Unemployment versus House Prices 1975-2008

The following graph shows the quarterly unemployment rate compared to real house prices. House prices have been adjusted for inflation and are given in 2009 Q1 prices.



Learning Fonica PABX and FreePBX

I’ve been testing out a few free PBX distributions, and the most recent one I’ve tried is called Fonica PABX. It’s basically a bundle of Centos, Asterisk, FreePBX, and some other asterisk modules that are wrapped together with a nice installer system.

Step 1 – Install Fonica PABX

  • Download the latest ISO and burn it to a CD
  • Follow the instructions on the Fonica PABX wiki.
  • Make sure you change all the default passwords as described in the instructions, otherwise your box will be open to the world.

Step 2 – Set up some extensions with FreePBX

  • Browse to FreePBX > Basic > Extensions
  • Add a generic sip device, specifying the user extension (e.g. 0001) and a secret (password)
  • You may also wish to enable call recording, and voice mail – if so, specify a voicemail pin.

Step 3 – Configure FreePBX to allow Inbound and Outbound calls

In this example we are going to set up a trunk to Magrathea Telecom to allow inbound / outbound calls via IAX2.

  • Browse to FreePBX > Basic > Trunks
  • Add an IAX2 Trunk.
  • For the outgoing settings, give the trunk a name such as “magrathea-out”, then specify the hostname (iax3.magrathea-telecom.co.uk) and your username / password. Magrathea or your VOIP service provide will have given you these details.
  • For the incoming settings, the user context (username) and secret (password) are the authentication details that the VOIP provider will use when connecting to you. In Magrathea’s case we can set these to anything we want, we then notify magrathea of them through an API call. E.g. username:[email protected]

After the trunk is setup, you must define both an outbound and inbound route. For the outbound route:

  • Browse to FreePBX > Basic > Outbound Routes
  • Give the route a name, e.g. default
  • Specify the dialplan pattern, e.g. XXXXXXXXXXX would match any 11 digit number
  • Specify the outgoing trunk to use e.g. magrathea-out (or the name you used when setting it up).

For the inbound route:

  • Browse to FreePBX > Inbound Call Control > Inbound Routes
  • Give the route a description (e.g. default) and a destination (e.g. an extension, voicemail, queue or ring group). You can leave the DID number blank if you want this to be a default route, but fill it out  if you want to match a specific number. Magrathea send the DID numbers in the full international format, e.g. 448448160054.

Step 4 – Install additional FreePBX modules such as Queues and Ring Groups

  • Browse to FreePBX > Admin > Module Admin
  • Click “check for updates online”
  • You should then see a list of modules. Click on the modules you would like to install, and then select the “download and install” action.
  • Once you’ve chosen all the modules you want, click the “process” button in the bottom right hand corner of the page.

Other things I plan to do:

  • Set up queues and / or ring groups with their own voicemail (how can queue members access it?)
  • Set up a phone directory to
    • Automatically look up known caller ID from a database, and append to CID on inbound calls.
    • Allow directory lookup from Snom phone itself.
  • Get auto-provisioning working, to automatically assign extensions to our snoms.
  • Work out how to set up patterns for inbound calls, so that 0844 816 XXXX goes to extension XXXX.
  • Port our existing geographic numbers from BT to Magrathea and assign to extensions.
  • Set up system to fall back to analogue lines if VOIP not working, and also to route 999 / operator calls out over PSTN.
  • Is it secure to allow “anonymous inbound sip calls” from the FreePBX > Basic > General Settings menu?

Trixbox blue screen after probing video card

I was experiencing an error during an installation of Trixbox whereby it would lock up with a blue screen after the keyboard language selection / probing video card steps. Initially I thought it was a faulty CD, but after burning 3 copies with 2 computers, I would get the same problem every time.

This thread had some more info, but in the end I fixed it by disabling the machines secondary hard drive.

Replacing benefits with a Basic Income

For a while now I have been thinking that there must be a better way to re-distribute income in our society. The current welfare system is hugely inefficient and complicated with all the means testing and civil servants needed to administer it.

Our system is also full of perverse incentives, whereby it encourages people NOT to work. If you are unemployed and receiving benefits, then you risk losing them by going back to work, and unless your new job pays well above minimum wage, you might not be any better off!

Wouldn’t it be better to provide everyone with a minimum amount of income (funded through taxation) that was not in any way mean’s tested? This would remove a huge amount bureaucracy and encourage unemployed people to get a job without the fear that they would lose their existing income.

Basic Income

The idea is known as a Basic Income – also referred to as a Citizen’s Income. It is similar to a Negative Income Tax and it works like this:

  • It is paid to individuals rather than households;
  • It is paid irrespective of any income from other sources;
  • It is paid without requiring the performance of any work or the willingness to accept a job if offered.

I think that this basic income could then be combined with universal public services, free to the end user. So every citizen would receive a fixed basic income plus certain guaranteed minimum entitlements, such as health care, education, shelter and security.

The public and private sector would compete to provide schools, hospitals, and accommodation to satisfy the universal guarantees. The social housing should be modest to keep costs down and to encourage people to work if they want better.

In the 2008 Budget, we spent £169 billion on social protection – that’s almost £3000 for every citizen of the UK – £57 a week per person. The basic income could be stepped, so that children receive the lowest amount, working age adults would earn more, and pensioners would receive the most.

Advantages of the Basic Income System

  • Increased incentives and rewards for those who want to work.
  • Simpler, more efficient and easier to implement than the complicated means tested system we have now. Thus represents better value for citizens.
  • Minimum guaranteed income for all citizens

We should simplify the tax system at the same time, and scrap the complicated capital, corporation and income tax schemes with a single flat tax.

Willie’s Delectable Chocolate Revolution

I’ve been watching Willie’s Chocolate Revolution on Channel 4 for the past few nights, and it’s definitely made me want to try some of his world class cacao!

So I tried searching in Google for “willies chocolate” and “willies delectable chocolate” but I couldn’t find his site! After delving a bit deeper, I’ve found it, so in case anyone else is wondering where you can get it from, here are some links:

Willie’s Website

Online stockists


He currently sells two black chocolates (100% cacao) and two dark chocolates (70-72% cacao).

  • Venezuelan Black (100%) – Hacienda El Tesora, Rio Caribe Superior, Carenero Superior
  • Peruvian Black (100%) – San Martin
  • Venezuelan 72 (72%) – Rio Caribe Superior, Carenero Superior
  • Peruvian 70 (70%) – San Martin