Making sense of all the noise – testing Freedom Fone v1.5pre

I've spent time recently testing the pre-release version 1.5 of Freedom Fone in Zimbabwe. Lots of little bugs have presented themselves but for the most part this version has been a revelation. The closest tech support has been Alberto in freezing Stockholm and Giovanni somewhere in Italy. I am sweating it out in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Installation was largely trouble free thanks to the system replacer DVD that unpacks all the essentials: Ubuntu, FreeSWITCH, Cepstral, Freedom Fone etc. In comparison to the extremely technical manual installation of each package, the installer is a godsend for ordinary folk like me.

Unsurprisingly, there were a couple of technical problems and these have helped us to identify some important fixes:

a) There's an issue with the PL3003 driver that comes with Ubuntu and which causes GSM modems to get detected incorrectly.

The quick fix is to remove the pl2303.ko driver from the system:

mv /lib/modules/2.6.24-26-generic/kernel/drivers/usb/serial/pl2303.ko /root

b) If you need/want remote support across your internet connection you'll find that the 1.5pre ISO has a SSH server that gets broken during installation. The quick fix is to uninstall and install openssh-server:

apt-get update
apt-get remove openssh-server
apt-get install openssh-server

c) Links to the audio files comprising voice menus or voice messages on the server did not work until the IP address of the server was amended in a few files:

i. Edit the file /usr/local/freedomfone/config/gui_config_core.php and change the IP address for your local IP address:

define ('MY_DOMAIN','http://192.168.46.238/freedomfone/');

ii. Edit the file /usr/local/freedomfone/config/leave_message_100_core.conf and if your Freedom Fone runs on the 192.168.0.0/24 network you might want to edit: Change:

var lmURIRoot = "http://localhost/freedomfone/";

To:

var lmURIRoot = "http://192.168.x.x/freedomfone/";

d) If you want to experiment with the Text to Speech (TTS) functionality you will soon feel a strong desire to get rid of the dreadful nag that repeats after every sentence. To achieve this you need to buy a $30 Cepstral licence for the sample voice that is included with the installation – Allison-8kHz – visit https://www.cepstral.com/cgi-bin/store/home

To drop the licence in, you will need to run:

swift --reg-voice

If you demo Freedom Fone with proper audio files – a much nicer option – you won't use Allison at all, and won't be badgered by the nag to buy a licence.

Last but not least, I had some very tense days dealing with DTMF recognition by the MobiGater’s sound card on the VERY noisy mobile network lines in Zimbabwe. Turns out that the default settings that were effective in Europe could not deal with the hubbub on our lines. This meant that key presses on my mobile phone's keypad were frequently not recognised by the Freedom Fone voice menus. This experience has highlighted the need for each deployer to have an interface through which to 'tune' their sound card settings.

My system has 2 MobiGaters connected to it. The first connects to the Leave-a-Message service, the second to the default voice menu I created.

To troubleshoot this problem I used this command (with slightly different settings) to reset the gain to zero on each MobiGater connected to the system:

alsamixer -c1 -Vcapt

You'll be presented with a "mixer" for capture. I had no trouble with this, but if it does not appear on your installation (can’t see why it shouldn’t), try apt-get install alsa-utils to install it).

If the word "CAPTUR" in red does not display near the bottom, press the spacebar on the MIC so it does appear. Double click over the numeric setting and change it to 0. This should also change the mic dB setting to 0.

I repeated this process for the second MobiGater:

alsamixer -c2 -Vcapt

With everything set to 0, when I called the mobile SIM card in the MobiGater connected to the leave a message service (1st MobiGater attached), key presses on my mobile phone's keypad magically started being recognized and I was also able to leave a clear, audible voice message. All went well with calls to the SIM card in the 2nd MobiGater connected to my voice menu – navigation was now a cinch. Yay!

If things do not work that easily for you, use the alsamixer command to slowly increase the gain, testing the service by calling it repeatedly in between changes. Remember to make these changes to the settings of all MobiGaters connected to the server. If you are using SIM cards from different operators, it is possible that the settings may vary from network to network. Let us know if you hit these kind of variations - write to dev [at] freedomfone [dot] org.

If at any time you want to reset the settings to the system default, run:

/etc/init.d/gsmopen start

If you feel you've found the correct settings for your country's networks, edit the /etc/init.d/gsmopen script as follows to make these your new default settings:

Change

$AMIXER -c ${i} -q set Mic cap mute 70% >/dev/null 2>&1

to

$AMIXER -c ${i} -q set Mic cap mute 0% >/dev/null 2>&1 

(or whatever % works for you).

To apply these settings:

/etc/init.d/gsmopen start

To keep up with the latest fixes for the current version, visit https://dev.freedomfone.org/wiki/FFFAQ