Programmer’s Paradise: Introducing the VoIP Phone of the Year, Yealink’s T46G

If you’ve been missing the Aastra programming platform these last couple years while America’s patent trolls continued to destroy the software development community in the United States, then you’ll be excited to learn that there’s a new kid on the block with a revolutionary phone. One can’t help wondering what the heck we are doing to ourselves. First, we destroy the programming community with tax breaks for off-shore developers, and then we grant bogus software patents for “inventions” that have been showing in SciFi movies for at least 30 years. Really? </end of rant>

Yealink’s new T46G steps into the VoIP phone spotlight where Aastra left off with a magnificent color screen and every VoIP phone feature you can dream up: HD voice, dual port gigabit Ethernet, POE, Bluetooth headset support, automatic provisioning via FTP/TFTP/HTTP/HTTPS, OpenVPN, STUN, 1,000 user local phone book with photos plus LDAP support, RTP multicast streaming, full-duplex speakerphone with AEC, 27 function keys plus four softkeys and cursor keys not to mention (let the alphabet soup begin) VAD, CNG, AEC, PLC, AJB, AGC, SMS, BLF, SNMP, SRTP, QoS, and on and on. But the most exciting features have got to be complete Asterisk® function support including call hold, DND, MWI, attended and unattended call transfers, voicemail, intercom, paging, and barge plus action URLs and Yealink’s XML web development platform. All of it is integrated into this phone. Virtually anything you could build with PHP and XML on the Aastra phones can now be created on the Yealink platform. It’s simple, non-proprietary, and just works! See the Nerd Vittles sidebar for a terrific deal on these phones if you hurry.

Legal Disclaimer. Our mission today is to introduce you to XML programming on the T46G. This is proof-of-concept code owned by Ward Mundy & Associates, LLC. It is not licensed for use at all without your first consulting a patent attorney and getting a green light to proceed. Then, and only then, you may consider it GPL2 code. In short, the delivered code is to teach programming design basics NOT to step on anybody’s claimed patents. Displaying an RSS news or weather feed or picture on a phone does not qualify as rocket science, but we can’t vouch for whether somebody, somewhere claims to have “invented” it. These sorts of features have been around since at least 1990 with AT&T’s Partner Plus phone system and IBM’s Simon Communicator. That places the features well outside the 20-year patent umbrella. But this is not legal advice, and consider yourself warned. Some of the examples rely upon RSS, XML, or HTML links from other organizations. Specifically, the News and Weather feeds use Yahoo! RSS feeds, the Sports feed uses ESPN’s RSS feed, the PIAF RSS Feed uses the PBX in a Flash security alert system, and the Photo of the Day uses Google+ public links to Lilliphoto’s incredible photography. Check with your attorney and explain your intended use before using any of these apps. Never remove credits from published material of others!

XML 101. XML stands for Extensible Markup Language and is a language used for describing data. It doesn’t really care what the data happens to be. In our case, we want to tell the T46G phone how to do something so we have to follow the XML design rules that the phone understands. These are all covered in Yealink’s XML Browser Developer’s Guide. So Step #1 is to actually write an XML program. Once you’ve written your XML program, then you need to host it on a web server. This could be your PBX in a Flash server which includes an Apache web server, or it could be a hosted web server on the Internet. The advantages to using a web server colocated on a private subnet where your phones reside are that (1) it’s easy to protect your stuff from the NSA and other prying eyes and (2) it’s easy to obtain data directly from your Asterisk server without much risk of compromising the results to strangers. Step #3 is to configure a button on your phone to run the XML application that you’ve deployed on your web server.

Hello World. All programming tutorials begin with a “Hello World” example that shows you how to display something simple on a monitor. On some platforms, capitalization doesn’t matter. On Yealink phones, it does so pay particular attention to the actual syntax required, or your program won’t work. Here’s how you write an XML program called hw.xml to display “Hello World” on your phone when you push a button to run the hw.xml program:

<TextMenu>
<Title>Hello World</Title>
<MenuItem>
<Prompt>Hello World</Prompt>
</MenuItem>
</TextMenu>

If you want to try this on your own server, log into your PBX in a Flash server as root, switch to the /var/www/html directory, create a yealink folder, switch to that folder, and use an editor to create the hw.xml program shown above:
cd /var/www/html
mkdir yealink
cd yealink
nano -w hw.xml

Once you’ve created the text, press Ctrl-X, Y, then Enter to save the file.

Step #3 is to assign the web application to a button on your phone. We’ll use the phone’s web GUI to do that. First, you’ll need the IP address of your phone. Press the OK button from the main screen to obtain it.

Using a web browser, go to the IP address from the previous step. Login to your phone using admin:admin as the username and password (unless you’ve changed it). Click on the DSSKey tab and then click Programmable Key in the left sidebar. Let’s use the Down cursor key to store our program for the time being. You’ll see it in the Key list. Click on the pull-down menu beside the Down key and choose XML Browser for the Type. In the blank field under the Value column, type: http://192.168.0.50/yealink/hw.xml. Substitute the private IP address of your PIAF server for 192.168.0.50. When you’re finished, click the Confirm button at the bottom of the page.

Switch to your phone and press the Down cursor key from the main screen, and Voila! Hello World.

Congratulations. You’re now a G-E-N-U-I-N-E XML Programmer!

PHP Basics. What you can’t do with XML programming is retrieve data from other sources. In other words, XML code is static data. For our examples today, however, we want to retrieve data from other sources and display it on our phone. We need another programming language to do that. PHP happens to be simple, and it’s included on all PBX in a Flash servers so let’s use it. As with XML, you need the programming guide to learn what the commands are. For today, all you need to know is that PHP programs have file names ending in .php and always begin with <?php and always end with ?>. Everything in between has to be a PHP command or function with each line ending with a semicolon. While your Yealink phone’s XML Browser can run PHP programs, it can only understand output that conforms to its XML rules. So the trick is to have your PHP program print out results that are formatted to look like the XML “Hello World” example above. Aside from that, a PHP program can do anything it wants under the covers.

Our “Hello World” hw.php example in PHP to display on the Yealink phone would look like this:

<?php
echo "<TextMenu>\n";
echo "<Title>Hello World</Title>\n";
echo "<MenuItem>\n";
echo "<Prompt>Hello World</Prompt>\n";
echo "</MenuItem>\n";
echo "</TextMenu>\n";
?>

Congratulations. You’re now a G-E-N-U-I-N-E PHP Programmer, too. Two diplomas in one day. WOW!

Yealink Main Menu. Shown above is the main screen which displays when you boot your phone. We’ll walk you through all the steps to get it configured as shown. You will note there are 10 function keys displayed as well as 4 Softkeys. Applications and features that you wish to use can be assigned to one of the 10 function keys, any of the four softkeys, or the cursor keys. Where you place apps that you build matters! Keep in mind that the feature set of the Softkeys below the display as well as the cursor keys will change whenever you place a call or make a menu selection. So it’s probably not a smart idea to place apps that you need during a call on a softkey, or they’ll disappear. You’re not limited to 10 function keys. There actually are 27 available. When you add more than 10, the 10th function key will allow you to scroll through two more screens full of functions. So you actually get 27 functions keys that can be assigned. If you only have 10, then all 10 are shown on the main screen as shown above.

The easiest way to configure Yealink’s Main Menu is through the phone’s web GUI described previously. You’ll find all the options under the DSSKey tab. A word about logos: JPEG wallpaper can be as large as 480×272 pixels; however, you probably don’t want a full screen image because the 10 function key tabs will cover up about 120 pixels on the left and right sides of the image. So leave those two areas as white on your 480×272 image, and you’ll end up with something that looks like the PIAF image above. You can download the PIAF image here. You upload and install it on the Settings tab in the phone GUI.

Yealink XML Basics. The XML platform on the Yealink phone supports several types of display screens, and we’ve tried to provide examples of the more important ones in our News, Weather, Photo of the Day, and Asterisk Phonebook applications. The TextMenu object is just what it says: a list of menu options from which you can make a selection. If you highlight a particular option and press the OK button or some other designated function key, the XML program stored with that menu option is run. If you highlight an option and press a Dial button or the Speakerphone button, a phone number stored with that option is dialed. The InputScreen object is a data entry screen. It lets the user key in a number or text using the numeric keypad in much the same way that you do it on any cellphone. It then passes the results to a PHP program indicating the variable name and its contents. This is what we use in the Weather by ZIP Code application to determine which weather forecast to display. The Directory object is self-explanatory as well. It gives a list of names and numbers and dials the number of the entry chosen by the user. The ImageScreen object displays a JPEG photo with automatic resizing. We built the Photo of the Day app to show you how to do it.

Just a few basics and you then can download the file, accept the license agreement, and take a look at the code. First, we’ve discovered a minor bug in the latest Yealink T46G firmware. The menus and queries hang about 4 out of every 5 attempts unless you configure your phone with a static IP address and set the DNS server addresses manually. We suspect this is a timing issue, but we wanted to alert you to avoid needless frustration in playing with this. Once you’ve taken care of this and installed the software, the initial display by pressing the #10 function key (XML Apps in the screenshot above) will bring up the Applications Menu shown above.

If you have also installed Incredible PBX on your PIAF server, then there are dial options in addition to display options with several of the applications. To initiate a display option, simply highlight a menu selection and press either OK or the Select button. To initiate an actual call, highlight a menu selection and press the Speakerphone button. Phonebook (411), News (951), and Weather by ZIP (947) dial the Incredible PBX apps shown in parentheses. Be advised that the National Weather Service recently revised their Weather by ZIP service. If you need the patch to return your Incredible PBX system to the living, you’ll find it on the PIAF Forum. Incredible PBX 11 and Incredible Pi 3.11 systems were automatically patched for you.

The Asterisk Phonebook option was specifically designed to support those users who have imported their Google Contacts into the Asterisk Phonebook. If you have not yet done this, visit the PIAF Forum to get the script. If you are using a dedicated domain for your Google Apps, there is also a patch to support domains other than gmail.com. When you choose this option, you’ll be prompted to enter a name. First, press the 2aB SoftKey twice to change the keyboard to abc format. Then it works for the alphabet just like your cellphone. Next, enter four or more characters of a first or last name or organization and press Search or OK button. The phonebook app then will find all matching entries in your Asterisk Phonebook. Both the phone number and name entry will be displayed. Highlight the desired choice and press the Speakerphone button to place the call. You will note that only six matches are displayed on the screen even though there is room for more. This doesn’t mean you’ve seen all matches! Just scroll down the list to see the next six entries. If you would prefer to simply say the name of someone in your AsteriDex phonebook and you’ve installed Incredible PBX, then highlight the Phonebook option on the Applications Menu and press the Speakerphone button. Say the name desired when prompted.

The News Headlines option retrieves the Yahoo! RSS News Feed. To display the information on your phone, highlight the News option and press Select or OK button. If you’d prefer to listen to the News headlines and you’ve installed Incredible PBX, then press the Speakerphone button.

The Weather by ZIP Code app retrieves the latest weather information from Yahoo! (text) or the National Weather Service (voice). Simply key in the 5-digit zip code and press Submit or OK to display the current conditions and forecast from Yahoo! If you press the Speakerphone button, you get to listen to the latest update from the National Weather Service.

The Sports Headlines app retrieves the latest sports news from ESPN’s RSS Feed and the Associated Press. Just highlight the option and press Select or OK.

The PBX in a Flash Security Alerts app retrieves the PIAF RSS Feed and displays the latest security bulletins together with links to forum posts documenting the problem and the fix.

The Photo of the Day app displays a collection of photographs from renowned photographer, Midori Chan. It provides an excellent demonstration of the image resolution quality of the Yealink T46G’s screen. In addition, it shows off the auto-sizing capability of the phone. A more practical application might be a collection of PowerPoint slides which could be displayed during a conference call on the phone. The possibilities are endless!

If you scroll up or down the PIAF Apps Menu, you’ll find the bonus SMS Messaging with Google Voice application. It’s also available by pressing SoftKey3 from the results screen within the Asterisk Phonebook app. There are two prerequisites to use this app. First, on your PIAF2 server, you’ll need to install SMS Dictator 2 as well as the SMS Message Blaster app included in that tutorial. These applications both are preinstalled in all versions of Incredible PBX, including the Raspberry Pi edition. Next you’ll need to create gvoice.php in /var/www/html/yealink and enter the username and password credentials for one of your Google Voice accounts. The file should look like this:

<?php
$GVACCT="username@gmail.com";
$GVPASS="yourpassword";
?>

You can take it for a spin by selecting the application from your T46G and plugging in a 10-digit cellphone number plus a brief text message. Click the Submit button to send the messages. Note that replies will NOT be delivered to your phone. Instead, they will go to whatever email forwarding address you used when you set up your Google Voice account. In order to take maximum advantage of the SoftKeys for data entry, you’ll need to use the X button to exit from the SMS application. This button can also be used to exit from any screen on the T46G.

Installing the XML Apps. For those with PBX in a Flash, the installation procedure is simple because Apache and PHP environment with CentOS 6 is already in place. Log into your server as root and issue the following commands to get everything in place:

cd /
wget http://pbxinaflash.com/PIAF4yealink.tar.gz
tar zxvf PIAF4yealink.tar.gz
rm PIAF4yealink.tar.gz

Configuring the Yealink T46G. Using a browser, open the phone GUI by pointing to the IP address of your phone. Press the OK button if you’ve forgotten your phone’s IP address. Login with admin:admin. Click the DSSKey tab and select Line Key 10-18 in the left sidebar. For Line Key10, choose XML Browser from the Type pulldown. Beside it in the Value column, enter the following using your server’s IP address: http://192.168.0.222/yealink/piaf.php. In the Label column, type: XML Apps. Now click the Confirm button to save your entries. After complying with the license agreement in /var/www/html/yealink/COPYING, you can take the apps for a spin by pressing Function Key 10 on your Yealink T46G. You can download a number of additional T46G apps from the T46G thread on the PIAF Forum.

Conclusions. With a phone as new as the T46G, we were more than a little skeptical of the XML programming platform that Yealink was providing. We were pleasantly surprised. Except for one typo in the documentation, the XML code was flawless and performed exactly as documented in Yealink’s excellent documentation. These six sample apps barely scratch the surface of what is possible using these new phones. We’ll look forward to seeing what others can produce in coming months. It’s great to have a terrific new VoIP phone to support future open source development. And the stunning color display is simply icing on the cake. Enjoy!


Deals of the Week. There are a couple of amazing deals still on the street, but you’d better hurry. First, for new customers, Sangoma is offering a board of your choice from a very impressive list at 75% off. For details, see this thread on the PIAF Forum. Second, a new company called Copy.com is offering 20GB of free cloud storage with no restrictions on file size uploads (which are all too common with other free offers). Copy.com has free sync apps for Windows, Macs, and Linux systems. To take advantage of the offer, just click on our referral link here. We get 5GB of extra storage, too, which will help avoid another PIAF Forum disaster.

Originally published: Monday, July 15, 2013




Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.


 

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2 Responses to “Programmer’s Paradise: Introducing the VoIP Phone of the Year, Yealink’s T46G”

  1. Rob Fantini says:

    very cool, thank you.

    also this works using end point manager from schmooze.

  2. Sean Mathews says:

    Could you test with your T46G the ParkvCall DSSKey button. I set one of my buttons to be a Park Call. In the value field I entered 70. This lets me park calls perfectly but on the color display I noticed the button has a red error indicator on it. I believe this is because 70 does not have any hint from my piaf green system. I wanted to have a button indicate if someone was parked and at the same time park them but so far no love :(.

    Any suggestions on how I can do this?

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