Category: Smartphones

The New VoIP Frontier: Meet the iPad Mini with Retina Display

Last week was interesting if for no other reason because Apple released an amazing new product without tooting a single trumpet. In fact, the iPad Mini with Retina display was quietly made available on Apple’s web site in the middle of the night. Most believe that the rationale was that the devices were in such short supply that Apple couldn’t afford the PR nightmare of releasing a new product that very few could buy. Guess what? It’s still available. You have to order on the web. Then you can either pick up the device at your local Apple Store, or have it shipped directly to you… from China. We ordered on Tuesday and received the unit on Friday. What struck us about the new iPad Mini is the striking resemblance to the old iPad Mini. One suspects that Apple is running out of magic bunnies to pull from the hat so we’re getting down to one new gee whiz feature per year. In fairness, the new iPad Mini not only has a Retina display, but also has the new A7 chip with 64-bit architecture. The CPU is up to four times faster while graphics performance saw an 800% improvement without sacrificing battery life. To be completely honest, Apple needed the extra horsepower to drive the retina display, and the battery life has been preserved by increasing its size considerably. Almost half of the inside of an iPad Mini is now nothing but battery. Hop over to iFixIt for all the details.

If the new hardware were the only addition, we probably would have had little interest in the new iPad Mini. But we learned a couple of years ago that there’s a dramatic difference in reading on a 7 inch tablet vs. an 8 inch tablet. And, when you add the retina display with 2048-by-1536 resolution and a staggering 326 pixels per inch, the iPad Mini becomes an almost perfect traveling companion for those that do a lot of reading. Apple also bundles an impressive list of business and productivity applications including Siri at no additional cost. For those that work on the Mac platform, the most important enhancement to these apps is that what you see on the Mac desktop using Pages, Numbers, or Keynote is exactly what you’ll see when the document is moved to either the iPad Air or iPad Mini with Retina display. For traveling business folks, that’s a huge improvement!

There have been some equally impressive additions on the communications front for those that enjoy Voice over IP technology. If you’re using PBX in a Flash™ or Asterisk®, we’re pleased to report that the Zoiper IAX client for iOS 7 works flawlessly. Simply set up an IAX extension on your server and enter your credentials in the Zoiper client on your iPad. Screwy as it sounds, Google has released Hangouts on the iOS 7 platform (only) with the added capability to place and receive PSTN phone calls anywhere in the world using a Google Voice PSTN phone number. And calls within the U.S. and Canada are free! Will it disappear? Will Google ever support it on their own Android devices? Who knows? We’ve given up trying to predict what Google will do next, but this addition will probably remain so long as Hangouts continues to be a viable platform. And Google seems to be staking their VoIP fortunes on Hangouts just as Apple has done with FaceTime and Microsoft with Skype. Of course, PSTN calls aren’t possible with FaceTime and, with Skype, PSTN calls are never free. So there is that important difference, and Hangouts fills that niche.

The other major software news is that Google Play Music now is available for iOS 7 as well. In addition to unlimited streaming of almost any music on the planet for $9.95 a month (to a single device at a time), you also can move 20,000 of your favorite songs to the Google Cloud and stream them for free. Apple offers free music alternatives as well including iTunes Radio which now is rolled into the iPad Music app.

There used to be a big reason for buying the cellular addition to the iPads. It made the GPS functionality work. Our Wi-Fi only unit had no problem pinpointing our location with nothing but a WiFi signal. Of course, if you have one of the new Verizon or AT&T bundled data plans, adding an iPad is just $10 a month. That alone would warrant purchase of the unlocked cellular model which now works with all cellular carriers. What a concept!

As you might expect, there are no deals to be had on the iPad Mini with Retina display. But, if you’re looking to buy a new iPad for Christmas, you should probably pay a visit to WalMart or Target on Black Friday. Both retailers are throwing in a $100 gift card with your purchase of the new iPad Air. Nobody other than Apple is yet selling the iPad Mini with Retina display. For another great review, see today’s coverage on The Verge. Enjoy!



Just Released: AstriCon 2013 Videos. Digium has just released all of the videos from AstriCon 2013 on the new YouTube Asterisk Channel.



Originally published: Monday, November 18, 2013




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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Meet the Goophone: It Walks Like a Duck and Quacks Like a Duck For Under $100

If you didn’t cheat and hover over the images above, then you’d be wrong if you guessed that you now can buy Apple’s shiny, new iPhone® 5c for less than $100. From first-hand experience, I can tell you that the price of the 32GB model without a contract remains $649. You can add another $50 for tax in most states. And you can add another $99 for AppleCare® and another $79 each time your daughter drops the phone on the pavement. No, my friends, this is not an iPhone 5c. It’s the Goophone i5c from DHgate.com and many others brought to you by some enterprising neighbors of the fine folks that manufacture phones for Apple® and Samsung® (among others) in China. As the back of the phone says: “Designed by Goophone in California. Assembled in China.” Sound familiar? Not sure Goophone spent much time in California, but the phones are most definitely “assembled” in China. Total delivered price from DHgate: $89.99. While we had little clue about the similarities when we ordered the phone, with the exception of the Goophone logo emblazoned on the back of the phone and the prominent Goophone boot logo, you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish one duck from the other. My daughter’s iPhone 5c happens to be pink. So that helped with telling them apart.

What’s wrong with this picture? Well, lots. Let’s see. The potential patent, trademark, and copyright issues look like something a sadistic law professor might cook up for a bar exam. However, neither the International Trade Commission nor any American court has (yet) blocked the import of these phones so technically the manufacturer is entitled to the same presumptions as any other merchant. And proliferation of these phones in the United States is the least of Apple’s problems. Remember, Apple has been counting on the huge Chinese market as the Second Coming for iPhone sales. Considering the i5c was available before the iPhone 5c ever shipped, it seems fairly likely that there also may be a technology leak somewhere in someone’s pipeline. Let’s guess where that might be. What should be equally troubling to Apple is that someone could look at your $700 phone and build a perfectly functioning replica for under $40. Did we mention the build quality? It’s similar. Let’s leave it at that. In short, the Goophone knock off appears to be much what Apple claimed in court that Samsung was doing. It just didn’t happen to turn out that way in some of the Samsung litigation. But, as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for. It turns out that the Goophone may actually be a better mousetrap than the iPhone especially when it comes to overall performance and battery life.


We’re not going to get into the morality or legality of buying stuff like this especially with Festivus just around the corner. So sort that out for yourself. Start with this New York Times article and then do some reading on the Freakonomics web site if you’re really curious. Suffice it to say there’s a major difference between a counterfeit and a knockoff. Counterfeit goods are those with someone else’s brand name splattered across the item. Think pocketbooks hidden in the blankets on the street corners around Times Square in New York. Most of these phones are clearly labeled with their own unique brand names. Examining the devices up close or after turning them on would explicitly tell any buyer that Goophones aren’t made or designed by Apple. All of the hardware and most of the software on the inside of the phone is different as well. So we believe the phones rise to the level of a knockoff which keeps buyers out of hot water. Keep in mind we’re talking about buying a phone, not selling one. Don’t even think about reselling them!

To borrow an expression from NASA: “Cupertino. We’ve got a problem.” Before you get too mad at the Chinese, keep in mind that there’s plenty of blame to go around. Apple, for one, chose to make their phones in China to save money. While we were writing this article, Google® ads were popping up all over the place for these phones. And, of course, AT&T® and T-Mobile® are perfectly willing to sell you a nano SIM to use in your Goophone even though they could easily block the devices. The parcel delivery companies are more than happy to bring these phones into the U.S. by the boatload. And finally there’s this little tidbit in the New York Times article referenced above: “Customs in the United States will allow travelers to bring [in] one counterfeit good per category.” Think of it as the “One-Bite Rule” for humans. We’re confident that Apple can muster adequate legal talent to attempt to shut down the import of these phones if they chose to do so. But, so far, that hasn’t happened. There may be a reason. Ironically, Ubergizmo reports that Goophone actually owns the patent in China and is threatening to sue Apple if the iPhone 5 is released in that country. It seems Goophone beat Apple to the Chinese patent office. So this could get interesting.

We actually ordered the i5c and paid a little more to see if the entire operation was fraudulent. From the photos on the web site, the phone looked similar to both the iPhone and a number of Android® phones. But that could be said of hundreds of phones now on the market. A price point of under $100 was our primary consideration since performance and feature set now are fairly standard on many of the Android phones. This phone just happened to be the cheapest.

The good news is the merchant we chose was legitimate albeit a little slow on delivery (but this particular phone had just been released). Of course, you have no idea what is hidden under the covers, and that applies to the hardware and software. There is no guarantee that the phone won’t explode from a sub-par battery. In fact, there is no guarantee, period. The New York Times reports that the typical manufacturing cost for one of these phones is under $40. If you like the NSA snooping on you, then consider the possibilities where all the software in these phones is produced in China. Our takeaway from the experiment was this. The Goophone certainly proves just how inexpensive it is to manufacture a high-quality phone in China when some of the design work appears to have been done elsewhere. :wink:

Since we had the phone, a quick review of its capabilities seemed to be in order. Hardware-wise, it appears to be an excellent phone. We would hasten to add that we would never, ever put our trusted credentials for any account in a knockoff phone from China. Nor would we plug it in without being in the room to monitor its condition. At least on the unit we received, the phone easily lasted all day with moderate use, and it never displayed any signs of overheating. After 8 hours, the Goophone showed 85% battery remaining. As delivered, none of the Google apps were available. Nor could they be loaded. That included the Play Store®, Gmail®, and Google Maps®. There also was plenty of Chinese sprinkled throughout the menus just to keep things interesting. GizmoChina reported that a new ROM supporting Google apps and English has been released, and we’ll get to that in a minute. But the screenshots of the phone above demonstrate what was possible even with the Chinese model and no Play Store.

As you can see below, the Goophone takes magnificent photos even in panorama mode. The side of our neighbor’s home is one of my favorite places to test new cameras because of the difficult morning light situation. With a little cropping and applying a touch of saturation in Photoshop® Elements (about a 10-second task), the end result is pretty spectacular. The displayed image is roughly 20% of the original size of the photograph.

While the phone’s icons may look familiar, this is a pure Android Jelly Bean OS running on a 1.2GHz dual-core MediaTek MT6572 processor with 512MB RAM, 4GB ROM (only about 1GB available), and an 8GB internal SD card. It has an 8 megapixel back camera and a 2 megapixel front camera and supports WiFi and 2G/3G GSM cellular connections. Bluetooth® worked reliably and paired easily with a Jambox®. Both AT&T/StraightTalk® and T-Mobile GSM SIMs were plug-and-play although StraightTalk would require modification of the proxy address just as it would on a standard iPhone or Android device. For experimenters, T-Mobile’s $2/day pay-as-you-go plan was just about right. It provided unlimited calling, texting, and 2G web access which is more than ample for most of the things you’d want to do with a phone like this. For teenagers on a tight budget, it’s pretty close to the best of all worlds. When coupled with a $45/month StraightTalk SIM on the AT&T network, you get a feature-packed phone that looks like a Mercedes® with a price tag like a Volkswagen®. And, for less than the cost of an AppleCare contract, you can buy a spare.


Rooting the device was easy. The YouTube® video above explains the procedure. And the necessary drivers for Windows® are included in the Samsung USB Drivers Collection for Windows. You also need the MT6577 USB VCOM Drivers to load new ROMs.

We apparently got an early release of the phone because much of the user interface was in Chinese and, as we noted, none of the Google apps worked. So the most difficult part for us was finding the .apk Android apps since Google’s Play Store wasn’t available. If you have another rooted Android phone, the simple solution is to grab them from a Titanium Backup. HINT: The filenames end in .apk. Be careful downloading .apk files from strange web sites. That’s about as safe as loading your bank credentials into a Chinese knockoff. All of the apps pictured in the screenshot above work as you would expect. After all, it’s an Android phone. POP3 and IMAP email accounts work fine. The cameras are great including movies and HDR. Skype® video works fine. Zoiper® IAX connections are terrific when linked back to an Asterisk® or VoIP.ms account. Music collections can be loaded using a USB connection to any Mac or Windows machine. Or plug in some earplugs and listen to your favorite FM radio station just like in the old days. For diehard music, sports, and talk radio fans, SiriusXM® Internet Radio works as well. The .apk is available in this thread.

As you might expect, communication with the manufacturer was difficult, but they were responsive. After considerable back and forth, we did manage to secure the newer ROM with Play Store support. Presumably, it is now shipping in phones destined for the United States. To actually load the new ROM, you need version 3.1312 of the Smart Phone Flash Tool. Once that’s installed on your Windows desktop, you can follow along with this tutorial to get the new ROM loaded into the phone. The sequence of events in using SP_Flash_Tool matters. Unzip the new ROM into a new folder on your desktop. Turn off your i5c and unplug it from the USB cable if it is connected to your Windows machine. Then run Flash_tool.exe from the SP_Flash_Tool folder on your desktop. Choose File -> Open Scatter-loading File and select MT6572_Android_scatter.txt from the folder with the unzipped new ROM. Click the Download button. Now plug in your phone using a USB cable connected to your PC. Do NOT turn on the phone. If you’ve properly loaded the MT6577 USB VCOM Drivers from above, the update should proceed within a few seconds, and you’ll see the progress bar changing colors in the flash tool application. It takes about 2 minutes to load the new ROM. Once you get the Download OK dialog box, unplug the phone and close the flash tool app. Before turning on the phone, be sure you’ve inserted a SIM card from either T-Mobile or AT&T/StraightTalk, or the phone will boot into Chinese (permanently) when you turn it on. Guess how we know? Now hold down the Power and Home buttons simultaneously for 10 seconds. Release the buttons and power on the phone in the usual way by pressing the Power button for a few seconds.

Just a couple more gotchas, and you should be good to go. First, DO NOT USE GOOGLE CREDENTIALS IN THIS PHONE THAT MATTER TO YOU! Based upon the performance of the browser using a very fast WiFi connection, our testing suggests that all browser activity and perhaps other activity (WiFi and GSM) may be routed through a proxy. Guess where? Second, do not use a Google account with two-factor authentication. It won’t work. Third, we’ve had excellent results with Zoiper IAX connections to an Asterisk server, but the setup is problematic. The Zoiper keyboard for data entry doesn’t have a period on it. Keyboards shown for other apps include the period so this is a Zoiper-specific problem, not an inherent limitation of the phone. To enter the IP address or FQDN of a host with Zoiper, you’ll need to send an email to the phone with the information. Open Gmail or your other mail client and copy the text to the phone’s clipboard. Then set up your Zoiper account. A long press on the host field will let you paste in the appropriate data. If you experience compatibility errors that prevent loading certain apps from the Play Store (Instagram is one example), then you’ll need to root your phone and load App Override from the Play Store. Then tell the app to override Play Store install restrictions. Finally, wade through the notification settings for the apps and reset them. After that, notifications worked as expected. GPS still no worky.

We did a quick-and-dirty video on YouTube to show off our CallWho™ Speech-to-Text Dialer coupled with SMS messaging and GoIP to test the message capabilities of the iPhone 5c and the i5c. CallWho is included as a standard feature using Incredible PBX 11™ with PBX in a Flash™. Enjoy!


 



iGoogle Added to Google Graveyard. Google has added (yet another) corpse to the Google Graveyard. This time it’s iGoogle, the need for which (according to Google) “has eroded over time.” The iGoogle demise also means that Nerd Vittles TTS Google News Feed bit the dust. As much as we’re troubled to admit it, it would appear that Microsoft got it just about right in their spoof:


For the complete list of Google carnage, see last week’s Nerd Vittles article. Just in TTS applications for Asterisk, we’ve lost phone directories, sports scores, weather reports, and now news feeds. Can stock listings be far behind? And, coming next week, Google’s JavaScript Maps API gets put out to pasture. Then, of course, there are the text-to-speech and speech-to-text tools themselves. Wouldn’t make any long term plans using those platforms or any other Google platform for that matter. For those (formerly) enjoying the Nerd Vittles text-to-speech Google apps or Incredible PBX, this means that dialing 951 now returns “From, from, from” as the latest news headlines. There’s a simple fix that now is available. We’ve replaced Google News with Yahoo News! To replace the news app, simply run this update script.



Banner Day at Nerd Vittles. Today we’re delighted to announce that we’ve logged over 200,000 unique visitors from the United States this year alone! And we’re especially pleased to now have fans visiting from 216 countries. Thank you!

Originally published: Monday, November 11, 2013




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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Finally a 100% Portable PBX: Introducing GoIP, a SIP-GSM Gateway for Asterisk

How far we have come! The original Asterisk® claim to fame was its ability to interface with proprietary phone systems and legacy telephony hardware, the glue that literally kept companies stuck to their overpriced PBXs. And, just as wired phone systems began to lose their edge, along came the Bell Sisters to introduce cellular communications with billing that began when the phone started ringing and an end to toll-free calling and extra fees for text messaging on top of exorbitantly priced data service. The piece that traditionally has been missing from Asterisk deployments has been interconnectivity with cellular data services. Well, that was then, and this is now. Meet the GoIP GSM Gateway in one, four, eight, and 16-channel flavors to meet your every need. Our focus today will be the one-channel GoIP device, but the larger units work almost identically so, once you’ve mastered the device, it’s not rocket science to move to the 4-channel or 8-channel device (or even larger) if the extra GSM ports better meet your office’s requirements.1

Let’s begin with the basics. What does it do? What does it cost? Why do I need it? How steep is the learning curve?

What Does It Do? In a nutshell, GoIP is a SIP-talkin’ GSM gateway that sits on the same network as your Asterisk server. Once you configure a trunk and a few special Asterisk settings to support SMS messaging, you’ll have another full-featured provider for your PBX, only this one happens to be GSM cellular-based. The good news is GoIP brings to your PBX most of the same feature set that is available using your favorite GSM cellphone except now every extension on your PBX in a Flash™ server can share the cellular connection both for calls and messaging. That means inbound and outbound cell calls as well as inbound and outbound SMS messaging for every extension on your PBX.

With today’s Nerd Vittles additions, here’s the new feature set using a GoIP device from any extension on your PBX:

  1. Make outbound calls through the GoIP cellular trunk from any PBX extension
  2. Receive incoming cellular calls and redirect them to any number on your PBX
  3. Dictate text by phone and deliver SMS messages to any SMS-capable device
  4. Use a browser to create and deliver outbound SMS messages to any SMS device
  5. Receive incoming SMS messages and forward the messages to any email address
  6. Receive incoming SMS messages and forward the messages to any SMS number
  7. Send an SMS message with a password and receive a callback with DISA dialtone

What Does It Cost? As much as we love Amazon for its referral revenue support of our blog and open source projects, we couldn’t find a single-channel GoIP offering at a reasonable price. The Amazon links provided above for the larger units are competitive (about $100 per port). For the single-channel model, eBay® is your friend. You’ll find multiple providers in the $150 price range. All of the units we’ve found ship from China. We used this provider who got the GoIP device to us exactly 14 days after we ordered it. Ours shipped with the latest firmware, but firmware updates are available here. AliExpress also sells the devices for about the same price. We’ve had good luck with them in the past.

The other expense with the GoIP devices is cellular service. For each channel, you’ll need a GSM SIM card just like what your GSM, AT&T, or T-Mobile cell phone uses. The good news is there are lots of other choices now. See WalMart for some options. Another option for low frequency use would be T-Mobile’s pay-by-the day plans. The $1 (unlimited SMS messaging) or $2/day (unlimited calls and unlimited SMS messaging) plans are almost perfect since you don’t need data. Just be sure to choose a GSM carrier, AT&T or T-Mobile in the U.S. market. Both are supported by StraightTalk. Our favorite remains the (almost) unlimited calling, text, and data $45 plan from StraightTalk. With their AT&T-compatible SIM (don’t buy it in a StraightTalk-locked phone!), it’s a simple matter of moving the SIM card from your cellphone to the GoIP’s GSM slot (connectors facing down). The GoIP unit can spoof an IMEI for picky providers.

Why Do I Need It? The two major advantages of adding a cellular trunk to your PBX are redundancy and portability. Except in the Hurricane Katrina situation, chances are that your Internet service provider and your cellular provider won’t both be dead in the water2 at the same time. The good news is that even with a hurricane, you can pack up your PBX in a Flash server or Raspberry Pi together with your GoIP device and move to higher ground. As fast as you can say “George Bush is a compassionate conservative,” you’ll be back in business.

And then there are the mobile users such as construction site workers, mobile firefighters deployed to a site far from home and other first responders, or even the nomads that manage conventions in a different town every week. Think AstriCon! Rather than relying on crappy hotel WiFi service or paying an arm and a leg for installation of cable or DSL Internet service which often isn’t available anyway, now you have the flexibility to deploy a full-featured PBX at almost any temporary site with nothing more than a $30 Wi-Fi firewall/router, a PBX in a Flash Server or Raspberry Pi, and a GSM SIP trunk courtesy of GoIP. The only other ingredient you need is a little electricity. That could be a wall outlet, or a generator, or an inexpensive AC inverter for your vehicle. Did we mention it’ll work identically on the next site without spending an extra nickel. Hardware cost for the Mobile Communications Center (as shown below): about $250.

Last but not least are all of the organizations that could benefit from an SMS-based emergency messaging service. A dollar a day is a small price to pay to deploy a service that can alert the public, employees, or parents and students of emergency situations. Before you read about the next mass shooting or midnight tornado, give it some thought. We’ve already introduced SMS Blaster to make the job easy. Or you can roll your own by building a simple text file in /tmp/callees.txt with a 10-digit3 callee’s phone number on each line. Then add the following snippet to your Asterisk dialplan code and put your emergency message in line 2. You’ve just replaced a $100 a month message blasting service with a totally portable, self-managed solution. And you’ll recover your hardware costs in less than three months.


[goip-sms-blaster]
exten => s,1,Answer
exten => s,n,Set(SMSMSG="Here is where your emergency message goes.")
exten => s,n,ReadFile(callees=/tmp/callees.txt)
exten => s,n,Set(callees=${URIENCODE(${callees})})
exten => s,n,Set(callees=${REPLACE(callees,%0A,-)})
exten => s,n,Set(SMSNUM=${callees:0:10})
exten => s,n,While($[${LEN(${SMSNUM})}>9])
exten => s,n,NoOp(Here's where we send SMS message to: ${SMSNUM})
exten => s,n,Set(SMSOUT=${SMSNUM}%0A${SMSMSG})
exten => s,n,Set(SMSOUTRAW=${URIDECODE(${SMSOUT})})
exten => s,n,Set(MESSAGE(body)=${SMSOUTRAW})
exten => s,n,MessageSend(sip:goip_1)
exten => s,n,Set(callees=${callees:13})
exten => s,n,Set(SMSNUM=${callees:0:10})
exten => s,n,Set(SMSNUM=${REPLACE(SMSNUM,-,0)})
exten => s,n,EndWhile()
exten => s,n,Hangup()

How Steep Is the Learning Curve? Lucky for you, you’re not going to have to worry about the learning curve. After all, that’s why you come to Nerd Vittles, isn’t it? We’ve spent the better part of a week getting the GoIP to sit up and bark. If you’re a slow typist, it might take you 10 minutes to get everything set up and functional once you have your GoIP device and SIM card in hand. When we’re finished, you’ll have an easy way to make and receive calls through your GoIP device using any extension on your PBX. And you’ll have a simple utility to send and receive SMS messages. In fact, you’ll be able to dictate your SMS messages from any phone connected to your PBX and send them out to any number supported by SMS including the millions of Google Voice numbers. Last but not least, we’ll provide a utility to send password-protected SMS messages to GoIP and receive a return call with DISA dial tone to make outbound calls using any available trunks on your PBX.

A Word About Security. We’re a little paranoid when it comes to security so bear with us. Without impugning anyone’s integrity, suffice it to say this device is manufactured in China. Although the device reportedly runs Linux, none of its other firmware is open source, at least not that we could find. There also are three back doors into the system which can be triggered by SMS commands to the device itself. These are well documented in the GoIP User’s Manual. Whether there are other backdoors or whether the device “phones home” are questions we have neither the time nor the money to explore. Unless you do, you are well advised to treat the device in the same way you would treat a new employee on their first day at work. Don’t put the device on a private LAN in which other computers or devices on the LAN are not protected. Don’t use a SIM card with an automatic renewal feature or with authority to post charges against your credit or debit card. Change your Admin password to the device immediately. Don’t use a password you use elsewhere! Anyone can reset the device to factory defaults by knowing the default credentials and sending RESET admin in an SMS message to the device. We love the device, but be careful.

Initial Setup of the GoIP Device

To begin, you’ll need cellphone coverage in the place where you intend to connect your GoIP device. Verify this while the SIM card you plan to use is still installed in a working cellphone. Make a call and send an SMS message to verify that the site is appropriate. Next, verify that you have a place to connect your GoIP device to your LAN in the same location. Both of these are important first steps, or you’ll be wasting your time continuing on. Once the connectivity issues are out of the way, turn off your cell phone, remove the GSM SIM card, and insert it into the GoIP device with the connectors pointing downward. You should hear a click when the SIM card is properly seated. Now connect the device behind a hardware-based firewall/router that provides DHCP service. Plug an Ethernet cable into the LAN port of the GoIP device and connect it to your network. Finally, using the power adapter provided, apply power to the device. Watch the blinking lights. While booting the RUN light will flash on and off every 100 milliseconds. Once the RUN and CHANNEL lights flash GREEN once per second, you’re in business. Now use another cellphone to send a text message with the word INFO to the phone number associated with the SIM card you plugged into the GoIP Device. You should receive a return message telling you the DHCP LAN address associated with the GoIP CHANNEL port where you plugged in the SIM card. Write it down! We’re not going to use the PC port so you can ignore its IP address for now.

Asterisk Prerequisites for Today’s GoIP Project

We’ll be using PIAF-Green with Asterisk 11 and FreePBX 2.11 today so you’ll have to read between the lines if you’re using a prehistoric release or a non-FreePBX system. We’re also assuming you’ve installed Incredible PBX™ 11 which provides the necessary components to get Google’s text-to-speech and speech-to-text features working. If you’d prefer to roll your own, then start by installing Lefteris Zafiris’ GoogleTTS and Speech Recognition components for Asterisk. For PBX in a Flash users that aren’t using Incredible PBX, you can follow this tutorial to install all of the necessary components in one click.

Initial Setup of FreePBX for the GoIP Device

We’ve found that it’s easier to configure the FreePBX® side to support the GoIP, and then configure the GoIP unit. There are seven simple steps. If you don’t want SMS DISA callback support in your setup, skip the last two steps.

  1. Add GoIP SIP Trunk
  2. Add Custom SIP Settings
  3. Add GoIP Outbound Route
  4. Add GoIP Custom Destination
  5. Add GoIP Misc Application
  6. Add GoIP DISA Context
  7. Add GoIP DISA Misc Application

1. Start by adding a new SIP Trunk to support the GoIP device. Be sure to match the device names we’ve shown exactly, or nothing will work. Our special thanks to samyantoun for his initial work on this. Replace 192.168.0.107 with the IP address of your GoIP. Replace 77 with whatever dialing prefix you want to use to make calls through the GoIP trunk. And add the phone number associated with your GoIP in the Outbound CallerID field. If you’re using the GoIP device behind a hardware-based firewall with no Internet port exposure, then you can leave password as the secret. Otherwise, you would want something very secure!4

2. Add a couple of custom SIP entries at the bottom of Asterisk SIP Settings to support SMS messaging with Asterisk. Set accept_outofcall_messages=yes and outofcall_message_context=sms_message. Then Submit Changes.

3. Add an Outbound Route to make calls using your GoIP device using the dial prefix you chose for the trunk:

4. Next we need to add a FreePBX Custom Destination to support the Nerd Vittles speech-to-text module which we’ll be using to dictate and send SMS messages using any telephone on your PBX. Under Admin -> Custom Destination, add an entry that looks like this:

5. Then we need to associate an extension number with the custom destination we just added. We’ve chosen 4647 which spells GoIP. Choose Applications -> Misc Application and enter the following:

6. DISA is an Asterisk function that lets someone call into your PBX and obtain dial tone to place an outbound call using the available trunks on your PBX. In the case of the GoIP device, this gets a little fancier. We’ll actually be sending an SMS message with a custom password to the GoIP device, and it will in turn call the SMS sender’s number and provide DISA dialtone after the user enters a special DISA PIN. Make the PIN and password very secure. We’ll get to the password in a minute. On the FreePBX side, add a DISA context in FreePBX under Applications -> DISA that looks something like the following with a secure PIN (not the one in the example):

7. In order to use DISA with GoIP, we’ll need an extension associated with the DISA function. We add this number using FreePBX Misc Application. You can use any available extension number you like. Just remember what you chose when we configure the GoIP side to support SMS DISA access. Here’s what we use:

Configuration of the GoIP Device

All of the GoIP device configuration is handled using a browser pointed to the internal IP address of the GoIP. If you haven’t already done so, send an SMS message with the word INFO to the phone number associated with your GoIP device. You will get a return message with the private IP address of the unit. Using a browser, point it to the IP address and login with username admin and password admin. It’s probably a good idea to reset your unit to factory defaults before beginning the setup just to make sure you’re starting with a clean slate. Send an SMS message to the device with the words RESET admin to initialize the hardware.

As we’ve mentioned, sending the admin password to the device with the RESET keyword forces a total reset of the device so you obviously want to change this admin password immediately unless you want to risk a total stranger sending a reset command to your device. Do it now under Tools -> Change Password -> Administration Level. It’s probably a good idea to change the other passwords as well.

Next, click Configurations. This is the screen on which you set everything. The Preference pane has the country-specific settings for both the network and your cellphone carrier so set them carefully. The IMEI will default to the actual IMEI of your unit. If your cellphone carrier requires registration of a specific IMEI before your SIM card will work, then you can spoof the IMEI using the IMEI of the cell phone that was previously used with this SIM card. For the East Coast of the United States, our setup looks like this:

If you’re using DHCP for the GoIP, the Network Configuration pane shouldn’t require any changes. We do recommend that you lock the DHCP address to the GoIP in your router so that it doesn’t inadvertently change down the road. You will note that a PPTP VPN tunnel for the device is supported although we haven’t yet played with it.

The Call Settings pane has all of your SIP settings for the GoIP. These have got to be right or nothing will work. Our setup (that works) is shown below. Start by clicking on each of the Settings and Preferences links to open up the sub-menus. Both 192.168.0.180 entries should be replaced with the IP address of your Asterisk server. The Phone Number and Authentication ID both need to be goip_1 as shown. The password is password unless you changed your secret in the FreePBX trunk setup. DTMF Signaling should be changed to Outband and DTMF Type should be RFC2833. Ours still doesn’t work reliably, but that may be the lousy cellphone signal in our office. We recommend ULAW and ALAW exclusively for the Audio Codecs. You don’t want the overhead of codec translation particularly if you’re using a Raspberry Pi. On a normal server, G.729 would obviously reduce the bandwidth of GoIP voice calls. Get it working first and then experiment! The RTP port range should be 10000-20000 to match your Asterisk default setup.

The Call Divert pane is where we configure all of the Nerd Vittles magic. Forward Number(PSTN To VoIP) should be the number on your PBX to which you want inbound GoIP calls forwarded when someone calls the cellphone number associated with your GoIP device. This could be an extension, ring group, IVR, or even the DISA number we set up above. Just be sure you have a verrrrrry secure DISA PIN if you go this route! It’s your phone bill. The SMS Mode must be changed to Relay, and SMS Forward SIP Number must be s to work with the Nerd Vittles apps.

Once you have all of your settings entered, click the Save Settings link under Configurations. The unit will reload its SIP setup. It usually takes about 30 seconds. We recommend you now test the setup to make sure you can make a call to the GoIP number and have it forwarded to an extension on your Asterisk server. Then use an extension on your PBX to place an outbound call using the GoIP dial prefix you assigned above. If either call fails, check your settings for typos in both the FreePBX and GoIP configurations.

Adding the Nerd Vittles Apps to Support the GoIP Device

Now for the fun stuff. We’ve built a little shell script that sets up all of the Nerd Vittles applications we outlined above. It’s licensed as GPL2 code so you are more than welcome to make any changes or additions which you believe would be useful. We hope you’ll share them with the rest of us. The script puts everything in the proper place on Incredible PBX systems to support SMS messaging with Asterisk. You’ll be prompted for the following information:

  1. Email address to which to forward incoming SMS messages
  2. SMS number to which to forward incoming SMS messages
  3. Very secure password to trigger PBX callbacks
  4. Extension number to ring on callbacks

1. When incoming SMS messages are received by the GoIP unit, Asterisk will forward them to this email address.

2. When incoming SMS messages are received by the GoIP unit, Asterisk will forward them to this SMS number. You can disable either the forwarding email address or the forwarding SMS number (not both!) by editing the [sms_message] context in extensions_custom.conf and commenting out either of these lines with a semicolon:

exten => s,n,system(echo "SMS Message From ${SMSDID}: ${SMSMSG}"...

exten => s,n,MessageSend(sip:goip_1)

3. This password is what must be sent as an SMS message to the GoIP device to trigger a return call from Asterisk. Do NOT include any spaces in the password and make it very secure!

4. This is the extension number that will be used to place the return call from Asterisk. For DISA service, it would be 3172 in today’s setup. It could also be a regular extension on your PBX if you simply want to trigger a return call from your home or office extension when you send this password via SMS to the GoIP device. Note that the home or office extension must answer the call before the return call will be placed to your SMS device or phone.

Installation. To install the components (a one-minute job!), log into your server as root and issue the following commands:

cd /root
rm GoIP-install.sh
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/GoIP-install.sh
chmod +x GoIP-install.sh
./GoIP-install.sh

If you ever need to make changes to your setup, just run the script again and answer the prompts.

Kicking the Tires. To make sure everything is working, try sending an SMS message to the GoIP with your secret password from #3 above. You should get a return call within 30 seconds. Next, from an extension on your PBX, dial 4647. Dictate a brief message and then enter a phone number for delivery of the message via GoIP to some SMS device (not your GoIP unit!). Finally, send a “Hello World” SMS message to your GoIP device. It should be forwarded to both your email address (#1) and SMS number (#2) within a few seconds. Enjoy!

Deals of the Week. There’s still an amazing deal on the street if you hurry. A new company called Copy.com is offering 20GB of free cloud storage with no restrictions on file size uploads (which are all too common with other free offers). Copy.com has free sync apps for Windows, Macs, and Linux systems. To take advantage of the offer, just click on our referral link here. We get 5GB of extra storage, too, which will help avoid another PIAF Forum disaster.

Originally published: Monday, September 30, 2013




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


 

We are pleased to once again be able to offer Nerd Vittles’ readers a 20% discount on registration to attend this year’s 10th Anniversary AstriCon in Atlanta. And, if you hurry, you also can take advantage of the early bird registration discount. Here’s the Nerd Vittles Discount Code: AC13NERD.


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Some of our purchase links refer users to Amazon when we find their prices are competitive for the recommended products. Nerd Vittles receives a small referral fee from Amazon to help cover the costs of our blog. We never recommend particular products solely to generate Amazon commissions. However, when pricing is comparable or availability is favorable, we support Amazon because Amazon supports us. []
  2. With apologies for the tasteless photo and pun. []
  3. The length of the phone numbers obviously can be adjusted to meet your local requirements. Just replace the 10′s with the length of the phone numbers you wish to use. Then replace 13 with 3 more than the phone number length you chose. []
  4. We have engineered today’s GoIP solution for users in the U.S. and Canada. It obviously will support international deployment as well by making adjustments to the dial strings and cellphone settings in both the FreePBX and GoIP configurations. []

Programmer’s Paradise: Introducing the VoIP Phone of the Year, Yealink’s T46G

If you’ve been missing the Aastra programming platform these last couple years while America’s patent trolls continued to destroy the software development community in the United States, then you’ll be excited to learn that there’s a new kid on the block with a revolutionary phone. One can’t help wondering what the heck we are doing to ourselves. First, we destroy the programming community with tax breaks for off-shore developers, and then we grant bogus software patents for “inventions” that have been showing in SciFi movies for at least 30 years. Really? </end of rant>

Yealink’s new T46G steps into the VoIP phone spotlight where Aastra left off with a magnificent color screen and every VoIP phone feature you can dream up: HD voice, dual port gigabit Ethernet, POE, Bluetooth headset support, automatic provisioning via FTP/TFTP/HTTP/HTTPS, OpenVPN, STUN, 1,000 user local phone book with photos plus LDAP support, RTP multicast streaming, full-duplex speakerphone with AEC, 27 function keys plus four softkeys and cursor keys not to mention (let the alphabet soup begin) VAD, CNG, AEC, PLC, AJB, AGC, SMS, BLF, SNMP, SRTP, QoS, and on and on. But the most exciting features have got to be complete Asterisk® function support including call hold, DND, MWI, attended and unattended call transfers, voicemail, intercom, paging, and barge plus action URLs and Yealink’s XML web development platform. All of it is integrated into this phone. Virtually anything you could build with PHP and XML on the Aastra phones can now be created on the Yealink platform. It’s simple, non-proprietary, and just works! See the Nerd Vittles sidebar for a terrific deal on these phones if you hurry.

Legal Disclaimer. Our mission today is to introduce you to XML programming on the T46G. This is proof-of-concept code owned by Ward Mundy & Associates, LLC. It is not licensed for use at all without your first consulting a patent attorney and getting a green light to proceed. Then, and only then, you may consider it GPL2 code. In short, the delivered code is to teach programming design basics NOT to step on anybody’s claimed patents. Displaying an RSS news or weather feed or picture on a phone does not qualify as rocket science, but we can’t vouch for whether somebody, somewhere claims to have “invented” it. These sorts of features have been around since at least 1990 with AT&T’s Partner Plus phone system and IBM’s Simon Communicator. That places the features well outside the 20-year patent umbrella. But this is not legal advice, and consider yourself warned. Some of the examples rely upon RSS, XML, or HTML links from other organizations. Specifically, the News and Weather feeds use Yahoo! RSS feeds, the Sports feed uses ESPN’s RSS feed, the PIAF RSS Feed uses the PBX in a Flash security alert system, and the Photo of the Day uses Google+ public links to Lilliphoto’s incredible photography. Check with your attorney and explain your intended use before using any of these apps. Never remove credits from published material of others!

XML 101. XML stands for Extensible Markup Language and is a language used for describing data. It doesn’t really care what the data happens to be. In our case, we want to tell the T46G phone how to do something so we have to follow the XML design rules that the phone understands. These are all covered in Yealink’s XML Browser Developer’s Guide. So Step #1 is to actually write an XML program. Once you’ve written your XML program, then you need to host it on a web server. This could be your PBX in a Flash server which includes an Apache web server, or it could be a hosted web server on the Internet. The advantages to using a web server colocated on a private subnet where your phones reside are that (1) it’s easy to protect your stuff from the NSA and other prying eyes and (2) it’s easy to obtain data directly from your Asterisk server without much risk of compromising the results to strangers. Step #3 is to configure a button on your phone to run the XML application that you’ve deployed on your web server.

Hello World. All programming tutorials begin with a “Hello World” example that shows you how to display something simple on a monitor. On some platforms, capitalization doesn’t matter. On Yealink phones, it does so pay particular attention to the actual syntax required, or your program won’t work. Here’s how you write an XML program called hw.xml to display “Hello World” on your phone when you push a button to run the hw.xml program:

<TextMenu>
<Title>Hello World</Title>
<MenuItem>
<Prompt>Hello World</Prompt>
</MenuItem>
</TextMenu>

If you want to try this on your own server, log into your PBX in a Flash server as root, switch to the /var/www/html directory, create a yealink folder, switch to that folder, and use an editor to create the hw.xml program shown above:
cd /var/www/html
mkdir yealink
cd yealink
nano -w hw.xml

Once you’ve created the text, press Ctrl-X, Y, then Enter to save the file.

Step #3 is to assign the web application to a button on your phone. We’ll use the phone’s web GUI to do that. First, you’ll need the IP address of your phone. Press the OK button from the main screen to obtain it.

Using a web browser, go to the IP address from the previous step. Login to your phone using admin:admin as the username and password (unless you’ve changed it). Click on the DSSKey tab and then click Programmable Key in the left sidebar. Let’s use the Down cursor key to store our program for the time being. You’ll see it in the Key list. Click on the pull-down menu beside the Down key and choose XML Browser for the Type. In the blank field under the Value column, type: http://192.168.0.50/yealink/hw.xml. Substitute the private IP address of your PIAF server for 192.168.0.50. When you’re finished, click the Confirm button at the bottom of the page.

Switch to your phone and press the Down cursor key from the main screen, and Voila! Hello World.

Congratulations. You’re now a G-E-N-U-I-N-E XML Programmer!

PHP Basics. What you can’t do with XML programming is retrieve data from other sources. In other words, XML code is static data. For our examples today, however, we want to retrieve data from other sources and display it on our phone. We need another programming language to do that. PHP happens to be simple, and it’s included on all PBX in a Flash servers so let’s use it. As with XML, you need the programming guide to learn what the commands are. For today, all you need to know is that PHP programs have file names ending in .php and always begin with <?php and always end with ?>. Everything in between has to be a PHP command or function with each line ending with a semicolon. While your Yealink phone’s XML Browser can run PHP programs, it can only understand output that conforms to its XML rules. So the trick is to have your PHP program print out results that are formatted to look like the XML “Hello World” example above. Aside from that, a PHP program can do anything it wants under the covers.

Our “Hello World” hw.php example in PHP to display on the Yealink phone would look like this:

<?php
echo "<TextMenu>\n";
echo "<Title>Hello World</Title>\n";
echo "<MenuItem>\n";
echo "<Prompt>Hello World</Prompt>\n";
echo "</MenuItem>\n";
echo "</TextMenu>\n";
?>

Congratulations. You’re now a G-E-N-U-I-N-E PHP Programmer, too. Two diplomas in one day. WOW!

Yealink Main Menu. Shown above is the main screen which displays when you boot your phone. We’ll walk you through all the steps to get it configured as shown. You will note there are 10 function keys displayed as well as 4 Softkeys. Applications and features that you wish to use can be assigned to one of the 10 function keys, any of the four softkeys, or the cursor keys. Where you place apps that you build matters! Keep in mind that the feature set of the Softkeys below the display as well as the cursor keys will change whenever you place a call or make a menu selection. So it’s probably not a smart idea to place apps that you need during a call on a softkey, or they’ll disappear. You’re not limited to 10 function keys. There actually are 27 available. When you add more than 10, the 10th function key will allow you to scroll through two more screens full of functions. So you actually get 27 functions keys that can be assigned. If you only have 10, then all 10 are shown on the main screen as shown above.

The easiest way to configure Yealink’s Main Menu is through the phone’s web GUI described previously. You’ll find all the options under the DSSKey tab. A word about logos: JPEG wallpaper can be as large as 480×272 pixels; however, you probably don’t want a full screen image because the 10 function key tabs will cover up about 120 pixels on the left and right sides of the image. So leave those two areas as white on your 480×272 image, and you’ll end up with something that looks like the PIAF image above. You can download the PIAF image here. You upload and install it on the Settings tab in the phone GUI.

Yealink XML Basics. The XML platform on the Yealink phone supports several types of display screens, and we’ve tried to provide examples of the more important ones in our News, Weather, Photo of the Day, and Asterisk Phonebook applications. The TextMenu object is just what it says: a list of menu options from which you can make a selection. If you highlight a particular option and press the OK button or some other designated function key, the XML program stored with that menu option is run. If you highlight an option and press a Dial button or the Speakerphone button, a phone number stored with that option is dialed. The InputScreen object is a data entry screen. It lets the user key in a number or text using the numeric keypad in much the same way that you do it on any cellphone. It then passes the results to a PHP program indicating the variable name and its contents. This is what we use in the Weather by ZIP Code application to determine which weather forecast to display. The Directory object is self-explanatory as well. It gives a list of names and numbers and dials the number of the entry chosen by the user. The ImageScreen object displays a JPEG photo with automatic resizing. We built the Photo of the Day app to show you how to do it.

Just a few basics and you then can download the file, accept the license agreement, and take a look at the code. First, we’ve discovered a minor bug in the latest Yealink T46G firmware. The menus and queries hang about 4 out of every 5 attempts unless you configure your phone with a static IP address and set the DNS server addresses manually. We suspect this is a timing issue, but we wanted to alert you to avoid needless frustration in playing with this. Once you’ve taken care of this and installed the software, the initial display by pressing the #10 function key (XML Apps in the screenshot above) will bring up the Applications Menu shown above.

If you have also installed Incredible PBX on your PIAF server, then there are dial options in addition to display options with several of the applications. To initiate a display option, simply highlight a menu selection and press either OK or the Select button. To initiate an actual call, highlight a menu selection and press the Speakerphone button. Phonebook (411), News (951), and Weather by ZIP (947) dial the Incredible PBX apps shown in parentheses. Be advised that the National Weather Service recently revised their Weather by ZIP service. If you need the patch to return your Incredible PBX system to the living, you’ll find it on the PIAF Forum. Incredible PBX 11 and Incredible Pi 3.11 systems were automatically patched for you.

The Asterisk Phonebook option was specifically designed to support those users who have imported their Google Contacts into the Asterisk Phonebook. If you have not yet done this, visit the PIAF Forum to get the script. If you are using a dedicated domain for your Google Apps, there is also a patch to support domains other than gmail.com. When you choose this option, you’ll be prompted to enter a name. First, press the 2aB SoftKey twice to change the keyboard to abc format. Then it works for the alphabet just like your cellphone. Next, enter four or more characters of a first or last name or organization and press Search or OK button. The phonebook app then will find all matching entries in your Asterisk Phonebook. Both the phone number and name entry will be displayed. Highlight the desired choice and press the Speakerphone button to place the call. You will note that only six matches are displayed on the screen even though there is room for more. This doesn’t mean you’ve seen all matches! Just scroll down the list to see the next six entries. If you would prefer to simply say the name of someone in your AsteriDex phonebook and you’ve installed Incredible PBX, then highlight the Phonebook option on the Applications Menu and press the Speakerphone button. Say the name desired when prompted.

The News Headlines option retrieves the Yahoo! RSS News Feed. To display the information on your phone, highlight the News option and press Select or OK button. If you’d prefer to listen to the News headlines and you’ve installed Incredible PBX, then press the Speakerphone button.

The Weather by ZIP Code app retrieves the latest weather information from Yahoo! (text) or the National Weather Service (voice). Simply key in the 5-digit zip code and press Submit or OK to display the current conditions and forecast from Yahoo! If you press the Speakerphone button, you get to listen to the latest update from the National Weather Service.

The Sports Headlines app retrieves the latest sports news from ESPN’s RSS Feed and the Associated Press. Just highlight the option and press Select or OK.

The PBX in a Flash Security Alerts app retrieves the PIAF RSS Feed and displays the latest security bulletins together with links to forum posts documenting the problem and the fix.

The Photo of the Day app displays a collection of photographs from renowned photographer, Midori Chan. It provides an excellent demonstration of the image resolution quality of the Yealink T46G’s screen. In addition, it shows off the auto-sizing capability of the phone. A more practical application might be a collection of PowerPoint slides which could be displayed during a conference call on the phone. The possibilities are endless!

If you scroll up or down the PIAF Apps Menu, you’ll find the bonus SMS Messaging with Google Voice application. It’s also available by pressing SoftKey3 from the results screen within the Asterisk Phonebook app. There are two prerequisites to use this app. First, on your PIAF2 server, you’ll need to install SMS Dictator 2 as well as the SMS Message Blaster app included in that tutorial. These applications both are preinstalled in all versions of Incredible PBX, including the Raspberry Pi edition. Next you’ll need to create gvoice.php in /var/www/html/yealink and enter the username and password credentials for one of your Google Voice accounts. The file should look like this:

<?php
$GVACCT="username@gmail.com";
$GVPASS="yourpassword";
?>

You can take it for a spin by selecting the application from your T46G and plugging in a 10-digit cellphone number plus a brief text message. Click the Submit button to send the messages. Note that replies will NOT be delivered to your phone. Instead, they will go to whatever email forwarding address you used when you set up your Google Voice account. In order to take maximum advantage of the SoftKeys for data entry, you’ll need to use the X button to exit from the SMS application. This button can also be used to exit from any screen on the T46G.

Installing the XML Apps. For those with PBX in a Flash, the installation procedure is simple because Apache and PHP environment with CentOS 6 is already in place. Log into your server as root and issue the following commands to get everything in place:

cd /
wget http://pbxinaflash.com/PIAF4yealink.tar.gz
tar zxvf PIAF4yealink.tar.gz
rm PIAF4yealink.tar.gz

Configuring the Yealink T46G. Using a browser, open the phone GUI by pointing to the IP address of your phone. Press the OK button if you’ve forgotten your phone’s IP address. Login with admin:admin. Click the DSSKey tab and select Line Key 10-18 in the left sidebar. For Line Key10, choose XML Browser from the Type pulldown. Beside it in the Value column, enter the following using your server’s IP address: http://192.168.0.222/yealink/piaf.php. In the Label column, type: XML Apps. Now click the Confirm button to save your entries. After complying with the license agreement in /var/www/html/yealink/COPYING, you can take the apps for a spin by pressing Function Key 10 on your Yealink T46G. You can download a number of additional T46G apps from the T46G thread on the PIAF Forum.

Conclusions. With a phone as new as the T46G, we were more than a little skeptical of the XML programming platform that Yealink was providing. We were pleasantly surprised. Except for one typo in the documentation, the XML code was flawless and performed exactly as documented in Yealink’s excellent documentation. These six sample apps barely scratch the surface of what is possible using these new phones. We’ll look forward to seeing what others can produce in coming months. It’s great to have a terrific new VoIP phone to support future open source development. And the stunning color display is simply icing on the cake. Enjoy!


Deals of the Week. There are a couple of amazing deals still on the street, but you’d better hurry. First, for new customers, Sangoma is offering a board of your choice from a very impressive list at 75% off. For details, see this thread on the PIAF Forum. Second, a new company called Copy.com is offering 20GB of free cloud storage with no restrictions on file size uploads (which are all too common with other free offers). Copy.com has free sync apps for Windows, Macs, and Linux systems. To take advantage of the offer, just click on our referral link here. We get 5GB of extra storage, too, which will help avoid another PIAF Forum disaster.

Originally published: Monday, July 15, 2013




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


 

Don’t miss the first-ever FreePBX World on August 27-28 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. For complete details, see this post on the FreePBX blog.


 

We are pleased to once again be able to offer Nerd Vittles’ readers a 20% discount on registration to attend this year’s 10th Anniversary AstriCon in Atlanta. Here’s the Nerd Vittles Discount Code: AC13NERD.


 
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 Future of VoIP Telephony in an Asterisk World

If you don’t think there’s a telephony revolution underway, then take a look at this year’s crop of new VoIP telephones. No doubt that Alexander Graham Bell would be a happy camper. We’ve picked three of our favorites to take for a spin this week. Pictured above (left to right) are the Mocet Communicator, Grandstream’s GXP2200, and Yealink’s T46G. These three devices offer three dramatically different, but equally effective, approaches to the future of VoIP telephony.


The Mocet Communicator is what we’d call a BYOI (bring-your-own-iPad) device. With it, you get a full-featured HD telephony platform plus all the feature comforts of a full-fledged iPad including Skype, a variety of free messaging apps such as iMessage and FaceTime, Google Voice featuring GV Connect, and any other app of any type you choose to install on your iPad. After installing the free IP Commander app from the App Store, the phone interconnects with iOS and your iPad seamlessly. It’s a one-minute operation to set up a SIP connection with PBX in a Flash™, Incredible PBX™, and Asterisk®. For the ultimate in ease of use, the FreePBX™ (commercial) EndPoint Manager fully supports all the Mocet devices. EPM is the best $25 you could ever spend on your server. The phone itself worked flawlessly inside a private LAN as well as from a remote site with either a direct IP connection or VPN connection to home base. For the ultimate in flexibility, you can add an inexpensive WiFi adapter. HD Voice quality with even an entry level DSL connection was spectacular. And, if the wow factor of causing your nerdy friends to wet their pants is a consideration, then this is the hands-down winner. Click this link for a rundown of the impressive feature set. Incidentally, you can still receive calls and make emergency calls even without the iPad connected.

Now let’s turn to what PBX in a Flash, Incredible PBX, and Nerd Vittles bring to the table with this new phone. We actually configured the “Red Hotline Button” a little differently than President Obama. Ours dials the Nerd Vittles CallWho™ application. The app is included in all Incredible PBX bundles as well. CallWho lets you place hands-free calls from your AsteriDex phonebook using simple voice commands. You can click on the YouTube video above for a one-minute demo.

If the Mocet Communicator has a drawback, it’s probably price, but hopefully that will improve in the next few months. The device itself retails for $229.95 with free 2-day Prime shipping using our Amazon link.1 Adding an iPad will set you back another $300+, but we love this phone. Its novel approach to hybrid VoIP technology is clearly the future direction of VoIP telephony, and the Mocet software will only get better with time.

Grandstream’s GXP2200 is proof positive that these hybrid VoIP phones are the wave of the future. Nerd Vittles reviewed this phone last November, and the feature set continues to improve. The GXP2200 is another approach to hybrid VoIP technology with Android serving as the base operating system for the phone itself. This brings you the best of all worlds for under $200 with no additional tablet to purchase. And you still get a terrific HD Voice platform with all the comforts of Android under the hood. See the Amazon link in our sidebar for the latest pricing. As with the Mocet Communicator’s iOS integration, Android brings a wealth of applications to the GXP2200 desktop including Skype, Facebook and Facebook Messenger, GrooVe IP for Google Voice, OBiON for free calling through any OBi device, dozens of additional messaging apps, and your choice of literally thousands of apps from the Google Play Store and Grandstream’s GS Market which features applications specifically tailored for the GXP2200. Since our original article appeared, Grandstream has released the expansion module for this phone. The addition of the 40-button sidecar with full BLF support for under $100 makes this a near perfect desktop phone for use with Asterisk. It’s one of a select few phones that we personally use all day, every day. It supports six SIP connections, and we use it to connect to several PBX in a Flash, RentPBX, and Incredible Pi servers scattered across the U.S. as well as a few SIP subaccounts hosted at Vitelity, VoIP.ms, and les.net. Performance is nearly flawless!

Yealink’s T46G Executive IP Phone may still be our top pick even with the new generation of hybrid phones. See the Nerd Vittles sidebar for an incredible deal on this phone with a show-stopping feature set: HD Voice, dual-port gigabit Ethernet connections, USB support for Bluetooth and WiFi (soon), integrated POE support plus included power adapter, multiple phonebook options with up to 1,000 entries, VLAN and OpenVPN integration, 10 line keys with 27 programmable buttons, SRTP encrypted communications, and a stunning color display. Two years ago this would have been a $500 phone, and now it’s a lunch tab away from the price of Digium’s entry-level SIP phone. Pretty amazing. For the latest tips and tricks in getting the T46G properly configured, come join the PIAF Forum discussion.

UPDATE: Having now used the T46G for a few days, our first impression is that this phone is an industrial-grade, feature-rich, state-of-the-art SIP device with all of the feature comforts a large organization would want in rolling out a new company-wide phone system. Sophisticated server redundancy is built into the phones to support automatic failover to a backup VoIP server in the event of a catastrophic system failure. Encrypted SRTP communications as well as OpenVPN support is integrated into each phone. The T46G also includes the XML programming functionality available in the Aastra and Digium phones. You can try out our demo XML apps by visiting the PIAF Forum. In addition, basic web server interaction is provided through event triggers on the phone that can generate Action URIs to receive and process HTTP GET requests and Action URLs to send HTTP GET requests when a specified telephone event occurs.

The phonebook implementation is exactly what a large organization would want: three phone numbers plus a phone, ring tone, and group entry per person plus customizable accounts and groups. Import and export of XML or CSV data through a web interface is a snap. In fact, the CSV format even supports export of images linked to every phonebook entry. For a large organization, it means the HR department could maintain a single phonebook database of up to 1,000 records with photos of every employee. That database then could be pushed to every phone in the organization by one HR employee using a web browser without ever touching or rebooting a single telephone. LDAP directories are also supported for the purists. Enjoy!




Deals of the Week. There are a couple of amazing deals still on the street, but you’d better hurry. First, for new customers, Sangoma is offering a board of your choice from a very impressive list at 75% off. For details, see this thread on the PIAF Forum. Second, a new company called Copy.com is offering 20GB of free cloud storage with no restrictions on file size uploads (which are all too common with other free offers). Copy.com has free sync apps for Windows, Macs, and Linux systems. To take advantage of the offer, just click on our referral link here. We get 5GB of extra storage, too, which will help avoid another PIAF Forum disaster.

Originally published: Tuesday, July 9, 2013




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


 

Don’t miss the first-ever FreePBX World on August 27-28 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. For complete details, see this post on the FreePBX blog.


 

We are pleased to once again be able to offer Nerd Vittles’ readers a 20% discount on registration to attend this year’s 10th Anniversary AstriCon in Atlanta. And, if you hurry, you also can take advantage of the early bird registration discount. Here’s the Nerd Vittles Discount Code: AC13NERD.


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Many of our purchase links refer users to Amazon when we find their prices are competitive for the recommended products. Nerd Vittles receives a small referral fee from Amazon to help cover the costs of our blog. We never recommend particular products solely to generate Amazon commissions. However, when pricing is comparable or availability is favorable, we support Amazon because Amazon supports us. []

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: 2013 Cellphone Navigation Guide

Every year or so we like to take a fresh look at the cell phone landscape and reassess what makes the most sense for business, personal, and family use in terms of cost, functionality, and performance. Last year’s favorite based upon both cost and feature set was StraightTalk which offered unlimited talk, text, and data (sort of) on either the AT&T or T-Mobile network for $45 a month. Since that article was released, StraightTalk has quietly dropped the AT&T offering reportedly at AT&T’s request due to reported changes in the phone unlocking law. To date, existing StraightTalk users of the AT&T service have not been affected. Whether that will continue, of course, is anybody’s guess. Suffice it to say, when you could get identical or better functionality from StraightTalk for less than half the cost of buying directly from AT&T, customers were leaving AT&T in droves. So this may be nothing more than an attempt to stop the hemorrhaging. For those that may be interested, you still can buy an AT&T StraightTalk SIM on eBay for $30-$100.

What has also changed in the last year is the data plan landscape. Both of the Bell Sisters, AT&T and Verizon, have moved to shared data plans with unlimited talk and text. In the U.S. market, there are no more unlimited data plans except from the second tier providers, Sprint and T-Mobile. You basically pay a base fee for a bucket of data and then a per device fee for each cellphone or tablet you wish to use. It should come as no surprise that the costs are nearly identical whether you choose AT&T or Verizon. See this Engadget article for the details. If you’re a heavy consumer of data services or if you have kids that frequently stream music or movies, the pay-as-you-go shared data plans are bad news. Similarly, StraightTalk advertises unlimited data on their monthly plans but, in the fine print, bars use of any phone for tethering or any streaming services. We’ll leave it to you to decide whether this is deceptive advertising. Suffice it say, it hasn’t bothered the Federal Trade Commission thus far.

So what is a heavy cellphone data user to do? For the moment, there is a solution, but who knows what the future holds. Verizon has grandfathered in those customers who previously had $29.95 unlimited data plans, and this applies to 3G and 4G data services. For $30 more a month, you also can add tethering with unlimited data. For the record, if this sounds expensive to you, keep in mind that Verizon’s latest MiFi JetPack pricing for 10GB of data per month is a whopping $90. The only condition (thus far) for keeping an unlimited data plan is that customers cannot take advantage of new phone subsidies when renewing or extending a contract. But customers are free to purchase a new phone at full price and transfer an existing unlimited data plan account to the new phone. More importantly, for those of us not on a Verizon unlimited data plan, there is no restriction on transferring an existing account to someone else. It should come as no surprise that clever, long-time Verizon customers quickly started selling their unlimited data plan accounts on eBay. And we bought one to determine whether the transfer process actually works. It does!

Before we get to the details, we’ve got to share our latest Best Buy adventure to purchase the new Samsung Galaxy S4 which we will review in a few weeks. As with previous episodes, we continue to swear we’ll never again set foot in a Best Buy store. Here’s why. Thinking we’d save a little time, we ordered the GS4 on line at bestbuy.com with delivery to our local store. The site showed the store had the units in stock. Within minutes, we got an email confirmation that the order had been received. The original email noted that we would receive another email when the phone was ready for pickup but also included a link to actually schedule a pickup time. Certain times were blocked out, and we picked an available time slot which was roughly four hours after the phone had been purchased. So far, so good.

Silly us, we thought scheduling a pickup time might actually bear some relationship to the ordering procedure. It didn’t. When we arrived at the store, the customer service rep indignantly insisted that we had arrived too soon. The approval process had not been completed despite the fact that PayPal already had approved the transaction. The Best Buy web site actually showed that the order was awaiting confirmation (from the store) that the phone was in stock. The store employees claimed no knowledge of such a request. When would the process be completed? We were told it usually happened almost instantly, but this was “an expensive phone.” Who knows? Four hours later, there still was no confirmation email. Because we were leaving town, the on line order was cancelled, and we returned to the Best Buy store to purchase the phone directly. The Verizon SIM card was an additional $20. The salesperson slipped it into the bag with the phone. Hours later, we discovered that Best Buy had taped a different SIM chip onto the credit-card sized card that usually contains both the SIM chip and the SIM card device ID. Because they didn’t match, we suspected that someone had returned a defective SIM card, and Best Buy had swapped out the bad SIM chip for the original one on the card. Guess where the bad one went? We’ll never know because we didn’t want to take a chance since we needed a working SIM card to complete the Verizon transfer procedure. Trip #3 to Best Buy plus an online order and a cancelled online order minus $823 for a phone, $290 to eBay, and $10 for gasoline, and we finally had all the pieces. Never again. Honest! In her usual sympathetic voice, my wife inquired, “How does Best Buy stay in business?” I responded that the stores were convenient. She reminded me that the process recounted above was anything but convenient. Amen.

If you decide you want a Galaxy S4, do yourself and Nerd Vittles a favor. Use the link in the right column to head over to Amazon. You’ll not only avoid the Best Buy aggravation, but you’ll save over $170 in the process while providing a little financial support to the Nerd Vittles project. If you’re a Prime member, you even get free 2-day shipping. Don’t forget to purchase a Verizon 4G SIM card. They’re $4 at Amazon instead of $20 at Best Buy. :roll:

When we purchased the grandfathered data plan on eBay, the seller had indicated that the plan would not be available for transfer for a couple of days. What we were told we needed was the IMEI of the phone plus the SIM card ID. Actually, you need a few more things unless you have an existing Verizon account. Remember, you have to pass a credit check to get Verizon service. And this requires your name, social security number, date of birth, home address, and phone number. In short, it’s everything anybody would want that was interested in identity theft. We have credit monitoring services so we weren’t too worried. If you don’t, you probably shouldn’t repeat the procedure we used since you’ll be on the phone with both the eBay seller AND the Verizon rep that’s handling the account transfer. Ideally, a seller should be able to provide you the cellphone number associated with the account, and you could provide the IMEI and SIM card ID to the seller for relaying to Verizon. Then you could call Verizon directly, plug in the cell phone number, and complete the transfer and credit check. This avoids the potential man-in-the-middle problem. In any case, the process was effortless. Changing the phone device and phone number on the account was a breeze. We chose a Calling Plan and Messaging Plan to go with the Unlimited Data Plan, and we were off to the races. Available plan pricing is shown above.

Still wondering why unlimited data with 4G LTE service matters? Take a gander at the performance numbers above from one of the most remote areas in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, and the answer should be obvious. Waynesville is a town with a population of under 10,000 people. Impressive indeed, Verizon!

Pioneer Alert. We’re pleased to announce the release of the new PIAF-Green Virtual Machine with PBX in a Flash 2.0.6.4.4, Asterisk 11, and FreePBX 2.11. This version incorporates important security updates including a new Linux kernel and patches to protect against the Apache SSL attacks plus the latest Google Voice Motif additions for Asterisk and FreePBX. Grab a copy to play with on your Windows, Mac, or Linux desktop. You can download it now from SourceForge and provide feedback in the PIAF Forum. Documentation is provided both in the SourceForge readme and in the Nerd Vittles article covering the previous release. We’ll have a new tutorial available next week on Nerd Vittles.

Deals of the Week. There are a couple of amazing deals still on the street, but you’d better hurry. First, for new customers, Sangoma is offering a board of your choice from a very impressive list at 75% off. For details, see this thread on the PIAF Forum. Second, a new company called Copy.com is offering 20GB of free cloud storage with no restrictions on file size uploads (which are all too common with other free offers). Copy.com has free sync apps for Windows, Macs, and Linux systems. To take advantage of the offer, just click on our referral link here. We get 5GB of extra storage, too, which will help avoid another PIAF Forum disaster.

Originally published: Thursday, June 6, 2013




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 for all of us.


 
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…

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