Wednesday 17 November 2010

SPQR II: Sono Pazzi Questi Romani (Saturday 16 Oct)

Saturday morning we woke up, took a shower got dressed and into the bar for a Cappuccino and Brioche. The B&B provided for coupons to be used in the bar next door and really we do not need any more in the morning. Since we were so close to the Vatican which we only saw from outside we decided to go there first and have a look inside, inside the St. Peter's Basilica. Although I've been in it before I got goosebumps again, so big, so beautiful, so ... (words can not describe my feelings). I can really understand people in the past, but also today are so impressed by it's greatness and beauty that they feel closer to God, or whatever they believe. In one of the chapels I took a moment for myself to pray for my mother; she died last July, only 60 years old, because of cancer.

After the visit to the St. Peter we walked in a straight line to the Castel Sant'Angelo. Walking down the Via della Conciliazione you keep a fantastic view at the St. Peter and it's square behind you (one has to look around though). Nowadays the Castle is maybe best known for it's role in Dan Brown's Angels & Demons in stead of it's original role as mausoleum for Hadrian(us) and later as Papal fortress, and even prison. Since we did not want to drawn our kids with too much history, culture and musea on their first city trip we moved on.

Next stop: Round Table. Saturday in all of Italy Round Table Italia supported the Italian Cystic Fibrosis Research Foundation with raising money for research by selling the flower that the Italian CF Foundation uses as their symbol: the cyclamen (also known as sowbread or persian violet). If we wouldn't have been in Rome I would've been selling these flowers with my friends and fellow tablers of RT 64 Varese.The least I could do is to pay a visit to our Roman friends of RT2 Roma. They were selling their flowers on the banks of the Tiber in one of Rome's most exclusive sport associations. I posed with Lorenzo and Federico and their stack of cyclamens. Thank you again Lorenzo for the address of the trattoria we visited that same evening.

Lunch time and since we were close to Piazza del Popolo I held my noose in the wind and this time we ended up in a very tiny restaurant, not so cosy, but since I saw some locals having lunch we stepped inside. No regrets, a good honoust meal for a very decent price: Ristorante Cesaretto!

After our well deserved lunch we visited Piazza del Popolo and then took the subway into the centre, it was time to visit Piazza Spagna and the Spanish Stairs. Just one of these beautiful sites in Rome you have to visit your first time in Rome. Even if it's crowded with tourists and the usual Roman, Eastern European and Asian entrepreneurs you see everywhere in Rome. But five Euro for 10 blackened chestnuts (castagne) is really too much, SPQR, Sono Pazzi Questi Romani!
And then.... it started to rain. The predictions were right. Damn, but we already realized we had to come back and the best way to make sure you come back to Rome is to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain which is just 2 blocks away from Piazza Spagna. So through the rain towards the Fontana di Trevi. Vodafone just organized a Guiness Book of Records event (despite foursquare, facebook and twitter I didn't know that), 1561 coins where thrown simultaneous in the fountain. But they all threw 1 cent coins, at least the four of us donated more then one Euro. I did it in 1989 and I came back, so we have good hope that we will all return to Rome in the future. Meanwhile the rain got heavier and heavier so we fled indoors.

Back in the streets (the rain slowly stopped) we decided to walk towards the Pantheon which just closed in front of our nose for the regular church service. So we wandered along where arrived at Gelateria La Palma which I recalled was recommended by a friend of us. So while the sun was reappearing from behind the clouds we enjoyed a real Italian ice cream. Delicious, one problem though you will have visiting La Palma, choice, there are just too many tastes! After this culinary break we just wandered through Rome knowing we had to pass some bus stop or subway station soon. On our way back I noticed some typical situations of Roman parking.

Back in our apartment we gave our feet some rest and prepared for diner. We had made reservations, based upon a good friends recommendation, at Osteria dell'Angelo, not more then 500m from our B&B so just a short walk. I wan't say it's a Must-Visit-When-In-Rome, but for sure it is a nice typical place one should visit when in need of some good and simple food in that area of Rome. It was the nicest (and maybe also the best) food we had in 3 days of Rome. Immediately after we sat down at our table and we hadn't seen or heard the menu yet they brought us "gli antipasti", followed by wine and water. While enjoying this we got to choose from some typical Roman pasta (carbonara, matriciana, etc.) and for main course also some local specialities. We had coniglio (rabbit), coda (cow's tail) and a piece of beef. Fantastic! The atmosphere, the service made the food even taste better! For dessert they serve local biscuits with a wine, not Vinsanto with Cantucci, but something similar. And after a good cup of espresso it was time to wake Giorgia (the poor thing fell asleep after a long day) and walk back where we all slept like rosezzzzzzzz.....

Monday 8 November 2010

VoIP, Fritz! and FastWeb ADSL

Image: Michal Marcol /

I wrote this blog since it took me weeks to find out what was wrong with the VoIP-settings on my Fritz!box. Maybe this blog can help others to save time and to get things working right away.

My situation:
Since two months I am connected to internet via Fastweb ADSL at home. Because we live too far away from "civilization" I only get a 2Mbps max connection, but the VoIP quality is good (if not downloading at the same time). Before we were connceted via a wireless 4Mbps connection via EOLO which indeed offered faster downloads but because the distance between my receiver and their antenna was approx 13km the VoIP quality was unacceptable (packet-losses and -delays causing stuttering and echo).

Fastweb was in fact the only one offering us ADSL, the Italian Telecom's daughter Alice did not want to supply it. But although the connection is slow, too slow for 2010, it is stable and, most important, VoIP quality is good.

Setting up the Fritz!box 7170 for FastWeb (Router)
Already for quite some time (dating back when we still lived in the Netherlands) I am using the Fritz!box 7170 WLAN ADSL-modem/router for routing internet in our home and for connecting my Siemens SX353 ISDN Exchange to internet (using VoIP). With both EOLO and FastWeb the internal ADSL-modem is not needed (FastWeb delivers their own modem you are obligated to use), so it's only used as a router and FON.

After FastWeb delivered the line and the modem it was up to me to set up the Fritz. Piece of cake as far as internet is concerned.

  1. connect a PC to the FastWeb-modem, wait for DHCP to receive all settings and then memorize: IP, subnet-mask, gateway and both DNS-servers;
  2. now disconnect the PC from the modem, and connect the Fritz!box to the FastWeb-modem, using PORT 1 of the Fritz!box (very important) and connect your pc to the Fritz!box via LAN2,3 or 4 or WLAN;
  3. Log into the Fritz!box (see their manual), go to Settings>Advanced Settings>Internet>Account Info and edit the settings: 
    • Connection: internet via LAN1 (and not via DSL)
    • Operating Mode: Establish own internet connection (NAT router with PPPoE or IP)
    • Account Information: No account information required (IP)
    • Connection Settings: here you fill in the information you memorized from your PC before (IP address, subnet mask, etc.)
    • You might wanna set your connection speed so the Fritz can prioritize traffic (no idea if this really works, I have the impression it doesn't)
    • Apply the settings and reboot the Fritz!box

The router is now ready to go, maybe you still need to set up your LAN: DHCP Server, WLAN (don't forget to protect it with WPA2) and so, but then you should be able to connect multiple computers (and printers, iPads, iPhones, etc) to the Fritz!box.
The (Italian) website was pretty useful in the steps described until here. 

But then the problems started. 
Because FastWeb is not giving each customer (expensive) its own public IP-address but a static private IP-address (usually in the 10.x.x.x range) instead the VoIP-providers have difficulty finding the Fritz!box in case of an inbound call. Outbound calls are no problem, the Fritz connects to the right provider (based on the dialing rules) and the call can be set up. Basically the path between the Fritz, through the FastWeb router to the various providers is only kept "alive" (by FastWeb) for a few minutes after the Fritz!box connects (after a reboot for example). 
But after a while not using the line (not making a call) the FastWeb routers forget about it and the connection between Fritz and VoIP provider becomes one-directional (Senso Unico so to speak). The Fritz sees the VoIP-servers but not the other way around. So in case of an inbound call the VoIP-servers can't deliver it to the Fritz!box. There is a mechanism provided in the Fritz!box that should keep the connection alive (Settings>Advanced Settings>Telephony>Internet Telephony>Advanced Settings>Keep port forwarding of the Internet router enabled for Internet telephony), but playing around with it did not help.

We use/have five different phone-numbers, two Dutch, two Italian and one Swiss number with three different providers. If you want to know why ask me via twitter or email, I don't think that it's relevant here. Strangely enough my Dutch numbers (from were functioning but my Italian and Swiss weren't. After some mails between first/second line support of my Italian VoIP provider EuteliaVoIP and me I was contacted directly by one of their technicians via phone. I explained everything I tried, he did some suggestions that unfortunately did not work until as a last resort he suggested to dive into the heart of the Fritz via Telnet and change a configuration file (I just cut about 2 weeks of testing, probing, evaluating log-files, him contacting AVM-Fritz, etc. short into 3 lines). So I did as he said, enabled the Telnet, went into the Fritz, found the configuration-file, edited the settings he advised to edit, saved the file, rebooted the device and YES!!! even after hours not using the phone inbound call was working. Thanks to his support and a this site I found when Googling part of his solution I managed to get it working. Thanks a lot M.and EuteliaVoIP! We went really deep into this subject, I know many support-/helpdesks that would have blamed the provider, the hardware or whatever.

The reason my Dutch number were working has probably to do with the fact they are registered first in my Fritz!box and the keep-alive function only works for the first number and not the other ones. The solution, provided by AVM-Fritz themselves to the engineer at Eutelia, is to edit one by one the TTL-time of each SIP-subscription in the voip.cfg file. Why AVM doesn't put this option under the advanced settings is unbelievable, I have been trying various combinations/options (together with the Eutelia-engineer) but only this one works.

Setting up the Fritz!box 7170 for FastWeb (voip.cfg)

  1. Enable Telnet on the Fritz!box by dialing #96*7* on a phone connected to the Fritz!box (I saw telnet enabled appearing in the display of my SX353);
  2. Start a Telnet-session from a pc to the Fritz!box (the password is the same you use to enter the Fritz' web-interface)
  3. Start the nvi-editor and open the voip.cfg file with the following command

    • nvi /var/flash/voip.cfg

  1. Careful the nvi-editor is a very basic one
    • use / to search for ttl move to the 30m and with i enter in edit mode and change 30m into 3m (reducing ttl from 30 minutes to 3 minutes);
    • ESC brings you back in command mode, search for all other subscriptions and for each and everyone change the ttl to 3m;
    • when done :w writes the changes and :q quits the editor
    • give the reboot command and wait for the Fritz! to reboot.
  2. and afterwards don't forget to switch telnet off with #97*8*
This was what worked for me! 

Unfortunately this did not solve the same issue (no inbound calls) I have with my Swiss SIP-Account. So I am now about to get in touch with my Swiss VoIP-Provider ( to find out how to get things working. I'll keep you updated.

update 17.Nov.2010
It seems that is not capable of solving the problem. I get a lot of standard questions to check this, to check that, but at the end of the day it still doesn't work. Strang though that both MottoVoIP and EuteliaVoIP work perfectly now... and although the Fritz will be far from perfect Sipcall can't keep on blaming it if the other SIPs work without problems.

update 2012/2013
I changed provider again (back to EOLO but now with a faster connection of 8/1Mbps) and installed a Fritz!Box 7390 which is a lot faster and more flexible (apart from the extra features)

To Be Continued

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Read It Later

I am pretty active on internet, especially on mobile internet! Sometimes I think the iPhone was invented just for me. My most used apps are Facebook, TwitBird Pro (Twitter) and FourSquare. With these applications/services I stay in touch with my real life friends when away and my new on-line friends. Although the iPhone is a nice device for reading tweets, scanning facebook updates and for quickly browsing the internet I prefer to use the iPad or a pc/laptop to read articles. So when there was a link in a tweet I read while mobile I rarely clicked it because I didn't want to read it, not at that moment. I used the Favorite button to mark the tweet for later reading. When I switched from one twitter app to TweetBird (Pro) I noticed TwitBird asked me if I wanted to save the link, or if I wanted to Read It Later, or just Read Now.

It was then when I discovered ReadItLater, a typical why-did-I-not-think-of-that kind of application. Quite simple but so useful! ReadItLater (and also Instapaper by the way) offer you the possibility to quickly bookmark links and webpages. All you need is to do is register and you can save your links, articles, pages, etc. to read them later, when you're behind a larger screen or when you have more time to dedicate. Just login to ReadItLater and you can read everyhting you saved/bookmarked. I've also seen people sharing their lists with others but I just use it for myself, to save those possibly interesting article I can't read now.

The Save-to-ReadItLater functionality is integrated in many (mobile) Twitter apps. But you can also add extensions/bookmarklets to your PC's browser so that you can quickly bookmark an interesting page/article for later, just have a look at all the various options on the ReadItLater homepage.

Last week I read about the new Digest functionality and I immediately liked the idea of it so I asked for more details. I received an invitation to trial the Digest Beta for a couple of days.

Whereas the standard ReadItLater just lists all your saved links in chronological (or alphabetical) order Digest groups them. Some of the groups are auto-generated, others can be created by the user himself. In Digest the links are presented in a better looking interface, with preview of the text and picture (if available). I have immediately paid the fee (now Early Beta Price) to be able to use the Digest functionality also after my trial period is over.

One thing that immediately crossed my mind was: can I use it together with FlipBoard on iPad ? I have send this question/suggestion to Nate, the man behind ReadItLater and let's hope he and/or FlipBoard can develop something to have RIL-Digest in FlipBoard. All I need then is permanent access to an iPad (which is now exclusively owned by my wife), so I will probably have to buy one for myself. You don't have an iPad yet and so you don't know what FlipBoard is, take a look at this clip. I think it's is one of the best apps made for iPad. I won't spill any words on FlipBoard here, the clip tells it all!

/edit ON
YouTube just suggested this clip for me (how do they do that?), anyway, see Read It Later explained in this clip:

and a "confrontation" Instapaper vs ReadItLater (including Digest) in this clip:

/edit OFF