Fakespot Bookmarklet

So I just found out a Fakespot, a website that analyzes Amazon.com reviews and gives it a grade from A to F, A indicating that its reviews are reliable and trustworthy and F indicating the reviews are dogshit and fake. I was thinking it would be great to have this context along any Amazon.com product while I’m browsing, so I went searching for an extension.

They do have a Chrome extension, but they charge $2/month to use it. If there was a small one-time fee, I would’ve purchased it immediately, but requiring a monthly subscription is a bit too much for its utility. Funny thing is it looks like their Firefox and Safari extensions as well as the iOS / Android apps are free, making me feel even less inclined to pay them.

FakeSpot Chrome Extension Screenshot

Anyway, I decided to write a bookmarklet you can easily add to your bookmarks toolbar so when you’re on any Amazon page, clicking on it will take you directly to the Fakespot page.



Obihai working with Google Voice once again!

Obihai just sent out an email to all their users announcing that once again Google Voice is now officially supported on OBi VoIP devices.

Google had announced they were disabling XMPP support awhile back, causing Obihai and other VoIP device manufacturers who were piggybacking on Google Voice to scramble for a new free/cheap solution. XMPP access was suppose to be disabled back in May, but I don’t think Google has actually pulled the plug yet. Though that hasn’t stopped me from finding a new solution while we wait for the inevitable.

Yesterday, Google announced they’ve integrated Google Voice into Google Hangouts. Today, Obihai announces that they’re officially supporting Google Voice again. Not sure if that’s purely a coincidence or the integration has opened up some access point that Obihai can now connect to.

Setting up your Obihai device with Google Voice is simpler than before:

  1. Log into https://www.obitalk.com and go to your Dashboard
  2. Select your OBi device from the list
  3. Click on the new Google Voice Set-Up button above your service provider list
    Google Voice Set-Up
  4. If this is your first time setting up with new Google Voice, it should prompt you to update your firmware which should take 1-2 minutes
  5. Once the firmware update completes, enter your area code and link it up with your Google Voice account

Tada! That’s it! You’re no longer require to provide OBiTalk with your Google credentials. Instead, they’ve adopted OAuth (similar to how you can use Facebook or Twitter to log into random websites).

What to do with my OBiTalk device now that Google Voice is going away?

Chuck it in the trash. I kid. I kid.

For the past 5 years I’ve been enjoying free VoIP calling via Google Voice, starting back when they were known as GrandCentral. Back then, I was using a Linksys PAP2 instead of my current OBi110. But it looks like that party is coming to an end. Google Voice has announced they’ll be ending XMPP support on May 15th which basically prevents any of the current VoIP devices/services from using it.

That May 15th date is approaching and I’ve spent some time researching the alternatives. Since the main selling point of the OBiTalk devices was Google Voice being free, Obihai has recommended the following 2 VoIP services:

They all range from $35-40/year w/ unlimited incoming calls and ~300 minutes for outgoing calls. Not too expensive, but definitely far from free. If outgoing calls are a must, they’re worth considering.

However, I unlike (or maybe like) many others don’t care much about outgoing calls. Plus you can still use Google Voice’s web UI to make long distance calls. If you’re in this scenario, you’re in luck!

The easiest option is to forward Google Voice to your cell phone. You can either do this by installing the Google Voice app or configuring Google Voice to ring your cell phone. That way, people who currently have your Google Voice number will still be able to reach you.

However, I preferred to have Google Voice ring my home phone, so I began looking into options. Before OBiTalk, I had forwarded my GV# to IPKall. IPKall isn’t exactly a SIP provider, but they provide you with a real phone number which would forward to any SIP provider of your choice. Back then IPKall recommended FWD as the SIP provider, but it looks like they’re recommending Callcentric and CallWithUs now. After looking into them, I’ve discovered that Callcentric will provide you with a phone # for free, so you don’t even have to use IPKall.

Signing up with Callcentric was straight forward. After creating your account, they’ll send you an email to confirm your email address. What you want to do next is order a Free Phone Number on their products page. You’ll end up getting a NY phone number which you won’t be using besides telling Google Voice this is the number to forward your calls to. If you specify that you won’t be using this service inside the USA, you can avoid the E911 fee.

Next, it’s time to set up the Obihai device. Log into obitalk.com and select the device you want to configure. Delete your Google Voice service provider and set up a new service provider using Callcentric. You’ll have to select OBiTALK Compatible Service Providers halfway down the page.

The only 3 fields you’ll want to provide here is the area code, Callcentric Number, and Callcentric Password. The Callcentric # is different than your username. You can find your Callcentric # on the left column after logging into your account. Save and let your OBiTalk device reboot.

Next, log into Google Voice and go to Settings > Phones. Add another phone and provide it with the free phone # you just got from Callcentric. Google Voice will now ring your phone and ask you to verify the phone number. After verification, everything is set. You can now receiving incoming calls for free on your Google Voice #!

DynDNS ends free service after 15 years

I’ve been using DynDNS for over a decade, right when when we first got broadband at my house. Back then I’m not even sure we broke 1Mbps down. But with an always on connection, being able to get your IP address without remember the long string of #s was crucial.

About half a year ago, DynDNS sent out an email notifying that in order to keep the free service, we would have to log into our account every 30 days or else our account would expire. It was nice of them to send us reminders several days before the expiration or else I would never have remembered.

Anyway, they sent us an email this morning and posted on their blog: Why We Decided To Stop Offering Free Accounts

It’s hard to blame them when I’ve been leeching off this service for the past 15 years, but I don’t exactly need their pro features either.

So I’ve been looking for alternatives and found out that my ASUS router doesn’t support afraid.org. Here is the list of DDNS services that my ASUS router supports:

  • asus.com
  • dyndns.org
  • tzo.com
  • zoneedit.com
  • dnsomatic.com
  • tunnelbroker.net
  • no-ip.com

While going through that list, I found out that DNS-O-Matic are by the same folks who own OpenDNS and was even more excited to discover that DNS-O-Matic can relay my IP address to a whole lot more DDNS services than my ASUS router. In fact, with DNS-O-Matic, I can now use afraid.org.

Once you’ve created your DNS-O-Matic account and verified your email address, adding services is pretty straight forward. If you’re using afraid.org, it’s going to prompt you to enter a key. The key is the string that follows update.php? in your update URL which you can find here.

If you’re using DNS-O-Matic with your ASUS router, here are the settings you should use:

  • Host Name: all.dnsomatic.com
  • User Name or E-mail Address: (use your username; email won’t work)
  • Password or DDNS Key: (just your DNS-O-Matic password)
  • Enable wildcard: No

Blank hostnames aren’t allowed and if you enter any other hostname, you get back the following error: Request error! Please try again.

According to DNS-O-Matic’s FAQ:

How do I update all my DNS-O-Matic services at once?

Leave the hostname parameter blank. Or, if your software client requires a hostname, send all.dnsomatic.com as the hostname.

Enabling 2-Step Verification on Google

Wow… it’s been a long time since I posted anything on my blog. My WordPress dashboard looks completely different.

What is 2-Step Verification?

For the longest time, I’ve been wanting to enable 2-factor authentication on my Google accounts. Google calls it 2-step verification, but it means the same thing. For those who don’t know what 2-factor auth is, it basically means besides knowing your password, you’ll also need a secondary credential. Banks like to ask you some security questions when you log on from a new computer. Google’s 2-step verification calls you or sends you a text message with a 6-digit code that you’ll also need to enter before logging in from a new computer.

Google 2-Step Verification

You can also install Google Authenticator onto a supported device, which will generate the similar 6-digit code, but w/o having Google to call or text you.

Why the switch?

I’m already using super long randomly generated passwords for any online account that I have, but I’ve been meaning enable 2-factor auth for some time. When you think about all your accounts on the internet, there’s usually some way to reset your password via your email. When someone compromises your email, they’ve basically compromised everything you have online, your online identity.

Recently someone was blackmailed into giving up their @N Twitter account. 2-factor auth wouldn’t have helped in this case, since this was done via social engineering, but it reminded me of all the other account compromising news I’ve read over the year.

Things to keep in mind

Enabling 2-step verification will inconvenience you, probably a lot if you have many devices and services that you use to log in with your Google account.

  • Every time you log into Google from a machine you haven’t before, you’ll be prompted with a 2nd screen to enter a 6-digit security code generated at that time.
  • Every machine/service you’re currently logged into will require you to log back in. That includes mail on your phone, mail on your desktop, messaging services, etc.
  • Certain apps won’t support 2-step verification. In those cases, you’ll have log into Google from browser and generate app-specific password for it.

If you’re willing to put yourself through all this, then continue reading.

Here’s how you do it

Log into accounts.google.com and click on the Security tab. On the left hand side, you should see 2-step verification which should show Disabled. Go ahead and click to enable it.

2-step verification

Go through the setup process, where they’ll basically ask you to confirm your phone number. 2-step authentication is now enabled, but you’re far from done.

I don’t see 2-step verification

If your Google account is from a Google Apps for Business/Education/Hosted Domain, you’ll need to speak with your admin on enabling 2-step verification. I had a trouble following their instructions initially, but it turns out the security icon is hidden inside More Controls, which is hidden at the bottom of your browser if you’re not paying attention.

Once you’ve located the Security option, enabling 2-step verification is pretty straight forward.

Now as the user, you can follow the steps above to enable 2-step verification for your account.

Now what?

I highly recommend downloading Google Authenticator and using that instead of having Google call/text you the 6-digit code every time, especially if you’re stuck in a place with no cell reception (the horror!). Once you have the app installed, go ahead and set it up by following the instructions on the Verification Codes tab of your 2-Step Verification dashboard.

I would also recommend downloading/printing your backup codes in case you lose your phone or no longer have access to it. I have mine encrypted on my machine so I have easy access to it.

Now that you’ve enabled 2-step verification, your mail app has probably complained that your login credentials have been rejected. If it hasn’t yet, it will soon. You’ll need to now go generate app-specific passwords by clicking on that tab.

When generating an app-specific password, Google recommends providing a specific name (e.g. Gmail on iPhone) so you can easily remember which one to revoke in case your device gets stolen. Once generated, go to the app and update the password and things should start working again.