Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Interview with Mark Spencer of Asterisk

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the ripe-for-open-source dept.

124

comforteagle writes "OSDir has published an interview with Mark Spencer of Asterisk and Gaim about why and how he got started coding up the software platform PBX system and how it has become much more than -just- another phone system. He also shares his insights for the opportunities within the telecom industry for open source."

cancel ×

124 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14542189)

fone post

Marks & Spencer? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14542203)

Another big customer win from Microsoft! HURRRAH!.

And PBX is...? (1, Interesting)

The Lerneaen Hydra (885793) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542266)

Would someone care to enlighten we the proletarians as to what PBX is?

Re:And PBX is...? (2, Informative)

Qwell (684661) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542290)

Private Branch eXchange.
A telephone system.

Re:And PBX is...? (4, Informative)

dud83 (815304) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542300)

Officially it means: "Private Branch Exchange (private telephone switchboard)" In reality it is a switchboard placed inside your house or office commonly. You know, "press 1 for an outbound line" sort of thing!
It's like a router with a NAT... Only for telephones not the internet...

Re:And PBX is...? (1)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543039)

Officially it means: "Private Branch Exchange (private telephone switchboard)" In reality it is a switchboard placed inside your house or office commonly. You know, "press 1 for an outbound line" sort of thing!
It's like a router with a NAT... Only for telephones not the internet...


A side note about being "behind" a PBX, is that the lines are not regular phones anymore. Typically, they are digital and not analog, which can be a pain if you need an analog phone line for things like a modem or fax machine.

Does anyone know if asterisk supports faxes?

Re:And PBX is...? (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543196)

>Does anyone know if asterisk supports faxes?
yes, I have sent, and recieved faxs through asterisk, but it depends highly on what your voice provider/hardware is, especially in-terms of throughput. my asterisk setup is using digium hardware to analog lines, and with asteriskathome (availble on sourceforge) it automatically wraps up faxs into a pdf, and emails them to you. for sending fax's, I used a linux fax driver on a seperate card, seperate install, installed as a samba printer.

Re:And PBX is...? (1)

SIGPrez (229837) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543261)

Asterisk supports both normal analog phones or PBX digital phones "behind" the PBX, as well as VOIP softphones.

I use Asterisk at home with a Digium card, and use regular analog phones with the regular house wiring. I also use softphones on each PC within my home network.

Asterisk does support faxes. In my case, when a fax comes in, it is immediately recognized and routed to the fax machine, WITHOUT ringing any home phones, even if it comes in on my regular home phone line. I plan to change this so that faxes are routed to Hylafax in the future.

Re:And PBX is...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14542315)

It is a Public Branch eXchange system. Think of it as a big router for phones. Calls are routed internally by the PBX and when needed the calls are then routed externally.

Re:And PBX is...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14542325)

Private Branch Exchange. A phone system that separate from the public telephone network, but may interface it.

Or, that thing that makes you dial "9" first.

Re:And PBX is...? (4, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542364)

PBX - Private Branch eXchange. Sometimes also called Postbox exchange, or Private Business Exchange. I'm not sure what the 'official' meaning is.

Basically it's a voicemail/call routing system. Almost every company that handles more than one incoming line has a PBX. It's the internal phone system. Extensions, voicemail boxes, hold music, voice menus, etc. are all run by your companies PBX.

Asterix is an open source PBX designed to be run off any system that can run Linux. It's fairly extensible and because it runs on commodity hardware, very popular. Normal PBX systems can cost in the $10k amounts to do half of what a $5k Asterix system can. Plus, if you are truly a geek, you can setup your own home PBX off normal phone lines.

Another reason Asterix is becoming popular is that it can handle Voice Over IP (VOIP) calls. This means you can setup a small home machine (many times people hook it into their router, PC or embedded) to work with a VOIP account such as Vontage and let you have more control with it.

Re:And PBX is...? (3, Informative)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542426)

Generally, though, for services like Vonage or Phone Over Cable, you must use the supplied analog telephone adapter. So despite the fact that the VOIP is coming in over the internet, you actually can't just handle them with an Asterisk server. You would need to instead get a second analog-to-digital converter, and use your VOIP line as though it were an ordinary analog telephone line.

Re:And PBX is...? (4, Informative)

Corydon76 (46817) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542947)

While there certainly are the Vonages of the world, there are far more VoIP [gradwell.com] services [freeworlddialup.com] that [sipphone.com] permit [kapper.net] you to connect any phone [voip-info.org] you like.

Re:And PBX is...? (2, Informative)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 8 years ago | (#14544326)

Let us not forget some of my personal [voicepulse.com] favorites [teliax.com] .

Re:And PBX is...? (1)

mla_anderson (578539) | more than 8 years ago | (#14544568)

Or another favorite [slashdot.org] . Their setup instructions are for Asterisk. Bad points? Well they don't really take into account that someone may want to go straight to an ATA (like my father-in-law). Oh well, service is very good.

Re:And PBX is...? (1)

mla_anderson (578539) | more than 8 years ago | (#14544592)

Oops. Make that http://telasip.com/ [telasip.com]

Re:And PBX is...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14545063)

Asterix is
a comic strip, about the eponymous Gaul's experience of the Roman invasion of turn-of-the-first-millennium France. It was never very funny but the similarity between the sound of x and sk caused confusion to many for 2000 years. q.v. nucular (sic), Bush II.

Re:And PBX is...? (1)

DrZaius (6588) | more than 8 years ago | (#14545423)

Normal PBX systems can cost in the $10k amounts to do half of what a $5k Asterix system can. Plus, if you are truly a geek, you can setup your own home PBX off normal phone lines.

Wow, what does 10K get you in the world of phone systems (outside of asterisk)? The last install I did was $80K *before* handsets.. That was for about 40 people -- expandible to 80ish..

Re:And PBX is...? (1)

TedCheshireAcad (311748) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542678)

Three letters that can convince a PHB to spend hundred of thousands of your salary/bonus dollars.

Re:And PBX is...? (2, Funny)

Flagg0204 (552841) | more than 8 years ago | (#14544053)

God I feel old

* is the killer linux app (5, Informative)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542284)

I have used and deployed * in a number of setups ( from large businesses to home ), and you folks should really understand something: This is the killer linux app.

Samba is great. qmail/sendmail/ect...is wonderful as well. But, as far as getting linux in the door, this is the application that will do it. For example, my first * implementation cost about 8grand ( parts and service ).

For a similar, but far less featured pbx from avaya, I was quoted 40grand. And that was a quote. Anybody here that has worked with phone venders should be chuckling right now at that number, as it amounts to a pie in the sky dream.

So, for my small business, I saved them 30 grand right up front ( likely more ). On top of that, as their needs change, so can the phone system. Just the other day they found out I was taking my desk phone home ( to play with, but also get my phone calls ). When I told them why, they were floored that the system could do that, no matter how many times I told them it could.

Larger businesses will see far more dramatic cost savings, and get more features to boot.

Re:* is the killer linux app (1)

silentbozo (542534) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542352)

8k for your first implementation - would you care to share how that was broken down? I have a small collection of PC parts I'd like to recycle into a phone system - what do I need to get?

Re:* is the killer linux app (2, Informative)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542401)

Most of that was server and related costs. I spent about 6k on twin servers with a beefy UPS. If one goes down, I'll lose all current calls, but the phones and everything will be right back up as the second server takes over.

About 2k was for phones. This was a small installation with some very specific needs.

Re:* is the killer linux app (1)

BESTouff (531293) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542402)

For non-techies out there, the key to understand the parent post is that "*" in this text can always be replaced by the linux app du jour. Try it, you'll see for yourself that it works well.

Re:* is the killer linux app (0)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542425)

You post displays a delightful amount of ignorance, combine with a fruity blend of idiocy.

Well done.

( for the laymen: * is short term for asterisk )

Re:* is the killer linux app (1)

syphax (189065) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542510)


Dude, I think it was a joke.

Re:* is the killer linux app (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14542686)

haha, mod parent anal

Re:* is the killer linux app (5, Funny)

J0nne (924579) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542534)

I have used and deployed * in a number of setups...

The copy/paste trolls are getting lazier by the day. In earlier times they bothered to alter the post to fit the subject, but now they just use a wildcard...

<insert monty python foot here>

Re:* is the killer linux app (1)

mstefanus (705346) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542656)

I heard that * has some quirks; problems such as echo's, unstable after a couple of days. Do you experience that also? Or is it stable like Apache or linux kind of stability?

Thanks.

Re:* is the killer linux app (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542731)

I heard that * has some quirks;

It does, but mostly you run in to them when dealing with the telco side of things.

problems such as echo's, unstable after a couple of days.

Echo isn't a problem if you get quality hardware, and my current asterisk server ( which I am talking on right now as a matter of fact ) has an uptime of over a month.

Or is it stable like Apache or linux kind of stability?

I would say it's about as stable as apache, if not more so. I can't remember the last time I had * just crash out for no reason. It'll either segment fault out at start or when you do something funky to the underlying system, but not during normal operation.

Re:* is the killer linux app (3, Insightful)

porkThreeWays (895269) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543005)

Comparing Apache and Asterisk is difficult. The most often changed item of apache is the html. You can't make apache unstartable by having garbage html in your htdocs directory. Really, once the initial configuration of Apache is done, you probably won't make that many changes (for most sites). For asterisk, the thing you change the most is extensions. Extensions live in the Asterisk configuration. You _can_ break your Asterisk config this way and make it unstartable. The software itself is pretty rock solid, but because you will be activly making changes to the asterisk config (whether with vi or a front-end), it does lend itself to more human error. I tend to make any asterisk changes in batches at night because there's less "bitching factor" if the phone system is down for 30 seconds at 11pm than at 11am. If you are in a small business and will rarely add extensions, you could run your asterisk system for years without a problem.

The biggest thing you want is your hardware on multiple battery backups and make sure your extensions config to make e-911 calls. There'd be nothing worse than a power outage and resulting emergency, and not being able to call 911.

Re:* is the killer linux app (1)

slazar (527381) | more than 8 years ago | (#14546195)

you mean emergency and resulting power outage (much more devastating).

This is True! (2, Informative)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543144)

I started playing with Asterisk a while back while experimenting with VOIP. I've recently purchased a digium FXO/FXS card and set up my landline with a voice menu system. The sky's the limit for what you can do with the system. Pretty much any small business could put a "professional" face on their company for the price of a moderately powerful machine, some network connections and a few SIP phones for their employees.

It's not all that esoteric to set up, either. I didn't even bother with the various GUI configuration tools you can download. I did have better luck compiling it myself rather than using the one that Debian has packed for it, but that may have changed since I tried it.

If I were in the business of making commercial PBX systems, I'd be shaking in my boots right now. I think Asterisk will end up putting the lot of them out of business.

Re:* is the killer linux app (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14543538)

Maybe becasue it is "free".

But as far as Linux being in the PBX world that has been true fro some time now.

1. Avaya S* series
2. Alcatel Omni Series

And recently even Nortel has a BCM50 which is based on Linux

Re:* is the killer linux app (1)

mla_anderson (578539) | more than 8 years ago | (#14544723)

I am currently deploying Asterisk in a mid sized business, about 100 employees but only about 70 phones. We were looking at a quoted cost of $55K - $60K for a bare bones system from any vendor. Our total costs with Asterisk are going to be less than $20K and probably more like $17K. The test users absolutely love the system and a number of users are forgoing the $250 phone for the X-Lite softphone.

The costs include two Asterisk servers with T1 cards, the POE switches and the phones. The second server is a backup for the first and is rsync'd from the first every 5 minutes. If we lose our primary system we're back up in minutes.

In addition, I can work from home and appear to be at my desk. <grin>

Re:* is the killer linux app (1)

matuscak (523184) | more than 8 years ago | (#14545344)

So do the proprietary phone systems you mentioned include the redundancy your'e talking about with Asterisk? I'd expect not. We use Nortel (Norstar and BCM) systems and they dont even begin to think about redundant *anything*. Of course, that means that the cost difference should even be larger.

Re:* is the killer linux app (1)

mla_anderson (578539) | more than 8 years ago | (#14546211)

You're absolutely correct, the proprietary systems do not include the redundancy but they do include onsite service for a fixed length of time. The redundnacy is one of the ways we were able to sell the system to management, well the cost helped to.

RE: PBX (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14542293)

PBX is Provate Branch Exchange. Phone switches, basically.

Are you sure it wasn't Mark Spencer from Marks and Spencers?

Re: PBX (1)

Corydon76 (46817) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542834)

Quite sure. Mark Spencer is a personal friend (I'm one of the core developers of Asterisk).

I regret... (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542334)

> OSDir.com: What do you advise people to bear in mind if they plan to deploy Asterisk for their PBX needs? What should they know about the features and limitations of the software's current version?
>
> Spencer: Asterisk, as its name implies, was designed to do everything in telecom -- the name comes from the wildcard symbol. It can do most anything that you need it to do.

A good answer, but I half-expected to read...

"Asterisk? As its name implies - I regret that I have but one asterisk for my company. That's why I went with an open source solution."

But then I'm an invertebrate punster. (so slug me!)

Re:I regret... (1)

Savantissimo (893682) | more than 8 years ago | (#14546063)

Thanks for doing that- I was afraid I would have to.

What an timing :) (1)

Skal Tura (595728) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542375)

Perfect timing for interview like this for me, i'm just building my first PBX system ever, and it ain't gonna be small :)
I'm actually quite overwhelmed about that task, hopefulyl i get by fine :)

Re:What an timing :) (2, Informative)

dotslasher_sri (762515) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542453)

you might find this helpful

http://revision3.com/systm/asterisk [revision3.com]

Re:What an timing :) (1)

Skal Tura (595728) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542784)

Thanks, got to watch it now :)

Systm video cast on iTunes (4, Informative)

pesc (147035) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542442)

If you have iTunes, you can check out the latest systm video cast which features a demonstration by John Todd. Shows how to set up Asterisk. 47 minutes in length. Go to iTunes and search for "systm".

Re:Systm video cast on iTunes (4, Informative)

Brian Stretch (5304) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542639)

Better yet, go here [revision3.com] and get the H.264 torrent (or whichever encoding you prefer). That page also gives you a slew of very useful Asterisk links.

Re:Systm video cast on iTunes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14542646)

If you have iTunes, you can check out the latest systm video cast which features a demonstration by John Todd. Shows how to set up Asterisk. 47 minutes in length. Go to iTunes and search for "systm".

Or even if you don't have itunes, you can get a feed here [revision3.com] grab the large xvid torrent here [revision3.com]

Re:Systm video cast on iTunes (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14544999)

Speaking of iTunes I saw this [alkaloid.net] posted on Asterisk-Users today: Podcasting via Asterisk's native voicemail functionality.

Speaking of Asterisk as a killer app because it saves business so much money is just one facet. Another equally if not more important facet is the new possibilities introduced with an open platform. IMHO it's the same reason that Linux has gone so far: Simply put, openness breeds innovation.

Asterisk is something special (4, Insightful)

porkThreeWays (895269) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542469)

I can not even begin to describe how great asterisk has been to the telecom industry. Asterisk will be (and is currently) just as important to the telecom industry as VoIP itself. I've delt with propietary telecom stuff before. It sucks ass. Take Nortel and Cisco for example. If you are going to buy Nortel IP phones, be prepared to use a Nortel soft switch. Up until recently you couldn't use Cisco power over ethernet with Nortel phones because of Nortel's non-standard implementation. Basically, every switch maker has made it as difficult as they can to use other comapanies equipment with theirs. Everything is expensive, non-extensible, and non-interoperable.

Then there's asterisk. Asterisk uses open standards. Asterisk has an API for writing phone based applications. Asterisk has a clean code base to contribute to. Telecom has almost always wanted to stay as closed as possible. People thought VoIP would change this. It just brought new people to the secret game (Cisco and Nortel being the worst offenders). Asterisk has blown this door wide open. Now, I can use whatever SIP phone I want. I don't have to find a Unistim phone anymore. I can write my own programs to interact with callers. Waaaaaaaaay more than simple tree based IVR's. We're talking full fledged applications through the phone. Without paying a dime. Asterisk has blown the doors wide open on the secret game of telecom. Sure, there will be a lot of people who stick with their traditional telecom equipment. But for those of us willing to roll up our sleeves, Asterisk offers up a way more extensible and programmable soft switch than I've ever seen from the traditional guys.

Re:Asterisk is something special (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14542493)

Actually if you buy nortel phones you can buy citel hardware to connect them to your asterisk server... Saves a great deal of money and you get to use the open standards...

Re:Asterisk is something special (3, Insightful)

Qwell (684661) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542515)

I'd like to add to this...

Not only can you use whatever SIP phone you like, you can also use whatever IAX2 phone, SCCP phone, MGCP device, etc...and you can use them together.

You can call from an SCCP phone (Cisco) through Asterisk, over the internet to an IAX2 provider, who in turn connects to their provider via SIP, and then terminates to the PSTN.

The * really DOES mean everything. Asterisk does this all seemlessly to the end users.

Re:Asterisk is something special (1)

gst (76126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543894)

"Asterisk has a clean code base to contribute to." - Good joke! Did you ever had a look at the SIP module? At the deadlock handling? Asterisk has one of the ugliest codes which I have ever seen.

Re:Asterisk is something special (2, Interesting)

SoulDad570 (907759) | more than 8 years ago | (#14545335)

the secret game (Cisco and Nortel being the worst offenders)

Care to elaborate on this? Cisco also sells a lot of SIP gear and are very serious about standards.

Cisco's proprietary thing is SCCP, but SCCP not secret. Cisco tried to take SCCP to the standards committees, but that got shot down by competitors on the committees.

Cisco sells SCCP products out of necessity, it's the only way to support the "300 classic PBX features". Standard SIP cannot do it (yet), and SIP with proprietary extensions is no better than SCCP. When the SIP evolves to support the rich PBX feature set, Cisco will be right there (in fact CIsco is involved in the SIP standards).

its ASTERISK (1)

mogorman (618512) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542536)

not astrix or asstricks or even trixast etc please get it right....

Re:its ASTERISK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14542578)

mogmogmogomg!!! :D

Another Cool Thing Done with Asterisk (3, Interesting)

DaedalusLogic (449896) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542561)

These guys built a digital voice recorder out of it:

http://www.basesys.com/ [basesys.com]

It's used to provide a dictation service for large medical facilities down to small private practices. Medical dictation systems can cost $40,000+ from the biggest provider. (Dictaphone) We use this service though, and are very happy with their reliability. They can even support some proprietary Dictaphone hardware which uses DTMF tones not found on normal phones. (ABCD or Flash, Flash Override etc. for you military types.)

You don't even need Asterisk... (4, Informative)

qualico (731143) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542563)

...when you have a termination provider capable of connecting with SIP phones.

Otherwise, when I go to a computer recycling depot, all I see is Asterisk boxes.

I have run 4 lines on my 450MHz box with no degradation at all.

You can buy cheap FXO cards for $10 and unlock Vonage Linksys PAP2s for $10 per FXS port.
Slap that together with a $25 PowerMAC 9600 and bam!
5 FXO + 10 FXS and witness the power of a fully operational PBX system for 175 bucks!

Re:You don't even need Asterisk... (1)

silentbozo (542534) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542762)

Wait, wait - a PowerMac 9600? Is there a write-up about this somewhere? I was about to sacrifice a spare PIII box to the altar of experimentation, but if I can find work for my old PowerMacs, I'd be extremely happy.

Re:You don't even need Asterisk... (1)

qualico (731143) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542827)

Lookup "benjk" at the IRC #asterisk channel on freenode.
He's the guy that tuned me into them because they have 6 PCI slots that *don't* share IRQs!
That is the way all PC hardware should be run.
You can cram in a bunch of those cheap FXO cards.

Yellow Dog Linux is what he suggested for the OS.

Myself, I'm an LFS guy. (Linux From Scratch)

Don't scrap that PowerMac, otherwise send it my way.

Re:You don't even need Asterisk... (1)

Libor Vanek (248963) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543110)

Hi, where can you get those 10$ FXO cards?

Re:You don't even need Asterisk... (2, Informative)

qualico (731143) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543346)

I got mine on the monopolistic online auction site eBay.

Here is one for $5:
http://cgi.ebay.com/Digium-Wildcard-FXO-card-for-a sterisk-X100P-OEM_W0QQitemZ5858067510QQcategoryZ61 841QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem [ebay.com]
$10: http://cgi.ebay.com/Clone-of-Digium-X100P-X101P-Wi ldcard-for-Asterisk-PBX_W0QQitemZ5856427611QQcateg oryZ61841QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem [ebay.com]
Buy it now $13: http://cgi.ebay.com/Asterisk-FXO-PCI-Card-OEM-X101 P-100-Compatiable_W0QQitemZ5856065846QQcategoryZ11 182QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem [ebay.com]
Buy it now $15:
http://cgi.ebay.com/Digium-Wildcard-X100P-OEM-FXO- PCI-Card-for-Asterisk-PBX_W0QQitemZ5858250361QQcat egoryZ61839QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem [ebay.com]

Yes you have to factor in shipping, but if you buy multiples you can get that down.

These are generally Clone cards that work every bit as good as the originals.
The orginals were just Intel v.92 modems anyway.

http://www.voip-info.org/wiki/view/X100P+clone [voip-info.org]

Hope that helps.

Re:You don't even need Asterisk... (1)

mla_anderson (578539) | more than 8 years ago | (#14546182)

If you're going to use the cards use the following echo canceling settings:

echocancel=yes ; can be 32, 64 or 128...tweak
echocancelwhenbridged=yes
echotraini ng=400

Re:You don't even need Asterisk... (1)

qualico (731143) | more than 8 years ago | (#14546340)

good tip!

You don't even need Geeks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14543766)

Geeks! Geeks! Geeks! Now read through all these Asterisk posts, and what will you notice? They require a geek to make them work From a computer, to add-in cards, ending with an installation that requires a video to explain. The common man is just shaking his head. Not much of a "killer app" if you have to go through all that. What you need for a home installation is a HEMA box that sits next to the demarcation point.* There should be only three wires going in, power, ethernet, and phone. Everything else is inside the house, and is as easy to plug and use as a regular phone.

*What's in that box? Well the common man doesn't need to know, but for the geek it'll be an embedded computer with some analog hardware for connection to the phone line, and power supply for POE.(1) Naturally a preconfigured Asterisk set up with presets for the most common configurations. The interface could be everything from a browser front-end, all the way to a voice menu prompt (never assume that your users have, want, or feel comfortable with computers).

(1) The engineers here will note some additional hardware for when the fancy setup goes bye-bye, and you're not left hanging (that and 911, naturally)

Re:You don't even need Geeks (1)

qualico (731143) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543936)

lol

Yes, yes ... and I watch Star Trek, ( Days of our Lives with space suites).

What the heck is HEMA?

Gotta agree the solutions I install have to be turnkey.
If you have the money, (most geeks don't), you could buy one of these:
http://www.thevoipconnection.com/store/catalog/pro duct_16214_VS1trade_Asterisk_PBX_Voice_Server.html [thevoipconnection.com]

Asterisk solutions work! (1)

Martz (861209) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542645)

I am also evaluating Asterisk, I have it running at the moment in VMWare (Asterisk@Home) with Sipgate.co.uk

Since I'm in the UK, that gives me an 0845 number which routes directly to the * server, where a digital receptionist prompts for choices 1, 2, 3 etc. It's been useful since I am starting my own small business, and I am able to have semi-professional numbers on my business cards, take voices mails and queue calls up coming in over my ADSL. Sure beats call waiting or investing all my money into a phone system, where really I need it to support me and the business during the early days.

It is truely an amazing product, but it is quite complex and deep in the configuration files. Asterisk@Home provides a great way to slap an install on an old computer or in VMWare and get started with adding extensions. With the original Asterisk product it is very easy to get bogged down installation and basic configuration, when you don't know what your doing.

Highly recommended - I am hoping to sell the Asterisk server rebranded as my own PBX solution to companies, with a support contract. One of the only draw backs I can see is due to codecs, and using thhe G.729 - a royalty must be paid since it is not open source. This is a real shame since it can get right down to 8Kbps (instead of a standard uncompress 64Kbps channel) and here in the UK - upstream bandwidth is expensive - so the more channels you can transcode and pack down the pipe the better.

I'm also looking for technical information on how to link Asterisk up to UK ISDN30, I am assuming at the moment that it is a PRI connection on the ISDN30 which uses a PRI interface?

If anyone knows any solutions or better codecs to use I would be most interested!

Success (0, Offtopic)

kirkb (158552) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542649)

Do you think Asterisk would still be successful if he didn't hang around with that fat guy who fell into the potion cauldron when he was a baby?

Re:Success (1)

teaDrunk (849107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543130)

No, I think things worked out well only when they were together; to the dismay of the legions.

Here's a toast to the best (in technobabble "killer") comic/story/cartoon book ever !!
(so says TeaDrunkiX, raises Tea cup, spills a little in the cauldron)

Like others have said, it IS the killer Linux app (4, Interesting)

x.Draino.x (693782) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542654)

Take it from me.. I work for one of those large close-sourced PBX companies. I love Asterisk. I think the initial jump in may be confusing to those who have never touched the command line before, but once you get the hang of it, it is much faster to configure than other PBX systems, and much more customizeable. Instead of having to use some special client to make a connection to the PBX server to make changes, all I have to do with Asterisk is SSH to the box and use vi ( of course ) on a couple of easy to understand text files. Asterisk can also interact with everything else on the box using perl or some of the built-in commands in Asterisk. So you could have it write to MySQL db, or email you everytime someone hits option "8" on the phone. All that is required for a simple VoIP system is an older machine ( preferrably 300mhz+ ), a NIC, and a sound card. This simple setup can get you up and running making phone calls from one softphone ( software based, no physical phone needed ) to another. Sign up with someone like nufone.net and start making outgoing calls. Or purchase a DID and have incoming as well.

Re:Like others have said, it IS the killer Linux a (1)

MacJedi (173) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542876)

All that is required for a simple VoIP system is an older machine ( preferrably 300mhz+ ), a NIC, and a sound card. This simple setup can get you up and running making phone calls from one softphone ... to another.

Please pardon my igonrance, but for pure VoIP, do you even need a sound card in the Asterisk box?

Re:Like others have said, it IS the killer Linux a (1)

x.Draino.x (693782) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543125)

I'm not *positive*, but I believe you are correct. I believe if you want any sort of other functionality, like voicemail, or any sort of menu system, it would be required. If you don't have those features, I don't really see the point of having a PBX though. You might as well use Skype or something similar.

Re:Like others have said, it IS the killer Linux a (2, Informative)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543360)

I believe if you want any sort of other functionality, like voicemail, or any sort of menu system, it would be required.

No, I don't think you do need one at all. All of the digital signal processing is handled in software. Digital/analog conversion is either done in the FXS/FXO cards, for traditional phones, or in the phone itself if you are using VOIP phones (that's why it matters what codecs the phone supports).

Re:Like others have said, it IS the killer Linux a (1)

bastion_xx (233612) | more than 8 years ago | (#14546198)

Well, you don't need a card per se, but it is probably better to have the timing on a Digium card vs. using zapdummy.

I have my home * server with an FXO card and then use IAX to talk to my co-lo server (zapdummy). It's a good box to then tie to VoIP providers such as NuFone and Voicepulse.

I'm setting up a 50-odd user environment right now with the kicker being four different countries. Just try to get an Avaya or Nortel partner to quote project management and integration costs for two countries.

Blessed be the markster and the OSS application *.

Re:Like others have said, it IS the killer Linux a (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14543126)

No. No sound card is required.

Re:Like others have said, it IS the killer Linux a (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14543312)

The only thing you would need a sound card for is to plug your overhead paging system into the asterisk system.

If you run pure voip system, you will need OHCI usb to sync the timing for the realtime audio. If you don't have that then you will need to get some of that $10 telephony hardware, even for pure voip.

Re:Like others have said, it IS the killer Linux a (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543379)

no sound card required. U can still have voice menus,etc without.
you would need the kernel module zapdummy to provide some sort of a timining interupt expected from the digium hardware by default, if you were running a pure VOIP box. That module now comes auto-setup with all the current asterisk auto installers.

A killer app on its way... (2, Informative)

starmeup (946507) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543516)

I'm in charge of replacing our to-old NEC PBX for a brand new Asterisk in our ISP.

As a Unix sysop for long time, with some knowledge in general VoIP/H.323/SIP, I would say that the jump into Asterisk is not too dificult. We use SSH/vi/etc. in our day-to-day task, so one more system is not hard to swallow.

However I would like to point out that unless you are a really small user, with standard needs, for example in a situation where Asterisk@Home resolves all your needs, or you can live using only SIP or IAX, you will have some problems.

Asterisk will be a killer-app, but it is not there yet. Each new version tends to break something, configuration switches are added or removed, new features, are added changing the way things should be done, behavior of old functionality changes, etc. Its great, but its still evolving. Just check the mailing list and you will see the kind of problems that arise, and are resolved by the community.

Evolving is a Good Thing, but you have to take that into account before jumping in.

Pablo.

You FAIL it! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14542717)

That 7he project [goat.cx]

Asterisk@Home (5, Informative)

TeeJS (618313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542775)

For those wishing to play with Asterisk, you can't beat Asterisk@Home [sourceforge.net] . Nearly instant setup & web-based GUI config makes easy to administer too. I had it up and running in uner 10 min!

application (2, Interesting)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14542847)

My * application is to send streaming audio to my cell phone. That is, before going out I plug the * console sound card into my streaming audio client. Then I can call in and dial the '1234' extension and listen to Internet audio from the car, while hiking, etc.
Plus it was fun to play with setting up ;)

What a bloody useless article! (2, Funny)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543556)

It didn't tell me why Obelix is so quick despite his girth, what's in that magic potion, or why my favourite Asterix film, Asterix and the Twelve Tasks, hasn't received an NTSC-DVD release yet. Instead, the interview was all about technology or some such nonsense. Don't the submitters check their links before they turn them in?

Mark Spencer & Digium at SoCal Linux Expo (2, Informative)

MrMorph (614137) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543691)

Mark Spencer will be speaking on Sunday at the Southern California Linux Expo [socallinuxexpo.org] . In addition Digium will be exhibiting Saturday and Sunday.

Asterisk Scales? (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543789)

Who's got reliable info on Asterisk scaling requirements? Eg. what hardware is needed in a cluster to support 10,000 corporate users (with a featurelist), or even 10,000 simultaneous phonecalls? Or, how many simultaneous users can a 2-Xeon/4GHz/4GB/250GB server support?

The useful answer to this question for a real network design is pretty detailed. Where are some actual scaled usage/support results?

My two cents... (1)

mishehu (712452) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543833)

For what it is worth, I've been running Asterisk for a few years now. It promises a lot, but I always find that half of everything is literally broken in it. For example, recently we've been having lots of problems with app_queue.c and threads, and the monitor() function, and the mixmonitor() function (which completely segfaults asterisk on an x86_64). (The problem is not in my configuration, as when I don't change anything in the configuration, random things break between versions.)

This wouldn't be a problem if telephony was only a hobbyist thing, but I was going to start setting systems up for small businesses using asterisk. I was in line communications in the military, and would never recommend Asterisk for anything requiring 5 nines or more (which covers telephony). I am not even talking about problems with transporting voice over the internet, I am speaking at a design and engineering level within asterisk itself. Change something in one file, and you can cause a cluster bomb to take out several other modules or the whole system. Agree or disagree with me, but I speak from experience. I hope that everybody sees this criticism for what it's worth... and it is not meant to start a ideology war.

Re:My two cents... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14543872)

sniff sniff i smell a troll

MythPhone (2, Interesting)

qualico (731143) | more than 8 years ago | (#14543961)

Got to add this link:
http://www.zen13655.zen.co.uk/mythphone.html [zen.co.uk]

Anyone tried this?

The future of video phones is cerainly destined for the TV.

Asterisk has helped by showing us what not to do. (5, Interesting)

anthm (894202) | more than 8 years ago | (#14544287)

My name is Anthony Minessale, After considerable contribution to Asterisk I have learned a great deal about telephony here is a list of my personal contributions to Asterisk: http://www.cluecon.com/anthm.html [cluecon.com]

The biggest lesson I have learned is that the fundamentals of Asterisk are built on assumptions and hard coded limitations. The flow chart for its code will make you dizzy:

http://www.freeswitch.org/astdoc/structast__channe l__coll__graph.jpg [freeswitch.org]
http://www.freeswitch.org/astdoc/pbx_8c__incl.jpg [freeswitch.org]

People who use asterisk from the outside wouldn't know there is absolutely no structure or discipline in the code and may not care. But once they invest a ton of time trying to make their dream Telco or whatever their dreams may be, the truth is all too obvious. Spoken from experience, only a seasoned technical wizard with years of computer skills to boast will ever be able to successfully implement Asterisk beyond a modest implementation. To truly understand how Asterisk works holds only a slightly smaller prerequisite. To those who find this unimportant, I understand your point, but be aware that Asterisk, being an open source project, needs to have a somewhat easy learning curve to attract new developers especially considering the developer turnover they suffer due to the maddening politics their community has to offer. The development is focused on owning all the code even if it means re-inventing things that already exist just to maintain the right to sell the code. This practice is fine with me though I am less than pleased by the end result when the home-rolled version is a poor contender with several existing solutions. The modular intentions of Asterisk are great though there is no structure there either. Any module can dig its way into nearly all of the code of the core and often, inexperienced module programmers will re-implement existing functionality to the extent that even inside the same C source file, you may find multiple versions of the same functions with different names. The other problem with Asterisk modules are that many of the in-tree modules carry cross dependencies that make it impossible for the core to function without them. Some modules even depend on each other. This practice limits the portability since many operating systems will not tolerate one dynamic object from using symbols from another without hard linking them together. This is not the worst offense as far as portability; there are dozens more with many being accredited to Linux-specific assumptions. Apart from the technology problems the biggest remaining problem to consider is the community. The first experience for most Asterisk newcomers is an IRC channel where people fight for supremacy like information hungry pirates hording what they know and then sticking it to people for being so "stupid". (In other words, in the same boat they were in a few months back.) For those of us who are experienced developers, we are used to the l33t thing. The deal breaker is the issue management process. Submissions will generally be ignored for months then a one sentence overview will command the developer to fix minor issues and resubmit. This is almost tolerable if the submitted code was a new feature but more times than not it also happens with meaningful clean-up and repair of broken core functionality. I have heard this same complaint from countless ex-asterisk contributors over the past year and I am sure it is the number one cause of their ex status.

In conclusion, I actively develop Asterisk code but now I only do it as a consultant. I am quite good at it and I know what I am talking about and I feel that the issues with Asterisk will never be addressed because there may be more Asterisk users every day but there are also less developers every day too and soon all the developers will be nothing but users who have no other choice but to try and be developers. I could go on for ages documenting more issues but they tend to fall on deaf ears. To avoid this problem I have decided to design my own open source telephony application from scratch called FreeSwitch http://www.freeswitch.org/ [freeswitch.org] . It is only 5 months old but I aim to address many of the design flaws I learned from studying Asterisk code. Why don't I just push Asterisk to address them you ask? Well, I did in fact and nobody was interested so I felt I may as well see what I can do. So my biggest thanks to Asterisk is for showing me what not to do!

More Reading and a pdf version of this posting can be found at:
http://www.sofaswitch.org/docs [sofaswitch.org]

Re:Asterisk has helped by showing us what not to d (2, Interesting)

iamnotaclown (169747) | more than 8 years ago | (#14544926)

Question:

Why C and not C++? I've worked on a lot of large software projects (both C and C++), and although C++ is far from perfect, it is orders of magnitude better for something as dependent on extensions as as what freeswitch is proposing to be.

You're losing out on many useful features (data hiding, polymorphism, inheritance, references, the STL, etc.) and risking the same problems of loosely defined structure by tying freespace to C.

Re:Asterisk has helped by showing us what not to d (1)

mishehu (712452) | more than 8 years ago | (#14546239)

The core is in C, but extension modules can be in C++. I will be working on some of these in C++ in fact.

Of the little code that I have had time to look at, I like anthm's design thus far. If only there were more hours in the day so I could spend more time familiarizing myself with it. Damn school getting in the way of real life!

Re:Asterisk has helped by showing us what not to d (1)

SoulDad570 (907759) | more than 8 years ago | (#14545396)

Well, I know nothing about the internals of Asterisk. But I am experienced with Linux and a couple of other OSS projects. In my opinion, a lot of OSS projects tend to be hair-balls. Evidently, the "Million monkeys in front of a million keyboards" principle is at play.

Re:Asterisk has helped by showing us what not to d (2, Informative)

r5t8i6y3 (574628) | more than 8 years ago | (#14545886)

from: http://www.freeswitch.org/docs/ [freeswitch.org]

"Licensing
Freeswitch is licensed under the terms of the MPL 1.1"

this license is *not* compatible with the gpl. even mozilla.org has stopped using this license:

Mozilla Relicensing FAQ
http://www.mozilla.org/MPL/relicensing-faq.html [mozilla.org]

mozilla is relicensing all of their code under a triple mpl/lgpl/gpl license in order to make their products compatible with the gpl. please consider doing the same with freeswitch.

read this if you need some more convincing as to why to relicense:

Make Your Open Source Software GPL-Compatible. Or Else.
http://www.dwheeler.com/essays/gpl-compatible.html [dwheeler.com]

bottom line, if freeswitch isn't gpl-compatible it's much less likely to be successful.

stuff to fix (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 8 years ago | (#14546443)

The big screw-up is timing. Here I am, doing nothing but IAX2. There is no reason that I should have to load a zaptel driver! ("zaptel" being Digium's line of PCI cards) Asterisk refuses to use the normal Linux real-time clock features (POSIX timers, /dev/rtc, etc.) for timing. The zaptel driver is a crude piece of crap that was rejected by the kernel developers. It is unfit for serious use.

Being Linux-only is really not the problem. You could call it an advantage even, since your code will be much simpler if you can rely on modern Linux 2.6.xx features.

Being kind of tied to x86 is a problem. The code is filthy. At a minimum, proper code should tolerate: big-endian and little-endian, 32-bit and 64-bit, and "char" being either signed or unsigned by default.

But... (1)

davidc (91400) | more than 8 years ago | (#14544881)

...Last time I looked, Marks and Spencer didn't sell Asterix books.

/a shame.

Local talk (2, Informative)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 8 years ago | (#14545151)

FYI - Mark Spencer will be talking at our local Linux group tomorrow. Check www.flux.org for details.

Asterisk really sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14545281)

Honestly it does.

Re:Asterisk really sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14545386)

thanks bkw_ ... Troll troll troll troll troll
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>