Posts tagged: Streaming Devices

Santa’s Technology Roundup: The Best Products of 2014 with Some Surprises

Once a year we like to pause and take a look back at 10 technology products that really grabbed our attention. 2014 will be remembered as a spectacular year. So here’s what made the Nerd Vittles short list for 2014…

Smartphone of the Year: It’s a 5-Way Tie

And the winners in no particular order… Galaxy Note 4, iPhone 6+, LG G3, HTC One M8, and Moto X.1 So which should you choose if you can only have one? Visit AndroidHeadlines.com for a detailed feature comparison. You can’t go wrong with any of them. In our family, there’s one of almost all of them.

Desktop Computer of the Year: Apple’s 27‑inch iMac with Retina 5K display

If you work with a computer for a living, there is no competition. It scales to any feature set you may need. Run, don’t walk, to your nearest Apple Store and get in line. We waited two months for ours!

Portable Computer of the Year: Apple’s MacBook Air with Retina Display

Hah. Just kidding. It would have been the hands-down favorite in 2014 except for one minor detail. It hasn’t been released… yet. If you absolutely have to have a retina display-quality notebook, then you’ll have to settle for the slightly thicker Macbook Pro this Christmas. For us, we’re waiting for 2015 and what will surely be the MacBook Air with Retina Display.

Tablet of the Year: iPad Air 2

If you’re starting to think we’re charter members of the Apple FanBoy Club, then you haven’t been following Nerd Vittles for very long. We can be one of their harshest critics. But the bottom line is that Apple products are compelling because of their tight integration to Apple’s closed society. If you’re a member of that club, then you’ll want the iPad Air 2 to add to your collection. It’s a terrific tablet at a compelling price.

Multimedia Device of the Year: Roku 3

If you’re into Netflix and Amazon Prime and movies, nobody needs to tell you that the streaming device hardware market is a crowded place. The Roku 3 isn’t the cheapest device in the market, but it’s still the one we always drop into our suitcase when we hit the road. It’s simple to configure and supports WiFi almost anywhere. It just works!

VoIP Product of the Year: Vitelity’s vMobile

It’s taken a few starts and stops to get the kinks out, but Vitelity’s vMobile smartphone is a truly revolutionary offering. It provides seamless integration of the smartphone into your PBX infrastructure. The phone becomes “just another extension” on your PBX except the device is 100% mobile which means it works with WiFi or it works anywhere Sprint has a tower. For any organization with staff that travels, this is a must-have device. Anything you can do with a traditional PBX extension, you can do with your smartphone using the vMobile technology. It’s the hands-down winner as VoIP Product of the Year. Use our special signup link and help support the Nerd Vittles, PBX in a Flash, and Incredible PBX projects.

VoIP SOHO Hardware of the Year: CuBox-i

We’ve tested lots of small footprint hardware in search of the perfect VOIP platform for the home or SOHO office. The search is over. The hands-down winner is the CuBox-i. It’s tiny, powerful, quiet, and has every feature you could possibly want in a VoIP server. Read our full review here. They’re 25% at NewEgg if you hurry.

VoIP Deal of the Year: $15 Pogoplug with Incredible PBX

If there’s one thing all of us have in common, it’s a burning desire to find the best bargain on the planet. In the VoIP marketplace, look no further than here. Repurposing a PogoPlug for less than $20 (and some of them went for $5), is the perfect way to learn about VoIP without breaking the bank. Our tutorial on the VoIP Deal of the Year will tell you everything you need to know to get started.

Must-Have Product of the Year: Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo is still an invitation-only device, but you need to get in line NOW. During the introduction, Amazon is selling them for $99. Or you can get one on eBay for about triple that amount. It’s money well spent. Think of it as a desktop version of Siri. But it’s so much more. With Amazon Prime and Prime Music accounts plus a free iHeartRadio account, you get access to a collection of over a million songs just by saying the name of the artist or song or playlist or radio station of interest. You also can upload 250 of your own songs not purchased through Amazon Music at no charge. Or, for $25 a year, you can upload up to 250,000 tracks much like iTunes Match. The sound quality of the device is nothing short of spectacular. My teenage daughter and I spent over two hours playing with it the first night it arrived. And the excitement hasn’t waned. It’s the go-to device for all of our visitors to explore new and old music. And, yes, Amazon Echo knows the weather, the time, and just about anything else you care to ask about. You’ll have it in your living room in no time. Not only will it speak the results while playing your favorite song, it’ll send the results and to-do list to your smartphone.

2014: Cloud Computing Reinvented

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a gradual migration of server platforms to the cloud thanks in large part to ever falling prices on the Amazon EC2 platform. But 2014 saw some new cloud strategies. First came the pay-once-use-it-forever platform of CloudAtCost.com. Wait for the next sale and save half on almost any of their server platforms. If you follow us on Twitter, we’ll let you know when it happens. We’ve had several servers for almost a year with no hiccups. In fact, we now keep backup images of the Nerd Vittles, PBX in a Flash, and Incredible PBX web sites running 24/7 on these Canadian servers. Check out the performance for yourself.

Then there was Digital Ocean with its pay-by-the-hour pricing coupled with the ability to create virtual machines for almost any platform in under a minute. It truly is a developer’s dream come true. Frankly, it’s our platform of choice for development of all the great software you read about here. Use our signup link and get a $10 credit to try things out. The beauty of the technology is you can create a server with 512MB of RAM and a 20GB drive, work for a half a day, take a snapshot of your project, and then delete the server until you feel like working again. Total cost for use of the platform and storage of your snapshot: about 2¢.

With any great new technology, of course, competition is not far behind. Meet Vultr, the Digital Ocean knock-off promising more memory, more server locations, and more features for less money. Is Vultr really better? We’ll let you know after we’ve had more time to play. Our first look uncovered a few wrinkles. First, you had to request enabling of port 25 for outbound SMTP mail support. Not a big deal if it were documented that you had to request it, but it isn’t mentioned anywhere on the site. Second, virtual machines take a bit longer to create and much longer to become fully functional on Vultr. We got spoiled by the one-minute spin up at Digital Ocean. But, the good news is a penny-an-hour server gets you a gig of RAM, 20 gigs of storage, and 2 terabytes of data transfer a month for $7. And it is fast! So stay tuned for a full review and…

Merry Christmas!

Originally published: Monday, December 22, 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. Some of our purchase links refer users to Amazon and other sites when we find their prices are competitive for the recommended products. Nerd Vittles receives a small referral fee from merchants 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 Amazon and other merchants because they support us. []

The Music Frontier: Taming Streaming Music on Hold with Asterisk 11

It’s been over 7 years since we first wrote about streaming music on hold with Asterisk®. While we’re energized with Back to School Fever, we decided it was about time for a refresher. And, in honor of TWOfer Tuesday, we also have a terrific new SIP discovery to share. It won’t cost you a dime.

For long time readers of Nerd Vittles, you will note that all of the MOH syntax has changed since the early Asterisk days. So today we wanted to document how to integrate streaming music on hold into Asterisk 11 with or without FreePBX®.

Prerequisites: With the PIAF-Green platform, all of the Linux tools you’ll need are already in place. On other Asterisk platforms, you may need to install MPG123 before any of this will work. Before streaming audio can be used for Music on Hold (MOH) with Asterisk, there are three essential pieces. First, you must have a source of streaming audio that works. Second, you need a streaming audio player on your Asterisk/Linux server that can “talk” to Asterisk. And, finally, Asterisk has to be properly configured to support streaming audio as the source for your music on hold.

Legal Disclaimer. There are all sorts of licensing restrictions on streaming of commercial music. With commercial radio broadcasts, the short answer is you can’t do it without paying a fee. However, things get murky where your music on hold stream originates with an Internet provider who already has paid a fee for your use of the streaming content. Nevertheless, you should consult with an attorney before beginning your broadcasting career. It would be an understatement to suggest that the RIAA, ASCAP, and their friends in Congress and the White House, have made “music mooching” an expensive hobby. In addition, there is a move afoot by the White House to make streaming of copyrighted music a felony. Not surprisingly, the White House Copyright Czar just jumped ship to take a cushy job heading up the industry’s anti-piracy lobbying group. For those that are criminally inclined, it probably would be less expensive to return to the glory days of shoplifting music and playing it in the comfort of your home or dorm room… not that we would ever encourage criminal behavior, of course.

Choosing a Streaming Audio Source. An almost infinite variety of streaming audio exists on the net. If you’re just getting into streaming audio, head over to SHOUTcast.com for over 50,000 FREE sources to get you started. If you’d prefer to set up your own SHOUTcast server, Nerd Vittles has previously covered solutions for both the Windows (WinAMP) and Mac (NiceCast) platforms. This is one area where the Mac platform really shines. NiceCast works flawlessly. Insofar as Asterisk is concerned, here’s the bottom line. If the streaming audio source you’ve chosen sounds like crap when you play it on your PC or Mac, it will sound the same way (or worse) as your MOH source. So start your project by picking a source that sounds good and be sure it plays reliably on your desktop PC or Mac before proceeding further. Keep in mind that anything above a 24K mono stream is wasted on a telephone call so there’s no need to choose a 128K stereo audio stream unless you just want to eat up your bandwidth. Also keep in mind that, unless you’re using your own stream on your private LAN, the streaming audio will be using the same bandwidth that you need to support incoming and outgoing phone calls over your broadband connection. So less is more!

Configuring Asterisk for MOH Streaming Audio. Here are the three steps to get things working today. First, you’ll need the web link to your music source. Second, you’ll need to configure a MUSICCLASS Channel to support that stream using Asterisk. And third, you’ll need to set up a test extension to try out your music stream.

In the case of SHOUTcast.com, the procedure to obtain the necessary link for your streaming audio source is straight-forward. Find the station desired and Ctrl-Click or Right-Click on the station and copy the link to your clipboard. This is NOT the link you’ll need for Asterisk! Instead, open the link in a new browser window. It will download a .pls file to your desktop. Open this file using a text editor, and copy out one of the File* entries (if there are several). Choose the one that looks something like this: http://160.79.128.61:5016. If you’re using Nicecast on a Mac, start up the app, choose your music source, and then click the Share button. Nicecast will display two entries as shown below:

Using our example, the required Nicecast link for Asterisk running on the same LAN is http://192.168.0.105:8002.

Now set up a music on hold channel for your streaming audio: nano -w /etc/asterisk/musiconhold_custom.conf. If you’re using your own streaming audio server, then use the Nicecast entry from the procedure above. Otherwise, use the SHOUTcast entry following the procedure we outlined. Here are some examples:

[Reggae]
mode=custom
application=/usr/bin/mpg123 -q -r 8000 -f 8192 -b 2048 --mono -s http://160.79.128.61:5016

[Top40]
mode=custom
application=/usr/bin/mpg123 -q -r 8000 -f 8192 -b 2048 --mono -s http://95.141.24.98:80

[NewAge]
mode=custom
application=/usr/bin/mpg123 -q -r 8000 -f 8192 -b 2048 --mono -s http://sfstream1.somafm.com:8032

;[nicecast]
;mode=custom
;application=/usr/bin/mpg123 -q -r 8000 -f 8192 -b 2048 --mono -s http://192.168.0.105:8002/

There’s a reason we’ve commented out the [nicecast] entry. If Asterisk doesn’t find it running, you’ll get an endless stream of “Interrupted system call” errors, not exactly the sort of stream we had in mind. And a cautionary note about bandwidth: a streaming audio source, once configured, continues streaming until you disable it in musiconhold_custom.conf and restart Asterisk. So choose your sources, the number of sources, and the amount of bandwidth each consumes carefully. Finally, here’s a tip about the volume of your audio stream. With MPG123, the -f setting is the closest thing there is to a volume setting. The values range from 1 to 32768. If some of your callers will be using cellphones, it has been reported that the 8192 setting is too high. Give 1192 a try and adjust as necessary to meet your own requirements.

Once you’ve specified your audio stream(s), save the updated musiconhold custom file: Ctrl-X, Y, then Enter.

Testing Your MOH Stream with Asterisk. With everything now properly configured, let’s set up an extension just to be sure it’s working correctly. Edit your extensions_custom.conf file in /etc/asterisk and insert the following snippet in the [from-internal-custom] context:

exten => 466,1,Answer
exten => 466,2,Playback(pls-hold-while-try)
exten => 466,3,Set(CHANNEL(MUSICCLASS)=nicecast)
exten => 466,4,MusicOnHold()
exten => 466,5,Hangup

exten => 467,1,Answer
exten => 467,2,Playback(pls-hold-while-try)
exten => 467,3,Set(CHANNEL(MUSICCLASS)=Reggae)
;exten => 467,3,Set(CHANNEL(MUSICCLASS)=Top40)
;exten => 467,3,Set(CHANNEL(MUSICCLASS)=NewAge)
exten => 467,4,MusicOnHold()
exten => 467,5,Hangup

Once you’ve added this extension code, save the updated file: Ctrl-X, Y, then Enter. Then restart Asterisk: amportal restart. Pick up a phone on your Asterisk system and dial 467. After you’re connected, it may take up to 2 minutes for the streaming audio to begin, but this delay only occurs after Asterisk is restarted. Once you’ve heard your audio stream playing, hang up and call back just to make sure. Remember, each stream you activate continues streaming! It’s your bandwidth.

Configuring FreePBX 2.11 for MOH Streaming Audio. Once you have everything working, let’s switch to FreePBX 2.11 and show you the quick-and-dirty way to accomplish the same thing with a single line of code. Just use the same Application string that was used in the musiconhold_custom.conf setup above. The only caution here is be sure to use different labels than the ones used above. For example, to use the same source as NewAge, just change the label to NewAge2 in FreePBX.

Now open FreePBX and click Settings -> Music on Hold -> Add Streaming Category. Then fill in the blanks like this:

Once you have one or more streaming categories defined, you can select your favorite when you create a new Inbound Route, Ring Group, or Conference.


Introducing Anveo

SIP Nirvana. We have another terrific SIP discovery for you this week. Previously, we’ve raved about Sip2Sip’s free SIP URIs and AnveoDirect’s terrific SIP bargains for those that like wholesale prices. And last week we introduced SIP.US which finally hits the $20/trunk price point for unlimited inbound and outbound calling in US48. It also works hand-in-glove with FreePBX 2.11. Today we want to introduce Anveo’s commercial offering which includes residential, business, and free SIP services. Anveo is the hands-down winner of our “Best Free VoIP Resource on the Net” award. We’ll get to why, but there’s so much more…

Let’s begin with a quick summary of their DID offerings:

Anveo has one of the most robust VoIP offerings you’ll find in terms of feature set. Here’s a quick overview:

  • SMS Messaging (1¢ per message)
  • Fax and Fax-to-Email Integration
  • Voicemail to Text
  • Salesforce.com CRM
  • ZOHO CRM
  • G.729 and G.722 (HD Voice)
  • Destination-based Outbound CallerID
  • Text-to-Speech (41 voices in 17 languages)
  • Google Contacts
  • Google Analytics
  • Web Calling
  • Call Recording with Amazon S3 Integration
  • Outbound Call Campaigns
  • Conference Calls with Recording
  • Worldwide DIDs and Number Porting
  • Disposable Phone Numbers
  • IVR Call Flow Builder
  • Anveo Phone API
  • Reseller Toolkit

For today, let’s focus on FREE. What a free Anveo account gets you is AMAZING. In addition to another SIP URI with fax support for your server, you also get access to Anveo’s Call Flow Builder to create templates with up to 10 items. None of it costs you a dime! Just sign up for a new account at anveo.com using the Nerd Vittles referral code: 9625450. That gets us a few shekels to keep the lights burning if you ever start spending real money with Anveo.

The shining star of Anveo is its drag-and-drop Call Flow Builder. The icing on the cake is Anveo’s Phone API which we will leave for exploration on another occasion. For Asterisk aficionados, think of Call Flow Builder as a drag-and-drop interface that actually creates Asterisk dialplan code on the fly. While you can create your own, there also is an impressive collection of sample templates from which to choose. Each takes less than 30 seconds to set up, and every template that you create gets its own dedicated SIP URI. For example, one click gets you a Fax-to-Email delivery service using any DID or SIP URI in your account. Another click gets you a Stealth AutoAttendant including automatic fax detection with email fax delivery plus SIP URI call forwarding, all for free. Very impressive! Here’s what it looks like when configured to send fax calls to email and non-fax inbound calls to Lenny. As we noted, this took less than 30 seconds to set up using a default template with any free Anveo account. All that we added was a SIP URI in the SIP Call Control by clicking on the Pencil icon to edit. Then we clicked SAVE in the blue title bar and, presto, Lenny worked!

First things first. Once you’ve signed up for a new account at anveo.com using the Nerd Vittles referral code: 9625450, Anveo will email your credentials. Sign in and activate a new SIP account. In order to register the Anveo SIP trunk with your Asterisk server, you’ll need two pieces of information which you will find under PBX -> Users/sub-accounts -> action.Preferences -> SIP Device Registration: Username and Password.

Once you have your username and password, open up FreePBX and add a new SIP Trunk with your credentials. You can create a custom DID for your trunk by tacking something like /12345 onto the end of the Registration String below.

Next, add an Inbound Route using the Custom DID you created above. Point it to an extension or other resource on your system. Then check to make sure your SIP registration was successful: Reports -> Asterisk Info -> SIP Info.

No exposure of your server to the Internet through your hardware-based firewall is required. However, for those using IPtables WhiteLists or Travelin’ Man for enhanced security, you will need to manually add a SIP entry for sip.anveo.com to /etc/sysconfig/iptables and restart IPtables. The appropriate entry should look like this:

-A INPUT -p udp -m udp -s sip.anveo.com --dport 5010 -j ACCEPT

Here’s what free gets you in addition to 15 megs of online storage for voicemails and faxes:

And Finally… The Magic. You now can receive free inbound SIP URI calls at zero cost from anywhere in the world using SIP/1555ACCOUNTNUMBER@sip.anveo.com:5010. And, if you prefer a more user-friendly SIP URI, take a look at last week’s Nerd Vittles cloaking service offering which is also free. Enjoy!

SIP URI Pricing Clarification. Inbound calls to your account’s SIP URI are always free. That means you can register an Asterisk trunk to your Anveo account, and all incoming SIP calls from your Anveo SIP URI will be free. If you sign up for a free IPKall DID as explained in our previous article, you’ll have a near perfect (and free) VoIP platform for your home or office. Give Lenny a try using our Anveo/IPKall/RentPBX combo:

On the Anveo Value Plans (see the DID screenshot above), be aware that calls using Call Flow templates that rely upon an additional Anveo SIP URI count against your daily bucket of “platform minutes.” Free accounts get 40 free minutes a day. Business accounts get 150 minutes a day. Additional calls are billed at 1.5¢ per minute.1

A Word of Caution. For those considering commercial or home use of Anveo for “real calling,” be advised that Anveo recently changed their pricing model on calls terminated in the United States. Some of these calls now are $.005 per minute while others reportedly were as high as $.25 per minute! Pricing has changed every day this week. We would encourage you to find a different termination provider if costs are a consideration. After four attempts to implement a tiered pricing model for U.S. terminations, Anveo rolled back to flat rate pricing on Thursday evening. See the DSL Reports message thread for details.


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

Originally published: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 Last updated: Thursday, September 5, 2013




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


 

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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. We inquired about the SIP URI pricing with Anveo tech support. Their response is included in this section. The remainder of the article already had been written before contacting Anveo. In responding to the support request (in less than 10 minutes), Anveo generously offered us the use of additional platform minutes and a $5 “slush fund” for future testing and purchases of Call Flow PRO items (4¢ each). While we all may have our price for slanting reviews, we want to assure everyone that Anveo’s generosity in no way affected the contents or views expressed in this article. The FTC and NSA now can resume their naps. []

Taking a Page from Asterisk: How Far We Have Come

We’ve never written about paging technology before, and this is one of those areas of VoIP telephony where it certainly paid to wait. What a difference a few years makes! At least in the Asterisk® context, SIP-based paging traditionally involved issuing a Page command with a list of extensions in your dialplan. The wrinkle was that each VoIP phone manufacturer had its own SIP header to trigger autoanswer on its phones. And, without autoanswer, paging becomes next to worthless with desktop phones. Then came FreePBX®. It took all the pain out of the process by using the *80 prefix to issue a page to almost any type of SIP phone. The one wrinkle was that Grandstream and a few other phones require that autoanswer be enabled for paging in the device configuration. Aside from that, any user can pick up a phone on a PBX in a Flash system and dial *80707 to page extension 707 with duplex voice communications through the speakerphones, meaning both parties can talk and listen to each other, the perfect VoIP intercom. And, there’s more good news. Paging works with almost all of the major phone manufacturers’ phones: Aastra, Digium, Grandstream, Linksys/Sipura, Mitel, Polycom, SNOM, and Yealink. In addition, the SIP-compatible Cyberdata ceiling speaker and Cyberdata POE Doorphone/Intercom with Keypad function just like a SIP phone.

For small groups of phones, paging now works equally well using the FreePBX Paging Module which allows an administrator to preconfigure a group of phones, specify whether to skip busy extensions, barge into busy extensions and place existing callers on hold, or whisper the page to the busy extensions. You can even enable or disable duplex communications during the page. Think of it as instant conference. The module also provides the flexibility for individual phone users to block pages from one or more extensions or even all extensions. Finally, the module lets you create and save multiple configurations for different purposes, and you can designate an Announcement message that plays to every page recipient. For organizations that need additional functionality including Page Scheduling and Automatic Page Alerts on Outbound Routes, take a look at the Schmooze PagingPro module. And, for a historical look at the evolution of paging on the Asterisk platform, see Chapter 11 of Asterisk: The Definitive Guide (4th edition). Better yet, buy the book!

So why do we need paging? In the corporate setting, it provides a perfect emergency broadcast service for fires, earthquakes, patient escapes from the loony bin, etc. In a school setting, it could inexpensively replace costly public address systems requiring dedicated wiring, speakers, and amplifiers. The Asterisk paging solution has the added benefit of letting anyone broadcast from anywhere by simply picking up a nearby phone and dialing some (hopefully password-protected) extension number. Separate RTP streaming IP addresses also could be configured on departmental phones to allow automobile dealership zone paging for parts, sales, or service. So a receptionist could park a call and then announce it to a particular department by pressing a softkey on the sidecar. And you still could have an additional emergency channel that reaches everybody. Just set up a different number to page each zone as well as the entire organization.

So that’s where we were until a week ago when Brian Kelly of PIAF Forum fame began exploring Multicast RTP Paging with Asterisk and AirPlay. Think of Multicast RTP as a radio station that streams data on a particular IP address and port. If you happen to have Multicast-aware SIP phones, they can “tune in” to particular channels of interest. And, whenever a stream is broadcast on one of the channels the phone device is preconfigured to listen to, it will go off hook just as if it had received a page as outlined above. The major advantage to RTP streaming is that there is only a single stream of data on a single channel whereas paging to multiple extensions requires a channel of data for every extension. If you want to follow along with today’s project, just configure one of the Multicast RTP streams on your phone with the port and IP address shown below.

The wrinkle is your phone devices must support Multicast RTP streaming, and many current models do not. Our VoIP Phone of the Year, the Yealink T46G, qualifies. So do some of the Aastra, SNOM (v7), and Linksys/Cisco phones (with quirks!). And the Cyberdata speaker and doorphone (above) support Multicast RTP streaming as well. Digium Phones currently do not. If you know of other phones that support Multicast RTP streams, please post a comment. You’ll know if your particular phone supports it if it has a configuration section in the manual that looks something like this:

The good news is current versions of Asterisk including 1.8, 10, and 11 support Multicast RTP Streaming and PIAF-Purple and PIAF-Green come preconfigured for RTP Multicast Streaming. A single line of dialplan code is all you need to initiate a broadcast:

exten => 1234,1,Dial(MulticastRTP/basic/224.0.0.1:1234)

This would cause the Multicast RTP Stream broadcast to begin on port 1234 of IP address 224.0.0.1 as soon as someone on your PBX in a Flash server dialed extension 1234 and began to speak. Every phone or SIP device listening for broadcasts on port 1234 from IP address 224.0.0.1 would receive the listen-only page on their speakerphone.

Of course, Brian was not content to merely issue a page from Asterisk to his SIP phones. He wanted all of them to be able to listen to his iTunes music collection using his iPhone or iPad. This required AirPlay, but AirPlay can only stream to iOS devices. Well, not so fast. An enterprising guru on SourceForge created his own AirPlay emulator called Shairport4w. This is a Windows application that works just like an AirPort server. It “listens” for content from an iPhone or iPad that has designated Shairport4w as its AirPlay device. iTunes has the ability to stream music to any AirPlay device including the Shairport4w. So that was half of the puzzle. That got iTunes music playing great on the Windows desktop.

But we needed the other piece of the puzzle. We needed to push the music from the Windows machine to the SIP phones using Multicast RTP streaming. Brian found the missing piece of the puzzle for that as well. It’s called Multicast Streamer for Windows and it’s available at no cost from CodeProject. Simply download and unzip the bundle of goodies and run Multicast Streamer on your Windows desktop together with Shairport4w. Shairport4w captures the incoming AirPlay stream and pushes it to the sound card.

Now we simply need to configure the sound card as the input device for Multicast Streamer and make the appropriate settings to broadcast the RTP stream to port 1234 on IP address 224.0.0.1. This was the listening port and IP address we configured on our SIP phones. Be sure to also adjust the Samples per second to 8,000 and the Bits per Sample to 16.

Your mileage may vary but in our case the only output device showing on Multicast Streamer was Microphone. What we needed was Stereo Mix to capture data from the sound card rather than the microphone. If yours is missing, do the following. Right-click on the Speaker icon and switch to the Recording tab. If you don’t see Stereo Mix, then Right-click on an empty area and make sure that both “Show Disabled Devices” and “Show Disconnected Devices” are checked. When the Stereo Mix option appears, Right-click on it and check Enable. Set the level to 100. Now it will also appear as an input device when you restart Multicast Streamer. Choose it as the default input device, make sure all your other settings match what we outlined above, and then click Start to begin the stream. Now stroll over to your iPod music player app on your iPhone or iPad, choose Shairport4w as the AirPlay output device, and play away. To cancel the stream on any phone, just hangup the speakerphone. Enjoy!


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

Originally published: Monday, July 22, 2013




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


 

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


 

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


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


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Android 3 Deal of the Year: Acer Tab for Under $300

We’ve never done back-to-back reviews of similar devices, but this week’s Target ad changes all of that. As you might expect, Acer has covered all of the bases with their entry into the dual-core Android 3 tablet sweepstakes. You may recall that we weren’t huge fans of the Motorola Xoom which promised a lot and delivered a boatload of vaporware. The Acer Iconia Tab A500 is not the Xoom. You not only get a microSD slot and Flash that actually work, but Acer has thrown in an HDMI port that can output 1080p video as well as a USB port that lets you connect your favorite USB devices including external hard disks. It performs this magic with an 8-10 hour battery life. And this week (only at Target) you can pick up this WiFi-only device for half the cost of the Motorola Xoom. In fact, after the gift card, it’s only a dollar more than the single-core Vizio Tablet that we reviewed last week.

Update: See the comments for equivalent deals just announced at NewEgg and CompUSA.

It’s difficult to describe the feel of the Acer Tab. Suffice it to say, it’s dimensions coupled with its sleek and sculpted design put it in the league with the iPad2 unlike the Xoom which felt chunky and clunky despite being an ounce lighter than the Acer.

As we mentioned last week, we don’t dive too deeply into the technical weeds in our reviews. If you want the technical assessment, check out this PC World review. What we prefer to evaluate is real-world usage of these devices. The Acer Tab has stunning performance. In addition to reading email and browsing the web, here’s the suite of applications which we think matter to most folks. We want to watch videos from YouTube and NetFlix. We want to stream music from Google Music and Spotify and read our Kindle books. We like to use Skype. And, yes, we also like Flash video support which works perfectly on the Acer tablet.

In addition to running Android 3, the Acer Tab boasts impressive hardware specs running a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 250 dual-core processor with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of ROM. Add another 32GB easily with the microSD slot. The 10.1-inch tablet has a 1280-by-800 pixel display with a 16:10 aspect ratio that’s perfect for HD video content. We always prefer testing devices with real-world video content that we’ve shot so we can compare it to performance on other devices. Our Pawleys Island Parade video didn’t disappoint. It’s performance and color were as good or better on the Acer Tab than on Apple’s top-of-the-line 27″ iMac featuring a quad-core 2.93 GHz Core i7 processor with 8GB of RAM plus L2 and L3 cache. The same can be said with playback of complex Flash video. Netflix unfortunately is still a few weeks off although rooted Acer devices reportedly run it just fine.

On the music front, it doesn’t get much better than the Acer Tab. With Google Music or Spotify, the music world is your oyster. And the silver lining is that the Acer Tab is the one and only device that includes Dolby Mobile audio. Once you adjust the equalizer to match your taste in music, you’ll have sound quality to match that 20-pound boombox gathering dust in your basement.

In the communications department, Skype performed well although video calls are not yet supported. That’s unfortunate given the impressive specs on the Acer Tab’s two cameras. The Iconia Tab has a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera with flash in addition to a 2-megapixel front-facing camera for video conferencing. Finally, making and receiving free phone calls using either an Asterisk® server with CSipSimple or Google Voice using a $50 Obihai device and the free ObiON client for Android both worked great.

There’s only one word you’ll need to remember to take advantage of this Target deal: H-U-R-R-Y! This is a one-week only special, and Target offers no rainschecks. So call around until you find one. You won’t be sorry. And, as usual, Target offers a 90-day, no questions asked return policy which is second to none.

Google+ Invites Still Available. Need a Google+ invite? Drop us a note and include the word “Google+” and we’ll get one off to you. Come join the fun!

Our Favorite Android Apps. We’ve listed a few of our favorite apps below for those just getting started with Android. Enjoy!


Originally published: Tuesday, August 16, 2011




Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.
Or Try the New, Free PBX in a Flash Conference Bridge.


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


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID and 60 free minutes from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month and you get a free hour of outbound calling to test out their call quality. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! After the free hour of outbound calling, Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

How Good Can a $298 Android Tablet Be?

Pretty damn good in the case of the new 8″ Vizio Tablet. While it’s not going to take any speed awards when compared with the new Galaxy Tab 10.1, it does have a 1GHz processor with 512MB of RAM which delivers respectable performance with incredible battery life that rivals any iPad. Storage capacity is limited to 2GB, but you can add a 32GB microSD and meet any computing demands you may have. Currently the device is WiFi only.

As you might expect, Vizio knows a thing or two about televisions, and there’s a silver lining with the Vizio Tablet. Not only is an IR blaster included in the hardware, but you also get a giant TV remote that controls any combination of TVs, cable and satellite boxes, DVD and BluRay devices, and about 95% of the other video and audio components you will find on the planet. And it works as well or better than any of the pricey, high-end touchscreen (with a little screen) TV remotes that would easily put you in the Poor House. Say goodnight, Logitech. There’s also a front-facing 640×480 camera which easily suffices for video conferencing. No current video conferencing apps work, by the way, but it’s only been on the street for a week. The best news of all, you can pick one up at Costco or WalMart if you want one today. Or order it from Amazon if you prefer tax-free.

We don’t dive too deeply into the technical weeds in our reviews. If you want the technical assessment, check out this SlashGear review. What we prefer to evaluate is real-world usage of these devices. The Vizio Tablet passes with flying colors. In addition to reading email and browsing the web, here’s the suite of applications which we think matter to most folks. We want to watch videos from YouTube and NetFlix. We want to stream music from Google Music and Spotify and read our Kindle books. We like to use Skype. Sorry, Apple, we also like Flash video support which works perfectly on the Vizio Tablet even though it’s currently running Gingerbread.1

Last, but not least, being a phone nerd, we obviously want to make and receive free phone calls using either an Asterisk® server with CSipSimple or Google Voice using a $50 Obihai device and the free ObiON client for Android. Both work great!

Of course, the usual Android favorites including Google+ with the exception of (the currently non-functioning) Huddle for video conferencing with up to 10 participants, Maps, Navigation, and Google Talk all work flawlessly. Gallery is perfectly synched with your Picasa photo collection which now can store unlimited photos at no cost through Google Plus. If you want to actually take professional photographs and make feature films, this isn’t the device for you. With the exception of Skype which is not yet available for this device (which was just released), everything else we’ve mentioned works great especially if you’re living on a budget. And, with the addition of Huddle in Google+, the absence of Skype support really doesn’t much matter any more. If you happen to need a Google+ invite, here’s a link compliments of Nerd Vittles. Finally, and pardon us for repeating, if you’re sick of wrestling with a half dozen remotes to watch television, this device is worth its weight in gold. You’ll be asking yourself why no one but Vizio was smart enough to think of it.

Vizio also had a better idea when it came to the Android user interface. As you can see in the photo above, there’s a top section where you can install your Favorite Apps. Immediately below that is your entire Applications collection. At the very bottom, there are five buttons which you can assign to your Must-Have Apps such as email, your web browser, the Google Market, Settings, and whatever else you happen to like.

Another nice touch that hasn’t been mentioned in many of the reviews is that Vizio has added a new keyboard option. If you remember the ergonomic keyboards that had the keys divided into two sections, Vizio has done much the same thing on the touchscreen which greatly improves typing for those that actually learned how. This keyboard, of course, can be toggled on and off depending upon your personal taste.

In conclusion, we think Vizio has hit a home run with this device. The price point, the feature set, the form factor, and the incredible battery life are just about perfect. We’ve listed a few of our favorite Android apps below to get you started. Enjoy!


Originally published: Wednesday, August 10, 2011




Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.
Or Try the New, Free PBX in a Flash Conference Bridge.


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


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID and 60 free minutes from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month and you get a free hour of outbound calling to test out their call quality. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! After the free hour of outbound calling, Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Honeycomb has been promised for down the road. []

Introducing PogoPlug: Cloud Computing for $100 per Terabyte

Introducing PogoPlug

Ever wished you could build and manage your own Cloud Computing Center with minimal cost and no recurring charges… ever? Well, today’s your lucky day.

It takes a lot to get us excited about a new product offering. But this one is a real winner! For under $130, Cloud Engines provides you your very own PogoPlug 2.0 device that connects to your router and shares up to four USB drives over the Internet. At today’s prices and ignoring sales tax, that means you can put eight terabytes of Cloud Storage on line for a one-time cost of about $100/terabyte. To give you a point of reference, Google will rent you the same space for $256/terabyte… per year. And Google is one of the least expensive Cloud Computing resources out there. Here’s the math for naysayers:

4 – WalMart1 2TB WD MyBook Drives @ $169 each = $676
1 – PogoPlug 2.0 Device @ $129 each = $129
ONE-TIME, NON-RECURRING COST: $805/8TB or $100/TB

For those that don’t need 8 terabytes, the 2 terabyte setup including the drive and PogoPlug device is still just over half the one-year rental rate of equivalent storage from Google. And, just to be clear, this isn’t merely a storage device (like Amazon S3) requiring downloads before the files can actually be used. PogoPlug’s software makes these USB drives an integral part of your Desktop just like any other attached storage devices. Think WebDAV! So it makes a perfect home for your music, movie, and photo collections. There also are loads of Open Source applications for PogoPlug for those that like to tinker. And you can use PogoPlug to keep synchronized backups of your important files.

Other Options. Be aware that for about $50 less, you can purchase the Seagate FreeAgent DockStar Network Adapter which includes a single year of PogoPlug Internet support. After that, it’s $30 annually. Translation: By the end of the second year, you’re better off with the PogoPlug. So the choice is a No-Brainer in our book. But, the fact that Seagate is also standing behind the PogoPlug design should make everyone sleep more soundly.

Deployment. After a one-minute, one-time setup over the Internet, you can securely access all of your USB drive resources via PogoPlug using either a web browser or one of several free desktop applications that are available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux as well as Android phones, iPhones, and (earlier today) Blackberrys. And you get free support and a terrific forum. The device works flawlessly behind either a DSL or cable modem AND a NAT-based router so there are no firewall issues to address. Just enter the serial number on the bottom of your device when you access the PogoPlug web site, and configuration is automatic.

Uploading Files. One of PogoPlug’s slickest features is its automatic cataloging of files which are uploaded. Once uploaded, you can view your Music, Movies, and Pictures by simply clicking on one of the buttons. Photos are cataloged into directories by the month in which the photos were taken. Music is indexed by artist, album, and genre. In addition, music by artist, album and genre as well as photo albums can be shared by entering email addresses for those that can access the materials, by enabling public viewing (assuming you have legal rights to do so), or by sharing items using your Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace credentials. We’ve shared a photo album just to give you an idea of how this works. The security and logistical nuts and bolts all are managed by Cloud Engines’ servers. You can review and modify the materials you’re sharing by clicking on the Files I Share link in your browser. Finally you can automatically alert those with share privileges when folder content is updated. Very slick!

Give PogoPlug a try. By clicking on one of our links, you also help support the Nerd Vittles project. We think you’ll be as thrilled as we are with this terrific new creation. Enjoy!




Need help with Asterisk®? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.
Or Try the New, Free PBX in a Flash Conference Bridge.


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


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID and 60 free minutes from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month and you get a free hour of outbound calling to test out their call quality. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! After the free hour of outbound calling, Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. The in-store pricing at WalMart is actually cheaper than on line for these particular drives. []

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