This can’t be my original idea

I had one of those ‘eureka’ ideas this morning and it goes something like this…

Background first: Out of the roughly 500 phones in place in my district, I’m replacing 2-3 a month. This doesn’t surprise me as they’re now hitting about 6 years of use, and all of the analog phones (2/3 of the ‘fleet’) were a discontinued model when we purchased them. I’ve been replacing them with Vodavi Starplus 2700 series phones, which seem to be nearly indestructible, and carry a 5 year warranty. Seeing how the speakerphone version runs me $30 (from Hello Direct) I haven’t given it much thought.

I’ve been looking at VOIP phones, and the low end ones run $75-100. And I suddenly think, boy, if I could buy a phone that handled both analog and VoIP, I could start buying them now and save $30/phone down the road by not replacing bad phones now and again when we roll out VoIP. I’d end up saving over $9,000 (if I replaced 300 phones) and make the cost of our initial implementation seem $30,000 lower as we’d spread some of the phone purchases out over a couple of years.

Well, I must be a genius, because 15 minutes of googling came up with nada, nothing, zilch. This can’t be that hard to do – I see el-cheapo analog phones at the store in the $1-5 range all the time, so it wouldn’t make the phone cost that much more. You could even use the same jack and have it auto-sense service or have a switch between analog and Ethernet. So I guess I’ve got the start to my first patent in my patent portfolio that will make me a gazillionaire.

Seriously, does anyone know of such a device? I honestly can’t believe this is my original idea…

This can’t be my original idea

I had one of those ‘eureka’ ideas this morning and it goes something like this…

Background first: Out of the roughly 500 phones in place in my district, I’m replacing 2-3 a month. This doesn’t surprise me as they’re now hitting about 6 years of use, and all of the analog phones (2/3 of the ‘fleet’) were a discontinued model when we purchased them. I’ve been replacing them with Vodavi Starplus 2700 series phones, which seem to be nearly indestructible, and carry a 5 year warranty. Seeing how the speakerphone version runs me $30 (from Hello Direct) I haven’t given it much thought.

I’ve been looking at VOIP phones, and the low end ones run $75-100. And I suddenly think, boy, if I could buy a phone that handled both analog and VoIP, I could start buying them now and save $30/phone down the road by not replacing bad phones now and again when we roll out VoIP. I’d end up saving over $9,000 (if I replaced 300 phones) and make the cost of our initial implementation seem $30,000 lower as we’d spread some of the phone purchases out over a couple of years.

Well, I must be a genius, because 15 minutes of googling came up with nada, nothing, zilch. This can’t be that hard to do – I see el-cheapo analog phones at the store in the $1-5 range all the time, so it wouldn’t make the phone cost that much more. You could even use the same jack and have it auto-sense service or have a switch between analog and Ethernet. So I guess I’ve got the start to my first patent in my patent portfolio that will make me a gazillionaire.

Seriously, does anyone know of such a device? I honestly can’t believe this is my original idea…

Phones, open source, and VoIP

I’ve been wanting to set up a test Asterisk box for quite a while now, but haven’t found any compatible cards cheap enough to justify giving it a try. I bought some MultiTech MultiVOIP gateways, hoping they would integrate with it easily, but there is not a lot of information out there on integrating them with Asterisk, so I haven’t done much with them.

I was excited when I heard that Pingtel has sponsored a new open-source PBX, called sipX. Unlike Asterisk, sipX is built fully on SIP, without any proprietary protocols. Asterisk’s protocol is open source, but pure SIP is a bit of a tech ‘Holy Grail’. sipX, however doesn’t seem quite ready for prime time yet. There is very little documentation on the SipForge site (digression: why are people such copycats – why does every open source development site need to be *forge? Where is the originality folks?) and after 5 minutes of searching for what cards are compatible with it, I came up blank. Maybe I’m a lousy googler, but in my opinion there doesn’t seem to be the community support for sipX like there is for Asterisk. The other drawback is that it appears to only run on Fedora. I might be a bit fuzzy here, but the instructions talk quite a bit about Fedora. Now feel free to flame away, but I’ve got a lot going on now, and want to focus on SUSE and Novell’s Open Enterprise Server.

I’m also considering picking up a Cisco 2801 Voice Bundle, to get started messing around with Cisco’s VoIP. I could probably get the hardware for about $2,500 – including a couple of phones to mess with. While I love open source software and it’s inherit openness, Cisco really does command the VoIP market right now, and they do have top-notch service and support. I do have huge second thoughts about running our phone system on a self-supported Linux box. Not that our current Executone system doesn’t decide to re-program itself every once in a while, much to my chagrin – and nobody got fired for buying Cisco. I know a couple of local schools who have done the Cisco conversion and love it.

Finally, I met with a company last week (Inflexion) who claimed that they could bring in private circuit(s) to us, and use them to support all of our local & long distance needs, adding unlimited long distance, and replacing our current PBX with a VoIP system (complete with phones) without raising our monthly phone costs! It initially sounded too good to be true to me, but considering what Vontage and the like are doing in the residential market, I’m hoping that it just might be true. I’ll post a follow up when I get their proposal, and see if it’s the truth, or if it’s a bait and switch ploy.

Doing the Mambo – Website CMS thoughts

So, I’ve been growing more and more dissapointed with our current CMS the we use at the school for our website (PHP website). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t find anything really wrong wit it, but it isn’t as full-featured as I would have hoped it would be by now, and it runs fairly slow on my current servers (Netware 6.5 w/Apache 2 &PHP 4 – a story for another day.

I’ve also been looking for a very easy to use and remotely administer CMS for my wife’s upcoming website , and I stumbled across OpenSourceCMS , a great site that has info on a boatload of open source CMS (Content Managemant Systems, for thoso of you who haven’t figured it out yet…) and gives you live admin access to a lot of them to try them out. It resets each one every two hours, but that’s enough time to get a good feelfor how they work. Another good site is CMSMatrix , which lets you search and compare the CMS systems and their features.

So after a bunch of virtual tire kicking, I’ve decided that Mambo is the coolest CMS out there. (actually, Typo3 seemed kind of cool as well, but it didn’t click the way Mambo did).

One of the collest things I found about mambo was the ability to upload extensions (they call them components, modules, or mambots) as .zip files right through the web interface and install them. It realy mad my two hours on OpenSourceCMS very useful, as I was able to measure the worth of the 3rd party extensions as well as the core software.

After installing Apache, PHP, and MySQL on my PowerBook, I had a testbed Mambo servier running in all of 2 minuites. There was absolutely no problem with the install at all. The templates are easy to work with, and the community-based support has been great so far.

The two sites I keep finding answers on are: Mamboportal.com and Mambers.com . Mamboportal.com

That’s all for today. I’ll get more into Mambo as I find time to type – but if you want to check out my test mambo site fo the schools, it’s http://www1.aurora-schools.org/phpscripts/mambo

MySQL security alert

An UDF Worm is attacking UNSECURED installs of MySQL on Windows. Am I alone in thinking that anyone who leaves the remote root password blank is kinda asking for it? My guess is is that it’s mostly hitting people’s dev machines, where they are not expecting to see any real traffic….

So anyways, it won’t affect you if you’re not on Windows, and if you were bright enough to set some secure passwords or use a decent firewall. I really wish expoilts like these were more realistically represented in the press, the make it sound like everyone is at risk!

If you’re afraid you might have been infected, instructions on checking and cleaning your machine are available at: http://dev.mysql.com/tech-resources/articles/security_alert.html