I’ve been asked a few times recently what kind of equipment and software I use day to day. What better place then my sparsely populated blog!

Mobile:

T-Mobile G2X

Blackberry Torch

Viewsonic G-Tablet

Google CR-48

HP dv2000 w/ Windows 7 Ultimate & Ubuntu 10.10

HP Mini 311 – For sale! :)

 

Work Desktop:

HP dc7900 Core 2 Duo 4GB RAM

Windows 7 Enterprise

80GB internal, Maxtor External with 2x 640GB Drives

1 x 22″ Acer LCD + 1 x Acer 19″ (My awesome IT director loves Acer monitors, I’d rather use them as kindling)

Microsoft Comfort Optical Mouse – grabbed it from the hardware pile

Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard – This was my first time to use this for an extended amount of time and I love the split ergo design.

D-Link GB switch – another piece of hardware grabbed from the pile of leftovers

 

Software:

KeePass – I use this mostly for keeping track of SQL and Application passwords along with a bunch of URL’s with their auth info

LastPass – I’ve started to use this for most of the URL’s for both work and personal use, I’ve purchased the premium version for use on my phones and love it.

RD Tabs – I’ve tried just about every other RDP management tool out there but I settled into this one the best. I love the ability to use protocols other then RDP.

Office 2010 – I wouldn’t be allowed in the building if I wasn’t using this

Google Chrome/IE – I use Chrome for just about everything but IE still gets used for our corporate applications that were designed for IE7 and our Helpdesk.

ExInsight – Nice tool for taking a look at Exchange and seeing what is happening.

Synergy+/InputDirector – I’m not using this right now but it has come in handy many times.

Fireplotter – This tool is cheap (~$250) and is worth every penny. Able to connect to all of our ASA’s and break down bandwidth usage based on port and other variables.

FileZilla – Free and good, can’t beat it.

VirtualBox – I’ve come to rely on this for testing software and GPO settings out on XP and even some OSX testing in a crunch.

DameWare NT Utilities – This one group of tools has saved me countless hours of headaches over the years when managing Active Directory and users workstations.

Putty – Hands down the best free SSH/Telnet utility out there.

Solarwinds TFTP Server – Ya know, cause it works.

ImgBurn – Great lightweight utility for burning ISO files and such.

MagicDisc – Simple freeware tool for mounting ISO and IMG files

While I’ve had a Google Voice (GV) account since their Grandcentral beginnings, I never really began using it full time until I received my Tmobile G1. I decided to use it full on and never again have to send out another “Here is my new number” txt/email.

So when my friend Ben mentioned a new (to me) product called Incredible PBX that is built on Asterisk and said it used GV as it’s voice trunk instead of SIP/IAX my interest was peaked. While their website confused the snot out of me, I finally was able to get everything running in a virtual machine using Oracle VirtualBox. Below is the process and if I miss anything or you have questions please feel free to let me know. (I’ve since reinstalled on a older laptop with a dead screen that was crying for a use.)

So to get started head on over to Incrediblepbx.com and select the Downloads tab. Under this tab you will see a list of all the available downloads. Select the newest ISO release to download (as of this writing it is 1.7.5.5.5).

I won’t go through the process of setting up a virtual machine since if you’re reading this I’m sure you know how to. The only snag I had in Virtual Box was I had to enable IO APIC in order for the ISO to boot properly.

Begin Installation:

Just press Enter unless you know you need/want something different.

Most of the settings are pretty generic during the setup of CentOS. Region, keyboard and root password. Take a break and get something to drink, this will take a few minutes.

If you are installing this in a VM be sure to remove the ISO before rebooting. If you forget then just shut it down, remove the ISO and power back up.

Once it finishes booting up you will see the below screen. Select PIAF-Purple and select OK

.

This will being the process of installing everything from the Internet for the most part(Google Voice integration is separate.).

While this is installing go ahead and register a new Google Voice account. It is recommended to create a new Gmail account with a random name because of the way Gtalk takes over voice calls when logged into Gmail.

Login to your new google.com/voice account and we need to change some settings.
First you will need to setup a real phone. I used my wife’s cell phone just be sure to turn off direct voicemail access and turn off any call forwarding to this phone unless you want to keep it enabled (not recommended).
Under https://www.google.com/voice#callsettings change these settings to the below settings:

  • Call Screening – Off
  • Caller ID (Incoming) – Display Caller’s Number
  • Caller ID (Outgoing) – Don’t Change Anything
  • Do Not Disturb – OFF

Once you are done installing PIAF-Purple and registering your Google Voice account there are a few more steps to be completed from the command line.

Running The Incredible PBX Installer. Log into your server as root and issue the following commands to download and run The Incredible PBX installer:
cd /root
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/incrediblepbx18.x
chmod +x incrediblepbx18.x
./incrediblepbx18.x
passwd-master

passwd-master will setup all of the passwords on the system to be used when logging into the various web applications.

Now login to your server by going to http://serverip and open FreePBX Administration.
You will need to setup X-Lite on your computer unless you already have a VoIP phone or ATA/analog phone. There are already extensions setup and getting your password is pretty easy. Under the Extensions tab is a list

of all the extensions already setup, 701-715.
Your password is listed under secret. You will need this to register any device with the server. In X-Lite go to Softphone -> Account Settings and replace the highlighted options with your own.

After you press OK your client should register with the server. If there is an error check and double check your password. If that doesn’t clear things up try rebooting the server before starting over. This seemed to clear things up for me more than once.

Once this is complete try a test call! I call a local number for time/temp to get a feel for the voice quality. If you’d like to try it then phone number is 15802346100.

I’ve been able to place/receive calls over Sipdroid on my G1 and MyTouch3g, X-Lite Softphone and using Ekiga from my Ubuntu laptop over my Hamachi VPN while at work.

The WAF is always a goal for me so I bought a Linksys SPA1001 from Ebay and combined with a VTech from Amazon she has been very please and so have I.

Well if you’ve got this far thanks for reading. It was a blast getting back to Asterisk and seeing how far they’ve come since the last time I messed around with it back in 2003 is just amazing.

Links & Credits

EDIT: Thanks to floodbar for letting me know that I forgot to include the steps for installing the IncrediblePBX part and setting up the passwords, thanks man!

So for Christmas I really only wanted one of two things. Either a used Nook or a new HTPC so I could finally move my desktop back to where it belongs, my desk. I missed the Nook refurbs on Ebay so I took my search to craigslist.org. While I’ve had great luck in the past using craigslist for finding stuff this time was less then stellar. The few people that were selling were wanting too much in my opinion. So after talking to my wife about it, we decided it was time for me to build a proper HTPC.

I’ve had a wish list going on newegg.com since may of this year. I’d update it with newer parts or a better case to suit my needs but never had the money to fit it into our budget at the time. After talking with my wife I got motivated to finish it and buy it. (An hour after I purchased everything, B&N put their refurbed nooks on sale again, oh well.)

Parts List

APEX DM-318 Black Steel Micro ATX Media Center / Slim HTPC Computer Case w/ ATX12V Flex 275W Power Supply

ASUS M4A88T-M LE AM3 AMD 880G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard

AMD Athlon II X2 255 Regor 3.1GHz Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor ADX255OCGMBOX

A-DATA 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model AD3U1333B2G9-DRH

Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD5000BEVT 500GB 5400 RPM 2.5″ SATA 3.0Gb/s Internal Notebook Hard Drive -Bare Drive

So I ended up going with a Athlon II X2 because when monitoring performance on my triple core desktop, CPU usage was never very high, even while watching 720p mkv files. I went with the 500gb 2.5″ drive for heat and noise reasons and couldn’t be happier with the performance for the price. I’m not too thrilled with my case selection only because the stock case fan is too noisy. I’m planning on replacing that and the cpu fan with much quieter models before moving it all to the entertainment center in my living room. The case had decent build quality and I didn’t have too many space issues except where the ATX power plug is on the motherboard is directly below the back of the DVD drive.

My total build time was around 4 hours from unpacking to being able to watch live tv in MCE. I’d much rather have a 64gb SSD for OS to speed up the boot and switching between MCE/Boxee/Hulu Desktop/XBMC but I can live with the few seconds during transitions.

I’ve spent time since cleaning up MCE with Media Center Studio by applying a beautiful theme, cleaning up the menus a bit removing stuff we don’t use. Automatic logon for Windows 7 is much needed for any HTPC that uses a password (I use one because I map shares from my WHS).

Overall I’m very happy with my purchase and build. In the next few months I’m hoping to upgrade the DVD drive to a blu-ray drive and replace the case fan and heatsink/fan for the CPU with much quieter alternatives. I did ask my wife how she liked it and she said she didn’t even know I had swapped it out. So I guess I did my job well enough.

So one thing we’ve been missing since cutting the cable is news. I’m ok with using Justin.tv via Boxee to watch CNN but local news was lacking. I thought about writing a plugin to grab the videos from local news sites but it wasn’t live, and they don’t offer a live feed of weather.

So we decided to purchase tv tuners for the HTPC. Now I’m using a AMD Phenom II triple core with 8gb of ram in an Antec Sonata III so resources or space were not a concern for me. My biggest concern was cost as it is with most people. I was really set on grabbing a refurbed HDHomeRun but Newegg was out of stock for so long that I decided to skip it.

I had ordered two 2.5″ USB drive enclosures from a new to me website called meritline.com (great deal on them btw!). I decided to check their site for HD OTA tuners and found a nice small USB tuner for 24.99 or two for 44.99. Decided to pick up two of these since I figured we wouldn’t be using them more then that. Side note, thanks for putting these on sale an hour after I purchased them.

So a week later I was finishing up putting christmas lights on the house and the postman stopped by with my early present. Since the wife and kid were gone doing whatever they do when I’m not around, I decided to drop what I was doing and get these installed before they came back.

The installation went pretty quick once I decided to not read the description and just use the included CD for my Windows 7 x64 HTPC. Plugged them both in, ran the installer, scanned for new tuners in MCE and scanned for channels. Found every channel I should have been able to receive but of course as reviewers noted, the included antennas are junk. So off to Amazon to buy a new antenna Picked up a nice refurbed internal/external Phillips MANT940 for $23. Mounted it in the closet above the HTPC and fixed the quality issues I was having with ABC and PBS.

So with this setup we’ve finally rounded out our HTPC and our quest to forget about cable tv. We’re so happy with the extra $80 a month we’re saving. Even happier now that both Netflix and Hulu have dropped the price on their monthly fees.

There I said it. I’m an Android groupie.  Though Wikipedia describes a groupie as someone who seeks sexual intimacy with a celebrity or musician, I’m not quite that into Andy.

Back in early 2008 I was still a Nokia loyalist. After having owned only Nokia’s since I began using a cell phone in the mid-late 90’s, I always felt a cell phone could do more. Below is my list of phones that I’ve owned since the dumb candy bar era.

  • Nokia e62 – Cool phone, bad AT&T crippling by taking out WiFi and their software stack made it slow.
  • Nokia n82 – Great phone, best camera in a phone ever, small but usable screen.
  • HTC Dream (G1) – Best idea, worst battery, decent cpu, decent screen and my first Android phone.
  • Blackberry Curve 8310 (Work) – Great for email and calls (sometimes, thanks AT&T), crap for everything else IMO.
  • HTC Magic (MyTouch 3g) – Better phone w/ the increased storage space – same decent CPU.
  • Blackberry Bold 9000 (Work) – Better phone, worse hardware quality then the 8310, better screen and 3G/WiFi.

I preach Android to all my iPhone, WinMo and Blackberry friends. I believe in what Android is doing to the smartphone market and the strengths it has over IOS. The cons of Android are shrinking with every release with Froyo I think pretty much bringing it up to speed with IOS 4.

So as my friends convert to Android they are skeptical at first. Besides app purchases most of the apps are on all four major platforms now. But each one has been happier than ever. I was most leery about the iPhone converts; some have bought four phones in a row from Apple. But thankfully AT&T has the Captivate that is based on the Samsung Galaxy S platform so it’s a great alternative to the iPhone.

I really hope Google continues the Android march and continues to spur companies to build even better hardware but please improve the battery life. I understand these phones do more then ever, but 16 hours on a charge is pretty much crap if you actually wanted to use your phone while not near a power outlet.

I think Nokia got caught up on Symbian and thought they could add enough widgets and screen sizes would compete against Android and IOS. But I think what they failed to see is that an OS born from dumb phones could not compete with a smartphone OS. They are just on a different level in terms of usefulness. RIM has always been centered on Email as the first use and everything else second. To me that is the main reason RIM has become so entrenched in the business world. But every month I have users giving their Blackberries back and getting an iPhone on their personal account. As this scale tips I can see us only having a small number of Blackberry phones mostly due to how AT&T has their corporate minute sharing setup.

Going forward I can see Android topping the market share with IOS as usual in strong second place with RIM and Nokia falling behind unless they really revamp their approach. Thanks Google for buying Android, geeks every have a real phone to use and hack.