Introducing VPN in a Flash: The $499 Mobile Telephony Appliance with Asterisk

Aspire OneWe’ve spent a lot of time designing turnkey Asterisk®-based systems from the early Asterisk at Home days until the latest Orgasmatron Builds1 for PBX in a Flash. So, trust us! Nothing comes close to the new VPN in a Flash Mobile Telephony Appliance. Having endured more than a decade of preparations for national emergencies, we are well aware of the need for well-designed telephony systems which can be deployed on a moment’s notice anywhere. We also appreciate the need for a versatile, portable communications appliance which can be toted from hotel room to hotel room providing secure VoIP communications back to the mothership. And we fully grasp the need of thousands of businesses to transparently deploy remote communications devices at far away places but in a way that they still can be supported from home base. With all that in mind, Tom King and I have spent the last several months designing this VoIP telephony appliance. Now let us introduce you to the new world2 of VPN in a Flash.

Aspire OneUntil six months ago, the hardware simply wasn’t available to provide the GUI performance necessary to create such a portable appliance. But the Intel Atom® processor changed all of that. And now Acer has stepped up with an almost perfect mobile implementation of the Atom motherboard in the Aspire One® Netbook. Weighing in at just over two pounds, it’s totally portable but also a powerhouse. And it’s quiet.

On the software side, the stars all lined up when Fedora® introduced Fedora 10 last week, an almost perfect rendition of the Linux® operating system with every imaginable bell and whistle including a low-overhead KDE® GUI that rivals the very best of Windows® and Mac OS X®. Our challenge was to put all the pieces together and add the very best of the Asterisk® telephony world to the mix. And, of course, we wanted to accomplish all of this while staying true to our open source roots. We think this Fedora Remix3 meets that goal in spades! You certainly could build your own system from the ground up, and we would encourage you to download Fedora 10 and do that when you have a few months of free time on your hands. The new Fedora 10 build is a perfect platform for Asterisk and the latest state-of-the-art hardware. In the meantime, our rendition which configures everything to better support Asterisk in a mobile telephony environment should save you about 500 man-hours. Try it. You’ll see. ;-)

Aspire One Desktop

We also wanted the new system design to include every imaginable communications bell and whistle on the planet including a flexible, turnkey virtual private network implementation, transparent support for wired and wireless networks, a built-in preconfigured softphone which is ready for business, and all of the Nerd Vittles utilities and FreePBX® functionality that has made PBX in a Flash such a hit.

Finally, a new Mondo backup script has been included that lets you clone your entire system to a $20 bootable USB flash drive for incredibly easy system recovery in the event of a hardware catastrophe. And the 2008 introductory price for these built-to-order systems: just $499 plus shipping to US-48 destinations. And there’s loads of documentation, too. With a little luck, a self-installing, bootable flash drive appliance for our friends outside of the United States should be available by early next year.


About the Face Lift. Well, it’s been a painful few days at Nerd Vittles Headquarters. Our former hosting provider, BlueHost, apparently hired a new recruit that deemed our CPU utilization unworthy… in the middle of the night last Thursday. He promptly shut down our site. For any of you considering shared hosting, this is one of the dirty little secrets of the industry. They may promise you unlimited disk storage and unlimited bandwidth, but they don’t really mean it. I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s old adage about bankers: “Bankers are the folks that hand you an umbrella when the sun is shining and want it back the minute it starts to rain.” Internet hosting providers have some of the same gene pool unfortunately.

The sad part of the story is that BlueHost is one of the better providers in the United States, and we, in fact, have recommended them. Hundreds of our readers took us up on our BlueHost recommendation. It gets even worse. We provided free Asterisk support to the BlueHost folks about a year ago when they were attempting to reconfigure their queues. We even brought in a local consultant in their area to assist. Do you think we even got a return call from our fair-weather friends when we were trying to figure out why our site suddenly became a problem? Our site utilization has been fairly steady for more than two years! Suffice it to say, the phone never rang. But that’s all history now. Nerd Vittles has moved to our new high-performance server at WestNIC that also hosts the PBX in a Flash Forum, and we’re happy to be there.

Nothing’s ever simple, of course. WestNIC employs PHP5 while BlueHost still was using PHP4. Even though cPanel made the server transition easy, our particular version of the WordPress blogging software was more than a little long in the tooth. Everything at first appeared to work fine. But it turned out that you could no longer read individual posts. Call us picky but that was a deal breaker. What to do? Suffice it to say that 17 version upgrades later, we’re now current. The only fatality was a few recent comments which got deleted by operator error… mine. :roll:

All good blogs deserve a facelift at least once every five years, don’t you think? Well, we’re about a month shy of our Fifth Anniversary, but it was worth the effort. And the performance boost is nothing short of amazing. We hope you agree. Enjoy!


New Fonica Special. If you want to communicate with the rest of the telephones in the world, then you’ll need a way to route outbound calls (terminations) to their destination. For outbound calling, we recommend you establish accounts with several providers. We’ve included two of the very best! These include Joe Roper’s new service for PBX in a Flash as well as our old favorite, Vitelity. To get started with the Fonica service, just visit the web site and register. You can choose penny a minute service in the U.S. Or premium service is available for a bit more. Try both. You’ve got nothing to lose! In addition, Fonica offers some of the best international calling rates in the world. And Joe Roper has almost a decade of experience configuring and managing these services. So we have little doubt that you’ll love the service AND the support. To sign up in the USA and be charged in U.S. Dollars, sign up here. To sign up for the European Service and be charged in Euros, sign up here. See the Fonica image which tells you everything you need to know about this terrific new offering. In addition to being first rate service, Fonica is one of the least expensive and most reliable providers on the planet.
 
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.
 


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  1. If you don’t know what an Orgasmatron Build is, use the search function at the top of this page. []
  2. And speaking of new worlds, lawyers love footnotes so you’d better get used to these little numbers. :-) We’ll break you in easy today. There are just a few of them. []
  3. Fedora and the Infinity design logo are trademarks of Red Hat, Inc. Asterisk is a registered trademark of Digium, Inc. All other trademarks and registered trademarks are property of their respective owners. This software aggregation is neither provided nor supported by the Fedora Project and contains non-Fedora and modified Fedora content. Official Fedora software is available through the Fedora Project website. []

7 Responses to “Introducing VPN in a Flash: The $499 Mobile Telephony Appliance with Asterisk”

  1. tlpinspw says:

    Will this work with a USB to rj11 adapter? If so, sweet deal indeed! A mobile VOIP enabled office with wireless phone capability!

  2. Greg says:

    I see that you’ve turned an Acer Aspire One into a portable PBX in a Flash machine. I love that! I’m wondering if you think the Acer Aspire One would support running PBX in a Flash in a virtual machine. I would love to make this a sort of file server and voip system, but I need WinXP.

    Thanks,
    Greg

    [WM: Certainly wouldn’t hurt to try it. My guess is that you may not get the performance you need particularly since the machine only has a gig of RAM.]

  3. Raphael says:

    I have already an Acer Aspire One. Would you plan to deliver (free or not) a downloadable image of the system? Thanks a lot, Raphael

    [WM: We hope to be selling a self-booting USB flash drive that would let you “roll your own” VPN in a Flash system during the first quarter of 2009. Stay tuned!]

  4. Seth says:

    BlueHost out of favor? An associate uses them and they’ve capped her account to 200kilobytes/sec for surfers which really cripples x264 video or even large images.

    you might want to remove your endorsement here:
    http://bestof.nerdvittles.com/providers/

    [WM: Heh, heh. Yeah. BlueHost actually shut down Nerd Vittles in the middle of the night a couple of months ago for overutilization of server resources. Funny thing is we’ve had about the same usage for more than two years. But, yes, “out of favor” would be an understatement. Thanks for finding the last link (hopefully).]

  5. Steve Schoon says:

    Very interested in the self-booting flash drive or another run of the Acer Aspire One systems. Need to get a branch office setup in the next month or so. Can you give any idea of availability?

    Thanks,
    Steve

    [WM: The Aspire One’s are back as of this morning. A few last-minute wrinkles may delay the flash drives.]

  6. Topo says:

    Ward, Nice build. I’m looking for a solution to install PIAF AND a TDM400P so I can have 4 PSTN lines served. Any suggestion?

    I was thinking on having mirror drives, but if baking up to flash (or even booting from flash pen drive) is a reliable option I can disregard disk redundancy.

    Thanks,

    Topo

  7. Laurel says:

    I am using an OpenVPN solution from http://www.sunvpn.net/. Its working well. Its very easy to handle and is useful in various purposes.Its very easy to handle and is useful in various purposes.It is very cheap and affordable and also easy to understand.

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