Monday, December 31, 2007

Quick and Easy Caller ID on MythTV

I have resisted the urge to display caller id on my MythTV as somewhat obvious. I’m always looking for ways to demonstrate the freedom which comes from using open source software, but I prefer the zesty freshness of an original idea rather than anything that’s been done, redone, and done again. My wife, however, thought that Myth caller id sounded like a great idea and asked me to set it up. What follows is how I did this with the least possible effort.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry ChristMyth

This past Sunday I joined my brother-in-law in watching Christmas in Yellowstone, but we only caught part of the program, so I decided to record a later showing in high definition; unfortunately my MythTV box is about 360 km southeast of my current location. I thought MythWeb might be useful but I was not familiar with it, nor had I installed it. Now that I am, and have, I wish I had set this up earlier. Off site management access is just the beginning of MythWeb’s feature set.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Direct Inward Dialing with Asterisk and Broadvoice

When I wrote about building my own PBX, I mentioned that I set up Direct Inward Dialing (DID), a feature which allows virtual phone numbers to be routed directly to extensions while using shared trunks (phone lines). I figured out how to accomplish this after reading this discussion, but made improvements along the way.

Quick Fix for Asterisk/BroadVoice Number Conflict.

I have a strange issue on my Asterisk box. If I call BroadVoice tech support using one of their trunks, I connect normally and hear the initial IVR, I press "1" and hear "Your call is being transferred." Then the weirdness starts: I remain connected, but I hear my own hold music. As near as I can figure, while I'm on hold in their call queue, Asterisk has dumped me in to hold and I can't get out. If I stay on long enough for a tech to pick up, they either hear nothing or my hold music and hang up. Free beer goes to anyone who can identify and solve this issue, meanwhile I have developed a workaround.

Linux Bane

The Cat Who Walked Through Firewalls
The Cat Who Walked Through Firewalls
While I was cooking last night's dinner, I made the mistake of leaving my laptop running, open, and unattended. Because ours is primarily a Linux household (my wife is a Mac user),`aptitude update && aptitude upgrade`. Laptops, however, are an entirely different story. As you can see in the photo, we live with a creature that is essentially a heat seeking missle bent on killing laptop computers. Sure it was funny the first couple times, but amusement quickly turned to horror when I saw that she can actually crash Linux. All my base are belong to her.

I normally don't worry much about the computers. The servers, devices, and desktops tend to chug along without needing anything more than an occasional

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Red Box

I finally built a red box, not the phone phreak device that generates coin tones for pay phones, but rather a Linux PBX which gives me the power and flexibility of a commercial grade phone system at a fraction of the cost. I call it a red box because the primary VoIP number I chose suggests [1]June 20, 1963-- the day the “red telephone” went live between Washington and Moscow. Once I painted the side panels a nice, shiny red, I decided that in keeping with the metallic network naming I use (cobalt, tungsten, strontium, etc.) the best name for my new PBX would be 'copper'.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Voodoo Programming

One of the reasons I’m a consultant is because I love to solve problems; this does not mean, however, that I enjoy all the problems I solve, nor that the pursuit is always rewarding in itself. This week I got stuck in a mind-bender that had all the satisfying crunch of a soggy pretzel.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Competition is good.

The Common Council of the city of Peekskill, New York had a public hearing tonight to hear citizens' comments on the proposed granting of a cable franchise contract to Verizon. Some Verizon suits were in attendance, as well as an obligatory Cablevision weasel; what surprised me was the vocal support of Peekskill residents, most of whom are not Verizon employees. It's nice to live in a forward-thinking community. It will come as no surprise that the Council's vote in favor of the contract was unanimous, but the epiphanic moment was toward the end of the public commentary when a Verizon rep. was attempting to recall the website address for more information: he got stuck after "it's, eh..." and nearly the entire gallery finished "FiOS".

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Multiple Recipient Delimiters in Postfix

err.pngSome time ago I enabled recipient delimiters (e.g. user+foo@host.tld) as a convenient way to know if shady web forms are contributing to my spam folder. The idea is that when House Depot requires me to have an account before I can see if they have loose screws in stock locally, I can sign up with instead of my usual e-mail. With recipient delimiters enabled, postfix will try to deliver any incoming mail to garrison+housedepot but when it finds no such user, it will try garrison and I get my mail. The problem arises when I discover that House Depot’s broken web form rejects any e-mail addresses with “+” in the user name as invalid. I’m already using garrison+foo style addresses elsewhere so I don’t want to change the recipient delimiter, but neither do I trust my real address to a company that can’t even create a proper web form.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Spam War Chronicles: SARE Ninjas

S.A.R.E. Ninjas are the folks over at SpamAssassin Rules Emporium who act as sort of an arms dealer in the Spam War: they publish custom rules and plugins for SpamAssassin, the Open Source world’s powerful anti-spam software. This article is about an imminent software release that promises big trouble for spammers.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Music on the Go (part 2)

The first Ogg-friendly music player I purchased was a Neuros II; Three Ogg Players this was late in 2004 and hardware support was fairly new as the Vorbis codec didn't reach 1.0 until 2002. Then, as now, the best place for information on Ogg-friendly devices was XiphWiki. I recall being quite impresssed with Neuros' willingness to open up the device specifications and embrace the Open Source community, unfortunately the device suffered from a number of design flaws that no amount of firmware hacking could ever resolve. Ultimately the combination of charging problems, a design plagued by awkwardness and bulk, and the manufacturer's shift to focus on newer devices doomed the Neuros II to my technology junk drawer.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

WiFi Expansion

Gigabit Home NetworkSummer in Peekskill has turned out to be quite nice and my wife and I have spent the last couple weeks refactoring our hardware configuration with procedures occasionally referred to as "foundation planting" and "buying porch furniture". Naturally, porch life in the Hoffman home requires adequate wifi coverage, so I got to thinking about how to extend my router's wireless signal.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Music on the Go (part one)

I have music on my mind. I'm listening to Voodoo Child (ten point bonus if you know how this relates to Doctor Who) and thinking about my next portable music player. Like most geeks, the first question I ask about any digital music device is, "does it play OGG?"

Generally superior to MP3, Ogg Vorbis is a must for any lossy digital music collection, but it's not the only feature I look for in a music player. I use four basic criteria to judge music players:

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Dell Agress with Codefix

Dell & UbuntuDell didn't ask but if they had I would have told them that Ubuntu Linux is a good choice. I have generally refrained from the usual histrionics whenever something Linux-ish makes the news, but I'd would like to voice a couple remarks regarding Dell's Ubuntu announcement.

While I'm always happy to see Linux reaching a wider audience, Dell has been something of a fair weather friend to the open source crowd.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Linux Success Story

I'm working on a marketing letter, and I'll be using one of my favorite success stories which is about Russ, owner of a small Internet service provider (ISP) providing web hosting, e-mail, and related services to his local community.

Once upon a time, I would listen to Russ complain of problems with his proprietary e-mail server, then I would suggest he let me set up a Linux server running open source software, and Russ would sigh, “Yeah, I really should...” but he could usually get his e-mail running again without too much help and everything would continue as before.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Managing Line Endings

Moments ago I was asked to help figure out why a simple bash script was producing a "Bad interpreter" error on a Linux box. After checking that the bash interpreter was indeed where the script believed it was, I deduced that the problem was none other than the invisible gremlin that has plagued electronic text for over thirty years: line endings.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Digital Photography with Linux

Argus During the summer of 1982, I borrowed a 35mm camera from my father and enrolled in a photography workshop; I took surprisingly decent photographs with that old Argus C3 and found that I very much enjoyed working in the darkroom as well. Still the oldest camera I own, the Argus has long been retired to my camera collection in favor newer models, most recently a Canon Digital Rebel XT. Today I am writing from the perspective of one fortunate enough to enjoy the intersection of two interests.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Good Advice, Bad Advice

Earlier this month Debian 4.0 (codename 'Etch') was released; many web pages now sport instructions for upgrading, but not all of these are wholly correct and some aren't even safe. Naturally the best source for all things Debian is the official Debian website, where one may find comprehensive upgrade notes, but quick and easy tends to be the order of the day.