The Most Versatile VoIP Provider: FREE PORTING

One-Minute Wonder: It’s Incredible PBX 2022 for VirtualBox




If you’re new to the VoIP world and want to kick the tires to see what you’re missing, then today’s one minute setup is for you. You can use almost any desktop computer you already own to bring up the VirtualBox® edition of Incredible PBX® 2022.

If you’ve followed Nerd Vittles over the years, you already know that VirtualBox from Oracle® is one of our favorite platforms. Once VirtualBox is installed on your desktop computer, adding Incredible PBX is a snap. Download the latest Incredible PBX 2022 image from SourceForge, double-click on the downloaded image, check the initialize MAC address box, and boom. In less than a minute, your PBX is ready to use with the very latest Rocky 8 platform and Asterisk® 18 build plus all of the FreePBX® 15 GPL modules. There are no hidden fees or crippleware to hinder your use of Incredible PBX for as long as you like. If you set up an account with our Platinum provider, Skyetel, you can start making calls in minutes. Of course, the Incredible PBX feature set is included as well which brings you nearly three dozen applications for Asterisk® that will revolutionize your communications platform. Speech-to-text, voice recognition, and a Siri-like telephony interface are as close as your SIP phone.

Installing Oracle VM VirtualBox

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

NOTE: The Incredible PBX 2022 VM requires a VirtualBox 6.x platform. Adjust screen size in View -> Virtual Screen.

Installing the Incredible PBX 2022 Image

To begin, download the Incredible PBX 2022 image (3.5 GB) onto your desktop.

Next, double-click on the Incredible PBX .ova image on your desktop. Be sure to check the box to initialize the MAC address of the image if you’re using an older version of VirtualBox. Then click Import. Once the import is finished, you’ll see a new Incredible PBX 2022 virtual machine in the VM List of the VirtualBox Manager Window. Let’s make a couple of one-time adjustments to the Incredible PBX configuration to account for possible differences in sound and network cards on different host machines.

(1) Click once on the Incredible PBX virtual machine in the VM List. Then (2) click the Settings button. In System tab, verify Hardware Clock in UTC Time is checked. In the Audio tab, check the Enable Audio option and choose your sound card. In the Network tab for Adapter 1, check the Enable Network Adapter option. From the Attached to pull-down menu, choose Bridged Adapter. Then select your network card from the Name list. Then click OK. That’s all the configuration that is necessary for Incredible PBX 2022.

Running Incredible PBX 2022 in VirtualBox

Once you’ve imported and configured the Incredible PBX 2022 Virtual Machine, you’re ready to go. Highlight the Incredible PBX 2022 virtual machine in the VM List on the VirtualBox Manager Window and click the Start button. The standard Linux boot procedure will begin and, within a few seconds, you’ll get the familiar Linux login prompt. During the bootstrap procedure, you’ll see a couple of dialogue boxes pop up that explain the keystrokes to move back and forth between your host operating system desktop and your virtual machine. Remember, you still have full access to your desktop computer. Incredible PBX is merely running as a task in a VM window. Always gracefully halt Incredible PBX just as you would on any computer.




 
Here’s what you need to know. To work in the Incredible PBX virtual machine, just left-click your mouse while it is positioned inside the VM window. To return to your host operating system desktop, press the right Option key on Windows machines or the left Command key on any Mac. On Linux desktops, press the right Ctrl key. For other operating systems, read the dialogue boxes for instructions on moving around. To access the Linux CLI, login as root with the default password: password. Change your root password when you are prompted to do so. Then update your admin password for web access: ./admin-pw-change. Also update your admin password for web applications: ./apache-pw-change. You’ll need these admin passwords to access the web GUI to manage your PBX as well as to use the AsteriDex and Reminders web apps. The above password updates are automatically requested when you first activate the virtual machine. You can update all of your other passwords using the scripts provided in /root.

Setting the Date and Time with VirtualBox

On some platforms, VirtualBox has a nasty habit of mangling the date and time of your virtual machine. Verify that you have enabled the Hardware Clock in UTC Time option for your virtual machine as documented above. If pbxstatus still shows an incorrect time, manually set the date and time and then update the hardware clock. Here’s how assuming 08130709 is the month (August), day (13), and correct time (7:09 a.m.) of your server:

date 08130709
clock -w

Configuring Skyetel for Incredible PBX 2022

If you’d like to try out the Skyetel service at no charge, here’s the drill. Sign up for Skyetel service to take advantage of the Nerd Vittles specials. First, complete the Prequalification Form here. You then will be provided a link to the Skyetel site to complete your registration. Once you have registered on the Skyetel site and your account has been activated, open a support ticket and request the $10 credit for your account by referencing the Nerd Vittles special offer. Once you are satisfied with the service, fund your account as desired, and Skyetel will match your deposit of up to $250 simply by opening another ticket. That gets you up to $500 of half-price calling. Credit is limited to one per person, company, and address. Effective 10/1/2023, $25/month minimum spend required.

Skyetel does not use SIP registrations to make connections to your PBX. Instead, Skyetel utilizes Endpoint Groups to identify which servers can communicate with the Skyetel service. An Endpoint Group consists of a Name, an IP address, a UDP or TCP port for the connection, and a numerical Priority for the group. For incoming calls destined to your PBX, DIDs are associated with an Endpoint Group to route the calls to your PBX. For outgoing calls from your PBX, a matching Endpoint Group is required to authorize outbound calls through the Skyetel network. Thus, the first step in configuring the Skyetel side for use with your PBX is to set up an Endpoint Group. Here’s a typical setup for Incredible PBX 2022:

  • Name: MyPBX
  • Priority: 1
  • IP Address: PBX-Public-IP-Address
  • Port: 5061
  • Protocol: UDP
  • Description: my.incrediblepbx.com

To receive incoming PSTN calls, you’ll need at least one DID. On the Skyetel site, you acquire DIDs under the Phone Numbers tab. You have the option of Porting in Existing Numbers (free for the first 60 days after you sign up for service) or purchasing new ones under the Buy Phone Numbers menu option.

Once you have acquired one or more DIDs, navigate to the Local Numbers or Toll Free Numbers tab and specify the desired SIP Format and Endpoint Group for each DID. Add SMS/MMS and E911 support, if desired. Call Forwarding and Failover are also supported. That completes the VoIP setup on the Skyetel side. System Status is always available here.

If VirtualBox is sitting behind a router or firewall on a private LAN, you’ll need to forward ports UDP 5060, 5061, and 10000-20000 in your router to the private LAN address of your Incredible PBX server. Also edit your extensions in the GUI and set NAT=YES in the Advanced tab of every extension. In Settings -> Asterisk SIP Settings, click the Detect Network Settings button and then Submit your changes and reload the Asterisk dialplan when prompted.

Finally, login to the FreePBX web GUI as admin using the password you assigned when you set up the virtual machine. Navigate to Connectivity -> Trunks and edit the Skyetel-pjSIP trunk. Change the Disable Trunk setting from Yes to No. Then click Submit and reload your dialplan when prompted. That’s it.

Configuring VoIP.ms for Incredible PBX 2022

To sign up for VoIP.ms service, may we suggest you use our signup link so that Nerd Vittles gets a referral credit for your signup. Once your account is set up, you’ll need to set up a SIP SubAccount and, for Authentication Type, choose Static IP Authentication and enter your Incredible PBX 2020 server’s public IP address. For Transport, choose UDP. For Device Type, choose Asterisk, IP PBX, Gateway or VoIP Switch. Order a DID in their web panel, and then point the DID to the SubAccount you just created. Be sure to specify atlanta1.voip.ms as the POP from which to receive incoming calls. For more details about VoIP.ms, see this Nerd Vittles tutorial.

Configuring SendMail with Incredible PBX 2022

In order to receive voicemails by email delivery, outbound mail functionality from your server obviously is required. If you’ve deployed your server in your home, your Internet Service Provider probably blocks downstream mail servers such as Incredible PBX from sending mail. This is done to reduce SPAM. In this case, you will need to configure SendMail using either your ISP or Gmail as an SMTP Relay Host. We have built aninstall script to set up a SmartHost using Gmail. Simply run it and insert your Gmail username and password or App Password.

cd /root
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/enable-gmail-smarthost-rocky8.tar.gz
tar zxvf enable-gmail-smarthost-rocky8.tar.gz
rm -f enable-gmail-smarthost-rocky8.tar.gz
./enable-gmail-smarthost-for-sendmail

Configuring a Softphone for Incredible PBX 2022

We’re in the home stretch now. You can connect virtually any kind of telephone to your new PBX. Plain Old Phones require an analog telephone adapter (ATA) which can be a separate board in your computer from a company such as Digium. Or it can be a standalone SIP device such as the Incredible PBX SIP phone. SIP phones can be connected directly so long as they have an IP address. These could be hardware devices or software devices such as the YateClient softphone. We’ll start with a free one today so you can begin making calls. You can find dozens of recommendations for hardware-based SIP phones both on Nerd Vittles and in the Incredible PBX Wiki when you’re ready to get serious about VoIP telephony.

We recommend YateClient for Windows which is free. Download it from here. Run YateClient once you’ve installed it and enter the credentials for the 701 extension on Incredible PBX. You can find them by navigating to Applicaations -> Extensions -> 701 in the FreePBX GUI.

Configuring Incredible PBX 2022 for VirtualBox

In order to take advantage of all the Incredible PBX applications, you’ll need to obtain IBM text-to-speech (TTS) and speech-to-text (STT) credentials as well as a (free) Application ID for Wolfram Alpha.

This Nerd Vittles tutorial will walk you through getting your IBM account set up and obtaining both your TTS and STT credentials. Be sure to write down BOTH sets of credentials which you’ll need in a minute. For home and SOHO use, IBM access and services are mostly FREE even though you must provide a credit card when signing up. The IBM signup process explains their pricing plans.

To use Wolfram Alpha, sign up for a free Wolfram Alpha API account. Just provide your email address and set up a password. It takes less than a minute. Log into your account and click on Get An App ID. Make up a name for your application and write down (and keep secret) your APP-ID code. That’s all there is to getting set up with Wolfram Alpha. If you want to explore costs for commercial use, there are links to let you get more information.

In addition to your Wolfram Alpha APPID, there are two sets of IBM credentials to plug into the Asterisk AGI scripts. Keep in mind that there are different usernames and passwords for the IBM Watson TTS and STT services. The TTS credentials will look like the following: $IBM_username and $IBM_password. The STT credentials look like this: $API_USERNAME and $API_PASSWORD. Don’t mix them up. 🙂

All of the scripts requiring credentials are located in /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin so switch to that directory after logging into your server as root. Edit each of the following files and insert your TTS credentials in the variables already provided: nv-today2.php, ibmtts.php, and ibmtts2.php. Edit each of the following files and insert your STT credentials in the variables already provided: getquery.sh, getnumber.sh, and getnumber2.sh. Finally, edit 4747 and insert your Wolfram Alpha APPID.

Using AsteriDex with Incredible PBX

AsteriDex is a web-based dialer and address book application for Asterisk and Incredible PBX. It lets you store and manage phone numbers of all your friends and business associates in an easy-to-use SQLite3 database. You simply call up the application with your favorite web browser: http://pbx-ip-address/asteridex4/. When you click on a contact that you wish to call, AsteriDex first calls you at extension 701, and then AsteriDex connects you to your contact through another outbound call made using your default outbound trunk that supports numbers in the 1NXXNXXXXXX format.

Keeping FreePBX 15 Modules Current

We strongly recommend that you periodically update all of your FreePBX modules to eliminate bugs and to reduce security vulnerabilities. From the Linux CLI, log into your server as root and issue the following commands:

rm -f /tmp/*
fwconsole ma upgradeall
fwconsole reload
/root/sig-fix
/root/sig-fix

Taking Incredible PBX 2022 for a Test Drive

You can take Incredible PBX on a test drive by dialing D-E-M-O (3366) from any phone connected to your PBX.

With Allison’s Demo IVR, you can choose from the following options:

  • 0. Chat with Operator — connects to extension 701
  • 1. AsteriDex Voice Dialer – say "Delta Airlines" or "American Airlines" to connect
  • 2. Conferencing – log in using 1234 as the conference PIN
  • 3. Wolfram Alpha Almanac – say "What planes are flying overhead"
  • 4. Lenny – The Telemarketer’s Worst Nightmare
  • 5. Today’s News Headlines — courtesy of Yahoo! News
  • 6. Weather by ZIP Code – enter any 5-digit ZIP code for today’s weather
  • 7. Today in History — courtesy of OnThisDay.com
  • 8. Chat with Nerd Uno — courtesy of SIP URI connection to 3CX iPhone Client
  • 9. DISA Voice Dialer — say any 10-digit number to be connected
  • *. Current Date and Time — courtesy of Incredible PBX

We Missed You During February

If you missed us last month, we missed you, too. We took a brief timeout to get some new eyeballs. Ah, the miracles of modern medicine. As the old song says, "I Can See Clearly Now." It’s been 35 years since I saw the world without the need for glasses. It’s good to be back.



Originally published: Monday, March 7, 2022



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the VoIP-info Forum.


 

Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors


FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.

The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.

VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!
 

Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.
 



  1. Many of our purchase links refer users to Amazon when we find their prices are competitive for the recommended products. Nerd Vittles receives a small referral fee from Amazon to help cover the costs of our blog. We never recommend particular products solely to generate Amazon commissions. However, when pricing is comparable or availability is favorable, we support Amazon because Amazon supports us. []

Introducing Incredible PBX 2022 for Rocky 8 Linux




As we celebrate the 17th birthday of Nerd Vittles this week, it seemed only fitting to introduce a new version of Incredible PBX 2022 which will carry telephony forward until the end of this decade. For history buffs, you may recall that CentOS used to be a perfect clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux… until it wasn’t when RedHat decided to morph CentOS into a development sandbox known as CentOS Stream. And then along came Gregory Kurtzer, the original developer of CentOS, to work his magic once again with the Rocky 8 reincarnation. Until Rocky 8 rose from the ashes, we had all but decided to end our CentOS distribution and focus on Debian, Raspbian, and Ubuntu. But the appeal of a new operating system with an end of life slated for May 2029 was hard to resist. So here we are.

Our roadmap for Incredible PBX 2022 for Rocky 8 goes like this. Today we are introducing this beta featuring Asterisk® 16 and the GPL modules from FreePBX® 15. Once we get the kinks out of this release, we will add two additional versions, one featuring Asterisk 18 and FreePBX 15 plus a second one featuring Asterisk 19 and FreePBX 16. The PHP platform to support all three versions is already in place. It supports both PHP 5.6 and PHP 7.4 running concurrently. We needed PHP 5.6 to preserve the legacy AvantFax application which provides free faxing.

CAUTION: Because of frequent changes to the Rocky 8 platform, we no longer recommend it for production use with Incredible PBX.

We hope you’ll download and install Rocky 8 as well as Incredible PBX 2022 and help us move this platform forward. Begin by downloading and installing Rocky 8 Minimal. If you prefer AlmaLinux, download and install their minimal image from here. If you prefer a cloud-based platform, consider our Platinum sponsor, Vultr. They host both Rocky 8 and AlmaLinux 8 images in addition to other operating systems so platform setup takes only a minute.

Once you have your platform up and running, login as root and issue the following commands to kick off the Incredible PBX 2022 install:

cd /root
yum -y install wget
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/IncrediblePBX2022.16.15-4.sh
chmod +x IncrediblePBX2022.16.15-4.sh
./IncrediblePBX2022.16.15-4.sh

Once the Phase I install finishes, your server will reboot. Log back in as root and run the installer a second time:

cd /root
./IncrediblePBX2022.16.15-4.sh

1/31/2022 UPDATE: We’ve now released the second iteration of Incredible PBX 2022 for Rocky8 and AlmaLinux8 featuring Asterisk 18 and the FreePBX GPL modules. You can install this version as an alternative to the Asterisk 16 release if you would prefer:

cd /root
yum -y install wget
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/IncrediblePBX2022.18.15-1.sh
chmod +x IncrediblePBX2022.18.15-1.sh
./IncrediblePBX2022.18.15-1.sh

Once the Phase I install finishes, your server will reboot. Log back in as root and run the new installer a second time:

cd /root
./IncrediblePBX2022.18.15-1.sh

If you chose to install AlmaLinux 8, issue the following command once you’ve logged in to the Linux CLI as root:

sed -i 's|Rocky 8|AlmaLinux 8|' /usr/local/sbin/pbxstatus

As with all Incredible PBX builds, a preconfigured Linux firewall is included which blocks all access except from whitelisted IP addresses. To activate it, simply press the ENTER key when the install completes. To load the latest updates to the platform using the Automatic Update Utility, simply log out of your server and log back in as root. You’re now ready to explore the Incredible PBX feature set using the tutorials available on the Incredible PBX Wiki.

Audio Issues with Incredible PBX

If you experience one-way or no audio on some calls, add your external IP address and LAN subnet in the GUI by navigating to Settings -> Asterisk SIP Settings. In the NAT Settings section, click Detect Network Settings. Click Submit and Apply Settings to save your changes.

Incredible PBX Administration

We’ve eased the pain of administering your new PBX with a collection of scripts which you will find in the /root folder after logging in as root with SSH or Putty. Here’s a quick summary of what each of the scripts does.

add-fqdn is used to whitelist a fully-qualified domain name in the firewall. Because Incredible PBX 2020 blocks all traffic from IP addresses that are not whitelisted, this is what you use to authorize an external user for your PBX. The advantage of an FQDN is that you can use a dynamic DNS service to automatically update the IP address associated with an FQDN so that you never lose connectivity.

add-ip is used to whitelist a public IP address in the firewall. See the add-fqdn explanation as to why this matters.

del-acct is used to remove an IP address or FQDN from the firewall’s whitelist.

admin-pw-change is used to set the admin password for access to the FreePBX/Incredible PBX web GUI using a browser pointed to the local IP address of your server.

apache-pw-change is used to set the admin password for access to Apache/Incredible PBX apps including AsteriDex and Reminders. This provides a password layer of protection for access to these applications.

reset-conference-pins is a script that automatically and randomly resets the user and admin pins for access to the preconfigured conferencing application. Dial C-O-N-F from any registered SIP phone to connect to the conference.

reset-extension-passwords is a script that automatically and randomly resets ALL of the SIP passwords for extensions 701-705. Be careful using this one, or you may disable existing registered phones and cause Fail2Ban to blacklist the IP addresses of those users. HINT: You can place a call to the Ring Group associated with all five extensions by dialing 777.

reset-reminders-pin is a script that automatically and randomly resets the pin required to access the Telephone Reminders application by dialing 123. It’s important to protect this application because a nefarious user could set up a reminder to call a number anywhere in the world assuming your SIP provider’s account was configured to allow such calls.

show-feature-codes is a cheat sheet for all of the feature codes which can be dialed from any registered SIP phone. It documents how powerful a platform Incredible PBX 2020 actually is. A similar listing is available in the GUI at Admin -> Feature Codes.

show-passwords is a script that displays most of the passwords associated with Incredible PBX 2020. This includes SIP extension passwords, voicemail pins, conference pins, telephone reminders pin, and your Anveo Direct outbound calling pin (if configured). Note that voicemail pins are configured by the user of a SIP extension the first time the user accesses the voicemail system by dialing *97.

update-IncrediblePBX is the Automatic Update Utility which checks for server updates from incrediblepbx.com every time you log into your server as root using SSH or Putty. Do NOT disable it as it is used to load important fixes and security updates when necessary. We recommend logging into your server at least once a week.

pbxstatus (shown above) displays status of all major components of Incredible PBX.

Forwarding Calls to Your Cellphone. Keep in mind that inbound calls to your DIDs automatically ring all five SIP extensions, 701-705. The easiest way to also ring your cellphone is to set one of these five extensions to forward incoming calls to your cellphone. After logging into your PBX as root, issue the following command to forward calls from extension 705 to your cellphone: asterisk -rx "database put CF 705 6781234567"

To remove call forwarding: asterisk -rx "database del CF 705"

Originally published: Monday, January 17, 2022   Updated: Monday, December 12, 2022



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the VoIP-info Forum.


 

Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors


FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.

The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.

VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!
 

Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.
 



Oh My God, It’s Omicron!



We had a near perfect Christmas vacation in Vero Beach this year. There were a couple of terrific mask-free parties leading up to the big day, and they were all loaded with great food and enough college kids to open our own tavern. We also had dined out several nights before Christmas so we have no idea where Omicron was hiding. Then December 27 rolled around and, after two years of remaining Cootie-free, I woke up with the sniffles and congestion not unlike a common cold. Luckily, two of our friends gave us a couple of rapid antigen tests for Covid. I flunked, and Mary passed but had similar symptoms to mine plus a headache. I, of course, have heard the headache story for many years so I didn’t put too much stock in that.

I don’t often write about personal stuff but I’m making an exception simply to stress how important Covid vaccinations and boosters are to your survival. I’ve had all three shots and, on Day 4 of my Omicron surprise, I’m happy to report that my bout with Covid is over, and it was less severe than a common cold. I also confess that I’m one who can nurse a cold for the better part of a month enjoying every miserable day. Aside from a few sniffles and a little sneezing, there’s not much else to report about my time with Omicron. But others haven’t been so lucky. And that’s mainly because of their insistence on asserting their independence from the medical community. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor. Get vaccinated and boosted. It probably won’t keep you from getting Omicron, but there’s a strong possibility it will keep you out of the hospital. Here’s hoping all of you have a safe and Happy New Year!

Originally published: Friday, December 31, 2021

Santa’s Surprise: Free Faxing Returns for FreePBX 16



As most of you know, free faxing with HylaFax, AvantFax, and IAXmodem has been an integral component of Incredible PBX since its introduction. That changed with the Incredible PBX 2022 Beta release last week because of the FreePBX® 16 prerequisite of a PHP 7.4 platform. That prompted us to become a student again and explore the possibility of deploying two simultaneously available versions of PHP. AvantFax is the web GUI for sending and receiving free faxes. It is no longer under active development and depends upon PHP 5.6 to function. Thus, we were faced with the Hobson’s Choice of deploying PHP 7.4 for FreePBX 16 or PHP 5.6 for AvantFax. We chose the lesser of two evils in the initial release of Incredible PBX 2022 by choosing to support FreePBX 16. Today we finally have good news.

We’ve managed to restore the full functionality of Incredible PBX including free faxing by reconfiguring PHP 7.4 and PHP 5.6 to run simultaneously. Incredible PBX 2022 now can be deployed with Asterisk® 19, FreePBX 16, and AvantFax happily coexisting. To get this working, you’ll need a Debian 10 platform running Incredible PBX 2021. Once you have it up and running, here are the steps to add the latest Incredible PBX 2022 Beta including faxing.

1. Install Incredible PBX 2021 on Debian 10 platform
2. Run /root/incrediblefax2021-debian10.sh to install free faxing
3. Set the Apache and FreePBX admin passwords:
    /root/apache-pw-change /root/admin-pw-change
4. Reboot
5. Verify that pbxstatus shows everything working
6. Obtain FQDN linked to your server’s public IP address
7. Verify access to Incredible PBX using this FQDN
(NOTE: Do this NOW before proceeding or step 11 will fail)
8. Install Incredible PBX 2022 Beta
9. Reboot
10. Verify that pbxstatus shows everything working
11. Run install-dual-php script to activate dual PHP stack:

cd /root
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/install-dual-php
chmod +x install-dual-php
./install-dual-php

 
Now you should be able to login to FreePBX using your server’s public IP address.
And you should be able to login to AvantFax using the FQDN you created (step 6).
At the first login prompt for AvantFax, it’s asking for your Apache admin credentials (step 3).
Then you’ll be prompted for your AvantFax admin credentials. Default is admin:password

We hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!

Originally published: Saturday, December 25, 2021



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the VoIP-info Forum.


 

Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors


FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.

The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.

VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!
 

Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.
 



It’s Incredible PBX 2022 Beta with Asterisk 19 & FreePBX 16



For those with a pioneering spirit, we are pleased to introduce the Incredible PBX 2022 Beta 1 upgrade for the Incredible PBX 2021 Debian 10 platform. This upgrade features the latest release of Asterisk® 19 and includes all FreePBX® 16 GPL modules. It should not (yet) be used in a production environment, but it’s fun to experiment especially when it’s the only implementation of FreePBX currently available for Asterisk 19.

Prerequisites. To get started you’ll need an Incredible PBX 2021 platform running on Debian 10. Our tutorial is available here. If you just want a sandbox, the quickest way to get started is to deploy Incredible PBX 2021 from the Vultr Marketplace. It only takes a couple minutes and costs less than a penny an hour up to a maximum of $5 a month.

Upgrade Procedure. Once you have a non-production Incredible PBX 2021 platform up and running, it’s time to upgrade to Incredible PBX 2022. We’ve provided a script that does the heavy lifting in under 30 minutes: upgrading FreePBX 15 to 16 and then upgrading Asterisk 18 to 19. Begin by logging into the Linux CLI as root and issuing these commands to kick off the upgrade script:

cd /root
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/incrediblepbx2022-upgrade.tar.gz
tar zxvf incrediblepbx2022-upgrade.tar.gz
rm -f incrediblepbx2022-upgrade.tar.gz
./upgrade-to-IncrediblePBX2022

The FreePBX upgrade begins and requires no user intervention. After about 15 minutes, you will be prompted to continue with the Asterisk 19 upgrade. After a couple minutes, the Asterisk MenuSelect Dashboard will appear. Simply tab to Save & Exit and press the ENTER key to continue with the upgrade. When the upgrade finishes, verify that everything is running in the pbxstatus display. Despite what the display may suggest, be advised that faxing is not yet supported since AvantFax requires PHP 5.6, and FreePBX 16 requires PHP 7.4 which is running. Type fwconsole reload to complete the upgrade.


UPDATE: You now can add free faxing to your new Asterisk 19/FreePBX 16 platform. Follow this link for the script.

If you need help or wish to join the discussion on Incredible PBX 2022, come join us on the VoIP-Info Forum.

Originally published: Monday, December 13, 2021



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the VoIP-info Forum.


 

Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors


FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.

The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.

VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!
 

Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.
 



The $10,000 Hoax: Meet Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Vehicle



Elon Musk has called Tesla’s pricey $10,000 full self-driving option "amazing by most standards, but we are aiming for 1000% safer than the average human driver,” Here’s our take after 10 minutes behind the wheel with Tesla’s tenth FSD beta release. We’ll all be dead before Elon ever achieves that goal. And, unless you’ve chosen today as your last day above ground on Planet Earth, turn this "feature" off and leave it that way. Better yet, don’t buy it.

To give you some idea of the functionality, take a toddler out to the farm and put them on a tractor alone pointed to the nearby barn. Then put the tractor in gear and tell the toddler you’ll meet them at the barn, but you prefer to walk. Odds are you’ll get there first. But you may never see the toddler alive again. One thing’s for certain with FSD, Tesla won’t have to nag you to keep your hands on the steering wheel. You’ll be holding on for dear life!

We’ve managed to keep our sense of humor about all of this for a couple of reasons. First, we’ve been gobbling up Elon’s bullshit for almost five years, and we’re on our second Tesla with Full Self-Driving. If you’ve read our previous Tesla articles, you already know that our first Model S departed on a tow truck. But, you know what they say about pioneers loving the arrows in the back. It wasn’t long until we bought a Model X with Full Self-Driving after a two year stint with a Jaguar I-Pace. Well, we’ve had the Model X almost two years and still no FSD. So we decided to trade it for a more comfortable car, and we’ve been awaiting the arrival of an Audi Q8 which we’ll enjoy until the Cadillac LYRIQ with SuperCruise becomes available.

Lo and behold, the day before the Q8 was scheduled to arrive, the magic light went on signaling the arrival of FSD on our Model X. All of a sudden we had the best of both worlds, a new car with no deposit arriving tomorrow and the chance to try out FSD to see if we’d prefer to keep the Tesla. We thought it would be a difficult decision considering all the hoopla (a polite word) surrounding FSD. It wasn’t. We took the Tesla a couple miles from home on well-marked roads and told the car to take us home. Disengagement is a word Tesla uses to describe a situation in which the autopilot software fails and the driver needs to take control of the car. The number of FSD disengagements returning home must have set a record. I lost count at a dozen. The simplest maneuvers such as avoiding a trash can on the curb of the road or making a turn into a street with two incoming lanes were met with alarming machinations not unlike the toddler driving the tractor. Could we have made it home alive? We weren’t sure. Nor were we brave (or patient) enough to find out.



We’re recounting this fiasco to warn you of the dangers of using FSD. It also makes us wonder how federal, state, and local authorities have ever allowed Elon’s science experiment on public roads. It really is that dangerous. And finally, we wanted to save you $10,000 should you decide to buy a Tesla. There’s a reason you won’t find FSD on demo vehicles at Tesla showrooms. And that should tell you everything you need to know.

Originally published: Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Migrating Incredible PBX 2021 to a PUBLIC Facing Cloud PBX


Today we want to again enhance the migration of Incredible PBX 2021 into a PUBLIC-facing Cloud PBX. What that means is authorized users can connect a SIP phone to the PBX regardless of where the user might be located without worries about an ever-changing dynamic IP address and the requirement to whitelist the new IP address. A PUBLIC-facing PBX also provides free SIP URI connectivity to users of your PBX by anyone from anywhere in the world. In other words, it’s similar to the way you could connect to any Ma Bell telephone in the world simply by knowing the number to dial. The difference, of course, is SIP URI connectivity is free while there were often staggering long distance charges for remote connectivity in the Ma Bell days. Fifty years ago it was not uncommon for a college boy to spend $200 a month calling his college sweetheart less than 200 miles away in the same state. Ask me how I know.

Why is this such a big deal? The short answer is security and your phone bill. You don’t want bad guys on the other side of the globe attempting to register a SIP phone to your PBX so that they can use your trunks to make free phone calls on your nickel. You also don’t want anybody and everybody calling your users by simply guessing the IP address of your PBX. So today’s new design combines several security mechanisms to make a PUBLIC-facing PBX safe and secure. First, we will block all SIP connectivity to your PBX by IP address. Second, we will identify 30,000+ known SIP bad guys and block their access to your PBX entirely. Third, we will only permit SSH access to your PBX using public key authentication instead of traditional username/password authentication. Fourth, we will only permit web access to the Incredible PBX portal from whitelisted IP addresses and OpenVPN private addresses. We haven’t mentioned the elephant in the room, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, but today’s methodology reduces the risk considerably since your PBX cannot be ping’d, and all IP address access is blocked at the Linux kernel level.

Prerequisites. To put all these safeguards in place, you’ll need a cloud-based Incredible PBX 2021 KVM platform running Debian 10. Install the latest Incredible PBX 2021 platform using our tutorial. Next, you’ll need these items:

  1. Public IP Address of your server
  2. Obscure FQDN linked to this public IP address
  3. Random SSH port with registered public keys for SSH access
  4. List of SIP extensions to enable for SIP URI access
  5. IP Addresses to WhiteList for Access to the Web GUI

1. Deciphering Public IP Address of Your PBX

After logging into your PBX as root, you can execute pbxstatus to decipher the public IP address of the PBX. Or issue the command: wget -q -O - ipinfo.io/ip

2. Obtaining an FQDN for Your PBX

Security through obscurity provides the critical layer of protection for your server so choose an FQDN carefully. sip.yourname.com provides little protection while f246g.yourname.com pretty much assures that nobody is going to guess your domain name. This is particularly important with SIP registrations because registered extensions on your PBX can obviously make phone calls that cost you money. If you don’t have your own domain, you can always obtain a free hostname from a service such as NoIP.com.

3. Securing SSH Access to Your PBX

Whatever you do, don’t leave SSH access via port 22 exposed on your PBX. In the time it took to create a new PBX on CloudAtCost, there were over 400 attempted logins to the default SSH port of the new server. The simplest (but least secure) method to avoid these script kiddie attacks is to change the port number for SSH access to your server. We suggest using the year you were born as the port number because it’s easy to remember. Edit /etc/ssh/sshd_config and uncomment the Port line replacing 22 with the port number you chose. Then restart SSH: systemctl restart sshd.

The preferable solution to secure SSH is to create and use SSH keys for access and set PasswordAuthentication no on the last line of /etc/ssh/sshd_config. Digital Ocean has an excellent tutorial to walk you through the setup process.

4. Choosing Extensions for SIP URI Public Access

With today’s PUBLIC design, exposing an extension for PUBLIC access means anyone in the world that knows the FQDN of your server and the extension number can do two things using any SIP client: (1) they can call you and (2) they can attempt to register to that extension and make calls on your trunks AND your nickel. So only expose extensions for public access if there is a need to connect or call from remote locations. For extensions you decide to expose, make certain that the passwords for these extensions are extremely secure, lengthy, and use numbers with both UPPER and lower case letters. Never use default extension passwords!

5. Whitelisting IP Addresses for Public Web Access

Without enumerating IP addresses for public web access, you won’t be able to connect to the web GUI of your PBX. Down the road, if you wish to add additional IP addresses, you can use /root/add-ip to add them via SSH.

Deploying New PUBLIC Firewall

To get started, log into your server as root and issue the following commands:

cd /tmp
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/newpublic.tar.gz
tar zxvf newpublic.tar.gz
rm -f newpublic.tar.gz

Next, edit /tmp/iptables.base and change the highlighted entries:


Change port 22 in the dport entry to the SSH port number you chose in Step 3, above.

Change 8.8.8.8, 8.8.4.4., and 1.1.1.1 to actual public IP addresses of desktop machines you wish to use to access the web GUI of your PBX. If you don’t need three entries, comment out the other entries with # at the beginning of each line.

Replace your-servers-IP-address with the actual IP address of your PBX from Step 1, above.

Save the file.

On the Debian platform, issue the following commands:

cd /etc/iptables
cp /tmp/iptables.base .
mv rules.v4 rules.v4.orig
cp iptables.base rules.v4

Using Incredible PBX PUBLIC with Asterisk

The first line of defense with this PUBLIC implementation is your FQDN. Second is the IPtables firewall setup above. And third is the Asterisk® extensions configuration in extensions_override_freepbx.conf. Here’s how to configure it. Edit /tmp/extensions_override_freepbx.base and change the highlighted entries:


If there are phone numbers assigned to your PBX that you want processed according to your Inbound Routing rules, duplicate the first highlighted line above and, for each trunk, replace 8881234567 with your actual DID numbers.

In exten => _.,1 line, replace your-servers-IP-address with the actual IP address of your PBX from Step 1, above.

In exten => _.,10 line, replace your-servers-FQDN with the actual FQDN assigned to your PBX from Step 2, above.

Scroll down in the file to the following section:



Comment out undesired default extensions. Place a semicolon at the beginning of the lines.

For any extensions you wish to add, insert a new line in the following format replacing both 7000 entries with the desired extension number:

exten => 7000,13,Dial(local/7000@from-internal)

Save the file and then execute the following commands to complete the PUBLIC setup:

cd /etc/asterisk
cp /tmp/extensions_override_freepbx.base .
mv extensions_override_freepbx.conf extensions_override_freepbx.orig
cp extensions_override_freepbx.base extensions_override_freepbx.conf
fwconsole restart
asterisk -rx "dialplan reload"
iptables-restart
sed -i 's|-A INPUT|-I INPUT|' /root/add-ip
sed -i 's|-A INPUT|-I INPUT|' /root/add-fqdn

Adding IPSET Protections to Incredible PBX

We’re not the biggest fans of blacklists because the bad guys spend a lot of time trying to corrupt them by inserting valid IP addresses of sites such as DNS servers in the lists to wreak havoc. Having said that, there are two blacklists that are carefully monitored on a daily basis, and both provide additional protection for your PBX by weeding out access by 30,000+ potential bad guys. The oldest of these is VoIP Blacklist. And the new kid on the block is APIBAN from LOD.com and Fred Posner. We’ve simplified the setup process for use with Incredible PBX 2021. To get started, obtain an APIBAN API key here. Then issue the following commands to put all the pieces in place on your server:


apt --fix-broken install -y
apt install ipset iptables netfilter-persistent ipset-persistent iptables-persistent -y
cd /usr/local/sbin
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/incrediblepbx-ipsets.tar.gz
tar zxvf incrediblepbx-ipsets.tar.gz
rm -f incrediblepbx-ipsets.tar.gz

Next, edit /usr/local/sbin/apiban-init and insert your APIkey.

Finally, issue the following command to reload the firewall: iptables-restart

Verifying Firewall Setup of Incredible PBX

Let’s make certain that everything got installed correctly. Begin by issuing this command: iptables -nL

Scroll toward the top of the list, and you should see two entries for the voipbl and apiban ipsets indicating that entries in those lists will be dropped by the firewall.


Next, verify that the voipbl and apiban ipsets are populated. The first two commands below will list all of the blocked IP addresses. And the next two commands will provide a count of the dropped IP addresses.

ipset list voipbl
ipset list apiban
ipset list voipbl | wc -l
ipset list apiban | wc -l

Finally, you can refresh the ipsets with the following two commands:

voipbl-init
apiban-init

Rebooting or restarting the firewall with iptables-restart also refreshes the ipset listings.




 

Calling an Incredible PBX PUBLIC Extension

Any extensions that you have whitelisted in the blue section above can be called from anywhere using any SIP client. Simply enter the SIP URI for the extension in the following format: SIP/extension@your-servers-FQDN

CAUTION: If a caller attempts to call any extension on your PUBLIC server from an extension on another Asterisk server to which the caller is registered, the call will fail if there is a matching extension number on the PUBLIC server and the two servers are not registered to each other. So remember to use unique extension numbers on your PUBLIC server if you expect callers from other Asterisk servers.

Registering Incredible PBX PUBLIC Extension

If you wish to login to a whitelisted extension using a SIP client, enter the extension and password of the extension. For the server address, enter the FQDN of your server. If it’s a PJsip extension, add :5061 to the end of the FQDN.

Originally published: Thursday, November 11, 2021



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the VoIP-info Forum.


 

Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors


FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.

The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.

VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!
 

Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.
 



An Electronics Home Makeover for the 21st Century


It was a sad day when we finally sold our Bozak Concert Grand speakers this year after enjoying them for over half a century. They were a graduation present from "Papa Gene" Newsom of Newsom’s Music Center when I graduated from law school in 1971. The sale got me thinking that I really needed to write about what has changed in home entertainment now that we’ve turned the page to another century. Back then, there was no Internet or Spotify, just bootleg 8-track tapes, an Apple record label, and great home audio made by McIntosh.

For those living in the present, let me tick off what we hope will save you a boatload of money in the coming years. We’ll cover Internet service providers as well as telephony, home audio and TV options, and home automation. Our plan here is to show you how to replace your $200-$500 a month Comcast, Spectrum, and cellular bills with setups that are more robust and considerably less expensive for the whole family.

Choosing a Cell Provider in 2021

With the advent of 46/LTE and 5G cellular service, the cell phone landscape in the U.S. has changed dramatically in the past two years. Unless you live in a remote location, 5G service now is available from all of the major U.S. carriers: T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T. This is where looking at the overall family picture can pay off royally. For example, T-Mobile bundles Netflix, Apple TV, and In-Flight WiFi plus discounted YouTube TV service with many of their plans, and there are substantial discounts compared with other carriers particularly if you’re on a family plan or are a military veteran or age 55+. If you wrote off T-Mobile years ago, it’s time to have another look. Their 5G coverage area now is second to none and pricing is typically 30-50% less than Verizon or AT&T. If you’re looking for the least costly all-you-can-eat cellular plan, then take a careful look at the Nerd Vittles special with Visible, which is the Verizon discount carrier. Unless you need great cell service during major sporting events inside the stadium, our $25 plan has no equal. Here’s a link to our article with the details.

Choosing an Internet Service Provider in 2021

If your cable TV and Internet bill is in the $150+ range and most are, we’ve got some exciting news for you. T-Mobile now has unlimited 5G Home Internet service for $50 a month. While it’s still a little difficult to obtain in all areas, check often. We’ve been searching for eight months in four cities and had signed up for email notice when it was available. We never got an email but, lo and behold, it popped up as available in Asheville NC when we checked last week. Once you have the T-Mobile router, it will work anywhere there’s a T-Mobile 4G/LTE or 5G tower. The results below were in Charleston, SC where the T-Mobile site shows it’s unavailable. Our one-week report card gives T-Mobile an A+ for ease of setup, web access performance, streaming media reliability, and VoIP telephony. There literally have been zero hiccups. You can review our play-by-play adventure on the VoIP-Info.org Forum.

To achieve similar performance from the service providers offering wired service, you’re looking at $100+ a month from Comcast or WOW and at least $50 a month from Spectrum. And, unfortunately, in most U.S. markets, there is zero competition between the major providers. You get Comcast or nothing in many cities and Spectrum or nothing in others.

Choosing a TV Provider in 2021

Even if you’re stuck with Comcast or Spectrum for the time being, there’s still a silver lining. Drop their TV service immediately. Our last (and final) Comcast bill included $55 for hardware rentals, $23.55 in TV broadcast fees, and $13.92 in taxes. That’s nearly $100/month just to get television delivered to your house! That’s before you sign up for a single channel. Here’s a better idea. Once you’ve invested $50 to $100 in your Internet service, sign up for YouTube TV and enjoy unlimited streaming with numerous simultaneous streams, unlimited DVR recordings, 85+ channels including your local TV channels, and almost every sporting event you can name for $65 a month with no additional fees or contracts. The picture quality with a smart TV looks exactly the same as watching cable television. CNET rated it the "best premium live TV streaming service." If you’ve taken our advice thus far, your total home entertainment bill is $50 for T-Mobile Home WiFi and $65 for YouTube TV and includes free Netflix at no additional charge.

Choosing a Music Provider in 2021

Now let’s suppose you still have a teenager in college. Rather than worry about your kids pirating music and movies, here’s a better idea. Sign them up for Spotify with unlimited music plus Showtime plus Hulu for $5 a month for four years! The good news is they’re rarely up when you are so you, too, can enjoy their Spotify, Showtime, and Hulu accounts while they’re sleeping. We’ve never been particularly big fans of Sirius/XM after they pulled their stunt of cancelling lifetime subscriptions. But that lawsuit got settled and they righted their wrong in a most generous way. You not only got your lifetime subscriptions back, but you also got free streaming. While you can’t take advantage of the lifetime subscription any longer, you still can snag the service for about $5 a month if you wait for a deal. That gets you hundreds of music channels for your car plus streaming to your favorite phone, PC, or Sonos device so it’s worth a careful look if you like music.

Home Automation Basics for 2021

If you haven’t dipped your toes into home automation, it’s finally time. An inexpensive Amazon Echo device will get you started. They range in price from under $50 to a couple hundred dollars. Our favorite is the Echo Show 8 for $99. This will bring Alexa into your home and in many of the newer automobiles as well. The next step is to purchase a few smart light bulbs so you can light up your house when the sun goes down and turn off the lights when you crawl into bed at 8:30. There are lots of lights to choose from. Our favorites are Sylvania’s WiFi Smart Lights which can bring every color of the rainbow to your lamps for under $10. For everyday use, you can pick your favorite shade of white, and for holidays, you can set them to orange for Halloween and red and green for Christmas. Now buy yourself a Nest WiFi thermostat and never worry about the proper setting again. It’s that smart. Then get yourself an August Door Lock, and you’ll never have to fumble for your house keys again. Finally, link Spotify with Alexa, and every song on the planet awaits your command. Get hip, dude!

TIP: Using our Amazon referral links helps keep the lights burning brightly at Nerd Vittles.

What About Telephony?

We saved the best for last. Hopefully, you don’t still have a Ma Bell telephone hanging on the wall in your kitchen. But, if you do, today’s your lucky day. You can dump Ma Bell and add a little gizmo called a Raspberry Pi to your home electronics collection. Then follow our tutorial and for about $100 and a monthly cost of a few dollars, you can enjoy home telephone service using your WiFi Internet connection forever. Welcome to the 21st century. Enjoy!

Originally published: Saturday, October 23, 2021



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the VoIP-info Forum.


 

Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors


FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.

The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.

VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!
 

Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.