A Baker’s Dozen Asterisk Nuggets from the Forums

Whether you’re new to the Open Source VoIP Community or an old-timer, we wonder how many folks actually miss many of the terrific Asterisk® applications that are hidden in message threads on the various Asterisk forums around the globe. In honor of St. Patty’s Day, today we want to take a stroll through the PBX in a Flash forum just to demonstrate what you may be missing by not visiting the forums or subscribing to some of the better syndication feeds.

Skype Gateway to Asterisk. If you read our recent column on integrating a Skype gateway into your Asterisk server, good for you. But, if you missed the forum dialog which followed release of the article, you missed all sorts of enhancements and system integration tips which made the Skype gateway a much better fit on many systems.

CallerID Superfecta. One of the most perplexing issues facing those that implement VoIP telephony solutions is wrestling with CallerID issues which flow from the ongoing Baby Bell phonebook monopoly. Many of you may have tried our CallerID Superfecta application which provides CallerID lookups for FreePBX-based systems using AsteriDex, Google Phonebook, AnyWho, and WhitePages. But, if you’d explored the forum additions to CallerID Superfecta, you would have uncovered an incredibly slick FreePBX installer as well as support for WhoCalled.us and Telcodata plus SugarCRM as well as numerous fixes for syntax changes on the various lookup sources.

Faxing with Asterisk. Other than CalleriD, there’s probably no issue that generates more consternation in the Asterisk community than fax integration. We reintroduced nvfax for Asterisk 1.4 recently. But, if you’d been following the forums, you’d also know that HylaFax and AvantFax now can be easily integrated into PBX in a Flash thanks to the work of Joe Roper and Tony Shiffer.

A2Billing for Asterisk. Another application that’s been difficult to get working with Asterisk has been A2Billing, a sophisticated calling card and PBX billing system. There really never has been a clear, concise cookbook for getting the software installed and properly configured. Once again, thanks to Joe and Tony, this forum thread provides a step-by-step tutorial for getting every facet of A2Billing installed and properly configured.

Asterisk Stickies. This is another promising Asterisk web application for PBX in a Flash that pops up stickies when incoming calls are received. You then can add the contact to your phonebook and also generate the XML code to update the phone directory on Grandstream and Cisco phone sets. It also supports click-to-dial from the web interface. You can keep up with the progress of this developing application in this very active message thread.

Text-to-Speech FreePBX Module. Just today a new TTS module for FreePBX was introduced which lets you generate TTS announcements for use with any FreePBX-based Asterisk system.

Overhead Paging with Asterisk 1.4. Most workplaces need some sort of overhead paging system. With the tips in this thread and any Asterisk 1.4 server, it’s incredibly easy to implement.

Streaming Music on Hold. We introduced streaming audio for Asterisk over three years ago in the Asterisk 1.2 days. A new message thread has updated that technology to support Internet radio using any Asterisk 1.4 server.

Email Alerts on Trunk Failures. For those that rely upon Asterisk systems to do real work, it’s essential to know when access to your carrier has failed so that you can make adjustments to your outbound and inbound trunks. This thread provides a simple tutorial and script to get you started.

Outbound Emails with Asterisk and SendMail. Another one of our Top 5 most perplexing problems with Asterisk is getting an outbound email capability with SendMail working reliably. Part of this is the configuration hassles with SendMail. But service providers such as Comcast have made matters worse by blocking outbound access to port 25 on most non-business accounts. Here’s a message thread that will walk you through configuring SendMail to use Gmail as your outbound SMTP relay host, and you’ll never have an email problem again on your Asterisk server.

Voicemail Notification. Unified messaging may be everyone’s dream but the reality is that it would be nice to be called on your cellphone when a new voicemail arrived at your office. The Voicemail Notification System does just that. And this thread integrates the original design into a FreePBX module.

Configuration Editor for FreePBX. FreePBX stores much of its magic in Asterisk config files. At least in PBX in a Flash, we hide some of these files to protect the integrity of your system. In addition, changes made to some of these files will get overwritten the next time FreePBX is started since it populates a lot of the information in these config files from data stored in MySQL tables. For those that want to learn more about the FreePBX, there now is a configuration file editor which will let you view and edit any FreePBX config file on your system. You’ll find a complete tutorial in the forums.

Hotel-Style Wakeup Calls. A few weeks ago we covered Tony Shiffer’s new add-on module for FreePBX that provides hotel-style wakeup calls for Asterisk systems. This code actually had been available in the forum for several months and is yet another reason to frequently check the new message threads.

Mac OS X Scripting Package. Since publication, a new link to a Treasure Trove of Goodies for Mac OS X has been posted including a link to the new Mac OS X Scripting Package and Asterisk binaries for Mac OS X from Sven Slezak at Mezzo.

Syndication Syntax. Many forums provide a syndication feed link, but many do not. For vBulletin-based forums, the basic syntax for an RSS feed looks like this:

http://fqdn.com/forum/external.php

You can refine the type of feed you want by specifying the type: RSS, RSS2, ATOM, or XML. For example, to pull down a feed from the PBX in a Flash forum, here’s the syntax for the various formats that are supported:

http://pbxinaflash.com/forum/external.php?type=RSS

http://pbxinaflash.com/forum/external.php?type=RSS2

http://pbxinaflash.com/forum/external.php?type=ATOM

http://pbxinaflash.com/forum/external.php?type=XML

You can further refine the feed by narrowing it down to a particular forum of interest. For example, to retrieve the latest threads from the PBX in a Flash Open Discussion forum, the syntax looks like this:

http://pbxinaflash.com/forum/external.php?type=RSS2&forumids=2

Finally, here’s the list of forum ID numbers for the PBX in a Flash forum:

2 – Open Discussion
3 – Help
4 – Endpoints
5 – Trunks
6 – Providers
7 – Wish List
9 – Bug Reporting & Fixes
10 – Add-On Install Instructions

Something We Missed? There are hundreds of additional Asterisk apps hiding in the woodwork. Please share your discoveries by posting a comment and link below. Enjoy!


Want a Bootable PBX in a Flash Drive? Our Atomic Flash bootable USB flash installer for PBX in a Flash has been quite the hit. Special thanks to all of our generous contributors! Atomic Flash provides all of the goodies in the VPN in a Flash system featured last month on Nerd Vittles. You can build a complete turnkey system using almost any current generation PC with a SATA drive and this USB flash installer in less than 15 minutes!

If you’d like to put your name in the hat for a chance to win a free one delivered to your door, just post a comment with your best PBX in a Flash story.1

Be sure to include your real email address which will not be posted. The winner will be chosen by drawing an email address out of a hat (the old fashioned way!) from all of the comments posted over the next several weeks.

And it still isn’t too late to make a contribution of $50 or more to the PBX in a Flash project and get a free Atomic Flash installer delivered to your door as our special thank you gift. See this Nerd Vittles article for details.


New Fonica Special. If you want to communicate with the rest of the telephones in the world, then you’ll need a way to route outbound calls (terminations) to their destination. For outbound calling, we recommend you establish accounts with several providers. We’ve included two of the very best! These include Joe Roper’s new service for PBX in a Flash as well as our old favorite, Vitelity. To get started with the Fonica service, just visit the web site and register. You can choose penny a minute service in the U.S. Or premium service is available for a bit more. Try both. You’ve got nothing to lose! In addition, Fonica offers some of the best international calling rates in the world. And Joe Roper has almost a decade of experience configuring and managing these services. So we have little doubt that you’ll love the service AND the support. To sign up in the USA and be charged in U.S. Dollars, sign up here. To sign up for the European Service and be charged in Euros, sign up here. See the Fonica image which tells you everything you need to know about this terrific new offering. In addition to being first rate service, Fonica is one of the least expensive and most reliable providers on the planet.
 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID and 60 free minutes from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month and you get a free hour of outbound calling to test out their call quality. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! After the free hour of outbound calling, Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


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3 Responses to “A Baker’s Dozen Asterisk Nuggets from the Forums”

  1. kizoni says:

    Why not add:
    1. a routine that would record outgoing calls running through DISA
    2. extension specific outbound trunks.
    3. some sort of Outlook CallerID lookup
    4. a routine that would record a warning to caller that a call is recorded…whether call is placed or received

  2. Jordan says:

    I’ve been following NerdVittles for about 2 years now and I love all of the development that’s gone into the great PBX In A Flash. Today a coworker introduced me to Google Voice which was formerly GrandCentral. As good as PIAF is at user friendliness, I think Google Voice has the perfect interface for managing your phones with one phone number. I think it’d be awesome to be able to use Asterisk as a Google Voice replacement or supplement with a similar interface. I think that would lift Asterisk out of the nerd/geek/hobbyist status that most people see it in and bring it to more and more businesses (and maybe even homes!) that maybe don’t have a dedicated IT staff or just want a simple ip-PBX that can perform functions similar to Google Voice and with the same ease-of-use, but on a broader scale. Like I said above, I love PIAF and think that if Digium would stop deprecating so many commands, Asterisk could be a great platform for most business needs.

    [WM: I agree! We're already working on one of several Google Voice articles. Stay tuned!]

  3. jpe says:

    Kizoni – look into custom-contexts for setting up extension specific trunks

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