freeswitch-fcc-blacklist: automatically add entries from the FCC robocall blacklist to FreeSWITCH

As some of you may know, the Federal Communications Commission publishes data on consumer complaints each week. many of these complaints are for unwanted and spam calls from telemarketers and scammers. Ward Mundy has written a script to convert this FCC consumer complaint data to a blacklist for the Asterisk PBX.

I have adapted this script for FreeSWITCH’s blacklist module, which can be used to send unwanted callers to alternative destinations, like our friend Lenny. See the GitHub repo if you want to implement this script on your system, and be sure to send a pull request with any improvements you make!

Lenny: Do You Need A Back Or Knee Brace?

Our house phone gets lots of telemarketing calls. What’s are solution? Send them to Lenny, a hilarious set of recordings designed to waste telemarketers’ time. Lenny’s scripted responses work for any kind of telemarketer; it doesn’t matter if you’re a Trump supporter, drug company or scammer–Lenny will keep you on the phone.

This telemarketer tries to sell Lenny a back and/or knee brace, since she was notified he suffers from occasional pain. Attempts to get Lenny to say which knee was causing him pain, or to rate his back pain on a scale from 1 to 10 (of course) failed, much to the telemarketer’s frustration.

Since Lenny is a computer program, it needs to use a speech detection algorithm to wait for the telemarketer to finish speaking before it responds. Loud background noise in the call center (such as the noise at the beginning of this recording) can confuse the algorithm. This means that Lenny will often pause before responding in the beginning of the recording. As the noise dies down, Lenny will respond at the proper times.

The best part? She hung up and called back! You’ll hear some music in the recording when this happens. Enjoy!

Lenny Will Make Telemarketing Great Again

Our home phone gets lots of telemarketing calls. From Time Warner sales reps to drug companies. But nothing so far has quite measured up to this one; a political call from the Donald J. Trump “Make America Great Again” campaign which lasted over eighteen minutes! According to this telemarketer, hurting your family is “sometimes necessary” when standing up for what you truly believe in. Enjoy!

Three Days, Two Lenny Calls – Lenny Talks To Time Warner Sales Rep

This is another telemarketing call I sent to “Lenny”, a hilarious, convincing set of recordings designed to trick telemarketers into thinking they’re talking to a real person… and ultimately waste as much of their time as possible. This time, it was a sales representative from Time Warner Cable, our internet service provider. I wrote a more detailed description of what (or who) Lenny is, check it out if you’re not familiar. Enjoy!

It’s Lenny! : Microsoft Support Scammers Talk To Recording for Fifteen Minutes

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve set up an IP PBX at our house. This digital phone system makes our phone bill low (we pay around $100 a year for unlimited incoming calls, with enough money for outbound calls at low per-minute rates) and adds some nice features. Unlike a typical analogue phone system, we can make up to four simultaneous calls at once, answer calls to our landline when out of the house, make clear calls between rooms and make announcements that play through all phones at once (sort of like a PA system).

But… who’s Lenny, and how does he fit into all of this?

According to the maintainer of a popular version of Lenny, “Lenny” is “A hilarious set of recorded messages designed to waste telemarketers’ time.” These recordings “…are designed to fool telemarketers into thinking they’ve called a real person”; if you didn’t know any better, you’d think you’re talking to an old man. He talks about his eldest daughter Rachel, his third eldest Larissa, the “world finances”… and when he’s run out of things to say, he “puts down the phone” to look after his ducks, after which he asks if you’re the same person who called him last week. Most versions of Lenny’s software use speech detection algorithms to play the recordings at the right time; when you aren’t speaking. If you don’t respond, it’ll start playing a different set of recordings: “Hello?” “Are you there?”
Different telemarketers will, of course, react to the recordings differently: a few know about Lenny and hang up immediately, some talk to him for almost twenty two minutes.
But some of the best recordings are Lenny talking to “Microsoft scammers.” These scammers call phone numbers, stating that your computer has a virus. They ask you to grant them access to your machine, so they can infect it themselves, or charge you money to “fix” problems you didn’t even have!
I much rather have these people talk to a recording instead of scamming someone… enjoy!

Words That Can’t Be Strangled has been released as free software

Words That Can’t Be Strangled was a project that I entered into the 2016 Sea Island Regional Science Fair. The project received first place in the Mathematics, Engineering and Computer Science category and an Intel Award for Excellence in Computer Science.

The purpose of this project was to analyze the texts of Project Gutenberg (a repository of public domain, plane text ebooks) and the English Wikipedia to determine the most common English words of all time. Initially, I thought that “a”, “an” and “the” would be the top three most frequently used English words since articles are very common in English. I wrote a program in the Python programming language to process all of the text in the various formats in which it is written and generate a table of words and their frequencies. The experiment was performed by downloading very large dumps of all the material, extracting the plane text from the Wikipedia database with an extraction program, running my word frequency analysis program and viewing the results.

The experiment found that the ten most common English words of all time are “the”, “of”, “and”, “to”, “in”, “a”, “was”, “that”, “he” and “is”. The hypothesis was somewhat correct; articles did appear in the top ten, but not all three hypothesized, and in a different order.

I have released words.py, my word frequency analysis program, as free software in the hope that it will be useful in other projects and/or research. You can obtain the program along with instructions on reproducing the experiment from this Github repository. If you make improvements to this program, I encourage you to fork this repository and send me a pull request with your changes!

Hello, World!

I’ve finally fixed this website! It will (hopefully) be a unified place that links to all my projects and profiles around the web. More content will be released to this blog in the coming months. I’m not sure exactly what will go here; possibly longer posts about my current activities, or projects I’m involved in, or just long posts about my current state of things in general. Stay tuned!