Southern Hospitality and Southern Cuisine

This year’s Astricon took place in Atlanta, Georgia. Now, the only thing that I know about Atlanta was: it’s at the southern part of the United States, the Atlanta Asterisk Users Group is one of the biggest users’ group for Asterisk in the world, Bryan Johns of Digium is from the Atlanta area and that Southern Cuisine is considered to be very good.

Now, Southern Cuisine is really good (I’ll get to that shortly), but Southern Hospitality is something different altogether. Till today, I’ve been to several parts of the US. I’ve been to Manhattan, Boston, Phoenix, Washington, Denver, San Fransisco, San Jose, Detroit, Ann Arbor and Miami. Now, I have to admit, in none of the listed states had I ever been approached by the owner of the restaurant to check how the table is. In every “non-chain” restaurant I’ve been to, the owner just stepped over to our table to check out how we are doing. And this is not your ordinary “How’s the food? – good, bye” conversation, each time the owner seems to be genuinely interested in our well being, how we feel and even more.

So, southern hospitality gets my two thumbs up – there’s something to learn from it.

Now, regarding the cuisine. I didn’t have much time to enjoy the local cuisine, however, being in Atlanta with my colleague Eric (and his parents the came to visit all the way from Florida) surely helped to narrow things down in that respect. According to the information we had, one of the best places to eat authentic southern cuisine would be Mary Mac’s Tea House. Now, putting aside the multitude of pictures on the walls, depicting various movie starts and various public figures eating at Mari Mac’s, I have one thing to say: They know why they are eating there. Ranging from their crispy “Mudbugs”, through the amazing Sweet Potato Souffle up to their juicy Fried Chicken – what can I say, an experience to be remembered and hopefully experienced again in the future (gotta take my family there at some point in the future).

Earlier that week we’ve eaten at the “White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails” – it’s a brand new place and the food is amazing to say the least. We were a group of 6 people, including Eric Klein (GreenfieldTech), James Body (Truphone), Randy Reznik (vuc.me) and Tim Panton (Voxeo Labs). Each one of us had something else – we all enjoyed our food very much. The place isn’t on the “low cost” range, but definitely worth a visit, their steaks are awesome. In addition, I drank a beer, which I don’t recall its name, that resembled a HeffeWeiser in some form, although, it was tangier and slightly sour – which was very refreshing and new.

All-in-all, Atlanta gets the two thumbs up from me 🙂

Updates, Astricon, Allo.com and more

Ok, before all of you jump at my throat for not posting for a long time – I’m sorry. I can’t believe the last time I posted was around June, much has changed since then. So, let’s start with some updates… well, there are no big news updates. Since I left Humbug, I’ve been doing my best to keep busy with GreenfieldTech projects. We’ve successfully completed 10 different custom development projects since June and we’ve started a brand new services branch at GreenfieldTech – the VoIP Security Audits branch – but that’s a different post altogether.

So, I spoke at this years’ Astricon, which took place in Atlanta, Georgia!. This is my first time to the southern parts of the USA and might I add, Southern Hospitality is something you need to experience (I’ll write about that later). Much had changed at Digium in the past 2 years. Many of the long time project members had left to new grounds, Asterisk-SCF is now officially no longer in active development, in other words – this years’ Astricon was a fresh breeze of wind, specifically with new people at the driver seat and new ideas springing about.

So, let’s talk PRI cards. Once every often a company approaches me to evaluate their products. I do my best to be as impartial as I can – after all, Digium products are my favorite. However, I’m always happy to see a product that can compete nicely with Digium, simply because I believe it will make Digium products better and stronger. So, a couple of months ago, Allo.com approached me to evaluate their PRI card. I agreed, and they’ve sent me their PCI-e version of a quad span E1/T1 card.

Allo.Com PRI Card

So, let’s start with what I didn’t like about the card. People, it’s 2012, technology had progressed a great deal since the old Zaptel days, not to talk about the old Xilinx Spartan chips – comm’on, even the crappy Chinese boards don’t use that anymore – move on. Ok, let’s put aside the issue of the actual chips being used on the board – can someone PLEASE explain to me why I need to patch my DAHDI modules to support these cards? How shall I put it, patching DAHDI/ZAPTEL is so 2004. Make your card fully compatible with DAHDI, no patching, stream line the card with the DAHDI stock kernel module – OpenVOX did it, Yeastar did it (do an extent) – you want me to use your hardware, make it easy to install and simple to update and maintain.

OK, regardless of my somewhat reluctant feelings regarding drivers compatibility, I had the unit installed in a test gateway. It performed as I expected from a low-cost compatible. It held up nicely with normal traffic, but when I tried pushing 30 call initiations per second on the card, it heated up slightly and CPU spikes could be observed here and there. Now, in an office scenario – sure this card will do nicely – in a service provider scenario – I’ll think twice. Now, in the past I’ve received similar performance from other clone cards, so my estimate is that there is a group of engineers passing from one company to another, coming in with the know-how for a single design and they wrap that into a card.

Final word regarding the Allo.com card – not my favorite, but definitely a possibility for office environments. I have no idea how their other equipment holds up, but I hope that it holds as well, so that the office/smb market has a new option to choose from.

I will post my Astricon update later on.