Archive for July, 2011

How to monitor your microphone through headphones in Ubuntu

If you want to monitor your headphone feed, either for streaming it to the output or for mixing purposes, you’ll need to know your audio device names. Start with reading the latter half of this post to find your device names. Once you have the input and output device names, substitute them in the following command:

pacat -r --latency-msec=1 -d alsa_input.pci-0000_00_1b.0.analog-stereo | pacat -p --latency-msec=1 -d alsa_output.pci-0000_00_1b.0.analog-stereo

Note that the .monitor part has been removed from the playback device. Not much explanation to go on here, but it does the job and I’m writing this in a hurry.

Based on PulseAudio: Monitoring your Line-In Interface.


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Sprint and Google Voice integration

I was recently in a Sprint store and saw that they were advertising Google Voice integration with your Sprint mobile number which adds all of the features and functionality of Google Voice to your Sprint mobile number.

The Sprint and Google Voice integration gives you two (technically three) options to use with your account. I’ll explain the two carrier-integration and the one non-carrier-integration options as clearly as I can, citing references and personal experience on each.

If you install the Google Voice app on Android, you’ll be prompted to either perform the carrier integration steps or skip it. Unfortunately, the impact of the options isn’t as clear as it could be. So here’s my take-away on this.

First, the carrier-integration options as listed on

Option 1: Use your Sprint number with Google Voice.

This causes the carrier to pass (for lack of a better word) all of your inbound calls through the GV service. Your Sprint mobile number becomes your Google voice number. This is the mode that Sprint is encouraging, both from a feature and a billing perspective.

All of your outbound calls from the GV website will display your Sprint number. The one thing about this is that you can enable/disable calls from ringing your mobile through the Google Voice settings (even though it’s your mobile number — remember we’re passing incoming calls through the GV service?). You can even uncheck your phone in the list of ringing devices and have it go directly to voicemail.

If you have an existing GV number already, you will have a limited time (90 days) before Google recycles the number back into their pool (unless you pay a $20 one-time payment to permanently keep it). This information is displayed in your Google Voice settings.

The one thing that unnerves me a bit is the fact that you can uncheck your phone in the list of phones and it will not ring when people dial your number. So… keep that in mind.

Also, SMS are delivered to the Google Voice app ONLY, and require a data connection to work. MMS are delivered to the phone directly.

Option 2: Use your Google Voice number on your Sprint phone.

This causes ALL outgoing calls and texts from your mobile handset to pass through the GV service and therefore display your current Google Voice number (NOT your Sprint mobile number). Similiar to the above except for the number displayed is your current GV number and not your Sprint mobile number.

Non-integrated Option 3: Use Google Voice only for voicemail.

Skip the carrier integration and just dial a call forwarding/no answer/busy code on your handset to your GV number. On Sprint, this is *28. So if your GV number was 312-555-1212, you would dial *283125551212 and hit send. To stop this and return to carrier voicemail, dial *38. you should hear confirmation tones. If you hear an error message instead, call Sprint at 888-211-4727 and ask them for assistance. In this option, everything happens over the Sprint network except for voicemail, which is handled by the “Call forwarding no answer/busy” function (*28).

To disable carrier integration:

If you turned on integration and changed your mind, follow these steps to disable it:

  • Log in to your Google Voice account
  • Click the gear icon in the top-right corner and click Voice Settings
  • Under “Phones” click “Disable integration” next to your integrated line.

Mind you, carrier integration is NOT number porting (I was nervous about this myself) but rather a mutual hand-off of who is routing and handling the incoming/outgoing call path.

Still have questions about Sprint Google Voice integration?

See the following links for more information:

Some issues that others are facing:

Engadget has also posted the following posts on Sprint Google Voice integration:

… and please feel free to share your feedback or experience with Sprint Google Voice integration in the comments below. Thank you!

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How to buy a used cell phone

The ESN (Electronic Serial Number) on a cell phone (IMEI for GSM phones) is unique to each phone and is what’s used to tie the phone to the user’s carrier account. Not only that, but lost/stolen devices have their ESNs blocked at the carrier level and therefore cannot be activated again.

For this reason you have to make sure that any used cell phone you plan to purchase has a “clean” or clear ESN. This means that it’s no longer tied to a persons account and hasn’t been blocked by the carrier. If the ESN is still tied to a subscribers account, or is blocked, it cannot be activated.

So what are the best steps to do this?

1) Make sure the seller makes an assertion that the ESN is “good”, “clean”, “ready to activate” or similar. If this is listed in the ad, you have a recourse in the event that you buy the phone and the carrier will not activate it based on the ESN. If the seller doesn’t state this, contact them via email or other (preferably written) manner and ask them. Any honest seller is more than willing to make an assertion about an ESN.

2) If you have the ESN itself, contact the carrier and ask them to make sure the device can be activated. Carriers have no problem checking an ESN for a customer. If the carrier gives you anything other than and all-clear, don’t make the purchase.

The other thing to be careful about is physical damage. If you’re buying a used phone, a certain amount of physical damage is expected. Cosmetic issues such as worn paint, light-to-medium scratches, and minor chips, or dents to non-functional parts are expected.

Make sure to carefully read the ad for any mention of functional issues or missing parts. Issues such as non-working or missing keyboard keys, cracks to anything other than a replaceable battery cover, non-working or cracked display, non-functioning touchscreen, non-functioning or improperly-functioning speaker or microphone, and a leaking/bulging/damaged/otherwise non-functioning battery are considered functional damage and are serious enough to give the buyer recourse against the seller if they are not disclosed.

A non-functional charger could be considered functional, but standardized chargers are inexpensive enough that a buyer may want to consider purchasing a replacement charger themselves, rather than taking issue with the seller. If the phone requires a non-standard charger, contact the seller and see if they would be willing to either provide a replacement charger or provide you a refund for the amount of a reasonably-priced replacement charger.

Test all of the phones functions as soon as possible. If you wait to test the phone and find out later that something doesn’t work, you may be out of luck.

Lastly, if you are activating your newly-purchased phone, you may want to consider adding a carrier-provided insurance or protection plan to your device. If your device fails down the road, the carriers plan will be able to provide inexpensive repair or replacement, regardless of the fact that you acquired it second-hand. Check with your carrier for information on their policies.

If you have any thoughts to share on the above, please feel free to post them in the comments below. Thank you!

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Ubuntu and the Intel Centrino Wireless N 1000 wireless card

The Intel Centrino Wireless N card is on the Dell N4010 and some other laptops. In this case it was the N4010 that a buddy of mine had which gave him the trouble. It’s a compatible card, but needs some nudging to get it to work.

The N4010 also has a software kill button in the form of the F2 key. Bear that in mind when using this machine.

Start by installing rfkill:

sudo apt-get install rfkill

Now check the status of the card:

sudo rfkill list

You should get output similar to the following:

0: dell-wifi: Wireless LAN
Soft blocked: yes
Hard blocked: no
1: phy0: Wireless LAN
Soft blocked: yes
Hard blocked: yes

Take a look at dell-wifi‘s Hard blocked status. If it’s yes, your card is disabled via the F2-keys kill function. Hit the F2 key and do…

sudo rfkill list

…again. Your output should now resemble the above.

Now unblock by doing the following:

sudo rfkill unblock all
sudo rfkill list

Your output should now look like the following:

0: dell-wifi: Wireless LAN
Soft blocked: no
Hard blocked: no
1: phy0: Wireless LAN
Soft blocked: no
Hard blocked: no

Your card should now work normally. Now check the connection manager for wireless networks. Reboot and verify you still have connectivity.

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WordPress 3.2 admin area display errors under suPHP

If you do the automatic upgrade to the recently-released WordPress 3.2 and notice the admin area displays incorrectly, you may need to reset some file permissions.

Simply run the following from your web root:

chmod -R g+r,o+r *

Should be all set.

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