June 19th, 2005

Sipura SPA-841 Problems

I've started playing with DIY VOIP installations recently. Last time I was back in the US, I picked up a hardware IP Phone and an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) to experiment with. For the hardware phone, I picked the Sipura SPA-841 based on features and reviews.

Yesterday I took it out of the box and started playing with it. First, I got it working with Free World Dialup which went OK once I figured out that STUN is broken in the firmware I had, 0.9.1. I upgraded the phone to the new 3.1.3a firmware and after that it was fine. Then I configured it to use an Asterisk (Linux PBX software) server I'd set up. Had some problems with that, but it turns out it was because I hadn't applied my changes on the Asterisk server. Oops.

That's when things started going downhill fast. First the microphone started getting flaky. When making calls, I could only be heard if shouting straight into the microphone. While debugging this, I was dialing an FWD number when the phone just froze up completely. When I power cycled it, it came back up but froze again less than a minute later. After a few rounds of this, it started booting up less and less frequently. I was able to do a Factory Reset once, but that didn't help any.

Worried that it was the new firmware that was flaky, I downgraded to an older version, 0.9.5. (I couldn't find my original firmware version available for download, so that's as close as I could get.) The phone was getting increasingly flaky now, but I was able to just squeeze in a successful firmware downgrade. That didn't help either. At this point it has degraded to the point where it rarely boots up anymore.

While looking around the web, a saw that this guy and this guy have had similar difficulties with this model. The latter actually performed a postmortem autopsy which shows the fairly low quality of the phone's manufacture.

Sipura refers support requests to the reseller, so I'm waiting to see what the place I bought it from suggests. Regardless, it'll probably involve international shipping to send it in for repair which will be expensive and slow.

Sipura was recently bought by Cisco, so hopefully quality will start to improve, but for now it's probably best to avoid this model.

Batman Begins

I suppose I should give some background. I've never read any of the Batman comics. I saw some of the TV series when I was younger. I thought the 1989 "Batman" movie was quite good. I thought the subsequent Batman movies ranged from mediocre to awful. I had heard good things about the latest movie, though, so I went in with pretty high expectations.

I was not disappointed.

I very much enjoyed "Batman Begins" and would even say that it is the best movie I've seen this year. Unlike previous Batman efforts, they stayed solidly with a dark theme which avoided the painful awkwardness of trying to mix dark themes with humor which plagued the previous versions. The plot and writing were quite good, with few holes in the story (and hey, it's based on a comic book, so you gotta let certain things slide). Visuals were excellent. Casting was very good. It seems odd to put a little known lead actor with so many veteran actors in the supporting cast, but it worked surprisingly well. This Wired review complains that Katie Holmes didn't perform well, but I'd have to disagree on that point. I've been a Katie Holmes fan since Dawson's Creek though, so maybe I'm biased.

Overall, I'd say it was an excellent showing, and hope they can come out with some more Batman stories of this high caliber.