Archive for February, 2011

Tag Sri Lanka

February 23rd, 2011

It’s one of those posts that I’ve been hesitant to write for quite some time; mainly due to the fear of not having enough knowledge at the time of writing leading to an inability to do justice to the subject.

One of the guys who keeps my twitter feed turning over is Daren Forsyth (@DarenBBC), who is currently the Marketing and Communications Director for the Organisation Tag International Development(@tagdevelopment).   Their aim is to ‘design a better world,’ by using specialist people in specialist areas – by coordinating and funding that work.

Over the last few months, Daren has been tweeting about one such project based in Sri Lanka (@TAGSriLanka).  The aim of the project is to get used Android phones into the hands of Sri Lankans.  TAG are looking for donations of Android Phones, Solar Chargers, and also monetary donations, in order to develop the cellular network in the region.

Earlier today I can across a post on the TAG ID blog. Read it here. It discussed how through Art Therapy and Religion, communities can be rebuilt following 30 years of Civil War.  It should be of no surprise to see what aid givers can learn by giving people to tools to express themselves when there is a language barrier.

It’s interesting that the lack of electricity being a number one threat to the rural community – not because it’s seen as a convenience – but due to it’s role in elephant control.  When i visited the small village near Anaikatti in  Kerala, they had a problem with elephants trampling houses and destroying crops at night time, and whereas villages down the mountain had electricity to power their electric fence – they didn’t.

TAG Development will no doubt have similar problems to face in Sri Lanka, but the main reason for the post is to advertise their efforts to collect Android Phones in order to get them into the hands of the people of Sri Lanka.  As there are also a fair few programmer-types that read this blog, it may also be an idea to discuss possible uses for Android Handsets, and application ideas and development to suit the project.  If you have any thoughts, ideas and suggestions, please either comment on the blog below, or find @DarenBBC and @TagSriLanka on Twitter.

Electricity Development

February 23rd, 2011

In Kerala, I visted a village high up in the mountains that was disconnected from the main electricity grid. It was, however, connected to a smaller local grid. This grid though was smaller and suffered loss of power most days, and rarely lasted the whole summer.  This is mainly due to Kerala’s reliance on hydro-electric power, and with smaller monsoon rains, coupled with population increase draining the reservoirs faster, the situation is unlikely to improve without developing other means of electricity generation.

View Larger Map

The really ironic thing about it all, is that Kerala State are introducing new methods.  They’ve erected massive wind turbines across the local landscape, and one right next to the village.  The unfortunate thing about this, is that in order for the electricity harvested by the wind farm to be useful to the local community, it would require a substation.  This substation is situated a few miles away down the valley, and the electricity produced by this turbine allegedly isn’t connected to the same grid that the village are on.

Charter for Compassion

February 22nd, 2011

Some videos like this can miss the point, but I thought this one was worth sharing.

FreePBX & Asterisk Queue ‘Nuance’

February 11th, 2011

I’ve recently been playing with FreePBX and Asterisk and have upgraded my Gentoo setup to:

  • Asterisk
  • FreePBX Core
  • FreePBX Framework

  • We have a slight nuance with the way we initially setup FreePBX. In order to split users/physical devices, I set up all users starting at 1000, and physical devices at 5000. My personal extension is 1013. I manage my follow-me via the Web Interface, which I set to my deskphone, 5108. I also set the follow-me on 1013 to my mobile on 07777777777# (not my actual number).

    This has worked well for about 4 years, enabling us to add more phones and more locations. However, today I hit a new problem.

    At around lunchtime, my boss called to say people that call up our number are getting our IVR, (where they can either enter an extension, or are forwarded to a queue) and are simply being put into the queue (5200) and it’s ringing out. I attempted a call and looking at the verbose logs that is exactly what was happening.

    With some help from the #freepbx IRC channel (especially [TK]D-Fender), I was advised to run ‘queue show 5200′. This showed all our user extensions as (unavailable) – which they were, as they are all forwarded on to follow-me.

    comms*CLI> queue show 5200
    5200 has 0 calls (max unlimited) in 'ringall' strategy (0s holdtime, 0s talktime), W:0, C:0, A:17, SL:0.0% within 60s
          Trevor (Local/1004@from-queue/n) (Unavailable) has taken no calls yet
          Michael (Local/1001@from-queue/n) (Unavailable) has taken no calls yet
          Bob (Local/1012@from-queue/n) (Unavailable) has taken no calls yet
          Carlos (Local/1002@from-queue/n) (Unavailable) has taken no calls yet
          Andy (Local/1013@from-queue/n) (Unavailable) has taken no calls yet
          Steve (Local/1007@from-queue/n) (Unavailable) has taken no calls yet
       No Callers

    It was pointed out to me that because they were unavailable, they would not receive the calls. That makes some kind of sense. In reality they’re permanently disconnected SIP devices, which simply forward on to their follow me.

    At this juncture, I should point out that there is an option in the Queue Management page in FreePBX called ‘Agent Restrictions’, which specifies the following:

    When set to ‘Call as Dialed’ the queue will call an extension just as if the queue were another user. Any Follow-Me or Call Forward states active on the extension will result in the queue call following these call paths. This behavior has been the standard queue behavior on past FreePBX versions.
    When set to ‘No Follow-Me or Call Forward’, all agents that are extensions on the system will be limited to ringing their extensions only. Follow-Me and Call Forward settings will be ignored. Any other agent will be called as dialed. This behavior is similar to how extensions are dialed in ringgroups.
    When set to ‘Extensions Only’ the queue will dial Extensions as described for ‘No Follow-Me or Call Forward’. Any other number entered for an agent that is NOT a valid extension will be ignored. No error checking is provided when entering a static agent or when logging on as a dynamic agent, the call will simply be blocked when the queue tries to call it. For dynamic agents, see the ‘Agent Regex Filter’ to provide some validation.

    I therefore expected the extensions there to adhere to the follow-me. This was not the case.

    The next step was to add a physical device to the list of SIP extensions in the queue, one that would show up as available. I added my deskphone extension (5108) and it showed up in the queue as the following:

    APL-DESK (Local/5108@from-queue/n) (Not in use) has taken no calls yet

    So I now dialed the queue and expected just extension 5108 to ring, but to my surprise now every extension listed in the queue now rang their follow me. It was as if adding a physical extension to the queue ‘bumped’ asterisk into respecting the follow-me of the (unavailable extensions). True enough I then removed 5108 from the queue only to return to the same behaviour as before – no phones ringing.

    What confuses me is that if the phone is marked as (unavailable) and therefore that is the reason why it doesn’t ring, then why when only one phone in the queue is marked as (not in use) does it then ‘make’ asterisk respect the follow-me of the (unavailable) extensions?

    Please let me know your thoughts