Month: October 2010

How to change the format of the time and date in Ubuntu’s clock applet


This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on a blog called The Michigan Telephone Blog, which was written by a friend before he decided to stop blogging. It is reposted with his permission. Comments dated before the year 2013 were originally posted to his blog. Also this article is obsolete since recent Ubuntu versions now use the Gnome desktop, and to change the way the date and time are displayed in Gnome you would use a Gnome shell extension such as Panel Date Format (here’s How to install Gnome Shell Extensions on Ubuntu 20.04 Focal Fossa Linux Desktop). Then, if using the Panel Date Format extension, to set the format of the date and time you use a dconf command from the Linux terminal, for example:

dconf write /org/gnome/shell/extensions/panel-date-format/format "'%A, %B %e, %Y  %l:%M:%S %p %Z'"

This is a quick-and-dirty post because it took me a long time to find this but in the end it was simple to do.  Note the graphic below – this is the top menu bar (part of it anyway) and the gconf-editor, which you can get to by entering the program name in a terminal window (in later versions of Ubuntu this appears to have been replaced by dconf Editor, which you may need to first install from the Ubuntu Software Center, then use the second screenshot below).  The important parts are highlighted.  First note the time display in the top menu bar, then note the highlighted settings that were changed to make it that way:

Screenshot of top menu bar and gconf-editor program

When in the gconf-editor, you need to go to /apps/panel/applets/clock_screen0/prefs and then change the custom_format and format parameters as shown (double-click on a parameter name to change the value). The original information was found in this thread.

Note this was done in Ubuntu Karmic, and may or may not be applicable to some newer versions. In more recent versions of Ubuntu that use dconf Editor, this is where the settings are:

Screenshot of dconf Editor program in Ubuntu 12.04

When in the dconf Editor, you need to go to /com/canonical/indicator/appmenu/datetime and then change the custom-time-format and time-format parameters as shown (double-click on a parameter name to change the value — time-format is not highlighted in this screenshot, but you do need to change it to custom).

My custom (time) format string is:

%A, %B %e, %Y  %l:%M:%S %p %Z

If the seconds don’t change (that is, if they always stay at 00) then scroll down (if necessary) in the prefs list and make sure the show_seconds or show-seconds box is checked.

If you don’t like my format and want to create your own, you can find the codes for the various parts of the date format here.

Note that if you are using the XFCE desktop, you need only right-click on the time, select “Properties” from the dropdown, and when the Clock Options come up, select “Custom Format” from the dropdown and then enter your custom format in the text box just below the dropdown.

How to stop people from leaving messages in your Google Voice voicemail box


This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on a blog called The Michigan Telephone Blog, which was written by a friend before he decided to stop blogging. It is reposted with his permission. Comments dated before the year 2013 were originally posted to his blog.

One irritating thing about Google Voice is their voicemail – they must be really proud of it, because they give you no way to turn it off (at least not that I can find), and worse yet, they don’t even let you pick the timeout before your Google Voice calls go to voicemail.  If people actually had to pay for their service I’m sure they’d get boatloads of complaints, but since it’s free and since Google doesn’t seem to care much what users think, we are stuck with their voicemail whether we want it or not. However, there are some situations where you really don’t want to have to check Google’s voicemail, so how do you discourage people from leaving a message?

The answer is simple, and probably 99.9% effective: Change your greeting to a busy signal! Most people, and even most automated calling equipment, will hang up after receiving a busy signal, and will not leave a message (and if anyone does, it’s probably a stupid robo-caller that you can safely ignore).

So how do you change your greeting in Google Voice? Glad you asked…

To start with, download this audio file (right-click on the link and save it to your hard drive). It is 24 seconds of North American busy signal, followed by the DTMF # button (the latter is needed to signal the end of the greeting).

Now, what you have to do is go to your Google Voice settings, Voicemail & Text tab, and in the Voicemail Greeting section click on “Use phone to record a new greeting.” I suggest you try this once or twice just to get the hang of how it works (you can delete any recording you make on the same page). Note that once you’ve recorded your first greeting, the button will change to say just “Record new.”

Google Voice - Location of "Record New Greeting" button

Now, the obvious thing to do here is to hold the phone up to your computer’s speaker and play the audio file after Google calls you to record the greeting. If you’re careful about your volume levels it might work, but I don’t recommend it.

A better method is to temporarily redirect your Google Voice callback so that it comes to a softphone on your computer, preferably one that has the ability to select audio inputs and outputs.  How to do that is left as an exercise for the reader, but I can tell you that the free version of Zopier will allow you to select inputs. You’ll also need an audio program that can play back .wav files and allows you to select outputs (an example for the Mac would be Vox), and depending on your computer, you may need a third piece of software that allows you to redirect the output of one program to the input of another (for example, on a Mac you can use Soundflower). On a Mac you’d go into the audio player preferences, set the output to go to the redirection software, then set the softphone to get its audio input from the redirection software.

Vox audio player output settings
Zoiper softphone audio input settings

After doing this, get Google Voice to call your softphone, answer the call and immediately click “play” on the audio player software (into which you will have pre-loaded the audio file) and if all goes well it will play the file and at the end, after the DTMF # tone is played, Google Voice should play back the file, and ask you to accept it or try again. If you hear some ringing tone in the playback prior to the busy signal, just click “2” on Zoiper’s touch-tone keypad to try again (when you are given that option) and then as soon as you hear the beep, click “play” again. When it’s right, click the “1” on Zopier’s touch tone keypad when given the option. You can confirm that this is set as the default from the Google Voice page mentioned above. Also, note that by using the Google Voice “Groups” feature, you can play this “greeting” only to certain callers, if for some reason you want some people to actually be able to leave you voicemail in your Google Voice voicemail box.

I know that Zoiper is cross-platform and can be used under all major operating systems, and I’m pretty sure there are audio redirection programs available for Windows and Linux, though I don’t know what they are called offhand (if you do, please feel free to leave a comment, provided the software you suggest is free to use — I’m not going to promote any commercial software for this purpose because I’m pretty sure there is free software available, and in any case, it may even be possible to achieve this function from the Windows sound control panel, but it’s been so long since I’ve tried to do anything like this in Windows that I don’t remember how it’s done, I just know it’s possible).

Related Link:
Proof of concept: Automatically transfer Google Voice voicemail to Asterisk voicemail

Link: Using FreeSWITCH to add Google Voice to Asterisk


This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on a blog called The Michigan Telephone Blog, which was written by a friend before he decided to stop blogging. It is reposted with his permission. Comments dated before the year 2013 were originally posted to his blog.

EDIT (2018): This article is extremely out-of-date and in no way useful today, and will probably be removed from this site at some point in the future. You might find this article more useful: How to use Google Voice with FreePBX and Asterisk without using XMPP or buying new hardware.

For those of you using Asterisk, Bill over at the PSU VoIP blog has come up with a way to interface Asterisk with Google Voice, by co-installing FreeSWITCH (which also supports Google Voice).  Turns out that Asterisk and FreeSWITCH can co-exist on the same server, though you do have to change the configuration a bit so they don’t compete for the same ports.  Anyway, Bill has come up with a how-to on adding Google Voice integration to current versions of Asterisk, so if that interests you, head on over and have a look:

Using FreeSWITCH to add Google Voice to Asterisk

The bonus is that once you get FreeSWITCH installed you can play around with it and look at some of its other features, if you are so inclined. Of course, the Asterisk folks could backport the Google Voice support to previous versions and make it unnecessary to do things like this, but I’m not holding my breath.

EDIT (January 26, 2012): The Google Voice channel drivers in Asterisk 1.8 have become unreliable enough (in my personal opinion, anyway) that I just used the technique shown in this article, and I must say that it works a LOT better than Asterisk 1.8’s Google Voice support.  I also added some comments to that article (probably too many!) that among other things show how I got it working for multiple Google Voice accounts.  So I would now recommend using this method to bridge Asterisk to Google Voice in preference to using Asterisk 1.8’s native channel drivers (unless you are very short on memory and/or storage space) — it just works, and calls connect faster.  Read the article AND the comments under it first, so you’ll know what to expect, and do be aware that it takes a relatively LONG time to compile and install FreeSWITCH (compared to Asterisk).  At points during the installation it may look like it’s stuck in an endless loop, but it really isn’t. Just go away and take a walk outside or something, and come back in a while and it should be done.

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