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The most evil thing that Christian fundamentalists have done to us?

(Just so you know, I wrote this article a while back, but since we were almost into the holidays at the time I didn’t want to publish it then, because I was afraid that someone who is already depressed during the holidays might take it the wrong way — and for too many people, the holidays are by far the most depressing time of the year.  And even now, I will say that if you are feeling very depressed, please don’t read this article at this time.  Hopefully at some point life will seem brighter to you, so come back and read it then if you like.  Also, I had no idea when I scheduled publication of this article for the middle of January that the tragedy in Arizona would occur, so please don’t read this article as a response to that).

Of all the evil things to come out of fundamentalist Christianity, including the hatred of people who are not pretty much exactly like them (they don’t even like most other Christians), I think one of the most evil things is something they have promoted ever since the start of organized religion.  And that is, the fear of death.

Now, I’m not talking here about the normal human tendency for self-preservation.  I’m talking here about a specific control mechanism; the idea that they have planted into society that no matter how much someone is suffering, we must preserve their life above all else.  To understand this, bear in mind that for a major part of human history, there was no “separation of church and state”, and therefore we had what many fundamentalist Christians (the “Christian Taliban”, as some now refer to them) would like to bring about once again:  A government run by the most hardcore religious types.  These are people who seek money and power and control, not the betterment of humanity.  And here’s the thing to remember: The longer they can keep someone around as a productive member of society, the longer that person can tithe to the church (or, now that church and state have been separated, pay taxes to the government).

Some Democratic legislator, and I’m sorry but at the moment I can’t remember which one it was, recently famously defined the Republican health care plan:  1) Don’t get sick.  2) If you do get sick, die quickly.  This legislator was partly right and partly wrong about that.  Yes, that’s exactly how many Republicans seem to feel about people if there is no longer any hope that they will be productive members of society, and strangely enough, it’s also how some fundamentalist Christians seem to feel about people in general who aren’t part of their religion (try substituting the word “AIDS” for “sick” if it will help you understand how the fundies feel). But if there is any chance whatsoever that a person will live to pay more taxes or give more tithes to the church, then those institutions suddenly have a much greater interest in keeping that person around.

But the point is, for centuries the churches, in an effort to keep potential tithers from giving up on life and dying off too quickly (particularly during the huge chunk of history when many humans died in the prime of life), have promoted a theology that in a roundabout way taught people that they should fear death above all else — unless, of course, they were going into war on behalf of the church (the idea being that if you died in a righteous war, you got a free pass to heaven).  Not only that, they promoted the notion that suffering is a virtue, and that everyone must suffer during their lives.

They have been so successful in promoting this fear of death that it’s gotten to the point that even the fundamentalists themselves seem to fear death.  Oh, sure, on Sunday mornings they’ll sing songs about how they are looking forward to that “mansion over the hilltop” (A mansion? Where do they get these ideas, anyway? And just who’s going to clean this mansion, if no one in heaven has to do any work?), but they always want it to be “in the sweet by and by” — hopefully the very distant by and by.  Because their biggest secret fear — indeed, the thing that drives them in their madness — is the fear that they will be “left behind”, that they will somehow not be found worthy, that they will miss out on heaven.  And it’s a very real and present fear for them, because if you’ve ever heard a real fundamentalist loon preach, nearly everything is a sin, and any sin has the potential to keep you out of heaven (and you know what they think is the only alternative to heaven).  It’s not even just the actual sins you commit, even your sinful thoughts can keep you out of heaven, according to these guys.  It’s an impossibly high standard that no human could ever hope to meet, though that doesn’t stop them from trying.  Strangely, they don’t seem to see hate of those not like themselves as one of the sins that might impede their upward progress.

Guess what the biggest fear of most teenage and young adult fundamentalists is?  It’s that Jesus might return, or that they might die while they are thinking about sex, or heaven forbid, engaging in any “unapproved” sexual practice. I shouldn’t need to elaborate on this – if you’ve ever been there, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

So, we have the strange situation where the people who claim to be the most secure in the knowledge of what’s going to happen to them after death are actually the most fearful of death.  If you were to ask most of them (and if they were honest with you), their preference would be to die at a ripe old age, long after youthful urges and “impure thoughts” have departed, and possibly while in a state of partial dementia so that their deity couldn’t possibly hold them accountable for any bad thoughts on their deathbeds.

Now, this would not be a problem for the rest of us, except that these people have had enough control of our governments for so long now that our society is now permeated with an institutionalized fear of death.  Even when it makes no sense, we prolong life as long as possible.  In part, this is because fundamentalist Christianity teaches us that we only have one life to live, and that’s it, so we’d best prolong it as long as possible because in all eternity we’ll never again get this “wonderful opportunity” to incarnate as a human being. People of other faiths don’t necessarily believe that, many early Christians didn’t believe it, and a growing body of scientific evidence suggests it may not be true. But the church/government wanted to keep the tithe/tax-paying church members around as long as possible, so they discouraged any idea that you could escape a not so great life by dying, and possibly being reborn into a better situation (or at very least, one where you were not under the thumb of organized religion). Again, you have to keep in mind that virtually every church policy was designed to bring money and power to the church, and it just wouldn’t do for church members to be leaving this mortal coil prematurely, or to have small families or no children at all (which is why they’re really so opposed to family planning and abortion, not that abortion isn’t a gruesome practice, but sometimes the reason people say they are against something and the real reason they’re against it are two very different things).

When you think of it that way, you even have to wonder if many of the “compassionate acts” of the church had an ulterior motive.  If they built hospitals with the idea of saving lives, but only because they hoped that those whose lives they had saved would be forever indebted to the church… well, that sort of puts a different angle on their acts of compassion, now doesn’t it?

Let me tell you a true story that happened to someone I knew.  This lady was in her 80′s and had been very healthy, but then she developed a type of breast cancer.  The cancer was successfully treated, but the treatment (which included a harsh form of chemotherapy) apparently did something that affected her sense of balance, so she started having frequent falls and broken bones, all of which were very painful, and a couple of which landed her in a drab, dreary nursing home for a time (seriously, I think some prisons are probably more cheerful inside than that nursing home was). As an aside, this lady finally started taking a 1000 IU Vitamin D supplement pill every day, and never had a broken bone after that, even though she still had frequent falls — just something you may want to think about if you have any senior citizens in your family.

She lived for another full decade, but could no longer get up and move around as she had in the past.  She couldn’t do any yard or garden work anymore, something she’d always loved. If she went to the store, someone had to push her around in a wheelchair, or in one of those carts with a bench seat attached that’s designed for kids. In the final two or three years of her life, she started losing her eyesight to a much greater degree than she had in the past, so she could no longer enjoy watching her game shows and soap operas on television.  In short, her quality of life dramatically declined.

What I’ve omitted from this story is that not too long after she had finished her cancer treatments, her heart started skipping beats, eventually stopping completely for several seconds at a time, and she started blacking out.  The doctors wanted to install a pacemaker, and she didn’t want it but was talked into it.  The pacemaker fixed the problem of the irregular heartbeat but in retrospect, her family wonders if that was the compassionate thing to do.  On the one hand, she got to live long enough to see (as well as she could see anything) a couple of great-grandchildren she wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  But on the other hand, she was so unhappy and depressed the last few years of her life that in looking back, it might have been better for her if everyone had just let nature take its course, so to speak.  Chances are that she would have died peacefully in a still relatively healthy state, without having to suffer the broken bones, the failing eyesight, the indignity of soiling herself and urinating on herself, and many other afflictions that only beset those whose lives have been prolonged perhaps longer than they should have been.

Having witnessed that, I am convinced that this is NOT how I want my life to end.  So if you are a physician and someday I am forced to be under your care and you think I’m the “patient from hell”, it may be because I really, truly, don’t want your help.  Just let me go naturally, as the song says¹, so that I may get on to my next incarnation or the next plane of existence, or whatever lies ahead.  I’m no longer scared of the phony-baloney, un-biblical “fire and brimstone” hell that the fundamentalist preachers love to rant² about, because I know that even if such a place exists, it’s only for the devil and the sinning angels, not for any human being that has ever lived or will ever live (once again, I refer you to Those Lazy Old Blokes of 1611 if you need help understanding that the “fire and brimstone” preachers are pretty much pulling their teachings about hell out of their collective posteriors).

Along with prolonging life to the point that people suffer, it’s the self-righteous fundamentalists that are often in the forefront of the anti-drug hysteria.  Ever wondered why?  Well, it’s because certain “illegal” drugs, though definitely not all of them, have valid uses as religious sacraments, expanding the consciousness and in the process, potentially revealing that some of the fundie teachings are unadulterated b.s. The problem with that is that some of the drugs to which they are so opposed could dramatically ease the suffering of those who don’t have much time left (and often at far less expense than the “approved” painkillers that don’t work nearly as well).  What is so bad about giving heroin to a terminal cancer patient, to ease their pain and suffering? Seriously, you have to wonder how evil these people are if their goal is to prolong life, only to prolong suffering that they won’t lift a finger to relieve. Oh, they’ll pray for the sufferer? All well and good (and they should do that³) but sometimes a bit more practical form of pain relief is also needed. With some of these guys, you’d like to see which they’d prefer if they were in severe pain — a bunch of people coming around to pray for them for a few minutes, or a good strong painkiller!

I’ve said if before and I will say it again, if there is such a thing as an antichrist⁴, he or she or it will likely come right out of fundamentalist Christianity, and the fundamentalists will love him/her/it, because it will be telling them exactly what they want to hear – much of which is the exact opposite of what Jesus taught.  Hate your neighbor because he’s not a fundie like you? Have little to no compassion for the poor and the dying?  Preach doctrines that come straight out of a religion obsessed with power and control? Sure sounds like something an antichrist would do, doesn’t it?  Maybe organized religion is the antichrist, and if and when Jesus reappears, they won’t recognize him at all, and may even seek to kill him again.

As a parenthetical note, you may be asking, do I actually think there is a chance Jesus could reappear?  Well yes, but probably not in the way the church envisions.  There are three possibilities I can think of (which is not to say there aren’t others I haven’t considered).  He could reincarnate and be reborn into a new body, though I think that’s somewhat unlikely.  He could be an interdimensional being, and at some point he will use whatever advanced technology is available on “the other side” — or maybe some form of spiritual method, for want of a better term — to cross the veil between dimensions.  Or, he could be an alien from elsewhere in the universe, where the lifespans are much longer than they are here on earth (early Sumerian tablets say that the Annunaki had incredibly long lifespans compared to humans, such that our ancestors thought they were immortal). I tend to go with the second option, if only because it’s my belief that our universe is comprised of multiple dimensions and when we are resting between incarnations, we live in another of those dimensions, so there’s no reason to think that Jesus couldn’t occupy another dimension from us — that thought really shouldn’t even challenge anyone’s theology. But if he does come back, I suspect he’s not going to be any more approving of today’s churches, preachers, and evangelists than he was of the religious institutions and leaders of his day.

I just find it very interesting that of all the peoples on the earth, fundamentalist Christians seem to be more fearful of death than anyone, and their deep-seated fears have to some degree crossed over into society at large.  Yet those who have had near-death experiences usually say they have no fear of death at all (by the way, they also report that committing suicide is a very bad thing for your spiritual development and for those around you — I mention that only in case someone reading this is encouraged to think that suicide is a great way to escape your troubles.  It isn’t — in your next incarnation you’ll likely get the very same troubles, or worse, and some report that you don’t even get the usual rest period in between incarnations. So, don’t even think about it). And many people of other faiths, and even many non-religious people, seem to have far fewer concerns about death than the fundamentalists do.

I’m not looking to check out early or anything, but in some ways this life has been a disappointment (and I think a lot of older people feel that way, particularly when we realize that our children and grandchildren have less freedom and fewer opportunities than we did⁵).  So if I ever do get really sick, I’m probably not going to look too kindly upon any doctor or institution that tries to prolong my life.  The only thing I really want them to do is ease my pain insofar as is possible, and let me die naturally!

_____

¹ The particular song I have in mind is “And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat, and Tears, a song I hated when I was a teenager, by a group I didn’t care for at all. Possibly one of the more weird and/or depressing songs to hit the charts (at least for those times), but it comes to mind now because of this verse: “Give me my freedom for as long as I be / All I ask of living is to have no chains on me. / All I ask of living is to have no chains on me, / And all I ask of dying is to go naturally. / Oh I want to go naturally.” To me, this seems like a plea for freedom in life and death, and it seems like there are far too many in our society who are determined to give us freedom in neither.

² Does anyone besides me find the speaking style of some preachers really annoying? You’d think they were living in the days prior to the invention of vacuum tube amplifiers, the way they shout and carry on, but what really gets me is the way they deliberately change the inflections of their words. It’s almost as if they’re trying to hypnotize the audience by their speech patterns. If that’s really the point, then what does that say about the actual message? That you have to hypnotize people and turn off their critical thinking facilities before they’ll accept the crap you’re shoveling?

³ There is pretty good scientific evidence that prayer actually works — but the dirty little secret the fundies don’t want you to know is that no one religion has a monopoly on the power of prayer. So if you are sick and someone of another faith offer to pray for you, I’d suggest you don’t turn them down or assume that their prayers will be ineffective, because you might be denying yourself some real “help from above.”

⁴ When talking about Biblical prophecy, we must keep in mind that few or no prophets throughout history have ever foretold the future with 100% accuracy, mostly because the future is malleable and we do have the power to change it. Plus, there’s the case where Jonah (of “Jonah and the big fish story” fame) predicted the destruction on the ancient city of Nineveh, the people supposedly repented of their evil, and the god of the old testament changed his mind (leaving poor Jonah twisting in the wind — who’d believe him after that?). Maybe the people really did change their ways, or maybe the god of the old testament discovered that his destructo-ray wasn’t working as well as he’d hoped, and he wouldn’t be able to destroy the entire city (which was huge by ancient standards) — but the point is that a Biblical prophet foretold something that didn’t happen.  So maybe if an antichrist is supposed to make an appearance, something might occur to prevent that from happening.

⁵ I also tend to blame the fact that our kids have less freedom than we did on the fundamentalist “one life to live” philosophy, and the resulting desire to prolong this life as long as possible. Because that way of thinking has taken such a strong hold in Western society,  I think that today there is a very unhealthy overemphasis on safety, to the degree that our kids are only allowed to live life, and not really experience it as our generation did. Back then most parents did not know where their kids were every single minute of the day; all they knew was that we were out playing in the neighborhood somewhere. Now it’s like, ohmigod, if I let my kid out of my sight for two minutes there are ten guys hiding in the bushes waiting to kidnap him or her.  I’m just wondering how long it will take before out government decides we should all be locked in rubber rooms from cradle to grave so we can’t hurt ourselves or be harmed by anyone else.  At the same time, and on the flip side of that coin, our little darlings know that the government wants above all else to keep them safe, so if they want to get an adult in trouble all they have to do is lie a little and say that an adult did something that harmed them in some way, and suddenly the adult is facing an inquisition (if you know a teacher, ask them if any of the kids have figured out how to manipulate the system and cause trouble for school personnel they don’t happen to like).  I figure in about four or five years there’s going to be a huge market for wearable video camera/recorders, sold to adults who work with kids so that they have a video record of every interaction with a kid, to prevent trouble because some bored-to-tears kid lied through his teeth, just to create a little drama in his life.

Think about it: If you don’t fear death, and think that we come back (reincarnate) many times, you’re probably going to be less concerned about being absolutely safe at all times, and you’re probably going to be more willing to enjoy life and take chances. You might still be mindful that if you do something dumb and check out early, it’s going to make your relatives and friends feel pretty sad, but it won’t be the same kind of paralyzing fear that seems to grip many fundamentalists.

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Review of Atcom AG-188N IAX+SIP ATA (VoIP adapter) – Part 4 – Setting up SIP, and securing the adapter

After yesterday’s installment we had pretty much configured the VoIP side of the Atcom AG-188N (sold in North America by CIGear) using the IAX protocol. Of course, even though IAX is the superior protocol for getting audio through difficult firewalls, there are still many reasons someone might need to use SIP — perhaps the most compelling reason being that many commercial VoIP providers only offer connections using SIP protocol.

Fortunately, setting up the SIP configuration on this unit is pretty straightforward. Just click on SIP Config (not SIP) in the left-hand menu, and this screen appears:

Atcom AG-188N SIP configuration screen

Atcom AG-188N SIP configuration screen

If you’re connecting to an Asterisk or FreePBX server, you probably only need to fill in the following:

  • Register Server Addr — this is the address of your server, such as 192.168.0.100 or myserver.dyndns.com
  • Register Server Port — the SIP port number of the server — note that while the default of 5060 is most common, there may be cases where a different port is used, so it pays to check.
  • Register Username — just use your extension number here, unless you are instructed otherwise.
  • Register Password — the same as the Asterisk “secret” for your extension.
  • Phone Number — your extension number (again).
  • Display Name — The name you want to appear in the other party’s Caller ID display if you ever do a direct SIP-to-SIP call.  FreePBX and most providers will ignore this, instead using the name associated with your account.
  • Enable Register – Always check this box, to enable SIP registration, if you plan to use SIP.
  • SIP(Default Protocol) — This sets the default protocol to SIP for outgoing calls. If you check this box, it automatically unchecks the box that makes IAX the default protocol on the IAX setup screen.

As long as you haven’t changed any of the default settings (as shown on the above screenshot), everything will very likely work.  You should try a test call and see if you can connect. If so, I then recommend that you try changing the Register Expire Time — the manual says the default on this is 600 seconds, but as you can see from the screenshot above, it’s actually set to 60 seconds, which means it re-registers once per minute, which may generate a lot of unnecessary traffic between you and the server. The manual also says that the AG-188N “will auto configure this expire time to the server recommended setting if it is different from the SIP server.”  Huh? In any case, I’d try setting the registration higher – you can try the 600 second default, but many adapters  go even higher (a 3600 second re-registration is not uncommon).  However, if you pick up the phone and find you don’t get dial tone sometimes, or if your callers get a congestion signal sometimes, you may need to go for a lower value.  I can tell you from personal experience that some users served by a DSL line might need a shorter re-registration interval.

Here’s what the other settings are for.  You probably won’t need to change any of these from the default, unless your system administrator or provider specifically tells you to do so:

  • Proxy Server Addr, Proxy Server Port, Proxy Username, Proxy Password — in almost all cases these will be the same as the equivalent Register values, and that’s what the AG-188N assumes if you leave these blank, so very few users would have any need to fill these in.
  • Domain Realm — if you leave this blank, the AG-188N will use the proxy server address as the SIP domain, which in most cases is fine.  However, if you are using a dotted IP address (such as 192.168.0.100) as the server address, and the server is misconfigured, you (very rarely) might need to put the server’s external address (such as myserver.dyndns.com) here.
  • Detect Interval Time — this is only applicable if you check the Auto Detect Server checkbox, in which case the AG-188N will try to detect whether the SIP server is available at the interval specified here. I had originally thought that perhaps, if  the server could not be detected (or the network connection was lost), the AG-188N would stop delivering dial tone.  But nooooo — in my testing it made absolutely no difference. What it actually does is let you use a second, “fallback” SIP account if your first account goes down!  See the note on the “Auto Detect server” checkbox below.
  • Encrypt Key — the manual is silent on this, but if the server supports encryption on SIP connections, then I would guess you’d put the key here.
  • DTMF Mode — with SIP connections you have three different ways of sending touch tones to the server: RFC2833, DTMF_RELAY (inband audio), and SIP info.  In most cases you’ll leave this at RFC2833, but in some cases, particular if you are having issues with distant systems not recognizing your touch tones, you may want to try a different method.  Inband audio should probably be your last choice, but I have seen cases where it’s the only thing that would work.  Note that the way the server is configured can also have an effect on how tones are passed – even if you send the tones inband, your server may be converting them to RFC2833 before sending them “upstream.”
  • Local SIP port — the local SIP registeration port, which defaults to 5060, which is almost always what you want to use.
  • RFC Protocol Edition — according to the manual, you would only need to set this to RFC 2543 if you are trying to communicate to devices (such as a CISCO 5300) using the SIP 1.0 protocol. The default is RFC 3261, and unless specifically instructed otherwise, that’s the setting you should use.
  • Server types in SIP config window

    AG-188N Server types in SIP configuration screen

  • Server Type — leave this on “common” unless you happen to be connecting to one of the “uncommon” servers shown in the dropdown (pictured at right).
  • User agent — much as your web browser sends a User Agent string to identify itself, VoiP adapters also send an identification string.  By default, the AG-188N sends the rather boring “Voip Phone 1.0″ but you can change that here, although about the only person who would ever see it is the system administrator of the system you’re connecting to.  While you could possibly put something more interesting in here (I’ll leave it to your imagination!), I wouldn’t advise it if the system administrator is not known to have any discernible sense of humor. :)

The AG-188N manual is mostly silent with regard to the checkboxes we’ve not already mentioned. In fact, it only mentions these three:

  • Enable Register — Enable or Disable SIP registration. The AG-188N won’t attempt to register with the SIP server if this isn’t checked, so leave it checked as long as you’re using SIP.
  • Auto Detect server — Okay, here’s how the manual describes this one: “co-work with Server Auto Swap and Detect Interval Time. Enable this option, AG-188N will periodically detect whether the public SIP server is available, if the server is unavailable, the AG-188N will switch to the back-up SIP sever, and continue detecting the public sip server. AG-188N will switch back to the primary SIP server if the server is available again.” Yes, folks, this device lets you use TWO sip accounts, and fallback to the second if the first goes down! Interestingly, although the manual makes reference to a “Server Auto Swap” checkbox, I’m sure not seeing it anyhere on this page.
  • Enable Via rport — checked by default, this configures support for RFC 3581.  If you really want to know, see this FAQ.  If you don’t, just leave it checked.

What about the other checkboxes? Here’s my best guesses, supplemented by additional information from Atcom manuals for some of their other products.  I’d leave all of these at the default setting unless you really know what you are doing:

  • Enable PRACK — read this — the phrase “Numerous implementation problems seen in the field” is enough to discourage me from checking this box! Another Atcom manual offers this: “enable the PRACK in SIP which is mainly used in special ring tone, recommend to keep the default setting.” Do you need any other reasons to avoid it?
  • Enable Keep Authentication — feel free to check this if you like, but the unit seems to stay registered without it. A manual for a different Atcom device says  that this enables “registration with authentication request to be sent to sever together”, while yet another Atcom manual says that it enables “registering signal together with the authentication information. If enable it, the server will confirm the registering and send back the confirmation massage directly instead of requesting the terminals to send authentication information if needed.”  Yeah, that clears it right up for me!
  • Signal Encrypt, RTP Encrypt — if your server supports encryption, and you have filled in the Encrypt Key field, you almost certainly need to check these to make it work.
  • Enable Session Timer — a session timer is a way to determine whether a call session is still active.  Apparently this “enables RFC4028 to refresh the SIP sessions”, according to another Atcom manual.
  • Answer With Single Codec — other Atcom manuals say, “only answer the call with a certain Codec.” My best guess here would be that this will only use your “preferred” codec when answering a call. If the server doesn’t support your preference, you probably won’t receive any calls.

Now, above I mentioned that you can actually have two active SIP accounts on this device, in addition to an active IAX account, presumably in addition to having a landline plugged into the PSTN port.  I suppose that means that potentially, one phone could receive calls from, or place calls to as many as four different sources!  I doubt many people will actually use the device with more than one account, but it’s interesting nonetheless that this adapter has this capability!

I will note that things may not always work quite as you’d hope in a multi-account configuration.  I set it up so that there would be one SIP account and one IAX account active on the unit.  When I had an active call in progress on one account, I’d try calling the other and I always got a busy signal, even though call waiting is enabled. I had rather hoped that if you were using one account and a call came in on anther, it would activate call waiting, although since I am among those that would probably never have a reason to use this device with multiple accounts, that’s kind of a non-issue for me. Call waiting DOES work if another call comes in on the same account while you are on a call, and there may be situations where it would work across multiple accounts (I didn’t test with two SIP accounts, for example).

The manual seems to confirm my suspicions that IAX and SIP don’t work together as well as one might hope:

How many SIP servers may AG-188N register simultaneously?
AG-188N support 2 SIP servers and a IAX server. The Default server is SIP. If you want to use the IAX server you must set IAX as default protocol in the IAX config page. IAX and SIP can register simultaneously but not work simultaneously. If you set 2 SIP servers in the SIP setting page, you can choose the route (server) by dialing plan which is edited by you. Please see “How to use the dial rule?” for detail.

Before you get too perturbed by this, ask yourself how many other devices let you use multiple accounts from the same phone.  And if you’re wondering how you would select which account to use for a particular call when multiple accounts are available, that sort of thing is accomplished in the Dial-Peer screen, which we briefly covered yesterday.  You probably will need to read the manual to learn how to set it up.

You might be wondering how you’d set up that second SIP account. That’s accomplished by looking in the “Advance” section of the left-hand menu, and clicking on SIP.  When you do that you get this screen:

Atcom AG-188N Advanced SIP configuration screen

Atcom AG-188N Advanced SIP configuration screen

As you can see, it’s pretty much a duplicate of the other SIP configuration screen, but without as many settings, and with the word “Private” inserted into many of the description texts (not sure why they chose the word “Private” to describe the second account, but oh well).  Really, there are only five new settings here:

  • STUN Server Addr — If you use a STUN server, enter its address here
  • STUN Server Port — If you use a STUN server, enter the port number here. The default STUN server port is 3478.
  • STUN Effect Time — a different Atcom manual is far less confusing on this item: “STUN detect NAT type interval time. If NAT found a link inactive for a certain time, it will close the link so you need to send a packet within a interval time to keep the link alive.”
  • Enable URI Convert — convert # into %23 when sending URI (from a different Atcom manual, since it’s not in the one for the AG-188N).
  • Enable SIP Stun — A different Atcom manual sums this STUN stuff up nicely: SIP STUN is used for NAT transverse. When you config STUN server’s address and port (default 3478) and enable it, then you can use the normal SIP server to make the IP phone transverse NAT.

I will point out that more than likely, if you define a STUN server on this page, the AG-188N will be able to utilize it whether you are using the primary SIP account, or the “Private” account defined on this page. So it’s just slightly confusing that although at first glance this appears to be the settings for the second account, there are a few items here that could affect the ability of both accounts to penetrate NAT firewalls.

By the way, if you want to know more about STUN you can always try Wikipedia, and if you need to find a public STUN server, just Google public stun servers, and your desire should be met! That said, I’ve never had much luck trying to use a STUN server, and in most cases you won’t need to use one, which perhaps is why these settings were placed on this page.

If you’re starting to see that in many ways this device is more full-featured than some other VoIP adapters that are out there (and probably easier to configure), you can understand why I really like this unit – well, for the most part. And that brings me to the subject of security.

When you first access the unit, you have to login, and that’s to be expected. While some competing adapters don’t force you to use a username and password, they basically only have two accounts — user and admin.  The AG-188N has those (well, actually, guest and admin) by default, but you can add more.  If you click on “Account Management” in the left-hand menu, it brings you to the screen shown below, minus the entry fields at the bottom — those only come up when you press Add, to add an account:

Atcom AG-188N Account configuration page

Atcom AG-188N Account configuration page

It’s probably obvious that this is also the page you’d go to if you wanted to change a user’s password, or to delete an account.

There are two user levels possible, Root and General. General users only get to see a limited subset of the pages: WAN Config, LAN Config, Audio Settings, WEB Update, FTP/TFTP Update, Auto Provisioning, and Logout & Reboot. I’m not sure why you’d need to add additional users, but you can. Anyway, it appears you have to set a User name and Password for all users.

And normally that would not be any problem at all, except that while writing this review I’ve had to go back into the interface several times to look at the configuration, and if I haven’t done anything in there for a few minutes it apparently logs me off, and then I’m forced to login all over again! While I suppose this is really a good thing — if you happen to leave your browser open to this device and then leave, some mischief-maker can’t come along half an hour later and start changing settings on you — it’s still kind of a pain when you are doing something like this.  Oh, well, I guess it really is a good thing!

For those that want extra security, you can go to the “MMI Filter” page and set a filter by address range:

Atcom AG-188N MMI Filter screen

Atcom AG-188N MMI Filter screen

When the MMI filter is enabled, only IP addresses between the start IP and the end IP can access the AG-188N. It’s a good dose of extra security, but be careful not to lock yourself out — and remember, if you ever take your adapter with you when you travel, whatever network you happen to land upon may not be using the same IP range as your home network.  So I don’t think I’d advise setting this if you travel a lot, but at least the AG-188N gives you the option, something that some other adapters do not.

What’s next?  Well, we haven’t even really touched on the networking functions in this unit. Stay tuned for the next installment!

Disclosure: CIGear provided me with an Atcom AG-188N for review purposes, and allowed me to keep it after I was finished writing this series, and for that I am most grateful.

Previous Installment | Next Installment

Articles in the series: Review of Atcom AG-188N IAX+SIP ATA (VoIP adapter)

Part 1 – The unboxing
Part 2 – Initial setup using IAX
Part 3 – Setting the time and configuring outbound dialing
Part 4 – Setting up SIP, and securing the adapter
Part 5 – Networking and Internal Router
Part 6 – Final Thoughts and Summary Review
Part 7 – Addendum

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