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Introducing the Asterisk WiFi HotSpot Finder

We’re all rested up now that we’ve had a little R&R time. So today we’ve put together an application requested by one of our loyal readers. It’s an Asterisk®-based WiFi HotSpot Locator. All you do is pick up a telephone on your Asterisk system and dial WiFi. Then plug in any U.S. zip code and wait for E-Gor to read you the addresses of the closest Wi-Fi Hot Spots. We initially had planned to include all of the free FON hot spots, but their database is going to take a little work to get it into proper shape for use in this application. So we decided to save the FON hot spots for version 2. In the meantime, there’s a terrific (meaning free) WAP service for cellphone users at wap.4info.net that works quite well for our purposes today. As with some of our other software, this application is provided as an educational tool to teach you how to write Asterisk AGI scripts, and it should only be used for personal, non-commercial purposes.

We’ve previously covered the basics of writing a PHP script that can be used by Asterisk to retrieve data over the Internet. All of our weather applications perform this magic. So the only trick today was parsing results to determine whether a WiFi Hot Spot was commercial or free. That matters to some folks… like us. So when you set up the Asterisk WiFi HotSpot Finder, you can configure it to retrieve only free hotspots, only commercial hotspots, or all hotspots. As installed, you get the kitchen sink. Simply adjust the $PayWiFi and $FreeWiFi flags if you prefer a different list. As was true with the Nerd Vittles Weather Applications, you also need to add a chunk of code to the extensions_custom or extensions_trixbox config file and restart Asterisk. Then you’ll be off to the races. Pick up a phone on your system and dial 9434 ("WiFi"). When prompted for a zip code, key in a 5-digit zip code. After a brief pause, Flite will read you the names and addresses of up to 10 Wi-Fi Hot Spots at or near the zip code you entered. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Rather than repeat the entire tutorial here, we’ve posted the complete documentation including the code on our Best of Nerd Vittles site which has a much more flexible and intuitive interface for documenting applications. Enjoy!

The Year of Flash. If you’re a slow learner like us, be glad you waited until now to tackle Adobe’s Flash technology. The unbelievably simple tools that are now available to build Flash applications are nothing short of mind-boggling. We’ve been prototyping some of this technology for a new neighborhood web site. Have a look at this link, and click around the various Flash applets. We built it all from nothing in UNDER 3 HOURS! They look almost as good as Apple’s Dashboard Widgets except they’ll run on any platform: Windows, Mac, or Linux. All you need is a current web browser with a Flash Player to run these babies. Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari all work just fine. If you want to do a little experimenting, here’s the deal of the year. The best flash tools on the planet are made by CoffeeCup Software. A close runner-up is Amara Software. You can visit their sites and get free demos to try out. Then you can buy all the tools from CoffeeCup for about $700 or from Amara for $129… or you can sign up for a year of hosting with Lunarpages and get every single CoffeeCup application for free. And, just so you don’t feel totally ripped off by the one-year web hosting fee of $84, Lunarpages throws in support for 10 domains, 250 gigs of storage space, 2.5 terabytes of monthly bandwidth, and a free domain registration for as long as you host with them. Use the coupon code blog25 when you sign up to save an additional $25. That makes the total cost $59 for all you math wizards. Our site link to the Flash Widgets is actually hosted at Lunarpages so you can judge the performance for yourself. If you want them to back up your data every night and restore any or all files from a backup at any time, add another whopping $1.50 a month. Yes, we get a spiff if you sign up using our link. Sure beats clicking on the Donate button, doesn’t it? And, if you happen to work in a K/12 school, the deal is even sweeter: the web hosting is free and so are five of the very best CoffeeCup Software applications. Now go learn something new or, better yet, teach it to a kid!

Nerd Vittles Demo Hot Line (courtesy of les.net). You now can take a number of Nerd Vittles projects for a test drive… by phone! The current demos include (1) MailCall for Asterisk with password 1111 (retrieve your email by phone), (2) NewsClips for Asterisk (latest news headlines in dozens of categories), (3) Weather Forecasts by U.S. Airport Code, and (4) Weather Forecasts by U.S. ZIP Code. You’re not prompted for #4 yet, but it does work! Just call our number (shown in the left margin) and take any or all of them for a spin. The sound quality may not be perfect due to performance limitations of our ancient Intel 386 demo machine. But the price is right.

Nerd Vittles Fan Club Map. Thanks for visiting! We hope you’ll take a second and add yourself to our Frappr World Map compliments of Google. In making your entry, you can choose an icon: guy, gal, nerd, or geek. For those that don’t know the difference in the last two, here’s the best definition we’ve found: "a nerd is very similar to a geek, but with more RAM and a faster modem." We’re always looking for the best BBQ joints on the planet. So, if you know of one, add it to the map while you’re visiting as well.

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