For those wanting to experiment with an Asterisk® PBX, there is no better offering than Asterisk@Home 2.5. And you sure can't beat the price: it's FREE. The only drawback for Windows PC users has been that you needed a dedicated machine on which to install Asterisk@Home with its Linux operating system. Well, that's no longer a problem. Now you can run Asterisk@Home 2.5 with its built-in CentOS/4 Linux operating system as a virtual task on your Windows XP or Windows 2000 system. And, you get an Apache web server with PHP, a SendMail server, the SugarCRM contact management system, and a MySQL database server all rolled into the package at no additional cost. Did I forget to mention: it's still FREE. Better yet, if you happen to have a 2GB USB flash drive, you can carry your new PBX and softphone with you wherever you go and run it on almost anyone's Windows PC.
The magic to make all of this work is the terrific VMware Player which also happens to be free. Just download and install the player from this link to get started. You'll need a Windows PC with at least a 500 MHz processor with 256MB of RAM and about 2 gigs of disk space for this project. Once installed, the VMware Player runs virtual sessions on your Windows machine that look and feel just like any other Windows app... except, in this case, the application is CentOS/4 Linux running Asterisk@Home 2.5. VMware ranks right up there with Asterisk@Home and sliced bread as things you can't and shouldn't live without.
Update: This tutorial now has been updated to support the latest version of the TrixBox Asterisk server. Click here for details.
The remaining piece you'll need to get started is Asterisk@Home 2.5 packaged as a VMware application. Lucky for all of us, the fine folks at vmwarez.com have done all of that for you. Just download the 560MB ZIP file (587629051 bytes) from here, unzip it, and run VMware Player with the 1.5GB VMDK version of Asterisk@Home. Once it's running and after you read the next paragraph to decipher the new root password, follow along in our Asterisk@Home 2.5 Tutorial beginning at Securing Your Passwords and then moving on to Basic System Configuration to get Asterisk configured and working. The only difference from installing this natively using the AAH 2.5 ISO image is you don't have to endure the knuckle drill of installing Linux and WebMin, updating the OS, and compiling Asterisk. It's like getting a free SPA-9000 with voicemail. Yes, the vmwarez folks have done the heavy lifting for you. Thanks, Jim!
The first time you run Asterisk@Home 2.5 using the VMware Player you'll be notified that the image has been moved from its original location. Duh! Switch to keyboard input on the virtual terminal by clicking inside the VMware window or pressing Ctrl-G. Then simply tell VMware to create a new image application, and your CentOS/4 Linux server will start the boot process. Unless you have the same network card that the vmwarez folks use, you'll be advised that your network hardware has changed. Choose Yes to remove the existing network driver and, when CentOS finds your real network card, choose Yes to use it. Netconfig will load automatically to let you configure the IP address for your network adapter. Hit the space bar to tell CentOS to obtain an IP address from your DHCP server, then tab to OK and save your entry. See our full tutorial for how to protect this IP address on your router/firewall. Once CentOS completes the boot process, Asterisk@Home will be loaded, and you'll get the Linux command prompt. Login in with the username root. You will need to know a different password than the default AAH password to gain root access to the Linux console: it's vmwarez. You can obtain the IP address of your new Asterisk server by typing ifconfig eth0. To gain web access to Asterisk, switch back to Windows by pressing Ctrl-Alt, fire up a web browser and point it to the IP address of your new Asterisk server. Choose Asterisk Management Portal. To gain access, the username is maint and the default password is vmwarez. Is it as fast as running Asterisk@Home natively on a dedicated Linux machine? Damn close on my Windows XP machine, and it sure does make a great sandbox to see if Asterisk@Home is something you can't live without. Now head on over to our Asterisk@Home 2.5 Tutorial and enjoy the free ride!
And the silver lining to this story ... download (258MB) and use VMware's FireFox web browser application (1GB) and never worry about AdWare, malicious ActiveX controls, and web site Trojans and viruses on your Windows PC again. And, yes, it's FREE!
Downloading Tip: For those that use BitTorrent (highly recommended), here's a link to the file. To assist others, put a copy of the .torrent file in the same directory in which you download the zipped image.
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