An Asterisk VOIP Adventure

Redline Software (the company I slave for) has taken the plunge and decided to use Asterisk and a SIP provider and say goodbye to BT forever, well almost were still going to have one analog line for emergency’s.

We have spent the last couple of weeks figuring out what makes Asterisk tick and selecting a SIP provider and have decided to use VOIPtalk and Swissvoice IP10’s handsets. We will make use of voicemail, huntgroups and call forwarding. VOIP talk charge £9.99 for setting up an inbound 0845 number and there call charges for the UK are low 1.4 p a minute.

We were quoted £3500 for an Alchemy IP Office solution with IP handset and ISDN2 termination which I thought was pretty reasonable. It will cost us £2000 for handsets and a server to run Asterisk on!

Digital Piracy Protects Consumers

Market economics, flawed DRM and DVD prices are all factors that influence digital piracy levels. I have formed a theory that digital piracy forces DVD prices down, or if you like, raising DVD prices increases digital piracy. In this way the pirates are keeping the DVD publishing companies honest.

I listened to a recent IT Conversations podcast, with Cory Doctorow from the EFF, in it he made the point that DRM stifles innovation by preventing entrepeneurs creating products that manipulate digital media in ways never imagined. He also claimed that the current DRM mechanisms are flawed and all will eventually be compromised.

So if DVD publishers don’t use DRM then what will prevent one person from going out and buying a DVD and then giving copies to all they’re friends? The simple answer is price and convienience, make the price affordable and the product accessible and you reduce the temptation of piracy because it takes time to copy DVD’s and most people won’t bother once DVD prices are easily affordable.

Removing DRM opens up a world of possibilities, legal DIVX downloads so that people can watch movies on demand. DVD jukebox products for people to store all their films on to watch in any room at home. The list is endless and every new product would likely encourage more people to watch more, is this not something the film studios are interested in?



I was googling for info on the VOIP 999 issue and came accross this Offcom Statement which sounds very encouraging. In it Offcom acknowledges that their role is to ensure the public are informed about the differences between traditional and IP based telephony services. They are also trying to encourage existing VOIP suppliers to offer 999 services by not asking them to me the current strict regulatons that traditional phone companies must meet.

They seem sensitive to the fact that VOIP has the potential to benefit the consumer by reducing costs and increasing comptition. If they continue on this track I would say VOIP has a bright future in the UK.

Other countries are not so fortunate, Canada have just introduced regulation for VOIP services, Mark Evans has blogged about it here. Jeff Pulver has also just blogged about his fears for USA VOIP and interference that may come in the form of ‘National Security’ and the fact that it is easy to encrypt conversations over VOIP.



Douglas Adams has a lot to answer for!

So I am not a drooling fanboy of Douglas Adams “Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” but I did enjoy the TV series and I’m looking forward to seeing the film. I have just got Asterisk the open source pbx running and so I’m using the console and I log out and this message pops up “Goodbye and thanks for all the fish!”. Innocently I think that’s funny not realising the DA relavance. Then I head on over to Podcast Alley to comment on Slacker Astronomy (see blogroll for link) and I see “Thanks for all the fish!” and think google which returns Douglas Adams – Thanks for all the fish!.

Dave Winer Podcast

I do admire Dave Winer if anyone was ever totally unsuited to creating audio content surely it must be him. That said he has some interesting ideas if a little kooky and I really enjoyed listening to his 7th May Podcast there were some good conversation points.

Dave clearly doesn’t give a crap about what I or anyone else thinks and I find that refreshing but he really sounds like 60’s hippie surfer dude. When I listen to him I get a mental image of an aged Big Lebowski.

My Kitesurfing Podcast

I have just completed my fifth kitesurfing podcast. I am focusing on news, events like windfest and incidents in the world of kitesurfing. Whenever possible I will try to get interviews with kitesurfers like Jason Furness who was kind enough to spare me some of his time. He has a great job working for Flexifoil spending six months a year product testing in South Africa. He also works with Aaron Hadlow the current world champ helping him prepare for competitions.

I you want to have listen click here to download any of the shows in MP3 format. You can also subscribe to the show using a podcatching client like iPodder. This method means you recieve new shows automatically when they are uploaded by me.

Personal Finance Advice

Like all the best advice this is free and comes without warranty but I have worked the consumer finance world for most of my working life, and done my fair share of borrowing and repaying.

I keep hearing and reading a lot on the topic of people borrowing too much money and getting themselves into financial difficulty. Often the advice they are given is poor or wrong. First prevention is better than cure. If you have trouble managing to spend everything you earn then a credit card is a fantastic device. If like me you spend your time figuring out where all your dosh goes then a credit card is a nightmare. Get an online bank account and arrange an overdraft and use your switch card like you would a credit card. Using this method means all you have to do is check your balance and you get an instant picture of how poor or wealthy you are.

So what about a new car or other substantial purchase? The best type of loan I have found for this is a flexible personal loan like the one Cahoot offers at 5.8% APR. There is no penalty for paying the loan off early and you can vary the repayments if you find yourself having a bad month.

So what should you do if you have over borrowed and are struggling to meet the repayments?

  • If you have secured debts like a mortgage which is secured against your house then unless you wish to have the property repossesed you must concentrate on paying these first, this also goes for secured car loans.
  • Keep a dialog with the companies you’ve borrowed from, this is very important as they are legally obliged to try and make an arrangement to help you through a rough patch. It is very difficult for them to take legal proceedings against you if you keep responding to phone calls, letters.
  • Don’t talk to Debt Management companies they are parasites, they will reorganise your finances for a hefty fee promising you a lower monthly repayment but you will be making that repayment for a lot longer.
  • Consider a consolidation loan but be very cautious about taking on a secured loan unless you are willing to lose the property you are securing the loan against. If you do go down this route look for a lower APR than your current debts.
  • APR’s are king the lower the better unsecured is better than secured. If you are quoted ‘Flat Rates’ ask what is the APR?
  • Talk to your local Citizens Advice Bureau they will offer impartial advice.

If things get really bad you could consider bankruptcy, this is not an easy option there are varying punishments depending on how irresponsible you have been with your borrowing. It does offer a way of getting back to square one but you credit rating will be shot to pieces for at least two years.