It's All In The Mind

Musings of an active mind

Archive for the ‘VOIP’ Category

The New Nokia E90

Posted by activemind on April 10, 2008

I have had my Nokia Communicatior 9500 for close to 3 years now and I have been itching to get a new phone. I like the Apple Iphone. The only reason I ain’t buying it, it is Apple. I don’t like the company for various reasons and I don’t like the Iphone because
a) The phone is locked to a SIM card. Unless you hack it using jailbreak or other methods, you cannot use it with your existing SIM and yeah I have one of those historic ATT Blue Sims.
b) There is no 3g support neither a SIP client support. So you can use the WiFi in the phone just for surfing the web and yeah YouTube and yeah Flickr etc etc etc (for all the purist and fanboys out there). But you cannot do anything delay sensitive because the latency is too much.
c) You cannot just buy and replace the battery yourself. You have to send the phone in along with an arm and a leg and then they will change the battery for you.
d) There is no upgradeable memory. With the cost of CF and SD/MMC cards so low, it nice to have a couple of these and swap them as needed or maybe upgrade to a bigger one. With Iphone I am stuck with 4G or 8G version unless I decide to fork off another ungodly amount of money and use the existing one as a paper weight.
I am sorry but I can do all this with my 9500 and can do it pretty well. I don’t need a new phone for that. Now if you open up the SDK and throw in 3G (US version…I will get to that) and a SIP client. Now we are talking.
Anyways, I have had my eye on the next gen communicator for quite sometime now. Even though they have abandoned the S80 platform and moved to S60, I think its still livable. With all the new features like GPS, a MUCH improved camera with autofocus and LED flash, and ta-da a SIP client which works!! It does have 3G but from most of the stuff that I have read around the web, it does not seem to have the US 3G (something like they have different frequencies for different parts of the world much like GSM) and Nokia decided to foucs on EU and provide the 3G frequencies for EU (UMTS 2100) but not for US. Bummer!! So no 3G. Which means voice calls to over EDGE (I have Cingular/ATT or whatever that thing is called now) through my Asterisk server. Ain’t gonna work!!
So if anyone of you out there who have a E90 and Cingular/ATT and have 3G working, please correct me else my hunt continues.
There have been some news about Apple opening up the SDK (my bad!! SDK is already available) so that people can write apps for Iphone but I am yet to see a SIP client for it. Besides who am I kidding, its an Apple, I am never going to buy it.
I am also looking at HTC Touch Cruise. Looks good. Though a bit small than what I would like my phone to be. I have been spoiled by the big screen on the 9500 for my usage. Sorry, I don’t belong to the crowd where my phone has to be so small that I can talk my numbers to it and all the other mini-crap. The phone according to me has a minimum size and I wont go below that. And yeah, the 9500 (a.k.a the brick) is NOT a huge phone for me. Keeping in mind the number of personalities it has, its my phone duh! its my calender, its my alarm clock, its my “quick lookup the net” device, its my mp3 player, its my contact center, its my portable book reader, its my ‘on the go’ document reader, its my calculator…I could go on and on…but you get the message.
So yeah, if anyone of you know about E90 3g working on Cingular/ATT please let me know or you own a HTC touch cruise, drop me a comment about goods and bads of the phone and better if you have used a 9500, then how do the two compare.
So long!!

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Posted in Cellular, Gadgets, VOIP | 4 Comments »

True Global Calling

Posted by activemind on December 11, 2006

For those of you who know me personally, know it very well that I am big on voip. Not just because I am a geek and its a cool thing. I feel that voip is the next thing that will change the way we communicate. I still remember the time when we had to pay by the min for long distance calls here in the country and no I am not talking ages back….I am talking 4-5 years back. Now, 99% of the cellphone plans come with unlimited long distance. I think that day is not very far off when you would be able to pick up your phone and dial any where on the this earth and talk for as long as you want…all on one flat rate, no by the min payments. Infact you can do it today by using clients like Y! messenger or Skype but not using your cellphone or POTS. There are a couple of VOIP providers which have a world unlimited plan but thats limited to a couple of EU countries and a couple of Asia-Pac countries. But thats not what I am talking about. I am talking about ANYWHERE. It has taken us 5 yrs to reach this mark that you can call anywhere in the country now or if you have a VOIP phone then you can call *some* countries unlimited, lets see how long it takes us to achieve the next milestone.
Oh yeah!! As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I did go ahead and set up a full fledged Asterisk PBX. Its up and running now and fully functional. I will write more about it in a later post.
So long….

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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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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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My VOIP Journey

Posted by activemind on April 24, 2006

My introduction with VOIP started back in 2000 when I wanted to get in touch with my family overseas without paying too much money. The only options I had at that time were the older version of MSN Messenger version 4.x which was amazing in itself because it was based on SIP. Yes, it was after that, Microsoft followed everyone else and moved to something non standardized. Anyways, then came Vonage in 2001 and I joined the bandwagon. I signed up for it sometime in July 01 and received a ATA 186 for the connection. Not that calling overseas was cheap but it was cool 🙂 But soon realised that the service was NOT ready for prime time. Kept the Vonage connection for close to yr and a half and then cancelled it. It was around that time that local long distance on cellphones was becoming free so I did not miss my Vonage connection for local long distance. Well after some more time in Jan 2003 I got Vonage again. This time I was determined to get rid of PacBell landline and use Vonage for pretty much everything. This time they shipped me a Motorola Box. The service was still better than what it was but soon realised that it was not going to pass the wife test 🙂 plus the package was much more than what we needed. Also at this time a LOT of new smaller players had emerged and amongst them I like Broadvoice the best. It was the cheapest with $9.99 In-State plans and all the most commonly used features. I switched to Broadvoice at that time. I stayed with them for a long time but soon remembered my real reason why I started looking into VoIP. At that time I switched my home phone to its bare minimum (had to keep it to get DSL….damn! SBC) and swicthed myself and my wife to ATTWS( now Cingular). Anyways, I tired a couple of cheaper options like packet8, Callpacket/Telepacket, Lingo, FWD, IPKall, Gizmo project, Skype, but was not impressed by anything. The closest I came was Telepacket with their $0.95/month plan with 1c/min incoming and 2.9c/min outgoing. This was pretty close to what I was looking for. I used them for like 6 months but their reliablity sucked. And I mean it….half the time the phone would be down. I was very reluctant to get rid of Telepacket because it suited my pocket but was not serving me any real purpose because it was down a lot. I went to Dslreports.com Voip forum and someone(sorry i dont remember who?) adviced me of a hidden jewel…. Callcentric. They are a bare minimum provider but ROCK SOLID. If your Internet connection is good…you cannot go wrong with them. I have been with them for past 3 months…took a Incoming number ($5.95/month) and I am all set. They dont charge anything for incoming and outgoing is 2c/min. Granted they dont have voicemail or virtual numbers or any other fancy features but I dont need them. I have this number from Callcentric mapped overseas and talk as much as you want for $5.95/month + tax. I know, if you dont scrounge the forums and are not totally into VoIP you would have never heard of them, but I would say if your needs are similar to mine….you cannot go wrong with Callcentric.
And no, I am not affiliated with them in any way. I am just a happy customer and again I dont get any referral if anyone else signs up with them after reading this. Bottom line, I do not have any hidden agenda in this.

Posted in VOIP | 6 Comments »

Nokia 9500 and SIP

Posted by activemind on February 9, 2006

I have been endlessly looking for a SIP client for my Nokia 9500 so that I can use my VoIP connection at any hotspots and not use my cellular mins.I just dont understand WHY are there NO client available. I can find a lot for Pocket PC but there seems to be no interest at all for Symbian. The closest I came to was a Series 60 platform client but what I am wondering is why companies like X-lite and SJPhone not interested in making one for Symbian? Is the cost too much to develop something on Symbian platform?

Posted in Cellular, Gadgets, VOIP | 2 Comments »