to receive multimedia messages. But that’s a 2-minute drill thanks to Absinthe. Rooting an iPhone also gets you FaceTime using 3G. If you like the assurance of a long-term plan, you can prepay for a year’s service for $495. Want to add unlimited international calling to many (not all) countries, just pay another $15 a month (includes Mexico wireless). To get started, purchase a StraightTalk SIM and AirTime Bundle.

We hear you. So what’s the catch? Well, if Fox News is your idea of Fair and Balanced™, then you’ll feel right at home with StraightTalk. But, if reading Terms of Service is your thing (we happen to enjoy it), then Straight Talk is anything but straight in describing their offering as “Unlimited.” Of course, if you’ve ever read AT&T’s terms of service, you’d come away in a cold sweat as well. The bottom line is Straight Talk doesn’t want you using their plan for streaming music and videos to your phone all day. And they don’t want you tethering your PC to your phone and using it as your primary Internet connection. Can you do any of these things once in a while? According to the message threads, probably so. Most users report no problems so long as your monthly data usage is under 2GB and daily consumption does not exceed 100MB. Is it a good idea? Probably not, especially if you purchased an annual subscription and Straight Talk has an absolute right to drop you like a hot potato. The bottom line is this. If your primary use of your smartphone is to make phone calls, send text messages, read your email, and look up stuff on the Internet, then this plan has no equal. And you will save a pile of money while continuing to enjoy AT&T’s network as if you never left. In fact, you haven’t. If you happen to have AT&T’s 3G MicroCell to improve calling in your home or office, then Straight Talk works with that, too. It will display as “ROAM” on your cellphone. Just remember that dropping all of your AT&T cellphones will also result in your MicroCell being disabled as well. The one thing we haven’t quite gotten used to is getting better performance with StraightTalk using AT&T’s cell towers than we do through a MicroCell connection with 20GB Comcast Business Class Internet sitting behind it. Go figure.

Early Termination. The question arises whether it makes sense to cancel your existing AT&T Plan and switch to Straight Talk now. AT&T’s current policy goes like this. The Early Termination Fee is $325 minus $10 for every full month you’ve been on your plan. If you’re on the Full Enchilada Plan™ (unlimited talk, unlimited messaging, and 2GB or more of data per month), then you’re spending $130 a month versus $41.25 for the StraightTalk annual plan. So it’s costing you $88.75 for every month you delay switching. As you can see, you make up more than the Early Termination Fee in less than 4 months even if you just signed on with AT&T this week. For those that have been with AT&T at least 15 months, your time to break even on the $175 early termination fee is less than 2 months! So, unless you’re within a couple months of fulfilling your 2-year commitment on the Full Enchilada Plan, you’ll save money by ditching AT&T.

You can run your actual numbers using your AT&T phone bill. Subtract $41.25 from your current phone bill. The result is your Monthly Savings, i.e. how much you’ll save each month with StraightTalk. Next, calculate how many months you’ve been on your current AT&T Plan. Multiple that number by 10 and subtract the result from $325. That’s your actual Early Termination Fee. Finally, divide your Early Termination Fee by your Monthly Savings, and that will tell you how many months it’ll take you to start saving money by switching to StraightTalk.

Best of Both Worlds. So how do we do it? Simple. We keep one phone on an AT&T Plan with minimal features so that we can buy discounted cell phones as they are released and keep our MicroCell humming along in our office. Remember, it works with AT&T and StraightTalk cellphones as long as it is activated. For the phone plan that we actually use to do Real Work™, it’s StraightTalk all the way. Even with two phones and two separate phone plans, it’s still cheaper than an unlimited plan for one phone with AT&T. And the service is identical.

The T-Mobile Stealth Plan. We told you we had two specials to tell you about, and this next deal is equally amazing especially for kids and those that don’t talk on the phone very much. Through Wal*Mart, T-Mobile offers a pay-as-you-go plan with 100 voice minutes, unlimited texting, and unlimited data (5GB at 4G speed and 2G speed thereafter) for $30 a month. Extra voice minutes are 10¢. It’s not only an amazing deal, but the fine print doesn’t seem to preclude tethering. You can use it with any T-Mobile phone including all of Google’s Android phones. For tethering support, any rootable Android phone works as well as the unmodified $349 Galaxy Nexus purchased directly from Google. The Galaxy Nexus gives you 4G performance as well. If you don’t care about tethering but want 4G performance, then take a look at the $189 Samsung T679 available at WalMart. Beware: Most AT&T GSM phones will also work, but you’ll only get 2G data performance because of the different radio frequencies used by AT&T and T-Mobile for 3G and 4G service.

If you have T-Mobile coverage in your area or if you spend a lot of time on the interstates and want network coverage for your laptops while you’re on the move, this is the plan for you. We call it the Stealth Plan because neither WalMart nor T-Mobile says much about it. It’s only available when you first sign up for service with your newly purchased T-Mobile SIM. Despite lots of chatter to the contrary, this plan is available (but unadvertised) by purchasing a 99¢ SIM directly from T-Mobile. Trust us. You’re only risking a buck. But, beware, if you ever switch to a different plan (or if you sign up for the wrong $30 plan originally… T-Mobile and WalMart both push a lousy plan that includes 1500 talk minutes with 30MB of data for the same $30), you can never go back to the good plan without purchasing another T-Mobile SIM. To activate your T-Mobile SIM once you have your T-Mobile phone in hand, go here. Remember. Make your initial selection carefully. To buy $30 refills, here’s the link. Enjoy!

Originally published: Wednesday, July 18, 2012



Astricon 2012. Astricon 2012 will be in Atlanta at the Sheraton beginning October 23 through October 25. We hope to see many of you there. We called Atlanta home for over 25 years so we’d love to show you around. Be sure to tug on my sleeve and mention you’d like a free PIAF Thumb Drive. We’ll have a bunch of them to pass out to our loyal supporters. Nerd Vittles readers also can save 20% on your registration by using coupon code: AC12VIT.




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


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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

The Bluetooth Revolution: Watch What We Can Do

If ever there’s been a sleeping technology giant still worth watching, it’s got to be Bluetooth. Originally developed by Ericsson, the Swedish telecommunications company, Bluetooth is a proprietary wireless technology for exchanging data over short distances using fixed and mobile devices. If you use it at all, it’s probably to answer phone calls and play music in your car using your smartphone or to walk around looking like a lunatic talking to yourself because you have a Bluetooth headset for your cellphone hanging out of your ear. Or you may be using our Bluetooth Proximity Detection utility to automatically forward calls from your PBX in a Flash server to your cellphone when you leave the office. Well, that’s so last week!

What’s coming in tomorrow’s vehicles (unless the federal government gets too crazy) is literally a revolution in the way vehicles interact with your smartphone. Rather than buying all of your existing cellphone technology again in every car you own, Bluetooth will give you a dashboard with the rich feature set of your existing smartphone without another monthly cellphone bill. That’s right. All of the data will be delivered to your dashboard via Bluetooth using middleware that translates existing information on your cellphone to a display on your dash. And you’ll be able to control the flow and type of information using a touchscreen in your car or truck that bears an uncanny resemblance to the display on your iPad or Android Tablet. See why you might really need a quad-core processor on your next smartphone?


I’m sorry. Did we say in tomorrow’s vehicles? You actually can get it right now in the Prius V with Entune. Of course, Toyota would like to replace your cellphone carrier and charge you monthly fees for services you’re already paying for on your cellphone, but that will sort itself out shortly. Why? Because there are some new open source experiments underway using Android instead of our old friend Micro$oft.

Meet The Watch. Suppose you were a nerd and just graduated from college with nothing to do except beg for a job flipping burgers. But then you had this idea to create a Bluetooth-enabled watch that could display content from your cellphone while you were driving, or running, or swimming. Well, you’d probably turn to KickStarter and try to raise $100,000 so you could build your dream watch. That was six weeks ago. They raised nearly $1 million the first day. And, by the time the fund-raising campaign ends in mid-May, it looks like this project will have raised nearly 10 million dollars!

Nice Surprise. So now you have the background on coming attractions. But there’s more. There’s the company that inspired Steve Jobs doing what they once did better than anyone on the planet, quietly churning out incredible products while nobody was looking. Meet Sony and the SmartWatch.

If you want a glimpse at what tomorrow’s vehicles will look like, the Sony SmartWatch is the one to follow. It’s in living color. It’s feature-rich. And it just works! Released in the United States three short weeks ago, there already are nearly 50 available Android applications (mostly free) that you can display on your watch. Here’s a sampling to give you some idea of the scope. We loaded a dozen on our SmartWatch in minutes!

You actually manage and download apps for your SmartWatch using Sony’s LiveWare Manager which lives on your Android phone. And, yes, almost any Android phone will work although a higher end device with more memory is a definite plus. You won’t want just a couple of apps once you get started.

We, of course, took one look at this watch and decided it was a perfect platform on which to display network management information about your PBX in a Flash communications servers or any other server. Keep reading!

One of the terrific apps for the SmartPhone is called Traffic Cams which does just what you’d think. It displays live web cam images from traffic cameras using GPS technology to figure out which ones are closest to you. Very slick! As you can see, we have some stunning ones within a mile of our home. And if you depend upon bridges to get to where you need to go, you’ll soon learn how indispensable these traffic cams really are. The camera shown above actually faces due east. For a real treat, come visit Nerd Vittles at 6:30 a.m. EDT (this time of the year) and enjoy the sunrise. Stunning!

HINT: The image shows the local time if you are timezone-challenged. It is refreshed every 3-4 minutes during the day.

Update: Wondering why this bridge is so empty? Check our SmartWatch! Pays to use more than one traffic camera when you set this up.

A bonus from the app is the ability to display your own 200×200 images on the watch from any public web site. So we whipped together a quick-and-dirty script that extracts status information about your PBX in a Flash server and converts it with ImageMagick (Don’t Forget: yum install ImageMagick) into a couple of jpeg images. Using FTP, these images then can be uploaded to a public web server and displayed on the phone. If you like the code and want to see what else is possible using the SmartWatch, come follow our progress on the PBX in a Flash Forum. Enjoy your new watch! Here’s a short list showing where to get a great deal on one.

Originally published: Monday, April 30, 2012




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


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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Bluetooth Proximity Detection for Automatic Call Forwarding

Time flies. It's been over six years since we introduced Bluetooth Proximity Detection to the Asterisk® community. Suffice it to say, the last tutorial was getting a little long in the tooth. Because we can't seem to get enough programming torture lately, we decided to revisit Follow Me Phoning by taking it to a whole new level with a fresh look at the setup procedure using the latest version of CentOS™ and PBX in a Flash 2™. This entire project takes less than 15 minutes.

If you're new to all of this, what we're talking about is the ability to stroll out of your home or office and have your telephone calls follow you on your cellphone automatically... without touching anything. And, when you return, the home or office phones start ringing again just as if you never left. Won't your boss or spouse be thrilled? What makes all of this possible, of course, is Bluetooth which happens to be running on your PBX in a Flash™ server and on your iPhone®, or Android® phone, or even Windows® Phone 7.

Our plan today is simple enough. We want to design a phone system so that, when you walk into your home or office, the phones ring in the office when there's an incoming call. And, when you walk out of your home or office carrying your WonderPhone with Bluetooth, calls to your home or office extension will start ringing on your cellphone. If you're using one of our turnkey PIAF2™ systems, this project should take you about 15 minutes to complete once you have a compatible USB Bluetooth adapter in hand.

System Requirements. As mentioned, you'll need a Linux-based Asterisk server. We recommend PBX in a Flash 2 which uses the latest and greatest CentOS 6.2™. It makes a virtually flawless communications server and includes all of the Linux utilities you'll need to get this working. Other than your Asterisk server, the only other hardware you'll need is a dLink™ DBT120 Bluetooth Adapter or any Bluetooth 2.0 EDR-compatible USB device will do. DBT120's run $30-$40 from most electronics stores. The clones cost a dollar or two on eBay. The ones with the black, semi-circular tops work fine. You choose. If you're using some other Linux flavor that doesn't include the Bluetooth utilities, consult our original article for installation instructions.

USB Bluetooth Adapter Installation. Boot up your Asterisk server if it is not already running and log in as root. Plug your USB Bluetooth adapter into an available USB slot. Now issue the following command:

/etc/init.d/bluetooth start

If you're alerted that some other application isn't running, we don't care. Now let's be sure the system has found your bluetooth adapter. Issue the following command from the Linux CLI:

hcitool dev

Assuming you get a response telling you the system found device hci0 with the MAC address of the adapter, you have successfully installed your USB Bluetooth adapter. So let's press on.

Configuring Linux Bluetooth Software to Start Automatically. You don't want to have to manually start up your Linux Bluetooth application each time you reboot your server. The easiest way to automatically start it is to issue the following command while still logged into your server as root:

chkconfig --level 345 bluetooth on

Deciphering Your Cellphone's Bluetooth MAC Address. We're going to be communicating with your Wonderphone to determine when you're in and when you're out. In order to do that, we need the MAC address of the phone's Bluetooth Adapter. Here's how to find it. Move your cellphone within 10 feet or so of your Asterisk server. Then put your phone into Bluetooth Discovery Mode by making it Visible for discovery. Every phone does this a little differently but you get the idea. HINT: Be sure Bluetooth is set to ON. Once you've done that, your phone will report that it is Discoverable. Put the cell phone down near your Asterisk server and jump back over to your Asterisk server console. Issue the following command, and you may have to try it several times until you get the MAC address of your cellphone's Bluetooth Adapter:

hcitool scan

Your system will whir away for a few seconds and then will report back the Bluetooth MAC address and name assigned to the adapter. It may be your name, or it may be the name or model of your cellphone. Write both of them down. We'll need the MAC address in a minute.

Proximity Detection Design. Now we've got all the hardware information we need to make proximity detection work. We'll download the Proximity Detection software in a minute. But first, sit down with a pencil and write down the other information you'll need to configure the Proximity Detection software. To make the software as flexibile as possible, we've reworked the code a bit since the original article. With the new code, it's possible to manage multiple extensions of multiple people with multiple cellphones. So what you'll need is the extension numbers of the people that want to use this and the cellphone numbers of those people. For example, you may want to forward extension 200 to 6782345678 and extension 202 to 6783456789. Just make sure that the forwarding numbers are in the correct format for the default outbound dialing rules on your Asterisk server. If your server expects numbers to always begin with a 9 or a 1, be sure to include it in the dial string, or the calls won't be completed when they are forwarded. Obviously, you'll also need the MAC address for each of your cellphone's Bluetooth adapters so just repeat the drill above with each cellphone until you have all of the MAC addresses. Finally, you'll need to assign an 8-character (or less) name to each user. So make yourself a nice little chart:

WARD 00:1D:64:C9:58:BA 200 6782345678
MARY 00:2D:54:C9:59:AB 201 6783456789

Today's installment assumes you are using a single Asterisk server both for your phone system AND proximity detection. The only drawback with the current design is that the cellphones need to be placed close to that server when you arrive at your home or office. You can experiment on the distance the cellphones can be away from the server. Different Bluetooth adapters and cellphones have slightly different ranges. The bottom line is you always want to leave the cellphones close enough to the server with the USB Bluetooth adapter so that the proximity detection works reliably all the time.

Proximity Detection Software Installation. All that remains to be done is to download and configure the proximity detection script and then put it in motion on your Linux machine. Log into your Asterisk server as root and move to the /root directory to download and unzip the script:

cd /root
wget http://nerdvittles.com/trixbox123/proximity.zip
unzip proximity.zip
chmod +x proximity

If you're going to be setting up proximity detection for multiple people, just make copies of the proximity script, e.g. cp proximity proximity1. Then edit each of the scripts and fill in the data from the little chart you made: nano -w proximity

deviceuser=WARD
devicemac=00:4B:63:D5:62:AB
myextension=200
mycellphone=6783456789

Save your changes and exit the editor: Ctrl-X, Y, then Enter.

Setting Up the Crontab Jobs. The last step is to set up a crontab entry for each script so that it gets run once a minute during whatever hours each day you want to monitor your cellphones. While still logged in as root, edit /etc/crontab: nano -w /etc/crontab. Insert a line like the following at the bottom of the existing file. This code would monitor your cellphone from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day. To monitor your phone 24 hours a day, replace 6-21 with an additional asterisk.

* 6-21 * * * root /root/proximity > /dev/null

Repeat the drill for the other phones you want to monitor substituting the correct script names, and you're done. Save your changes and exit the editor: Ctrl-X, Y, then Enter.

Incidentally, if you ever want to disable the Proximity Detection System, just edit the crontab file and comment out the lines you want to disable by inserting # at the beginning of the line(s). Then try a test call. If it happens that your calls are still being forwarded to your cellphone, you can cancel the forwarding from any Asterisk extension by dialing *74.

Alternatives. Since our original articles on proximity detection were released, some alternatives have appeared on the horizon. Perhaps the most important one is Google Voice. Using a free Google Voice account with a phone number in your choice of area codes, it's now possible to designate up to six phone numbers to ring in addition to the phones you have connected to your Google Voice number using either a PIAF2™ server or a $50 OBi device. In some cases, this may alleviate the need for proximity detection because you can simply pick up your office or home phone when it's available and answer your cellphone when you're away since both will be ringing. One advantage of the Google Voice approach is that inbound calls to your cellphone will display the CallerID of the caller rather than the CallerID of the trunk being used to forward calls to your cellphone. Either way works, and it's nice to have alternatives. Enjoy!

Originally published: Monday, February 6, 2012


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




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


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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest...

11/11/11: To Celebrate Nerd New Year’s, Please Welcome…

Nerd Vittles Daily Dump

Just click on the image above to visit the site. Content is updated at least twice daily. As always, we welcome your content suggestions. Enjoy!

Originally published: Friday, November 11, 2011


Great News! Google Plus is available to everyone. Sign up here and circle us. Click these links to view the Asterisk feed or PBX in a Flash feed on Google+.




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


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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Tips, Tricks & Apps to Get the Most Out of Your iPad 2

Rather than providing another glowing review of the iPad 2®, we thought it might be more helpful to sketch out the daily use potential of this incredible device based upon our experience and that of our 10-year old daughter. Yes, we’re one of the 30% who purchased an iPad 2 having already owned a number of first generation iPads. With double the RAM and nearly double the processing power of the first generation device, the one cautionary note that potential purchasers should heed is don’t buy the $499 model. Our daughter has survived a year with a $499 iPad only to find it completely full when she attempted to load Garage Band. And you will want Garage Band which is a storage hog by iPad standards. That’s not to suggest that Katherine’s iPad hasn’t served her well. She has almost 150 applications plus substantial collections of photos and music. What she doesn’t have is movies and video clips. With the addition of two cameras on the iPad 2 as well as Camera, AutoStitch, Movie, and Photo Booth apps and once you see what’s possible with iMovie, you’ll be begging for more storage capacity. Keep in mind that your storage capacity choice is irrevocable! There’s no way to add more storage later unless you buy a new device. And there’s no external storage other than removing apps and data through the iTunes interface. Perhaps more than anything else, that’s why the absence of a microSD slot on the iPad 2 is both a significant shortcoming and a huge disappointment.

The other suggestion we would offer to first-time iPad 2 purchasers is this. Get organized early. What we mean is decide early on how you’re going to use the 10 screens to organize your applications. Before the year is out, you will use all 10 screens assuming your bank account survives. At least now you can also create folders within a screen if you run out of room. Here’s our methodology, and it has served us pretty well. Screen 1 is reserved for the apps we use every day. The other screens are reserved for categories of applications: business, news and books, social, drawing and graphics, music, games, location-based services, and system/network management. If you’re a big gamer, artist, or musician, you may want to reserve two screens for your favorite category. The point is to spend a little time up front deciding how to organize applications. And, fortunately, you can move things around with the iTunes interface down the road so long as you leave one screen available for reorganizing.

You can also place six apps at the bottom of the display, and these are accessible from all 10 screens. Here’s where you’d want your browser, email or Gmail buttons, App Store, and Settings. That leaves you two more must-have apps. If you play music all the time, you’d probably want the iPod app. If you look at Photos all the time, you’d want the Photo app. But you get the idea, use Screen 1 for Daily Use Apps and the 6 bottom slots for your must-have at all times apps. If you don’t heed this advice, then you’ll find yourself having to search for apps on Screen 0 every time you want to use an application.

Favorite Apps. That brings us to our favorite apps. For ease of reference, we’ll cover these in the same way they are organized on our iPad 2. And, we’d love to hear about your favorite apps, too. Just post a comment. In the Daily Use category, here’s our list:

Calendar
Contacts
Mail
Maps
Videos
FaceTime
Camera
Photo Booth
EyeTV
YouTube
Hulu Plus
SlingPlayer
NetFlix
Bria
Travelin’ Man
OBiON
Pandora
Pulse News
Flipboard
iSWiFTER
 

Most of the above applications are self-explanatory, but we’ll mention a few. If you have a Mac, then EyeTV is a must-have addition. It lets you play and record all your favorite TV shows. Removing commercials from a one-hour show is about a 2-minute click-and-drag operation. And it’s incredibly easy to export your favorite recordings in either iPhone or iPad format. So long as iTunes is running on your Mac desktop, you can play your recordings or live TV at any time using either a WiFi or 3G network connection. SlingPlayer does much the same thing (only worse) with no recording capability, but it works with Windows machines as well as Macs, and it’s a standalone device. The Netflix app lets you stream movies and TV shows to your iPad for $7.99 a month, and it supports 6 simultaneous devices including many current generation HDTVs. OBiON is the VoIP app that lets you make free Google Voice calls in the U.S. and Canada using your $49 OBi device. You can read all about it here. If you have an Asterisk® PBX, then you’ll want Bria and our Travelin’ Man app for secure, remote, and free SIP communications. Finally, there’s the new iSWiFTER app which brings Flash video back from the dead on the iPad platform. It’s free for a limited time and, believe it or not, it’s available in the App Store.

Books & News. We spend every morning at the breakfast table with the Books & News page on our iPad. Here’s our list:

Kindle
iBooks
Friendly (Facebook)
Twitterific
AccuWeather
ABC News
ABC Player
CBS News
CNBC RT
CNN
Huff Post
Newsy
NYTimes
News Pro
USA Today
WSJ
Wash Post
The Daily
TV Guide
Tweetdeck
 

We don’t watch much Faux News which has become more akin to Incitement TV. We really hoped The Daily would be different. It’s not. But… to each his own.

Business Apps. This is kind of a catch-all page for stuff we use frequently as well as some apps we’ll probably never use again. Here’s our list:

iMovie
Keynote
Pages
Notes
Bento
Sorted
2Do
Todo
Zenbe Lists
Voice Memos
aNote Lite
Dictation
Due
FlipTime XL
MobileNoter
Pad Info
PaperDesk LT
News Rack
GoodReader
textPlus
 

Of all the ToDo applications that are available (and we’ve tried most of them), we like Todo the best. But, for quick reminders, you can’t beat Due. GoodReader, Keynote, and Pages are must have business apps, and iMovie is every bit as good as the app on the Mac. It’s about perfect for an on-the-go, need-it-in-a-hurry project.

Navigation & Wi-Fi Apps. When we’re on the road or looking for a WiFi Hot Spot or good place to eat, here’s our list:

CoPilot HD
Charts & Tides
Navionics Marines
ShipFinder HD
GPS Drive HD
GPS HD
Hurricane HD
UrbanSpoon
Epicurious
Where To Eat
ZAGAT
Zillow.com
WiFiGet HD
Dash Four
Mifi
World Atlas
Skobbler
SpeedBox
WiFon
Trapster
 

GPS navigation on the roads is hit and miss on the iPad. Nothing comes close to Google Maps navigation. CoPilot could be a contender except for the outdated maps and copy protection paranoia. On the water, both Charts & TIdes and Navionics Marine are fantastic. We compared both of them to a $10,000 Nav system on a very fine boat only yesterday. There was virtually no difference in the information available with the exception of the radar-enhanced features. If you’re always shopping for real estate, there is no finer app than Zillow, period. If you’re in to fast cars, there is no finer app than Trapster.

Games. Last but not least, everybody needs a diversion once in a while. Here’s a list of some of our favorite iPad games:

Game Center
GearedHD
Frogger
Foosball HD
AirCoaster
Angry Birds
Asphalt 5
JirboBreak
Doons HD
ElectroRacer
FarmVille (WAF)
Hit Tennis 2
iFooty
Pac-Man
Pinball HD
RealRacing HD
RealRacing GTI
Snowboarding
Checkers HD
Wacky Circus HD

 

This will probably be the category that changes the quickest with the new lightening-fast graphics and dual core processor on the iPad 2. Stay tuned!

Originally published: Monday, March 14, 2011


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


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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

The Perfect Valentine: $149 Android + $25 Virgin Mobile Plan

LG Optimus VJust when AT&T and Verizon thought they’d suckered everyone on the planet into paying $100 a month for 24 months to get a functional cellphone with either an iPhone or Android phone, along comes a breath of fresh air. Close your eyes and try to picture Google’s Nexus One paired with a $25 3G cellphone plan with unlimited data, unlimited messaging and 300 minutes a month. Did we mention NO CONTRACT? Flash support? Nope.1 But tethering is possible for talented geeks and nerds as well. For those that don’t spend their whole life yacking on a telephone, this combination hits the sweet spot. It’s especially appealing for both the older generation who need the security of a cellphone but rarely use it and those under 25 that seldom converse other than in sparkling text messages.

With the addition of the free CSipSimple app from the Android Market, you can place SIP calls through your favorite SIP provider or PBX in a Flash server for little or no cost using either a WiFi or 3G data connection. Or you can use the free OBiTalk for Android app in conjunction with a $49 OBi device we previously reviewed to make free Google Voice calls in the U.S. and Canada.

First, the bad news. It’s not a Nexus One. And now the good news. It’s even better. It’s LG’s new $149 Optimus V for Virgin Mobile. Yes, it weighs an ounce more and is perhaps a few millimeters thicker than a Nexus One, but in return you get Android Froyo 2.2. Aside from that, the phones are virtually identical: beautiful screen, quality feel, 3.2 megapixel camera, Facebook, Twitter, full integration of Google Apps including Google Market, Gmail, Google Voice, Maps, Latitude, Voice-Enabled Navigation with GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth (cell phone and audio pairing finally work reliably in Froyo!), and 3G service on Sprint’s rock-solid nationwide network. The phone is rated at 6 hours talk time and 168 hours standby… and it can be rooted in a couple of minutes if you hurry. The phones went on sale this week at Best Buy, Radio Shack, and other Virgin Mobile retailers. But they won’t last long at least without a patch to close the rooting door. So, yes, it is the Perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Stop reading and start calling until you find one. They’re that good, and they’re available on line as well. Best Buy currently has them for $129.99. Be sure to check out the Comments to this article for late-breaking discounts.

Virgin Mobile actually offers three cellphone plans for the Optimus V. All are contract-free! And all include unlimited messaging, email, data and web services. The only difference is in the cellphone minutes per month. $25 a month gets you 300 minutes. $40 gets you 1200 minutes. And $60 gets you unlimited minutes. The signup process only takes a couple of minutes, and you have the option of recurring billing by credit card only if you choose it. Unlike AT&T and Verizon, international calling is downright reasonable. The big cities in Mexico are 2¢ a minute, most of Europe is 25¢ and other countries are all over the map (literally). Pakistan, for example, is 5¢. So there are no gotchas, at least that we could find.

Once the phone is enabled, you’ll want to hurry over to the Android Central Forum which will walk you through rooting the phone using your favorite Windows machine. The only trick is finding the Windows USB drivers for LG phones. HINT: Look here. Once you get Sun’s JRE and the Android SDK installed, SuperOneClick handles the heavy lifting in a few seconds. Once the phone is rooted, you can download SuperUser, TitaniumBackup, and Barnacle WiFi Tethering from the Google Market. The only trick to Barnacle is to choose Skip wpa_supplicant in Settings. Finally, you’ll want to disable over-the-air (OTA) updates so that the provider doesn’t mess up your perfect phone down the road. Here’s how. Renaming the keys file is all that is required, and the easiest way to do it is using Root Explorer (available in the Google Market for a couple bucks) which is money well spent. Happy Valentine’s Day to all. We’ve listed a few of our favorite Android apps below to get your started. Enjoy!


Originally published: Friday, February 11, 2011


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


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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Incompatible processor precludes Flash. Sorry. []

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