Notes on a New World Order

Content (old posts, page 1)

Guess who's back?2008-01-17 00:00

So my site is finally accessible from the general Internet again. Hopefully that'll motivate me to update and write some more things for publication here. For now, feel free to tell me how much stuff isn't here and how much better it would all be if I actually wrote some more articles.

Polycom 500 VoIP on the Cheap2007-11-29 00:00

Background

I'll start this story at the beginning, because there's no other place really to start a story, and get to the fun tech stuff later.

I worked over the summer and into the fall of this year (2007) at a small local company that provides call center, call recording, and CRM software solutions for a variety of businesses across the world. A big part of the business was VoIP solutions, both hosted and deployed at customer sites, and I spent some time working with Polycom 500/501 VoIP phone configuration files (dynamically generated over HTTP for the 501's).

At some point at work it was mentioned that the rather expensive Polycom phones could be had on eBay for a steal, and since I was curious I decided to take a look. One week later I ended up with a Polycom 500CS phone for a total of $17.50 including shipping. More after the break... The Problem The reason I was able to get the quite nice phone so cheaply was that it came without a power adapter. Usually that's not too much of a problem, because you can just pick one up at the local$hack. Complication #1: Polycom IP phones don't use a separate power supply, they take power over the ethernet cable. Complication #2: The Polycom power over ethernet isn't documented anywhere I could find on the internet.

Now, I could just go and buy an adaptor/special cable for the phone, but that would probably cost me as much as I paid for the phone, which is no good. I'm a cheapass student, I'm not going to pay more than I paid for the device to turn it on...

The Solution

So, the obvious solution, I think, is to just make my own damn cable / power supply. Unfortunately, I'm not an electronics guy really, and while I'm not a complete neophyte when it comes to soldering and wires, I really haven't physically done very much of this sort of hacking.

The first challenge, figuring out what power (voltage, which wires) wan't too difficult, because I was still working at the time and had easy access to take a look at a real polycom power supply. 12V, and on some pins I couldn't figure out.

The unused pins for 100Base ethernet are 4,5,7, and 8, so I just took an ethernet cable I didn't mind accidentally ruining and stripped out those wires. I took a multimeter to them and found out that 4,5 and 7,8 were connected.

I've got an old computer power supply (who doesn't?) that I've used for random tinkering before, so I twisted 4,5 and 7,8 wires together and hooked up the 12V from the power supply with some alligator clips and bits of wire™, and the multimeter for good measure just to see what voltages were where. I turned on the power supply and...blinking red light and bootup!

(Alright, there were a few hiccoughs and trials along the way, but I've outlined how I would do it if I knew what I was doing from the begining.)

So now all I've got to do is get a less bulky power brick that'll power the phone, solder it all up and start setting up the phone and software to connect up with Gizmo and FWD and so on. That's slightly complicated by the fact that the phone is a CS phone, meaning it's a MGCP protocol phone, but I'm fairly certain I can just flash the SIP firmware onto it, as SIP is much more widely used and there's more open source / free software that uses it.

The attached bad cell phone camera photos are hopefully illustrative of the setup and what I did. If not, sorry.

UPDATE: Well, having done some work to get the phone powered, I've run across a new problem. The phone seems broken, i.e. it won't pull DHCP, or even light up the port on the switch. I hope it's not something I did to it, but I can't be too upset, the thing was practically free.

So for now, it goes in the bin with all my other semi-broken electronics, waiting for me to have the time and skill to fix or cannibalize for other projects.

More updates when I have them...

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New Theme, Various and Sundry Updates2007-11-26 00:00

Well, changed the theme for the site, because I didn't really like the previous theme. Trying out some different content/view/publishing stuff for organizing the site, to hopefully make it less blog-like, for one, as, while there's nothing wrong with blogs, I'm not looking to be a blogger, and two, I'm trying to make the site useful as a resource and something to point people at for anything that I've written/done/wish I'd done.

Feedback is welcome, as always, and again, apologies to anyone with links to the old wordpress site.

$e^i\pi + 1 = 0$

Punctuality Problems2007-11-26 00:00

"The important thing is the educational experience itself — how to survive it." — Donald Barthelme

Cori woke up to a high and whiny sound filling her cluttered dormitory room. She rolled out of bed and grabbed her Student Information Device (SID). A sort of planner, organizer, and alarm clock economically packaged into a hand-held device the size of a small novel; University standard issue.

"Ugh," she said. Today is not a day I want to be woken up early by imminent annoyance, she thought, Starting the week exhausted is not the way to go.

Cori hit a button on the side of the device; the sound ceased. The SID display read, "WARNING: Temporal Disturbance. Local time altered. Low battery: change soon." She turned off the SID and quickly glanced at her clock: "1:20 PM." Her heart nearly skipped a beat. Her only Monday class, Genetic Engineering 253 Making Friends: Technique & Practice, started in ten minutes — on the other side of campus. Cori snatched up her things and started sprinting.

It's trouble if students are late for afternoon classes because morning didn't happen, thought Cori. One day isn't enough time to recover from Saturday's Fiasco Science Fair. I'm certainly not, and yesterday, people were still picking shrapnel out of their clothing.

Cori absently dodged through the normal campus hazards: High Energy & Entropy lab exhaust pipes, ambulatory vending machines, and the occasional crater. She vaguely remembered some of the new ones as she crossed the quad— it was all a bit foggy, she had awakened quite confused in the Student Health Center late Saturday afternoon.

What kind of sick person skips over Monday morning? she thought, There's nothing inherently bad about it. It's just unpopular because it comes after Sunday night.

Quickly glancing up at the University clock, Cori noticed the clock read Sunday, not Monday. Double-checking against her SID, she sighed. She was about twenty-four hours early.

"Not again," moaned Cori. Still, she couldn't remember what was the official policy for repeated days?