This blog is no longer being updated. I have MOVED to my new home.

It was nice here, while it lasted, but hopefully a fresh start will make life more interesting elsewhere!
7th June 2005

Asterisk doom

The Asterisk echo problems were nearly solved today by switching to the Mark3 canceller from the Mark2. During testing this morning we had 1 problem call in 32 calls. This was deemed good enough to attempt to go live again. Then, out of 75 further calls we had 5 problems calls – a couple of which were totally unacceptable.

So, the project has been canned. All VoIP equipment is being returned to the suppliers as unfit for purpose, and the server is being recycled as an upgrade to one of our older servers.

The decision point was reached because we could offer no estimate for a resolution. All the issues are transient problems that are commonly discussed on the internet. Unfortunately, for a production system the failure ratio has to be fractions of a percent, not 5%.

I am very disappointed, but this has been a bit of a money pit. We may revisit VoIP, but not soon!

tags: asterisk phone systems voip work | 1 comment

6th June 2005

Asterisk woes

Our new Asterisk phone system at work has gone live, and then been taken off-line again. There are a few minor teething issues to do with the configuration, but the big, big issue is echo.

It has certainly been an eye-opener trying to take the experience of implementing a small home based system, and rolling it into an office based system. Echo is the most serious fundamental difference. In our scenario, echo is caused by interfacing a digital (ISDN) system with an analogue system (POTS). The interface (which lies in the BT network) generates an echo of our voices back into our ears, and because of the minor lag in voice over IP, this echo is really annoying and unsettling. Well implemented equipment cancels out the echo, ours doesn’t.

I don’t think that Asterisk will be successful outside of hobbyist systems until the hardware suppliers attitudes change – big time. BeroNet supplied the ISDN card, and the drivers (chan-misdn) were causing problem after problem including kernel crashes. Certainly not a good prospect for a production system with a deadline for going live. Reporting issues ended up being a near waste of time, and their sales department never rang back when they said they would.

Following up various leads I discovered that the card has other drivers, BriStuff from Junghanns.NET. The drivers needed patching with BeroNets PCI ids, but seemed to work OK. So, the phone system was finished off and went live. ECHO.

After several days of battling with options, we decided to try and hire a consultant from Junghanns.NET to try and fix our issues. They refused, even though we were prepared to pay, since they claim that the Beronet card is a stolen design from the Junghanns card and they won’t support it – even for cash. Fair enough.

So we’re now trying to get the Beronet card returned, and the Junghanns card is about 50% more expensive than the Beronet card.

The industry has a long way to mature if the manufacturers won’t supply drivers that work, FAQs explaining resolutions of common problems don’t exist, won’t do consultancy because you bought your hardware elsewhere, and can’t cope with a difficult problem that every digital based PBX has been solving for years.

Oh, and we had to send back the Digium TDM-400P analogue cards because they don’t work with analogue modems or faxes!

Conclusion. If its a hobby, or you know phone systems well – do it. Otherwise, wait a year or two until the commercial front to Asterisk starts to offer a real service.

tags: phone systems reviews voip work | 1 comment

1st June 2005

Various updates

I thought it was about time I posted various updates on things.

Maybe I should be adding a category for breakdowns, crisis or disasters since we have had a couple more things play up.

  • The washing machine died again, this time it was the brushes on the motor.
  • James’ gold fish died. There was no long drawn out illness, just one day it was on its side caught up with the plants.
  • My cars engine warning light came on at the beginning of the bank holiday weekend. We were travelling all over Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk this weekend, and I decided to carry on with our plans despite the light. When the car was taken to the garage after about 400 miles of driving with the light on, the light goes out half a mile from the garage! Despite assuring us that the on-board computer would record the reasons for the light, there was nothing that could be found. Big mystery – maybe it was the EcoTek device.

Regarding the “I can make make you thin” weight loss program by Paul McKenna, I still have a reduced appetite but am not cutting back as much as I was during the main weight loss phase a few weeks ago. I am quite a lot happier with my current weight, even though it is still marginally obese (according to the BMI measurement). As a result of this and the regular swimming, I am maintaining my current weight almost exactly. I am not unhappy at maintaining the status quo for a while, before making another push at maybe another stone.

Why should I lose more weight? I feel fit, feel light on my feet, can run up stairs without getting out of breath, swim a mile at a reasonable pace. Tiffany even said that I am looking thin after I got out of the pool on Sunday! Mad girl, obviously after something.

Swimming is coming along great guns. I now swim in 400 meter stretches with a 2 minute recovery phase between each stretch. If I aim to do the complete mile in one go, then I find that I settle down to a comfortable, slow pace. This approach enables me to focus on speed, keeping the pressure on myself.

The new Asterisk phone system is going live this week at work. The main functionality has been implemented and it mostly works well. The main thing that I would have changed is the selection of the handsets. The SPA-841 is proving to be a bit low on audio quality. If you have a habit of moving the mouth piece around while talking (as I have) you find the volume jumps all over the place. There is an annoying aspect to the combination of phone functions and Asterisk functions which aren’t consistant. Take call transfer for example. The phone has a transfer button which works one way, and asterisk detects “#” being pressed, which also initiates a transfer. But, they are different in how they work. One passes the caller id through, the other doesn’t, etc.

My main issue is that the system doesn’t feel like a single system. It feels like a lash-up of different systems working together (reasonably well). Migrating from a highly integrated keyphone system to this is proving interesting.

Phase 2 will incorporate advanced functionality such as conference rooms, personal faxes and remote extensions – at which time it should start showing real advantages to the old system.

tags: Fitness home weight loss work |

25th May 2005


I travelled to Manchester for a meeting today. This is the fifth time I’ve been to Manchester, and every time I’ve been there it’s been raining! Now, it might be unfair to say that it’s always raining in Manchester, but all the personal experience I have indicates that this statement is in fact true! An MGF with its hard top still on at the end of May underlines my impressions so far. I also noticed that the Mancunian cobbles are ideal for draining away the incessant downpour. Comparing notes with other infrequent visitors at the meeting confirms my impressions aren’t unique.

tags: manchester raining work |

20th May 2005

Jetset Week

Its been a real hectic week. On Tuesday I had to go to Worcester on a business trip, where we also were expecting a conference call with Hanoi. Getting up on 5:30 in the morning to get to Worcester around 9 o’clock seemed a reasonable plan. The conference call was setup for 10 o’clock. About two and a half hours into the journey, I was needing a toilet break and waiting for the next services, when I ground to a halt. This was about a mile from the A14/M1/M6 junction in Northamptonshire.

The cause was a major accident. Four fire engines and many ambulances and police vehicles flew past over the next couple of hours, along with a visit by the flying ambulance. Eventually after another two and half hours the road cleared and I was on my way again – but not after a visit to the bushes! I still attended the meeting, we had a late conference call and I got home at 9:15pm, 15 hours and 400 miles later after my start.

Yesterday, I was off to the Dublin offices. Again a 5:30 start, with an expected return of around 10pm. My return flight was delayed by about an hour so that meant an even longer day, this time around 17 hours!

Suffice it to say there has been a few yawns today. Never mind, next week I have to go to Manchester.

Swimming has suffered a little as a consequence, with only one midweek swim squeezed in. But, it was a comfortable mile this time.

The washing machine broke down again, but Alison has found a local repair bloke so I was saved from having to sort it out this time. It was an awkward job being the motor brushes, so I am glad she got someone else to do it.

Tomorrow I go with the boys to see Star Wars. Hurrah.

tags: Fitness home work |

10th March 2005

Specs, phones and the same weight

I have been struggling with having to write documentation at the moment. We have a medium size back office system to put together, and it needs a full functional specification. I am finding it very heavy going, and progress with this is slow too. This article has given me quite a few ideas.

I recently jumped on the VoIP bandwagon, and now use SipGate to carry most of my calls. My monthly phone bill has dropped from £45 per month to £18 per month. It cost me a £100 for a telephone adapter, which has been covered by my savings by now.

My parents live in Spain and have recently ordered broadband, so I am putting together a configured equipment bundle for them to take out there. They will be able to make calls to the UK at 1.2p/minute and people will be able to call them at normal UK rates. It will be interesting seeing how this technology revolutionises telephone charge rates.

I am rolling out a larger Asterisk system at work with 10 ISDN channels and 25 extensions.

I am still the same weight as I have been for the last week and a half, and I’m trying not to think about it. My clothes are looser fitting though, so something is going on! I just wish I knew what. Oh well.

tags: home computing weight loss work |

22nd February 2005

Doing well, keen and hopeful

Just a quick update today. Life at work had been incredibly busy over the last week. We had our monthly product board on Wednesday, and had preparation Monday and Tuesday. Thursday was the company full board meeting. Friday we had a bit of a crisis on a project due for delivery today, and it was decided that the central screen needed to be rewritten from scratch. So I ended up working through the whole weekend and several hours last night. I have just wrapped up the rewrite. So, apologies if you’ve mailed me and I haven’t got round to replying yet.

I have also RSS feed enabled this web site which means that if you have Firefox or an RSS reader you can subscribe to this page and be notified of updates such as this. This is my first attempt at this technology, so if it isn’t set up right just drop me an email.

My weigh-in yesterday gives us 14st 10.4lb (206.4 lb, 93.8 Kg, BMI 32.5), so just under 16 lb to go. This gives a weight loss of 10.2 lb in 4 weeks, so I am achieving 2.5lb per week which is a good steady rate.

Missed the swimming this week as Alan wimped out and I didn’t fancy going on my own – we both went to see Off The Wall a Pink Floyd tribute band at the Charter Hall Theatre, Colchester the night before, and maybe he couldn’t hack the early start. Off The Wall were absolutely excellent and I definitely recommend booking tickets if they are in your area. It was extremely odd seeing an audience of approximately 40+ average age, sitting in rows of chairs listening to and watching such rock giants (tribute of)!! Anyway, I’ve been listening to Dark Side of the Moon and Echoes at full volume in the car ever since.

Anyway, back to the weight loss program. I have not listened to the CD all week, but am following all the guidelines properly. I am not tempted to stray, and get full almost as soon as I start eating. I couldn’t even eat my Chili meal this week, even though it was in the category of favorites which I previously would have eaten any way for the sheer enjoyment.

Clothes are fitting better and better, the watch is now very loose and I have started wearing my engagement ring again. The wedding ring is still too tight to be comfortable. Finally, chocs still in the drawer with no sign of me falling off the wagon quite yet – sorry to be boring.

If you’re also trying the Paul McKenna “I Can Make You Thin” approach then please drop me a line at



tags: paul mckenna pink floyd rss swiming weight loss work |

12th April 2004

Job changed again

I have changed jobs again. Idesta wanted us to move to Leeds as my job had become too senior to work well with me commuting 150 miles. We didn’t really fancy moving to Yorkshire, and was pleased when another opportunity opened up with Eastern Data Processing in Essex.

Again we had to relocate, but this time to Colchester, which is proving to be a very nice place to live.

tags: colchester edp idesta work | Read more

18th July 2002

I've changed jobs again

After a year and half of struggling with working for Teleware plc, I have found another employer. They also work in the mobile data arena, with a much more established client base and a richer breadth of software. I feel that they are much better placed to succeed with Mobile Data than my old employers. They are Idesta Solutions Ltd

tags: work |

1st February 2001

I no longer work for dcs


Without any notice at all, the mobile division were informed today that we all now worked for TeleWare plc.

The move is quite considerable, from a company of about 40 people, to one whose total numbers over 250. Also, the 20min drive to work has become 50min.

tags: commuting dcs letchworth. teleware work |


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