The shoemaker's children get new shoes

Deck the labs with long overdue updates

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and a few restful days off from the IT grind. That was my plan, too. However, when Friday dawned I realized that I had plenty of IT work to do for myself.

When you spend your days planning new network and server build-outs, VM architectures, and fixing any and all problems, the supporting cast gets neglected. This includes all the laptops, desktops, and servers that make up the backbone of the lab, right down to the phones. I hadn't had time to do much in the way of updates, fixes, and patches on those systems for nearly a year. Thus, my weekend was consumed with upgrades, updates, and fixes for my own systems, which somehow feels less productive than regular work.

It all started with my Asterisk installation. Up until Friday, all the phones were driven by an aging TrixBox installation that was old enough to require a complete rebuild rather than just upgrades, and all the phones needed new firmware to accompany the new build. Luckily, upgrading from this ancient version of TrixBox to the most current was relatively painless. Rather than try to migrate all the extensions, trunks, and settings, I opted to build it clean, copying the configs from the current box. Much to my surprise, it was extremely simple. I manually copied over the extension definitions, trunk configurations and registration strings to the new build of TrixBox CE, swapped IP addresses and voilà, everything worked. A few phones needed to be rebooted, but that was basically it. I even took the time to add a few of my recordings to the hold music -- something I'd been meaning to do for years.

[ In the market for a new phone system? InfoWorld Test Center has the lowdown in "Microsoft Response Point SP1 fills VoIP major gaps" ]

A few notes on this build: The current TrixBox CE MOH admin code isn't quite right, so you're better off running sox foo-in.wav -r 8000 -c 1 -s -w foo-out.wav resample -ql on your WAV files, placing them in /var/lib/asterisk/moh, and manually reloading Asterisk. Also, if you don't require authenticated SMTP for e-mail alerts/fax-to-email/etc, you'll have to edit /etc/postfix/ and set smtpd_sasl_auth_enable and smtp_sasl_auth_enable to 'no', and run service postfix restart. After that, all should be well.

I also bit the bullet and updated my Cisco IP phones to the latest SIP code. Given the history of Cisco's SIP builds for the 7900-series phones have a history of being wonky, I was somewhat prepared for a battle. However, the IT gods smiled on me, and after altering one setting in the XML config for the 7970s (<natEnabled>false</natEnabled>), the phone booted, updated, and came up normally.

I also took the time to write a vCard parsing/display app for the Cisco phones that lets me dump the vCards from my Mac OS X address book straight into a valid XML format for the phones. Thus, my iPhone contact list is available and even searchable on all the Cisco phones.

On the other side of the fence, I'm still using my four-year-old Siemens Gigaset analog phones with a Sipura/Linksys SPA3102 ATA. They are really showing their age (and signs of abuse). I couldn't really find what I was looking for -- an attractive, reasonably priced DECT-based SIP phone with multiple handsets. For my purposes, I'd rather have a SIP client that can handle four DECT handsets with a pair of extensions available on each handset rather than individual extensions per handset. There are a few units out there that come close, but not close enough. I opted for a Philips SE6591B/17 base with a few handsets. We'll see how that works out.

Also amid my flurry of activity, I backed up my Macs to a 750GB external drive with Time Machine, ran the latest Apple updates (a task that I continually postpone since I'm using them, dammit), and even finally updated my iPhone to 2.2.

Speaking of that last item, my quick perusals of various iPhone sites didn't produce any clear-cut answer to the question of updating an unlocked and jailbroken iPhone 2G running 2.0 to 2.2. I can now say with certainty that you can use iTunes to update a 2G iPhone to 2.2, and it will not modify the baseband, meaning that the phone will remain unlocked. A quick run-through with QuickPwn 2.2 and the reinstallation of a few apps and I was all set.

Of course, there are still a dozen tasks that need to be done -- some of the lab VMware boxes are still running 3.5U1, my main workstation is still running Fedora Core 6 x86_64 and needs to be completely rebuilt, but that'll have to wait for another day. I did manage to do my part to revitalize the economy by taking advantage of a PC Connection deal for 1TB LaCie drives for $99 with free shipping, so I think I'll be rebuilding that box by dumping my 600GB homedir to one of those and starting over from scratch. That will actually be rather cathartic once I get past the hour or so of app re-installations.

All in all, it was a good way to spend the weekend -- the IT equivalent of changing the oil in the cars and finally fixing the clogged fuel injector in the pickup (which is also something that's still on my to-do list).

So now I can rest easy, knowing that I'll put off all this routine maintenance on my own gear for at least another year. 'Tis the season, after all.