Friday, July 23, 2010

INQ1 On 3 (with Skype)

Last year I bought an INQ 1 on 3 - mostly because of the "free Skype & Instant Messenger for Life" ads. I played with it for a bit, put it somewhere safe and now that it has resurfaced I thought I would see if the "free Skype for life" claim was remotely true.

The phone itself is a nice enough little feature phone with Skype, MSN, and Facebook apps built in. There's no built in twitter client and the built in client is just a scrobbler (which was disappointing). The Skype client works, but it's a bit limited. You can voice call and IM with other Skype users and if you have Skype credit you can dial out to international numbers - UK phone numbers don't work though. Online Numbers (what Skype In is now called) don't appear to work either. Call quality was good, both Skype to Skype and Skype to Phone.

One interesting thing, I figured that any credit that was on the device would have long expired (it's got to be at least a year since I last used it) but I found that the credit didn't expire. This does mean that I have been unable to put the "free Skype for life" claim though.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sipgate & Gizmo5/Google Voice

I got up and running again without any major issue. As Tesco's voip service no longer exists I even went and bought some credit with sipgate for dial out.

Getting Google Voice and Gizmo 5 back up and running like it was back in the days of Grandcentral was more of a challenge (and I'm not yet happy with the way I've set up Gizmo through FreePBX, but at least I got something working). At first Google Voice wasn't sending calls to Gizmo and then I eventually noticed what appears to have been the problem - unlike Grandcentral, Google Voice won't route to Gizmo if you don't have a "real" phone number located in the US attached to your Voice account. I found this both disappointing (one of Grandcentral's selling points was that you didn't need a real phone) and easily surmountable.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rebuilding My VOIP Setup

For various reasons I'm in the process of rebuilding my VOIP setup from scratch. Here's what I've got working so far:

Asterisk Now (running in a Virtual Machine)

I felt that the best way to get (re)started was to set up Asterisk Now (1.6 with the FreePBX GUI) running inside a VirtualBox virtual machine (configured with bridge networking instead of the VirtualBox default NAT networking so that it appears on the LAN). I figure I can move to dedicated hardware as and when I feel the need to.

Atcom AT-320 hard phones

I was able to pick up a couple of these cheap off of ebay. They support SIP or IAX2 depending on what firmware is installed (and can be switched by replacing the firmware). While they came with the SIP firmware I was able to find the IAX2 firmware on the web and after flashing them they're now happily talking to my Asterisk virtual server.

It took a little bit of head scratching to get it all working. FreePBX seems to have some odd default security settings on new IAX2 extensions where every IP address is blocked from using an extension and the phones seem to need the Asterisk extension configured with requirecalltoken set to no in order to work.

To Do

There's still a number of things to do, including setting up some outbound routes and figuring out what to do for an FXO.

Vodafone Sure Signal

Recently I went to visit my parents who happen to live a bit of Vodafone blackspot - if I'm lucky I can get a bar or two while indoors. This provided a perfect opportunity to splash out on a Vodafone Sure Signal 3G femtocell which should give me 5 bars of coverage.

The femtocell is about the same size as some of the larger ADSL modem routers and is a fairly simple install. To configure the device you have to log in to your Vodafone account on Vodafone's website and tell Vodafone where the phone is and what mobile phones will be allowed access. Other than that you should just have to plug in a lit up ethernet cable and wait. However, I ended up waiting a bit longer than I should have because Vodafone doesn't include any information on what firewall ports need to be opened up. I think they're relying on UPNP to open the firewall up (which if it works should mean just plug it in, wait a bit and go), but if for whatever reason that doesn't work you're left to some googleing to find the right settings.

Once everything was configured and running I got the full strength signal exactly as promised. Call quality was exactly like a normal cell phone call (I didn't run into any delay or echo problems that I've sometimes had with VOIP -> POTS services). I think that's what impressed me most about it - it actually delivers what is says it will deliver.

One other thing that as a software developer who uses a lot of open source software brought some joy - there was a piece of paper stating that open source software was used and said source is available on Vodafone's subversion repository. I really should check out what's there at some point.

Note to self - firewall settings

In order to save myself some pain from trying to find this page again:

Destination IP Addresses:

Ports and Protocols:

Port 50 - TCP/IP

Port 4500 - UDP

Port 500 - UDP

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Sky Player

Sky have an "iPlayer like" service unimaginatively called Sky Player. I don't have a Sky subscription (I did until a tree grew too tall and blocked the signal) and due to moving home I will soon be giving up Homechoice/Tiscali TV/Talk Talk TV so I was hoping a Sky Player subscription would give me a way to access Sky content without a dish. I'm not interested in the Sports or Movie channels - all I want access to is the base channels. As I'm a desktop Linux user their desktop client is useless to me (why go with fairly open, almost universally installed technologies like flash when you can go with Silverlight?) but they have a relatively new XBox 360 app and I have a relatively new XBox 360 so I've decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, I can't say that I'm all that impressed with it.

Sky allow non Sky subscribers to access the base Sky Player package for £15 a month (though with a new XBox, you can take out a 3 month trial subscription for £10 - which is what I've gone for). For that £15 a month you don't get much - access to a small library of Video on Demand content and a handful of live channels. Not only is the VOD library far from extensive, it's most annoying feature is that it will happily show you all the content from Bravo that there is no way to get access to if you're a Sky Player only subscriber (Sky Player is available free to Sky subscribers, and if you have a package that includes Bravo then you can get Bravo's VOD content). Worse (and the reason why I won't be continuing to subscribe) is that not only is the number of live channels somewhat thin, Sky 1 is crippled - shows like the Simpsons get blocked. Why it's OK for Talk Talk to transmit the Simpsons on Sky 1 over IP while it's not OK for Sky to transmit the Simpsons on Sky 1 over IP is the sort of thing only a media lawyer could understand. Still, I don't have to understand Sky's reason - I just have to not give them my money.

I can see Sky Player being useful if you live in a Sky subscribing household and want to get limited Sky content in a room without having to install a second (or third) Sky box. I can see it being useful if you're a bored Sky subscriber sitting in a Starbucks with a laptop that's running Windows or Mac OS with time to kill (latte sippin' iPad fans are in the same boat as us Linux users - greetings comrades!). If you don't already have Sky then it's hard to see what's there to justify £15 a month. I guess if you want the sports channels, are unable to get them any way else and yet money is little object then maybe it's for you, but if all you want is "basic cable" over IP then Sky Player sadly isn't the way to go.