Attention Toy Junkies and Hackers: Imagine a 14 ounce device the size of a five pound bag of sugar with a self-contained Wi-Fi server, web server, streaming audio player, MP3 player, RSS Feed fetcher, email reader, voice recognition, built-in RFID proximity detection, text-to-speech and speech-to-text capabilities and... wiggly ears, a VoIP belly button, a speaker, and blinking lights all over the place. It's a bird, it's a plane. No, it's a Nabaztag/tag. With a name like that, you know it has to be good. Nabaztag actually is the Armenian word for rabbit. And the Nabaztag/tag is the second generation of Violet's infamous WiFi Bunny... from France no less.
For those of you thinking about one of these fine critters as a Valentine's gift, let me just offer up a quote from someone near and dear to me: "If you'd gotten me one of those stupid bunnies for Valentine's, you'd be sleeping in your car." Yes, much to the chagrin of the Little Mrs., we've spent an entire week playing with Pat the Nerd. And, with the help of a number of similarly misguided souls from around the world, we've managed to turn this rabbit, uh, on its ear. Or is it the other way around? You see Pat costs $179 at ThinkGeek. But there's more to it. Violet, the bunny's proud inventor, is also proud of their connection service. Beginning Valentine's Day, Violet has a special surprise for bunny lovers. They'd like every bunny owner to pony up $6.95 a month (forever) to keep your bunny hopping. No more animal jokes, we promise! There still will be some free services such as time and weather information. And Violet will still let your bunny receive a whopping
14 15 messages a month. That's almost a whole 30-second message every couple of days! But, after that, it's Pay Per View time. Believe it or not, there already are hundreds of thousands of Nabaztags in the homes of our European friends. But the bunny lovers of the world are in for a little surprise in a couple weeks. Happy Valentines! Heh, heh.
Well, that was last week. Several projects have been underway for months on SourceForge to unearth the bunny's innermost secrets. They quickly discovered that the first generation bunnies had a severe limitation because of an extremely proprietary sound chip. The second gen Nabaztag/tag resolves that by supporting playback of industry-standard sound files. The other problem with the SourceForge projects was the Hobson's Choice of an either-or bunny. You could either connect to Violet's servers and enjoy their offerings, or you could venture out on your own by creating your own applications using your own server. Thanks to Olivier Azeau, you now can have your cake and eat it, too. In addition to being an adept PHP programmer, Olivier also happens to like bunnies. So he began the OpenNab project on SourceForge to build a PHP-driven Nabaztag/tag proxy. Just as the name implies, it transforms the WiFi Rabbit into an open source platform while maintaining your existing connection to the Mother Ship. Stated another way, by using the OpenNab proxy, you don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Instead, you get the best of both worlds: all of the free Nabaztag services from Violet plus all of the free open source apps that the rest of us can dream up. And, if you want to subscribe to Violet's monthly service plan, you can do that as well. It also opens the door for competitive server platforms to support the Nabaztag/tag for those that have no interest in building and supporting a server just to trick out your dumb bunny.
That, of course, is where a TrixBox Asterisk® server comes into play. In addition to getting a first-rate (free) PBX that will run on Linux, a Mac, or Windows (download links at top of the page), you now have the perfect platform for the OpenNab proxy. For our non-Asterisk readers, you don't have to use a TrixBox server to make all of this work... if you don't mind wrestling with Linux. Or, for the Windows platform, you might want to try WAMP5. The beauty of installing one of our TrixBox servers for the Mac or Windows platform is that you don't have to have a dedicated Linux server. You can run the TrixBox server in a window on your desktop, and you never need to touch the PBX if you don't want to. In short, a TrixBox server is an ideal development platform for projects such as this because all of the tools you'll need are already integrated into a turnkey appliance. In addition to a fairly complete Linux toolkit, it also includes an Apache web server with PHP and a voice synthesizer called Flite right out of the box so there's nothing to install... except OpenNab. We'll walk you through that installation, and we'll provide a couple of our reworked open source applications for your OpenNab-energized Bunny to get you started: weather reports for every U.S. city and a Yahoo Headline News Feed Reader. Then you can rip into our code and contribute some applications of your own to the cause. A few have already been contributed, and we'll post those on our new Wabbit Vittles web site in the next few days.
OpenNab Prerequisites. As mentioned, you'll need a server platform that includes a web server with PHP 4.4.3 or later and CURL, a text-to-speech voice synthesizer such as Flite (free) or Cepstral ($30), and an encoding utility in order to get much use out of the OpenNab proxy. The free TrixBox appliances include everything you'll need to get started.
Downloading OpenNab. Once you have your web server with PHP and CURL running, you're ready to install OpenNab. Start by downloading the OpenNab Proxy application from SourceForge. Unzip the file, and you'll have a folder named opennab with a version number. We're assuming it's 0.04, or some of the fixes below may not be necessary. There are several tricks to getting OpenNab installed and working reliably. We're going to walk through the TrixBox installation scenario. It's also possible to run this on a dedicated Linux machine or through a Linux hosting provider site, but it's considerably more complex to get all the pieces working as you'll quickly discover if you decide to try it. We've put up a demo system through our hosting provider, BlueHost, just to show it's possible. BlueHost incidentally happens to be the best AND the cheapest hosting provider on the planet if you ever have a need. Regardless of which route you take or even if you roll your own server, be aware that the two folders (vl and broad) both have to be copied into the root directory of your web server.
OpenNab Installation and Setup. In the case of a TrixBox installation, copy the vl and broad folders into var/www/html which is the web server's home directory. If you're using a hosting provider, copy the two directories into your root web folder, usually www or public_html with cPanel systems. Instead of Apache redirect commands, OpenNab uses ErrorDocument redirection to reroute traffic from Violet's servers to your OpenNab Proxy. So, if they don't already exist, create a .htaccess file in both the vl and broad folders: nano -w .htaccess after logging into your server as root (for TrixBox) or your accountname (for hosted servers) and changing to the proper directory.
In the vl folder, make sure you have the following line in a .htaccess file. This was missing in version 0.02 :
ErrorDocument 404 /vl/bc.php
In the broad folder, the following line should appear in .htaccess:
ErrorDocument 404 /vl/media.php
Next we need to modify the Apache config file on your TrixBox server so that it allows .htaccess commands to override Apache defaults at the directory level. This isn't required on most hosted systems since they already allow directory-level overrides. While still logged in as root on your TrixBox server, edit the Apache config file: nano -w /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf. Press Ctrl-W and search for AllowOverride None. Press Enter to execute the search. Leave this entry alone. Now press Ctrl-W and Enter again. Change this entry to AllowOverride All. What this does is allow .htaccess overrides on the /var/www/html directory and its subdirectories which is what we want since that's the root directory for the web server. Save your changes: Ctrl-X, Y, then Enter. Then restart Apache: apachectl restart.
Regardless of your server type, we need to create a few new folders to make sure OpenNab can successfully pass its startup tests. Just issue the following commands while logged in as root:
cd /var/www/html/vl/plugins/files_simpleplay (NOTE: Version 0.03 and 0.02 stored these files in /var/www/html/broad)
If you're using a hosting provider, you can ignore this step. On TrixBox servers, the web service runs as user asterisk unlike other Linux systems. We need to adjust the permissions on the folders we installed to be sure this user can read, write, and execute in these directory trees. So issue the following commands while logged in as root:
chown -R asterisk:root vl
chown -R asterisk:root broad
Finally, regardless of your server type, there was a little bug in version 0.02 that occurred if you happened to enter the MAC address of your bunny in upper case letters. This is fixed in version 0.03 and 0.04, but if you have the 0.02 version here's the patch:
nano -w burrow.php
Once the editor opens, cursor down to line 45 and add the strtolower function to the existing line so that the new line looks like this:
$this->fileName = 'burrows/'.strtolower($serialNumber);
Save your change: Ctrl-X, Y, then Enter.
Securing OpenNab. We highly recommend using a TrixBox server or some other Linux server behind a firewall for this project. Running OpenNab on the public Internet with or without a hosting provider adds all sorts of security implications. At a minimum, there are some changes we recommend you make to lessen the opportunity for abuse from outsiders. Insert index.php documents in the folders that don't already have such a document. Here's what each index.php document should look like:
echo " ";
The second tip is don't activate the logging feature in vl/config.php because it will compromise the MAC addresses of every rabbit that connects through your server... unless you password protect the vl/logs directory. Finally, remove the phpinfo.php file from vl/tests once you complete your testing as this reveals all sorts of information to someone that may be attempting to break into your server.
Testing Your Nabaztag/tag. There are two tests you need to perform to make sure your Apache server, PHP, and CURL are operating properly. Using a web browser, go to the following links using the IP address or fully qualified domain name of your OpenNab Proxy:
http://my.domain.com/vl/foobar should return: ERROR 404 from OpenNab
http://my.domain.com/vl/tests/ should return: 48 passes, 0 fails and 0 exceptions with a Green Bar
Configuring Your Nabaztag/tag to Use OpenNab. Once you've passed the testing with flying colors, it's time to activate the OpenNab Proxy. Step 1: Get your tag/tag functioning reliably with Violet's server first. If you need help, here's a link. Before connecting through OpenNab, you'll also need to write down either the IP address of your TrixBox server on your internal LAN or a fully-qualified domain name that points to your web site on the Internet if you're using a hosting provider. So the syntax for the entry you're about to make should look like one of the following using your correct IP address or domain name:
wabbitvittles.com/vl (This one actually works if you'd just like to try things out without installing any software.)
Once you have your entry in hand, unplug your rabbit. Press and hold down the top button and reconnect power to your rabbit. As soon as all four front lights turn blue, release the button. This usually occurs in less than one second if you have an Internet connection. If you hold the button down too long after the lights turn blue, you'll need to start over. Now count slowly to twenty. From a wireless PC or Mac on the same subnet as your rabbit, open the Wireless Networking window and select Nabaztagnn as your WiFi host. The nn will match the last two numbers of the MAC address on the bottom of your rabbit. Count to twenty again and then open the following page with a web browser: http://192.168.0.1/. Click on Click Here to Start link. When the next page displays, click Advanced Configuration. You shouldn't have to change anything except the very bottom entry on the form which reads r.nabaztag.com/vl. Replace that entry with the entry you wrote down above and Save your change. This will reboot your bunny, disconnect you from the wireless connection, and restart your bunny using the OpenNab Proxy. Now is a good time to reconnect your PC or Mac to a functioning wireless network! The lights on your bunny will start out orange and then should turn green and go away after the bunny wiggles his ears. When properly connected, you'll have the glowing purple light on the bottom of the bunny and no other lights lit... just as you had when connected directly to Violet's server. Congratulations! You now have an operational OpenNab Proxy.
But What Can It Do? If you'd like to try all of this through our OpenNab Proxy first, then go through the configuration step above using wabbitvittles.com/vl as your proxy address. Once your bunny springs to life, here's a simple test to make sure everything's working. Write down the MAC address of your bunny. Then open a web browser and go to the following link substituting the MAC address of your bunny for the string of zeros, of course. You can also pick any other city and state in the United States... as long as they really exist. This demo system uses Cepstral's Diane 8kHz English voice. There are many others available. You can try them out here.
The Cepstral voices on our demo site are nice, but we don't find them to be appreciably better than the default voice installed with Flite. Flite also happens to be free and is bundled in the TrixBox servers we recommend. There's also the hassle of finding a conversion utility to get the text into a format that your bunny can decipher. All of these tools come preconfigured on the TrixBox systems. Hint!
OpenNab Applications. We're going to contribute several OpenNab applications to get you started today. Before you can use them, you'll need a TrixBox server or a garden-variety Linux server if you know what you're doing. If you roll your own, install Flite or Cepstral to handle text-to-speech conversion and a conversion tool to get the files into a format your bunny can decipher. You can look through the last couple dozen lines of code in the applications to figure out what you need.
Cepstral Installation. The only trick to installing Cepstral is choosing a good voice. We've had better luck with the "telephone voices" which are 8kHz, but you can try out all of them here. We'd recommend you begin by downloading the Diane-8kHz voice for Linux and get it working first. You don't have to buy it unless you like it! Once you download it, log into your TrixBox/Linux system as root, and issue the following commands using the voice name associated with your download:
[copy your download into the /cepstral folder now]
tar xvsf Cep*
When prompted for the installation path, use /nerdvitt. Just to make sure you have a link to the application in your path, execute the following command:
ln -s "/nerdvitt/bin/swift" /usr/local/bin/swift
When you decide to buy a license ($30), you'll get an activation key. You activate it by issuing the following command (while logged in as root!) and filling in the blanks using the same name you used when you purchased the license:
swift --reg-voice -n Diane-8kHz
Installing OpenNab Applications. First, you'll need to download the desired applications. Assuming you want all of them, just execute the following commands after logging into your TrixBox server as root:
Once you've unzipped the files, you'll need to edit each .php file to configure it. For the weather, edit the following file: nano -w opennab-weather.php. The configuration changes begin at line 37:
if (strlen($city)==0) :
$city="Charleston, South Carolina";
if (strlen($SN)==0) :
$SN = "000000000000";
Choose a default city to replace Charleston, South Carolina, e.g. Atlanta,GA is fine for the syntax. Enter the serial number ($SN) of your rabbit to replace 000000000000. If you're using a TrixBox server, the $WebRoot and $BinRoot entries are fine. These are the root directory of your web server and the location of the Cepstral executable. Replace the $ProxyAddress entry of 0.0.0.0 with the IP address fully-qualified domain name of your TrixBox/Linux server. If you plan to use Flite for speech synthesis, nothing else needs to be changed. If you're using Cepstral, change $UseCepstral=false to $UseCepstral=true. Don't delete the semicolon at the end of the line! If you're not using the Diane-8kHz voice with Cepstral, enter the file name of your voice surrounded by quotation marks. Save your changes: Ctrl-X, Y, then Enter.
Now edit the opennab-news.php file: nano -w opennab-news.php. Beginning at line 18, you'll find the configuration settings:
if (strlen($category)==0) :
if (strlen($SN)==0) :
$SN = "000000000000";
Choose a default news category to replace topstories. Available choices include: topstories, us, world, iraq, world, mideast, politics, business, health, science, technology, showbiz, mostviewed, mostemailed, mostblogged, highestrated, adventures, obits, hotzone, nasashuttle, sept11, oped, oddlyenough, and many others. Here's the complete list of Yahoo RSS Feeds. Enter the serial number ($SN) of your rabbit to replace 000000000000. If you're using a TrixBox server, the $WebRoot and $BinRoot entries are fine. These are the root directory of your web server and the location of the Cepstral executable. Replace the $ProxyAddress entry of 0.0.0.0 with the IP address fully-qualified domain name of your TrixBox/Linux server. If you plan to use Flite for speech synthesis, nothing else needs to be changed. If you're using Cepstral, change $UseCepstral=false to $UseCepstral=true. Don't delete the semicolon at the end of the line! If you're not using the Diane-8kHz voice with Cepstral, enter the file name of your voice surrounded by quotation marks. Save your changes: Ctrl-X, Y, then Enter.
Running the Weather Application. There are several ways to run each of these new applications. The weather application can be activated using a web browser using the IP address of your TrixBox/Linux server:
The application also can be run from the Linux command line after logging into your server as root:
php /var/www/html/vl/api_demo/opennab-weather.php city=Charleston,SC
Using the command line syntax, you also can schedule the application to run automatically at various times of the day using a crontab entry. For example, the following entry could be added to /etc/crontab to kick off a weather bunny report at 29 minutes after the hour beginning at 6:29 a.m. until 8:29 p.m. every day:
29 6-20 * * * root /etc/weather.sh
For the /etc/weather.sh script, simply copy the above line to the script and make it executable:
echo php /var/www/html/vl/api_demo/opennab-weather.php city=Charleston,SC > /etc/weather.sh
chmod +x /etc/weather.sh
Running the News Application. The Yahoo News application can be run in much the same way. It could be activated using a web browser using the IP address of your TrixBox/Linux server:
The application also could be run from the Linux command line after logging into your server as root:
php /var/www/html/vl/api_demo/opennab-news.php category=topstories
Using the command line syntax, you also could schedule the application to run automatically at various times of the day using a crontab entry. For example, the following entry could be added to /etc/crontab to kick off a news bunny report at 1 minute after the hour beginning at 6:01 a.m. until 8:01 p.m. every day:
01 6-20 * * * root /etc/news.sh
For the /etc/news.sh script, simply copy the above line to the script and make it executable:
echo php /var/www/html/vl/api_demo/opennab-news.php category=topstories > /etc/news.sh
chmod +x /etc/news.sh
Finding the Latest Nabaztag Applications. Well, that should get you started with OpenNab. And we'll be adding more and more applications in the weeks ahead as others begin to contribute as well. It seemed a fitting time to dedicate a new web site to our non-furry friend so... Welcome to Wabbit Vittles. If you have a contribution to add, just send us a message, and we'll be glad to host it for you. You'll also want to check out the terrific new Nabaztalk Forums for late-breaking tips and tricks. Enjoy!