Asterisk and alarm working well together

After monitoring my alarm panel for a few days I have to say things are working extremely well! I’m still not parsing the messages the panel sends but I do get them reliably. As of now I get alerted via text message whenever the alarm is tripped. Actually, I get three alerts as for each test I get an event for “alarm tripped” and two for “alarm canceled.”

What I need to do now is write a little PERL app to convert the event code to text. I also might rewrite the AlarmReceiver Asterisk app to dump events into MySQL rather than randomly-named text files.

I also want to explore how to make the alarm report all events (a door opens, motion, etc) , not just when the alarm is tripped. Since I’ve got a phone line already dedicated to the alarm it shouldn’t be a problem to “nail it up” all the time. Alarm companies monitor a lot of their customers using “alarm loop” lines from the phone company, so it should be possible to monitor the whole system at all times.

Monitoring my alarm panel with Asterisk

Remember when I wanted to get my Asterisk phone system monitoring my home alarm panel? I did it today! It was surprisingly easy, too. Took about a half-hour of geeking to get it done.

Why monitor my alarm with Asterisk? Because the house has no land line and I don’t see the wisdom of paying some company $240 a year to do what I can do much better myself. Plus there’s something cool about having your computer do things when something physical happens – and Asterisk can do just that.
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VoIP and 911

A lot of people thinking of switching their phone service over to voice-over-IP (VoIP) are nervous about losing their ability to dial 911. While that used to be an issue it is not anymore, now that Enhanced 911 service is offered by most VoIP companies.

Our new home doesn’t have any landline service, so we’ve been relying on our mobile phones for dialing 911, simply because I hadn’t gotten around to configuring 911 service for our Asterisk-based home phone system. Well, I did that Monday night. It took a few clicks on the Vitelity webpage, some Asterisk-Fu to get the dialplan set up, and then we were in business. It costs an extra $1.49 per month but that all goes to support the 911 system. Which is a good cause, I think.
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Our outrageous phone bill

We just got our phone bill today – and boy, was it outrageous. It isn’t outrageously expensive, though: its outrageously cheap!

We’ve been charged $20 for our phone service. That’s right: twenty bucks … since May 15th! That’s $20 for ten weeks of service! And its all because we switched our phone service from AT&T to the Voice over IP (VoIP) provider Vitelity. We get two phone numbers, CallerID, and the ability for more than one simultaneous call.

Our base Bellsouth/AT&T bill used to be around $47.00/month. Long distance calling would tack on an extra $20 to that. Thus, our phone bill was often above $60/month.

Put another way, what we used to pay $60 per month for we now get for a jaw-dropping $8 per month! And through the magic that VoIP brings, we’re getting more features now for far, far less!

Voice over IP phone service isn’t rock solid, and it doesn’t always have the highest call quality. To save an extra 52 bucks each month, though, we can live with it!

Monitoring alarm panels with Asterisk

My new home has a built-in alarm system but no landline. Thus, any event will alert us, our Dobermans, and the neighbors but it won’t alert a monitoring service.

Since I don’t want to put in a landline nor subscribe to a monitoring service, and since I’m an Asterisk and Linux geek, I thought I’d see what the Internets had that might let me monitor my home with Linux and Asterisk.
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NY Times covers “ghost calls”

On a related note to the hang-up calls I mentioned, Slashdot pointed to a N.Y. Times story on so-called “ghost calls.” The story is a good primer on what web resources exist for tracking these calls. In other words, this story describes the kind of battles I’ve been fighting for the past few months.

The story also provides an interesting tip for defeating the calls that I hadn’t heard of before:

Because the predictive dialers try to identify answering machines by measuring the amount of time that someone or something speaks, one way to defeat them is to give a long greeting, as an answering machine does, rather than a simple hello followed by a pause.

Be sure to check the comments in the Slashdot post, as the geeks (as usual) have excellent information on how these predictive dialers really work.

Annoyance Calls

For the past few weeks we haven’t just been getting car warranty calls. Another annoying situation has established itself where we’ll get a hang-up call at 9:15 PM on Sunday evenings, followed by one about 6 minutes later. Then, at 4:25 AM on Monday morning the phone will ring again and – just like the other calls – there will be nothing but a dial tone.

I’ve since configured Asterisk to block these calls so they will no longer get through. Even so, I plan to see how good the crackerjacks at AT&T are at tracking them down by filing a complaint with them. Back in my BBS sysop’ing days, I had a phone number to the phone company group that could track any number. I’m sure I can find the AT&T equivalent with a little effort.

This has gone on for weeks now and its time to fight back.

Phone phisher pileup

The “Tuscany Industries” group (rumored to be Great Atlantic Warranty) isn’t the only one who is dialing for dollars. For the past few nights, we’ve received calls with CallerID info of 206-415-9148. A look at the ever useful shows that calls claiming to be from this number are designed strictly to leave messages on answering machines. Visitors to note that if the call is answered by anything other than an answering machine, the caller hangs up.

The message tells the recipient (or rather the recipient’s answering machine) that they’ve won two free airline tickets and to call 800-514-1363 with a reference number.
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Tuscany Industries phishers persist, switch numbers

Despite being hung up on Friday, another Tuscany Industries (or Upgrade Now) car-warranty-expiring phishing call just came in, this time from 208-839-2686. This number, according to Google, is the mobile phone number of a man in White Bird, Indiana – an unlikely phisher. Falsifying their CallerID. Geniuses, real geniuses.

Since you clowns are most likely are reading this, let me tell you your days are numbered. You had a good gig while it lasted but I’m on to you. You’ve pissed me off and I will find you and I will turn the whole state and federal law enforcement teams on to you if that’s what it takes.

Roy Cooper’s office and I will have a conversation about this today. Count on it.

More Phishiness

I had a call come in from “Tuscany Industries” this morning, number 702-520-1117. I answered and decided to play their little game. A recorded female voice warned about my car’s warranty expiring. If I was not interested in renewing it, she said, press 2, otherwise press 1.

I pressed 1 and their phone switch said “transferring to the operator.”
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