Farewell Spectrum VoIP – Hello Callcentric!

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I recently started looking for ways to cut the cord.

I’ve been a member of the method of digital media vs. OTA or Cable for a while, however, the Mrs. is a big fan of cable – well I recently noticed even she is slowly drinking the kool-aid of all the digital outlets we have access to, and I shut down our Cable TV & while I was at it, our Phone Service.

Sure sure, the guy explained to me on the phone “But you’d lose the Caller ID on your TV!” – after the 30 or so minutes on the phone having him console me on this horrible loss which as I don’t watch cable TV, and we don’t get a TON of home calls, I pulled myself together, and said: “I’ll be ok.” LOL, Honestly there is a lot more to the world than just having Caller ID on my television screen.

So I did some research and the solutions out there range from Plug and Play with a hefty price tag or the option I went with which is DIY with pretty good savings. How good? $39.99 -> $8. Yeah, that says $8. Now granting you do need to buy some hardware, number porting was free, and it does take a little patience if you aren’t too tech savvy, but in the end I was able to set up my office number and home phone number on the same hardware and cost wise was still under $20 a month. That’s it.

I went with Callcentric as it had amazing reviews – some with folks upset about things like local dialing not working (which they have documentation for on their site to hardwire your local area code) and some general just frustration that it’s not a pre-configured deal, requires some legwork.

In the end if you are looking for something like this honestly I’d say go with Callcentric, because if you are like me, your home phone is a little old school – folks mainly call in, I rarely call out so cost wise I get 90 minutes of monthly outbound calling, but unlimited inbound calling – so when I get that call from the doctor, the Mrs. school, etc. it’s free – and if I need to call out, I’ve got my cell if its a complex call needing hours.

All in all, it works for me. If you are interested in knowing more I’ll happily write up a tutorial on getting set up, enabling local dialing, etc. including too the routing on the OBIHAI OBi202 which was great for me since it allows 2 separate lines but the lower 200 model which is a little cheaper works fine if you are simply replacing your single home line not an office + home line.

Post a comment if you are interested and I’ll write it all up (may do so anyway) but if you are interested posting will encourage me to do it sooner vs. later 🙂

Adobe: Should I stay or should I go?

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I’ve been an Adobe customer for ages. Owning the Creative Suite, Individual apps, etc. I remember actually owning Lightroom early on. It’s great software, and instead of having that large price tag a monthly fee – little easier to digest, apps are updated, and it works. It’s Adobe.

However in recent years more and more I’ve gone more towards admin work vs. that of using Photoshop, Illustrator or any other Adobe product to create, I do miss it, but I’ve had less and fewer folks asking for Wedding Invitations, Photo Restorations, general edits/repairs, and I’ve too not been doing anything too artsy/design wise, but I love it, and I have kept my subscription alive.

For a while, it was $49.99. However this year it went up to $52.99 – that in itself isn’t a huge deal … $3, skip a Tea @ Starbucks – the software continues. However in these days budget keeping is key, and I’ve been trying to cut costs and improve profits, really starting to focus on retirement, investments, kiddo’s education etc. – even next year’s vacation or as I call it “Road Trip of Crazy!” to whatever State Capital we choose next! So $635.88 a year is a lot of money.

Enter Affinity Photo (Photoshop Replacement) & Affinity Designer (Illustrator Replacement).  Amazing pieces of software and I actually already own the Photo on the iPad, really powerful on the go, but it’s an interesting idea to swap, and be paid up and done, even to run it cross-platform while I’d love to just “Own it” and use it on what OS I’d like, the total cost for the software is: $159.96 across Windows+Mac (and if I want to get the new Designer on iPad + $13.99 = $173.95) and I’m owned.

Now you may be asking why Windows and Mac? Well as it stands I’ve gone Dual Platform. I picked up a laptop deal I mentioned previously from OfficeMax, after taking a 120GB SSD I had in an old laptop I’m selling soon (Yard sale!) I cloned it and brought it to life in a carefully day one dissected laptop which now does some amazing performance – but will later likely get a M2 as a primary cloned in + a larger secondary SSD – but again for now it works. Baby steps.

The idea is I simply don’t trust Apple. A faulty battery shouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg to have them fix, nor should it require using extreme measures to remove and replace myself. Seriously Apple if you come across this – USER REPLACEABLE PARTS, you can’t have that much of profit center in replacement parts – but that again is why I don’t want to run out and drop $1000+ for a new MacBook at this point.

Maybe down the line, but for now, I have Windows 10 + Linux Subsystem which hits my VPN and is now my mobile daily driver, sure I miss the Retina display, but I like that I’m not broke for the next couple months as well its summer and customers don’t pay till August. LOL

So I’ve tried out the apps, and may get them in stages from Serif, however they are running a special across all platforms due to the launch of Designer on iPad, and it’s a decent saving, versus the $200+ I’d be paying then, so budget allowing this month (it’s tight as I’m waiting for projects to close) but hey could be a nice change.

For now I’ve not hit cancel just yet with Adobe, but feeling like its the right plan. Canceling a lot of things lately, Spectrum is next on the list to ensure they’ve canceled my phone as I’ve switched to a $8/m service and cancel cable as I simply don’t watch it. Sure sure, Doctor Who season later this year, but I’d just as soon buy it on Amazon. Going to get some good savings rolling here soon!

Reasons for: Linux

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Linux is one of those things that can you have a reason? Honestly, it’s a great setup.

I’ve used Linux off and on as a desktop over the years for maybe 20+ years? Mandriva Linux, Redhat, etc. all early days when my connector was a VGA adapter on a monitor the size of a small microwave. 🙂 Back then it wasn’t anything insane, it was tinkering but over the years its CLI has become my home away from home, doing a majority of my server work from the command line.

The pro’s as a desktop are fairly straightforward:

  • No Upgrade Fees: In an opensource world of amazing distros’ I could easily pick Fedora, Ubuntu, etc. and have an amazing LTS build or even a point upgrade now and again and upgrade is as simple a few commands.
  • Wide Software Library: Despite public rumor of Linux not being feature rich with great apps, let’s be honest – if you are average user who could get by with a Browser – you aren’t going to have problems with Linux – but there are apps for just about everything on you can do on the Mac/Windows side, but if you are a creature of habit, you are likely not looking to switch.
  • Choice of Window Managers: Look I love the simplicity of the Mac interface, Windows 10 is growing on me, but if you want the MOST control of what your Desktop looks like and how it functions, Linux has your back.
  • Security: Yes Mac’s are “secure” so are Windows, but Linux gives you IMO the biggest bang for your buck in managing security – however that being said if you are NOT a security person, Linux may need you learning a few things about Firewalls and such.

All in all, as a daily driver for me, it’d work. Let’s be honest doing most of my work anymore in the Browser or CLI – I don’t need a ton of apps, even the last few days I’ve literally just needed SSH, RDP, and Chrome. That’s it. Now I know if I need to do a quick image mock-up or open a spreadsheet I have plenty of options in any OS – but seriously as a daily driver, it’s a fair backup.

Why a backup? Let’s be honest, the commercial apps in both Windows and Mac that I own are specific to my needs. I didn’t just say “Oh let’s FORCE this OS to work” there are simply apps which are flipp’n amazing. No need to debate it, I love PS/ILL, Native Office is a good thing with some folks since document formats aren’t universal, and Kiwi for Gmail on any platform is simply a nice way to manage several Gmail logins.

All in all, I can make Linux Work, maybe go dual boot?

Reasons for: Windows

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I have never had anything honestly against windows. It’s a decent operating system and I think similarly to linux I’ve had only minor hiccups with a malware/virus situation so it’s not “Oh Windows is bad because of viruses!” seriously folks – two words: anti virus.

While I don’t mind it I really only use it when required as it stands. Sure it’d be nice to have a Windows rig for some gaming (Steam account + Portal 2… Yes please.) it’d definitely have some pro’s:

  • It’s Windows: Let’s be honest, it’s been around the block. There is a bigger app eco-system, there is a slew of tweaks/hacks you can do on your system, Bluray support, etc. it’s been around.
  • Gaming: While I don’t “game” like most, as I mentioned before Portal 2 – yes I just beat it again, but I love a good puzzle or two with a witty robot talking to me, but I have a fair sized Steam account in which I’m happy to say Commander Keen is in there 🙂
  • Upgrade Ease: While I have had decent luck with my Hackintosh, let’s be easy when it comes to Mac’s its harder and harder to do simple upgrades. Drives are attached, memory is the same, and CPU upgrades? Naw. Never gonna happen, well without some HUGE warranty, and with how Apple is handling user repair requests, not a good place to be.
  • Carry Over: I have some licenses which will live in both eco systems, Office 365 account, Adobe Account to name a few, but many apps out there which are web based more than anything are going to carry over without issue.

Windows works. The Linux Subsystem fixes many terminal woes I’d of had, and while I’m not against PuTTy, to be able to simply map SSH to common servers in an alias file to login, have my key and boom, I’m in – Linux Subsystem makes that super handy.

I mentioned the laptop at OfficeMax in my last post, it’s nice, has a good spec in general, but I wanted to know if it was something user upgradable, as 8GB of RAM isn’t bad, but like any modern OS/Apps – things are memory hungry – and a 5400RPM drive… I tried it in store and it was “okay” and yes, 1TB of storage is nice, but not something I “HAVE” to have, so I hit up HP and found that the drive was replaceable, however, they said Memory was not.  Which was a lie…. well sort of.

I got another tech to send me the repair/replacement guide, and it notes the motherboard has memory slots that take PC2400 RAM and that it has 2 slots, so in theory  I could grab another 8GB chip for under $100 and be good, but wait there’s more!

That same guide shows a M2 slot, so I could clone the main drive to the M2 drive with a snappy say 120-240GB SDD, then get a mid-range performer in the SSD laptop size which would be around $200 and have all SSD storage for basically a total upgrade of around $300 all things said and done, so a $800 laptop without too much fuss.

All in all I know I could customize something else, or save up, but the nice thing about this idea is it’s over time. I have enough for the M2, grab it, same with ram, if I REALLY need it, grab it.

WIndows systems offer a lot, but the nice thing is, if I hate it beyond hate it. Linux is only an ISO away.

Reasons for: Mac

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So in this wacky journey I find myself on for a new laptop I’ve  begun to ask myself:

“What is it you need from Mac so badly?”

By no means am I fanboy. Oh no no no. I don’t drink Mac Koolaid and then look at other OS users and demand them bow to the shrine of Mac. Never been a diehard to that extent, just have in years past enjoyed honestly a stable workstation as a primary, but the reasons? Let’s run them down:

  • OS Diversity: Ease to run all major OSes on a single platform without too much heavy lifting. Easily have Windows/Linux onboard using VirtualBox/VMware – easy for supporting customers on varied platforms.
  • Strong Terminal: I grew up on DOS. Autoexec.bat and Config.sys are my friend, so having tools and ease of a strong CLI is key, and tools like SSH and various network tools are insanely handy as a Linux Admin.
  • Security-Ish: While years ago Mac had bolder claims about being safe/secure, however lately it’s not the top of my list, but it does have pretty good security out of the box.
  • Window Management: While I am rocking 2 monitors on the Hackintosh – I still use spaces with a few handy keystrokes, makes running VM’s and remote terminals for RDP/SSH be something I can just switch one screen to another system entirely – insanely handy.

But really I could say “Oh the apps” and yes some great apps on Mac for dev/productivity, however, key ones anymore are web-based or have apps on other desktops. So what am I thinking? Well, so far Windows 10 is my focus for a possible laptop replacement. Cost is a big factor, instead of investing an arm+leg to get an even entry-level MacBook that same $400 right now could get me a Ryzen3 system running Windows 10 @Office. (yes thats . for Depot + Max).

$400 vs $1000 even with maybe a $100 investment in a decent SSD to replace the 1TB HD I could have some decent performance under Windows 10, and have the Linux Subsystem installed to give me all the usual tools I from SSH to wget, I’ve tried it out and it works – would be a nice change from PuTTy on Windows, and tools for doing simple things like dig vs. nslookup – but keep me from having to re-map my brain for commands.

Windows 10 security has improved a lot and I do have some software in the ecosystem still, but too some great alternatives are out there nowadays that were not there when I had a full-time Windows rig maybe a decade ago, but some decent AV software and some common sense should be good.

I’ll still have my Hackintosh, so Mac won’t go away from my day-to-day, but the Laptop is the big move for being able to be on-the-go again – so at this point, Windows is a contender, however, there is always the option to install Linux if I don’t like it. Joys of computing.

Windows, Mac or Linux.

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Been a tad quiet around here as of late, the job thing was a no-go. I could write a post, but meh. Wasn’t the right time anyhow.

Work has been nuts, working on a business idea, servers, outages, cool touch screen kiosk projects, websites, and getting a Windows 10 workstation setup on one of my two desks. Why? Well, I needed it to get my Hackintosh working again and had the hardware from an old system salvage, but specs are nice:

  • i5 3350P @ 3.10Ghz
  • 8GB RAM
  • NVidia GeForce GT 620
  • 250GB SSD pull from another system

Aside from the SSD, it’s all that came in the pretty dell case – and it works. However not sure how I feel about Windows, but then again with my MacBook Pro battery failing, it leaves me in the “What do I get next?” stage? I’ve considered a nice Linux box running Fedora or Ubuntu – would be a cheap entry point for the most part probably $600 or so maybe a bit more if I want to make it dual monitors.

The Windows rig works and is honestly a nice change of pace, last time I used Windows was honestly 98/2000 versions and since then only dabbled in Windows 7/8 – so a fulltime rig with Windows 10 isn’t bad, but even dabbling in a slight bit of gaming, I’m tempted to grab a bigger GPU than the card on machine.

I have dabbled with a Linux rig or two virtually but that’s where I’m at in choices Linux/Windows/Mac on a Laptop replacement for the MacBook Pro as I’ve looked and while I could spend around $120 and do my own Battery Replacement on an older MBP and maybe a year or two additional on it, or try to just hold off for now and save up for a new MBP when finances amp up, or a nice Linux/Windows rig as my new portable rig, as Chromebook “works” for mobile, but honestly it’s not the power I need on the go.

Many choices, not sure which direction I’ll go, but for now what I have rolling works for day to day, but would be nice to have a good mobile rig that’s got enough power for on the go to get done anything.

 

Crypto Status for Onion’s Omega2+

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A long time ago on the magical world of this blog, and the opinion cloud  Twitter – I teased this photo:

Well since that photo I had the folks at Onion hit me up:

I did and today, after much waiting, a finally fixed up Onion (Wifi Problems) I’m tonight online and have finalized the guide! Without further backstory… Here’s the quick and dirty guide to getting it running:

Step 1: SSH In.

Get your self all ssh’d in and get ready for some copy and paste magic first off the bat is some key elements some may already be installed so any errors you hit saying “Up to date” or “Already Installed” are safe to ignore – here’s the one-liner:

opkg update; opkg install php7-mod-openssl php7-mod-json php7 php7-cgi php7-cli bash

This will handle everything you’ll need based upon some PHP trial and error no php.ini mods are needed for PHP, just install and you’re good to grab the feeds and get things rolling.

Step 2: A sprinkle of BASH

Grab the sh file, and for this instance save it as: coins.sh – Download it here, or copy and paste below.

This is not required, but it is what I will reference this file as moving forward, so if you change it, run the change through the entire process.

[UPDATE]: If you are just wanting general coin prices? Set all values to 1, it will simply return the value of a single coin if you’re just monitoring the market in general.

#!/bin/bash

## Set Your Currency
curr=$'USD'

## Coin Amounts
ltct=$'200'
btct=$'200'
etht=$'200'
dasht=$'200'

## Clear OLED Screen
oled-exp -i

## Create Values
btc=$(php-cli coins.php 'BTC' $curr $btct)
eth=$(php-cli coins.php 'ETH' $curr $etht)
dash=$(php-cli coins.php 'DASH' $curr $dasht)
ltc=$(php-cli coins.php 'LTC' $curr $ltct)

## Display on Screen
oled-exp write "CURRENT VALUE\nLTC: $ltc\nBTC: $btc\nETH: $eth\nDASH: $dash"

Basics, set your currency I’ve got mine as USD for the US Dollar, however, you may be elsewhere in the US, just put in your currency type and you’re off!

The second edit is your coin types and amounts – I didn’t do anything fancy here, just be sure anything you add is added to the value calls in Create Values, the format is:

VARIABLE FOR OUTPUT=$(php-cli coins.php ‘COIN TYPE‘ $curr $COINAMOUNT)

Lastly is the display to the screen, and you can format this as you see fit, but the \n is a new line, so anywhere you want a linebreak add a \n.

Step 3: A pinch of PHP

This is the PHP side of things which grabs the data, name it coins.php – Download it here, or copy and paste below.

<?php

/****
coins.php (v.04a) by Chuck Brown (http://www.zagnu.com/coin-source.txt)

A simple API call to get the value of a coin in the user's desired currency, great for using in Google Sheets (Use: =IMPORTDATA("yoururl") or if you simply want to grab
the current value of a certain coin. Currently geared towards USD, but hope in next version to add proper currency markings for the amount conversion.


## Changelog

.01 -   First Release
.02 -   Adjustments to code & calling methods.
        Changed from XML output to plaintext for use of IMPORTDATA vs IMPORTXML
.03 -   Removed dual posting of plaintext price for import & added amount conversion.
        Commented code.
.04 -   Added Conversion for ATM without Value Text for Onion pull - Also adding $ for easier formatting on Onion curl call.
.04a -  This is the Omega2+ version, can then be gathered from CLI vs. Installing Apache.
***/


//Get Data
$url = file_get_contents("https://min-api.cryptocompare.com/data/price?fsym=".$argv[1]."&tsyms=".$argv[2]."");
$json = json_decode($url,true);
//Check for Amount to Convert
if ($argv[3] != '') {
$value = $argv[3] * $json[$argv[2]];
$tvalue = round($value,2);
echo "$".$tvalue;
} else {
//no amount? provide plaintext response for dollar amount.
print $json[$argv[2]];
}
?>

Now if you look at the line that reads:

echo "$".$tvalue;

The $ is your currency format, so if your not using the USD as a default, just make a quick tweak and set it to yours.

I do have a slightly more up-to-date version I’m toying with on the PHP side, with configuration options up top for easy configuration & coins to take some of the bash config out of the equation and use an array to generate, but again still a very early release.

Step 4: Schedule with Cron

This can be run fairly regularly, however, be mindful if you are wanting to say lookup values every 2 minutes, Cryptocompare.com is going to block you. So every 30 works for me:

*/30 * * * * 

However if you want to do something a tad different, work on it with Crontab.guru. Handy tool, but I give that first so you can figure out your schedule then on the command line here’s what you need to do:

chmod +x /root/coins.sh
crontab -e
[PASTE in your schedule] /root/coins.sh
:x! {PRESS ENTER}

Next with that in place simply restart cron:

/etc/init.d/cron restart

And boom, you are off and running. Now be aware that cron will take and pick up at the next window, so let’s say you used my example and said every 30 minutes? Well if it’s 11:45 PM like it is now, it won’t run again until midnight. If you are before 11:30 PM it’d run at 11 PM – pretty simple.

Wrapping up!

Again probably not the cleanest code, or the most elegant, but it does a job, and has given me a nice little readout on coin values. I’m open to any and all comments and suggestions, happy to give credit where credit is due and post updated pastes and post info as improvements are contributed!

Thanks to Onion for a great little device! Quite handy indeed!

Once you go Chrome….

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So I have been pondering things for a while related to switching away from the world of Mac. I actually just sold my Samsung 503 Chromebook to an old friend, it goes to live with her on Wednesday, and I have the C200M on the block to be sold as well.

I have been looking at the Chromebook 15 from Acer, it’s a 15-inch touch-display, Android Apps without any dev channels, beta channels or nasty hacks to get them work. I checked a box and it’s done.

I love the screen, the speed, the specific nature of what I can do, honestly its a good fit with a 12-hour battery life, and USB-C for charging its a nice fit. Different. What Mac always was about – but lately I just feel like Mac is becoming more about what they can put into a product to make a few more dollars. Everyone’s got to eat.

But we shall see how it goes, I’d love to have it all pan out and become my daily driver – and over the next few days. Chome is now my home? Time will tell.

Time for a Tech Yard Sale?

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I think it might be.

I’ve managed to get myself a small pile of tech, some of it was given to me, some was purchased, but with all of it nowadays, it has no direct use.

I have some tablets and laptops which need new homes. I’m trying to decide how to go about selling these things. I’ve considered eBay for a few items, but most are still working hardware just not actively in my workflow anymore, and while some day some of it could be? I’m looking to offload it.

I’ve considered too Facebook’s selling area, or even OfferUp – so there are some options but stay tuned, likely in the next few weeks going to be some items up for grabs.

PS:308 – Coding Day

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So today is a coding day, trying to clear my head and dig in, I’ve mapped out 99% of this, working on streamlining functions for this and basically re-inventing how an existing app works to help keep the lights running. Oi.

I’ve got myself notes on the current database, file structure, and going to tie that all into a magical little script which works to build a backup of data which the current system has no backup option at all, going to make it on-demand too for the customer + tune up some old code aside from this new number.

Low on sleep, but writing strangely helps clear my brain, even if I’m not skilled at making sure the correct form of “your” is in there 😉 I do what helps and this helps focus and clear my head, so now, onto the fresh dev box I just built out to get coding. Happy Tuesday All!