When we began the PBX in a Flash project last November, one of our primary goals was to provide a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) and Asterisk®-based, open source telephony server which could be easily upgraded without starting all over each time a new release of CentOS, or Asterisk, or FreePBX hit the street. We think we got it about right with our three utility programs: update-scripts, update-fixes, and update-source.

Update-scripts provides a refresh of the current set of utility scripts on your server. Update-fixes patches every known bug in all of the applications on your server. And update-source does just that. It brings the Asterisk source code up to date and optionally does the same thing with the CentOS operating system.

In keeping with our "No Tricks" pledge, all three applications rely upon "pull" technology which means you run the apps whenever you decide that you wish to update your system. And our latest Kennonsoft User Interface provides an on-screen RSS Feed to alert you in the event of a serious security issue, something the trixbox team could/should have put to good use to address a serious root exploit on virtually all trixbox systems just last week.

As you can see from the screenshot to the left, PBX in a Flash 1.3 is just around the corner with support for lots of new hardware including Intel’s new Atom motherboard which looks to be a real winner as a platform for VoIP telephony in the small business space.

What we wanted to do today is lay out our new SUSHI (Software Update Service – Hyperlinked, Interactive) program for some feedback. Previously, we have written about the financial dilemma that plagues most open source projects. As much as we enjoy working for less than 5¢ per hour, there comes a time when a modest pay raise is necessary. And that certainly applies to my two partners, Joe Roper and Tom King, who have tirelessly worked to make PBX in a Flash the very best, most flexible VoIP telephony server out there.

So here’s the deal. PBX in a Flash is and will always be free, current, and a GPL2-compliant open source project. When you download and install PBX in a Flash from the ISO, you typically get a system which is within days of being up to date with the current version of Asterisk 1.4 or 1.6 in either 32-bit or 64-bit flavors. No one else provides that flexibility much less a weekly code refresh. None of that will change!

Beginning later this year, we will introduce SUSHI, a completely optional, commercial Software Update Service incorporating update-scripts, update-fixes, and update-source for those that wish to subscribe. Simply stated, a lot of work and technical expertise goes into these three applications, and we believe it is only fair that people that continue to take advantage of the Software Update Service should contribute to the project and reimburse the development team for the one component that really sets our existing installs apart from all of the other aggregations. It also brings some much needed revenue into the PBX in a Flash project to fund future research and development.

Here’s the plan I’d like to propose to my partners. For those wishing to use the SUSHI applications, there would be an annual license fee of $30 per server. That’s $2.50 a month, about the same as a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Of that $30 annual fee, the PBX in a Flash Development Team would retain half to meet project needs. The balance of the money would be evenly split between the CentOS, Asterisk, and FreePBX projects. Stated another way, $15 would go to the PBX in a Flash Development Team, and we would contribute on your behalf $5 each to the CentOS, Asterisk, and FreePBX projects for every server signed up for the Software Update Service.

We’d love some feedback from the user community before we move forward, but we do plan to implement something later this year. So save your breath if your current mindset is that everything should always be free. When groceries, gas, housing, and automobiles are all free, we’re willing to reconsider. In the meantime, help us make this as equitable as we can possibly make it. Here’s a link to the discussion on the PBX in a Flash Forum. Feel free to register and add your $.02. Or you can post a comment here.


Today’s Best Read: Open Source VoIP: Asterisk or FreeSwitch by David Greenfield


 

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This article has 10 comments

  1. I just implemented PBX in a Flash at an international K-12 school here in Vienna, Austria, and we would certainly be willing to pay such a modest amount for professional update service.

  2. Interesting concept that you have come up with. It keeps the software open source but provides a service to keep it current that people subscribe to if they want to. Considering the security implications of someone breaking into a system tied onto the internet, and the cost implications of that happening, and the need to find and fix bugs that most people do not take the time to do, I think you have a good solution.
    That you support your own efforts AND support those other OSS efforts that you rely upon is great. The only thing you may find is that there are other groups that are creating utilities or software that you use as part of PBX-in-a-Flash who will say "where is my share?" Any time money comes out, everyone wants their piece of the action.
    Do you have a few dollars extra or part of the $30.00 that is set aside for those other modules that make up PBXIAF? What happens when you add in a new module? What happens if you REMOVE a module? What happens if one of you get in a fight over someone’s inclusion of a module and swap one module out for someone else’s module that does nearly the same thing but differently?
    I’m not knocking your SUSHI system, just giving you feedback on what I think is what would raise a ruckus from those who contrbute code who might feel slighted from not getting any "love" (ie. money) back for their contributions and go off in a huff. Overall I like the concept and for a phone system, $30.00 per server is more than fair.
    How will a "development" server or a backup server be handled? So if I have a single server in use plus a backup server to install if the first blows up, is that $30 or $60? What if I have a single server, a backup server and a developmental/play/testing server? Is that $90?
    Who is going to handle the money? Cynical people will point out any flaws and possible "corruption" of the money handling process.
    Notification of termination of service, length of time to allow for payment, reinstatement of service for those cut off, etc. Look at rental software (equipment, mailbox, etc) as one model for ideas on what might be needed to look at on this. Take what you come up with and add it into the mix of your solution.
    More detail on these and other questions/issues that others will raise will get it all sorted out, eventually. Hope my comments help and good luck with it. I thiknk it is fair and you have been way generous with your time and efforts in the time I’ve been reading things here on Nervvittles.
    Take care.

    [WM: You’ve raised a number of interesting points. First, we’re not contributing to other projects as a payment for code. We’re trying to do our small part to fund future development of projects we care about. And the list and contribution amounts may change from time to time, and we’re not going to make any ironclad promises to always do this or that. In short, it will be a voluntary contribution from the PBX in a Flash project, *NOT* an entitlement for recipients. As you appreciate, we obviously can’t please everyone with the contributions, but we’re the only ones proposing to do much of anything so something is certainly better than nothing. And we’ll try very hard not to act like the Soup Nazi.

    As for SUSHI itself, our service will come with the same fine warranty that you get from Microsoft and everyone else, i.e. none. But we will do our best to keep people’s systems current and safe. The SUSHI payment is a contribution toward labor costs. It funds the SUSHI project and our future development efforts by making it less necessary to do outside work which takes time away from the PBX in a Flash project. It’s most definitely *NOT* insurance. It’s assistance and nothing more. As for pricing, none of that has been decided, but my guess would be that, if you have 3 servers that you want to enroll in the SUSHI program, that’s 3 x $30. Of course you don’t have to enroll all three servers in the SUSHI program unless you want to. Thanks for your comments.]

  3. I’m not sure I quite understand this. So, you are saying that PBX in a Flash will still retain use of the update-scripts, update-fixes and update-source utilities? And you will have a voluntary pay service which provides those exact same utilities?

    I don’t quite get it. Asking for donations is one thing but asking for people to pay for something they are already getting is kind of goofy and it makes me think there is something else going on which isn’t being mentioned.

    So, what am I missing? How does the pay service differ from using a non-pay PBX in a Flash system?

    [WM: Update-fixes and update-source would become the new SUSHI service and would no longer be available without a subscription under this proposal. All users would retain the ability to download and install anything else they desire at any time. And the ISO and payload install will continue to be current and free to download as often as you like. Hope that clarifies things. If not, visit this thread.]

  4. Ward;

    A lot of very good projects died in the past and still die because of lack of funds. We don’t want to happen here.

    I think this is a good idea. At least we will know that the project will continue to move forward.

    I am on it.

    Best regards.

  5. I like the idea. My customers will like this idea. I’ll be tracking this closely as the project moves forward.

    William…

  6. I dont mind that you are going to charge some money, cheers to you and I hope that you are able to keep the project funded. I just want to make sure I understand this though, so in a sense y’all are just going to be providing us with crippleware for free and to keep from being a security risk we have to pay to play?

    [WM: You haven’t quite got it, Michael. Nothing in our distribution is crippleware. Everything works out of the box, and the ISO distribution is ALWAYS current with the latest versions of everything we can find. If you’ve already installed an ISO of PBX in a Flash and want to keep it current for years to come using our Software Update Service rather than search for and install all of the updates yourself, then you can sign up for SUSHI. Or, if you prefer, you can download a new, current ISO any time you like at no cost and have the latest and greatest build. ]

  7. Ward, I am 100% for your plan. Software developers need to eat, too!

  8. Considering just how much money we’ve saved with PiaF, I’d wholeheartedly subscribe to keep the project going.

    Great work!

  9. I am definitely ready for some of that SUSHI love. Mmmmm. Gotta love the SUSHI! &B^)

  10. The charge is fine and warranted (could even be more!) and I also believe that PBXIAF people put in their time…. however who really provides more completed work to the table? PBXIAF or Asterisk and FreePBX? it is nice that you are throwing them a bone when they are not getting any, but that is all it seems all that they are being given. If Asterisk or FreePBX did not provide software, where would this project be?

    [WM: When you play in the open source game, you understand the deal going in. At least we’re providing some compensation which is more than you can say for some. 🙄 ]