Archive for November, 2006

Migrating to Xen

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

So, I got unhappy with the responsiveness of and my other UML client (with slightly better performance) in London. I’ve decided UML is a nice hack but I really want to be using something that tries a bit harder to be “real” virtualization. At this moment, that’s Xen, though that might change in the future. Various Xen virtual hosting is now available, and both existing providers are planning to switch eventually.

I don’t want to wait all year though, so I signed up with RimU (what a fucking cool name that is) and am so far impressed with the performance of I moved my US asterisk server over and now am not getting audio dropouts – it’s probably never going to be 100% perfect (it’s VoIP running over SIP after all) but it’s now at the point where I can implement moh (music on hold) and have a fully interactive menu system. Don’t worry, I paid magnatune for a license to play some of their music – it is, after all, only $12/year for personal home office use.

Next, my plan is to move other stuff currenly on fremont over to dallas, and then ask Linode nicely if they plan to give me access to their Xen beta before I pull the plug on them. I like Bytemark, but I’m probably going to can them in favor of BlackCat if they don’t have a compelling offering pretty soon. Blackcat (or Mythic) probably will provide a better service than the UML solution I have in the UK now. Oh well.

Worked out that I’m spending about $50USD/month on additional hosting and SIP/IAX for my non-printk stuff. On the face of it, that sounds like a reasonable amount to be paying for email and telephony, but I don’t pay anything to Verizon or Comcast for telephone service and I don’t have huge per-minute charges to call e.g. the UK. So, overall I think this is a more fun way to spend roughly the same amount of money.


“Former defense secretary”

Thursday, November 9th, 2006

That’s got a nice ring to it. Let’s say it again: “Former defense secretary”. i.e. no longer in office, not able to warmonger, not able to spout off about wars on pointlessness. I loved watching the recorded press conference Bush gave earlier today in which he looked visibly humbled by the election result from yesterday. And I loved watching him cut Rumsfeld. Nobody will miss him.

But I’d rather it hadn’t been Iraq that won the election. I’d rather it had been about education, social reform and programmes, and all that jazz. But if it takes Iraq to help kill off a few Republican seats, then so be it. And they took the Senate too! Woooooo! Let’s hope they don’t waste it (and that impeachment hearings aren’t impossible). Hopefully, Bush is a lame duck.

Isn’t it cool? :-)


Fun with landlords, banks…

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

So I just moved into this place a few weeks ago. I paid a giant deposit and my first month’s rent. Then I decided to also give them a post-dated check for next month’s rent while I was at it (makes sense, since I might go visit family for a few days over the holidays). I called my landlord and was told that would be fine, they’d hold it…

Of course what they actually did was cash the check (the one dated December 1, the one with “RENT DEC ‘06″ printed in capitalized letters on the front, the one with an accompanying note saying what it was for…). This got me into a world of pain earlier on today that I’m sorting out at the moment. But I learned two important things today:

  • I won’t be issuing any post-dated checks like that again. Not to those guys. If I’m travelling, I’ll have to FedEx or otherwise provide a check (since electronic payment hasn’t entered the game over here yet – mind you, it hasn’t really for rent in the UK either). I can’t believe it has to be like that. This is a trivially simple thing, not a patch to rtld.c.
  • The bank will happily cash checks with a future date. This is really very worrying and we’re going to be having a little chat in the morning about that. A long chat in which I’ll make my dissatisfaction abundantly clear to them in language I hope that they’ll understand. I’m not even sure cashing that was remotely legal – would they also not bother to read the date clearly written on the front if it were signed “Donald Duck”?

I haven’t been this pissed off with a private company in a while (and I don’t mean the bank – I always expect them to want to screw you over). I love this apartment, really I do, it’s just a shame it can’t be as simple as “I want this apartment, here’s a direct debit mandate, let me pay you automatically”. One thing Europe does do better (I wrote about one cheque in the last year).

At least the Republicans are having a worse day :-)


War on Republicanism

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

Deval Patrick just became the first black governor of Massachusetts (first time for the Dems in 16 years), leaving MA well and truly a Blue state. CNN is also predicting the Democrats will take 16 seats in the House, giving them overall control. This is going to be a really bad day for poor old King George – hopefully it’ll get worse (the Idiot-in-chief has to work with Democrats for the next 803 days), but the full results aren’t in yet.

Interesting news from Missouri. I’m pleased to hear that McCaskill has taken the Senate seat there – especially interesting to hear that most residents are in favor of stem cell research, though there’s not enough data yet to see whether this issue won the seat. However, nationwide, I am dissappointed to hear so many people voting against allowing same sex marriage – hopefully a few more Republican/Religious scandals can help fix that next time around.

Both the BBC and CNN have done a pretty good job tonight, too.


2006 US Mid-term elections today

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

So, I’m waiting with semi-partially baited breath to see if the least worst viable candidate party can take control over the US Congress later on today. I obviously can’t vote but I would encourage US citizens to go out and exercise their democratic right. For me to take sides would obviously be cheap point-scoring and a complete waste of screen real-estate…

(because sanity is a great thing when exercised en masse)


Press nine to speak to jcm…

Monday, November 6th, 2006

So, I wasted time hacking on my Asterisk configuration over the weekend (I was feeling crappy, spent a lot of time asleep and then decided just to watch TV shows off iTunes while hacking this stuff). The result is that I’ve got two linked Asterisk servers with synchronized call menuing systems and way too many options…

When you call me on one of my cellphones, if the call is not answered immediately, it will divert to Asterisk. The centralized configuration presents the following menu:

  • 1. Gets you into the menu list (default is just to mention it and divert to voicemail so you don’t get pissed off).
  • 2. Call an internal number (requires a passcode).
  • 3. Listen to voicemail.
  • 4. Report an emergency (requires the passcode from my wallet).
  • 9. Try calling my other mobile/cellphone(s).
  • *. Access voicemail.

I like this setup, just a little bit. The system annotates redirections and keeps you informed while it’s trying to locate me by calling out “Call forwarding. Home. Please wait while your call is being connected”, “The number is not answering” and “Call forwarding. Voice Mail System. Please wait while your call is being connected”. And a lot more stuff I won’t even write about here.

The point is, if you like doing silly things with Asterisk, you might like this setup a little bit too. Next step, weird custom Asterisk applications (cmds) to properly handle two geodiverse Asterisk servers – since the current infrastructure support is pretty damn lame (you can use IsAvail and SIPPEER/IAXPEER to determine if a server is online, but you can’t easily say “on this remote Asterisk server, tell me if the extension is currently not registered or DND”). But I’m not complaining, I think Mark’s software rules.

I bought some more funky stuff in Whole Foods to celebrate.


Fun with Asterisk – Part One

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

I’ve been hacking around with Asterisk configurations, DID and IAX in general. I’ve now got two Asterisk servers (one in the US, one in the UK) that have various ways of communicating with oneanother and handling my calls according to overly complex and pretentious configuration. Here’s a little more about how my configuration works. Let’s start by looking at what numbers I need to drive this:

  • +1-617-759-1337 (US cellphone)
  • +1-617-NNN-NNNN (US DID number)
  • +44-777-613-1337 (UK mobile phone)
  • +44-118-NNN-NNNN (UK DID number)

I generally give out two numbers – my US and UK mobile (cellphone) numbers – and let the network forward unanswered calls immediately to my (country specific) DID number (cheaper not to redirect internationally), which Asterisk has control over. This means incoming calls either get answered immediately or go to Asterisk – it then handles voicemail and call routing to my home/laptop SIP phones. The net result is that you can call either official published number and get routed through to me (or to my global voicemail service). It doesn’t matter where I really am when you call my number.

I’m not currently forwarding one cellphone to the other via Asterisk because I need some additional (and complex) scripting in order to avoid circular call redirects. In the worst case, Asterisk will timeout but I don’t want to have calls bounce around too long before they go somewhere – at the moment, it’s better they go to voicemail than spend a minute hunting to find where I’m at. I’ve had to add an artificial ring while Asterisk does its stuff as it is – but right now, it’s about 10 seconds for it to go figure.