It's All In The Mind

Musings of an active mind

Archive for May, 2006

VOIP Device Journey

Posted by activemind on May 18, 2006

I have been thinking about all the VOIP device or so called ATAs that I have used and wanted to write something about them. Well, as I mentioned earlier here, the first ATA I was introduced to was the Cisco ATA 186. I got it from Vonage and it was locked to their service at that time. When I canceled with them, they were offering that if you pay $15 they will give you the unlock code for it (don’t hold me to it because I dont think they do it anymore), so anyways, I paid them 15 bucks and they mailed me the unlock code and the instructions. This is where the real fun began. I played around with various settings and also upgraded the firmware for this to a new image (dont ask me more details about it….I wont give any more details). I configured my ATA with various services out there and learnt a lot about SIP at that time when debugging my setup. All in all, ATA 186 was (mind you was) fun. The reason I say was because it is a no frill device. Limited (but not straight forward) programming. No doubt it was the leader in the pack at that time but if we look at it now, it seems to be pretty basic.
By that time Grandstream had introduced and array of devices and I actually like this company. Not because I have some vested interest but because they make cheap, to the point devices. I have worked with BT 101, BT 102, HT 488, devices from this company and I would say they do what they are supposed to do. I used to buy them from Voxilla but recently I noticed that they have now become a Cisco house now. They sell pretty much everything Linksys only…that sucks!!
Anyways,  I would recommend looking into BT 102 if you are looking for a cheap VOIP Phone which just works. The GUI is pretty starightforward and the thing just works….not that expensive so that you can really justify the savings. The look and feel is the same as that of a regular phone so this is a very good option for people planning to send devices overseas. I prefer BT 102  to BT 101 because of the extra PC port it has. That way if you dont have a mini-server room in your house and just have  PC connected to the net, you dont have to buy a router. Just put the phone between the PC and the DSL modem and you are all set to go. This is what I currently use.
Another option is HT 488, this is good for someone who is slightly more ambitious in terms of not only being able to call overseas but also get a local dialtone to dial out. Again the GUI is pretty much the same as BT 102, add a couple of features. I use this device every once in a while but soon I realised that I wasnt making that many calls to outside world and was actually tieing up a phone line overseas. So I dropped it and swicthed back to BT 102. Another cool thing about HT 488 is that the dialtone thing in not just one way. It also means that you can have someone overseas call the local phone number attached to the 488 and have it transparently ring your VOIP phone here. Actually you can hard program it to forward  the calls to one fixed number all the time or again get the dialtone and dial any US number you want for a local call. I did not see much point of dialtone in the other directions so I just programmed it to call my cell phone everytime. Its a pretty cool setup for anyone who needs it. You give out you overseas local number to peple there and they can talk to you for the cost of a local call or in turn you get the local overseas dialtone and you can talk to them for a local call too. A tonne of saving there.
The next is my favourite and I think THE most powerful ATA out there….(enter the dragon music) Sipura 3000. It has so many options and parameters that it does take some time actually learn and understand this thing. I can probably write a whole new article on things you can do with this device but I would rather just give out some reference and leave the rest to your wild imagination.
Read here for all the neat tips and tricks or make it speak the caller Id. Thats why I said you can go wild with this thing 🙂
I do have a couple of other things to write about (what I use now) like Asterisk but thats another post.
So whatdaya think?


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Nokia 9500 Fax and Cingular

Posted by activemind on May 17, 2006

I have been thinking of enabling the fax service on my 9500 on Cingular network. I have read over the internet but could not find a whole lot of info. There were a couple of topics about 9500 Fax over T-mobile but no one talked about Cingular.
Although, I dont have any real use for fax service but the geek in me wants to test it for the

coolness of it (I AM creative at times with sentences). Let me call up Cingular and see if it makes any sense to them or they redirect me to Nokia but I am guessing that they should have some info or should know what I am talking about because they sport the 9300 on their website now.
Will update on how goes it!!

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MapCruncher : This is the next step in online mapping

Posted by activemind on May 17, 2006

Though I haven’t read the whole article in detail but this does sound like something promising.
MapCruncher: Interactive Web Maps Come to Life: MapCruncher – a prototype technology from Microsoft Research that makes it easy for users to create their own, personalized mash-ups – may revolutionize the way people use online maps.

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How to make my Nokia 9500 PERFECT!!

Posted by activemind on May 17, 2006

Don’t judge me. I love my Nokia 9500. I saw my first communicator back in the 90s in a Val Kilmer movie, The Saint. Since then I have been reading and researching about the communicators. I did not own one till recently and there were various reasons for it:
1. It was too expensive and I did not have the money 🙂
2. US was primarily TDMA/CDMA at that time and the imports I could pick were GSM (leaving pacbell alone whose service was very spotty at that time).
3. Cellular Internet connectivity was non-existent and it did not have Wi-Fi.

 Anyway, fast forward and came out the Nokia 9500. I waited a couple of months for the prices to fall …okay…waited for a year (I am not about to spend my hard earned money like this) and bought it last May (2005). Now I like pretty much everything about this phone except:
1. The camera on this thing is pretty much useless when compared to whats available today in the market. So I wish the camera on this thing was a tad more decent so that I use the pics here on my blog 🙂
2. I read in some article somewhere that even if there was a skype port for 9500, it would not work nicely because of some audio compression capabilty missing in the hardware. You could a PTT like conversation but not duplex  talk using VOIP.
3. There is not much software available for this platform. A part of me wants to ditch the 9500 and goto Cingular 8125 which is Win based and hence larger pool of apps and has pretty much the same features.
4. This is more of latest and greated feature, why did they not put in 802.11g and opted for 802.11b…I can feel the need for G when I am trying to stream something internally from my Lan…it doesnt make a diff when I am using the internet using Wi-Fi but yeah I would have loved to see 802.11g on this…….maybe because of power considerations?

I will add more to this list as time permits in future but yeah, if we could change/fix these then it would be MY perfect phone.

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Cellphone and Radiations on CNET

Posted by activemind on May 17, 2006

So I am not the only one who worries about it. I wrote about this some time back here and also reasoned why I dont use bluetooth headset….my cellphone is bad enough!!
Anyways, read this CNET article to see how good or bad your phone is!!

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Free Skype->PSTN this whole year

Posted by activemind on May 16, 2006

Who does not know skype….okay granted not everyone is a geek like me but still skype made VOIP a household term more than Vonage and other real VOIP providers….reason…because skype meant free and was straight forward….did not involve and tinkering and just worked which is what is needed to appeal to the masses which is where the real money is.
Anyways…the big news is that Skype is offering free calls to PSTN/Cellphone within US and Canada if you are calling from within US and Canada. So thats the good news. For people from rest of the world, if you are calling US, standard rates would apply. They are determining based on the IP address if you are from within US or from somewhere else. Now if you are smart and know a little about networking, it should be pretty easy to get around this restriction if you know someone here in US willing to offer you a termination point and allowing you to use some of his bandwidth and viola!! You have free calls to US and Canada for full 6 months…no restrictions whatsoever.
Although, I dont have any real motivation for this because as I mentioned in my earlier post, I already have my setup in place and I dont mind paying the $5.99/month, but the geek in me wants to do it.
Here is the outline of what I am thinking:
1. Setup a ssh server here in US. Search and you would find so many examples of how to do it.
2. Use putty to setup a tunnel from outside US to direct all your traffic through this ssh server to the internet.
3. Now start Skype on the remote PC and try to make a call and see if it works.
Questions that I have in my mind:
1. Does Skype have something inbuilt mechansim to prevent or detect this kind of tunneling.
2. Even if it does, what happens if I go one step furthur and install a virtual network adapter on my remote PC (like the ones you install when you install a VPN) and connect it to a server here in US. Will the Skype mechanism work then?
Any Comments?

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When 2 mins == 45 mins

Posted by activemind on May 16, 2006

I was just talking to a friend of mine and was surprised to see that he still kept a diary even though I he is in hi-tech…so I asked him why he did not keep all the info in a digital form like someplace online and he responded back that he was too lazy to convert or enter all the info online so to pull his leg I responded back with the following scenario. Leave a comment if you think this applies to you too…

well the motivation for me to convert all my post-it tid bits into digital format is something else…imagine this scenario…you need some info you needed on a piece of paper but forgot it at home…no biggie…call up wifey and ask her and she will read you the info…so you call up thinking it will be 2 mins and you can get back to what you were really doing or wanted to do prior to the call….so the conversation goes as follows:

She: Hello
You: Hello…can you help me with something that I forgot at home?
She:let me call you back…I have something cooking on the stove and the clothes are in the dryer and YOUR daughter has pooped again….this is third time since morning…do you think I should call up and talk to a doctor about this…though I have read that this is normal for kids but do you think I should still call up?
Me: Yeah why not its not going to hurt to talk to her doc (trying hard not to forget the real reason why I called her).
She: You are on the net…why dont you lookup her number and tell me, I will have to goto my phone menu and pullup her number…
Me: okay….but what about one quick thing I called you for?
She:right after this…gimme the number, I want to call her else she will be gone for the day…today is Tue and she leaves early today….
Me: okay here is the number but call me back once you are done…I need some info i wrote on a paper on my desk.

She calls back after 15 mins:

She:Hello, see I told you she leaves early today….if you had given me the phone number earlier rather than all the talk then I would have been able to talk to her today….anyways….so what did you want?
Me: Goto my desk and there is a paper on which I have someone’s phone number…can you give me that number….
She:(goes to the room and even before looking for the paper) I just dont know how can someone live and work with this kind of piles of paper all around…I have told you so many times to keep your desk clean…you dont clean it yourself and you dont let me clean it but you know what, this desk is also a part of the house and if you will not clean it by today evening then I will be forced to clean it and then don’t complain about your papers…its not going to be my fault…
Me:Okay, for now…can I just have that number and we can have this conversation later and you will have much more time to tell me about how disorganized my desk is…
She: whose number do you want…..there are so many stickies here….oh yeah that reminds me that we need some more stickies…can you pick some up while coming from work…
Me: Its Josh’s number
She: Who is Josh…oh that guy you were talking to about some stocks….dont you have his number on your cellphone…
Me: well that was 2 weeks ago and no…the number falls off the phones memory after 20 some numbers…so whats the number?
She: here is the number 1-222-333-4444
She: wait…what time are you coming home…
Me: Same time as everyday…..gotta go now…bye

So you see my friend…something that would have taken me 2 secs (dependent on internet speed) took me close to 45 mins so I think I am better off spending that 45 mins in advance and entering the data in digital format so that I can use it in 2 secs EVERYTIME
🙂 ….. maybe I should post this on my blog…whatdaya think?

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