The Sensational Raspberry Pi 3 Featuring Incredible PBX with Raspbian 8 Jessie

Hard to believe it’s been four years since the introduction of the original Raspberry Pi®. Over eight million RasPi’s have been shipped. To celebrate its fourth birthday, Eben Upton has done it again. Meet the sensational Raspberry Pi 3 sporting a 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU with ten times the performance of the original Raspberry Pi. Of particular interest to the VoIP community will be the RasPi 3’s integrated 802.11n wireless LAN and Bluetooth 4.1 hardware. And, of course, the RasPi 3 retains its compatibility with the Raspberry Pi 1 and 2. Did we mention it’s still just $35? Because we like to celebrate birthdays, too, we’re pleased to introduce a brand new Incredible PBX™ image for the Raspberry Pi 2 and 3 featuring Raspbian 8 and the latest release of Asterisk® 13. Unlike previous builds, this one installs in under a minute. Yes, it’s still FREE and features pure open source GPL code. No Gotchas!

Raspberry Pi 3 Performance. Gone are the days of worrying about Raspberry Pi performance. Both the user interface and call quality now match what you’d expect to find on a $300-$500 VoIP server. Even with a Raspberry Pi 2, we have detected no performance degradation thanks to the latest Raspbian 8 OS and a virtually flawless Asterisk 13 platform. For best results, we recommend 32GB Class 10 microSD cards which now are plentiful at the $10 price point.1

Raspberry Pi 3 Shopping List. Before you can install Incredible PBX, you’ll need a compatible Raspberry Pi 3 platform. Here’s the short list:

  • $35* Raspberry Pi 3 from MCM or Newark or Amazon
  • $10 Power Adapter (2.5 amps minimum!)
  • $9 32GB microSDHC Class 10 card
  • £12.95 Rainbow Pibow case or $9.50 Official RasPi case
  • About That Asterisk. We write about Asterisk® regularly, but the asterisk we’re talking about is the one accompanying the $35* price tag for the Raspberry Pi 3. Yes, that’s the advertised price. And, no, if you want one this year, you’re not going to pay that. There are the marked up shipping prices, the bundled add-on’s that you don’t need or want, and the must-have accessories like a power adapter. We’re assuming you already own a USB keyboard and an HDMI-compatible monitor. If so, just plan on $100 and consider yourself lucky if you get all the pieces for less. Our order from Pimoroni in the U.K. with a case and 3-day shipping was £59.36 or $82.95 U.S. Our order from MCM for just the RasPi 3 with shipping was $46.99.

    Incredible PBX Feature Set. Where to begin? Let’s start with the Alphabet Stew: IAX, SIP, GVSIP, SMS, and SRTP functionality. Voice Recognition and Text-to-Speech VoIP application support using FLITE, GoogleTTS, and PicoTTS. Free calling with Google Voice, Simonics SIP gateway, or RingPlus cellular service. And all of your Nerd Vittles favorites: Fax, AsteriDex, Click-to-Dial, News, Weather, Reminders, and Wakeup Calls. Plus hundreds of features that typically are found in commercial PBXs: Conferencing, IVRs and AutoAttendants, Email Delivery of Voicemail, Voicemail Blasting, and more…

    10-Layer Network Security Model. Most phone calls cost money. Unlike many of the other “free” VoIP solutions, our most important criteria for VoIP is rock-solid security. If your free server ends up costing you thousands of dollars in phone bills due to fraud, it isn’t free at all. Once you plug in that network cable, you’ve painted a bullseye on your checkbook.

    No single network security system can protect you against zero-day vulnerabilities that no one has ever seen. Deploying multiple layers of security is not only smart, it’s essential with today’s Internet topology. It works much like the Bundle of Sticks from Aesop’s Fables. The more sticks there are in your bundle, the more difficult it is to break them apart. If a vulnerability suddenly appears in the Linux kernel, or in Asterisk, or in Apache, or in your favorite web GUI, you can continue to sleep well knowing that other layers of security have your back. No one else in the telecommunications industry has anything close. Ours is all open source GPL code so we would encourage everyone to get on board and do their part to make the Internet a safer place!

    Do your part and do your homework. Comparison shop as if your phone bill matters! 😉 Incredible PBX provides:

    1. Preconfigured IPtables Linux Firewall
    2. Preconfigured Travelin’ Man 3 WhiteLists
    3. Randomized Port Knocker for Remote Access
    4. TM4 WhiteListing by Telephone (optional)
    5. Fail2Ban Log Monitoring for SSH, Apache, Asterisk
    6. Randomized Ultra-Secure Passwords
    7. Automatic Update Utility for Security & Bug Fixes
    8. Asterisk Manager Lockdown to localhost
    9. Apache htaccess Security for Vulnerable Web Apps
    10. Security Alerts via RSS Feeds in Kennonsoft and Incredible PBX GUIs

    Installation Tutorial. Here’s everything need to know about installation and setup. “Automatic” means you just watch.

    1. Download and unzip Incredible PBX image from SourceForge (with or without GV OAuth support)
    2. Transfer Incredible PBX image to microSD card
    3. Boot Raspberry Pi from new microSD card
    4. Login to RasPi console as pi:raspberry to initialize your server (Automatic)
    5. Reboot after writing down your server IP address (Automatic)
    6. Login via SSH as root:password to randomize passwords & configure firewall (Automatic)
    7. Optionally, install Incredible Fax: /root/incrediblefax13_raspi3.sh (Credentials: admin:password)
    8. Enjoy!

    Configuring Trunks with Incredible PBX

    Before you can actually make and receive calls, you’ll need to add one or more VoIP trunks with providers, create extensions for your phones, and add inbound and outbound routes that link your extensions to your trunks. Here’s how a PBX works. Phones connect to extensions. Extensions connect to outbound routes that direct calls to specific trunks, a.k.a. commercial providers that complete your outbound calls to any phone in the world. Coming the other way, incoming calls are directed to your phone number, otherwise known as a DID. DIDs are assigned by providers and you register your trunks using credentials handed out by these providers. Incoming calls are routed to your DIDs which use inbound routes telling the PBX how to direct the calls internally. A call could go to an extension to ring a phone, or it could go to a group of extensions known as a ring group to ring a group of phones. It could also go to a conference that joins multiple people into a single call. Finally, it could be routed to an IVR or AutoAttendant providing a list of options from which callers could choose by pressing various keys on their phone.

    We’ve done most of the prep work for you with Incredible PBX. We’ve set up an Extension to which you can connect a SIP phone or softphone. We’ve set up an Inbound Route that, by default, sends all incoming calls to a Demo IVR. And we’ve built a dozen trunks for some of the best providers in the business. Sign up with the ones you prefer, plug in your credentials, and you’re good to go.

    Unlike traditional telephone service, you need not and probably should not put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to telephone providers. In order to connect to Plain Old Telephones, you still need at least one provider. But there is nothing wrong with having several. And a provider that handles an outbound call (termination) need not be the same one that handles an incoming call (origination) and provides your phone number (DID). We cannot recommend Vitelity highly enough, and it’s not just because they have financially supported our projects for almost a decade. They’re as good as VoIP providers get, and we use lots of them. If you’re lucky enough to live in the U.S., you’d be crazy not to set up a Google Voice account. It’s free as are all phone calls to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. The remaining preconfigured providers included in Incredible PBX are equally good, and we’ve used and continue to use almost all of them. So pick a few and sign up. You only pay for the calls you make with each provider so you have little to lose by choosing several. The PIAF Forum includes dozens of recommendations on VoIP providers if you want additional information.

    With the preconfigured trunks in Incredible PBX, all you need are your credentials for each provider and the domain name of their server. Log into Incredible PBX GUI Administration as admin using a browser. From the System Status menu, click Connectivity -> Trunks. Click on each provider you have chosen and fill in your credentials including the host entry. Be sure to uncheck the Disable Trunk checkbox! Fill in the appropriate information for the Register String. Save your settings by clicking Submit Changes. Then click the red Apply Config button.

    Configuring a Softphone for Incredible PBX

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

    We recommend YateClient which is free. Download it from here. Run YateClient once you’ve installed it and enter the credentials for the 701 extension on Incredible PBX. You’ll need the IP address of your server plus your extension 701 password. Choose Applications _> Extensions -> 701 and write down your SIP/IAX Password. You can also find it in /root/passwords.FAQ. Fill in the blanks using the IP address of your Server, 701 for your Username, and whatever Password you assigned to the extension when you installed Incredible PBX. Click OK to save your entries.

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

    DEMO - Apps Demo
    123 - Reminders
    947 - Weather by ZIP Code
    951 - Yahoo News
    *61 - Time of Day
    TODAY - Today in History

    If you are a Mac user, another great no-frills softphone is Telephone. Just download and install it from the Mac App Store.

    Configuring Google Voice

    If you want to use Google Voice, you’ll need a dedicated Google Voice account to support Incredible PBX. The more obscure the username (with some embedded numbers), the better off you will be. This will keep folks from bombarding you with unsolicited Gtalk chat messages, and who knows what nefarious scheme will be discovered using Google messaging six months from now. So keep this account a secret!

    IMPORTANT: Do NOT under any circumstances take Google’s bait to switch from Google Chat to Hangouts, or you will forever lose the ability to use Google Chat with Incredible PBX. Also be sure to enable the Google Chat option as one of your phone destinations in Settings, Voice Setting, Phones. That’s the destination we need for The Incredible PBX to work its magic! Otherwise, all inbound and outbound calls will fail. Good News! You’re in luck. Google has apparently had a change of heart on discontinuing Google Chat support so it’s enabled by default in all new Google Voice accounts. Once you’ve created a Gmail and Google Voice account, go to Google Voice Settings and click on the Calls tab. Make sure your settings match these:

    • Call ScreeningOFF
    • Call PresentationOFF
    • Caller ID (In)Display Caller’s Number
    • Caller ID (Out)Don’t Change Anything
    • Do Not DisturbOFF
    • Call Options (Enable Recording)OFF
    • Global Spam FilteringON

    Click Save Changes once you’ve adjusted your settings. Under the Voicemail tab, plug in your email address so you get notified of new voicemails. Down the road, receipt of a Google Voice voicemail will be a big hint that something has come unglued on your PBX.

    One final word of caution is in order regardless of your choice of providers: Do NOT use special characters in any provider passwords, or nothing will work!

    Now you’re ready to configure your Google Voice account in Incredible PBX. You can do it from within the Incredible PBX GUI by choosing Connectivity -> Google Voice. How you enter your credentials depends upon whether you have chosen the Incredible PBX image with OAuth 2 support. For a complete Google Voice OAuth tutorial, follow steps 8-10 in this Nerd Vittles tutorial. Once you’ve entered your credentials, you MUST restart Asterisk from the command line, or Google Voice calls will fail.

    If you have trouble getting Google Voice to work (especially if you have previously used your Google Voice account from a different IP address), try this Google Voice Reset Procedure. It usually fixes connectivity problems. If it still doesn’t work, enable Less Secure Apps using this Google tool.

    If you have difficulty finding the Google Chat option after setting up a new Google Voice account, follow this tutorial.

    Another option is to use an inexpensive SIP Gateway to Google Voice. The Simonics trunk in the Incredible PBX GUI is preconfigured for this purpose. All you’ll need is your Google Voice credentials. Get started with this tutorial.

    Adding Speech Recognition Support to Incredible PBX

    To support many of our applications, Incredible PBX has included Google’s speech recognition service for years. These applications include Weather Reports by City (949), AsteriDex Voice Dialing by Name (411), and Wolfram Alpha for Asterisk (4747), all of which use Lefteris Zafiris’ terrific speech-recog AGI script. Unfortunately (for some), Google now has tightened up the terms of use for their free speech recognition service. Now you can only use it for “personal and development use.” If you meet those criteria, keep reading. Here’s how to activate speech recognition on Incredible PBX. Don’t skip any steps!

    1. Using an existing Google/Gmail account to join the Chrome-Dev Group.

    2. Using the same account, create a new Speech Recognition Project.

    3. Click on your newly created project and choose APIs & auth.

    4. Turn ON Speech API by clicking on its Status button in the far right margin.

    5. Click on Credentials in APIs & auth and choose Create New Key -> Server key. Leave the IP address restriction blank!

    6. Write down your new API key or copy it to the clipboard.

    7. Log into your server as root and edit the speech recognition script:

    nano -w /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin/speech-recog.agi
    

    8. When the nano editor opens, go to line 70: my $key = "". Insert your API key from Step #6 above between the quotation marks and save the file: Ctrl-X, Y, then Enter.

    9. To use Wolfram Alpha by phone, you first must obtain a free Wolfram Alpha APP-ID. Then issue the following command replacing APP-ID with your actual ID. Do NOT change the yourID portion of the command:

    sed -i "s|yourID|APP-ID|" /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin/4747
    

    Now you’re ready to try out the speech recognition apps. Dial 949 and say the name of a city and state/province/country to get a current weather forecast from Yahoo. Dial 411 and say “American Airlines” to be connected to American.

    To access Wolfram Alpha by phone, dial 4747 and enter your query, e.g. “What planes are overhead.” Read the Nerd Vittles tutorial for additional examples and tips.

    Enabling WiFi on the Raspberry Pi

    With the Raspberry Pi 3, wi-fi hardware is included. With the Raspberry Pi 2, you’ll need to add an inexpensive wifi dongle. The next step is connecting to your WiFi router. Simply open /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf with your favorite editor and insert the following code using the actual SSID name and password to access your local, password-protected WiFi router or any open WiFi network:

    network={
     ssid="YourSSID"
     psk="YourSSIDpassword"
     key_mgmt=WPA-PSK
     scan_ssid=1
     priority=5
    }
    
    network={
     key_mgmt=NONE
     priority=1
    }
    

    Finally, stop and restart the wlan0 interface, count to 15, and check the status of your server to decipher the new IP address for your WiFi connection:

    ifdown wlan0
    ifup wlan0
    pbxstatus
    

    If you want to run your Raspberry Pi exclusively off the WiFi connection, simply unplug the network cable from your RasPi and reboot your server.

    UPDATE: There still is a quirk with the wireless LAN driver on the Raspberry Pi 3. The problem has to do with the default power management of the wlan0 interface which results in it being powered off after very brief periods of inactivity. Special thanks to Matt Gemmell for this fix. Just cut-and-paste the lines below into a terminal window, and you’ll be good to go.

    WARNING: Run pbxstatus first. If the top line shows Raspberry Pi 3, the following WiFi patch is already installed.

    echo "options 8192cu rtw_power_mgnt=0 rtw_enusbss=0 rtw_ips_mode=1" > /etc/modprobe.d/8192cu.conf
    sed -i '/exit 0/d' /etc/rc.local
    echo "sleep 10" >> /etc/rc.local
    echo "iwconfig wlan0 power off" >> /etc/rc.local
    echo "exit 0" >> /etc/rc.local
    echo "[Unit]" > /etc/systemd/system/root-resume.service
    echo "Description=Turn off wlan power management" >> /etc/systemd/system/root-resume.service
    echo "After=suspend.target" >> /etc/systemd/system/root-resume.service
    echo "" >> /etc/systemd/system/root-resume.service
    echo "[Service]" >> /etc/systemd/system/root-resume.service
    echo "Type=simple" >> /etc/systemd/system/root-resume.service
    echo "ExecStartPre= /bin/sleep 10" >> /etc/systemd/system/root-resume.service
    echo "ExecStart= /sbin/iwconfig wlan0 power off" >> /etc/systemd/system/root-resume.service
    echo "" >> /etc/systemd/system/root-resume.service
    echo "[Install]" >> /etc/systemd/system/root-resume.service
    echo "WantedBy=suspend.target" >> /etc/systemd/system/root-resume.service
    systemctl enable root-resume
    reboot
    

    After rebooting, if you issue the iwconfig wlan0 command, it should show: Power Management:off.

    Update: Lessons Learned for Raspberry Pi 3 Road Warriors

    As with all new devices, you learn some things as you go along. So we’re providing an update to our original article to offer a couple of additional tips and tricks for those that want to travel with a RasPi…

    Alternative Power Sources. If you’re like us, you have a number of devices around the house or office that all require 5V power adapters of various amperages. The Raspberry Pi has traditionally been one of the most temperamental when it came to power adapters and, with the Raspberry Pi 3, the developers specifically mention a 2.5 amp minimum. If you travel and want to take devices such as the Raspberry Pi with you, the last thing you want to do is approach airport security with a bunch of wires hanging out of your carry-on bag. Well, there’s good news. The Anker device shown in the Amazon ad in the right column of Nerd Vittles can supply power to 6 devices including a Raspberry Pi 3. And we’ve given the RasPi a healthy workout with no adverse effects.

    Deciphering the RasPi IP Address. As we mentioned, we travel a lot so obtaining a DHCP address for your RasPi in WiFi mode is not always the easiest thing to accomplish. If your smartphone supports tethering, that’s the easiest way to get connectivity on the road. A better way is to stick a WiFi HotSpot in your luggage and it, too, can be powered using the Anker device. See our recent article for WiFi HotSpot choices. Regardless of which option you choose, it will require some planning to use your RasPi sans monitor and keyboard. First, you need to preconfigure /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf with the SSID of the device you’ll be using to hand out DHCP addresses. You’ll note from the discussion above that each entry in this file has a priority with higher numbers having higher priority. The way we typically do this is to assign our home network as the highest priority. Below that, we set up credentials for our MiFi Hotspot, then our smartphones, and finally open networks. So it looks like this:

    • Home Network – 6
    • MiFi HotSpot – 5
    • Android phone – 4
    • iPhone (AT&T) – 3
    • Open Network – 1

    Keep in mind that the Incredible PBX firewall probably will block you from accessing the RasPi from a computer on the public network. So you also must connect your computer to the same private WiFi network because private LAN addresses are whitelisted in the firewall by default.

    Once you have connectivity for your RasPi and your laptop, the other wrinkle is figuring out the IP address of the Raspberry Pi. Our recommended approach goes like this. First, configure SendMail on the RasPi to use a Gmail account that you own as an SMTP smarthost to send emails. That should work almost anywhere you go. Second, modify /etc/rc.local to automatically send you an email with the IP address and SSID of your wireless network whenever the RasPi boots. Again, this takes some advance planning because you need to set all of this up and test it before you go on the road.

    Here are the steps to modify SendMail to use an existing Gmail account as a SmartHost. Log into your RasPi as root and issue the following commands:

    cd /etc/mail
    hostname -f > genericsdomain
    touch genericstable
    makemap -r hash genericstable.db < genericstable
    mv sendmail.mc sendmail.mc.original
    wget http://nerdvittles.dreamhosters.com/pbxinaflash/source/sendmail/sendmail.mc.gmail
    cp sendmail.mc.gmail sendmail.mc
    mkdir -p auth
    chmod 700 auth
    cd auth
    echo AuthInfo:smtp.gmail.com "U:smmsp" "I:user_id" "P:password" "M:PLAIN" > client-info
    echo AuthInfo:smtp.gmail.com:587 "U:smmsp" "I:user_id" "P:password" "M:PLAIN" >> client-info
    echo AuthInfo:smtp.gmail.com:465 "U:smmsp" "I:user_id" "P:password" "M:PLAIN" >> client-info
    nano -w client-info
    

    When the nano editor opens the client-info file, change the 3 user_id entries to your Gmail account name without @gmail.com and change the 3 password entries to your actual Gmail password. Save the file: Ctrl-X, Y, then ENTER.

    Now issue the following commands. In the last step, press ENTER to accept all of the default prompts:

    chmod 600 client-info
    makemap -r hash client-info.db < client-info
    cd ..
    make
    sed -i 's|sendmail-cf|sendmail/cf' /etc/mail/sendmail.mc
    sed -i 's|sendmail-cf|sendmail/cf|' /etc/mail/sendmail.mc
    sed -i 's|sendmail-cf|sendmail/cf|' /etc/mail/Makefile
    sed -i 's|sendmail-cf|sendmail/cf|' /etc/mail/sendmail.cf
    sed -i 's|sendmail-cf|sendmail/cf|' /etc/mail/databases
    sed -i 's|sendmail-cf|sendmail/cf|' /etc/mail/sendmail.mc.gmail
    sed -i 's|sendmail-cf|sendmail/cf|' /etc/mail/sendmail.cf.errors
    sendmailconfig
    

    Next, edit /etc/hosts and /etc/hostname. Change the raspberypi3 entries to: raspberrypi3.incrediblepbx.com.

    Finally, stop and restart SendMail and then send yourself a test message. Be sure to check your spam folder!

    /etc/init.d/sendmail stop
    /etc/init.d/sendmail start
    apt-get install mailutils -y
    echo "test" | mail -s testmessage yourname@yourdomain.com
    

    The last step is to add these commands to /etc/rc.local to send you an email with your IP address and SSID whenever the RasPi is rebooted. Insert the following commands just above the exit 0 line at the end of the file. Use an email address to which you have access on the road!

    ESSID=`iwconfig | grep ESSID | tail -1 | cut -f 9 -d " "`
    echo "IP address: $(hostname -I) on $ESSID" | mail -s "RaspberryPi3 IP Address" yourname@yourdomain.com
    

    Enabling Bluetooth on the Raspberry Pi


    Incredible Fax Returns for the Raspberry Pi


    Mastering the Incredible PBX Feature Set

    Now would be a good time to explore the Incredible PBX applications. Continue reading there. If you have questions, join the PBX in a Flash Forums and take advantage of our awesome collection of gurus. There’s an expert available on virtually any topic, and the price is right. As with Incredible PBX, it’s absolutely free. Enjoy!

    Originally published: Monday, March 7, 2016  Updated: Saturday, March 26, 2016


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



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


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


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

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

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

    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. []

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

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

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

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

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

    Here’s How the Free International Calling Procedure Works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Configuring Incredible PBX for International Calling with DISA

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

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

    1. Setting Up a Trunk to Process Incoming DISA Calls

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

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

    2. Setting Up a Trunk to Process Outgoing International Calls

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



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

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




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

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

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

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

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

    fromuser=0019991234567
    sendrpid=yes
    

    3. Configuring DISA to Support International Calling

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



    4. Configuring an Inbound Route for Your Incoming DISA Calls

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

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



    5. Configuring an Outbound Route for Each International Country Code

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

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

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

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



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

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

    6. Test, Test, Test!

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

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

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

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

    Originally published: Monday, March 21, 2016


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



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


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

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

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

    The Best of Both Worlds: Taking Incredible PBX from the Cloud to the Ocean

    We’ve spent a good bit of time documenting a dirt cheap way to learn about VoIP in the Cloud with our Incredible PBX offering using a $10.50 virtual machine at CloudAtCost. Is it production ready? Probably not. But we’re reminded of the old saying that pizza is a lot like sex: “When it’s good, it’s really good. And, when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.” That pretty much sums up CloudAtCost. And it’s not like a one-time investment for the cost of a pizza lunch is going to break the bank.

    Today we turn our attention to a more reliable, long term Cloud solution with a fresh look at Incredible PBX with Digital Ocean. This setup runs about $5 a month after a free $10 trial using our referral link. If you continue to use the service, it also generates a little revenue for Nerd Vittles to keep the lights on.

    It’s been about two years since we first introduced the Digital Ocean platform. Back then, it was the experimental platform. But a lot has changed, and it’s all for the better. First, you get a Cloud Server on which you can create virtually any Linux platform you like including CentOS, Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu, and more. Second, you get your choice of seven datacenters all around the world: New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Singapore. Third, you get enormous scalability. You can start with the $5/month flavor with 512MB of RAM and a single CPU, 20GB of SSD storage, and 1TB of bandwidth. As your requirements grow and with a couple clicks, you can scale up through 8 multiples of capacity to a whopping 64GB of RAM with 20 CPUs, 640GB of storage, and 9TB of bandwidth for less than a dollar an hour. Just make a Snapshot of any off-line Droplet, and then use that Snapshot as the image for your new server in lieu of a Linux Distribution.

    For our purposes today and for home and SOHO business users, the $5/month Digital Ocean platform is a perfect fit for both the CentOS 6.7 and Ubuntu 14.04 flavors of Incredible PBX. Once you’ve created your Digital Ocean Droplet with your choice of operating system, the Incredible PBX install procedure takes about 25 minutes. This includes the time necessary to compile and install the latest release of Asterisk® 13 from source code. When you’re finished, you’ll have a rock-solid PBX that is fully secured using the Linux firewall. For out-of-the-gate security, no other PBX comes close… at any price. Incredible PBX is and always will be pure open source GPL code and, of course, it’s FREE!

    Creating Your First Digital Ocean Droplet

    CentOS 6.7 remains our Gold Standard of Linux operating systems. We’ll start there and walk you through the Incredible PBX install procedure. Begin by signing up for a Digital Ocean account and creating a 512MB $5 droplet in your choice of data centers. Choose the CentOS 6.7 x32 platform just to keep things simple, and pick a hostname such as centos.incrediblepbx.com. It doesn’t matter if it is not resolvable, but it does need to be in FQDN format.

    By the way, you only pay for the time your droplet actually exists so build several and play for a couple hours. Your total cost will be about 5¢. And, as we noted, your first $10 of server charges are actually free. So you have nothing to lose by experimenting. If you make a mistake, delete your droplet and start over. No big deal. Once your droplet has been created, Digital Ocean will send you an email with your root user credentials and the IP address of your new server. Login with SSH or Putty, and you’ll be prompted to immediately change your root password. Make it secure… as if your bank account depended upon it. 😉

    Installing Incredible PBX 13 for CentOS 6.7

    Now we’re ready to begin the Incredible PBX install. It’s a two-step procedure. First, we’ll get CentOS up to date and reboot. Then we’ll kick off the actual install. Just cut-and-paste the following commands while logged into your droplet as root:

    setenforce 0
    yum -y upgrade --skip-broken
    yum -y install net-tools nano wget tar
    reboot
    

    Once your server reboots, login again as root and cut-and-paste the following commands. Take a 30-minute break while the installer does its thing. If you’re one that likes to watch, don’t worry if you see some error messages. They all get sorted out before the installation finishes.

    cd /root
    wget http://incrediblepbx.com/incrediblepbx13-12.2-centos.tar.gz
    tar zxvf incrediblepbx*
    ./create-swapfile-DO
    ./IncrediblePBX*
    reboot
    

    Let’s login to your server one more time to get the latest Incredible PBX updates and set up your passwords and time zone. Then you’ll be ready to handle future server admin using your browser:

    Make your root password very secure: passwd
    Create admin password for GUI access: /root/admin-pw-change
    Create admin password for web apps: htpasswd /etc/pbx/wwwpasswd admin
    Set your correct time zone: /root/timezone-setup
    Make a copy of your Knock codes: cat /root/knock.FAQ
    Review current info about your server: status OR pbxstatus (depends on release)
    

    If you want to add fax support to your PBX, we’ve got one more installer to run, and you’ll be all set. Just run the following command and press the ENTER key each time you are prompted for input (about 21 times):

    cd /root
    ./incrediblefax11.sh
    

    Success!

    It’s a GUI, GUI World Out There

    Most management of Incredible PBX will be handled using your favorite browser and one of two GUIs: the Kennonsoft menu which appears when you access the IP address of your server using a browser AND the Incredible GUI which is available on the Admin page of the Kennonsoft menu.

    Choose Incredible GUI Administration from the Admin menu of the Kennonsoft GUI (shown above) by clicking on User to switch. The default username is admin and the password is what you set in the preceding step. Now edit extension 701 so you can decipher or change the randomized passwords that was assigned to the 701 extension and its voicemail account: Applications -> Extensions -> 701.

    Setting Up a Soft Phone to Use with Incredible PBX

    Now you’re ready to set up a telephone so that you can play with Incredible PBX. We recommend YateClient which is free. Download it from here. Run YateClient once you’ve installed it and enter the credentials for the 701 extension on Incredible PBX. You’ll need the IP address of your server plus your extension
    701 password. Choose Settings -> Accounts and click the New button. Fill in the blanks using the IP address of your server, 701 for your account name, and whatever password you created for the extension. Click OK.

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


    DEMO - Allison's IVR Demo
    947 - Weather by ZIP Code
    951 - Yahoo News
    *61 - Time of Day
    *68 - Wakeup Call
    TODAY - Today in History

    Now you’re ready to connect to the telephones in the rest of the world. If you live in the U.S., the easiest way (at least for now) is to set up a free Google Voice account. Google has threatened to shut this down but as this is written, it still works. An update supporting Google Voice OAUTH 2 authentication is available here with a complete tutorial. Just start at step #1b. A better long-term solution is to choose several SIP providers and set up redundant trunks for your incoming and outbound calls. The PIAF Forum includes dozens of recommendations to get you started. You’ll also find an incredible deal from our platinum sponsor, Vitelity, at the end of this article.

    Configuring Google Voice

    If you want to use Google Voice, you’ll need a dedicated Google Voice account to support Incredible PBX. If you want to use the inbound fax capabilities of Incredible Fax, then you’ll need an additional Google Voice line that can be routed to the FAX custom destination using the GUI. The more obscure the username (with some embedded numbers), the better off you will be. This will keep folks from bombarding you with unsolicited Gtalk chat messages, and who knows what nefarious scheme will be discovered using Google messaging six months from now. So keep this account a secret!

    We’ve tested this extensively using an existing Gmail account, and inbound calling is just not reliable. The reason seems to be that Google always chooses Gmail chat as the inbound call destination if there are multiple registrations from the same IP address. So, be reasonable. Do it our way! Set up a dedicated Gmail and Google Voice account, and use it exclusively with Incredible PBX. It’s free at least through 2013. Google Voice no longer is by invitation only so, if you’re in the U.S. or have a friend that is, head over to the Google Voice site and register.

    You must choose a telephone number (aka DID) for your new account, or Google Voice calling will not work… in either direction. Google used to permit outbound Gtalk calls using a fake CallerID, but that obviously led to abuse so it’s over! You also have to tie your Google Voice account to at least one working phone number as part of the initial setup process. Your cellphone number will work just fine. Don’t skip this step either. Just enter the provided 2-digit confirmation code when you tell Google to place the test call to the phone number you entered. Once the number is registered, you can disable it if you’d like in Settings, Voice Setting, Phones. But…

    IMPORTANT: Be sure to enable the Google Chat option as one of your phone destinations in Settings, Voice Setting, Phones. That’s the destination we need for The Incredible PBX to work its magic! Otherwise, all inbound and outbound calls will fail. If you don’t see this option, you may need to call up Gmail and enable Google Chat there first. Then go back to the Google Voice Settings.

    While you’re still in Google Voice Settings, click on the Calls tab. Make sure your settings match these:

    • Call ScreeningOFF
    • Call PresentationOFF
    • Caller ID (In)Display Caller’s Number
    • Caller ID (Out)Don’t Change Anything
    • Do Not DisturbOFF
    • Call Options (Enable Recording)OFF
    • Global Spam FilteringON

    Click Save Changes once you adjust your settings. Under the Voicemail tab, plug in your email address so you get notified of new voicemails. Down the road, receipt of a Google Voice voicemail will be a big hint that something has come unglued on your PBX.

    One final word of caution is in order regardless of your choice of providers: Do NOT use special characters in any provider passwords, or nothing will work!

    Now you’re ready to set up your Google Voice trunk in the GUI. After logging in with your browser, click the Connectivity tab and choose Google Voice/Motif. To Add a new Google Voice account, just fill out the form. Do NOT check the third box or incoming calls will never ring!

    IMPORTANT LAST STEP: Google Voice will not work unless you restart Asterisk from the Linux command line at this juncture. Using SSH, log into your server as root and issue the following command: amportal restart.

    If you have trouble getting Google Voice to work (especially if you have previously used your Google Voice account from a different IP address), try this Google Voice Reset Procedure. It usually fixes connectivity problems. If it still doesn’t work, enable Less Secure Apps using this Google tool.

    Troubleshooting Audio and DTMF Problems

    You can avoid one-way audio on calls and touchtones that don’t work with these simple settings in the GUI: Settings -> Asterisk SIP Settings. Just plug in your public IP address and your private IP subnet. Then set ULAW as the only Audio Codec.

    A Few Words about the Incredible PBX Security Model for CentOS

    Incredible PBX for CentOS joins our previous Ubuntu build as our most secure turnkey PBX implementation. As configured, it is protected by both Fail2Ban and a hardened configuration of the IPtables Linux firewall. The latest release also includes Port Knocker for simple, secure access from any remote computer or smartphone. You can get up to speed on how the technology works by reading the Nerd Vittles tutorial. Your Port Knocker credentials are stored in /root/knock.FAQ together with activation instructions for your server and mobile devices. The NeoRouter VPN client also is included for rock-solid, secure connectivity to remote users. Read our previous tutorial for setup instructions. As configured, nobody can access your PBX without your credentials AND an IP address that is either on your private network or that matches the IP address of your server or the PC from which you installed Incredible PBX. You can whitelist additional IP addresses by running the command-line utility /root/add-ip. You can remove whitelisted IP addresses by running /root/del-acct. Incredible PBX is preconfigured to let you connect to many of the leading SIP hosting providers without additional firewall tweaking. We always recommend you also add an extra layer of protection by running your server behind a hardware-based firewall with no Internet port exposure, but that’s your call. And it’s your phone bill. 😉

    The IPtables firewall is a complex piece of software. If you need assistance with configuring it, visit the PIAF Forum for some friendly assistance.

    Incredible Backup and Restore

    We’re also pleased to offer our latest backup and restore utilities for Incredible PBX. Running /root/incrediblebackup will create a backup image of your server in /tmp. This backup image then can be copied to any other medium desired for storage. To restore it to another Incredible PBX server, simply copy the image to a server running Asterisk 13 and the same version of the Incredible PBX GUI. Then run /root/incrediblerestore. Doesn’t get much simpler than that.

    Incredible PBX Automatic Update Utility

    Every time you log into your server as root, Incredible PBX will ping the IncrediblePBX.com web site to determine whether one or more updates are available to bring your server up to current specs. We recommend you log in at least once a week just in case some new security vulnerability should come along.

    In the meantime, we encourage you to sign up for an account on the PIAF Forum and join the discussion. In addition to providing first-class, free support, we think you’ll enjoy the camaraderie.

    Originally published: Thursday, March 17, 2016


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






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


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


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

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

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

    It’s Back: $10.50 Buys an Incredible PBX in the Cloud For Life… If You Hurry

    In January, we began our new series on Cloud Computing by documenting how to build an awesome LAMP server in the Cloud using Linux. Today we’re again going to show you how to use the same Cloud platform and take advantage of the $10.50 coupon code TAKE70 to build an Incredible PBX in the Cloud FOR LIFE. When you’re finished, you’ll have a state-of-the-art Incredible PBX 13 server with hundreds of PBX features including free calling to the U.S. and Canada using any (free) Google Voice account. Keep in mind this isn’t $10.50 a month for your cloud server. It’s $10.50, period! The whole project takes less than an hour. Before we begin, let’s revisit our cautionary note for those that missed it in the previous article. It’s important.

    There’s lots to hate at Cloud At Cost, a Canadian provider that offers virtual machines in the cloud for a one-time fee with no recurring charges. For $35 $10.50, you get a virtual machine with 512MB of RAM, 10GB of storage, and a gigabit Internet connection FOR LIFE. We haven’t seen a week go by when Cloud at Cost didn’t offer some sort of discount. Today it’s 70% which brings the total cost down to $10.50. That’s less than a burger at Five Guys. That’s the good news. But, if security, 99.999% reliability, performance, and excellent customer support are your must-haves, then look elsewhere. So why would anyone in their right mind sign up for a cloud solution that didn’t offer those four things? Did we mention it’s $10.50 for a lifetime cloud server?

    If you take our recommendation and plunk down your $10.50, you’ll need to go into this with the right attitude. It’s not going to be flawless perfection computing. It’s a sandbox on which to experiment with [VoIP] and Cloud Computing. Will your virtual machine disintegrate at some juncture? Probably. Our experience is that the first couple days are critical. If you start seeing sluggish performance which degenerates to zero, don’t waste your time. Take good notes as you go along, delete the virtual machine, and rebuild a new one. It won’t cost you a dime, and it’ll save you hours of frustration. We suspect that bad folks get onto some of the servers and delight in bringing the machines to their knees. So the quicker you cut your losses, the better off you will be. Is CloudAtCost a good solution for production use? Absolutely Probably not so don’t try to fit a square peg in the round hole. It’s not gonna work, and you WILL be disappointed.

    Today’s experiment will give you a platform on which to learn before you decide upon a more permanent deployment solution. And it will give you a terrific home for a backup server once you do move to a long-term solution so your $10.50 won’t be wasted.


    The objective today is to show you how to build a rock-solid, secure VoIP server in the Cloud with all the bells and whistles you’d typically find on a PBX costing tens of thousands of dollars. Incredible PBX is pure GPL, open source code with one major difference. It’s FREE! And it’s supported by thousands of users on the PIAF Forum that started just like you.

    Some of you are probably wondering why you would want a PBX at all. Hearing is believing as they say. Spend a couple minutes and call our CloudAtCost demo server. We preconfigured it using everything provided in today’s tutorial. It’ll let you play with some of the features that a PBX offers such a voice dialing from a directory, news and weather forecasts, and much more. And, in case you’re wondering, it’s been running 24/7 for two full months without a single hiccup. To try it for yourself, just dial:

    Nerd Vittles Demo IVR Options
    1 – Call by Name (say “Delta Airlines” or “American Airlines” to try it out)
    2 – MeetMe Conference (password is 1234)
    3 – Wolfram Alpha (say “What planes are flying overhead now?”)
    4 – Lenny (The Telemarketer’s Worst Nightmare)
    5 – Today’s News Headlines
    6 – Weather Forecast (Just enter your ZIP Code!)
    7 – Today in History
    8 – Speak to a Real Person (or maybe just voicemail if we’re out)

    For long time readers of Nerd Vittles, you already know that the component we continually stress is security. Without that, the rest really doesn’t matter. You’ll be building a platform for someone else to hijack and use for nefarious purposes. When we’re finished today, you’ll have a cloud-based VoIP server that is totally invisible to the rest of the world except a short list of VoIP providers that have been thoroughly vetted by Nerd Vittles staff. You can whitelist additional locations and phones to meet your individual needs without worrying about your server being compromised.

    Creating Your Virtual Machine Platform in the Cloud

    To get started, you’ve got to cough up your $10.50 at Cloud at Cost using coupon code TAKE70. Once you’ve signed up, CloudAtCost will send you credentials to log into the Cloud at Cost Management Portal. Change your portal password IMMEDIATELY after logging in. Just go to SETTINGS and follow your nose. HINT: DC2 is the preferred data center!

    To create your virtual machine, click on the CLOUDPRO button and click Add New Server. If you’ve only purchased the $10.50 CloudPRO 1 platform, then you’ll need all of the available resources shown in the pick list. Leave CentOS 6.7 64bit selected as the OS Type and click Complete. Depending upon the type of special pricing that Cloud at Cost is offering when you sign up, the time to build your virtual machine can take anywhere from a minute to the better part of a day. Things have settled down since the 90% off week so new servers typically are ready in a few minutes. However, we’ve learned to build new virtual machines at night where possible. Then they’re usually available for use by the next morning. Luckily, this slow performance does not impact existing virtual machines that already are running in the CloudAtCost hosting facilities.

    Initial Configuration of Your CentOS 6.7 Virtual Machine

    With a little luck, your virtual machine soon will appear in your Cloud at Cost Management Portal and look something like what’s shown above. The red arrow points to the i button you’ll need to click to decipher the password for your new virtual machine. You’ll need both your IP address and the password for the new virtual machine in order to log into the server which is now up and running with a barebones CentOS 6.7 operating system. Note the yellow caution flag. That’s telling you that Cloud at Cost will automatically shut down your server in a week to save (them) computing resources. You can change the setting to keep your server running 24/7. Click Modify, Change Run Mode, and select Normal – Leave Powered On. Click Continue and OK to save your new settings.

    Finally, you’ll want to change the Host Name for your server to something more descriptive than c7…cloudpro.92… Click the Modify button again and click Rename Server to change it. IncrediblePBX13 has a nice ring to it, but to each his own.

    Logging into Your New CentOS 6.7 Virtual Machine

    In order to configure and manage your new CentOS 6.7 virtual machine, you’ll need to log into the new server using either SSH or, for Windows users, Putty. After installing Putty, run it and log in to the IP address of your VM with username root and the password you deciphered above. On a Mac, open a Terminal session and issue a command like this using the actual IP address of your new virtual machine:

    ssh root@12.34.56.78
    

    Before you do anything else, reset your Virtual Machine’s root password to something very secure: passwd

    Next, let’s address a couple of CloudAtCost quirks that may cause problems down the road. CloudAtCost has a nasty habit of not cleaning up after itself with fresh installs. The net result is your root password may get reset every time you reboot even though you changed it.

    sed -i '/exit 0/d' /etc/rc.local
    killall plymouthd
    echo killall plymouthd >> /etc/rc.local
    rm -f /etc/rc3.d/S97*
    echo "exit 0" >> /etc/rc.local
    

    Installing Incredible PBX 13 with CentOS 6.7

    Now we’re ready to build your VoIP server platform. There aren’t many steps so just cut-and-paste the code into your SSH or Putty session and review the results to make sure nothing comes unglued. If something does, the beauty of virtual machines is you can delete them instantly within your management portal and just start over whenever you like. So here we go…

    We’ll begin by permanently turning off SELINUX which causes more problems than it solves. The first command turns it off instantly. The second line assures that it’ll stay off whenever you reboot your virtual machine.

    setenforce 0
    sed -i s/SELINUX=enforcing/SELINUX=disabled/g /etc/selinux/config
    

    Now let’s bring CentOS 6.7 up to current specs and add a few important applications:

    yum -y update
    yum -y install net-tools nano wget tar
    reboot
    

    Once your server reboots, we’re ready to kick off the Incredible PBX 13 install:

    cd /root
    wget http://incrediblepbx.com/incrediblepbx13-12.2-centos.tar.gz
    tar zxvf incrediblepbx*
    ./IncrediblePBX*
    

    When the install begins, read the license agreement and press ENTER to agree to the terms and get things rolling. Now would be a great time to go have breakfast or lunch. Come back in about an hour and your server should be ready to go.

    Implementing Dynamic DNS Service on Your Client Machines

    Unlike some other PBX offerings that leave your server exposed to the Internet, Incredible PBX is different. Unless the IP address from which you are accessing the server has been whitelisted, nobody on the Internet can see your server. The only exception is the preferred providers list and those on the same local area network (which is nobody in the case of CloudAtCost). As part of the Incredible PBX install, the IP address of the computer you used to perform the install was whitelisted automatically. But there may be other computers from which you wish to allow access to the PBX in order to deploy telephones at remote sites. Some of these sites may have dynamic IP addresses that change from time to time. Or you may have traveling salesman that land in a new hotel almost every night with a new IP address. Fortunately, there are a number of free and paid Dynamic DNS providers. For sites with dynamic IP addresses, simply choose a fully-qualified domain name (FQDN) to identify each location where you need computer access or need to deploy a phone. Then run a dynamic DNS update utility periodically from a computer or router at that site. It reports back the current public IP address of the site and your DNS provider updates the IP address assigned to that FQDN whenever there are changes.

    DNS update clients are available for Windows, Mac OS X, and many residential routers. They’re also available for Android devices. Then it’s just a matter of plugging in the remote users’ FQDNs so Incredible PBX knows to give them server access via the whitelist. You implement this in seconds using the add-ip and add-fqdn utilities in the /root directory.

    There are other ways to gain access as well using the PortKnocker utility or Travelin’ Man 4 from a telephone. Both of these are covered in the Incredible PBX 13 tutorial so we won’t repeat it here.

    Incredible PBX Preliminary Setup Steps

    First, let’s check things out and make sure everything is working as it should. With your favorite web browser, visit the IP address of your new server. You should see the default Incredible PBX page, the Kennonsoft Menu. It’s divided into two parts, a Users tab (shown below) and an Admin tab with additional options that we’ll cover shortly.

    Now we need to jump back to SSH or Putty and log back into your server as root. You’ll note that the Incredible PBX Automatic Update Utility is run each time you log in. This is how important security updates are pushed to your server so do it regularly. And, no, you don’t need to contribute to our open source projects unless you want to. You’ll still get the updates as they are released.

    After the Automatic Update Utility runs, the login script will execute status which tells you everything you need to know about the health of your server. After the initial install, it will look something like this with your server’s IP address obviously. We’ll cover the RED items down the road a bit.

    For now, we need to complete a few preliminary setup steps for Incredible PBX to make sure you can log into the various components which have been installed on your computer. There are several different credentials you will need. Most of these are configured using scripts in the /root folder of your server. First, you need your root password for the server itself, and you should have already set that up with a very secure password using passwd. These same credentials are used to login to WebMin.

    Next you’ll need an admin password for the Incredible PBX GUI. This is the management utility and Asterisk® code generator which consists of FreePBX® GPL modules that are open source and free to use. The admin password is set by running admin-pw-change in the /root directory.

    There are also a number of web-based applications such as Telephone Reminders, AsteriDex, phpMyAdmin, and VoiceMail & Recordings (User Control Panel). You obviously don’t want everyone with a telephone using all of these applications so they are protected using a couple different Apache web server credentials. First, you set up an admin password for the administrator-level applications using the htpasswd utility. Then you set up an end-user account and password for access to AsteriDex, Reminders, and the User Control Panel. With the User Control Panel, end users also will need a username and password for their particular phone extension and this is configured with the Incredible PBX GUI using Admin -> User Management -> Add New User. If this sounds convoluted, it’s really not. Apache credentials can be entered once in an administrator’s or end user’s browser and they’re stored permanently.

    Here is a checklist of the preliminary steps to complete before using your server:

    Make your root password very secure: passwd
    Create admin password for Incredible PBX GUI access: /root/admin-pw-change
    Create admin password for web apps: htpasswd /etc/pbx/wwwpasswd admin
    Create joeuser password for web apps: htpasswd /etc/pbx/wwwpasswd joeuser
    Set up UCP accounts for Voicemail & Recordings access using Incredible PBX GUI
    Make a copy of your Knock codes: cat /root/knock.FAQ
    Decipher IP address and other info about your server: status
    Set your correct time zone: /root/timezone-setup

    Activating Incredible Fax on Your Server

    Incredible PBX also includes an optional (and free) faxing component that lets you send and receive faxes that are delivered to your email address. To activate Incredible Fax, run the following script and plug in your email address for delivery of incoming faxes: /root/incrediblefax11.sh. After entering your email address, you’ll be prompted for all sorts of additional information. Unless you have unusual requirements, pressing the ENTER key at every prompt is the appropriate response. You’ll need to reboot your server again when the fax installation is complete. Once you log back into your server as root, the bottom line of the status display should now be green UP entries.

    Managing Your Server with the Incredible PBX GUI

    About 99% of your time managing your server will be spent in the Incredible PBX GUI. To access it, fire up your browser and point to the IP address of your server. At the Kennonsoft menu, click on the Users tab which will change to Admin and bring up the Admin menu shown here:

    From the Administrator menu in the Kennonsoft GUI, click on Incredible PBX Administration. This will bring up the following menu:

    Click on the first icon to access the Incredible PBX GUI. You’ll be prompted for your credentials. For the username, enter admin. For the password, enter the password you set up using admin-pw-change above. You should then be greeted by the main status display in the Incredible GUI:

    If you’re new to Asterisk and FreePBX, here’s the one paragraph primer on what needs to happen before you can make free calls with Google Voice. You’ll obviously need a free Google Voice account. This gets you a phone number for people to call you and a vehicle to place calls to plain old telephones throughout the U.S. and Canada at no cost. You’ll also need a softphone or SIP phone (NOT a regular POTS telephone) to actually place and receive calls. YATE makes a free softphone for PCs, Macs, and Linux machines so download your favorite and install it on your desktop. Phones connect to extensions to work with Incredible PBX. Extensions talk to trunks (like Google Voice) to make and receive calls. We use outbound routes to direct outgoing calls from extensions to trunks, and we use inbound routes to route incoming calls from trunks to extensions to make your phones ring. In a nutshell, that’s how a PBX works. There are lots of bells and whistles that you can explore down the road.

    As configured after installation, you have everything you’ll need except a Google Voice trunk, and we’ll cover that next. Then we’ll add a softphone with your extension 701 credentials, and you’ll be ready to make and receive calls. Before we move on, let’s decipher your extension 701 password so that you’ll have it for later. Choose Applications -> Extensions -> 701 and scroll down the screen to the Secret field and write down your password. You can also change it if you like and click Submit and then the Red button to update your settings. While you’re here, write down your extension 701 Voicemail Password.

    Deploying Google Voice on Your Server

    That leaves one RED entry on your status display, GV OAUTH. Whether to use plain text passwords or OAUTH 2 credentials with Google Voice accounts presently is a matter of choice although Google regularly threatens to discontinue access to Google Voice without OAUTH authentication. We suggest you play with Google Voice using plain text passwords just to get your feet wet because OAUTH implementation gets complicated. When you get ready to deploy a permanent Incredible PBX server, that would be the appropriate time to switch to OAUTH. This tutorial (beginning at step 1b) will guide you through the process.

    If you want to use Google Voice, you’ll need a dedicated Google Voice account to support Incredible PBX. If you want to use the inbound fax capabilities of Incredible Fax, then you’ll need an additional Google Voice line that can be routed to the FAX custom destination using the GUI. The more obscure the username (with some embedded numbers), the better off you will be. This will keep folks from bombarding you with unsolicited Gtalk chat messages, and who knows what nefarious scheme will be discovered using Google messaging six months from now. So keep this account a secret!

    We’ve tested this extensively using an existing Gmail account, and inbound calling is just not reliable. The reason seems to be that Google always chooses Gmail chat as the inbound call destination if there are multiple registrations from the same IP address. So, be reasonable. Do it our way! Set up a dedicated Gmail and Google Voice account, and use it exclusively with Incredible PBX. It’s free at least through 2013. Google Voice no longer is by invitation only so, if you’re in the U.S. or have a friend that is, head over to the Google Voice site and register.

    You must choose a telephone number (aka DID) for your new account, or Google Voice calling will not work… in either direction. Google used to permit outbound Gtalk calls using a fake CallerID, but that obviously led to abuse so it’s over! You also have to tie your Google Voice account to at least one working phone number as part of the initial setup process. Your cellphone number will work just fine. Don’t skip this step either. Just enter the provided 2-digit confirmation code when you tell Google to place the test call to the phone number you entered. Once the number is registered, you can disable it if you’d like in Settings, Voice Setting, Phones. But…

    IMPORTANT: Be sure to enable the Google Chat option as one of your phone destinations in Settings, Voice Setting, Phones. That’s the destination we need for The Incredible PBX to work its magic! Otherwise, all inbound and outbound calls will fail. If you don’t see this option, you may need to call up Gmail and enable Google Chat there first. Then go back to the Google Voice Settings.

    While you’re still in Google Voice Settings, click on the Calls tab. Make sure your settings match these:

    • Call ScreeningOFF
    • Call PresentationOFF
    • Caller ID (In)Display Caller’s Number
    • Caller ID (Out)Don’t Change Anything
    • Do Not DisturbOFF
    • Call Options (Enable Recording)OFF
    • Global Spam FilteringON

    Click Save Changes once you adjust your settings. Under the Voicemail tab, plug in your email address so you get notified of new voicemails. Down the road, receipt of a Google Voice voicemail will be a big hint that something has come unglued on your PBX.

    One final word of caution is in order regardless of your choice of providers: Do NOT use special characters in any provider passwords, or nothing will work!

    Once you have your Google Voice account properly configured with Google, here is the proper sequence to get a Google Voice account working with Incredible PBX. First, using a browser, login to your Google Voice account. Second, make sure that Google Chat is activated in your Phone -> Settings. Third, in a separate browser tab, enable Less Secure Apps for your Google account. Fourth, in another separate browser tab, activate the Google Voice reset procedure. Fifth, in the Incredible PBX GUI, choose Connectivity -> Google Voice (Motif) and enter your Google Voice credentials:

    Sixth, save your settings by clicking Submit and the Red Button to reload the GUI. Finally, using SSH or Putty, log into your server as root and restart Asterisk: amportal restart.

    Setting Up a Soft Phone to Use with Incredible PBX

    Now you’re ready to set up a telephone so that you can play with Incredible PBX. We recommend YateClient which is free. Download it from here. Run YateClient once you’ve installed it and enter the credentials for the 701 extension on Incredible PBX. You’ll need the IP address of your server plus your extension 701 password. Choose Settings -> Accounts and click the New button. Fill in the blanks using the IP address of your server, 701 for your account name, and your extension 701 password. Click OK.

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


    DEMO - Allison's IVR Demo
    947 - Weather by ZIP Code
    951 - Yahoo News
    *61 - Time of Day
    *68 - Wakeup Call
    TODAY - Today in History

    Now you’re ready to connect to the telephones in the rest of the world. If you live in the U.S., the easiest way (at least for now) is to use the free Google Voice account we set up above. Unlike traditional telephone service where you were 100% dependent upon MaBell, there is no such limitation with VoIP. The smarter long-term solution is to choose several SIP providers and set up redundant trunks for your incoming and outbound calls. The PIAF Forum includes dozens of recommendations to get you started. Here are a few of our favorites:

    Originally published: Friday, January 29, 2016   Republished: Monday, March 14, 2016





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


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


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

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

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

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

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


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

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

    Getting Started with Incredible PBX and Elastix 4.0

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

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

    1. Choose a Platform for Incredible PBX and Elastix 4.0

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

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

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

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

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

    2. Install 64-bit Elastix 4.0 on Your Platform

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

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

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

    3. Download and Install Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0

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

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

    4. Initial Configuration of Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    5. Activate Trunks with Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0

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

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

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

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

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

    6. Configure a Softphone with Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0

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

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

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


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

    7. Configuring SMTP Mail with Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0

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

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

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

    8. Homework Assignment: Mastering Incredible PBX for Elastix 4.0

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



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

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

    Download (PDF, 619KB)

    Originally published: Monday, February 22, 2016



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


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


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

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

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Choosing WiFi Hotspot Platforms for Our Road Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Data Usage in a Nutshell

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

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

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

    Ready, Set, Go: Let the Journey Begin

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

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

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

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

    Mobile Internet Scorecard

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

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

    Originally published: Monday, February 15, 2016






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


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

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

  • Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…