First month of Internet telephony results

April 1st, 2014

My Internet telephony landline replacement system has been used for one complete month. Here are some financial results.

My last traditional landline month of service: $47.46
Internet telephony – Twillio and Callcentric – March 2014: $8.12
Savings: $39.34

I am very happy with these results. These results may not be typical as we (obviously) don’t use the home phone very much. The traditional home phone service wasn’t usage based which results in a large per minute cost. The Internet telephony system meets our needs better because of the pay-what-you-use model. It gives us a much lower monthly cost with no loss of features.

Cutting the landline phone

March 30th, 2014

I know it is 2014 and many people have already dropped their landline phone. But I have two kids who aren’t yet old enough to have a mobile phone and I want to make sure that they can use a traditional phone in our house if the need should arise. This February 21, 2014, I fully activated my Internet based home phone system which replaced my traditional CenturyLink phone service. My Internet based phone service is composed of an OBi device to interface with my existing phone handset, Twilio for incoming calls, and Callcentric for outgoing calls.

Callcentric is a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Internet phone provider. They can provide incoming and outgoing phone service using your own telephone adapter. One of the things that I like about Callcentric is the ability to use a pay-per-minute phone plan. Since we typically use our mobile phones it currently doesn’t make financial sense to buy a lot of VOIP minutes. For outgoing calls, Callcentric charges $0.0198 per minutes to USA and Canada. Callcentric also provides 911 services at $1.50 per month.

I could use Callcentric for incoming calls as well. But I am using Twilio to create an incoming call voice application. I have had a little experience in automated telephone software. In my first job out of college I worked at MCI on 1-800-COLLECT. As part of that job I worked on a team the developed collect messaging and we patented the idea in US 5787150 A: Method and system for automated collect call messaging. Back then, the software was written on an AIX Unix system in C and interacted directly with the telco switch. Now with Twilio you can create a REST application that Twilio invokes when it has telephony events. The application that I developed allows the caller to choose to connect to my mobile phone directly, my wife’s mobile phone directly, or connect with my home phone. This application was written in Python and is hosted on Google App Engine. I have created a GitHub repository Mytelco to host an example of the application. When the incoming caller chooses to connect to one of our cell phones the outgoing connection is a voice call. When the incoming caller chooses to connect to our home phone the outgoing connection is a SIP call.

Here is the current cost breakdown of the system:

Old System

  • CenturyLink local phone service: $47.46 per month

New System

  • One time costs
  • Callcentric
    • 911 service: $1.50 per month
    • Outgoing calls: $0.0198 per minute
  • Twilio
    • Phone Number: 2 x $1.00 = $2.00 per month
    • Incoming call: $0.01 per minute
    • Outgoing connection voice: $0.02 per minute
    • Outgoing connection SIP: $0.005 per minute
  • Google App Engine
    • usage based, currently free


2012 Walmart Black Friday HP Laptop Dual Boots Windows 8 and Ubuntu

December 27th, 2012

So last night I was able to upgrade my Walmart Black Friday HP 2000-bf69WM laptop from 4 to 8 Gig of memory. Today, I got Ubuntu installed on it so that it can dual boot between Windows 8 and Ubuntu. I followed the steps from this post to shrink the Windows 8 partition to make space for Ubuntu (shrunk by 150 Gig) and installed Ubuntu via USB key: Installing Ubuntu on a Pre-Installed Windows 8 system.

2012 Walmart Black Friday Laptops Support 8 Gig of Memory

December 26th, 2012

I bought the 2012 Walmart Black Friday Compaq CQ58-bf9WM laptop for my daughter and the HP 2000-bf69WM laptop for me. Both are running Windows 8, a 64-bit OS. We just just opened each laptop yesterday for Christmas. The Compaq came with 2 Gig of memory and the HP came with 4 Gig of memory. Both laptops look like they are based on similar if not the same base system. The motherboard only has 1 memory slot. I ordered a 16 Gig (2 x 8G) set of DIMMs; one DIMM for each laptop. I was able to open the bottom of the laptops, take out the 2 or 4 Gig DIMM and insert an 8 Gig DIMM. Upon booting up the machines, they both reported 8 Gig of memory. Success!

Here is the memory that I ordered from G.SKILL 16GB (2 x 8G) 204-Pin DDR3 SO-DIMM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Laptop Memory Model F3-10600CL9D-16GBSQ

webLightSwitch Project Announcement

January 25th, 2012
Screen shot of webLightSwitch running in the Android browser

Screen shot of webLightSwitch running in the Android browser

I have developed a new project called webLightSwitch. You can find details about the project on the webLightSwitch project page. The project is a simple but useful program to allow me to control some of the lights in my home via a web interface. This allows me to use my mobile phone to turn on and off the lamp or the outdoor lights at my house. The control software is written in JavaScript and runs on a BeagleBone using node.js. The user interface, as seen in the screen shot, is implemented with jQuery Mobile to make the interface touch friendly. The lights are controlled by Smarthome INSTEON controllers. The BeagleBone communicates with the lighting controllers via a Smarthome PowerLinc Modem.

I have been running the software for over a week now. With it being winter right now in Iowa, it gets dark well before I arrive home from work around 6PM. Using my mobile phone to be able to turn on the outdoor lights is very convenient. The experience is similar to my automatic garage door opener: drive up to drive way, press button to open garage door, and press button to turn on outside lights.

I plan to develop a more advanced home automation system, but this simple system has proven itself to be useful. In addition to the webLightSwitch project page, you can find the source code on GitHub and a video demonstration on YouTube.

Logging steps via Google Docs

September 15th, 2011

My employer, Pearson, provided the opportunity for its employees to participate in the 2011 Global Corporate Challenge. The GCC consisted of teams of 7 who tracked their daily steps counted with a pedometer for 16 weeks. The idea is to motivate people to become more active. The event started on May 19, 2011 and ended September 6, 2011. Being an engineering type of person, I liked the idea of gathering the daily step count as a metric for activity. The event suggested a goal of achieving 10,000 steps a day. I was pretty active recording my pedometer activity every morning via the SMS text message data entry technique: the GCC has an SMS short code and you entered the date and number of steps. Submitted text messages were recorded in your step log on the GCC web site. Being able to enter the data via my phone was very handy as it let me enter data while I was on vacation without missing a day. But, now that the event is over, I still wanted to keep track of my step counts. Here is the technique that I worked out using Google Docs to record my step counts.

I created a Google Docs Form to collect my daily step count. The collected data is stored in a Google Docs Spreadsheet. The form can be viewed in a web browser or in Google Docs for Android. Since I have an Android phone, the form lets me use my phone to still collect my daily step counts each morning. And since the data is stored in a spreadsheet, I can perform calculations on the data to get my total and average step counts and even graph my daily totals. Here is the process that I use.

Read the rest of this entry »

Adding the handy separator to Cygwin

September 15th, 2011

Separator Screen Shot

Lifehacker had a pretty neat post yesterday which added “a Handy Separator Between Commands in Your Terminal on Mac OS X and Linux.” I use a Cygwin terminal on my Windows machine, and the Linux script almost worked: the dashes didn’t print. I tracked down my particular problem to the COLUMNS variable used to calculate how many dashes to print in the separator. In my Cygwin terminal prompt, running “export $COLUMNS” showed the variable was blank; meaning that no dashes were used for the separator. Looking at the Mac modification, I noticed that it used the command “shopt -s checkwinsize” to check the window size and if necessary update the LINES and COLUMNS variables. So after adding these two lines to the beginning of the Linux “.bash_ps1″ script, here, the separator worked for my Cygwin terminal.

shopt -s checkwinsize
export COLUMNS

Sandman Slim book review

August 13th, 2011

I finished the book Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey last Saturday — I think it took me a week to catch my breath. This story was basically non-stop action. It a story about a man, Stark, who is seeking revenge on the people who killed his girlfriend after these same people sent Stark to Hell. Yep, Stark was a live human living in Hell. He had to escape Hell and return to Earth to track down the magicians who sent him Downtown. The story follows Stark’s investigation into where the responsible parties can now be found after living in Hell for 11 years.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I could not put it down because it moves so quickly from one scene to the next. One reason may be because the book is not arranged in chapters; it is just one continuous story. It is full of magic mixed together with Hellions and Angels, God and the Devil, and Stark’s vendetta against his old “friends”. The language used in the book is quite colorful. The descriptions of other worldly locations provide depth to the story. I could almost see one of the Whedon brothers turning this book into a movie.

Ironic Icealert

February 3rd, 2011

At my place of employment, The Icealert System™ (trademark of Icealert, Inc.) was installed this fall at all of the doorways and the entrance driveway. The Icealert System™ display turns from white to blue when the potential for ice occurs. Now, I live and work in Iowa. We expect it to get cold. (It was a high of 13 degrees Fahrenheit today–which is below freezing, and a bit below the average of  31 [which is still below freezing]). So I was interested to see how The Icealert System™ would be helpful in such a climate where there are extended days, perhaps weeks, where it doesn’t get above freezing. I have been waiting for a day like today and was prepared with my camera phone to take this picture.

Snow covered Icealert indicator

The Icealert System™ indicator is showing “blue” because there is a potential for ice. Well, I guess there is more than potential, as half of the indicator is obscured by snow! This “obscured by snow” indication is not listed as a feature of the indicator on the The Icealert System™ web page. (In fact, in the pictures of the indicator on the companies web site, none of the picture show the indicator in snow.) This snow indication may be a hidden feature of the indicator–sweet.

This kind of reminds me of The Weather Rope. It is typically a board with one end of a small length of rope tied to the board and the other end of the rope is left dangling. There is some variation of this legend included on the board:

Rope Weather
Still Calm
Moving Windy
Wet Rain
Shaking Earthquake
Gone Tornado

I got Froyo last night…here

August 20th, 2010


My Droid received the Android 2.2 (Froyo) release last night. Last night I was here, at Folly Beach, SC.