Search for VoiP Provider…

Communicating while traveling can be difficult and expensive. In order to alleviate some of the headaches, I setup an Asterisk PBX at home to route calls using hard and soft VoiP phones. Recently I migrated from having a dedicated machine at home for this to using the DIgium Asterisk package on a Synology NAS unit.

The first task is to figure out which VoiP provider is going to work.

What’s needed:

  • Ability to receive and place up to 3 calls simultaneously.
  • Easy, high quality international calling (both incoming and outgoing).
  • Support numbers forwarding to multiple support ‘agents’ so that someone can always answer.
  • Ability to forward a primary numbers to multiple extensions or outside lines. (i.e. from one US number to a variety of international prepaid sims without any additional configuration – i.e. handle no longer functioning phones automatically).
  • Incoming US and Dutch phone numbers.

FlowRoute

I have been using FlowRoute for some time no as my outgoing provider. They provide good quality calls and I’ve never had an issue with them. However their trunks for incoming lines are priced at $17/month, which I find to be preventative from considering them as a serious solution. I would like the ability to handle 2-3 calls at a time once in a blue moon, but am not going to pay for that capacity all the time at such a high rate. I still do recumbent them for outgoing calls, where a incoming trunk is not necessary.

CallCentric

CallCentric is one of the main reasons this search has even begun – they discontinued their free incoming DID service which I was previously using. I’m not so interested in CallCentric at this time because when I was using their free DID service, the calls were often poor quality and network often lagged. I also do not find their pricing model to be very attractive.

VoiP.ms

In my search for VoiP providers I started by trying one that I had tried to use about a year ago, VoiP.ms but am still unable to add credit even after having a hold put on my registration when I registered way back when (I was trying to top up using paypal, for their minimum amount, $25). So now to just wait for them to contact me and verify me again (last time this process took days).

DIDLogic

I cannot get my asterisk server to tie into DIDLogic correctly.

IPKall

IPKall has been giving away free incoming DID’s for a long time now. This is a very simple and easy to use service with decent quality (considering its free). Its not a good business solution, but figured I would mention it as I have used it for a while and never had any issues with it. It is also great for testing things out, or if you need a ‘burn’ number (i.e. a number just for a few days).

LocalPhone

LocalPhone seemed very promising at first, however I have run into problems with them. They don’t transmit the DID number, but rather your account number to the asterisk server. As such asterisk cannot differentiate between different DID numbers on a single account. To alleviate this I created a second account and added a DID to it. However upon adding that second trunk to asterisk things started to get messed up. When a call comes in on LocalPhone2 it is still picked up by inbound call rules of LocalPhone1. I believe this is because of the insecure=very option that LocalPhone requires in order to function.

In addition to the above problem, for some reason one of the phone numbers on my local phone account is forwarding to someone who I have no idea is – and i didn’t set it up that way.

OS X Server for email and contact sync

I have now been using OS X Servers + iRedMail on an old mac mini I had kicking around to handle my e-mail services. So far so good.

Some key points:

  • Unlike iCloud, unlimited server side email filters can be setup within iRedMail and these rules can be far more complex than iCloud allows.
  • Push e-mail works on the inbox and inbox only.
  • Contact, Calendar, and notes all sync without issue.

So far no issues whatsoever.

 

iCloud sucks – OSX Server an alternative?

A while back I switched from iCloud to hosting my own iRedMail server for my email solution. iRedMail doesn’t work how i’d like and doesn’t work well with iPhone with (the z-push stuff is garbage).

As such I’ve repurposed an old mac mini to be my new mail server and so far i like it. here’s a few of the key points:

  • Unlike iCloud, server side mail filtering is not super basic, nor limited to 99 entries. One can easily install roundcubewebmail (it’s a double click install on osx server), which supports server side sieve filtering.
  • push just works correctly on my iPhone.
  • osx server handles Contacts, Calendars, Mail, Notes, Reminders, and can even handle (some) messaging.
  • Multiple domains are seemingly handled flawlessly (just make sure to correctly specify your email address in your mail client).
  • Install is quick and easy.

iCloud Max 99 Mail Rule Filters?!

So for the past year or so I’ve been using iCloud’s mail as my primary email. I enjoy using iCloud.com’s server side mail filtering (so that I don’t have to have a computer running the mail app in order to ensure my mail is filtered), today I hit the limit of 99 mail rules.

Not sure what i’m going to do…Guess a home brew mail server solution may be in the works.

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 2.01.25 PM

Privacy in 2014

For 2014 I’ve decided that I’m going to be much more security conscious.

E-mail

A couple years ago in search of better push support on iDevices (eg iPhone), I switched from my self-hosted exchange solution to iCloud for all my email. I now have all my email addresses forwarded to iCloud.

Problems: 

  • E-mail is all stored (forever?) on Apple’s servers.
  • The Spam filtering sucks.
  • ‘Private’ e-mails are coming over iCloud and being archived with all my other mail (I archive my general mail).

Solution:

  • Host e-mail on self-hosted (mac mini) Apple OSX Server. (All current e-mail will be forwarded).
  • PGP on all iDevices and laptops/computers.
  • S/MIME on all iDevices and laptops/computers.
  • (todo) Spam Filtering (potentially with DSPAM).
  • (todo) Setup a small encrypted mail server (Dovecot + postfix + DSPAM

Sync and Backup

Between photos, music, desktop backgrounds, application preferences, etc there is lots of stuff that needs to be sync’d these days. In the past I used a combination of many things including iCloud, DropBox, and bittorrentsync.

Problems:

  • DropBox has size limitations (with free version…).
  • DropBox and iCloud are centralized.
  • Important files need to be backed up with some sort of versioning incase something is accidentally deleted or corrupted.
  • Sensitive files need to be encrypted and backed up.

Solution:

  • iCloud sync for all non-sensitive application data (for any apps that support it).
  • BTSync for everything else.
    • Important and Sensitive documents will also be backed up to Synology NAS unit that does versioning incase of accidents. This also provides a fast mirror of all content.
    • Large aperture library will also be backed up to the NAS using BTSync.
    • Sensitive data encrypted with EncFS then Sync’d and backed up using BTSync.
    • Desktop backgrounds sync with BTSync.
  • Music and TV is stored on the Synology NAS and streamed via Subsonic (music), Plex (TV/Music), and Synology’s Audio/Video stations.
  • KyPass Companion (stored in iCloud) for syncing KeePass password database. (This also integrates with google chrome, I use it instead of google chrome’s password manager).

 

Best Practices:

  • Use a password manager, separate passwords for everything.
  • Use strong passwords (since you’re using a password manager, this shouldn’t make any difference when logging in since you’re not typing passwords anyways).
  • Downloads, Files in work, etc all go into sync’d directories now. Nothing should only be stored locally.
  • Media (Music/TV) should all be streamed, no more storing content locally.
  • Use PGP or SMIME as often as possible. Be careful with private keys (I store them in a TrueCrypt volume to make it easy to share between machines).
  • Do a clean install of OS X every now and again. Do it even more frequently if you’re downloading random stuff.