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General blog posts

Learning to code with teamtreehouse.com

As a sys admin I’m not too bad at writing pretty complex shell scripts and the like, but I’ve never done too much web development, CSS or Javascript. I maintain the SysAdminMan website and wanted to learn more about CSS and Javascript.

Looking round at some of the online training available I decided to go with teamtreehouse.com. I think probably the most important thing is to find a solution that suits your style of learning. Treehouse use a mixture of videos, quizzes and coding tasks. You watch a series of videos about a subject, take a few multiple choice quizzes along the way and the write some code at the end.

The videos are quirky and lighthearted. Some of the presenters are a little better than others, but all of the videos that I’ve watched are of a high quality. They tend to be around 4 to 7 minutes long, so it’s pretty easy to dive in and out when possible.

The coding challenges are probably the most interesting thing (which actually didn’t work for me initially but they fixed that). You are presented with some existing HTML, CSS, Javascript etc and asked to make changes using the information learned on the video. After making the changes you click ‘Check my work’ and it tells you if you’re right or wrong.

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SysAdminMan now offers SSL certificates and installation

You are now able to order SSL certificates for your hosted SysAdminMan server directly from us. This includes a Thwate SSL123 certificate, plus installation and configuration on your SysAdminMan VPS.

You must be an existing customer to order a certificate and the order page can be found by logging in to the billing/support system –

You must already own the domain name that the certificate is for and be able to modify the DNS records for that domain.

It is recommended that you choose a server name such as “voip.example.com” (where example.com is the domain that you own). You would then need to create an A record with your DNS provider that pointed voip.example.com to the IP address of your SysAdminMan VPS.

If you have any question please open a support ticket,

CyanogenMod 9 (CM9) on Scroll Extreme tablet

I’ve had my Scroll Extreme for a few months now, so I figured it was time to break it!

I ran CyanogenMod on a HTC Desire for quite a while and figured that was the mod to go for. CyanogenMod 9 is Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS)

There is plenty of information out there about getting CM9 on a Scroll Extreme, but I didn’t find it very easy to get an overview of what to do and where to get the files. So here’s what I did.

Install clockworkmod recovery

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HTC ONE S home button fault

I had a HTC Desire for about three years and really liked it. A couple of months ago I upgraded to a HTC ONE S. In general it’s a great phone. It’s not so big it won’t fit in your pocket and the camera is pretty good.

However, I recently took it on a trip. Normally I use the phone in an area with good 3G reception and also WiFi. Travelling around though and the reception was sometimes just GSM/2G and this has caused a serious issue with the phone.

The Home button repeatedly activates, even when it is not being pressed. This makes the phone pretty much unusable.

Here you can see an example of the bug in action (not my video) –

It seems like this is a known fault and widely reported, but so far HTC haven’t admitted this to me. They said to try a factory reset (which made no difference) and are now asking that I send the phone in for ‘repair’. I’m really hoping that this is just a software issue that can be fixed by a firmware update.

If you have this issue there are lots of places to get some info. Here are some –

http://forum.vodafone.co.uk/t5/HTC-One-Series/Home-screen-button-problem/td-p/1082393

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1679649

http://www.htconeforum.com/forum/htc-one-s/555-htc-one-s-home-button-problem.html

Pretty disappointing for a £350 phone.

GoIP GSM Gateway and Asterisk using VPN:PBX

Recently I had a VPS customer that was looking to get a GoIP GSM Gateway working with his Asterisk VPS. These little SIP/GSM gateways can be used to connect Asterisk to the GSM/mobile network. The single-sim models can be had for around £100 from e-bay.

They are not the easiest boxes in the world to set up, with the web GUI being rather confusing. Eventually though the GoIP was configured correctly but still calls we intermittent, with connection to the Asterisk server being lost.

As the GoIP box was being hosted behind a residential ADSL router the issues were typical of NAT/Firewall problems. They were probably being caused by a mixture NAT and a SIP ALG (application layer gateway) in the ADSL router.

The solution was to use the new SysAdminMan VPN:PBX template which uses OpenVPN to create a secure VPN tunnel to the Asterisk server. The customer purchased a TP-Link 1043 router, flashed the SysAdminMan firmware, and the GoIP was connected to the VPS over the VPN. This meant that private IP address ranges were used, with no NAT happening at all. This is a great example of how using VPN:PBX to provide a VPN connection to your Asterisk server is easy to deploy and works around any NAT/Firewall issues.

Here is a diagram showing the customers setup –

GoIP using VPNPBX

See here for more information – http://sysadminman.net/sysadminman-vpnpbx-hosting.html

VPN:PBX – Using FreePBX Endpoint Manager

VPN:PBX is a new offering from SysAdminMan combining Asterisk, FreePBX and OpenVPN. More details can be found here – http://sysadminman.net/sysadminman-vpnpbx-hosting.html

While using FreePBX Endpoint Manager is possible with a normal SysAdminMan system, using it with VPN:PBX is really simple as no firewall or router changes are required.

Endpoint Manager is a FreePBX module that allows you to configure VOIP handsets centrally – no settings are required to be entered on the handset itself – just plug it in!

Here is the way it works –

  1. The phone is switched on and given a DHCP address by the TP-Link TL-WR1043ND router
  2. It is also given the IP address of the Asterisk server as it’s TFTP server – in this case of a SysAdminMan VPN:VPS that’s 10.98.0.1
  3. The phone contacts the TFTP server (10.98.0.1) and asks for it’s configuration settings. It gives the server its MAC address to identify itself
  4. EPM manager identifies the handset based on its MAC address and configures the phone

Brilliantly simple and also makes it very easy to deploy new phones and make changes to deployed phones. Endpoint Manager supports lots of different manufacturers handsets including – Aastra, Grandstream, Polycom, Snom, Cisco and Yealink.

So, how does it work in practice? Here is a quick guide for deploying a new handset with Endpoint Manager –

First get the MAC address of the handset. In this case an Aastra 6755i –

Aastra 6755i MAC address

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VPN:PBX – Getting Started

VPN:PBX is the SysAdminMan virtual PBX template that includes Asterisk, FreePBX, A2Billing and OpenVPN. More information can be found here – http://sysadminman.net/sysadminman-vpnpbx-hosting.html

It is designed to work with the TP-Link TL-WR1043ND broadband router. A custom OpenWRT firmware is provided to simplify the connection of your network to your SysAdminMan VPS, securely and without the hassle of NAT.

STEP 1 – DOWNLOAD THE CUSTOM FIRMWARE

Download the custom firmware for your router from here – https://sysadminman.net/blog/firmware

STEP 2 – PLUG IN THE TP-LINK WR1043ND

  1. Plug a PC/Laptop in to the yellow port 1
  2. Plug the blue WAN port in to a spare port on your existing internet router

Scroll Extreme Android tablet review – first impressions

Storage Options - Scroll ExtremeMy Scroll Extreme was delivered today. I pre-ordered it from ebuyer.com and they delivered it next day, even though I only went for the free shipping. This is my first tablet but I’ve used Android for a couple of years having a HTC Desire running CyanogenMod 7.1 (Gingerbread).

The Scroll Extreme is a 9.7″ tablet and runs Android 4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich.

Hardware

The battery took a few hours to fully charge from shipping. It has a separate charging port, rather than just charging via the micro-usb port. The manual says you can charge via the micro-usb port although it will ‘trickle charge’ so I’m not sure how long that would take. It’s got a pretty large 7,800mAH battery (11,666mAH in the New iPad!).

It’s got a matte silver finish on the back and feels pretty secure to hold. It’s fairly heavy to support with one hand. I couldn’t find the weight listed on the website but I make it around 650g. That compares to the ‘New iPad’ which is 652g (WiFi version).

Screen

The screen is pretty nice with a good viewing angle. With the brightness turned up the screen is bright. I’m sure it doesn’t compare with the screen on the New iPad but it’s certainly usable. I image only when holding the 2 side by side would you be disappointed with the Extreme’s screen. It’s going to be more than adequate for web browsing, e-mail, video …

Wifi

As expected these days there was no issue connecting to my WiFi, which uses WPA2 PSK.

Sound

Sound it tinny on full volume but I guess that’s to be expected. It’s not overly loud either, but there is a 3.5in audio jack for headphones.

Speed

Switching between applications is quick and so far (after only around an hours use!) the tablet feels responsive. Youtube loaded quickly and web browsing with the built in browser was pretty good.

Apps – Google Play

I read a lot before I purchased the Extreme about not being able to access the Google Store (Google Play now). This was a bit of a disappointment  but I just figured I’d use the SlideMe store that was recommended. However, after signing in to my Google account it seems my Extreme DOES have Google Play installed, and the screenshots are below to prove it. The only weird thing seems that sometimes it does appear in the list of installed apps, and sometimes it doesn’t! I’m not really sure why this is so far but will post more if I find out.

Conclusion

I’m glad I went for the Extreme. I didn’t want to spend £400 on a tablet I might not use much. The Extreme seems fast enough, and well built enough for what I need. Being able to get on the Google store is definitely an added bonus.

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