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November 30, 2005

AdSense + Analytics

After Google Analytics came out, I've been having fun playing with the, admittedly sparse for my site, statistics it generates. One thing that's missing, though, is the ability to see how many Google Adsense clicks are being generated. This is actually what Analytics is ideal for - it's oriented more toward marketing than toward raw stats (IMO), and, the only even remotely marketing related function of this blog is occasionally distracting visitors to ads for the joy of sponsoring most of my VoIP experiments.

Searching around the web, I found that the answer had already been solved. This post at SEO Book describes how, except that it needs a tweak (not to mention that the code is gross, needing to track mouse locations because of a bug in Mozilla-based browsers). Unfortunately, it will record an ad click whenever any iframe content click causes a page change. I added the one line that makes it only do so when a Google iframe is clicked. My updated astrack.js is here.

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November 27, 2005

The myth of the single phone number

I've finally done it. I have a single phone number that rings through to me wherever I am. Using various of my previously posted tricks, but mostly just having a central VoIP system that can complete calls however I ask it to, I now have a single number that reaches me basically anywhere.

There are some caveats, which I'll get to at the end. But the biggest thing is that I've had a hard time explaining it to people. Partly, that's because I actually didn't accomplish complete unification - there is one number you can call me on, but I haven't yet found an affordable way to receive SMS messages into such a system. In fact, it seems to cost hundreds of dollars per month for such a capability, or you need custom hardware. So, instead of just giving people one number, I end up giving them two... the first being the apparently nebulous "primary" or "main" number, the other being the cell phone number.

The problem is that, basically everyone I know primarily uses their cell phone, and, at least whenever they'd be calling me, assumes its best to call me on my cell phone. So, having given out my cell phone number, the "primary" number has become lame-duck. The only way around it is to avoid telling them anything but the single number - which I'm a little nervous about, because I really don't control that VoIP system well enough to guarantee it'll work in a pinch, so it's nice to have at least one other number people can call me on in case of emergency, as well. So, thus, the quandary.

There's also the caveat. The cost/availability of the numbers. Over time, as I've been experimenting with VoIP, I've acquired several different incoming numbers (DIDs, in telephone parlance). One is free in every way, but long distance from virtually everywhere. Then I have toll-free, and local numbers. Ideally, I'd give the "free in every way" number to whoever will always be calling me from a place where they always have long distance - my cellphone toting friends, mostly. I'd give the toll-free number to others, and the local number to people who'd be calling me from a phone in my local area. Of course, finding out enough of how a random person I'm talking to is going to use a number to reach me to given them the "correct" number is an unexpected conversational hangup, so rarely goes well. I suppose the real problem is in making all of these capabilities available - if I just picked one number, and stuck to it, this would all go away... but then I'd never get to tinker with things like toll-free systems, SIP routing from free carriers, and the like. Ah, well.

Anyone else out there doing single-number dial-all tricks with their VoIP systems?

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November 22, 2005

Privacy watch: US now a "show your papers" country

Think we still live in the land of the free? It's one thing (and I'm still not entirely convinced) to require ID to ride air transit, but it's another thing entirely to require ID to ride a public bus.

This country's going downhill at an alarming pace.

(via Dan Gillmor)

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November 07, 2005

Teaser: more custom call routing

Prevously, I described how I set up my VoIP system to route calls using the Plazes.com api. This has been working pretty well, except it suffers from a few problems:

  • Plazes only knows where you are if you have a machine running, actively reporting your location. If your machine is off, or, as is currently my situation, broken, then this won't work so well. It also doesn't work very well if you use several different machines, some of which you share with others.
  • The plazes API lookup takes some time to execute, on the order of 2-5seconds. That's essentially a whole ring that's lost to routing if you're doing this as part of a direct-dial setup.
  • I don't control the plazes infrastructure, so if it goes away, I don't get any cool custom call routing at all.

When I set out to do the Plazes hack, it was because I didn't have a Bluetooth phone, and I hadn't seen that anyone had done it. However, I've since switched to a Bluetooth-enabled phone, so I finally implemented the last, most commonly-done bit of custom call routing. I had all of the bits to make it happen before: home Linux server in close proximity to where I usually am, Bluetooth phone, bluetooth devices, etc. Unfortunately, I was having troubles getting my old Broadcom 203x or whatever USB Bluetooth device to work with my kernel 2.6-based Linux.

In the end, I took bits of the recently published Nerd Vittles tutorial, combined with a few improvements, and even rearranged my Plazes code. I now have a system that quickly checks Bluetooth status, and only branches to Plazes if I'm not home. I've rearranged the code so that all of the branching happens in the Asterisk dialplan, meaning that, with a little more tweaking, the plazes and bluetooth scripts can be generalized.

Unfortunately, my primary work environment is off getting AppleCare love right now, so I'm going to have to delay the full writeup with code for later.

November 03, 2005

Pentax Optio60 review

In an extremely belated birthday gesture, I bought Joy a new camera. I'd picked it out a while ago, having spotted it on some gadget blog when it was initially announced this summer. The camera? The Pentax Optio 60.

Now, at first, the specs on this thing sound great, especially for a ~$200 camera (I actually got it for $180 including shipping). It's 6.0 megapixel, 3x optical zoom, runs on AA batteries and takes SD, yet it's still small enough to be fairly pocketable. It even has a little bit of built in memory, so you can take a couple (well, 3, at high quality, 6mp) photos with no memory card in the beast. Add to that the Aperture and Shutter override modes, rare on low-end cameras I've come across so far, and it sounds like a decent little beast.

Unfortunately, as I suspected, you get what you pay for. The camera produces pictures with tons of color shimmer... you need the extra mega pixels so you can throw them away. It also seems to have a lot of trouble focusing in lower-light conditions... even with the half-press option, it takes a half dozen tries or more to get it to take an in-focus picture in the low evening light of our apartment: this is for flash-assisted photos, so I'm not specifically complaining about the normal mistake of assuming you can take a good shot with too little light.

Verdict: You get what you pay for. This camera will probably be fine for outdoor photography, and/or newly starting digital camera users. For anyone with a lesser existing camera that takes good pictures, or an interest in reliability/quality, there's nothing to see here.