Unlike Willie Nelson, we’ve always nurtured our software projects hoping some would grow up to be cowboys. Thanks to Tony Shiffer, Jeremy Jacobs, and a whole host of new contributors (Patrick, Zorka, Nixi, UKstevef, and others), nothing even comes close to the success that CallerID Superfecta has enjoyed. What began as Asterisk® CallerID lookups from three sources with the original CallerID Trifecta four short years ago now provides an astonishing 27 CallerID lookup sources from around the world in the latest CallerID Superfecta 2.2.2. And the real beauty of this new beast is the utility permitting new lookup sources to be added without any further software modifications. That’s the tip of the iceberg.
For those that are new VoIP telephony, a brief history lesson will get you up to speed. When you make a phone call, telephone providers have traditionally passed your CallerID number to the receiving carrier while throwing your CallerID name in the bit bucket. The duty fell on the receiving carrier to look up your name in its directory and associate it with the CallerID number for delivery to the receiving telephone. If this sounds absolutely crazy, you’d be right. Who is in a better position to know the name of the calling party: the company initiating the call or the company receiving the call? Duh! That, of course, ignores the fact that the Bell System in particular was in monopoly preservation mode. Since they initially owned both companies, it really didn’t matter. Well, it does today and government regulators for some reason have completely missed this last vestige of the Good Old Boys telephone network. Does it make any sense that over half the phones in the world are mobile phones and you never know who’s calling? </rant>
When VoIP telephony came along, we obviously had to do something about that. Thus was born the CallerID Trifecta, an Asterisk/FreePBX tool allowing you to associate names with phone numbers using your computer and publicly available resources on the Internet. Version 2.2.1 introduced worldwide CallerID lookups. Unfortunately, there was a big gotcha. Some names in other countries use special non-ASCII characters, and delivery of those characters to some telephones sent the phones into the ozone. Not exactly our problem (HINT!), but folks did still want their phones to work. 🙄 CallerID Superfecta 2.2.2 fixes that by adjusting special characters to pure ASCII until the phone manufacturers catch up with the times.
The CallerID Superfecta Design. As originally implemented, CallerID Superfecta let you choose one or more lookup sources for incoming CallerID numbers. When an inbound call arrived, the sources were queried in a specified order, and the first source that provided a matching CallerID name won. The CNAM search result was returned to Asterisk for display on your phone instruments, and the lookup procedure ended. The problem with the original design was that newer and better lookup providers continued to appear so the hard-coded search order wasn’t necessarily ideal for every user or organization, and the providers kept changing formats to make lookups more challenging. In addition, when you receive a call from another country, it made little sense to look up that number in directories in which it obviously would not appear. CallerID Superfecta 2.2.2 fixes that with its new CallerID Schemes support. This lets you tailor CallerID lookups based upon dial strings just as you would do with FreePBX inbound and outbound routes.
What Else Is New? For openers there are a number of new lookup sources as well as some tweaks to older sources that stamped out a few (more) bugs from our previous, sloppy code. 🙂 You’ll also note there’s a new checkbox to Check for New Lookup Sources Online. This lets you easily import all the new lookup sources as they are added to the repository. The web user interface (UI) for FreePBX also has been reworked. You can prioritize the lookups in the order that best meets your needs, and you can tailor lookup sources to match specific CallerID number sequences. There’s also a debug function built directly into the web user interface. By entering a telephone number in the debug field and pressing the debug button on the form, the results from your selected lookup sources together with the latency of each enabled data source can be displayed on the form for you to review. This debug function greatly enhances troubleshooting while serving as a terrific tool to assist you in fine tuning which providers to actually enable and in what order. Providers who can’t be reached, or who perform too slowly, or who provide lousy results can be turned off completely or moved to the bottom of the search order. Finally, CallerID Superfecta 2.2.2 introduces prefix code hooks. This gives developers the ability to trigger an additional outside process when the Caller ID function is initiated. For example, this feature might be used in a call center to allow the system to automatically perform an ODBC query and bring up a customer record for use by a customer service representative.
Installing CallerID Superfecta 2.2.2 Installation or upgrade should be a snap on any of the FreePBX-based Asterisk aggregations including PBX in a Flash, trixbox, and Elastix. First, using a browser on your desktop PC, download CallerID Superfecta 2.2.2 from the Superfecta repository. Do not decompress the .tgz archive. Second, open FreePBX with your browser and choose Admin, Module Admin, Upload Module. Browse and select the superfecta-2.x.x.tgz module from your desktop and click the Upload button. When the upload completes, click local module administration. Scroll down and click CID Superfecta. Click the Install or Upgrade radio button depending upon whether you have previously installed the Superfecta FreePBX module. Click Process, Confirm, Return to install the new module. Reload the Asterisk dialplan when prompted.
Configuring CallerID Superfecta 2.2.2. There really are only two steps to bring CallerID Superfecta on line. First , we’ll configure the lookup sources and search order of the lookups. And then, for each inbound route on your Asterisk system, we’ll tell FreePBX to use CallerID Superfecta as the CallerID lookup source.
To configure CallerID Superfecta, click Admin, Setup, CID Superfecta in FreePBX. If you’re using PBX in a Flash or trixbox, be sure to insert the UserName maint and your FreePBX maint password in the fields provided under General Options. Then choose the Services you’d like to use for queries by clicking on the corresponding Enabled buttons. For those in the U.S., if you’re unfamiliar with previous versions of the product, we’d recommend you start with Addresses, White Pages, Yellow Pages, Any Who, and Telco Data. If you use the Asterisk Phonebook, AsteriDex, or SugarCRM, enable those options as well. Our rule of thumb in prioritizing the searches is to move your personal directories (Asterisk Phonebook, AsteriDex, and SugarCRM) to the top of the list. For the remaining choices, we recommend you start with the following search order: Addresses, White Pages, Yellow Pages, Any Who, and then Telco Data. Telco Data normally returns only the city and state of the caller, not the caller’s name. Who Called requires registration. Once you get everything squared away, click the Save button. Then key in a few known phone numbers in the Debug section of the form and click the Debug button to make sure everything is working as you expected. Take note of the retrieval times and the results and adjust the search order to meet your needs. Remember, the first match on a name using the search sources from top to bottom wins. The other search sources are never consulted for this number.
For additional configuration options and tips on configuring SugarCRM, see this thread on the PBX in a Flash Forum.
Once you’re satisfied with your lookup sources and the search order, the only remaining step is to designate CID Superfecta as the CallerID lookup source in your inbound routes. For each inbound route on which you want CallerID lookups performed, click Admin, Setup, Inbound Routes and choose the desired route from the column of routes on the right margin. Scroll to the CID Lookup Source section of the form and choose CID Superfecta from the dropdown box. Click Submit, Apply Config Changes, Continue to save your entry.
Adding Support for More Countries. So… here’s the challenge. We need to finish the rest of the world. If your country is not yet supported in the following list of directories, do us all a favor and post a comment with a good Internet source for reverse name directory lookups in your area of the globe. This means you can plug in a phone number and the directory will return the name of the person or business associated with that number. Even if you’re not a programmer, providing this information will assist greatly in making even more sources available to everyone down the road. Here’s the list as it stands today:
Adding Your Number to Directories. We know some of you are wondering how to get your VoIP number or Google Voice number added to the phone directories. It’s easy at least in the United States! Just go to www.listyourself.net and sign up. Enjoy!
Twitter Feeds on Nerd Vittles. If you glance over to the right column just above the Google Maps, you’ll see the current Twitter feed for @NerdUno. But did you know you also can read anyone else’s tweets or list from the same UI? Just scroll to the bottom of the frame and try one of these: voipusers (for the VoIP Users Conference feed) or voipusers/voip-users-conference (for recent tweets from all members of VUC). No need to type @. We’ll handle that keystroke for you. 🙂
Enhanced Google Maps. In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve added yet another Google Map to Nerd Vittles. Now, in addition to showing our location with Google Latitude, we also are displaying your location based upon your IP address. We’ll show you how to add something similar to any LAMP-based Linux system in coming weeks. It’s a powerful technology that has enormous potential. If you’re unfamiliar with Google Maps, click on the Hybrid and Satellite buttons and then check out the scaling and navigation options. Double-click to zoom. Incredible!
whos.amung.us If you’re wondering what your fellow man is reading on Nerd Vittles these days, wonder no more. Visit our new whos.amung.us statistical web site and check out what’s happening. It’s a terrific resource both for us and for you.
Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.
Or Try the New, Free PBX in a Flash Conference Bridge.
Awesome Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a terrific discount for Nerd Vittles readers. You now can get an almost half-price DID 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. When you use our special link to sign up, Nerd Vittles gets a few shekels down the road to support our open source development efforts 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 our 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 and four simultaneous channels for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. NOTE: You can only use the Nerd Vittles sign-up link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! 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. Any balance is refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
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