DIY SOHO Organization For Rack Mount Gear

The late George Carlin famously told a story about, “a place for my stuff.” A home office can be a challenging place in which to find a proper home for all you stuff. We need a place for everything, and everything in its place…or anarchy reins.

As most home offices are not equipped like corporate data centers, rack mount equipment can be especially difficult to accommodate. Often gear designed to be rack mounted doesn’t readily take to being used on a table top, at least not for the long-term. I recently stumbled upon a novel and inexpensive solution to housing a small amount of rack mount gear; the Lack Side Table from IKEA.

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Telecom Continuity Strategies in the Cloud Era: SOHO Edition

As you likely heard on April 27th Northern Alabama suffered a spate of violent storms, including a number of large tornados. Many thousands of people were impacted, including long term loss of power and network connectivity. Digium was amongst the many, many businesses impacted by the events of the day.

I must commend Danny Windam, CEO of Digium, for making excellent use of the corporate blog to keep the Asterisk community informed about the companies operational status. Some time having elapsed since the unfortunate events of that day Digium has since returned to normal operations.

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Covad & AT&T: The Odd Couple Of DSL Make Good

DSL-ProvidersMy belief is that since your home office network is your network, and under your control, it should actually be more reliable than the network that your office-bound associates a) enjoy or b) suffer. If you operate from a home office on anything more than an occasional basis I think that you should give some serious consideration to maintaining redundant sources of IP connectivity. This is especially true if you rely upon VoIP for your office phones, as we have here for many years.

Redundant IP connectivity can be achieved in a variety of different ways, each with advantages and disadvantages. Performance and price vary widely depending upon the access methods available in your area. For us the best solution has been to use Comcast Business Class cable as our primary internet access, with backup provided by a dry loop DSL circuit from Covad.

It’s important that your two sources of connectivity are different modes of connection, in our case cable & DSL. We could bond a couple of DSL lines and achieve higher speeds, but we’d be susceptible to a single mistake with a backhoe taking out both of our circuits.

I’ve walked down the street, examined the lines and know that the copper goes south down the street while the coax cable goes another direction. No one silly mistake will take them both down.

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CBC Radio’s Spark On Soundscapes: Cutting Through The Noise

I’ve recently discovered a CBC Radio program called Spark. The CBC is a bone fide national treasure, and Spark is their program on technology in society. They describe it as:

Spark is a weekly audio blog of smart and unexpected trendwatching. It’s not just technology for gearheads, it’s about the way technology affects our lives, and the world around us.

…sounds interesting, non?

I recently loaded my phone with some Spark podcasts in a effort to catch up on the program. I was especially taken by episode 128 from November 2010 which considers the impact of noise on people. From the calming influence of bird song to the stress induced by using a cell phone, it’s profoundly interesting stuff.

Our personal and collective productivity often hinges on the soundscape of the working environment. Your personal stress and anxiety level can also be impacted. To be blunt, noise matters…and yet it’s often completely overlooked.

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Beginning 2011 With A Simple Statement of Philosophy & Goals

What better way to begin the new year than with a simple statement of philosophy? This will serve as a foundation for many things to come:

To be productive in the home office it’s critical that we communicate effectively with the rest of the world. No matter how well we think we’re doing in this regard, we can always be better. We should constantly strive to improve.

In this quest we should re-examine old habits, and explore new possibilities where we find them.

Further, every bit of technology that we deploy either helps or hinders in this drive to improve our ability to communicate. My goal is to try new approaches or tools where possible, and document what works, or doesn’t work, for my home office.

I offer this up because I can see a clear trend in the notes and drafts that I have before me. The motivation for all of it springs from this simple, unrelenting desire to communicate better. It’s very Tom Peters in some ways, strive for excellence and all…but that’s ok by me.

Also, in the coming year I will try to be more disciplined about my blogging. That doesn’t mean posting more frequently. Nor does it mean shorter or longer posts. It should mean improving the overall signal/noise ratio. I hope to write more posts that genuinely merit inclusion on the “Best Of…” page.

As always, comments and suggestions are most welcome.

Easy Asterisk in a Box: Jazinga VoIP PBX Appliance Reviewed

Originally published in December 2008 at Small Net Builder.

It has been nearly three years since I first published an article detailing my experience setting up an Asterisk server on an embedded PC platform. That turned out to be just the start of a wave of interest in the embedded system or “appliance” approach to Asterisk. Since then, a number of companies have offered ready-to-roll Asterisk appliances.

Many of these Asterisk “appliances” are really just pre-configured servers running a bundle of software built around Asterisk. To meet my definition of “appliance” the system should have no moving parts. That means diskless, fanless, silent and reliable.

Preconfigured servers are very capable but they often have much of the administrative overhead of an old-school Asterisk installation. They usually require someone with Asterisk or telecom experience to plan and implement a working system.

I have deferred upgrading my own Astlinux server a very long time. I knew it had to be done, but also knew that it would be essentially rebuilding the system from scratch. When Jazinga offered to let me evaluate their new Asterisk appliance, I saw the possibility of deploying something simpler, with less administrative overhead.

jazinga-product-shot

In their flagship MGA120 PBX appliance, Jazinga set out to build a device that could be installed in a typical small business, home or home office by someone with minimal IT skills. It combines common networking and IP telephony functions with software designed to make installation and administration truly easy.

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