IPCS Word(s) of the Day: Dome Camera

May 21, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Dome Camera = A type of camera with a dome-like shape. Some come with infrared lighting and some are designed to be tamper-proof. Dome cameras can be analog or IP, fixed, Pan/Tilt or full PTZ. Dome cameras are typically ceiling-mounted or placed under an overhang, but can occasionally be wall mounted depending upon your particular application.

dome ip camera

What Do You Know About TBCS?

May 20, 2008 by Garrett Smith

In the telecom industry, new products, ideas, and companies seem to come and go like the wind, but one thing remains constant-Tennessee Business Communication Services. “TBCS” is proud to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2008. As a proud component (meaning VoIP Supply) of the growing success story behind TBCS, I personally want to put them on a pedestal for the general public.  In hopes of continual growth through the Midwestern states, TBCS has definitely made its mark in a very competitive telecom industry.  Having ties to the local Tennessee community, as a Western Kentucky University graduate, this company has won my interest and dedication fully.  I take pride in their core competency which has roots deeper than most “one hitter quitter” telecom companies.  A proven track record, along with superior telecom knowledge, has set the standard for local telecom installers.

While technology has changed significantly over the years, TBCS’s dedication to customer support has never wavered. Whether it’s a 20-year-old key system (which TBCS still has several under support) or a brand new IP PBX, these daily calls for support are greeted by a friendly live voice and responded to by a courteous local technician. TALK ABOUT CUSTOMER SERVICE!!  As a TBCS customer, you can also expect a direct relationship with a personal account manager who will drop by from time to time and physically inspect how things are going.  The majority of TBCS’s competitors consider this level of service to be “old fashioned,” but TBCS’s customers wouldn’t have it any other way.  VoIP Supply has laid the benchmark throughout the telecom industry for superior customer service; I’m more than honored to see our customer base follow the same “brick road” to success.

TBCS, Inc. is a Nashville, Tenn. based company that began in 1978 and is formerly known as Nashville Telecom.   In 1983, the name was changed to Tennessee Business Communication Services and in recent years has become known simply as “TBCS.” President and Founder Larry Featherstone, along with General Manager Steve Mars, have been on board since day one and continue to stay passionately committed in the day-to-day successes of an ever-growing company.   In addition to these dedicated individuals stands the General Sales Manager, Sean Wilder.  Sean is a “Go Getter” and will be sure to assist, comfort, and inform you on questions that may hold up your transition to a new telephony system.

TBCS has strategic partnerships with some of the most innovative companies in the world, including Vertical Communications/Vodavi, Win Communications, Adtran, Fonality, and TalkSwitch. TBCS also offers support agreements for a variety of other manufacturers, which you’re just a call away from finding out.

Zaptel – Who’s your DAHDI?

Digium announced yesterday that due to trademark issues, they will be renaming “Zaptel” to “DAHDI”, which stands for “Digium Asterisk Hardware Device Interface”.

Zaptel Digium Asterisk DAHDI

Zaptel is an OSS hardware driver API developed by Jim Dixon. Zaptel drivers were initially developed for BSD and Tormenta T1 interface cards. Digium began producing TDM interface cards based upon Jim’s work and made significant improvements to Zaptel on the Linux platform.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Jim Dixon, here is his bio from the 2005 Astricon conference:

Jim is the inventor of the Zapata telephony cards and a Systems Engineer (consultant) with the main specialites in Telecom. He’s been doing Engineering ever since Junior High school (although professionally since High school) and have been an Internet developer since 1980 (working on the Arpanet for MIT). He never bothered with college.

In addition Jim have been helping with the development of Asterisk during its lifetime. He has also created and been working on the app_rpt Asterisk 2 way radio project.

Jim’s Zapata Telephony Project took its name from the historic Mexican revolutionary figure Emiliano Zapata, an homage to symbolize the revolutionary nature of the Zaptel project. The term “Zaptel” is in fact trademarked by this calling card company, prompting Digium to adopt a new name to avoid legal issues surrounding the use of the Zaptel name.

IPCS Word(s) of the Day: Digital Zoom

Digital Zoom = Digital zoom is not really zoom, in the strictest definition of the term.  What digital zoom does is enlarge a portion of the image, thus ‘simulating’ optical zoom.  In other words, the camera crops a portion of the image and then enlarges it back to size.  In so doing, you lose image quality.  If you’ve been regularly using digital zoom and wondered why your images did not look that great, now you know.

Good Ideas Lost

May 19, 2008 by Ben Sayers

As with many of my blog entries, the intended audience is just as much my staff as anyone working elsewhere and is not necessarily focused on the VoIP industry as much as it is general business, entrepreneurship and effective management. Please comment with the intention of improving the idea and providing additional value and insight.

At VoIP Supply, we are not a large company by any means, but large enough to have a layer of management between the executive layer and the departmental team members. While sometimes this layer of management is a bridge for the staff to reach out to the owners with ideas and suggestions, often times it is a dam preventing ideas from reaching the surface for a variety of reasons.

Often times the management layer uses its insight into the big picture to filter out ideas that do not mesh with the business direction and needs while at other times the ideas may not fit well with the agenda of the individual manager that it is presented to. Still other ideas are not presented in a manner compelling enough to make it to the top and therefore never receive their intended audience.

While it is in many ways the responsibility of the management team to push up staff ideas just as it is their responsibility to push down executive decisions and requests, it is also the responsibility of the team member to push their ideas and suggestions until they receive sufficient feedback indicating either that the idea has been pushed up or it was not pushed up for a particular and valid reason.

Make the wheel squeak–the loudest one is usually heard first and either oiled (implemented) or thrown out with valid reasoning and justification.

The take away: do not assume that because you had a good idea and presented it to your manager that it was heard, fully understood and moved up the chain, adequately re-presented to the company executives. As often as it is, it is not. I, though perhaps not like everyone else, enjoy hearing from staff members directly when it comes to their ideas and suggestions. Bringing an idea directly to the executive team is highly encouraged and the squashing of such action by my management is highly discouraged regardless of the intent to not waste my time or shield me from something that does not fit the needs and direction of the business. Even if the idea is not a good fit at the time, the value to me and the increased value of the employee comes by way of simply having an idea and presenting it well.

My door is open to anyone at any time. Your ideas are valuable and I’ll decide if it is a good fit for the business now or in the future. This statement is true for employees, customers, vendors, partners and the like.

Jangl and LiveUniverse a Perfect Fit?

Over the last two weeks, rumors have swirled around the industry as to the fate of the once promising voice start-up Jangl, who looked to be in shambles after running out of cash and seeing the departure of their co-founders and engineering team to JAJAH. For those of you not familiar with Jangl, they are a voice 2.0 company with a variety of web-based calling solutions, most notably their “blind” calling service that allows online dating participants to make calls between one another without revealing their true phone number.

This weekend, it was announced that Jangl had been acquired by LiveUniverse, a video, social networking and music media company headed by MySpace founder Brad Greenspan. LiveUniverse, which touts over 55m visitors a month across all of their properties, already has the following and the brand advertisers that Jangl desperately needs in order to be a profitable stand-alone business.

Fortunately for those left at Jangl and LiveUniverse, it does not appear that Jangl will necessarily be a standalone play. Although it certainly has the potential to be a stand-alone business, Jangl has had most of it’s success as a “white label” provider of voice functionality for online dating sites and social networks. The most logical next step for the LiveUniverse is to integrate Jangl’s technology across their web properties making this acquisition more about purchasing a piece of technology, rather than a business.

Next to integrating the technology across their properties, LiveUniverse would be smart to continue to try and attract more social networks and online dating sites as white label customers of their voice capabilities. The downfall of this, however, is that voice is still not a demand feature for the users of said sites. So is the marriage of LiveUniverse and Jangl a perfect fit? I think so, although I believe that it is a perfect fit because the Jangl technology compliments LiveUniverse’s current offerings and enhances the features that the company can offer to their web “guests.” I doubt, though, that the acquisition will do much for the company by way of direct revenues.

Trixbox Integrates GPL Patched/Forked Version of FreePBX

VentureVoIP has an interesting story commenting on a recent post on the Trixbox Forum.

As you may know, Trixbox began as [email protected], and was rebranded Trixbox. [email protected] made use of a configuration tool called AMP (Asterisk Management Portal), currently known as FreePBX, created by Philippe Lindheimer.

FreePBX and Trixbox Joust

Well, Trixbox is distancing themselves from FreePBX, and has moved to create their own GPL forked configuration tool, which is more tightly integrated with Trixbox. Trixbox also cited security concerns, faster bug fixes and improved features as additional reasons for the change. Trixbox has released CE v2.6.2 (build 2.6.0.18), which includes the GPL patch for their integrated version of (formerly) FreePBX, and is currently BETA.

This announcement led to some verbal jousting on the official announcement thread within the Trixbox forums.

Not hard to read between the lines of this one. The team at FreePBX has had growing commercial aspirations of their own over the past year and has made some strategic moves in order to monetize their software tools.

Here are some snippets from the original Trixbox announcement:

…And with the recent decrease of training revenue, it is getting even harder.

Read: FreePBX launched their own Training Seminars which put them in somewhat of a competitive position versus Trixbox’ own FtOCC trainings.

trixbox CE has grown significantly since then, as has FreePBX, once under the reign of Coalescent Systems, then under Rob Thomas and now the trio of James Scanlin (who is the business guy), another partner (who is mainly silent), and the hard-working (yet only single developer!) Philippe Lindheimer.

Read: Trixbox is unhappy with FreePBX’ timeliness of response to bug fixes in conjunction with Trixbox CE. By integrating the FreePBX configuration tool, they are no longer beholden to the FreePBX development team.

And, when we do dutifully report the bugs (in exhausting detail) back to FreePBX we oft get back a request for large tracts of money to fix the bug. Look: we would love to pay large sums of money to FreePBX.

Read: We (Trixbox/Fonality) realize you guys are ambitious…why would we fund you in order to take a run at us?

Perhaps FreePBX is emerging as a potential rival to Trixbox. These impressions are my own, and I don’t claim them to be hard facts. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and to see the reaction from both supporters and detractors within the OSS telephony community.

IPCS Word(s) of the Day: Day/Night Camera

Day/Night Camera = “Day/Night Cameras” are regular cameras with an especially sensitive CCD chip that allows a good image to be captured in very low ambient lighting (regular lighting – not infrared). Do not confuse these cameras with “Night Vision” cameras which is another name for infrared (IR) cameras. Refer to the manufacturer specification to determine if your particular camera is classified as a “Day/Night” camera.

You Have PTZ On the Dome!

May 16, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Making the decision to do a PTZ upgrade was step one, so now we need to move into our next phase of choosing what type of PTZ camera you will need.  Ultimately the topic discussed here today can be applied over several different options when buying an IP Surveillance Camera.

Our very first question is none other than… “Is the camera going to be located indoors or outdoors?”  This will give us the first ideas as to what types of enclosure you’ll need to support your new surveillance set-up. 

Enclosures and location will go hand in hand when taking the first leaps of your purchase.  Dome is the most viable solution with all of these circumstances.  Going with a ceiling or wall mount can work to be interchangeable between indoors and out (with regards to the hardware’s materials).  Newer model PTZ cameras have began to focus on delivering PTZ to household consumers outside of the dome.  These options are available on such models as the TrendNet TV-IP400 or the 4XEM IPCAMWPTZ.

With the exception of some home- based and behind-the-counter set-ups, the dome is highly recommended for its versatility and vandal-proof features.

Portable Skype AND a PSP?

Sony and Skype so happy together?

Well here it is people. Skype is working with Sony to make a portable game station, mini DVD player, Wi-Fi access and now Skype account. Wondering what this is? It is a new gadget for the PSP. That’s right, the PSP and Skype are working together to make you an all-in-one device. Take a look at this from Villu Arak over at the Skype blog. Want more screen shots? Then check out Andrew Brennan’s blog here. Or you can just read the official release info from Skype. So now that you are aware of this, and some of you have that craving to get the newest tech, then I suggest you still do your homework. Just remember that this is still a work in progress, and I do foresee some bugs…

One: Wi-Fi access. What if you are not around the strongest signal in the world? Will there be an echo or dropped calls? Can the device compensate for this? To go along with this trend, what about echo? Will the software have echo cancellation? Here is a scenario I see happening: You’re at a Starbucks, or hotel with an open AP. You have access and it’s a weak signal, then your call drops, or you can hear yourself on the phone. Who do you blame? The access provider, Skype or PSP? With this working on a public network like a hotspot, there is the endless possibility of devices using non-echo cancelling hardware. Just a thought…

Two: Headset for the PSP/ microphone for the system. You’re telling me that this thing cannot use the built in speakers and have a microphone in the attachment to make this a complete conference phone? Now that would be a great idea.

Three: PSP hardware. What if you’re one of those many people that bought the first PSP systems. Sure they work great. DVDs, games, every other function works great, but what about getting this Skype to work? Will you need to trade in your PSP for a newer model? Will the newer model be more? Can you even resell or eBay your old one in an attempt to get money back?

So with those issues in mind I ask you to please think about it. Read up on Skype, Sony, and blogs about when and how this will be deployed.