Decisions

I was working on the AstRaq (yes, that’s what I’m calling it) last night and I’m struggling with my limited knowledge of the guts of Linux. For a long time I’ve used TrixBox and it’s worked fine for me. I’ve been considering switching to AsteriskNow though, partly because it’ll serve my needs just as well and partly because it’s put out by Digium.

The problem I’m running into is that I need to compile a new kernel for the RAQ support. I’ve compiled kernels before, although it’s been quite a while. It’s just that it’s way outside my comfort zone. So, I started looking into getting source and the process of compiling a kernel and what I think I’ve found is that you want to be consistent with the distro you’re using. In other words, it’s possible to just do a straight kernel upgrade but it’s better to use the tools provided with the distro. If someone can tell me that I’m crazy and overthinking this I’d appreciate it.

More digging and I discover that AsteriskNow is built off of rPath. Again, lack of familiarity. I’ve been seeing rPath in a lot of appliance style distro’s lately and I get the impression it has some really nice tools for building that kind of package. I found that the package management for rPath is Conary and that there are some ways to build a custom kernel for an appliance. I imagine this works for the appliance after it’s been installed but that’s not clear to me. Also, this tutorial I found makes reference to things I imagine rPath developers implicitly understand such as “cooking” in the changes. More research I’ll have to do.

But this has left me wondering…do I take the time to understand rPath and it’s oddities? Or do I do a basic Debian/Ubuntu install and load Asterisk from apt-get? That won’t get me the gui tools but I probably don’t need them. Might be nice for someone else though. And then, will I ever be able to run the updating tools in AsteriskNow if I’m running a custom kernel? Do I need to worry about AsteriskNow wiping out my customer kernel?

So many questions and not enough time for answers. If anyone has some insight I’d sure be happy to hear it.

Nice RAQ

I’m now the proud owner of a Cobalt RAQ 3 and a 3i. The 3 will be Asterisk and the 3i will be my firewall.

So far I’ve updated the flash in the 3 using these instructions and no problems. Now I’m working on building an AsteriskNow image in vmware that’ll play nice on the RAQ. It looks like it’s not that hard as long as you follow the necessary steps regarding partitions and some kernel drivers. I’ll report back once it’s in action.

My (not so) refined palate

I wish I could say I have a refined palate but the truth is, while I think I can distinguish flavors I had a very hard time identifying them. However, I had the opportunity to do some pseudo taste testing with the help of Ang doing the blind preparation. She recently got me several Bourbons (ain’t she great) and since I had so many varieties in the house at one time it seemed like an ideal situation to try them out.

Now, I’ve been a fan of Knob Creek for a while. In fact, it’s really what got me into drinking Bourbon more often. Keeping that in mind, the following results surprised me a bit.

The candidates:

  • Knob Creek
  • Bookers (another long time favorite)
  • Bernheim (really a wheat Whiskey and not Bourbon)
  • Dickel Barrel Select
  • Jefferson’s Reserve Very Small Batch
  • Prichards Double Barreled

The first thing I did was a sniff test. I honestly couldn’t tell a great deal of difference between the varieties when smelled from a shot glass. I believe I can tell a difference when smelling from the bottle but that wasn’t the test.

I did two tests. First was neat where I took about two moderate draws and swished it around a bit before swallowing. Here are the notes in reverse order of preference:

6th – Bookers

  • Upfront bite
  • Slow burn in back
  • Harsh, Woody

5th – Knob (most surprising)

  • Harsh upfront
  • Becomes more mellow
  • Hard to find a distinct flavor

4th – Bernheim Wheat Whiskey

  • Darker color
  • A little harsh
  • Sweet highs after the initial bite

2nd Tied – Jefferson’s Reserve

  • Not as harsh up front
  • Lots of flavor
  • Cherry?

2nd Tied – Dickel’s Barrel Select

  • Not very harsh
  • Very distinct flavor
  • Almost flowery up front
  • Thought it was Bernheim’s

1st – Prichards Double Barreled

  • Not much burn
  • Little sweet up front
  • Little vanilla
  • Darker color

So, the results of the first test, neat, kind of surprised me. To find my two favorite Bourbons in the last two positions was interesting. After some googling I also found this link at tasting.com which suggests there’s some cherry flavors in Jefferson’s Reserve. Hmm…maybe I can refine that palate after all!

For the second test Angie mixed 1/2 oz Bourbon with 3 oz Coke. This is usually my preferred way of drinking it. No doubt this is sacrilege to Bourbon purists but too bad. In retrospect the ratio was a little short as they were weaker than I normally have but that’s ok. It gave me a good baseline to judge them all by. So, in reverse order again:

6th – Prichard’s Double Barreled

  • Not much flavor
  • Pretty smooth

5th – Bookers

  • Strong
  • Little bit harsh

4th – Bernheim Wheat Whiskey

  • Woody
  • Not harsh

3rd – Knob Creek

  • Not harsh
  • Pretty sweet

2nd – Dickel Barrel Select

  • Vanilla?
  • Sweeter
  • Very nice

1st – Jefferson’s Reserve

  • Great flavor
  • Candy like
  • No harshness

Again, I’m let down by what I thought was one of my favorites, Bookers. It just came across as too harsh compared to the others. I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the alcohol content. Thankfully Knob Creek faired better. Still, I think I have a new favorite in Jefferson’s Reserve. Wow, it really stood out from the rest. Excellent flavor and depth and very smooth.

So, there you have it. I’m sure the terminology I’m using is all wrong. Oh well. I think I got across my impressions just fine, thank you very much!

If I come across another brand sometime soon I’ll see about adding my comments about it as well.

Pirelli blows

The Audi A3 came with Pirelli P-Zero tires.  Let me just say, they sucked.  They were always pretty bad but the last couple of months they had become very loud.  Recently the threads(!) started showing in the middle ridge.  So, looked for a deal and got a reasonable but not great one at Costco.

I’ve now had some Michelin Pilot Sport A/S’s on for a couple of weeks and I love them!  Very quiet and sticky.  I just hope they last.  They are considered “Ultra high performance all season”.  According to Tirerack the ratings for all conditions, including wet, are pretty good.  I’ve had the chance to take a couple of quick curves in the dry and they feel so much tighter than the Pirelli’s.  Not a hint of squeal yet either.  I don’t know if or when I’ll have a chance to autocross them but if I do I’ll try to report back on the results.

Cisco and Linksys, who should own the SMB space?

Just posted a rant in the comments over at GigaOm. It’s up!

I’ve ranted about this before. I just think there’s a disconnect between the executives and the local sales organization as to how the SMB space is currently handled. I’m not talking products line but rather the actual servicing of customer needs and providing effective support to Partners.

Regarding Om’s survey. I don’t think Linksys should go away. What I do think should happen is to approach the SMB space from a Cisco branding perspective differently. Establish a different sales relationship with SMB Partners and customers than the one that’s currently in place.

MWI…MWI…

I might be giving up on the dream of using Asterisk purely as VM for a Cisco CM/CME based system.  Why?  MWI.  From what I’ve found the only way currently to make MWI work in this scenario is to bash it together with custom scripts and cron jobs.  Ugh.  What a pain.  I like tinkering and it could be fun but I have too many other things to do with my time.

The problem remains though that I need to get Asterisk off of the current laptop I’m running it on.  A couple of days ago I stumbled across the good old Cobalt Raq.  I have past experience with these from early web hosting days.  I liked the systems a lot but the updates became too infrequent and the platform became very unsecure.  What’s cool is that the early Intel Raq’s are on Ebay for cheap!  They use some funky flash based firmware so they aren’t as easy as using a straight Intel system but the method of converting it to a different distro, such as Debian, is pretty well documented.  Plus, it’s a shallow 19″ rack mount with a 60w PSU.  Perfect for running in the basement rack.  Lightweight and light on the power.

I already won one of them and it’ll be my new firewall.  I’m going to try to snag a second one to be my Asterisk server and I’ll just keep running chan_sccp.  Should have plenty of power for my very small system.

SageTV and Components

Not ready to take the plunge just yet but I’m really close to going with Sage.  The primary reason is that there will finally be a method of capturing Component video.  Specifically, the HD channels we get on DirecTV!  Hauppauge is coming out with this device in about 2 months.  In the meantime I’m driven to find a solution to our DVD collection.  The kids have a habit of pulling everything out and not putting it away.  Go figure.  Sure would be nice to have it all digitized so we’re not destroying DVD’s.

Right now I’m mainly waiting for Sage’s HD Extender to come available again and then I think it’s time.

Don’t yell at me Ang!  🙂

CME and Asterisk part 3, end of the trilogy?

A couple of years ago I went through a couple of iterations of CME to Asterisk integration. Since then we’ve been running fairly reliably with the Cisco 1760 router behaving purely as a SIP based gateway and Asterisk managing everything else. I’ve run our Cisco phones as SCCP using the chan_sccp on Asterisk.

Due to some recent purchases and the fact that I don’t have ACPI figured out on the laptop Asterisk is running on, I’ve decided to change the configuration a bit. I need the memory and the charger from that laptop so that version of Asterisk has got to go.

What I’ll be doing is going back to the 1760 as CME and not just the voice gateway. There was always something a little funky about chan_sccp on Asterisk so having the call control back in the hands of Cisco should work better. In trying to get to the most current version of CME on the 1760 I’ve discovered something. I have 96/32 for the memory/flash and the “recommended” configuration is 128/64 for CME4.0 and later. As far as I can tell CME4.2 isn’t supported on the 1760 at all. I was tempted to try it but that IOS version wasn’t available and the T train doesn’t seem to have progressed enough to make it by with that alone. So, I tried CME4.1 since 12.4(15)T is available for the 1760. It works! So far! I’ve only attached a single phone to it and there was no way I could copy the entire CME installation over. If I had a diverse mix of phones I’d be out of flash space but I only needed the files for the 7940/60 and the 7920 so it fits. Barely.

I spent the better part of last night getting CME configured again on the 1760. Phone registers, no problem. I set up AsteriskNow virtually and connected an IAX softphone to it. Also, no problem. After some tweaking of the Asterisk config and reminding myself how context’s work I was able to make calls back and forth between a 7940 registered to CME and the IAX softphone. I then got the voicemail button working on the 7940. Also, not a problem.

Now I’m stuck. I can’t get the MWI to work. Voicemail works, no problem. Just doesn’t seem to be sending the MWI to the CME. Even running a debug on the CME shows no activity related to the MWI. So, I’ve got something misconfigured on Asterisk.

I’ll continue to poke at the MWI problem. Once I have a working config I’ll post the details so maybe someone else can benefit from this.

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