Friday, November 30, 2007

"Exciting News" From BT Openzone

For some reason, whenever I read "Exciting news" at the start of an email from BT I expect to be informed that a (not very well disguised) price hike is on it's way. On Thursday I got an email from BT with those exact words and I was not disappointed (wait a second, I was disappointed as it was the announcement of a price hike).

While I get to keep my current pricing plan until sometime next year, I will ultimately have to choose between one of BT Openzone's new price plans. The one that is 100% equivalent to the one I am on now is 10 pounds a month - a 100% price increase. I could go for the service that is the same cost as what I'm on now, and it's almost exactly the same but for one crucial difference - the minutes don't roam onto T-Mobile. With the 10 pound a month option, the 500 minutes do roam.

I've got sit down and do some calculations - do I go with the £5 or £10 a month service - or do I just drop BT Openzone altogether.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Anything for an N800

I went down to Victoria Station this lunch time to try and win an N800 with BT Openzone's event going on down there. When an N800 (amongst other things, such as a laptop and wireless baby monitors) is up for grabs I loose the ability to feel embarrassment - so I dutifully stood in inside a plastic box trying to grab flying bits of paper. The rules were simple, stand inside the box for 10 seconds and grab at least 6 yellow pieces of paper. I did just that and I won a 24 hour Openzone pass. I guess it might come in handy some day, now that there's WiFi almost everywhere I go*. Those 500 minutes a month are starting to burn up more than they used to, so it might be a handy backup if I run out of credit.

* I have noticed that The Cloud often doesn't work - full signal strength, but no connection. Not just on the 770, but on 2 Nintendo DS' and a laptop. And not just at one location - I've found the same problem at both a Wetherspoons and a McDonalds.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Westminster Wireless

There was a 2 page ad in this morning's Metro announcing "Westminster Wireless" from BT Openzone - which is now live. In celebration, there are events going on in Soho square and Victoria train station this week (at Victoria, you can win a Nokia N800, amongst other WiFi goodies).

More importantly for me, it works (more or less) even in the office, so now I don't have to go downstairs to Starbucks just to download something on to the 770.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

BBC iPlayer for Linux

In an article about free access to the BBC website via The Cloud is news that iPlayer is coming to Linux and the Mac by the end of the year. At least something like iPlayer - instead of downloading, the programmes are streamed in Adobe Flash format. I think this is a far better solution than having DRM encrusted files taking up hard drive space and is what iPlayer should have been to begin with. It looks like the streamed programmes will be embeddable in people's webpages, similar to YouTube.

And while most of that article is about the streaming version of iPlayer, a small section at the beginning states that the BBC's website will be available via The Cloud for free. Which is great for when you're sitting in a Weatherspoons waiting for your friends to turn up and you have your Nokia 770 on you.

via TechCrunch UK

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Free WiFi

Since getting the 770, I've been getting a lot of use out of BT Openzone, The Cloud and T-Mobile. However, today I came across free WiFi where I did not expect it - at an Old Orleans restaurant. Apperently, free Wifi is available at "Regents Inn" premises (Old Orleans, Walkabout and Jongleurs).

I'm also looking forward to McDonald's free wifi service, though I was wondering what happens at the restaurants that already have BT Openzone. Reading the press release, it looks like The Cloud is providing the new free service. Oddly enough, when I went to the McDonalds at Friern Bridge Retail Park a few weeks back I was confused to find both The Cloud and BT Openzone SSIDs and connecting to the BT Openzone SSID brought up The Cloud welcome page.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Nokia 770

Expansys are selling Nokia 770 Internet Tablets at an irresistible price (~74 quid). Needless to say, I bought one and it arrived this morning.

I've only had time for a quick play, but so far it's the best gadget I've bought in a long time. The screen is sharp - you can actually read full size web pages on it (this is the first handheld device I've had where websites look like they're supposed to). The BBC and Slashdot load reasonably quickly (not as fast a desktop, but fast enough).

I found WiFi configuration to be reasonably pain free and would have been painless if my network didn't use a hidden SSID. The network browser (which pops up during initial configuration) could only find my neighbours networks, most of which were still set to the default SSID, telling me exactly what bit of hardware they're using. I still remember when I was the only wireless network in the building (assuming there weren't any hidden ones), now there are several. In order to connect to my network, I had to go through the control panel and inform the tablet of my networks existence.

One of the first things I did was install Gizmo and I was able to call TellMe, so VOIP works. I'm in the middle of building a new asterisk server (I've tagged project 1 here), but gizmo should work with it once that's built.

I know many feel the device has it's flaws (most of which have been corrected on the N800), that Nokia's long term support might not be there (ie, OS updates are hidden away under the title of "for developers only", and those updates have been few and far between since the arrival of the N800) and that it's not fully open (ie, like a Tivo, you can't download and rebuild the OS) - however I don't care (at least for now) about such matters - at this price point the device is astoundingly good.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

BSkyB Buys Amstrad

According to Broadband TV News, BSkyB have bought Amstrad. I wonder what (if anything) will become of the emailer.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Linux Magazine Issue 82

Linux Magazine Issue 82 is going to have several articles on VOIP (I just got the preview email yesterday). Not sure when it hits the stands or (more importantly for me) drops through the letterbox.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Link On Installing Asterisk on FreeBSD

Here's a link to a how to on installing asterisk on FreeBSD. My current plan is to get Asterisk running a FreeBSD VM, and from there into a nanobsd image (which will, hopefully, also initially run in qemu for test purposes)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Installing nanobsd on freebsd

I haven't actually seen this explicitly stated anywhere, as I'm guessing it's obvious to FreeBSDers how to get the nanobsd tool installed. For those of us who are more into linux, it's not so obvious or straightforward (ie, it's not sudo apt-get install nanobsd). Instead, you have to log in as root, run sysinstall, choose Configure, then Distributions, then src, then tools (I added base and sys as well - dunno if they're actually needed or not). sysinstall will then install nanobsd into /usr/src/tools/tools/nanobsd (yes, tools is twice).


Another option for my tiny asterisk server may be Nanobsd. It might be easier to get Asterisk 1,4 running on it. This evening, I've been trying to create a FreeBSD virtual machine for qemu/kvm, so that I can try building a nanobsd image. That's taking awhile.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I've got a slow project on the go the build a new asterisk server out of a neoware thin client. Astlinux looks good, but it's still using the 1.2 series of Asterisk. I want 1.4. I'm trying to build it using the latest versions, but I can't get zaptel to build.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

PhoneGnome Box

I'm not sure why I haven't come across this before - the PhoneGnome Box. It looks like it's a standalone SIP based FXO/FXS. It's $99 - I've sent an email to try and find out what shipping to this side of the Atlantic would be.

update - Well, I would get one - shipping is $40, so it's only £70 total, but I can't seem to get them to process my credit card. I know I have enough credit, I know I entered the right details, but I keep getting "Declined - Matched AVS/CVV2 Filter"

update - my bank phoned me up - they noticed that they received several authorization requests at once (that they authorized). I've tried to phone PhoneGnome, but nobody's home. I've sent an email - I'm guessing no one will be in till monday. This is pissing me off.

update (2007-7-24) - I got the order through, but phonegnome had to put the order through manually. Now I just have to wait for it to turn up (but I guess I'm going to have to pay VAT when it does)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Google May Bid For US Spectrum

Ever since the net nutrality debate in the US started to kick off, with words from a telco executive (iirc, from AT&T) along the lines that Google owed them money, I've figured that there was going to be war between Google and the telcos in the US.(A quick aside - I've always felt that the executive got it the wrong way around - if anybody owes anybody extra money, it would be the telcos owing Google, Yahoo, etc - as without the content then no one would subscribe to their internet services, but I digress). First Google acquired GrandCentral and now they're commiting to compete in a US spectrum auction. They want the spectrum to be open, so they've said they would put thier hat in the ring if the FCC follows principles of openness around the spectrum. I have no idea if 4.6 gigadollars is a serious competitive bid or just a warning shot (apparently, it's the reserve price), because I have not been following the 700 Mhz sell off as I don't live in the US. Either way, war is coming.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The F3 Appears to be unlocked.

I noticed that the can the Motorola F3 came in didn't mention a specific provider. So I thought I'd see what happens when I insert my Orange SIM - it worked!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Homechoice Goes Tiscali Green

I had to restart my Homechoice Box this morning - it appears that Tiscali have re-themed the menu system - now it's a (somewhat disgusting) shade of green where it used to be red and the font used also looks different (at least at first glance - I'll check more tonight)

Tesco Internet Did 999 Calls?

I got an odd email from Tesco's Internet Phone service saying that 999 calls were going to be temporarily unavailable - I was unaware that they were ever supporting them in the first place. I distinctly remember reading a "this will not work with 999 calls" warning on TIP product at some point in the past.

Motorola F3 - A Phone In A Can

Today I picked up a Motorola F3 from Carphone Warehouse (I ordered it on their website, as online it was only £9.99). I had wanted to get a dirt cheap phone on T-Mobile and this seems to fit the bill.

It's not much thicker than the L6, though it has about 1/10 of the features. I'm guessing this is Motorola's phone for the elderly - large, easy to read black and white screen and all the menus items have voice prompts - so the phone tells you what the function is (such as "read messages"). Otherwise it's fairly feature free - it makes phone calls and sends texts, and thats about it (though it does have a speakerphone).

The "in a can" bit comes from the packaging - it comes in what can best be described as a can.

Friday, July 13, 2007

BT Launch Tell'M

BT have launched what I can only describe as GeoTwitter, though they're calling it Tell'M. More at my Geo Log.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Something Silly On Farncombe's Site

I continued looking around Farncombe's site and on their careers page I found this:

If you are passionate about your work, a self-starter, innovative, entrepreneurial and not afraid to self manage situations often requiring several people to handle, then land your plane at Farncombe...

Surely, if you really are all those things then shouldn't you be starting your own company?

Farncombe to manage Tiscali triple play expansion

According to Broadband TV News, "Farncombe Technology has been appointed to assist Tiscali UK with the rollout of its triple-play rollout project".

By "triple play roll out", they mean the expansion of the Homechoice service. Who Farncombe Technology are or what they do is not detailed. A quick google search brings back - they appear to be "suits for hire" (ie, a consultancy group) who specialize in TV/Telecoms/Space etc, though as they're consultants I'm still left wondering what it is they actually do.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Thursday, June 28, 2007

BT Openzone Price Plans

I'm glad I signed up for BT Openzone when I did - they no longer appear to have the "BT Openzone for BT Subscribers" deal. The cheapest subscription plan is effectively 4 times more expensive than the plan I'm on (half the minutes for twice the price).

Sky Coming To Tiscali

According to Broadband TV News, the basic Sky channels are coming to Tiscali!!!!! Sky 1,2,3, Arts, Travel, News and Sports News.

About time.

Monday, June 25, 2007

PictureBox on Tiscali

I saw this a few days back on Broadband TV News, Universal PictureBox, a new on demand movie channel. Apparently it went live on June 7, but it didn't pop up on the EPG for me until tonight (as I had to reboot the Tiscali box tonight).

It's £5 a month for a library of films (similar to Movies Now Club). At the moment, there are 27 films, nothing particularly new or exciting or seemingly worth a fiver a month (just like MN Club, but with fewer films).

The BBC Archive

The other day I got my access to the semi-public (you had to fill in a questionnaire and fit the correct "profile") BBC Archive Trial. The sooner this archive becomes available to every telly-tax payer the better.

It uses a fairly straight forward programme catalogue, where you can browse by decade or by programme category. Programmes are streamed in a choice of Windows Media or Real Media - which means that the archive does work for Linux users (at least on x86, while I think Real can be used on different architectures, I haven't tried).

So far, I've watched/listened to some old (late 1950s, late 1970s and mid 1980s) TV and radio programmes on computers and technology. It's amazing to listen to people's fears of new technology, mostly focused on how no one would have jobs because of automation. One thing that was both chilling and darkly humourous (with the programmes from the 1970s) was their focus on factory workers - people who are now out of work (or at least, those manufacturing jobs) except that it wasn't automation that pushed them out. Another stark contrast with today is the importance of labour unions - one programme (Horizon, When the chips are down) had a round table discussion and one of the panel members was a labour union leader who was smoking a cigar - two things you would not see on a similar panel today. And the parade of Big British Companies that either no longer exist or have been merged in the intervening years (such GEC, Feranti, Plessy, Logica and ICL) is fascinating.

There was a particular question in "Analysis: Into the Eighties: What Sort of Society?" that was along the lines of "what happens in winter, when the power/telephone lines are down and I do all my shopping online?" (I forget the exact quote) - my immediate thought was "simple, use your mobile phone". Oddly, mobile phones were missed by every future technology programme I've watched/listened to so far. One other note about that into the 80s programme was the amount of society changing technology that while possible in the 80s (email, online shopping), didn't take off until the late 90s.

Robots seem to take a pre-eminent place in most of the programmes, with a belief that they would radically change society. While I know the robots are out there (I have a friend who works in the robotics industry), they didn't become the society changing devices that the programmes made them out to be (I only have one friend who works in the robotics industry). My guess is that's because manufacturing shifted to regions with cheap labour instead of shifting to full blown automation. I would guess that what manufacturing that's left in this country is fairly well automated (my friend has told me about robots in places where I wouldn't have expected them), but as manufacturing just isn't as prominent in today's society, any such automation largely goes unnoticed.

One thing that would be fun, especially once the Archive goes public, would be to make "director's commentary" podcasts for the programmes, looking at what the programmes got wrong and what they got right (similar to the Dr. Who commentaries the BBC has on their website).

Monday, June 11, 2007

Disney Coming To Tiscali

Broadband TV news reports that the Disney Channel, Disney Playhouse and Disney Cinemagic are coming to Tiscali. However, this line from the report doesn't make sense

Disney Channel and the pre-school Playhouse Disney will appear in basic as part of the Tiscali TV Kids Pack while Disney Cinemagic will be a standalone premium channel.

The Kids pack isn't part of the basic package, it's an add on. Also, I think it might have already started - I think I saw it the other day, but for some reason I didn't realize that it hadn't always been there.

In other Tiscali news, I've noticed that HBO has started it's on demand channel. It seems to come with whatever package I have (it used to be called the Big Pack, it might still be). It's totally free and not a PPV channel or mixed free/PPV (like 4oD). It's just a shame that there isn't any content on it that I want to watch. I've also noticed that Homechoice's own VOD channels seem to have gone down hill a bit recently, filling up the gaps by reusing content from 4oD. I had a look at Film 4 On Demand, I couldn't get over the prices they were charging for some rather old films.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tesco Internet Phone Adapter

I've just bought a Tesco Internet Phone Adapter IPA-1000 (it was on sale, and I had some Tesco Clubcard Vouchers to use up). Some notes:

When it's first plugged in, it stays flashing red for awhile, this is it downloading firmware.

It appears to really be a Virbiage 3010. Freshtel have the manual - which importantly includes the username and password for the web interface to the device (something distinctly lacking in the Tesco manual).

I've got it running with asterisk - fairly simple with the web interface. Just go to the provider tab, enter the server name/ip address, username and password and it connects.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

GrandCentral Expands

GrandCentral have increased their coverage area, so New London, CT numbers are available. They also appear to have dropped geolocating ip addresses when you try and join (so no need to go through a US proxy to join).

I've been able to get a New London number, and it's forwarding to my Gizmo number!

Friday, May 11, 2007

BT Opens Vision To All

Broadband TV News is reporting that BT have launched BT Vision to the general public. The V Box will cost £199, plus a £60 installation charge and a £30 connection fee (so, really it's almost £300). They will be launching a self install package at some point in the future. The BT Vision web site doesn't mention any of this yet. According to the article, the V Box will first be available from John Lewis stores, and then eventually at Comet.

I think £300 is a bit steep for a PVR. It might not have been too bad if the V Box had some Media Centre features (ie, I could use it to view content on the PC, and the ability to transfer files between a PC and the V Box). But from what I can tell, it doesn't - though for all I know it might, as the BT Vision website is a little thin on technical detail.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Back From Greece

I'm back from my trip to Greece. Mobilewise, I have a few items to report.

First off, I brought the Jornada 690 with me. As I had to stop over at Schipol Airport (Amsterdam), I decided to try out Schipol Airport's WiFi service (after checking out the Art Museum - an Art Museum and a Casino - Schipol is now my favourite airport). IIRC, it was €10 for an all day pass. The Jornada was slow, but I was able to ssh back into the flat. I stayed in Athens for two nights and I tried out Novotel's service - it worked, though the WiFi was more expensive (I think it was €5 or 6 for an hour). Sadly, the hotel out near Corinth didn't have WiFi (or any other form of internet access), so I spent most of my trip without access to the internet.

I decided to buy a local phone while I was out there. I bought a cheap Alcatel on the Cosmote network, which cost €40 including €10 credit. I topped it up with a €30 top up voucher (which included €3 extra credit). I think I have less than €1 left on it, as I needed to make several long phone calls and lots of text messages to both the UK and the USA. I've brought the phone back with me, and it seems to have roamed onto T-Mobile (I dread to think how expensive it would be to use, assuming I could find a way to top it up). The oddest thing about the phone is that you need to enter the PIN number every time you switch it on, and there doesn't seem to be a way to turn PIN checking off. It also has the worst ringtone selection I've ever come across. Still, it was a lot cheaper than roaming charges.

There were two things I needed to do to get the phone working entirely in English. The first was to call 1313 and ask for the menu to be changed to English. This meant that 1314, the number for adding credit and checking your balance, was now in English. The second thing I had do was play around with the phone looking for the language selection menu. It took a couple of minutes to find the right menu item, but once I found it I had a phone fully working in the English language.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Jornada 690

Last Thursday, I went and picked up my Jornada 690 that I won off of eBay (at a bargain price). Not only was the price a bargain, but it was in as new condition (not bad for something 8 years old) as it had been sitting in a box in a warehouse for most of it's life.

One of my main reasons for getting it was for logging back in to the flat from Starbucks, McDonald's and Motorway Services. For my first test, I've installed the JLime Linux distro onto a small (128Mb) Compact Flash card. This is the default version of JLime for the 690, based on Opie with an embedded version of Konqueror. Today, I headed off down to Starbucks for a Cinnamon Dolce Latte and a Chocolate Chip Cookie and to have an initial test at connecting back. While it was painfully slow, I was able to connect back to the flat.

My next test will be with the IceWM version of JLime, using Dillo as the browser. I don't think Dillo supports Javascript, which might make it a bit more of a challenge logging in (though hopefully it won't).

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Linutop are selling a small, completely silent linux box. It's based on an AMD Geode and comes with 256 Mb of RAM. The only storage is provided via the front usb panels, which is a bit of a shame (it wouldn't be so bad if there were some rear USB port to keep the USB flash disk out of sight, or even better a Compact Flash port) and comes with a USB flash disk that has Xubuntu on it.

It's the sort of device I want to get to try getting Asterisk running on, as part of my long and slowly running plan to reduce the noise level and power consumption in my flat - at the moment it's like sleeping in a server room.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Google's Mobile Maps On The L6

I've installed Google's mobile maps on my Moto L6. Seeing as it's map related, I've posted more about it on my new Geo Log.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Week With Tiscali

It's been a week since Homechoice rebranded as Tiscali, so far there has been little change.

Visually, they mirror flipped the main menu (so the video is on the left, the menu on the right, instead of the way it was on Homechoice where there was video in the upper right hand corner with the menu on the left). I preferred the old way, but then I prefer my menus to be on the left.

C1 has been watered down (again), with some of the programmes now on a second VOD channel called Free OD (which I'm guessing replaces Taste C1). 4oD is now there, which includes some free Channel 4 content- so we're pretty much back to where we were when there was the replay service on C4. I haven't found 4oD's premium content compelling, if I was going to pay 1 pound per episode for a series I think I'd just buy the DVD.

In a move that has taken a surprisingly long time, Adult content has finally arrived. Playboy, Adult Channel, Spice Extreme and Trade TV have launched VOD channels. Each one is available at 4.99 a night or 9.99 a month, plus the 3 straight channels, Playboy, Adult and Spice Extreme (though calling Spice Extreme "straight" is pushing it) are available at 7.99 a night or 15.99 a month. Adult content is probably the biggest change to the service so far, the other changes being cosmetic, or having no additional content or being little more than a return to a previous level of service. The odd thing is that the VOD channels are only available after 10pm - seeing as the TV service is PIN protected (more so than before - there is no longer guest access), I don't see why there should be any time restrictions on these channels. One other interesting thing to note is that, currently, the existence of the channels isn't mentioned on the list of channels on the Homechoice website - you have to go to the existing customers upgrade packs page to find any public hint of their existence.

I have noticed that the TiVo is having a harder time changing to the correct channels - so I'm losing more programmes than I used to(some programmes on Paramount aren't being recorded - Channel 5 gets recorded instead, which is something that had never happened before). Hopefully, the Tiscali PVR will be available soon.

Monday, February 26, 2007

BT's Beta Site

I came across BT's Beta site - among the more interesting features is a Web2SMS service, that uses your mobile phone number (so that when you send an SMS via the web site, it looks like it's from your phone). There's also 1571 Online, which lets you download your voicemail from 1571. BT Contact is there, but it's in private Beta (for BT Employees only). Also of note, is a Google Maps mashup, that (when you zoom in, shows you the localtion of BT Openzone hotspots and payphones.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Playing With Web21C SDK

I've had some joy with BT's Web21C SDK for Java. Using the Groovy Scripting language and Google's Data API, I was able to access a Google Calendar and send a text message for each event. Not the best use of either SDK, but at least it was a "proof of concept".

A few things, the Certification Wizard only worked for me via the command line - the GUI caused the VM to blow up. And I needed to compile the groovy script before running, trying to use the groovy command doesn't work (there seems to be a class loading issue).

BT 21CN SDK Now Available For Java, Python and PHP

BT have released Java, Python and PHP versions of the 21CN SDK, so those of us who prefer not to use the .Net platform can get in on the party.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Motorola L6 & Linux

I've been playing with the L6. I've gotten bluetooth transfers working (at least L6 -> Linux, I haven't tried the other way) and with a a USB cable and moto4lin. I had to get the latest version of moto4lin out of CVS in order to use the "C drive" of the L6 - the version in Ubuntu's repository is old and only sees the "A drive".

However I managed to somehow change all the names of the audio files to form I found the list of what they are here, but just in case that disappears off the net, I'll reproduce them below. I've changed a couple of them back, but seeing as I'm sorely tempted to debrand it at some point in the near future (which involves flashing/flexing the device back to Motorola's defaults), I'm not going to bother renaming all of them.

~AlertFile001.mid Alert
~AlertFile006.mid Bells
~AlertFile007.mid Bits & Bites
~AlertFile013.imy Chimes high
~AlertFile014.imy Chimes low
~AlertFile016.imy Chord high
~AlertFile017.imy Chord low
~AlertFile019.imy Claps
~AlertFile020.mid Cosmic
~AlertFile026.imy Ding
~AlertFile027.mid Door Bell
~AlertFile028.imy Drum
~AlertFile032.imy Fanfare
~AlertFile039.mid Harmonics
~AlertFile041.mid Interlude
~AlertFile042.mid Latin Loops
~AlertFile050.imy Notify
~AlertFile056.mid Provincial
~AlertFile057.mid Random
~AlertFile061.mid Snaggle
~AlertFile064.mid Standard
~AlertFile066.imy TaDa
~AlertFile071.mid Triads
~AlertFile073.mid Up and Down
~AlertFile075.mid Wind Chime
~AlertFile094.mid Moonlight Haze
~AlertFile108.mid Ambient Mood
~AlertFile118.mp3 Sharp Edge
~AlertFile128.mid Helix
~AlertFile137.mp3 Moto
~AlertFile150.mid Nocturne
~AlertFile167.mid Power Surge
~AlertFile171.mid Hyperactive
~AlertFile183.mid Digital Signal
~AlertFile199.mid Fluid
~AlertFile202.mid Exotic
~AlertFile203.mid Illumination
~AlertFile204.mid Club
~AlertFile208.mid Motion
~AlertFile209.mid Radiance
~AlertFile210.mid Sensation
~AlertFile214.mid Pulse
~AlertFile216.mid Organic
~AlertFile218.mid Urban Style
~AlertFile219.mid Sky Blue
~AlertFile224.mid Fashion
~AlertFile237.mid Waves
~AlertFile242.mid Clouds

After you delete some of these AlertFiles, you must delete TempDB.db and MyToneDB.db found in the /a/mobile/audio/ directory and then restart the phone.

Friday, February 16, 2007

HBO Coming To Tiscali TV

According to an article on TimesOnline, entitled "Threat to Channel 4 as HBO goes for an on-demand service", mention is made of the new HBO service coming to Tiscali TV (ie, Homechoice).

"Initially, the channel will be available on three platforms; Virgin Media, the newly created cable-to-broadband company; BT Vision and Tiscali TV, with the programming line-up updated weekly."

Thursday, February 15, 2007

BT Tradespace

I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere yet - BT have launched BT Tradespace, which looks suspiciously like a "MySpace for Small Businesses". It gives small businesses blogging, photo and podcast space and a Click To Call feature - which looks like it pops up a dialog box where the visitor types in their phone number and BT completes the call. This feature is called "Call Free", so it's free for the consumer to call the business .I haven't found out if the business pays for the call, or if BT picks up the tab like Google appear to do with their Click To Call service in the US. It's (like most things online) in beta.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

HBO Coming To BT Vision

BT has a press release on how HBO is coming to BT Vision. In my rant on convergence, I said that it was only going to be a matter of time before the American media companies bypass British media companies entirely (and with channels like ABC 1 and FX, they've already started). I also linked to a report at Broadband TV news about HBO coming to Virgin Media. Now it looks like a pretty much identical service is coming to BT Vision. I wonder if Homechoice/Tiscali will be next?

I've Finally Got DTT

A few weeks back I posted about how Homechoice/Tiscali was my only choice for Broadband/TV service and that even analogue TV was gone, as the aerial had fallen off the roof. Last week the aerial was put back up and there was a little sign saying that we needed to retune our TVs. I wondered if that meant that we could now get DTT (though nothing was mentioned). I've borrowed my parent's Freeview box (they barely use it anyway as they get Sky) and low and behold I now get DTT. All of the multiplexes except for multiplex 2 come in at 100% signal strength. Sadly, while I get multiplex 2, the signal strength seems to be around 75%, so the picture and sound often break up on the ITV and Channel 4 channels. I'm not using the best cable in the world (and it's fairly long for an unamplified cable), so I might try playing around and seeing if I can get a better signal.

Still, now that I get DTT, it at least opens up the possibility of moving away from Homechoice/Tiscali, should the new Tiscali branded service not come up to scratch. However, a quick glance at my options, (TopUp TV Anytime, BT Vision and Simply's tvMax) has not shown much promise. Even worse, just as I get a small taste of Sky back (even if it's just Sky News and Sky 3) an article at DigitalSpy indicates that Sky want to replace those channels with a MPEG 4 based pay service that "will offer a range of content including sports, movies, entertainment and news". They'll probably get between 2 to 4 MPEG 4 channels for each MPEG 2 channel - so ultimatly it'll be between 6 and 12 channels, which is fairly limited compared to DSAT. As such, I doubt I would want to pay more than about 5 quid for an "entertainment and news pack", especially seeing as single "Mix" (which is a comparitively large group of similar channels) on Sky costs between £3.50 and £7.50 (as the bare minumum you can subscribe on Sky is 2 mixes for £15, and that goes up to 6 mixes for £21). I don't hold out much hope - "Sky By Wire" which is available on Homechoice offers half of the Sky Movies channels for more than what all the movie channels cost Sky Subscribers. Worse, Sky By Wire is just Movies and Sports - it's the entertainment and news channels that I want. Sky won't want to cannibalize their current subscriber base, but will want to keep competitor pay services at bay as much as possible - a half hearted attempt at a DTT pay platform will go some way to fulfilling both those goals.

Be the first to trial a new BT Business product

BT have a "Business Blog", which was news to me (I was playing about with Google's blog search to feed into a Yahoo Pipe I'm creating and it was one of the first results). Their latest post is sort of "Call For Participation" for Small/Medium Sized Business to try out some new "super top secret" product. No mention is made of what the product is, but, allegedly:

It will be of interest to businesses that spend a lot time at offsite premises - such as at those of a customer, supplier, partner or contractor - or have any of them working on your premises. And, for being good enough to help us with the trial, we'll give a free month' s subscription to the new product.

So, no real clue as to what it is. If I was to speculate, it sounds like it could be a business version of BT Fusion (where you use the offsite premise's WiFi for calls). It's the being located at a premises that makes me think it's not a pure mobile product (like some sort of product that uses 21CN's Location services would have been) and as BT Fusion doesn't appear to have a business version I would be surprised if BT wasn't working on "BT Business Fusion".

BT Broadband Talk Videophone 1000 and 2000

While catching up with engadget, I came across an item on the BT Broadband Talk Videophone 1000 (and it's WiFi enabled sibling, the 2000). One thing that struck me was the line

The phone uses a BT Broadband Talk account, plugs into your router and existing broadband internet, includes automatic upgrades and a built-in address book, and will cost you 10p (about 20 cents) per minute to use

I was somewhat surprised by that statement - unlike the Amstrad E3 and some ancient BT Videophones from years long past, the new BT Videophones use VOIP, and surely calls that are completely over VOIP would be free, as they are with every other VOIP provider I've ever heard of.

Digging around, I came up with BT Broadband Talk's "What It Costs" page, which, while not mentioning the video service does detail BT Broadband Talk's calling plans and it looks like fully VOIP calls are indeed chargeable if they fall outside of your plan. So, if you have "Evenings & Weekends" a call to another UK number (including another BT Broadband Talk number) during the day is 3p a minute with a 3p setup charge (which looks exactly the same as a daytime call on a landline with "BT Together Option 2"). The only way this is in any way competitive is if you're a BT Total Broadband Customer, as then the Evening and Weekend package is thrown in for free - users of other ISPs have to pay 2.99 a month. Even then, as BT are often running promotions on Option 2 (I think they're advertising one on TV if not on their website at the moment, and I'm currently on an Option 2 promotion that I never saw advertised anywhere), using BT Broadband Talk may be more hassle then it's worth. Getting back to the cost of video calls, the video calls have their own "What It Costs" page, and it looks like video calls are 10p a minute, at all times. I could see some justification if it was touching the PSTN in some way, or calling 3G mobile phones, but 10p a minute VOIP to VOIP?

Even weirder is the BT Broadband Talk Softphone, as Softphone To Softphone calls are free - if you dial by Softphone IM name and not by number as "calls to BT Broadband Talk numbers are just 3p (plus a 3p call set-up fee"). I guess this is left over from the old BT Communicator with Yahoo Instant Messenger product that was withdrawn. The Softphone also has Pay As You Go option, unlike the "normal" Broadband Talk.

I would love to know the technical reason why a VOIP call dialled one way is free, and the same call to the same person over the same product but dialled differently is charged. Also, the softphone does video calling but I haven't found out if it's interoperable with the Videophones. Seeing as the Softphone has the word "free" emphasized over and over (for example, you even get 100 SMS messages for free) while the Videophone pages don't appear to use the word at all, I'd be unsurprised if they're not compatible, even if there's little technical reason for why they shouldn't be compatible.

My current opinion of BT is that they have some really interesting and exciting products, but they're often overpriced (but then, if you look hard enough, you can occasionally find a reasonable deal) and they don't always seem to be integrated well (Virgin seem to be doing a better job, with their "Very Impressive Package" - BT could do a better job, throwing WiFi access into the mix).

Some other BT Broadband Phone Links:
FileSaveAs' Review
Pocket Lint's News Item On the Videophone Launch

Linux Based IP Videophone

LinuxDevices has an article on a Linux based IP Videophone. The phone is part of Iwatsu Electric Co's "Premium Communication Tool", which includes a VOIP PABX and is targeted at small offices.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How long before there's "One Bill"?

DigitalSpy has a short item on how Virgin Media might one day offer utilities (water, gas, electric) as a natural extension of Virgin Media's current quad play offering. I'm wondering how long will it be before we see "One Bill", as Virgin also sell mortgages and insurance they could have a unified, all household expenses (bar food) bill. I guess if Tesco (who already do food, telephony, broadband, mortgages and insurance) got into the One Bill business, they could even take care of the food (or maybe the Virgin Group will eventually buy out Sainsbury's).

Tesco Cordless Internet Phone Vs Linux

I'm trying to get Tesco's Cordless VOIP Phone working with Linux. It almost works but it looks like one of the audio interfaces isn't working (interface 0). Looking around the web, it looks like interface 0 on several USB devices doesn't work, so maybe getting ALSA to ignore it will get it working (except, I'm not sure how to do that yet). I've sent an email to alsa users mailing list, hopefully someone will be able to shed some light on what I need to do.

Telephony Mashup Contest

O'Reilly Media (as in, the book people) and StrikeIron (who consider themselves to be "The leader in live data and business functionality over the Web") have announced a "Telephony Mashup Contest". Entries need to be in by the 20th of February, and "is timed to conclude on the first day of the O'Reilly Emerging Telephony Conference where finalists will demonstrate their mashup at the conference" - so I guess if you're not going to ETEL, there might not be much point nor is there much point if you're heading off to ETEL and you don't live in the US (excluding Arizona, Vermont, Colorado, Connecticut, [Maryland?] and North Dakota) or Canada (excluding Quebec). I'm not sure why there's a question around Maryland, but that's what it says in the rules. Still, if you are one of the privileged few allowed to enter, you'd better hurry.

via: O'Reilly Radar

The Long Road To Convergence

I've been looking at the "triple/quad play" service providers (TV, Phone, Broadband, Mobile), and with all the talk of convergence, I think we're still a long way off from a truly "converged" service.

In my mind, a converged service would work something like this:

The phones in the house would be fairly intelligent devices. VOIP based, there would either be a full blown "Domestic PABX" box somewhere in the house or a "Virtual PABX" provided externally by my service provider. The wired phones would be internet terminals, with video messaging capabilities (like an ad-free, VOIP version of the Amstrad E3). The cordless phones would be dual WiFi/3G internet enabled devices which would connect to the home network at home and my providers 3G and WiFi services when away (similar to the current BT Fusion/Openzone offering, possibly combined with something like the iPhone). There would be at least one "house number" that would ring all the phones (both in the house and mobile) and every member of the household could have thier own personal number.

Video (and audio) wise, each TV would not need a set top box - just a network connection. They would connect to either a home video server (ie, a centralized, multi-tuner, networked PVR) and/or my providers video server (ideally, it would also connect to video servers provided by anybody with the rights to host the video that is on their servers).

I think getting there is going to be a struggle. Starting with Video, there's a host of challenges to overcome. An elegant solution (especially for those, like myself, who have limited space) would be centralized PVRs - my service provider would host my video storage space. This space would most likely be virtual (why have multiple copies of the same Star Trek episodes) and probably based upon hours and not gigabytes. This isn't going to happen anytime soon, because broadcasters won't allow it - most of them seemingly insistent on somewhat dubious PayPerView schemes. With a home server PVR based approach, if I have Sky, Homechoice/Tiscali or (as far as I'm aware) Virgin Media there are neither compatible PVRs that are network capable or even tuner cards for a PC so that I could build my own - so if I use those services I'm stuck with either a non-network PVR or some form of clunky network PVR|PC setup that involves re-encoding the video and some remote blaster to control the set top box.

With telephony, convergence should be simpler. Next Generation Networks are designed with convergence in mind. However, I'll bet it will end up as a mine field of confusion marketing. It will be a while before the concept of voice traffic needing it's own per minute pricing scheme disappears. One other obstacle to overcome is emergency service - not just the phone knowing your location, but emergency power to the phone as well.

Of some (possibly more) interest will be seeing what services and technologies fall by the wayside. My personal dead pool is:

  • Top Up TV Anytime - This is a service that combines spare DTT capacity with a PVR to simulate a VOD service. It's fairly expensive for what is a very limited offering and there have apparently been a lot of complaints about the quality of the PVR used. DTT space is at a premium, so somebody is bound to come along with a better (probably Freeview based) use for that spectrum and they'll be willing to pay more than TopUp TV for it. BT have a slightly better idea (ie, a Freeview PVR that uses a broadband connection for the VOD service), but the VOD service seems a bit expensive and needlessly tied to BT's broadband offering.

  • PC Based VOD services - such as 4od, fivedownload, Sky Anytime and even the forth coming iPlayer fom the BBC. Just as the TV is not the place to surf the web (at least for most people), the computer is not the place to watch TV (again, for most people). More importantly, if you have the knowledge required to use 4od and the like, you probably have the knowledge to use Bittorrent and get a free and uncrippled copy of the programme instead. It's why Apple have the Apple TV - make it convenient for people to watch what they want, on the device they want and people might just be willing to shell out a few quid (though, I would bet more for movies than TV shows). Most of these services are also Pay Per View and I have my doubts about most PPV services over the long term - they seem expensive compared to PVRs (especially once PVRs come down to the 50 pound price range, which about the same as watching 1 or 2 American TV series at current PPV prices). As for the iPlayer, once the initial excitement disappears and the limits (as currently proposed by the BBC Trust) become noticeable, interest in the use of the iPlayer will dwindle to the the point that a few years down the road the service will either be scrapped or overhauled in attempt to justify it's use of licence fee money (especially in world where the BBC is having a harder and harder time justifying the licence fee itself).

  • Broadcast Media - In the longer term, I don't hold out much hope for broadcasters. PVRs and VOD will change the market. However, just as there's still a place for radio, there will still be a place for live TV. News and Sport will be around for a long time, even the movie channels might remain competitive, possibly offering a bargain basement way to access movies compared to the VOD services. Even the linear entertainment channels might still have a roll, but more as marketing services for the download services (much like Radio stations playing music). Note, that by download services, I don't mean PPV, I mean I pay X amount of pounds and I get to watch every episode of a series, for as long as I want (an online version of DVD ownership, not an online version of DVD rental).

  • The UK Television Industry - this is a combination of the above two points in what will become a critically ill industry. A lot of the broadcaster's offerings (of both the live stream and nascent VOD varieties) are propped up by (mostly American) imports. What happens when what's left of the American Media industry (in an attempt to grab a larger share of the profits) decide to skip the middleman? Disney, Warner and Viacom all have operations over here, how much longer will they need local partners? (not long) I expect to see a lot of consolidation.

  • VOIP providers - Skype, Gizmo et al are going to be in for a rough ride once convergence really kicks in. The telecoms companies are starting to get really competitive, and as convergence kicks in, a lot of the benefits of VOIP will disappear (as it will all be VOIP). Not only will the telcos get competitive against the VOIP providers, as time goes on the VOIP providers will become less competitive compared to the telcos (Skype Journal recently had a rant on how Skype had introduced a call connection charge - something most telcos do, but are starting to get away from).

  • Over The Air vs Over The Wire - not really a dead pool item, more a question on if the "Negroponte Switch" will happen or even if it matters. Nicholas Negroponte pointed out that it was an accident of technology that phone calls were delivered over wires but television and radio were broadcast. Once everything becomes IP based, the low level medium becomes far less relevant. There might come a point where it's no longer viable to broadcast, instead the current broadcast spectrum could be reallocated for two way communications

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Time-Zone Processing with Asterisk, Part I | Linux Journal

Time-Zone Processing with Asterisk, Part I | Linux Journal

Linux Journal has an article about Time-Zone processing with Asterisk - the idea is that when you log in to your asterisk server from some SIP connection, you dial an extension and Asterisk works out where in the world you are, and sets itself up to only put through calls that are at a reasonable time for the time zone you are in. For example, you're in Sydney for a business trip and somebody calls you in London. Asterisk knows that you're in the land down under and will only forward calls during the day in Australia, and send callers to Voice Mail at other times (though you can set it up to pass through certain numbers at any time of the day).

As the inspiration for this was mobile phone based and this article is SIP based, I'm wondering if a future instalment will take mobile phones into account. While having a look at BT's 21CN SDK, I noticed a location service for mobiles - so I'm wondering if that would be one way to implement such a system for mobile phones. Of, course the 21CN is a limited beta service, so we'll have to wait for full roll out for such a home built service to really be useful. Even then I have my doubts as to whether or not mobile location services will work internationally, at least at first.

Monday, February 05, 2007

BT's 21CN Web Services

There's a beta SDK from BT for their 21CN Web Services at It includes VOIP and SMS.

While it's good to see BT embraceing open standards for the new network, it's a bit of let down to see that the SDK is .Net only - so it's of little use to Linux/Java people. They don't even need to release a full SDK for java - the WSDL files would do (then people could create their own version of the SDK for other platforms).

Homechoice Changes

My video and broandband provider is Homechoice. Back in November, they were bought out by Tiscali, but not much has changed. According to this article, changes are afoot from March 1. Homechoice is currently limited to London and Stevenage, after March 1st, they plan to roll it out to other parts of the UK. They plan to go from 50,000 subscribers to 5 million (I guess that not only is every Homechoice customer becoming a Tiscali customer, but every broadband Tiscali customer is set to become a Homechoice customer).

According to the article, the TV will be bundled with the broadband access (no change there) but that the telephony option will be extra for £5 a month (apparently it's currently bundled, but I've never taken the option). No word on if we get new channels (the channel range is pretty poor compared to cable and Sky), but if they want it to succeed they're going to have to increase the channel range - one of the main reasons why I have stuck with Homechoice is that it is that I can't get cable (even though I live in London, there's no cable TV where I live), I can't get Sky (thanks to a tree), I can't get Freeview (the community aerial doesn't work with Freeview and I've never been able to get anything digital with "rabbit ears") and finally, since the really windy day a few weeks back, I can't even get analogue TV as that community aerial is now sitting in the back garden. So while it's Homechoice or no TV for me, most people aren't in that boat.

One good thing - it looks like we're in for a new box (which I hope they don't start charging for - seeing as I'm now on my 9th or 10th box thanks to upgrades and hardware failures) which will have 160Gb hard drive (as well as HD). So I might be able to retire the TiVo before it dies.

One thing I'm worried about is that the service might degrade - it's actually a 27Mb/s ADSL connection with a really, really low contention ratio as the original VOD service required a lot of bandwidth. A few years ago the service was upgraded - the new MPEG 4 based service brought a smaller box that needs less bandwidth for TV and the download bandwiths were increased. I now have 4Mb/s service that actually delivers 4Mb/s - I'm concerned that contention might increase if we get bundled in with all the Tiscali broadband subscribers.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Dead Tech: HomeRF

I seem to have a thing for technologies that failed in the marketplace, and today (while searching for information on Siemens Gigaset M34 USB/DECT dongle) I came across HomeRF - a failed competitor to WiFi. Back in the late 90's I didn't take much notice of wireless networking, mostly because I couldn't afford it, but also because I had no real use for it. So I missed the battle between HomeRF and WiFi (and there might have been something else called HiperLAN fighting it out as well).

HomeRF had some interesting features that differentiated it from WiFi. HomeRF had DECT built in, with a certain portion of HomeRF's bandwidth dedicated to voice. Another portion of bandwidth was allocated to audio/video streaming (apparently with up to 8 dedicated channels for A/V streaming). It was a technology that was mostly aiming for the home, as opposed to more expensive WiFi, which was supposedly designed for the office. It was also (allegedly) more secure and robust than WiFi by using frequency hopping. It's original incarnation was at the 1 Mbs point, with a 10 Mbs version 2 (versions 2.5 and 3 were announced, but never came to fruition).

HomeRF died at the end of 2002 when the consortium of companies behind HomeRF shut down it's working group. At one point, there were 100 member companies, but oddly, there was only ever one chipset manufacturer (Proxim). Most of the companies involved were also involved with WiFi, so it was fairly easy for them to jump ship.

HomeRF Archive

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Motorola L6

Last Friday, I bought myself a new phone - a Motorola L6. It was the cheapest Bluetooth phone I could find (30 quid with a trade in, 40 otherwise - I turned in a broken old brick to get the 10 quid off).

It's on Orange PAYG, though I'll be getting it unlocked and probably unbranded at some point. They're running an "all the data you can eat for £1" promotion at the moment, and as I'm still lacking broadband in the flat I've been making some use out of it.

The first site I tried was GMail, it recognized I was using an L6 and invited me to download a client app for GMail, which I did. So far, I've also installed Opera Mini and midpSSH (though without working broadband in the flat, I haven't been able to try it). I might try to find an IM client (though IM'ing on a phone seems a bit pointless) and J2ME SIP phone (and take real advantage of that £1 a day offer). I'm also in the market for a decent to do manager.

I have yet to try and hook it up to any of my computers. I think I've worked out the software I'll need, and I should have compatible USB cable lying around, but I haven't had the time to try it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

No Broadband, No TV

My Homechoice box died at the weekend - this leaves me without TV or Broadband internet.

I had half planned for this (Homechoice boxes don't last long) - awhile back I bought an Intel InBusiness Internet Station, a little router device that uses old analogue modems. However I haven't been able to get it working with a Tiscali pay as you go dialup account (Tiscali didn't work with the iStation, the laptop with a modem attache or a Compaq "Internet Terminal"). I assume that my Tiscali account is still active as I can log in to the web mail and check my mail, so maybe nobody uses Tiscali's dialup anymore so nobody's noticed it no longer works. However I was able to get an "anonymous" ISP (ie, an ISP you don't need to sign up to) to work, so I was able to login and get my email. My Amstrad emailer came in handy here - it's difficult to get internet access without internet access - fortunately I was able to browse the web with the emailer to find the anonymous ISP.

The other thing I've done is set up BT Openzone - I'm typing this at South Mimms Service Station, while eating dinner. They have a £5 (+VAT) a month for 500 minutes subscription offer, which I've been meaning to subscribe to for some time. I'll post more about BT Openzone at some point.

I'm not overly pleased with Homechoice - I phoned them up to tell them that my box had died and they told me that an engineer would call the next day. I phoned them on Sunday, nobody phoned me until Wednesday. Hopefully, they should be coming around Saturday afternoon to replace the box.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Scot's VOIP Info

I've created a "backing" website for this blog on googlepages - the imaginatively titled Scot's VOIP Info site. It will contain static, non-time related information that really doesn't suite being on a blog.

Thoughts On VOIP Providers

I've had a few thought about VOIP providers. I think you can classify them as follows:

  1. Toy Providers - These are providers that use proprietary protocols and you're stuck using their software. These providers have little to distinguish them from regular Instant Messaging - as IM as long had Voice capabilities.

  2. Consumer-Unfriendly providers. These are providers that use open protocols but don't let their users benefit from it.

  3. Consumer-Friendly providers. Open protocols, with the basic information needed to use their service from whatever client the user wants, not just the provider's own client.

I'd say that it's really a spectrum from 1 to 2 to 3. Tiscali and Skype are certainly in the toy provider realm, I call them toy providers because what they are offering is little more than a toy - something to play with, but not much else. AOL's service is based on SIP (which means it had the potential to be more than a toy) but modified so that the SIP base only benefits "partners" of AOL, not AOL's users - a consumer unfriendly act that leaves AIM Phoneline as little more than a toy. Some providers may have terms in their T&C's that state that you can only use their software with the service even though they use open protocols - this is consumer unfriendly behaviour that is absurd - it's like having a website and requiring everyone to use the website's own browser. Others may use open protocols but not federate with other providers (but at least allow users to use whatever software they want). And then there are the providers that are open and federated and provide the needed information to use whatever software their users want (such as Gizmo).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Here's an example of a SIP/DECT router - The Planet VIP-462DG. No idea if it's available in the UK, or how much it costs (though I strongly doubt it's in the 30 quid price range).

A few points, looking at a page on audio codecs at Broadcom, it appears that DECT uses G.726 (which encompasses G.721 and G.723) The VIP-462DG supports G.711, G.723.1A, G.729A - so it looks like some codec conversion communication is possible. It's router, so it has a WAN port and 4 LAN ports (with a builtin NAT/Firewall) - what I really want is a cheap standalone device, not another router (I'd don't need another router)

VOIP Gadgets I Would Like To See

Here are some VOIP related gadgets I would like to see. Some of them may already exist, but they're not cheap - so this is really "cheap VOIP Gadgets I would like to see", somewhere in the 30 pound range.

  1. A standalone FXS that supports UK caller id. Something small that you could plug in near your master socket and that would connect to the home network via ethernet and/or WiFi
  2. A standalone Cellular gateway. Similar to the standalone FXS, except you put a SIM card in it and it connects to the GSM (and maybe even 3G) network. These exist (at least with GSM if not 3G) but are expensive. The lowest cost idea I have for connecting Asterisk to GSM networks involves going through a soundcard, which seems like a great way to get poor quality audio (GSM -> Analogue -> GSM can't be great).
  3. A standalone DECT gateway. A simple device that lets you use DECT phones.
  4. A standalone Bluetooth gateway. A simple device so that you can use your bluetooth headset. Fairly unnecessary, but what the hell (maybe it could be combined with the DECT gateway).
  5. Simple, standalone FXOs. No built in routers/firewalls, just one ethernet port and one RJ-11 port (or even a BT port). Maybe even a WiFi version. Ideally it would generate UK Caller ID signals and ADSI. Digium's IAXy seems to be this sort of device, but it's outside my definition of "cheap" (I'm not saying it's expensive, it's just out side my 30 quid "what the hell" price range).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

3 Drops Roaming Fees

Yet another mobile phone post (I'll get back on topic in a bit - anyway, all telecoms will converge to VOIP at somepoint anyway ;-). 3 have dropped international roaming charges when you're in a country that 3 operates in. About time somebody did this - while I can see roaming charges when you're using a provider that isn't your own, it seems a bit silly to charge people extra to use the same providers network.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Google Maps (US) Click To Call

I've just discovered that the Google Maps (US) click to call service (which was demoed by Steve Jobs during the iPhone launch) works with any US phone (I assume US numbers only - I'm not sure what would happen if you put in an international number). Even more interesting is that it's free to use - Google pay for the call between you and the business you are calling. All you have to do is enter in your phone number, and then Google calls you and then connects you to the business your calling.

Now if only this was available in the UK. And GTalk integration would be nice.

Skype Journal - Google Talk - AIM to interop this year

Skype Journal has a post about Google interoperating with AIM this year. The post contains a link to a post by a Google employee (who appears to have previously worked at AOL) , which links to a competition at TopCoder (that appears to be sponsored by AOL) to develop an XMPP - AIM gateway.

The competition doesn't include voice/video integration. I wish AOL would just release the AIM protocol specs - then they'd get an XMPP-AIM gateway for free that would probably include voice/video integration. XMPP-AIM gateways already exist for free, but can only use the features of the AIM protocol (called OSCAR) that have been reverse engineered.

My own analysis of how AIM Phoneline works leads me to believe voice integration might be possible - it uses SIP (in a slightly odd manner) and GTalk has already been federated with SIP providers. It's a shame that AOL have chosen to base their latest voice product on an open protocol while still keeping their users in a walled garden.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Note: Linux Mobile Phones

Trolltech Greenphone
  • Available now
  • USD 695 (Community Edition SDK)
  • UI - QTopia (obviously)
  • Traditional

OpenMoko FIC Neo1973
  • Available Feb 2007?
  • Price Unknown
  • UI - Unknown
  • Keypadless Touch Screen Smartphone (like the iPhone)

ROAD S101/S101K
  • Availability unknown
  • Price Unknown
  • UI - QTopia
  • Flip to large keyboard (like the old Nokia communicators)
Motorola MotrRizr Z6
  • Available 1st half of 2007
  • Price Unknown
  • UI - Unknown (probably QT)
  • Slider form factor
Motorola ROKR E6
  • Available now (on eBay)
  • Price - £200 - £270 + shipping (Buy It Now on eBay, some UK sellers)
  • UI Unknown (probably QT)
  • Touchscreen
Motorola SCPL
  • Availability - was Dec 2006, now Jan/Feb 2007
  • Price unknown (probably similar to RAZR and SLVR)
  • UI - Unknown
  • Traditional (though very thin)
Various other Motorolas (they have been shipping phones with Linux for a few years now)

  • Available 1st Quarter 2007 (US?)
  • Price Unknown
  • UI - Probably QT
  • Dual GSM/WiFi
  • Traditional

No 3rd Party Apps For The iPhone

Various reports on the internet indicate that the new iPhone will be locked down. Needless to say, there is a backlash coming in technical circles. It will be interesting to see if this negative feeling has a negative impact on mainstream adoption.

I'm wondering if this is due to a US focus for the device. From what I've heard, mobile providers in the US often lock down their phones to a level unseen in Europe - even the phones themselves are often only available on a single network. Even comparatively dumb phones in Europe offer 3rd party Java apps, so maybe the European model iPhone will at least have Java - otherwise it will seem a bit silly that a phone costing at least £250 (probably a lot more) doesn't have a feature that a phone costing £35 has.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Apple iPhone

The internet is abuzz with news of Apple's iPhone. Certainly an object of desire, though there's no mention of how much it will cost in the UK (but what's the bet it's £499), or if it will be exclusive to any provider, like it is in the US (Cingular/AT&T).

It looks cool and one of the more interesting features (for me at least) is the use of OS/X. I've already read posts on Slashdot by people wondering about whether or not it'll have IM and SIP clients - I'm wondering if you could get Asterisk to run on it and use the GSM phone as a channel. No word on what processor it uses - I'd speculate that it's using the Cell processor (assuming Sony aren't taking up all of IBM's capacity).

Apple are partnering with Google (with Google Maps - including a press to call button on search results) and Yahoo for Push-IMAP mail. I'd never heard of Push-IMAP before today. It appears to be an extension of IMAP to make IMAP act more like a Blackberry - instead of the client occasionally polling the server, the server pushes notifications out to the client. According to the wikipedia article, it's also supposed to replace the role of SMTP in client/server setups as well (though you can already do this with a little bit of effort already with IMAP). It was developed by Oracle (who, I have to admit, aren't the first people I think of when I think of email). I find the fact that Apple are partnering with Yahoo over this a bit odd - what about Apple's own .Mac service?

The thing is, at that price I don't think I'd want to carry it around.

One other note, Apple Computer, Inc have changed their name to just Apple, Inc. I feel kinda saddened and nostalgic. But then I've been using Apple computers since my childhood, and I think that has something to do with it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Slight Tesco Wierdness

I've noticed something over the last few days - if you sign into Tesco Internet Phone with the Tesco client, log out and then try to log in from the Asterisk server, Asterisk won't be able to log in, but the Tesco client still can.

The Tesco client and the Asterisk server are different machines behind the same firewall, so I'm wondering if that might be the issue. It's not a major problem, just something unexpected.

Free Vodafone SIMS

Vodafone are giving away free SIMS

I can't get "Asterisk + My Vodafone Family = Cheap Mobile Calls" out of my head.

Update (2007-01-12) - I got an email back from Vodafone Customer service - call diversions between My Family phones are free as well. They don't mention this in the literature.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Really Bad Consumer Journalism From The BBC

I have just seen the worst piece of telecoms related "consumer" journalism that I've seen in a long time on BBC News 24. It was about how people on some pay as you go mobile networks pay more for cross network calls than people who are on contract and they portrayed it as some huge conspiracy by the mobile operators to rip off consumers.

While the mobile operators are guilty of many, many sins against against the consumer, this is not one of them. My biggest problem with the item was how they kept banging on about how "people who use PAYG to be in control are loosing that control as they sometimes pay up to twice as much as people who are on 'multi-contract'". How is paying twice as much per call compared to people who are contracted to pay for minutes they may not use "loosing control"? You know (or at least can find out) how much a call to a particular network costs and you know what your usage pattern is. So you can work out if you would be better off on a monthly contract or on another network.

The BBC hauled out two different pay as you go consumers, a heavy using teen and a low using mum. The mum found her costs rose heavily after her daughters switched to Virgin. Would she have been in "more control" if she was on a monthly contract (which is what the entire item seemed to be about) - no, she would have been just wasting just as much money as before her daughters switched. She still had more control, as it's possible that the best thing for her to do is to switch networks, which is a lot easier when you don't have a contract. As for the teen, as a heavy user he would be better of with a monthly contract - but he can't get one as he's under 18. It's hard to feel that sorry for him though - not being able to get credit is one of the many "unfair" things about being a teen.

A Quick Glance At Tiscali's Netphone

Tonight, I thought I'd have a quick look at Tiscali's netphone. For dial in, you get an 0871 number, so I thought I'd dial in and watch what happens with wireshark.

It looks like the protocol they use is proprietary. All traffic appears to take place over HTTP port 80 (though one of the packet fragments does mention UDP port 5050 - though wireshark didn't capture any UDP traffic). One worrying thing is that I noticed my password was sent in plain text. The server side seems (at least partially) written in Java - a tell tale JSESSIONID, use of Apache 2 (UNIX) with mod_jk and the apparent use of software from (which only has one listed project, xmentos "A lightweight XML binding/persistence framework for Java (JDK5.0 or later). Works whith annotations, does not require any configuration/mapping file, runs with standard W3C DOM and JAXP"). The client looks like a regular windows app, though there is a DLL called mosquito.dll, which is interesting as "MOSQUITO" is often found in messages from the client to the server,

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Note: Building zaptel on Ubuntu Dapper VM

A quick note - when building Zaptel on a fresh Ubuntu Dapper VM (ie, the one downloaded from VMWare's website), g++ and libncurses5-dev needs to be installed.

Maybe It's A Bug

UPDATE (2007-01-06) - I've submitted a bug report and patch for Asterisk - you can see the bug report here.

I've been going over the source code to Asterisk a lot tonight, and the more I look at it, the more I think that the reason why it doesn't work "out of the box" with Tesco is because the Asterisk implementation of IAX is slightly incorrect (at least, when compared with the latest internet draft). The draft states that the default refresh value is 60, but the function that appears to handle the REGACK message (iax2_ack_registry), defaults refresh to 0. So maybe Tesco aren't actually sending a value of 0 - they might not be sending any value at all (as it is optional), and I think (although it is after 4 in the morning), that if the server doesn't send anything, it being defaulted to 0 and not 60.

When I'm more refreshed, I'll look into this further.

Asterisk 1.4 And Tesco Internet Phone

One of the first things I wanted to see with the new version of Asterisk is whether or not it will work "out of the box" with Tesco's Internet Phone service.

I didn't have much luck getting it working at all through the web interface, but I was able to get it registering with an iax.conf similar to the configuration I used with 1.2. Sadly it still uses the server assigned refresh rate, and Tesco are still sending a value of 0. So I'm still going to have to run my own customized version (though this time, I'll release a diff file so others can patch theirs - sorry about not getting around to it before). As it appears that I have a bit of time left between now and when 1.4 hits Debian (and then down to Ubuntu), I'm going to look into something a bit less hackish - namely a configuration value for iax.conf (something like forcerefresh=value).

I've been looking at the latest internet draft of IAX2, to see if it can shed light on if a value of 0 is at all valid, and if a client must always accept the servers value. There are 2 sections that appear relevant - 6.1 (especially 6.1.4 - REGACK) and 8.6.18 (REFRESH). It appears that the refresh value is optional and when not present it defaults to 60, but no mention is made if 0 is a valid value. It also looks like the refresh value in a REGACK is there for informational value than anything else - from the draft
When sent with a DPREP or REGACK, it is informational and tells a remote peer when the local peer will no longer consider the event valid.
So, it looks like I can alter Asterisk's behaviour without having to worry about breaking the protocol - whether I use the hack I did last time or the "forcerefresh" option.

On a side note, the web interface really started to screw up tonight - it would log in and then immediately jump to a broken version of the setup wizard. I eventually gave up and started over with a fresh copy of the VM. I also found out that when starting with a fresh VM, run the update before you do anything else - something I did last night but didn't tonight. If you don't update, it doesn't seem to work (as in, the login page never loads).

Friday, January 05, 2007

More on the Asterisk UI

Right, the first time I went through the setup wizard, I didn't add any users. When I tried to add users in the main UI, I got the error I reported in my previous post. I reran the setup wizard, added myself in there and now I can add more users from the main UI.

So that's one to remember - add at least 1 user in the setup wizard.

Asterisk 1,4

While waiting for Asterisk 1.4 to make it's way downstream to Ubuntu, I've decided to give AsteriskNow (inside a Virtual Machine) a go. I figure that way I can get most of the setup right before I upgrade my real machine.

The new Asterisk comes with a web based UI. So far, it's seems a little flakey - I can't add users (I keep getting a "Sorry, user must be undefined digits". Still, it's new, so it's bound to not be quite right.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Read/WriteWeb: Nokia and The Gizmo Project: Phone-to-Phone VoIP

Read/WriteWeb has an article about a version of Gizmo for the Nokia N80i. No word on if it will work with other SIP providers (like Gizmo 2 does). The software has it's own website here

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

I haven't posted in while, because I haven't had much of a chance to do much with VoIP over the last couple months. Sometime in October (of what is now last year) I got the idea to redo my flat's networking, partly because I wanted to move some equipment around and partly to try and improve the performance of SMS messaging (as I'm "convinced" it's poor line quality between the master socket and the modem). Needless to say, progress has been slow, but it has left my asterisk box without an ethernet connection.

Hopefully I'll be back up and running soon. I bought an cheap webcam from Tesco's over the holiday, I want to get it up and running with motion detection software that'll SMS me if something odd is happening to the flat while I'm out.