Posts tagged: piaf

The Rise and Fall of FreePIX: The 15-Year Journey of an Internet Sensation

NOTE: While on vacation, we dreamed up this fictional company depicting fictitious events to highlight some of the potential pitfalls which could arise when transfers of ownership lead to unanticipated future operational changes. Lawyers get paid to think about this stuff. Today, you get the hypotheticals at no charge. Give them some thought. WARNING: Do NOT visit the .com address associated with our fictional company. It takes NSFW to a whole new level. Similarities to existing companies are purely coincidental. We do not believe the facts depicted apply to any current owner of any company of which we are aware. But the scenario highlights what potentially could happen when a morphing project ultimately is sold to a company with vastly different objectives. We chose FreePIX for our company name because worldwide prior use by numerous entities would make ownership of the mark all but impossible.

Being huge fans of free photography, imagine our surprise upon first learning that the trademark for our new photography site was available. The next decade would see FreePIX.us grow into the largest public site for free storage of photos in the world. The beauty of FreePIX was two-fold. First, storage of an unlimited quantity of photos in any size and format was free. And the web-based GUI to view those photos was second to none. There were no restrictions on usage and no time limitations on free storage. It also provided a simple utility allowing developers to add new photography filters for site-wide use. In short, FreePIX was a photographer’s dream come true. Offload tens of thousands of photos into a high performance web site that’s available to friends and business clients at the click of a web browser button.

Going into our third year in “business” and reality is starting to sink in. People have lots of photos. What used to be one megapixel images have now quadrupled to four. Storage and bandwidth costs have escalated geometrically with the quadrupling of image sizes, but it’s worth it. We love photography. We’ve started to get inquiries from venture capitalists offering to help fund our site in exchange for a percentage interest in the company. No thanks!

We’re starting year five, and the average image now is 8 megapixels. What used to require a dedicated digital camera is now available on every smartphone. Our user base increased ten-fold in just the last year. And I desperately need some additional programming help to keep the web site ahead of the curve. Could also use some networking help to assist in managing the FreePIX storage platform. We’ve obviously got to figure some things out moving forward. Did we mention the storage and bandwidth costs have gone through the ceiling? One of the leading camera companies has made us an offer for the company. It’s not a lot of money, but we could still run the operation even though they would have the final say on future direction. They would simply insert a few ads on the web site to cover the costs. Some favorite commercial photographers of ours have also offered to lend a free hand with the programming and networking chores. Sounds like a good plan!

It’s year six, and our parent company just got sued for copyright infringement because a couple of jerks posted photos owned by some commercial photographers. The plaintiff’s lawyers want a lot of money for a silly mistake, but we obviously are going to need to tighten up and monitor the images that get posted. One of the image filtering apps on the site also looks strikingly similar to a commercial product with an existing patent on the specific filtering methodology. The parent company has brought in their legal team to make some changes.

It’s year seven now, and the parent company says it’s bleeding red ink on what they thought would be a charitable endeavor. And the legal hassles keep on coming. Sounds like FreePIX has been put on the auction block. Lucky for us, one of our commercial photographers has expressed an interest in buying everything, and he’s promised no major operational changes. He has some fresh ideas together with broad experience in the photography business so I think we’re in good shape moving forward. I can hardly believe how talented his programmers are. Looks like smooth sailing lies ahead.

It’s year nine now, and we’ve made further improvements. We now offer a library of commercial photos which can be licensed on the site. Doesn’t impact our free photo storage at all. The new owner now wants to restrict the site to non-commercial entities and to convert all of the photos to lower resolution to conserve disk space and reduce costs. I can’t much blame him. Can you believe commercial photography businesses store all of their work on our site? Doesn’t seem fair that we should foot the bill for their storage and bandwidth when they are competing with our commercial photography business.

We’ve also asked the programmers and lawyers to think of some ways to better insulate us from future copyright and trademark infringement lawsuits. They’ve come up with several ideas. First, we’d require indemnification of our legal expenses by anyone that uses our site. Second, we’d implement license keys for anyone posting images or apps on the site. This gives us a way to flag unauthorized material and warn visitors about the potential risk (as depicted above).1 Third, we’d impose a daily download limit of five images to further conserve our bandwidth. Finally, we’d ban other commercial entities from profiting off our site either with apps or commercial photography. These steps also provide a mechanism to quickly disable images and apps if we spot a problem with an individual poster or if an app competes with our own commercial products. Seems like a fair tradeoff for free photo storage. What’s not to like?

Fast forward to year 15 now. FreePIX has gone through a couple of additional owners. These owners have implemented pay-as-you-go image storage to cover bandwidth costs. Users were given 30 days of “free storage” to remove any photo collections. Only image applications sold by the site owner are now permitted on the site “for legal reasons.” All images uploaded to and preserved on the site for more than 30 days become the exclusive, copyrighted property of the site owner.

The current owner has just received a $100 million purchase offer from a porn site that wants to monetize the 10 million registered users of the site. The potential buyer promises to preserve all photo content on the site for at least 30 days and will do nothing during that period to disable license keys or site access by current users. What could possibly go wrong?

Bar Exam Question: Would/should the results be any different with an open source, GPL platform where the owner retains exclusive control over issuance and termination of GPG keys needed to preserve the full functionality of the GPL software and access to the GPL repository with its keys?

Layman’s Translation: What if Dad gave me a shiny, new car but kept the keys?

Short-Term Fix for Incredible PBX GUI Users:

Originally published: Monday, July 27, 2015



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. This image is perfectly safe. WARNING is used only to demonstrate how the FreePIX site might protect itself with unregistered images. []

Decisions, Decisions: Choosing the SOHO Asterisk Platform That’s Best For You

Each year we like to revisit the topic of choosing the best Asterisk® platform for deployment in the home and small business environment. No solution is obviously right for everybody. But we think it’s important to sketch out the relevant factors that need careful evaluation before you begin the installation process.

Our focus today is open source, GPL platforms with Asterisk for home or SOHO deployments. That excludes a broad swath of equally capable commercial or proprietary alternatives including ThirdLane, Switchvox, and FreePBX® Distro as well as many unified communications solutions that do not rely upon the Asterisk telephony engine including FreeSWITCH, ShoreTel, Cisco, 3CX, and many others. If your requirements exceed telephony support for more than a few dozen employees, our recommendation is to hire a consultant that can assist you in that decision-making process.

When It Comes to Hardware, Size Matters!

Even in the telephony world, it’s true. Size Matters! Choosing an Asterisk platform for your home and choosing a telephony platform for a call center are very different beasts. Our traditional recommendation for home and SOHO deployments was to go with dedicated hardware with an appropriately sized Atom processor, RAM, and hard drive. In the words of Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A Changin’.” With the nosedive in Cloud processing costs and the emergence of powerful desktop virtual machine platforms, that may no longer be the smartest solution. First, it puts you in the hardware business which means you’ll have to deal with hardware failures and backups and redundancy. Second, depending upon where you live, it may not be cost-effective to maintain your own server. Electricity and Internet connectivity cost real money above and beyond hardware costs.

For home or SOHO deployments, it also depends upon what other computers already are in use around your house or office. For example, if you have a $2,000 iMac with a $100 backup drive running Carbon Copy Cloner each night, then you’ve already got a fully redundant server platform in place. You really don’t need a dedicated server for telephony to support a handful of telephones. VirtualBox® running any of the Incredible PBX™ solutions is free, and it’s fully capable of meeting your telephony requirements with no additional hardware investment.1 If your iMac’s main drive crashes, you can reboot from the attached USB backup drive with a single keystroke and never miss a beat. For those dead set on running dedicated hardware for your home or SOHO telephone system, there’s really no reason to spend more than $35 for a Raspberry Pi® 2. With its new quadcore processor and gig of RAM, it can meet or exceed any requirements you may have. Buy a second microSD card for redundancy and call it day as far as hardware is concerned.

If you’d prefer to separate your telephone system from your house or small office, a Cloud-based setup may be a better fit. Our Platinum sponsor, RentPBX,2 offers a worldwide collection of servers and will host your Asterisk-based PBX for $15 a month (Coupon Code: NOGOTCHAS) on a platform that rarely, if ever, goes down. If you like to tinker but also prefer a Cloud solution, consider Digital Ocean ($5 a month for a virtual machine) or Wable ($8 a month for up to 5 VMs).

NEWS FLASH: Effective today, RentPBX now offers all of the new Incredible PBX builds with the Incredible PBX GUI. Tutorials available here: CentOS platform or Ubuntu platform. Use the NOGOTCHAS coupon code for $15/mo. pricing.

That’s our latest take on SOHO hardware. If you have additional questions or concerns, come join the PIAF Forum and take advantage of our hundreds of gurus who will give you all of the free advice you could ever want.

I’ve Got My Hardware Platform. Now What?

The next step is choosing an Asterisk telephony platform. That used to be easy. There was Plain Ol’ Asterisk if you were a guru or there was Asterisk@Home if you wanted a GUI to guide you through the telephony maze. Now it’s more complicated. There are a number of different Linux platforms. There are a number of different Asterisk versions. And there are a number of different GUIs that support Asterisk. So let’s work our way down the list starting with the Linux platform.

Choosing the Linux Platform That’s Best for Asterisk

The gold standard for Asterisk servers has always been CentOS, a GPL clone of RedHat Enterprise Linux. It, too, is now owned by Red Hat. The old adage was that nobody ever got fired for recommending IBM. In the Asterisk community, that remains true with CentOS. Unfortunately, CentOS now comes in several flavors. There’s CentOS 6.5 which morphs into 6.6 once the latest updates are applied. Or there’s CentOS 7 which is a very different beast. For Asterisk deployments, you can’t go wrong with CentOS 6.5. It works well on the latest dedicated hardware and is supported on all virtual machine platforms.

As with choosing a language, you now have a choice of Linux platforms. There’s RedHat/CentOS, or Debian, or Ubuntu, or even Raspbian for the Raspberry Pi hardware. Unfortunately, the RedHat-CentOS and Debian-Ubuntu-Raspbian platforms have completely different languages, much like French and Spanish. The Linux packages that are included in the platforms also have different names. If you’re a Linux aficionado and you already have a favorite, stick with what you love. If you’re planning to deploy a Raspberry Pi 2, stick with Raspbian. For everyone else, CentOS 6.5 is your best bet for now.

Choosing the Asterisk Platform That’s Right for You

Believe it or not, there are many organizations still running their telephone systems using Asterisk 1.4 or 1.8 even though Digium support for those platforms ended years ago. In the commercial world, it is not uncommon to see telephone systems that are more than a decade old. With Asterisk, things are quite different. There’s a new version every year. Fortunately, Digium has adopted a new support philosophy and every other release now is anointed with the LTS (Long Term Support) moniker. An LTS release gets four years of bug fixes and five years of security updates as opposed to the other releases that come with one year of bug fixes and two years of security updates. It’s still not 10 years, but it’s certainly better than wrestling with Asterisk updates annually.

We think there remains a need to reconsider these timetables. New updates have become so complex that the releases typically are almost two years into their life cycle before there is anyone that treats the releases as anything more than experimental. This was especially true of Asterisk 12 which was a terrific new product that provided dramatic improvements particularly in the SIP area. Unfortunately, it will reach end-of-life status before the end of this year and before most folks have even had an opportunity to use it. Now we’re on to Asterisk 13 which almost no one has deployed, and it will be a year old this fall.

Choosing an Asterisk release has been further complicated by Sangoma’s FreePBX® 12 design, the only GUI platform that currently supports both Asterisk 12 and 13. If you want to deploy a commercial FreePBX module not sold by Sangoma, you’re out of luck with FreePBX 12 despite the clear language of the GPL license. If you want to deploy any GPL open source module for FreePBX 12 other than those distributed by Sangoma, you’re bombarded with nasty security alerts suggesting that your server has been compromised. We won’t beat the dead horse. There are plenty of Nerd Vittles articles to fill in the details if you are interested in the background. Suffice it to say, it is having an impact on the decision many users and companies make concerning their Asterisk platform. If you want to avoid the CrippleWare, you need to stick with FreePBX 2.11 which means that Asterisk 11 is the last supported LTS version for this platform. We continue to be an optimist, believing that Sangoma will come to their senses and figure all of this out sooner or later. But for now, that’s a snapshot of the current landscape.

Choosing a GPL-Compliant GUI That Meets Your Needs

All of the GUIs for Asterisk have one primary purpose. They are code generators for the Asterisk telephony engine, nothing more. With each of them, you can turn off your web server after using the graphical user interface, and your phone system will continue to work as designed. Imagine our surprise to learn that an Asterisk GUI developer was actually threatened by lawyers of another provider of GPL GUI software for Asterisk because both GUIs used similar GPL-generated Asterisk code.

The claim was that, while the GUI platform itself was GPL-licensed code, the actual dialplan code generated by the GUI was not GPL-licensed and hence was copyright-protected as a derivative work. In other words, you can use our GUI for free but not the code that it generates. Since the sole purpose of the GUI is to generate code, guess what your GPL license actually got you… absolutely nothing of value. Try finding that in the fine print or the GPL license much less in any published decision on copyright law. Under this interpretation, every time you click that Apply Config button, you’re downloading and using copyrighted dialplan code without a license. Just think. Lawyers get paid to spew out this bull with a straight face! Imagine getting a toaster for your birthday and then learning that you can use it for anything except making toast. Makes you want to go to law school, doesn’t it? Can you guess who the players are? Thought so.

For the rest of the story…

That, my friends, is the type of players we’re dealing with in the Asterisk “community” and it’s all about money. Lucky for all of you and us, the threats were ignored, and we now have the Elastix MT GUI that respects its GPL license. We, of course, have released our own free Incredible PBX GUI for CentOS, Ubuntu, and Raspbian without the proprietary signature checking mechanism and trademark minefields. It also employs the same GPL-licensed modules as FreePBX including a publicly-accessible Cloud component that meets the source code disclosure requirements of the GPL. The choice is all yours!

Introducing the 3-Click Platform Decision Tree for Asterisk

Now that you have the background, we want to provide a simple Decision Tree tool that will guide you through choosing the Asterisk GPL aggregation that best meets your needs. After you’ve made your selections, the utility will point you to the tutorials that will walk you through downloading, installing, and using the platform of your choice. Our fully-documented Asterisk Aggregation Guide also is available. Enjoy!

Originally published: Monday, June 22, 2015  Updated: Sunday, July 19, 2015



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


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for Incredible PBX 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 Incredible PBX 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. We will introduce the all-new Incredible PBX GUI platform for VirtualBox next week on Nerd Vittles. If you’re in a hurry, the Pioneer’s Edition now is available with a tutorial to get you started on the PIAF Forum. []
  2. Some of our links refer users to service providers when we find their prices are competitive for the recommended products. Nerd Vittles receives a small referral fee from some of these providers to help cover the costs of our blog. We never recommend particular products solely to generate commissions. However, when pricing is comparable or availability is favorable, we support these providers because they support us. []

View from the Trenches: A Fresh Look at VoIP Project Development in the Cloud

The world of cloud-based computing has profoundly changed over the past year. And today we want to take a fresh look at the cloud landscape for those of you that spend considerable time experimenting or tweaking software applications either for customers or for your own organization.

First, a brief paragraph of history. We began our cloud experiments almost seven years ago when Amazon S3 was still in its infancy. At the time, Amazon S3 was a real bargain even with all its development quirks. The adventure continued when we moved some production level systems to Amazon’s EC2 cloud in early 2013. What we quickly learned was just how expensive cloud computing could be once you reached the end of your “free year” with Amazon. As the cloud options continued to bloom, RentPBX began providing technical and financial assistance to our projects while also offering inexpensive, production-quality VoIP services in the cloud at truly bargain basement prices: $15 a month. That barely covers the electric bill for many folks hosting their own local servers. And RentPBX servers are unique. They don’t commingle other processor-intensive applications on their servers. All of their servers are pure VoIP which makes for an incredibly reliable cloud-based platform. Our special pricing still is available for those using PBX in a Flash and Incredible PBX. Just sign up with the coupon code: NOGOTCHAS. So that’s a little background.

But there are many of us that develop systems and experiment with new offerings as part of our daily routine. We build systems. We tweak systems. We blow up systems. And we start over, sometimes dozens (hopefully not hundreds) of times. To give you an example, our typical Incredible PBX build to support a new platform goes through twenty to thirty iterations before all of the kinks are worked out of the code. And that’s before the software development teams for CentOS, Ubuntu, Asterisk, Apache, SendMail, MySQL, and the Raspberry Pi “improve” anything. A production-quality cloud service really isn’t flexible enough to support this type of activity, and an affordable local server lacks the horsepower to keep setup times reasonable. On occasion, we use a high performance iMac coupled with VirtualBox for development, but that introduces some quirks that typically aren’t found on real world servers.

The good news is that there are two relatively new cloud offerings that fit very well with the requirements needed for rapid application development. We use both of them in slightly different ways so let us share our experience in hopes that it will save many of you some time experimenting.

We can’t say enough good things about Digital Ocean. Despite a few growing pains from time to time, Digital Ocean provides a vast assortment of cloud-based servers scattered all around the world. There are servers in New York, San Francisco, Amsterdam, London, Frankfurt, and even Singapore. You can size your development platform to meet almost any requirement with prices starting at about 5¢ for a 7-hour day of development. That buys you a speedy 512MB/single-CPU platform with 20 gigs of storage and a terabyte of monthly bandwidth. Add a (free) 1GB cache to your build, and it’s the performance equivalent of our $3,000 standalone Dell servers. You can scale up from there to a platform with 64GB of RAM, 20 CPUs, 640GB SSD drive, and 9 terabytes of monthly data transfer for less than $1 an hour. The difference with this platform is you can create a CentOS, Ubuntu, Fedora, FreeBSD, or Debian server of any recent vintage in about one minute. There’s also a vast array of preconfigured applications for the specialists of the world:

Using our referral code, you get $10 of free service while we get a little spiff down the road to keep the Nerd Vittles lights on. Tear down of servers is almost instantaneous, and you simply pay for the time you used. Using the small platform for 90 minutes will set you back a whole penny. Some of our PBX in a Flash users are actually running production-level servers on this platform (which we don’t recommend), and the monthly cost is capped at $5. One of the best kept secrets at Digital Ocean is that you can take snapshots of your builds and store them at little to no cost. We have a dozen of them and have never paid a penny in storage fees. You also have the option of off-site backups for production platforms.

The new kid on the block is CloudAtCost.com. If you’re not into bleeding edge, this probably isn’t the offering for you. But it is dirt cheap. While you can pay by the month, CloudAtCost also has a revolutionary marketing strategy. You can pay for your virtual machine once (almost always at a substantial discount off the listed prices), and you get to use “your server” forever at no additional cost… at least as long as CloudAtCost stays in business. If this sounds like a pyramid scheme, you probably wouldn’t be the first to suggest that. Suffice it to say, their business has grown geometrically over the past year. And they recently announced CloudPRO which lets you pool resources from servers you previously have bought, and use them in much the same way as Digital Ocean but with no additional charges. So here’s today’s pricing:

To put things in perspective, the virtual machine equivalent of Digital Ocean’s smallest setup costs $17.50, ONE TIME! The Big Dog 3 platform with a one-time fee of $560 migrated to CloudPRO would provide you with the capability to create 8 smaller systems (1 CPU, 1GB RAM, and 10GB storage) as desired with no bandwidth limitations forever.1 Download and upload performance is fairly impressive using speedtest-cli:

So what’s the catch. Well, there are some. First, as you might imagine, these folks are much like the fella laying track in front of the steaming locomotive. Will that ever end? You’d better hope not because, when it does, the entire house of cards may come down. While Digital Ocean typically builds virtual machines in under a minute, CloudAtCost turnaround times are close to a day. Once your server is actually working, we’ve had a pretty good experience with the performance quality although there can be rough spots that usually are resolved within a day. The promise, of course, is to get build times down to a minute or two. But, frankly, we’re not holding our breath. As for platform support, there are plenty of options just like with Digital Ocean:

What is this platform good for? In our case, it’s almost perfect for off-site backups. You can judge the web performance for yourself by visiting the backup site for Nerd Vittles, or the PIAF Forum, or Incredible PBX, or PBX in a Flash. Would we use CloudAtCost for production? Not a chance. But for backups and demo servers, it’s AWESOME and CHEAP! If you’re a Nerd Vittles early bird, you can use our coupon code for an additional 20% off: Zu2eXYDYtU.

DEMO SERVER. We’ve actually set up an Incredible PBX server with Google Voice and an IVR of sample applications so you can judge the CloudAtCost performance for yourself. You can even try hacking the IP address if that’s your thing. We always love to test our firewall: nmap -sT -O 162.252.242.229. To try out Allison’s IVR, enter your 10-digit callback number below and then click the Click Here button once. Count to 10 and your phone should be ringing. After you answer the call and press 1, you’ll be connected to the IVR Demo in Canada. Don’t be shy.



Nerd Vittles IVR Demo 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 overhead?”)
4 – Lenny (The Telemarketer’s Worst Nightmare)
5 – Today’s News Headlines
6 – Weather Forecast (say the city and state, province, or country)
7 – Today in History
8 – Speak to a Real Person (or maybe just Lenny if we’re out)

Originally published: Cinco de Mayo, 2015



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


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for Incredible PBX 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 Incredible PBX 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. forever: as long as CloudAtCost.com stays in business []

Firewalls and Internet Security: Separating FUD and Fiction in the VoIP World

Some of us have spent years developing secure VoIP solutions for Asterisk® that protect your phone bill while bringing Cloud-based solutions within reach of virtually anyone. So it’s particularly disappointing when a hardware manufacturer spreads fear, uncertainty, and doubt in order to peddle their hardware. In this case, it happens to be Session Border Controllers (SBCs). We want you to watch this latest “infomercial” for yourself:



To hear Sangoma tell it, every VoIP server protected by merely a firewall is vulnerable to endless SIP attacks unless, of course, you purchase an SBC. And since implementation of Cloud-based servers traditionally limits the ability to deploy an SBC, most Cloud-based VoIP solutions would become vulnerable to SIP attacks. In the words of Sangoma:

And with telecom fraud and PBX hacking on the rise, it’s important to keep your network secure. For most enterprises, it’s not a matter of if-but-when their [sic] network experiences an attack, potentially costing you valuable time and money.

Now Sangoma is touting an article in a blog from the U.K. that begins with the headline “Why Firewalls are not Enough.” The purported author is Jack Eagle, who is otherwise unidentified. Not surprisingly, the owner of the blog happens to be a reseller of Sangoma hardware. Here’s what Jack Eagle suggests:

In addition, the inherent function of firewalls is to deny all unsolicited traffic. Whereby, the act of making a phone call is an unsolicited event, thus, firewalls can be counterproductive to an effective VoIP deployment by denying VoIP traffic.

For the benefit of those of you considering a VoIP deployment either locally or in the Cloud using Asterisk, let’s cut to the chase and directly address some of the FUD that’s been thrown out there.

FUD #1: Internet SIP Access Exposes Asterisk to Attack

False. What is true is that unrestricted SIP access to your server from the Internet without a properly secured firewall may expose Asterisk to attack. Perhaps it’s mere coincidence but the only major Asterisk aggregation that still installs Asterisk with an unsecured firewall and no accompanying script, tutorial, or even recommendation to properly lock it down and protect against SIP attacks happens to be from the same company that now wants you to buy a session border controller.

FUD #2: Firewalls Aren’t Designed to Protect Asterisk from SIP Attacks

False. What is true is that the base firewall installation provided in the FreePBX® Distro does not protect against any attacks. In a Cloud-based environment or with local deployments directly exposed to the Internet, that could very well spell disaster. And it has on a number of occasions. The Linux IPtables firewall is perfectly capable of insulating your Asterisk server from SIP attacks when properly configured. With PBX in a Flash and its open source Travelin’ Man 3 script, anonymous SIP access is completely eliminated. The same is true using the tools provided in the latest Elastix servers. And, Incredible PBX servers have always included a secured firewall with simple tools to manage it. Of course, with local VoIP hardware and a hardware-based firewall, any Asterisk server can be totally insulated from SIP attacks whether IPtables is deployed or not. Just don’t open any ports in your firewall and register your trunks with your SIP providers. Simple as that.

FUD #3: SIP Provider Access to Asterisk Compromises Your Firewall

False. Registering a server with SIP or IAX trunk providers is all that is required to provide secure VoIP communications. Calls can flow in and out of your Asterisk PBX without compromising your server or communications in any way. Contrary to what is depicted in the infomercial, there is no need to poke a hole in your firewall to expose SIP traffic. In fact, we know of only one SIP provider that requires firewall changes in order to use their services. Simple answer: use a different provider. Consider how you access Internet sites with a browser from behind a firewall. The connection from your browser to web sites on the Internet can be totally secure without any port exposure in your firewall configuration. Registering a SIP trunk with a SIP provider accomplishes much the same thing. All modern firewalls and routers will automatically handle the opening and closing of ports to accommodate the SIP or IAX communications traffic.

FUD #4: Remote Users Can’t Access Asterisk Without SIP Exposure

False. Over the past several years, we have written about a number of methodologies which allow remote users to securely access an Asterisk server. That’s what Virtual Private Networks and Port Knocking and Remote Firewall Management are all about. All of these solutions provide access without exposing your server to any SIP vulnerabilities! We hope the authors of this infomercial will give these open source tools a careful look before tarnishing the VoIP brand by suggesting vulnerabilities which any prudent VoIP deployment can easily avoid without additional cost. Just use the right products!

Originally published: Thursday, April 23, 2015



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


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for Incredible PBX 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 Incredible PBX users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

The Gotcha-Free PBX: Simon Telephonics New SIP Gateway for Google Voice

We promised you that free Google Voice calling in the U.S. and Canada would soon be available on every Asterisk® platform whether the platform supported Asterisk Motif or not. And this week we’re covering the second SIP gateway offering for Google Voice. We introduced Bill Simon’s first Google Voice gateway back in June of 2012. This time around the latest iteration features secure OAUTH authentication so there’s no need to divulge your Google Voice credentials. Once you’ve set up your account on the Simonics Google Voice Gateway site,1 you simply create a standard SIP trunk on your Asterisk server or SIP device of choice, and PRESTO! You get secure authentication to Google Voice without worrying whether Google will drop support for insecure authentication methods such as Asterisk Motif down the road. And you can set all of it up for a one-time setup fee. For Nerd Vittles readers, you get $1 off the current $5.99 fee by using this link. Unlike last week’s GVsip offering, the new Simonics service includes free CallerID name lookups plus the ability to connect multiple devices at multiple sites and communicate between the devices using some clever SIP magic. You also can map incoming calls to any SIP URI rather than just the destination from which you register a Google Voice account. This new gateway is a real winner!

Why do this? There are several reasons aside from the free calls and free phone number. First, Google has warned for years that insecure authentication to Google Voice is going away. It hasn’t yet which is the reason Asterisk Motif logins still work. When Google finally pulls the plug (and they will), your Google Voice days are over using the Asterisk platform. Second, some of the Asterisk aggregations such as Elastix® never supported Google Motif. Hence, free Google Voice calling wasn’t available at all to those using the Elastix platform. That limitation is now a thing of the past. You can create a simple SIP trunk and begin enjoying free Google Voice calling in the U.S. and Canada just like some of the rest of us have been doing for years. Third, Google Voice support was the sole reason that many have stuck with the FreePBX® GUI despite the gotchas. Now you have a choice. Any Incredible PBX™ or Asterisk-GUI™ server now supports Google Voice without your having to worry about constant changes to the Asterisk Motif driver to support refinements at the Google Voice end. Now it’s a pure SIP trunk using pure SIP technology as far as Asterisk is concerned. The only limitation is the one imposed by Google. You need to reside in the United States to use Google Voice even though free calling is available to the U.S. and Canada.

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

1. Using your favorite browser, log in to the Google Voice account you wish to associate with the Simonics SIP gateway. Be sure that you’ve enabled Google Chat in your Google Voice setup.

2. Using a separate tab of your browser, connect to the Simonics Google Voice Gateway site.

3. Go through the steps to register your Google Voice account with the Simonics Google Voice gateway and obtain your credentials.

4a. For those using FreePBX or Elastix, use another tab of your browser to open the GUI interface and create a new SIP trunk using your new SIP login credentials. Replace 8005551212 with your actual Google Voice number and YOUR-SIP-PW with your actual Simonics SIP password in BOTH the PEER Details and Registration String. Add your Google Voice number to the end of the Registration String like this: GV18005551212:YOUR-SIP-PW@gvgw.simonics.com/8005551212

4b. For those using Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI, simply download and run our One-Click Installer. You’ll need your Simonics SIP account name and password plus a two-digit dialing prefix to use for outbound calls. It’s that simple!

cd /root
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/simonics-addon.tar.gz
tar zxvf simonics-addon.tar.gz
rm -f simonics-addon.tar.gz
./simonics-addon.sh

Once you’ve finished running the script, your trunk will be up and running. There’s no requirement for steps #5 and #6 with Asterisk-GUI. If desired, jump to Step #7 to set up a SIP URI for your incoming calls.

5. Create an Inbound Route for your incoming calls using the 10-digit number you entered at the end of the Registration String in step #4a.

6. Create an Outbound Route for outgoing calls that should be handled by your Google Voice trunk. The CallerID number will be your Google Voice number. You cannot change it.

7. If you’d prefer to send incoming calls to a designated SIP URI instead of the server that registered with the Simonics gateway, enter the address in the format: pbx@myserver.xyz. For additional details, read our previous article on SIP URIs.

8. Repeat this setup procedure for as many Google Voice accounts as you wish to activate using the steps above. If you’re using Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI, remember to edit the script and change the TRUNK=simonics entry to something like TRUNK=simonics2. Also use a unique two-digit dialing prefix for each trunk. Be sure to logout of your previous Google account before repeating the drill. Enjoy!


Don’t forget to List Yourself in Directory Assistance with your new IPkall PSTN number so everyone can find you by dialing 411. And be sure to add your new number to the Do Not Call Registry to block telemarketing calls.

Originally published: Monday, April 13, 2015


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.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for Incredible PBX 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 Incredible PBX 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. In addition to substantial technical assistance, Simon Telephonics is also a financial contributor to the Nerd Vittles project. []

The Gotcha-Free PBX: GVsip Gateway Service for Google Voice

We promised you that free Google Voice calling in the U.S. and Canada would soon be available on every Asterisk® platform whether the platform supported Asterisk Motif or not. And today the first of two SIP gateway offerings has arrived. With this new service, you simply create a standard SIP trunk on your Asterisk server of choice, associate your Google Voice account with the GVsip gateway service, and PRESTO! You get secure OAUTH authentication to Google Voice without worrying whether Google will drop support for insecure authentication methods such as Asterisk Motif down the road. And you can set all of it up without compromising your credentials for a one-time setup fee of $20 (yes, the price quadrupled!).

NEWS FLASHES: The second SIP Gateway for Google Voice has just been released by Simon Telephonics. Our review is available here. GVsip now includes Voice Dialing! Dial 1 or * from your GVsip trunk. At the tone, say: "Dial 18005551212"

Why do this? There are several reasons aside from the free calls and free phone number. First, Google has warned for years that insecure authentication to Google Voice is going away. It hasn’t yet which is the reason Asterisk Motif logins still work. When Google finally pulls the plug (and they will), your Google Voice days are over using the Asterisk platform. Second, some of the Asterisk aggregations such as Elastix® never supported Google Motif. Hence, free Google Voice calling wasn’t available at all to those using the Elastix platform. That limitation is now a thing of the past. You can create a simple SIP trunk to the GVsip gateway and begin enjoying free Google Voice calling in the U.S. and Canada just like some of the rest of us have been doing for years. Third, Google Voice support was the sole reason that many have stuck with the FreePBX® GUI despite the gotchas. Now you have a choice. Any Incredible PBX™ or Asterisk-GUI™ server now supports Google Voice without your having to worry about constant changes to the Asterisk Motif driver to support refinements at the Google Voice end. Now it’s a pure SIP trunk using pure SIP technology as far as Asterisk is concerned.

Do us the favor of using our signup link for the new GVsip gateway service so that Nerd Vittles gets a piece of the action to keep the lights on. If you’re one that never trusts too-good-to-be-true offers, then take advantage of the free trial without ever pulling out your credit card. So here’s how to get started.

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

1. Using your favorite browser, log in to the Google Voice account you wish to associate with the GVsip gateway. Be sure that you’ve enabled Google Chat in your Google Voice setup.

2. Using a separate tab of your browser, click on the Get Access / Login with Google button on the GVsip site.

3. Go through the steps to associate your Google Voice account with the GVsip gateway and obtain credentials.

4a. For those using FreePBX or Elastix, use another tab of your browser to open the GUI interface and create a new SIP trunk using your actual GVsip credentials (replace ACCTNO and ACCTPW) and Google Voice number (replace 8005551212):

4b. For those using Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI, simply download and run our One-Click Installer. You’ll need your ACCTNO and ACCTPW from GVsip plus a two-digit dialing prefix to use for outbound calls. It’s that simple!

cd /root
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/gvsip-addon.tar.gz
tar zxvf gvsip-addon.tar.gz
rm -f gvsip-addon.tar.gz
./gvsip-addon.sh

Once your trunk is up and running, skip sections 5 and 6 below and jump to Step #7 to complete the install.

5. Create an Inbound Route for your incoming calls using the 10-digit number you entered in the previous step.

6. Create an Outbound Route for outgoing calls that should be handled by your Google Voice trunk. The CallerID number will be your Google Voice number.

7. Finally, go back to the GVsip site and login again if your original login expired. Then associate your registered GVsip trunk with your Google Voice account after accepting the Terms of Service agreement.

8. Repeat this setup procedure for as many Google Voice accounts as you wish to activate using the steps above. If you’re using Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI, remember to edit the script and change the TRUNK=GVsip entry to something like TRUNK=GVsip2. Also use a unique two-digit dialing prefix for each trunk. Be sure to logout of your previous Google account before repeating the drill. Enjoy!


Don’t forget to List Yourself in Directory Assistance with your new IPkall PSTN number so everyone can find you by dialing 411. And be sure to add your new number to the Do Not Call Registry to block telemarketing calls.

Originally published: Friday, April 3, 2015


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.


NEWS FLASH: The Grandstream HT701 Handytone 701 ATA Analog Telephone Adapter with Lifetime Subscription to GVsip has just been released. For those with standard POTS phones, this ATA at $29.99 is a terrific Google Voice solution. Using our Amazon referral link helps keep the Nerd Vittles lights burning brightly.



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


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for Incredible PBX 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 Incredible PBX 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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