Closing the Book on CentOS: Introducing PBX in a Flash 3 with PIAF 3.6.5 OS

Over the past few weeks, we’ve attempted to document some of the issues that have arisen as a result of what Red Hat claims it has been assigned from a few of the current CentOS developers. The CentOS trademark issues boil down to these: (1) ownership, (2) prior assignments and licenses, (3) dilution, and (4) GPL2. You can only sell that which you own. You can’t undo licenses that previously have been issued and relied upon. Generic use of a term over a lengthy period of years raises a strong presumption of genericide particularly when there has never been any attempt to protect the mark. And you can’t breathe a trademark exemption into GPL2 just because you’d like it to be a GPL3 license.

These issues obviously aren’t going to be settled overnight. Indeed, there are “the usual suspects” that put a not in front of virtually anything we suggest. That’s perfectly fine. We all have the right to our own opinions. But, absent some flexibility from Red Hat, these issues will work their way through a very cumbersome legal process over many years regardless of the views of the armchair quarterbacks. We’ll be watching and, if it becomes necessary, participating. There’s almost a decade of history on CentOS that some appear to have forgotten or perhaps never knew. Suffice it to say, CentOS has had a bit of a checkered past. We’ll cover some of it in coming months to give everyone a better appreciation of the issues that are at stake. In the meantime, PBX in a Flash has a loyal following, and we owe it to our users and supporters to remove the CentOS distraction and move on.

Today we are pleased to introduce PBX in a Flash 3 with an all-new GPL2 operating system, our own. It is compatible with the LAAMP stack that has been deployed by all of the Asterisk aggregations over the past decade including PBX in a Flash, Asterisk@Home, trixbox, Elastix, AsteriskNOW, and the FreePBX Distro. Simply stated, nothing has changed except the removal of the items to which Red Hat now asserts some ownership interest.

We’re rolling PIAF3 out in three stages, two of which we’re introducing today. There are new 32-bit and 64-bit virtual machine images. There are migration scripts to transform a PIAF2 server into PIAF3. And there will be new ISO images down the road a bit. The PIAF Dev Team is a group of individuals that do this for fun, not for profit. So eating comes first. Then we work on PBX in a Flash as time permits. No, we haven’t gotten filthy rich from donations and advertising. And, yes, we have sufficient resources to maintain the infrastructure necessary to continue to support the project indefinitely. If you’d like to volunteer to assist, by all means do so. The more, the merrier!

Movin’ On Up: Migrating Your PIAF2 Server to PIAF3

We’ve documented a simple procedure on the PIAF Forum to convert your PIAF2 server into a PIAF3 server. We fully appreciate that some may need a little hand-holding even though the scripts are provided and are in plain text. If you’d like to perform the procedure, set aside about an hour when your server is not in use AND only after you have made a full backup of your current system. For backup tips, go here and here and here. Then follow this link to begin. If you run into issues, just post your question on the forum. We have hundreds of gurus that stand ready to help you… cheerfully.

The Ultimate VoIP Appliance: PIAF3 Virtual Machine for VirtualBox

Today brings us to a new plateau in the virtual machine development era. We’re pleased to introduce a new product that can be installed in under 5 minutes and will run on any Windows PC, Mac, or Linux machine as well as Solaris. And, unlike the dedicated machine platforms and OpenVZ compromises of years past, today’s PIAF-Green Virtual Machine is state-of-the-art giving you everything a bare metal install from source code would have provided. Most importantly, the components are truly portable. They can be copied to a 4GB flash drive1 for the price of a good hamburger and installed from there onto any type of machine that happens to be in front of you. Five minutes later, you have a fully functional Asterisk server with FreePBX and exactly the same feature set and source code that you would have had doing a bare metal PIAF install to a dedicated server. And we’ve built 32-bit and 64-bit production-ready PIAF-Green Virtual Machines with Asterisk 11.7 and FreePBX 2.11. No Internet access required to perform the install. Sound too good to be true? Keep reading or, better yet, try the PIAF appliance for yourself. The install process is simple:

  1. Download and install VirtualBox onto a Desktop Machine of your choice
  2. Download and double-click on the PIAF-Green Virtual Machine to import it into VirtualBox
  3. Select the PIAF-Green Virtual Machine in VirtualBox Manager Window and click the Start button

Introducing Oracle VM VirtualBox

We’re late to the party, but Virtual Box®, Oracle’s virtual machine platform inherited from Sun, is really something. It’s not only free, but it’s pure GPL2 code. VirtualBox gives you a virtual machine platform that runs on top of any desktop operating system. In terms of limitations, we haven’t found any. We even tested this on an Atom-based Windows 7 machine with 2GB of RAM, and it worked without a hiccup. So step #1 is to download one or more of the VirtualBox installers from VirtualBox.org or Oracle.com. As mentioned, our recommendation is to put all of the 100MB installers on a 4GB thumb drive. Then you’ll have everything in one place whenever and wherever you happen to need it. Once you’ve downloaded the software, simply install it onto your favorite desktop machine. Accept all of the default settings, and you’ll be good to go. For more details, here’s a link to the Oracle VM VirtualBox User Manual.

Installing the PIAF3 Virtual Machine

Step #1 is to download the PIAF-Green Open Virtualization Appliance (.ova) of your choice from SourceForge. If you prefer torrents, they are there as well thanks to the work of Isaac McDonald.

Step #2: Verify the checksums for the .ova appliance to be sure everything got downloaded properly. To check the MD5/SHA1 checksums in Windows, download and run Microsoft’s File Checksum Integrity Verifier.

For Mac or Linux desktops, open a Terminal window, change to the directory in which you downloaded the .ova file and type the following commands:

md5 PIAF-Green-3.6.5.-32.ova (use md5sum for Linux)    MD5: a0562d213a31ace848b8a00bfb3d9218
openssl sha1 PIAF-Green-3.6.5-32.ova    SHA1: 7aa74ffdc6a0f2b5a2ec0557c7bb78f8fe9cfb23


md5 PIAF-Green-3.6.5.-64.ova (use md5sum for Linux)    MD5: d146ce1381b58effcaaaf3ef095806ab
openssl sha1 PIAF-Green-3.6.5-64.ova    SHA1: 19a9981094047eb25d585f9a2d0198a056d56a98

Step #3: Double-click on the downloaded .ova file which will begin the import process into VirtualBox. It only takes a couple minutes, and you only do it once. IMPORTANT: Be sure to check the Reinitialize the Mac address of all network cards box before clicking the Import button.

Once the import is finished, you’ll see the new PIAF-Green virtual machine in the VM List of your VirtualBox Manager Window. You’ll need to make a couple of one-time adjustments to the VM configuration to account for differences in sound and network cards on different host machines.

Click on the PIAF-Green Virtual Machine in the VM List. Then click Settings -> Audio and check the Enable Audio option and choose your sound card. Save your setup by clicking the OK button. Next click Settings -> Network. For Adapter 1, check the Enable Network Adapter option. From the Attached to pull-down menu, choose Bridged Adapter. Then select your network card from the Name list. Then click OK. On some VM platforms in order to successfully boot the VM, you may need to manually enable PAE/NX support under System -> Proccessor. On most platforms, it’s enabled by default. That’s all the configuration that is ever necessary for your PIAF-Green Virtual Machine. The rest is automagic.

Running the PIAF-Green Virtual Machine in VirtualBox

Once you’ve imported and configured the PIAF3 Virtual Machine, you’re ready to go. Highlight PIAF3 Virtual Machine in the VM List on the VirtualBox Manager Window and click the Start button. The PIAF3 boot procedure will begin just as if you had installed PBX in a Flash on a standalone machine. You’ll see a couple of dialogue boxes pop up that explain the keystrokes to move back and forth between your host operating system desktop and your PIAF VM.

Here’s what you need to know. To work in the PIAF3 Virtual Machine, just left-click your mouse while it is positioned inside the VM window. To return to your host operating system desktop, press the right Option key on Windows machines or the left Command key on any Mac. For other operating systems, read the dialogue boxes for instructions on moving around. Always shut down PIAF gracefully! Click in the VM window with your mouse, log in as root, and type: shutdown -h now.

Run the PIAF3 Virtual Machine behind a hardware-based firewall with no Internet port exposure!

To begin, position your mouse over the VM window and left-click. Once the PIAF VM has booted, log in as root with password as the password. Change your root password immediately by typing passwd at the command prompt. Now set up a secure maint password for FreePBX as well. Type passwd-master. If you’re not in the Eastern U.S. time zone, then you’ll want to adjust your timezone setting so that reminders and other time-sensitive events happen at the correct time. While logged into your server as root, issue this command:

setup-timezone

Next, use a browser to log into your PIAF3 server by pointing to the IP address of the PIAF3 VM that’s displayed in the status window of the CLI. Click on the User button to display the Admin choices in the main PIAF3 Menu. Click on the FreePBX option to load the FreePBX GUI. You will be prompted for an Apache username and password. For the username, use maint. For the password, use whatever password you set up with passwd-master.

Now read the latest PIAF Quick Start Guide and begin your VoIP adventure. Then you’ll want to do some reading on VirtualBox. We’ve barely scratched the surface. Setting up Headless VMs that run in the background on any server is a breeze. From the command line, here’s an article to get you started. But you also can start Headless VMs from within the GUI by highlighting the VM and clicking Shift->Start. Always shut down VMs gracefully: Close->ACPI Shutdown. You’ll find more great tips at virtualbox.org and GitHub.

One of the real beauties of VirtualBox is you don’t have to use a GUI at all. The entire process can be driven from the command line. Other than on a Mac, here is the procedure to import, configure, and run the PIAF-Green Virtual Machine:
 
VBoxManage import PIAF-Green-3.6.5-32.ova
VBoxManage modifyvm "PIAF-Green-3.6.5-32" --nic1 nat
VBoxManage modifyvm "PIAF-Green-3.6.5-32" --acpi on --nic1 bridged
VBoxHeadless --startvm "PIAF-Green-3.6.5-32" &
# Wait 1 minute for PIAF-Green-3.6.5-32 to load. Then decipher IP address like this:
VBoxManage guestproperty get "PIAF-Green-3.6.5-32" /VirtualBox/GuestInfo/Net/0/V4/IP
# Now you can use SSH to login to PIAF-Green-3.6.5-32 at the displayed IP address
# Shutdown the PIAF-Green-3.6.5-32 Virtual Machine with the following command:
VBoxManage controlvm "PIAF-Green-3.6.5-32" acpipowerbutton

On a Mac, everything works the same way except for deciphering the IP address. Download our findip script for that.

Adding Incredible PBX 11 and Incredible Fax

You can read all about the Incredible PBX 11 and Incredible Fax feature set in our recent Nerd Vittles article. If you decide you’d like to add one or both to your PIAF-Green Virtual Machine, just log into your server as root and issue the following commands. NOTE: You must install Incredible Fax after installing Incredible PBX, or you will lose the ability to install Incredible PBX at a later time. With Incredible Fax, there are a number of prompts during the install. With the exception of the prompt asking for your local area code, just press Enter at every other prompt.

cd /root
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/incrediblepbx11.gz
gunzip incrediblepbx11.gz
chmod +x incrediblepbx11
./incrediblepbx11
./incrediblefax11.sh

The Incredible PBX 11 Inventory. For those that have never heard of The Incredible PBX, here’s the current 11.0 feature set in addition to the base install of PBX in a Flash with PIAF 3.6.5, Asterisk 11, FreePBX 2.11, and Apache, SendMail, MySQL, PHP, phpMyAdmin, IPtables Linux firewall, Fail2Ban, and WebMin. Incredible Fax, NeoRouter and PPTP VPNs, and all sorts of backup solutions are still just one command away and may be installed using the scripts included with Incredible PBX 11 and PBX in a Flash 3. Type help-pbx and browse /root for dozens of one-click install scripts.

Originally published: Friday, February 21, 2014




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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  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. []

Crippleware: Is Red Hat Rewriting the GPL and the Future of Open Source?

We’ve always been a believer that things happen for a reason. And so it is with the recent CentOS “acquisition” by Red Hat. It’s no secret that CentOS was cutting into Red Hat’s revenue stream. While Red Hat had announced plans to create its own CentOS-like spinoff, the actual absorption of CentOS and its development team into Red Hat, Inc. was a surprise. So was the claim by Karanbir Singh that he individually owned the CentOS trademark. As we previously described, the whole CentOS story is more than a little murky. What began as a rebellion by some open source developers to the heavy-handed Red Hat reinvention of what open source and the GPL were all about abruptly morphed into something quite different. We hope Red Hat has the best of intentions, but some may see things differently given Red Hat’s history in the open source space. Did one or more developers just throw in the towel in exchange for some undisclosed money and a cushy job? Only the developer(s) know the answer to that. From Red Hat’s perspective, it gives them complete control of the best known, free, competitive and compatible product that was making inroads into their cash cow, Enterprise Linux. Only time will tell whether the goal of this acquisition was to make CentOS a better product. Nothing now prevents Red Hat from diminishing the compatibility between Enterprise Linux and CentOS.

In the VoIP world, CentOS has played a leading role in the evolution of Asterisk-compatible turnkey systems. That history includes Asterisk@Home, trixbox, Elastix, PBX in a Flash, Asterisk Now, and the FreePBX platform. Just as Excel relies upon Windows to run, all of these distributions have relied upon CentOS as the underlying Linux operating system for their VoIP platform. And this has been the case for almost a decade with no objection from the CentOS folks. In fact, some of us that contributed to the CentOS project received tacit approval to do exactly what we’ve been doing by bundling CentOS with the PBX in a Flash VoIP platform. After all, CentOS is GPL2 software, and we can read.

Having said that, the PBX in a Flash Dev Team is shifting gears. Down the road we plan to release 32-bit and 64-bit Scientific Linux-based ISOs supported by our own software repository. By popular demand, over the next few weeks, we will release the PIAF3-Installer, a freeware installation program that installs PBX in a Flash 3.0.6.5 on an existing Linux platform. You first install the operating system of your choice, and then the PIAF3-Installer takes it from there. The first release will support 32-bit or 64-bit CentOS 6.5 or the Scientific Linux 6.5 minimal install. Future releases will support additional Linux operating systems, and we’ll keep you posted on what those platforms will be. All of the installs have been designed to look and feel and perform exactly as the PIAF 2.0.6.5 ISO works today. The installer also has been designed to work with our cloud partner, RentPBX. And it should work well on other cloud platforms as well as virtual machines including VirtualBox. The PIAF-Green Virtual Machine featuring Scientific Linux 6.5 is already available and was built using the new PIAF3-Installer. For the time being, the PIAF3-Installer gets us out of the operating system business until some of the legal issues are resolved. There’s lots of exciting new PIAF3 software coming your way very shortly. So stay tuned.

So what’s the big deal with the Red Hat acquisition?

Red Hat has a different view of the open source universe and the GNU General Public license (GPL2) under which CentOS is distributed. And, make no mistake, Red Hat has no choice about using the GPL2 license because their aggregations include thousands of components, most of which are licensed under GPL2. One of the fundamental precepts of GPL licensing is you are free to use or add to others’ GPL-licensed products so long as you also license your software under the same terms, i.e. the GPL2 license. Historically, Red Hat has applied its own GPL interpretation.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Red Hat aggregated thousands of these GPL2 products and configured them so that they worked harmoniously. And thus was born Enterprise Linux, a wildly profitable Linux “operating system” which consisted primarily of other developers’ free open source software components. And what did Red Hat bring to the table? A trademarked name and logo consisting of some artwork, a method of installing and configuring the various components so that they played nice with each other, and a marketing, support, and legal department. In pulling off this hat trick, Red Hat sprinkled its trademarked name and copyrighted artwork in various files throughout the operating system in such a way that the system wouldn’t function if you removed or renamed some of the files under which the Enterprise Linux operating system was running. Then Red Hat barred others from using its trademarks and copyrighted artwork in competitive products that sought to fork, use, and enhance the Enterprise Linux GPL2-licensed code claiming brand confusion. Merriam-Webster calls it a gotcha. We do, too.

With CentOS, the developers (perhaps with some Red Hat coaching) were sufficiently savvy to remove the Red Hat branding and artwork and then recompiled the source code substituting their own branding and artwork while never disclosing exactly how they did what they did. Scientific Linux did much the same thing a bit later. Was there a non-disclosure agreement between CentOS and Red Hat that was part of their legal settlement? Who knows? The bottom line was that the CentOS project operating under the cAOS Foundation made bold claims that they’d never act like RedHat in dealing with others that wanted to use their free product. And, more importantly, they kept their word and never did… at least until the 2014 Red Hat acquisition when CentOS license terms abruptly changed.

Here’s the key language that all of us relied upon as far as CentOS licensing and integration into other products:

[W]e will never make the system depend on an item of non-free software.

We won’t object to commercial software that is intended to run on cAos systems, and we’ll allow others to create value-added distributions containing both cAos and commercial software, without any fee from us. To support these goals, we will provide an integrated system of high quality, 100% open source software, with no legal restrictions that would prevent these kinds of use. (Emphasis added)

Indeed, this licensing approach is exactly what GPL2 requires! The Red Hat theory of open source licensing goes something like this. You are free to use our source code (only) to develop your own GPL2 product provided you recompile the executables after removing all of our trademarks and copyrighted artwork from the source before you proceed. And here’s the rub with that approach: the GPL2 license. Three important components of the GPL2 license are listed below. Red Hat’s new CentOS license only partially complies with sections 1 and 2 while ignoring sections 3 and 7.

Sections 1 and 2 of GPL2 give users the right to copy, modify, and redistribute source code provided appropriate notices are attached and the new source code is licensed under GPL2. There’s no authorization to restrict or limit reuse or modification of individual components in the GPL2 program.

Section 3 of GPL2 gives users the right to copy and use or modify the object code provided in the original work. There’s no authorization to restrict or limit reuse or modification of individual executable components in the program.

Section 7 of GPL2 is the enforcement mechanism of the license. If the licensor uses a patent “or any other reason (not limited to patent issues)” to restrict the use of a GPL2-licensed product then the licensor has two options: (1) remove the restriction on use or (2) stop distributing the product pursuant to GPL2. If the licensor insists upon enforcement of a patent, a trademark, or copyright claim whether real or contrived, then “the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.” The quoted passages couldn’t be more clear.

Red Hat wants to have its cake and eat it, too: sell a product using everyone else’s free GPL2 products without restriction and then tie up its own GPL2 product with trademark and copyright land mines that deter others from using the product except in an inoperative form. This is nothing new. Back in the shareware days, we called it Crippleware. Stated another way, Red Hat wants to permit GPL2 use of modified CentOS in source code format only minus the CentOS marks and images and without any object code or executables and without telling you how to restore functionality after removing the required pieces to which RedHat claims ownership. Simply stated, the boat won’t float without major plumbing changes from any user that wants to keep the boat from sinking. And Red Hat won’t tell you where the boat is leaking or how to fix the leaks. Never mind that Red Hat didn’t mind using thousands of other developers’ trademarks and copyrighted artwork in the Enterprise Linux and CentOS aggregations. There’s a reason. Such restrictions are impermissible under the GPL2 license. Indeed, it’s one of the primary reasons that the GPL license came about in the first place. Assuming Red Hat ever obtains the CentOS registered trademark (which we plan to challenge if no one else does), Red Hat has two options under section 7 of GPL2: drop the trademark and artwork removal requirements or stop marketing CentOS and Enterprise Linux as GPL products (which they obviously cannot do since they are using thousands of other folks’ open source trademarked GPL2 products in “their work” at no cost).

Here’s a modest proposal that we believe would make everybody happy. First, many folks don’t give a rip about using either the RHEL or CentOS marks or artwork. It’s the source AND executable code that was released under the GPL that users are after just as they were promised under GPL2 and under CentOS previously published licensing terms. What we’re not going to do is invest hundreds of programming hours rebranding and maintaining what is touted and distributed as a GPL2 product. Personally, I’d prefer to spend the hours on a legal brief blowing Red Hat’s GPL2 reincarnation of open source out of the water. It’s dead wrong based upon the clear language of the GPL2 license. Paying lawyers or experts to twist the meaning of the GPL2 language that’s perfectly clear on its face simply isn’t going to fly. We’ve been down this road before. And David and Goliath is still one of our favorite Bible stories.

If Red Hat wants a generic, mark-free, image-free distribution of CentOS in lieu of waiving its trademark and copyright claims, then Red Hat can produce a clone with binaries AND keep it current as new versions of RHEL and CentOS are released! Make it a 100% RHEL-compatible and call it MugWump™. Use the Nerd Vittles logo for the artwork. Or come up with any other name and logo so long as there are no restrictions on use by others. If Red Hat uses our proposed name and logo, we will license everyone to use the product, the copyrighted artwork and the MugWump trademark pursuant to GPL2 at no cost. If Red Hat chooses its own new name and logo, then Red Hat agrees to license the product under the same terms we have proffered. The end result: everybody will be happy while saving Red Hat hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. What’s not acceptable is distribution of a product which purports to be GPL2 code but places unreasonable and unachievable restrictions on use without hundreds of hours of development work by potential end users. That’s not what GPL2 was ever about. Hopefully the federal courts won’t have to say so.

Originally published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014




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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Don’t Hurry: A First Look at Google Glass with Google Glass Frame

It’s one thing to read about new technology, and quite another to actually try it out. We’ve been holding off on Google Glass awaiting support for prescription lenses. Well, it’s finally here. And Nerd Uno was one of the first to receive the new Google Glass Frames. Having spent the better part of a week with the new technology, here’s our review.

Let’s start with the price tag. Ours came to $1,868.75. That’s before you add the cost of prescription lenses, some of which are now subsidized by vision insurance plans. So the $2,000 question is whether you’re ready for that type of investment in order to assume the mantle of PIONEER. And, make no mistake, Google Glass is a beta project in every sense of the word. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Pardon our morphing into a male chauvinist pig for a moment. Can you picture your significant other ever wearing a pair of these glasses? Seriously? If the answer is no, then put yourself in her shoes and ask the same question. Looks aside (and some of us need all the help we can get), much of the resistance to Google Glass boils down to the privacy issue. It’s one thing to carry a hidden pen camera when nobody knows they’re being recorded. It’s quite another to advertise what you’re up to. As Engadget put it:

It’s a headset with a projected display, a camera and a data connection that could revolutionize the mobile device industry. It could also cause a public uproar over privacy concerns.

People can and should be a bit concerned about someone walking in a public restroom with Glass on and, since you can’t fold them up and stick them in your pocket, finding something to do with them while you do your business is a challenge.

Take it from us. Your friends are going to disown you if you wear these things around them. Nobody (except people that work for Google or would like to) wants to be on camera all the time. And nobody except the Glass wearer knows whether the camera is on or off. Therein lies the problem. All it takes to send a photo to the Google Cloud is the wink of an eye. Ask yourself this question. Do you really want to live in a world like this? We haven’t even gotten to the way you can expect to be treated by strangers. Consider, for example, the poor guy that got dragged out of the movie theater because of a claim that he was illegally recording the movie. He wasn’t! But there was a parking lot full of police and FBI interrogators anyway. Then there are the restaurants and bars that will throw you out just for wearing a pair of wonder glasses. And finally we’ve got the Eager Beaver traffic cop that couldn’t wait to make his first Google Glass bust. So let me repeat the question. Do you really want to live in a world like this? Perhaps the better question is this. Do you think other folks want to live in a world with people like you wearing Google Glass? You can probably guess our answer, but the world does not stand still. So… we will see what we see.

Google Glass Setup and Operation

If you’ve set up an iPhone or Android phone with Gmail using your Google credentials, then you already know the drill for setting up Google Glass. It’s a breeze with the MyGlass app for your smartphone. In 5 minutes, you’ll be ready to tilt your head up and take Google Glass for a spin. The magic word to activate Glass is “OK, Glass.” So far, so good. In the default setup, you can make phone calls, check the weather, participate in Hangouts (you can see them but they can’t see you), read emails, send dictated email messages, take photos and videos as well as perform Google searches and navigate to a destination with Google Maps. The ability to schedule reminders has been removed in the latest software release. Unfortunately, messages sent to Gmail accounts (with or without a photo) go to Hangouts, not to Gmail.




You can take photos by blinking your right eye after enabling the feature. The photos are immediately uploaded to your Google account in the sky. There also is an option to forward a photo to an email address. But choosing a recipient was problematic. If you have an extensive list of Contacts as we do, it’s almost impossible to navigate through the list or to use it reliably with the Glass speech-to-text function. Oftentimes you will find yourself inadvertently sending something to the wrong person with no notification as to who that person was. And there’s no quick way to cancel delivery. That is a major shortcoming of virtually all the Glass features presently. There is no “go back” or “never mind” or “hangup” voice command to cancel an activity. We often found ourselves tapping, swiping, and yelling at Glass in order to cancel some action. Painful is the kindest adjective we can muster. Do you have any idea how stupid you look tapping on the side of your head all the time? People really will think you’ve lost your marbles. Let’s put it this way. If the Google self-driving car worked as well as Glass, you’d be in a ditch or dead in a matter of minutes.

There are a whole host of additional features you can add to Glass. Google calls them Glassware. The process is straight-forward, much like adding an app to a smartphone. Here’s a partial list to give you some idea of what’s already out there:

With all these potential applications, you’re undoubtedly asking yourself about battery life. In a word, it’s HORRIBLE. If you get a half day out of Glass even with minimal use, count yourself among the lucky ones. If the idea is that folks should wear Glass instead of glasses, you’re not going to be a happy camper. While Google has taken steps to shut off Glass when you’re not actively using it, this is an uphill battle. Glass depends upon Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and regularly communicates with your cellphone and the closest WiFi access point. That’s a battery-consuming activity that is not going to be easily remedied without a bigger battery or better battery technology. As someone described it in the Google forum, “It’s like watching the gas gauge on a Ford Expedition with a 454 engine going up a mountain.” There’s a reason that over half the inside of a smartphone is reserved as a battery compartment. Unfortunately, Glass doesn’t have that luxury of space.

In conclusion, we were tempted to keep Glass only because of its novelty. Everybody likes to play with the latest toy. And we have a reputation to uphold. But the battery life and privacy issues are truly dealbreakers for us. Before it’s over, we suspect there will be overwhelming public demand for a little red blinking light on Glass to tell others when you’re doing something that might affect them. If you’ve seen the way people react when you point a movie camera at them with a blinking red light, you’ll at least know what you have to look forward to. There has been no bigger Google Glass evangelist than Robert Scoble. Check out his comments on why Google Glass is doomed. Then read today’s comments from Jeff Jarvis before you take the plunge. We’re saving our money for the self-driving car. Here’s hoping the people that make ours don’t read this review.

Originally published: Wednesday, February 5, 2014




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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

A New Star Is Born: The PIAF-Green Virtual Machine featuring Scientific Linux 6.5

We are delighted to announce our first of many releases of PBX in a Flash™ 3.0.6.5 running atop the just released Scientific Linux™ 6.5. In keeping with our historical methodology (minus CentOS™), today’s PIAF-Green™ VM release with Asterisk 11® and FreePBX® 2.11 provides everyone an opportunity to kick the tires and provide some feedback before the tailorable PIAF™ 3.0.6.5 hits the street. What’s missing is the CentOS operating system. Good riddance! See last week’s article for why. We are pleased to introduce our new OS platform:

“From the beginning Scientific Linux was designed to be a community project. We solicited input from the labs and Universities that originally contacted [Fermilab™ computer scientists], as well as other interested parties. We also designed the sites area to make it easy for sites to create their own distribution, as well as add to the mirrors without disturbing the main core distribution.”

Feel free to read up on its history, its legal footing, and its incredible growth over the past decade. If you’d like to build your own creation from Scientific Linux, there’s a well-documented tutorial to get you there. Incredible Linux™ here we come! And what a terrific contribution to the open source community by the Scientific Linux developers. Imagine actually being able to spin off GPL code into enhanced products just as the GPL license envisioned. What a concept!

We’ll have more news about Scientific Linux in coming weeks. But, for today, we hope you’ll take the new PIAF-Green Virtual Machine for a spin. This new release was put together within days of the release of Scientific Linux 6.5. That speaks volumes about SL platform stability and its enthusiastic community. We’re delighted to be the newest member!

The Ultimate VoIP Appliance: PIAF Virtual Machine for VirtualBox

Today brings us to a new plateau in the virtual machine development era. We’re pleased to introduce a new product that can be installed in under 5 minutes and will run on any Windows PC, Mac, or Linux machine as well as Solaris. And, unlike the dedicated machine platforms and OpenVZ compromises of years past, today’s PIAF-Green Virtual Machine is state-of-the-art giving you everything a bare metal install from source code would have provided. Most importantly, the components are truly portable. They can be copied to a 4GB flash drive1 for the price of a good hamburger and installed from there onto any type of machine that happens to be in front of you. Five minutes later, you have a fully functional Asterisk server with FreePBX and exactly the same feature set and source code that you would have had doing a bare metal PIAF install to a dedicated server. And we’ve built this 32-bit production-ready PIAF-Green Virtual Machine with Asterisk 11.7 and FreePBX 2.11. No Internet access required to perform the install. Sound too good to be true? Keep reading or, better yet, try the PIAF appliance for yourself. The install process is simple:

  1. Download and install VirtualBox onto a Desktop Machine of your choice
  2. Download and double-click on the PIAF-Green Virtual Machine to import it into VirtualBox
  3. Select the PIAF-Green Virtual Machine in VirtualBox Manager Window and click the Start button

Introducing Oracle VM VirtualBox

We’re late to the party, but Virtual Box®, Oracle’s virtual machine platform inherited from Sun, is really something. It’s not only free, but it’s pure GPL2 code. VirtualBox gives you a virtual machine platform that runs on top of any desktop operating system. In terms of limitations, we haven’t found any. We even tested this on an Atom-based Windows 7 machine with 2GB of RAM, and it worked without a hiccup. So step #1 is to download one or more of the VirtualBox installers from VirtualBox.org or Oracle.com. As mentioned, our recommendation is to put all of the 100MB installers on a 4GB thumb drive. Then you’ll have everything in one place whenever and wherever you happen to need it. Once you’ve downloaded the software, simply install it onto your favorite desktop machine. Accept all of the default settings, and you’ll be good to go. For more details, here’s a link to the Oracle VM VirtualBox User Manual.

Installing the PIAF Virtual Machine

Step #1 is to download the PIAF-Green Open Virtualization Appliance (.ova) from SourceForge.

Step #2: Verify the checksums for the 32-bit .ova appliance to be sure everything got downloaded properly. To check the MD5/SHA1 checksums in Windows, download and run Microsoft’s File Checksum Integrity Verifier.

For Mac or Linux desktops, open a Terminal window, change to the directory in which you downloaded the .ova file and type the following commands:

md5 PIAF-Green-SL.ova (use md5sum for Linux)    MD5: 33fcda3badc7cae025905b59d59f8213
openssl sha1 PIAF-Green-SL.ova    SHA1: f3aa8d966cd8e7bed1d0d6e16d29806056b81e6a

Step #3: Double-click on the downloaded .ova file which will begin the import process into VirtualBox. It only takes a couple minutes, and you only do it once. IMPORTANT: Be sure to check the Reinitialize the Mac address of all network cards box before clicking the Import button.

Once the import is finished, you’ll see the new PIAF-Green virtual machine in the VM List of your VirtualBox Manager Window. You’ll need to make a couple of one-time adjustments to the VM configuration to account for differences in sound and network cards on different host machines.

Click on the PIAF-Green-SL Virtual Machine in the VM List. Then click Settings -> Audio and check the Enable Audio option and choose your sound card. Save your setup by clicking the OK button. Next click Settings -> Network. For Adapter 1, check the Enable Network Adapter option. From the Attached to pull-down menu, choose Bridged Adapter. Then select your network card from the Name list. Then click OK. That’s all the configuration that is ever necessary for your PIAF-Green Virtual Machine. The rest is automagic.

Running the PIAF-Green Virtual Machine in VirtualBox

Once you’ve imported and configured the PIAF Virtual Machine, you’re ready to go. Highlight PIAF Virtual Machine in the VM List on the VirtualBox Manager Window and click the Start button. The PIAF boot procedure with Scientific Linux 6.5 will begin just as if you had installed PBX in a Flash on a standalone machine. You’ll see a couple of dialogue boxes pop up that explain the keystrokes to move back and forth between your host operating system desktop and your PIAF VM.

Here’s what you need to know. To work in the PIAF Virtual Machine, just left-click your mouse while it is positioned inside the VM window. To return to your host operating system desktop, press the right Option key on Windows machines or the left Command key on any Mac. For other operating systems, read the dialogue boxes for instructions on moving around. Always shut down PIAF gracefully! Click in the VM window with your mouse, log in as root, and type: shutdown -h now.

Run the PIAF Virtual Machine behind a hardware-based firewall with no Internet port exposure!

To begin, position your mouse over the VM window and left-click. Once the PIAF VM has booted, log in as root with password as the password. Change your root password immediately by typing passwd at the command prompt. Now set up a secure maint password for FreePBX as well. Type passwd-master. If you’re not in the Eastern U.S. time zone, then you’ll want to adjust your timezone setting so that reminders and other time-sensitive events happen at the correct time. While logged into your server as root, issue this command:

setup-timezone

Next, use a browser to log into your PIAF server by pointing to the IP address of the PIAF VM that’s displayed in the status window of the CLI. Click on the User button to display the Admin choices in the main PIAF Menu. Click on the FreePBX option to load the FreePBX GUI. You will be prompted for an Apache username and password. For the username, use maint. For the password, use whatever password you set up with passwd-master.

Now read the latest PIAF Quick Start Guide and begin your VoIP adventure. Then you’ll want to do some reading on VirtualBox. We’ve barely scratched the surface. Setting up Headless VMs that run in the background on any server is a breeze. From the command line, here’s an article to get you started. But you also can start Headless VMs from within the GUI by highlighting the VM and clicking Shift->Start. Always shut down VMs gracefully: Close->ACPI Shutdown. You’ll find more great tips at virtualbox.org and GitHub.

One of the real beauties of VirtualBox is you don’t have to use a GUI at all. The entire process can be driven from the command line. Other than on a Mac, here is the procedure to import, configure, and run the PIAF-Green-32 Virtual Machine:
 
VBoxManage import PIAF-Green-SL.ova
VBoxManage modifyvm "PIAF-Green-SL" --nic1 nat
VBoxManage modifyvm "PIAF-Green-SL" --acpi on --nic1 bridged
VBoxHeadless --startvm "PIAF-Green-SL" &
# Wait 1 minute for PIAF-Green-SL to load. Then decipher IP address like this:
VBoxManage guestproperty get "PIAF-Green-SL" /VirtualBox/GuestInfo/Net/0/V4/IP
# Now you can use SSH to login to PIAF-Green-SL at the displayed IP address
# Shutdown the PIAF-Green-SL Virtual Machine with the following command:
VBoxManage controlvm "PIAF-Green-SL" acpipowerbutton

On a Mac, everything works the same way except for deciphering the IP address. Download our findip script for that.

Adding Incredible PBX 11 and Incredible Fax

You can read all about the Incredible PBX 11 and Incredible Fax feature set in our recent Nerd Vittles article. If you decide you’d like to add one or both to your PIAF-Green Virtual Machine, just log into your server as root and issue the following commands. NOTE: You must install Incredible Fax after installing Incredible PBX, or you will lose the ability to install Incredible PBX at a later time. With Incredible Fax, there are a number of prompts during the install. With the exception of the prompt asking for your local area code, just press Enter at every other prompt.

cd /root
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/incrediblepbx11.gz
gunzip incrediblepbx11.gz
chmod +x incrediblepbx11
./incrediblepbx11
./incrediblefax11.sh

The Incredible PBX 11 Inventory. For those that have never heard of The Incredible PBX, here’s the current 11.0 feature set in addition to the base install of PBX in a Flash with Scientific Linux 6.5, Asterisk 11, FreePBX 2.11, and Apache, SendMail, MySQL, PHP, phpMyAdmin, IPtables Linux firewall, Fail2Ban, and WebMin. Incredible Fax, NeoRouter and PPTP VPNs, and all sorts of backup solutions are still just one command away and may be installed using the scripts included with Incredible PBX 11 and PBX in a Flash. Type help-pbx and browse /root for dozens of one-click install scripts.

Originally published: Wednesday, January 29, 2014




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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  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. []

Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle: More RedHat Legal Shenanigans with CentOS


As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of CentOS, the Community Enterprise Operating System, all is not well in Open Source Land. If you haven’t heard, CentOS “joined forces” with Red Hat while you were enjoying the Christmas holiday. And RedHat wasted little time attempting to morph CentOS into a Trademark Minefield much as RedHat has done with its other “open source” projects. If you look at the new CentOS.org web site, RedHat proclaims a New Look and New CentOS. New, indeed. You won’t see many changes other than a healthy mention of RedHat and a vast new Legal section proclaiming RedHat’s ownership of the CentOS trademark and severely restricting acceptable use of the CentOS product. It’s more than a little ironic that RedHat actually pulled off a similar stunt against CentOS back in 2005. The initial problem this time around is that RedHat doesn’t actually own the trademark, nor has RedHat attempted to register it. There are some good reasons why, and we’ll get to those in a minute.

The RedHat Legal Theory of Trademarks goes something like this. We just don’t want people to confuse other products with our brand even though we all use the same, freely available open source brands. Get it? Well let’s try again. RedHat doesn’t mind using Apache’s brand name, and SendMail’s, and MySQL’s, and about 40,000 other trademarked and copyrighted products of open source developers. But God help you if the word “RedHat” appears anywhere in your open source software aggregation.

Now RedHat would like to extend this philosophy to CentOS for the betterment of the community, of course. If successful, RedHat bullying would wipe out virtually all of the current CentOS packages available from the following providers, and thousands more would disappear as well. Here’s the list from CentOS’ own web site, but don’t expect the list to remain around very long. The mere existence of this list proves CentOS acquiescence in the development methodology employed by Amazon Linux AMIs that include CentOS as part of the AMI, AsteriskNOW, BlueOnyx, BlueQuartz, CactiEZ, CentServer, ClarkConnect, ClearOS, Elastix, FAN, FreePBX Distro, OpenNode, OpenVZ, OS Office, OVH, Parallels Virtuozzo Containers, PBX in a Flash, Proxmox images that include CentOS, SipX, SME Server, Snaplogic, trixbox, trixswitch, VicidialNOW, most of the Virtual Machines and hosted platforms that rely upon CentOS with any other included application. And the list goes on. To give you some idea of how pervasive CentOS is in the products of other developers, try Googling: built atop centos which returns over 21 million results.

In a nutshell, the new RedHat Terms of Service outlaw use of CentOS in any productunless the combined distribution is an official CentOS distribution.” In short, the open source community would be transformed into the functional equivalent of the Windows and Mac platforms. End-users could independently install CentOS and then acquire apps to run under CentOS, but CentOS could no longer be included with the application itself. Well, not so fast, Mr. RedHat.

Even though the evidence trail is quickly disappearing, there’s still plenty of CentOS history that suggests things may not work out quite as well for RedHat this time around. First, there is the CentOS “Social Contract” with the Open Source Software Community and The cAos Foundation’s Open Source Software Guidelines, both of which have conveniently disappeared from the CentOS web site. For history buffs, the cAos Foundation was the developer of the CentOS aggregation. If there’s one overriding principle in both trademark law and open source software development under the GPL, it’s this: YOU CAN’T UNRING A BELL. A license once given cannot be withdrawn at the whim of a new owner, even RedHat. Here’s an excerpt from their “Social Contract.” Pay particular attention to the last paragraph:

Another problematic issue is ownership of the trademark itself. You can certainly own a trademark without registering it with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. But… since inception, the cAos Foundation has gone to great lengths not to ever enforce, proclaim™, or protect its trademark in CentOS. The reason is simple. They viewed CentOS as a community project which was free for everyone in the community to use and integrate as they saw fit. Thus it is more than a little puzzling that a single developer would finally file a USPTO trademark application for “CENTOS” (note the capitalization and compare to RedHat’s view of the universe) six months ago claiming that he individually owned the mark. Quite the contrary, the cAos Foundation referenced its CentOS brand as early as 2004.

This, of course, raises some additional problems with RedHat’s claim of CentOS trademark and service mark ownership. From a legal standpoint, owners of trademarks are obligated to police the use of their marks to avoid Dilution either by third parties or by tarnishment. Without delving too deeply in the legal weeds, suffice it to say the CentOS mark suffers from dilution on both counts over a period of almost 10 years! This is as it should be actually. CentOS was intended to be a community resource for everyone in the community to be able to use, integrate, and build upon. Because of its inherent non-commercial character, it was never intended to be a brand for independent marketing.

A third trademark infirmity for the CentOS brand is the fact that it’s suffering from genericide. In Plain English, CentOS has become a household word. In the Linux community, it signifies a generic open source Linux operating system. Just as with aspirin and thermos bottles, “a majority of the relevant public [has] appropriated the name of the product… [and, in essence,] the owners are victims of their own success.”

And then there’s the matter of licensing. In addition to the “Social Contract” referenced above and upon which many developers relied, there’s also a financial angle. Individual developers reportedly have been given either express or implied authorization to integrate CentOS into their software products in exchange for financial contributions to the “CentOS project.” We’ll have more to say about that in our Petition for Cancellation and Opposition to Registration of the CentOS trademark, if the trademark is ever approved for publication. We trust many other developers will file petitions as well. You can review the procedure here. You can follow the CentOS trademark saga here. Be advised that an Opposition to Registration (section 202) must be filed with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board within 30 days of the date a mark is approved for publication in the USPTO’s Official Gazette. A sample Petition for Cancellation (section 307) is available here. You do not have to be a lawyer to file it. You do have to pay the $300 filing fee. The safest way to monitor approval is by regularly checking the Status of the CENTOS Trademark and Service Mark Application.

Licensing issues aside, there’s a more serious issue moving forward. Most companies used CentOS so they wouldn’t have to pay for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Now Red Hat has bought CentOS. Guess what? Is it just a matter of time until CentOS is crippled so that it cannot serve as a drop-in replacement for Red Hat’s Cash Cow? Duh! Did the CentOS development team care about this? Probably not. Might not have even considered it. They got money and cushy jobs out of the deal. But, just because Red Hat offers financial rewards to a handful of CentOS developers is no reason to scuttle the development efforts of thousands of independent developers over the last decade. Better think twice, RedHat. The open source community will be watching.

Originally published: Monday, January 20, 2014




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


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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Obivoice = OBi Heaven: Dumping Google Voice for Less Than 10¢ a Day

What a difference a week makes! When we wrote last week’s article about netTALK and their terrific pricing, we were pleased to report that at least one company could offer a drop-in replacement for Google Voice without breaking the bank. But, alas, all is not well in netTALK Land. For openers, the Better Business Bureau revoked their accreditation last June because of failure to respond to or resolve technical complaints. And a recent SEC Filing paints a fairly bleak picture of the company’s financial condition. Special thanks to Gershom1624 for his sleuthing efforts. This merely reinforces the difficulty of providing reliable, unlimited VoIP service at the $2.50 a month price point. But we firmly believe $2.50 is the magic price point, and it is achievable with some safeguards for the provider, i.e. residential service, no call centers, no 10,000 minutes-a-month customers. My mom loved the telephone, but she never spent 5 hours a day on the telephone. There also has to be some tradeoff in the level of support customers can expect. If customers tie up expensive support reps with multiple calls, the pricing matrix falls apart very quickly. And that brings us to this week.


Let’s review the Wish List for those that missed last week’s article. We want a drop-in replacement for Google Voice on both the OBi110 (stand-alone with any POTS telephone) and Asterisk® (PBX) platforms. It needs to provide unlimited (within reason) calling in the U.S. and Canada. It needs a feature set that is fairly comparable to Google Voice. It needs to include E911 service because the federal government says so. We don’t care much about support as long as the setup process is well-documented, the service is reliable, and calls sound great. Charging for support requests to resolve issues that aren’t the company’s fault is perfectly fine with us. But the price point for unlimited calling needs to be $2.50 a month, i.e. $30 a year or $60 every two years for the math-challenged. We’d prefer no tips, taxes, or fees. We want to keep our existing number. And, lest we forget, the company must promise to stay in business and never raise prices… forever.

Suppose we could find you a company that, with a 2-year commitment, could provide all of the above (minus the last sentence) plus fax support including a web page to send outgoing faxes from attachments, free calling and a mobile app for your iOS and Android devices, Visual Voicemail with voicemail transcription as well as email delivery of voicemail messages, call forwarding, call waiting, CallerID spoofing for any number you own, and unbelievable customer service. Not sure about the service? How about a 30-day free trial with 60 free minutes?

Let us introduce you to Obivoice. Don’t be alarmed by the one-year price of $40. The two-year price is just $60. But it doesn’t cost you a nickel to sign up and try the service. Obivoice is a pure SIP provider so the setup with PBX in a Flash™ or an OBi110™ takes only a couple minutes. Here’s the SIP trunk setup for PBX in a Flash using FreePBX®. All you need is your SIP credentials and phone number once you’ve signed up for an account. Plug in your 10-digit phone number in the Outbound CallerID and Register String, replace 1234 with your Account Number in the username, fromuser, and Register String, and replace yourpassword with your real Password in the secret and Register String.

Next, build yourself an Inbound Route with your 10-digit DID and point it to your favorite PBX destination. Finally, create an Outbound Route using obivoice as the Trunk Sequence, and you’re all set. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

We don’t think you will but, if you need assistance setting this up, head over to the PIAF Forum where there’s a lively discussion about Obivoice already.

The OBi110 setup is just as easy. Plug in sms.intelafone.com as the ProxyServer and OutboundProxy in your ITSP Profile, add your SIP credentials in the SP1 Voice Services dialog, and forward (or transfer) your existing Google Voice number to Obivoice. Done! Obivoice’s complete tutorial is available here.

Let us close with our own customer service story. We were so excited about this new service when it was announced yesterday that we actually clicked the wrong button and signed up for the wrong plan. Of course, it only takes a minute to get that sinking feeling in your stomach when you know you’ve screwed up. So late yesterday (Sunday night!) I opened a support ticket and asked to either cancel the wrong plan so that I could reenlist or to transfer to the $60 two-year plan. At 1:30 a.m. this morning, I got an email back from customer service indicating that the plan had been adjusted and that I had been billed for the price difference. WOW!

Run, don’t walk, to sign up for Obivoice. It’s that great!

p.s. The Obivoice jingle in their YouTube video is as good as their calls. We want it for our Music on Hold!

Originally published: Monday, January 13, 2014




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


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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

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