Thursday, July 27, 2006

Asterisk @ Home or Trixbox with FreePBX


Cisco 7960 VoIP phone w/SIP
Originally uploaded by gadget.
When the Camelot Internet Phone and VocalTech software came out in 1995 I was hooked on Voice over Internet Protocol. Phil Zimmermann's PGPFone brought encryption to VoIP 10 years before Skype but none of these modem delivered technologies were ready for the Internet as it was then. Now with broadband multi-megabit pipes (or is that a series of tubes?) along with services like those above as well as Vonage and beyond have the bandwidth and quality of service required to send voice traffic at a quality near that of the plain old telephone service (POTS). But these still have their own problems while POTS is a more stable product that has been around for the last 100 years, that's a lot of debugging time. Thanks to the instigation of my buddy Matt Deatrick, I have been building systems running [email protected] for a little over a year and their capabilities are mind blowing. No longer are you tied to a proprietary phone system and the hardware base of the switch vendors. You are free to setup forwarding, linking and automated scripts to your heart's content. This system is not for the faint of heart, but chances are that you have a no-longer-used, sub-gigahertz PC at your feet below and have just the amount of curiosity that it takes to tinker with one of the most powerful telephony applications on the planet. I'm only upset that the bugs that were fixed in [email protected] didn't make it into the 1.0 and even the 1.1 version of TrixBox. If you can; go with an @Home distribution with FreePBX until 1.2 gets rid of these silly daemons.

More info on setting up your own Asterisk box can be found in my PC Magazine story here: Your Virtual Assistant.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tangle Management

It is ironic that our life of wireless and portable devices require us to have a complex and tangled charging experience. Standardized charging ports and inductive methods to recharge mobile devices have never materialized, despite even Google's attempt to bring light to the subject at hand at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show.

The Design Within Reach Multipot is a great, albeit pricy, product idea to hold those power "wall-warts" and their associated cables that charge your vast yet growing personal electronics. Just plug your handfull of up to five adapters under the lid of the pot and snake a few inches of cable through the hole in the top. You can charge your gadgets without a lot of cable clutter.

At $250 it doesn't seem exactly within reach, and I wonder if some of the larger device wall-warts fit within the layout of the electrical outlets. Yet it is still a good idea. What it really needs is an iGo Juice inside! Personally, I use a iGo everywhere power 15 with dual outputs to charge my mobile phone and GPS regularly. Just one wall outlet is taken and two devices can be charged. Velcro wraps tie down my cable clutter, not the expensive pot. No wonder DWE has a new CEO.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Camera Searching for Signal...


Kodak V610
Originally uploaded by gadget.
In the 1980's I had a dark room where I would enlarge and develop 35MM prints taken with my SLR camera. To this day I have boxes and boxes of negatives from shots around the world, taken over several decades. Unfortunately, I have no way to sort or search these effectively. When Kodak released their first, and archaic with no flash, Digital Science consumer camera in the late 1990's I instantly jumped into a new revolution. Now I could name my photos and have them searchable and pulled up instantly on my PC. Back in the days when the internal camera memory could only hold 16 to 30 photos, naming them was a trivial process. Nearly 10 years later, my current camera sees 512MB and 1GB SD cards, and holding hundreds of photos on a single card. Naming them becomes an impossible task. Picasa does a decent job with importing them and letting me name and create folders, but I still wish for photo specific naming based upon a location where they were shot, which is typically how I like to organize photos. Expensive SLR cameras have GPS connection options, but these are mainly used for insurance company or survey applications where precise location is important. I just need to take the latitude and longitude numbers, bounce them off a database to determine a city or street name and name the image file accordingly. This would seem to be a relatively simple consumer application. Today, it does not exist. The closest thing, Riya.com uses logic to scan photos for faces it recognizes, after you initially name them, or the text of a street sign to automate the indexing. This is great for people but is not for every shot or location that you take. It will be many years before object recognition software could identify a building and map it back to a location.

New in their spring lineup for 2006, the Kodak V610 dual lens camera has a 10X optical zoom, a 2.8" LCD and 6.1 mega pixel CCD along with a Bluetooth radio inside its svelte chassis. This yet-to-be seen Bluetooth option is used to transfer images from your camera to your PC, but this would be an extremely tedious process for a six-mega pixel image with their large file size. A better application, and one mentioned as feasible by Jens Hinrichsen, a Kodak marketing manager, would involve a "pull" operation rather than a "push" or output operation. Since every mobile phone in America is mandated to have location information for Emergency 911 calling, the camera could request a data transfer of the last know coordinates form the phone and place them within pre-existing EXIF data fields for lat/longitude location information. Now this would require a firmware upgrade to the camera to modify the object push control and add a software button or two to request the location manually, but that's not the hard part. Carriers, especially Verizon, have crippled the mobile phone "standard" Bluetooth stack to only allow headset and hands free profiles. Exchanging photos just as Kodak mentions on their web site is not even supported on the majority of handsets. Using the mobile phone as an inexpensive GPS receiver to give you location data is out of the question.

Listen up carriers, quit crippling the Bluetooth stack in our mobile phones to allow features, such as this, that benefit your consumers!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Add Class to your Hacks


Front Panel Express - rdd-10
Originally uploaded by gadget.
When new technology comes into my gadget lab, the cases come off and the electronic guts come out of their factory designed metal or plastic containers. Once the circuitry is modified, they typically end up in "gadget boxes" or more often hot-glued into Tupperware containers. Now there is a way to get some class with your hacks and even make them look better than what the original manufacturer had intended. Front Panel Express has a free down loadable design tool to take your dreams and turn them into engraved aluminum masterpieces, shipped right to your door. This Boss RDD-10 digital delay used to be a black and purple 1990's vintage gadget that wouldn't fit in a rack. Now you can put an etched and labeled aluminum front on that Tupperware lid.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Be Sweet on Valentines Day


Valentines Day Candy Bikini
Originally uploaded by gadget.
Despite my trademarked nickname of "Gadget Guy", some of my favorite gifts are the un-technical unique products that do not require batteries. Two of them hark from the other side of our pond, in the UK. Now with St. Valentines day and other made-up holidays like Easter around the corner, not to mention my birthday, I wanted to share these gift ideas. Oops, I just mentioned my birthday didn't I?

For your friends with all of the bright ideas, look for the Glow Brick from Suck, UK. This gadget gathers light during the day, then glows during the night. Don't expect a voluminous amount of candlepower output, just a faint yet haunting glow. It would make for a great item to throw at would-be burglars as it is quite heavy. It's more art than function and looks like a MOMA piece, without the dangling cord of a power cable. BTW You can find these discounted on eBay.

This next gift is sexy sweet, literally. The Candy G-String from iWoot, or I Want One of Those, is not meant for everyone as one size fits all, but is sure to get things hot and sticky. Meant to be worn over skin directly, Alessandra Ambrosio adorned hers over skimpy Victory Secret wear at the winter 2005 fashion show, click the photo for the photos. The iWoot Candy G-String will make you want to change your sheets.

Shipping can take some time and a bit expensive on these items when sending them to America, so either hit your girl up with them when you are on holiday or order early for your favorite real or made-up holiday!

Monday, January 09, 2006

XM's "Stack of SD" sized tuner


P1040526
Originally uploaded by gadget.
I made my way back from the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and have a whole slew of photos and technology to show from my trip. Including the new XM tuner that migrates from your home and mobile devices just like a memory card. In fact this one is about the size of a stack of 8 SD cards! I will be blogging on these later as time allows, but in the mean time you can check out my Flickr site for higher resolution camera photos, nice for the girls and cars and photos with brief descriptions from my Treo of the trip.