Posts tagged: IncrediblePBX

60 Seconds to Real Independence: Incredible PBX GUI Comes to VirtualBox

As we continue the march toward a truly free, RealGPL, open source VoIP platform for Asterisk®, we couldn’t think of a better time of the year for this announcement. Today we’re pleased to introduce our first virtual machine platform with an Incredible PBX™ GUI image that you can install in less than 60 seconds on virtually any desktop computer in the world. When the install is finished you’ll have the latest Asterisk 11 running atop Scientific Linux™ 6.6 with version 12 of the new Incredible PBX GUI. You’ll also have the very first Asterisk aggregation with native support for OAUTH authentication and secure communications using Google Voice. And it’s all FREE. No Gotchas!

Think of Incredible PBX as the glue stick that assembles all the necessary VoIP components into a state of the art Linux platform and holds them together seamlessly. As with all Incredible PBX builds, you also get the full complement of goodies including dozens of text-to-speech apps, voice dialing, SMS messaging, free fax support, reminders and wakeup calls, and SECURITY! The difference with the VirtualBox® platform is you get a turnkey install of everything on any desktop computer in less than one minute! That includes Windows PCs, Macs, Linux desktops, and even Solaris machines.

Is VirtualBox merely a sandbox for experimentation? Absolutely not. With any of the beefier desktop computers today, running Incredible PBX as a 24/7 VirtualBox image is every bit as feature rich with stellar performance, and it’s equivalent to using dedicated hardware. And there are some added advantages. Obviously, deploying a turnkey VoIP platform in under a minute is a major plus. But, unlike using a dedicated Linux platform, you also get the ability to take snapshots of your system and do full backups in minutes instead of the hours required to bring down dedicated hardware, load a different backup application using a different operating system, perform a backup, and then reboot your VoIP server. And your backups won’t just run on the one server on which the backup was performed. You can restore the backup to any other computer that can run VirtualBox. For any of you that came from a network management background, you know what a big deal that really is. And there’s one more bonus. With Incredible Backup and Restore, you can move to dedicated hardware running the same operating system with Asterisk 11 and the same version of the Incredible PBX GUI in minutes.

Need to deploy VoIP servers at dozens of sites around the globe? Not a problem with VirtualBox. Just send a preconfigured VirtualBox image to each site and install VirtualBox on a local desktop computer. In 60 seconds, you’ll have a functional VoIP server including interconnectivity to all of your other VoIP servers with a virtual private network already in place to provide secure VoIP connectivity between all of your sites.

Are there security compromises using the VirtualBox platform? Not at all. Incredible PBX comes preconfigured with the Linux IPtables firewall that is locked down to a whitelist of local area networks, preferred providers, and your own IP addresses. You can expand the whitelist using the add-ip and add-fqdn scripts or use PortKnocker and Travelin’ Man 4 tools to let remote users gain instant access.

So What’s All the GPL Fuss About? It’s about FREEDOM, the freedom to use or not use the GPL modules you wish to use without enduring false alerts that your system has been compromised and without being blocked from removing components that produce revenue for Sangoma®… as the GPL requires. It’s about FREEDOM to redistribute or resell the product AS IS… as the GPL requires. It’s about FREEDOM to examine and modify ALL of the source code using ALL of the tools and components necessary, not just ones Sangoma has chosen to provide… as the GPL requires. It’s about FREEDOM to add GUI components to your server with No Gotchas whether or not the individual modules were produced by Sangoma… as the GPL requires.


If you support the GPL and use open source projects, then you owe it to yourself and to the GPL community to get up to speed and get involved! Can’t we all just get along? You bet… when everyone does what they’ve agreed to do. Spend an hour or two of your Independence Day reading some of the Nerd Vittles commentary on FreePBX® and the GPL.

BUY 3 STAMPS and let Sangoma and Digium hear from you. Don’t be shy. It’s about your FREEDOM.

William J. Wignall, President and CEO
Sangoma Technologies
100 Renfrew Drive, Suite 100
Markham ON L3R 9R6 CANADA

Danny Windham, CEO
Digium, Inc.
445 Jan Davis Drive Northwest
Huntsville, AL 35806 USA

Mark Spencer, Founder and CTO
Digium, Inc.
445 Jan Davis Drive Northwest
Huntsville, AL 35806 USA

Getting Started. For today, we’ll provide a refresher course on loading VirtualBox and the Incredible PBX virtual image. Then we want to spend a little time explaining the secret sauce that goes into building these images so that you can do it yourself either to migrate to a different network or to deploy at multiple sites. It’s called open source for a reason! When we’re finished, you’ll know everything we’ve learned about deploying VirtualBox machines and, unlike Grandma and some GUI platforms, we won’t leave an important ingredient out of the recipe just to be sure you never forget how good Grandma’s cookies really were. So let’s get started.

Installing Oracle VM VirtualBox

Oracle’s virtual machine platform inherited from Sun is amazing. It’s not only free, but it’s pure GPL2 code. VirtualBox gives you a virtual machine platform that runs on top of any desktop operating system. In terms of limitations, we haven’t found any. We even tested this on an Atom-based Windows 7 machine with 2GB of RAM, and it worked without a hiccup. So step #1 today is to download one or more of the VirtualBox installers from VirtualBox.org or Oracle.com. Our recommendation is to put all of the 100MB installers on a 4GB thumb drive.1 Then you’ll have everything in one place whenever and wherever you happen to need it. Once you’ve downloaded the software, simply install it onto your favorite desktop machine. Accept all of the default settings, and you’ll be good to go. For more details, here’s a link to the Oracle VM VirtualBox User Manual.

Downloading the Incredible PBX GUI Virtual Machine

A word of warning on the front end. Today’s Incredible PBX image featuring Asterisk 11 for VirtualBox is huge! The Scientific Linux 6.6 image with version 12 of Incredible PBX GUI is nearly 3GB. Be patient. You only have to download it once. Just click on the 11-12.3 .OVA image in this SourceForge link and start the download to your desktop. Then go have a nice lunch.

Importing & Configuring Incredible PBX Virtual Machines in VirtualBox

You only perform the import step one time. Once imported into VirtualBox, Incredible PBX is ready to use. There’s no further installation required, just like an OpenVZ template… only better. Double-click on the .ova file you downloaded to begin the procedure and load it into VirtualBox. When prompted, be sure to check the Reinitialize the Mac address of all network cards box and then click the Import button. Once the import is finished, you’ll see a new Incredible PBX virtual machine in your VM List on the VirtualBox Manager Window. We need to make a couple of one-time adjustments to the Incredible PBX VM configuration to account for differences in sound and network cards on different host machines.

Click on the Incredible PBX Virtual Machine in the VM List. Then click Settings -> Audio and check the Enable Audio option and choose your sound card. Save your setup by clicking the OK button. Next click Settings -> Network. For Adapter 1, check the Enable Network Adapter option. From the Attached to pull-down menu, choose Bridged Adapter. Then select your network card from the Name list. Then click OK. Finally, click Settings -> System, uncheck Hardware clock in UTC time, and click OK. That’s all the configuration that is necessary for your Incredible PBX Virtual Machine. The rest is automagic.

Running Incredible PBX Virtual Machines in VirtualBox

Once you’ve imported and configured the Incredible PBX Virtual Machine, you’re ready to go. Highlight IncrediblePBX Virtual Machine in the VM List on the VirtualBox Manager Window and click the Start button. The boot procedure with your chosen operating system will begin just as if you had installed Incredible PBX on a standalone machine. You’ll see a couple of dialogue boxes pop up that explain the keystrokes to move back and forth between your host operating system desktop and your virtual machine. Remember, you still have full access to your desktop computer. Incredible PBX is merely running as a task in a VirtualBox window. Always gracefully halt Incredible PBX just as you would on a dedicated computer.

Here’s what you need to know. To work in the Incredible PBX Virtual Machine, just left-click your mouse while it is positioned inside the VM window. To return to your host operating system desktop, press the right Option key on Windows machines or the left Command key on any Mac. For other operating systems, read the dialogue boxes for instructions on moving around. To access the Linux CLI, login as root with the default password: password. To access Incredible PBX GUI with a browser, point to the IP address of your virtual machine. Then, in the Administrator window, click on Incredible GUI Administration. Login as admin with the admin password you set below. For the security of your server, we recommend that you log in to the Linux CLI at least once a week so that Incredible PBX updates get applied to your server regularly. This is critically important if you care about your phone bill.

When logging in for the first time, Incredible PBX will go through some setup steps and then reboot. Login again to complete the setup. status will always provide a snapshot of your system. To shut down Incredible PBX gracefully, click in the VM window with your mouse, log in as root, and type: halt. Be sure to complete the following setup steps from the Linux CLI:

  • Change your root password: passwd
  • Set your Incredible GUI admin password: /root/admin-pw-change
  • Set the admin password for web apps: htpasswd /etc/pbx/wwwpasswd admin
  • Set your correct time zone: /root/timezone-setup
  • Add WhiteList entries to firewall if needed: /root/add-ip or /root/add-fqdn
  • Store PortKnocker credentials in a safe place: cat /root/knock.FAQ
  • Enable Incredible Fax support if desired: /root/incrediblefax11.sh
  • Login to your NeoRouter VPN server if desired: /root/neorouter-login

Upgrading Modules with Module Admin in the GUI. The GUI includes a Module Administration component in the Admin tab which will let you check online for new modules and upgrade to newer releases. Once you have added or updated any modules, you will get some nasty error messages in the System Status display because we allow installation of all GPL-compatible modules, not just those of Sangoma. It’s one of the proprietary gotchas that we have been writing about. Simply click on the X option in the upper right corner of each window to remove the warnings. Log out of the GUI. Then login to your Linux CLI as root and issue the following command to permanently clear the error messages: gui-fix. Now you can log back in and the warning messages will be gone… until you add or update modules again. Sangoma calls it a feature. :roll:

Command Line Management of Incredible PBX with VirtualBox

One of the real beauties of VirtualBox is you don’t have to use the VirtualBox GUI at all. The entire process can be driven from the command line. Other than on a Mac, here is the procedure to import, configure, and run Incredible PBX:
 
VBoxManage import IncrediblePBX-11-12.3-SL66.ova
VBoxManage modifyvm "IncrediblePBX-11-12.3-SL66" --nic1 nat
VBoxManage modifyvm "IncrediblePBX-11-12.3-SL66" --acpi on --nic1 bridged
VBoxHeadless --startvm "IncrediblePBX-11-12.3-SL66" &
# Wait 1 minute for Incredible PBX to load. Then decipher IP address like this:
VBoxManage guestproperty get "IncrediblePBX-11-12.3-SL66" /VirtualBox/GuestInfo/Net/0/V4/IP
# Now you can use SSH to login to Incredible PBX at the displayed IP address
# Shutdown the Incredible PBX Virtual Machine with the following command:
VBoxManage controlvm "IncrediblePBX-11-12.3-SL66" acpipowerbutton

On a Mac, everything works the same way except for deciphering the IP address. Download our findip script for that. Be sure to plug in the correct name of your virtual machine: ./findip IncrediblePBX-11-12.3-SL66

Deploying Google Voice Secure Communications with Incredible PBX

As with all prior releases of Incredible PBX, free calling in the U.S. and Canada with Google Voice is an integral component of this GPL platform. You still add Google Voice trunks using the GUI in exactly the same way: Connectivity -> Google Voice (Motif). What has changed under the covers with this release is what happens behind the scenes. Google has warned (for years) that they plan to phase out plain text passwords using your actual Google Voice credentials. This is for your protection! Unfortunately, until today, the only way to take advantage of the new OAUTH authentication method with Asterisk was to use one of the external SIP gateways to Google Voice. Now you no longer have to. The new 11-12.3 release of Incredible PBX adds native OAUTH authentication support to Asterisk and the Incredible PBX GUI. When prompted for the password in setting up your Google Voice accounts in the GUI, now you’ll enter your OAUTH token instead of your plain text password. It’s that easy. Obviously, you first need to obtain a free OAUTH token for each of your Google Voice accounts that you wish to activate. This tutorial on the PIAF Forum will walk you through the simple, one-time procedure.

IMPORTANT: Once you have added one or more Google Voice trunks in the GUI, you must restart Asterisk to activate the trunks: amportal restart

We want to take a moment and express our heartfelt thanks to Ryan Tilton of GVsip.com for setting up and maintaining the free platform to support OAUTH tokens for Google Voice. And a special shoutout to Martin Dindos (a.k.a. @dziny on the PIAF Forum) for his truly Herculean efforts in getting this to work properly with Asterisk 11, no small feat. This is yet another amazing testament to how the open source community should really function. Thank you!

Preparing Incredible PBX Virtual Machine for Backups & Migration

To us, the most compelling feature of the virtual machine platform is the ease with which you can make a perfect backup of your server in minutes! From that backup, you can restore a working platform in the same 60 seconds it took to build today’s platform on your desktop. One of the drawbacks as the Linux operating systems have become more turnkey is the shortcut that was implemented on both the RedHat and Debian/Ubuntu platforms to store your network setup so that the server reboots more quickly. While that’s fine for rebooting on the same server, it’s a real problem if you attempt to move your setup to different hardware or a new network because your network configuration will not load properly on the new platform. That means no IP address! Here’s the easy way to assure that things will actually work after the move. It assumes you will have a DHCP server at the new location just as you did at your existing site.

The Easy Way. If you have console access after the VM image is restored on the new platform (which means you don’t need a network IP address for the server in order to log in as root), then the easy way to prepare any of the Incredible PBX machines for relocation is to issue the following commands before you halt the system and make a VirtualBox backup:

touch /etc/update_hostconfig
touch /etc/update_serverconfig
rm -f /etc/ssh/ssh_host*
rpm -e openssh-server openssh-xinetd
yum -y install openssh-server openssh-xinetd
rm /etc/ssh/*.rpmsave

Once you have halted the server, edit both the sound card and network card settings and disable both of them in VirtualBox Manager. Then choose File -> Export Appliance from the VirtualBox title bar and create an .ova backup image on your desktop. You now have an image that is similar to the Incredible PBX image that you originally downloaded, except it has all of your data and settings. All you have to do is repeat the install drill above at the new location using the .ova image you created and log in with whatever your current root password happens to be. You’ll get a two-pass automatic setup just as you did when you began today’s adventure.

The only drawback to this procedure is the fact that the extension 701 and default DISA passwords as well as your firewall configuration will be initialized when you first boot from your .ova image at the other location. Aside from that, you’ll have a clean platform with new SSH and DUNDI credentials as well as mostly sanitized log files.

What’s Next. Now that you have a functioning server, it’s time to learn all about the Incredible PBX applications that are ready for use. Jump over to the latest Nerd Vittles application tutorial for a quick look at what’s available. Even though it was written for the Asterisk-GUI, everything will work exactly the same way. That’s the beauty of the Incredible PBX platform. Enjoy!

Originally published: Monday, June 29, 2015


Support Issues. With any application as sophisticated as this one, you’re bound to have questions. Blog comments are a terrible place to handle support issues although we welcome general comments about our articles and software. If you have particular support issues, we encourage you to get actively involved in the PBX in a Flash Forums. It’s the best Asterisk tech support site in the business, and it’s all free! Please have a look and post your support questions there. Our forum is extremely friendly and is supported by literally hundreds of Asterisk gurus.



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


 
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 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. 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! 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.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Many of our purchase links refer users to Amazon when we find their prices are competitive for the recommended products. Nerd Vittles receives a small referral fee from Amazon to help cover the costs of our blog. We never recommend particular products solely to generate Amazon commissions. However, when pricing is comparable or availability is favorable, we support Amazon because Amazon supports us. []

Decisions, Decisions: Choosing the SOHO Asterisk Platform That’s Best For You

Each year we like to revisit the topic of choosing the best Asterisk® platform for deployment in the home and small business environment. No solution is obviously right for everybody. But we think it’s important to sketch out the relevant factors that need careful evaluation before you begin the installation process.

Our focus today is open source, GPL platforms with Asterisk for home or SOHO deployments. That excludes a broad swath of equally capable commercial or proprietary alternatives including ThirdLane, Switchvox, and FreePBX® Distro as well as many unified communications solutions that do not rely upon the Asterisk telephony engine including FreeSWITCH, ShoreTel, Cisco, 3CX, and many others. If your requirements exceed telephony support for more than a few dozen employees, our recommendation is to hire a consultant that can assist you in that decision-making process.

When It Comes to Hardware, Size Matters!

Even in the telephony world, it’s true. Size Matters! Choosing an Asterisk platform for your home and choosing a telephony platform for a call center are very different beasts. Our traditional recommendation for home and SOHO deployments was to go with dedicated hardware with an appropriately sized Atom processor, RAM, and hard drive. In the words of Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A Changin’.” With the nosedive in Cloud processing costs and the emergence of powerful desktop virtual machine platforms, that may no longer be the smartest solution. First, it puts you in the hardware business which means you’ll have to deal with hardware failures and backups and redundancy. Second, depending upon where you live, it may not be cost-effective to maintain your own server. Electricity and Internet connectivity cost real money above and beyond hardware costs.

For home or SOHO deployments, it also depends upon what other computers already are in use around your house or office. For example, if you have a $2,000 iMac with a $100 backup drive running Carbon Copy Cloner each night, then you’ve already got a fully redundant server platform in place. You really don’t need a dedicated server for telephony to support a handful of telephones. VirtualBox® running any of the Incredible PBX™ solutions is free, and it’s fully capable of meeting your telephony requirements with no additional hardware investment.1 If your iMac’s main drive crashes, you can reboot from the attached USB backup drive with a single keystroke and never miss a beat. For those dead set on running dedicated hardware for your home or SOHO telephone system, there’s really no reason to spend more than $35 for a Raspberry Pi® 2. With its new quadcore processor and gig of RAM, it can meet or exceed any requirements you may have. Buy a second microSD card for redundancy and call it day as far as hardware is concerned.

If you’d prefer to separate your telephone system from your house or small office, a Cloud-based setup may be a better fit. Our Platinum sponsor, RentPBX,2 offers a worldwide collection of servers and will host your Asterisk-based PBX for $15 a month (Coupon Code: NOGOTCHAS) on a platform that rarely, if ever, goes down. If you like to tinker but also prefer a Cloud solution, consider Digital Ocean ($5 a month for a virtual machine) or Wable ($8 a month for up to 5 VMs).

NEWS FLASH: Effective today, RentPBX now offers all of the new Incredible PBX builds with the Incredible PBX GUI. Tutorials available here: CentOS platform or Ubuntu platform. Use the NOGOTCHAS coupon code for $15/mo. pricing.

That’s our latest take on SOHO hardware. If you have additional questions or concerns, come join the PIAF Forum and take advantage of our hundreds of gurus who will give you all of the free advice you could ever want.

I’ve Got My Hardware Platform. Now What?

The next step is choosing an Asterisk telephony platform. That used to be easy. There was Plain Ol’ Asterisk if you were a guru or there was Asterisk@Home if you wanted a GUI to guide you through the telephony maze. Now it’s more complicated. There are a number of different Linux platforms. There are a number of different Asterisk versions. And there are a number of different GUIs that support Asterisk. So let’s work our way down the list starting with the Linux platform.

Choosing the Linux Platform That’s Best for Asterisk

The gold standard for Asterisk servers has always been CentOS, a GPL clone of RedHat Enterprise Linux. It, too, is now owned by Red Hat. The old adage was that nobody ever got fired for recommending IBM. In the Asterisk community, that remains true with CentOS. Unfortunately, CentOS now comes in several flavors. There’s CentOS 6.5 which morphs into 6.6 once the latest updates are applied. Or there’s CentOS 7 which is a very different beast. For Asterisk deployments, you can’t go wrong with CentOS 6.5. It works well on the latest dedicated hardware and is supported on all virtual machine platforms.

As with choosing a language, you now have a choice of Linux platforms. There’s RedHat/CentOS, or Debian, or Ubuntu, or even Raspbian for the Raspberry Pi hardware. Unfortunately, the RedHat-CentOS and Debian-Ubuntu-Raspbian platforms have completely different languages, much like French and Spanish. The Linux packages that are included in the platforms also have different names. If you’re a Linux aficionado and you already have a favorite, stick with what you love. If you’re planning to deploy a Raspberry Pi 2, stick with Raspbian. For everyone else, CentOS 6.5 is your best bet for now.

Choosing the Asterisk Platform That’s Right for You

Believe it or not, there are many organizations still running their telephone systems using Asterisk 1.4 or 1.8 even though Digium support for those platforms ended years ago. In the commercial world, it is not uncommon to see telephone systems that are more than a decade old. With Asterisk, things are quite different. There’s a new version every year. Fortunately, Digium has adopted a new support philosophy and every other release now is anointed with the LTS (Long Term Support) moniker. An LTS release gets four years of bug fixes and five years of security updates as opposed to the other releases that come with one year of bug fixes and two years of security updates. It’s still not 10 years, but it’s certainly better than wrestling with Asterisk updates annually.

We think there remains a need to reconsider these timetables. New updates have become so complex that the releases typically are almost two years into their life cycle before there is anyone that treats the releases as anything more than experimental. This was especially true of Asterisk 12 which was a terrific new product that provided dramatic improvements particularly in the SIP area. Unfortunately, it will reach end-of-life status before the end of this year and before most folks have even had an opportunity to use it. Now we’re on to Asterisk 13 which almost no one has deployed, and it will be a year old this fall.

Choosing an Asterisk release has been further complicated by Sangoma’s shenanigans regarding FreePBX® 12, the only GUI platform that currently supports both Asterisk 12 and 13. If you want to deploy a commercial FreePBX module not sold by Sangoma, you’re out of luck with FreePBX 12 despite the clear language of the GPL license. If you want to deploy any GPL open source module for FreePBX 12 other than those distributed by Sangoma, you’re bombarded with nasty security alerts suggesting that your server has been compromised. We won’t beat the dead horse. There are plenty of Nerd Vittles articles to fill in the details if you are interested in the background. Suffice it to say, it is having an impact on the decision many users and companies make concerning their Asterisk platform. If you want to avoid the CrippleWare, you need to stick with FreePBX 2.11 which means that Asterisk 11 is the last supported LTS version for this platform. We continue to be an optimist, believing that Sangoma will come to their senses and figure all of this out sooner or later. But for now, that’s a snapshot of the current landscape.

Choosing a GPL-Compliant GUI That Meets Your Needs

All of the GUIs for Asterisk have one primary purpose. They are code generators for the Asterisk telephony engine, nothing more. With each of them, you can turn off your web server after using the graphical user interface, and your phone system will continue to work as designed. Imagine our surprise to learn that an Asterisk GUI developer was actually threatened by lawyers of another provider of GPL GUI software for Asterisk because both GUIs used similar GPL-generated Asterisk code.

The bogus claim was that, while the GUI platform itself was GPL-licensed code, the actual dialplan code generated by the GUI was not GPL-licensed and hence was copyright-protected as a derivative work. In other words, you can use our GUI for free but not the code that it generates. Since the sole purpose of the GUI is to generate code, guess what your GPL license actually got you… absolutely nothing of value. Try finding that in the fine print or the GPL license much less in any published decision on copyright law. Under this interpretation, every time you click that Apply Config button, you’re downloading and using copyrighted dialplan code without a license. Just think. Lawyers get paid to spew out this bull with a straight face! Imagine getting a toaster for your birthday and then learning that you can use it for anything except making toast. Makes you want to go to law school, doesn’t it? Can you guess who the players are? Thought so.

Sangoma, are you listening? Think we’re still making all of this up? Care to see the original text of the lawyer’s letter? Understand why we’re mad? Will it take condemnation from the Free Software Foundation to get you to clean things up??

For the rest of the story…

That, my friends, is the type of players we’re dealing with in the Asterisk “community” and it’s all about money. Lucky for all of you and us, the threats were ignored, and we now have the Elastix MT GUI that respects its GPL license. We, of course, have released our own free Incredible PBX GUI for CentOS, Ubuntu, and Raspbian without the proprietary signature checking mechanism and trademark minefields. It also employs the same GPL-licensed modules as FreePBX including a publicly-accessible Cloud component that meets the source code disclosure requirements of the GPL. The choice is all yours!

Introducing the 3-Click Platform Decision Tree for Asterisk

Now that you have the background, we want to provide a simple Decision Tree tool that will guide you through choosing the Asterisk GPL aggregation that best meets your needs. After you’ve made your selections, the utility will point you to the tutorials that will walk you through downloading, installing, and using the platform of your choice. Our fully-documented Asterisk Aggregation Guide also is available. Enjoy!

Originally published: Monday, June 22, 2015



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


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for Incredible PBX users. 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. 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 Incredible PBX 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. 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! 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.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. We will introduce the all-new Incredible PBX GUI platform for VirtualBox next week on Nerd Vittles. If you’re in a hurry, the Pioneer’s Edition now is available with a tutorial to get you started on the PIAF Forum. []
  2. Some of our links refer users to service providers when we find their prices are competitive for the recommended products. Nerd Vittles receives a small referral fee from some of these providers to help cover the costs of our blog. We never recommend particular products solely to generate commissions. However, when pricing is comparable or availability is favorable, we support these providers because they support us. []

Introducing Incredible PBX 11-12 with Incredible GUI for the Ubuntu 14 Platform

On May 15, we turned the page on Asterisk® GUIs by introducing a new GUI that hopefully provides the best of both worlds. It preserves the GPL components of the FreePBX® product that many of us have nurtured for almost a decade while removing the commercial pieces that have introduced some friction into the equation for users and companies that simply wished to deploy or redistribute a graphical user interface for Asterisk in accordance with the free GPL licenses under which the product and its components were licensed. Last week we did much the same thing with the essential cloud component which serves as the lynchpin for GPL module administration within the GUI itself. Hopefully, these two tweaks will encourage Sangoma, the new owner of the FreePBX project, to do the right thing and get the non-commercial pieces of the project back on the right track moving forward. What we did not want to do was tarnish the incredibly hard work that dozens of developers in the open source community have poured into this project over the past decade. We continue to be amazed at what they’ve been able to achieve, and we salute their accomplishments. The Asterisk 12 and 13 revolution never would have been achieved without the contributions of the FreePBX development team. We think the new Incredible PBX GUI stands as a testament to what can be accomplished while preserving the true spirit of open source development and the terms of the GPL licenses under which this product and its numerous modules were licensed.

Two weeks ago, we introduced the all-new Incredible PBX with Incredible GUI for CentOS, Scientific Linux, and Oracle Linux. Last week we added a Cloud-based GPL repository and all the tools necessary to maintain it. Today we’re pleased to release the production-ready version for the Ubuntu 14 platform with all the bells and whistles including Incredible Fax featuring HylaFax and AvantFax. Today’s release mimics the functionality of the previous build for the CentOS platform with literally dozens of turnkey applications that show off the very best features of Asterisk®. In addition to Incredible PBX, you also get our new GPL repository to maintain release 12 of the GUI. No strings, no gotchas, and no murky licenses. Pure GPL!

Building an Ubuntu 14.04 Platform for Incredible PBX

As a result of the trademark and copyright morass, we’ve steered away from the bundled operating system in favor of a methodology that relies upon you to put in place the operating system platform on which to run PBX in a Flash or Incredible PBX. The good news is it’s easy! With many cloud-based providers1, you can simply click a button to choose your favorite OS flavor and within minutes, you’re ready to go. With many virtual machine platforms such as VirtualBox, it’s equally simple to find a pre-built Ubuntu 14.04 image or roll your own.

If you’re new to VoIP or to Nerd Vittles, here’s our best piece of advice. Don’t take our word for anything! Try it for yourself in the Cloud! You can build an Ubuntu 14.04 image on Digital Ocean in under one minute and install today’s Incredible PBX for Ubuntu 14.04 in about 15 minutes. Then try it out for two full months. It won’t cost you a dime. Use our referral link to sign up for an account. Enter a valid credit card to verify you’re who you say you are. Create an Ubuntu 14.04 (not 14.10!) 512MB droplet of the cheapest flavor ($5/mo.). Go to the Billing section of the site, and enter the following promo code: UBUNTUDROPLET. That’s all there is to it. A $10 credit will be added to your account, and you can play to your heart’s content. Delete droplets, add droplets, and enjoy the free ride!

For today, we’ll walk you through building your own stand-alone server using the Ubuntu 14.04 mini.iso. If you’re using Digital Ocean in the Cloud, skip down to Installing Incredible PBX 11-12 (HINT: 11 tells you the Asterisk release and 12 tells you the GUI release). If you’re using your own hardware, to get started, download the 64-bit Ubuntu 14.04 “Trusty Tahr” Minimal ISO from here. Then burn it to a CD/DVD or thumb drive and boot your dedicated server from the image. Remember, you’ll be reformatting the drive in your server so pick a machine you don’t need for other purposes.

For those that would prefer to build your Ubuntu 14.04 Wonder Machine using VirtualBox on any Windows, Mac, or existing Linux Desktop, here are the simple steps. Create a new virtual machine specifying the 64-bit version of Ubuntu. Allocate 1024MB of RAM (512MB also works fine with a swap file) and at least 20GB of disk space using the default hard drive setup in all three steps. In Settings, click System and check Enable I/O APIC and uncheck Hardware Clock in UTC Time. Click Audio and Specify then Enable your sound card. Click Network and Enable Network Adapter for Adapter 1 and choose Bridged Adapter. Finally, in Storage, add the Ubuntu 14.04 mini.iso to your VirtualBox Storage Tree as shown below. Then click OK and start up your new virtual machine. Simple!

Here are the steps to get Ubuntu 14.04 humming on your new server or virtual machine once you’ve booted up. If you can bake cookies from a recipe, you can do this:

UBUNTU mini.iso install:
Choose language
Choose timezone
Detect keyboard
Hostname: incrediblepbx < continue >
Choose mirror for downloads
Confirm archive mirror
Leave proxy blank unless you need it
< continue >
** couple minutes of whirring as initial components are loaded **
New user name: incredible
< continue >
Account username: incredible
< continue >
Account password: makeitsecure
< continue >
Encrypt home directory < no >
Confirm time zone < yes >
Partition disks: Guided - use entire disk and set up LVM
Confirm disk to partition
Write changes to disks and configure LVM
Whole volume? < continue>
Write changes to disks < yes> < -- last chance to preserve your disk drive!
** about 15 minutes of whirring during base system install ** < no touchy anything>
** another 5 minutes of whirring during base software install ** < no touchy anything>
Upgrades? Install security updates automatically
** another 5 minutes of whirring during more software installs ** < no touchy anything>
Software selection: *Basic Ubuntu server (only!)
** another couple minutes of whirring during software installs ** < no touchy anything>
Grub boot loader: < yes>
UTC for system clock: < no>
Installation complete: < continue> after removing installation media
** on VirtualBox, PowerOff after reboot and remove [-] mini.iso from Storage Tree & restart VM
login as user: incredible
** enter user incredible's password **
sudo passwd
** enter incredible password again and then create secure root user password **
su root
** enter root password **
apt-get update
apt-get install ssh -y
sed -i 's|without-password|yes|' /etc/ssh/sshd_config
sed -i 's|yes"|without-password"|' /etc/ssh/sshd_config
sed -i 's|"quiet"|"quiet text"|' /etc/default/grub
update-grub
ifconfig
** write down the IP address of your server from ifconfig results
reboot
** login via SSH to continue **

Installing Incredible PBX 11-12 on Your Ubuntu 14.04 Server

Adding Incredible PBX 11-12 to a running Ubuntu 14.04 server is a walk in the park. To restate the obvious, your server needs a reliable Internet connection to proceed. Using SSH (or Putty on a Windows machine), log into your new server as root at the IP address you deciphered in the ifconfig step at the end of the Ubuntu install procedure above. First, make sure to run the update step for Ubuntu below before you begin the install. This is especially important if you’re using a cloud-based Ubuntu 14 server. If errors appear during the update, just run it again.

apt-get update && apt-get upgrade -y && reboot

WARNING: If you’re using a 512MB droplet at Digital Ocean, be advised that the DO Ubuntu setup does NOT include a swap file. This may cause serious problems when you run out of RAM. Uncomment ./create-swapfile-DO line below to create a 1GB swap file which will be activated whenever you exceed 90% RAM usage on Digital Ocean.

Now let’s begin the Incredible PBX 11-12 install. Log back in as root and issue the following commands:

cd /root
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/incrediblepbx11-12.1-ubuntu14.tar.gz
tar zxvf incrediblepbx*
#./create-swapfile-DO
./Incredible*

Once you have agreed to the license agreement and terms of use, press Enter and go have a 30-minute cup of coffee. The Incredible PBX installer runs unattended so find something to do for a bit unless you just like watching code compile. When you see “Have a nice day”, your installation is complete. Write down your admin password for the GUI as well as your three “knock” ports for PortKnocker. If you forget your admin password or wish to change it, just run: /root/admin-pw-change. Retrieve your PortKnocker setup like this: cat /root/knock.FAQ.

Log out and back in as root and you should be greeted with a status display that looks something like this after the Automatic Update Utility runs:

Perform the following steps:

Make your root password very secure: passwd
Set your correct time zone: ./timezone-setup
Restart Asterisk: amportal restart
Create admin password for web apps: htpasswd -b /etc/pbx/wwwpasswd admin newpassword
Make a copy of your other passwords: cat passwords.FAQ
Make a copy of your Knock codes: cat knock.FAQ
Decipher IP address and other info about your server: status

Incredible PBX includes an automatic update utility which downloads important updates whenever you log into your server as root. We recommend you log in once a week to keep your server current. Now would be a good time to log out and back into your server at the Linux command line to bring your server up to current specs.

You can access the Incredible PBX GUI using your favorite web browser to configure your server. Just enter the IP address shown in the status display.

When the Kennonsoft menu (shown above) appears, click on the User tab to open the Admin menu. Then click on Incredible GUI Administration to access the Incredible PBX GUI. The default username is admin with the randomized password you wrote down above. If desired, you can change them after logging into the GUI by clicking Admin -> Administrators -> admin. Enter a new password and click Submit Changes then Apply Config. Now edit extension 701 so you can figure out (or change) the randomized passwords that were set up for default 701 extension and voicemail: Applications -> Extensions -> 701.

Setting Up a Soft Phone to Use with Incredible PBX

Now you’re ready to set up a telephone so that you can play with Incredible PBX. We recommend YateClient which is free. Download it from here. Run YateClient once you’ve installed it and enter the credentials for the 701 extension on Incredible PBX. You’ll need the IP address of your server plus your extension 701 password. Choose Settings -> Accounts and click the New button. Fill in the blanks using the IP address of your server, 701 for your account name, and whatever password you created for the extension. Click OK.

Once you are registered to extension 701, close the Account window. Then click on YATE’s Telephony Tab and place some test calls to the numerous apps that are preconfigured on Incredible PBX. Dial a few of these to get started:

123 - Reminders
222 - ODBC Demo (use acct: 12345)
947 - Weather by ZIP Code
951 - Yahoo News
*61 - Time of Day
*68 - Wakeup Call
TODAY - Today in History

The next step is establishing an interface on your PBX to connect to the telephones in the rest of the world. If you live in the U.S., the easiest way (at least for now) is to use an existing (free) Google Voice account. Google has threatened to shut this down but as this is written, it still works with previously set up Google Voice accounts. The more desirable long-term solution is to choose several SIP providers and set up redundant trunks for your incoming and outbound calls. The PIAF Forum includes dozens of recommendations to get you started.

Configuring Google Voice

If you want to use Google Voice, you’ll need a dedicated Google Voice account to support Incredible PBX. If you want to use the inbound fax capabilities of Incredible Fax 11, then you’ll need an additional Google Voice line that can be routed to the FAX custom destination using the GUI. The more obscure the username (with some embedded numbers), the better off you will be. This will keep folks from bombarding you with unsolicited Gtalk chat messages, and who knows what nefarious scheme will be discovered using Google messaging six months from now. So keep this account a secret!

We’ve tested this extensively using an existing Google Voice account, and inbound calling is just not reliable. The reason seems to be that Google always chooses Gmail chat as the inbound call destination if there are multiple registrations from the same IP address. So, be reasonable. Do it our way! Use a previously configured and dedicated Gmail and Google Voice account, and use it exclusively with Incredible PBX 11.

IMPORTANT: Be sure to enable the Google Chat option as one of your phone destinations in Settings, Voice Setting, Phones. That’s the destination we need for The Incredible PBX to work its magic! Otherwise, all inbound and outbound calls will fail. If you don’t see this option, you’re probably out of luck. Google has disabled the option in newly created accounts as well as some old ones that had Google Chat disabled. Now go back to the Google Voice Settings.

While you’re still in Google Voice Settings, click on the Calls tab. Make sure your settings match these:

  • Call ScreeningOFF
  • Call PresentationOFF
  • Caller ID (In)Display Caller’s Number
  • Caller ID (Out)Don’t Change Anything
  • Do Not DisturbOFF
  • Call Options (Enable Recording)OFF
  • Global Spam FilteringON

Click Save Changes once you adjust your settings. Under the Voicemail tab, plug in your email address so you get notified of new voicemails. Down the road, receipt of a Google Voice voicemail will be a big hint that something has come unglued on your PBX.

One final word of caution is in order regardless of your choice of providers: Do NOT use special characters in any provider passwords, or nothing will work!

Now you’re ready to set up your Google Voice trunk in the GUI. After logging in with your browser, click the Connectivity tab and choose Google Voice/Motif. To Add a new Google Voice account, just fill out the form. Do NOT check the third box or incoming calls will never ring!

IMPORTANT LAST STEP: Google Voice will not work unless you restart Asterisk from the Linux command line at this juncture. Using SSH, log into your server as root and issue the following command: amportal restart.

If you have trouble getting Google Voice to work (especially if you have previously used your Google Voice account from a different IP address), try this Google Voice Reset Procedure. It usually fixes connectivity problems. If it still doesn’t work, enable Less Secure Apps using this Google tool.

And here’s another way to access Google Voice securely using an inexpensive commercial SIP gateway:

Troubleshooting Audio and DTMF Problems

You can avoid one-way audio on calls and touchtones that don’t work by entering these simple settings in the GUI: Settings -> Asterisk SIP Settings. Just plug in your public IP address and your private IP subnet. Then set ULAW as the only Audio Codec.

Adding Speech Recognition to Incredible PBX

To support many of our applications, Incredible PBX has included Google’s speech recognition service for years. These applications include Weather Reports by City (949), AsteriDex Voice Dialing by Name (411), and Wolfram Alpha for Asterisk (4747), all of which use Lefteris Zafiris’ terrific speech-recog AGI script. Unfortunately (for some), Google now has tightened up the terms of use for their free speech recognition service. Now you can only use it for “personal and development use.” If you meet those criteria, keep reading. Here’s how to activate speech recognition on Incredible PBX. Don’t skip any steps!

1. Using an existing Google/Gmail account to join the Chrome-Dev Group.

2. Using the same account, create a new Speech Recognition Project.

3. Click on your newly created project and choose APIs & auth.

4. Turn ON Speech API by clicking on its Status button in the far right margin.

5. Click on Credentials in APIs & auth and choose Create New Key -> Server key. Leave the IP address restriction blank!

6. Write down your new API key or copy it to the clipboard.

7. Log into your server as root and issue the following commands:

# for Ubuntu and Debian platforms
apt-get clean
apt-get install libjson-perl flac -y
# for RedHat and CentOS platforms
yum -y install perl-JSON
# for all Linux platforms
cd /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin
mv speech-recog.agi speech-recog.last.agi
wget --no-check-certificate https://raw.githubusercontent.com/zaf/asterisk-speech-recog/master/speech-recog.agi
chown asterisk:asterisk speech*
chmod 775 speech*
nano -w speech-recog.agi

8. When the nano editor opens, go to line 70 of speech-recog.agi: my $key = "". Insert your API key from Step #6 above between the quotation marks and save the file: Ctrl-X, Y, then Enter.

Now you’re ready to try out the speech recognition apps. Dial 949 and say the name of a city and state/province/country to get a current weather forecast from Yahoo. Dial 411 and say “American Airlines” to be connected to American.

To use Wolfram Alpha by phone, you first must install it. Obtain your free Wolfram Alpha APP-ID here. Then run the one-click installer: /root/wolfram/wolframalpha-oneclick.sh. Insert your APP-ID when prompted. Now dial 4747 to access Wolfram Alpha by phone and enter your query, e.g. “What planes are overhead.” Read the Nerd Vittles tutorial for additional examples and tips.

A Few Words about the Incredible PBX Security Model for Ubuntu

Incredible PBX for Ubuntu 14 is a very secure, turnkey PBX implementation. As configured, your server is protected by both Fail2Ban and a hardened configuration of the IPtables Linux firewall. Nobody can access your PBX without your credentials AND an IP address that is either on your private network or that matches the IP address of your server or the PC from which you installed Incredible PBX. Incredible PBX is preconfigured to let you connect to many of the leading SIP hosting providers without additional firewall tweaking.

You can whitelist additional IP addresses for remote access in several ways. First, you can use the command-line utilities: /root/add-ip and /root/add-fqdn. You can also remove whitelisted IP addresses by running /root/del-acct. Second, you can dial into extension 864 (or use a DID pointed to extension 864 aka TM4) and enter an IP address to whitelist. Before Travelin’ Man 4 will work, you’ll need to add credentials for each caller using the tools in /root/tm4. You must add at least one account before dial-in whitelisting will be enabled. Third, you can temporarily whitelist an IP address by successfully executing the PortKnocker 3-knock code established for your server. You’ll find the details and the codes in /root/knock.FAQ. Be advised that IP addresses whitelisted with PortKnocker (only!) go away whenever your server is rebooted or the IPtables firewall is restarted. For further information on the PortKnocker technology and available clients for iOS and Android devices, review the Nerd Vittles tutorial.

HINT: The reason that storing your PortKnocker codes in a safe place is essential is because it may be your only available way to gain access to your server if your IP address changes. You obviously can’t use the command-line tools to whitelist a new IP address if you cannot gain access to your server at the new IP address.

We always recommend you also add an extra layer of protection by running your server behind a hardware-based firewall with no Internet port exposure, but that’s your call. If you use a hardware-based firewall, be sure to map the three PortKnocker ports to the internal IP address of your server!

The NeoRouter VPN client also is included for rock-solid, secure connectivity for remote users. Read our previous tutorial for setup instructions.

As one would expect, the IPtables firewall is a complex piece of software. If you need assistance configuring it, visit the PIAF Forum for some friendly assistance.

Adding Incredible Fax 11 to Your Server

Once you’ve completed the Incredible PBX install, log out and log back in to load the latest automatic updates. Then reboot. Now you’re ready to continue your adventure by installing Incredible Fax 11 for Ubuntu. Special thanks to Josh North for all his hard work on this! The latest download includes the Incredible Fax 11 installer. So just run the script:

cd /root
./incrediblefax11_ubuntu14.sh

Accept all of the defaults during the installation process. IMPORTANT: Once you complete the install, reboot your server. After rebooting, log into the GUI and choose Module Admin and enable the AvantFax module. When you log out of the GUI, there now will be an option for AvantFax on the GUI’s main login screen. Choose it and enter admin:password to login and change your default password. You also can set your AvantFax admin password by logging into the Linux CLI and… /root/avantfax-pw-change.

Incredible Backup and Restore

We’re pleased to introduce our latest backup and restore utilities for Incredible PBX. Running /root/incrediblebackup will create a backup image of your server in /tmp. This backup image then can be copied to any other medium desired for storage. To restore it to another Incredible PBX 11 server, simply copy the image to a server running Asterisk 11 and the Incredible PBX 11-12 GUI. Then run /root/incrediblerestore. Doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Incredible PBX Automatic Update Utility

Every time you log into your server as root, Incredible PBX will ping the IncrediblePBX.com web site to determine whether one or more updates are available to bring your server up to current specs. We recommend you log in at least once a week just in case some new security vulnerability should come along. Also be sure to check the PBX in a Flash RSS Feed inside the GUI for the latest security alerts.

Mastering the Incredible PBX Applications

Your next stop should be a quick read of the Application User’s Guide for Incredible PBX. Even though the target audience was Raspberry Pi users, the feature set is identical, and this guide will tell you everything you need to know about the dozens of applications for Asterisk that have been installed on your new server.

We also want to encourage you to sign up for an account on the PIAF Forum and join the discussion. In addition to providing first-class, free support, we think you’ll enjoy the camaraderie. Come join us!

Originally published: Monday, June 1, 2015


Support Issues. With any application as sophisticated as this one, you’re bound to have questions. Blog comments are a terrible place to handle support issues although we welcome general comments about our articles and software. If you have particular support issues, we encourage you to get actively involved in the PBX in a Flash Forums. It’s the best Asterisk tech support site in the business, and it’s all free! Please have a look and post your support questions there. Unlike some forums, ours is extremely friendly and is supported by literally hundreds of Asterisk gurus and thousands of users just like you. You won’t have to wait long for an answer to your question.



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


 
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Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. With some providers including ones linked in this article, Nerd Vittles receives referral fees which assist in keeping the Nerd Vittles lights burning brightly. []

Freedom and the FreePBX Cloud: Is an Apple-like Ecosystem GPL-Compliant?

Short Answer: No way, José!     Right Answer: Sangoma should fix it.     Our Answer: New GPL Repo fixes it… today!

We began our series on FreePBX® by providing a GPL-compliant alternative to the base design of the FreePBX GUI minus the elements which have made redistribution and/or code modification difficult despite the clear language of the product’s GPL licenses. In our last article, we introduced new turnkey versions of Incredible PBX for CentOS featuring your choice of the 2.11 or 12.0 Incredible PBX GUI. Coming soon will be new releases of Incredible PBX for the Ubuntu, Debian, and Raspbian platforms so hang in there.

This week we begin our examination of the actual FreePBX design and the morphing that has taken place. We want to give you the full picture of why this led to our decision to no longer support the FreePBX approach to “GPL” software design. We also will provide some additional GPL tools that open up the platform in the way the GPL license requires.

It’s important for everyone to understand the impact of commercialization on project development when organizations bend the rules to suit their own commercial purposes. None of this was Sangoma’s doing. But FreePBX is now Sangoma’s GPL project, and it’s up to them to clean up the mess. For openers, nobody forced the FreePBX developers to release the FreePBX code with a GPL license. But they did it… almost 10 years ago! Only after the product became hugely popular did these folks apparently conclude that maybe giving away their software wasn’t such a good idea after all. You can track when the wheels came off the bus by looking at the project’s history on SourceForge. Not surprisingly, it coincides with SchmoozeCom’s entry into the picture. As Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation would tell you, this isn’t about whether code is open source software. Some FreePBX modules are and many are not. But providing source code is merely one aspect of the GPL. So let’s start with some of the actual language from the GPL license:

When we speak of free software, we are referring to freedom, not price. Our General Public Licenses are designed to make sure that you have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for them if you wish), that you receive source code or can get it if you want it, that you can change the software or use pieces of it in new free programs, and that you know you can do these things.

To protect your rights, we need to prevent others from denying you these rights or asking you to surrender the rights. [Emphasis added.]

Today we want to cover the first of several topics you won’t ever hear about in a (commercial) “advanced” training class for FreePBX. In case you haven’t attended one of these lovefests, the training is intended to let (paying) students learn how to customize the settings of the GUI for others willing to pay someone to build them a PBX. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that unless you believe everything associated with free software should be free. We don’t. In any case, you’ll learn how to create extensions and ring groups, inbound and outbound routes, trunk setups, and many of the other (basic) things that Nerd Vittles has been covering (for free) for years. And, of course, you will learn how to market the FreePBX brand and Sangoma-produced commercial modules.

What you won’t hear is anything about the inner workings of FreePBX much less how to customize the product for your own use, i.e. the types of modifications envisioned by the clear terms of the GPL. Those GPL “features” are available on a per customer basis for substantial “customization fees.” Translation: roughly the same cost as a new Hyundai for your kid headed off to college. And there’s one other hidden surprise. Even with custom branding of FreePBX, you will remain a captive in the so-called FreePBX ecosystem.

If you’ve enjoyed Apple’s App Store approach to system lock-in, then you’ll feel right at home with FreePBX. The wrinkle is that the FreePBX approach is even more restrictive than Apple’s. For openers, anyone wishing to sell their own commercial module need not apply. Unlike Apple, no commercial offerings from anyone but Sangoma are permitted in the FreePBX ecosystem. Imagine if Digium had adopted a similar approach by barring modules from competing hardware companies from interfacing with Asterisk®. Where would that have left Sangoma? In the case of FreePBX, even if you want to give away a FreePBX-compatible GPL module, you’re out of luck with FreePBX 12 unless you’re willing to underwrite Sangoma’s unlimited legal expenses if they ever get sued. Note our emphasis on unlimited. Sangoma claims they merely copied a general indemnification provision used by others such as Rackspace. But, as one of our readers pointed out:

The link that they claim they used as a template is one I would sign. Sangoma reworded things so that ALL liability is yours, even if an issue arises in their code that affects your code (after the fact). Sangoma in that case, is responsible but YOU have to pay for their legal fees. You cannot have a final say in settlements, they do. They can select whatever priced attorneys they want (you have no say). There is no ‘reasonable’ word usage. They dropped it.

As for your GPL module, yes, you can manually load it and run it without signing the indemnification agreement, but users will have to endure nasty warnings and emails every day which suggest that their server has been compromised.1 Apple, on the other hand, screens free and non-free additions to their App Store and includes literally thousands of third-party apps without anyone having to pay Apple’s legal fees. FreePBX proclaims that “Free Stands for Freedom” but…

I’m reminded of a book that was published during the Vietnam War era: “Military Justice is to Justice As Military Music is to Music.” If this is Sangoma’s idea of freedom, I’m not quite sure why anyone would want it except for the fact that they’re the only GUI game in town. The Sherman Act may be unfamiliar territory in Canada, but it might be worth a careful look.

Here’s where the GPL breaks down. Despite the best of intentions, the GPL drafters believed that handing someone the source code for a program was the best way to insure freedom to redesign and redistribute computer programs. That works well when the computer program is a couple hundred lines of code, but it breaks down quickly when you’re dealing with a program that’s been commingled with a commercial Cloud-based hosting service shrouded in secrecy and you’re staring at a million lines of code that can best be described as “engineered obfuscation.” Think of it as handing someone a plate of your grandma’s cookies and, when asked for the recipe, you say, “All of the ingredients are right there in front of you.” Yes, but…

This is a critically important point so let’s cover it in the context of FreePBX. What do you get and what do you not get when you install or use the product? Because the FreePBX GPL modules are written in unencrypted PHP code, you automatically get the source code when you install each module. It used to be that you also could acquire the modules on a public web site provided by the developers, now Sangoma. As noted last week, that openness came to a screeching halt with FreePBX 12. Until our repository was made available, you could scour the web high and low, but you wouldn’t find the GPL “free” modules for FreePBX 12 in a format directly usable by the FreePBX GUI and its Module Admin update feature which is perhaps the best feature of the GUI. In fact, until today, the only way to acquire the modules in a usable format with error correction was through the FreePBX GUI interface itself using the proprietary, hidden “ecosystem” maintained by Sangoma. The acquisition process itself is buried deep in a million lines of spaghetti code. Yes, you can get the source code, but…



Sangoma hopefully will ponder the words of Richard Stallman, the Founder and President of the Free Software Foundation:

Clearly that server does not respect our freedom, and we should refuse to use it, for the most part.

If we use a GUI for PBX’s, we should load our modules in some way that treats us decently.

So why the mystery with acquisition of FreePBX modules? The simple is answer is that it restricts everyone’s freedom. You can’t redistribute FreePBX without keeping Sangoma and the “non-free” FreePBX ecosystem in the middle of the equation. This provides the ongoing platform for Sangoma to peddle the sale of (only) their branded SIP trunking service as well as (only) their commercial modules. This may be their idea of freedom, but…

Last week we provided the first glimpse of freedom providing a means to break away from the trademark gimmicks of the mothership by using our reengineered GPL GUI with our repository of GPL modules for the new product. What you still lacked was the freedom to break away from our universe and go your own way. Why? Because the FreePBX developers have never revealed their Cloud’s secret sauce much less the tools necessary to create your own GPL module repository and have it function properly within the GUI. Without the cloud access and control, you lose the key module update and monitoring capabilities of the product itself plus the ability to upgrade the GUI to a later version. We used to call this CrippleWare, software with only limited functionality unless you cough up the big bucks. They’ll tell you that it’s all in the source code…

Well, not quite all. FreePBX is open source GPL software minus the secret sauce hidden in Sangoma’s Cloud which is the antithesis of the freedom component of the GPL. If you don’t appreciate the difference and why this runs counter to the GPL, read Richard Stallman’s explanation here. Because Cloud access by design is the only means provided in the FreePBX GUI to load new GPL modules, or to check for and update existing modules, or to upgrade the FreePBX GUI itself,2 the Cloud component is clearly an integral component of FreePBX. As such, it also must be licensed under the GPL and all its source code made available. In the words of the Free Software Foundation:

I’d like to incorporate GPL-covered software in my proprietary system. Can I do this?

You cannot incorporate GPL-covered software in a proprietary system. The goal of the GPL is to grant everyone the freedom to copy, redistribute, understand, and modify a program. If you could incorporate GPL-covered software into a non-free system, it would have the effect of making the GPL-covered software non-free too.

A system incorporating a GPL-covered program is an extended version of that program. The GPL says that any extended version of the program must be released under the GPL if it is released at all. This is for two reasons: to make sure that users who get the software get the freedom they should have, and to encourage people to give back improvements that they make.

However, in many cases you can distribute the GPL-covered software alongside your proprietary system. To do this validly, you must make sure that the free and non-free programs communicate at arms length, that they are not combined in a way that would make them effectively a single program.

The difference between this and “incorporating” the GPL-covered software is partly a matter of substance and partly form. The substantive part is this: if the two programs are combined so that they become effectively two parts of one program, then you can’t treat them as two separate programs. So the GPL has to cover the whole thing.

If the two programs remain well separated, like the compiler and the kernel, or like an editor and a shell, then you can treat them as two separate programs—but you have to do it properly. The issue is simply one of form: how you describe what you are doing. Why do we care about this? Because we want to make sure the users clearly understand the free status of the GPL-covered software in the collection.

If people were to distribute GPL-covered software calling it “part of” a system that users know is partly proprietary, users might be uncertain of their rights regarding the GPL-covered software. But if they know that what they have received is a free program plus another program, side by side, their rights will be clear.

Of course, every new module release brings a new opportunity to change the file and directory structure hidden in the Cloud to once again disguise the secret components required for proper GUI operation. Trust us. They have. Why else would you change a file name from modules-12 to all-12 except to conceal its identity? It’s called security through obscurity. Try searching your server for all-12 and see what you find. This hidden file is what locks you into the Sangoma commercial ecosystem. They call it freedom. It’s really anything but that. A more descriptive label would be a hidden, proprietary GOTCHA. You get some of the source code to make FreePBX work properly, but…

Building an Independent GPL Cloud Repository for the Incredible PBX GUI

Today we’re going to fix this deficiency at least for those using the new Incredible PBX GUI by offering independently developed GPL code that provides the freedom to build your own Cloud-based ecosystem should you wish to do so. We would encourage Sangoma to do the right thing. Stop listening to the former owners of the FreePBX project and become a good GPL steward. It’s your project now. You’ve owned it for almost six months! You’re also a better company than the one you bought. So start acting like it. Bring the FreePBX Cloud-based components out into the open and provide the tools necessary to use them as your GPL product license requires.

What we are providing today are all the components necessary to build an independent GPL Cloud that is compatible with the Incredible PBX GUI. This includes a base install of existing GPL modules that are compatible with versions 2.11 and 12 of FreePBX plus the toolkit to maintain an independent GPL Cloud. To load future modules and updates into your repository, you’ll need a Linux LAMP server running the latest version of Apache and at least PHP 5.4. Neither Asterisk® nor FreePBX is required on the server platform. Be advised that CentOS 6.5 and 6.6 ship with PHP 5.3 so you’ll need to perform the following steps to bring your server up to the 5.4 or 5.5 version of PHP before proceeding. Be advised that your GPL Cloud will only work with GPL-licensed versions of Incredible PBX running the 2.11 or 12 release of Incredible PBX GUI. See last week’s tutorial to get started.

Before we begin, several cautionary notes are in order. First, we can’t control Sangoma’s behavior. Assuming they decide not to comply with the GPL by keeping their Cloud service proprietary, a simple tweak on their end could change the location of their Cloud’s secret sauce at any time. That could very well break the ability to download future GPL modules from their repositories using this toolkit. But don’t worry. If that happens, we’ll be the first to let you know. We figured it out once, and we can figure it out again. You can run, but you cannot hide! We’ll also show you an alternative method to load new modules into your own repository. Second, don’t even think about using your own repository while retaining the original FreePBX GUI instead of updating to the Incredible PBX GUI. A single module update on their end could do a couple of things. It could overwrite the location of the module repositories and restore theirs. Or it could completely disable your server after detecting that you had changed the internal workings of FreePBX. Remember when Apple did just that with jailbroken iPhones? We’re not suggesting Sangoma would actually pull such a stunt. In fact, we don’t think Sangoma would ever stand for that despite a few developers that might have a different view. But we’re warning that it’s simply not worth the risk.

Before you elect to go your own way with your own repository, be advised that importing new FreePBX-compatible GPL modules without first testing each of them with the Incredible PBX GUI is a very bad idea for the reasons already mentioned. We intend to do that with the new Incredible PBX repository, and we would encourage you to adopt the same approach.

Finally, to protect the security and integrity of your GPL Cloud resources, do not include repo.php and the contents of its accompanying src directory in your public repository. Otherwise, anyone with public access to your server would be able to change the contents of your repository. The proper methodology would be to build and maintain your repository off line and then copy the files to a public web server without the tools used to actually create and update the GPL modules and accompanying XML files. The tools themselves are GPL code, and you are more than welcome to redistribute them pursuant to the GPL license. Just don’t post them in decompressed format in your repo thereby making them functional for anonymous attacks against your repository.

To begin, download GPL-repo.tar.gz from SourceForge and decompress the tarball into a folder on your private server:

mkdir repo
cd repo
touch index.html
wget -O GPL-repo.tar.gz http://sourceforge.net/projects/pbxinaflash/files/IncrediblePBX11.11%2B11.12%20with%20Incredible%20GUI/GPL-repo.tar.gz/download
tar zxvf GPL-repo.tar.gz
yum -y install php-simplexml

The file structure will look like this where modules and src are subdirectories:

Within the modules subdirectory will be a packages subdirectory that includes folders for each of the GPL modules. There’s also a licenses folder with all of the applicable GPL licenses.

Within each of the package directories, you will find one or two modules for the two currently supported GPL versions. For example, here are the entries for the framework module:

The lists of the available modules for each supported GPL version are contained in the .xml files in the top level directory: modules-2.11.xml and all-12.0.xml. modules-12.0.xml is a symlink to a previous nomenclature for version 12. These XML files are what Module Admin uses to check for updates available for existing modules on your PBX.

To add or update individual modules in your repository, issue one or both of the following commands using the actual name of the module you wish to add or update. You can decipher the actual names for the modules by checking the FreePBX source listings on GitHub. As we cautioned previously, don’t ever add or update modules without first testing the new module on an Incredible PBX server running the Incredible GUI. If an updated module blows things up, please let us know!

./repo.php 2.11 modulename
./repo.php 12.0 modulename

And here’s how to add any compatible module from any FreePBX 2.11 or 12 server or from GitHub to your repo. On the FreePBX platform, switch to the directory holding the modules: cd /var/www/html/admin/modules. By way of example, let’s assume there’s a javassh module directory.

1. Decipher the current version of the module: grep version javassh/module.xml
2. Create a gzipped tarball of that module including the version: tar -cvzf javassh-VERSION.tgz javassh/
3. Move javassh-VERSION.tgz to your /repo folder: mv javassh-VERSION.tgz /var/www/html/repo

Alternatively, you can use the included git-grab12 script to download the latest version 12 modules in tarball format directly from the FreePBX repository on GitHub:

From your /repo folder: ./git-grab12 modulename (there is no javassh version 12 module)

4. Assimilate the javassh module into your repo as either a 2.11 or 12.0 module or both:

cd /var/www/html/repo
./repo.php 2.11 javassh-VERSION.tgz
./repo.php 12.0 javassh-VERSION.tgz
rm -f javassh-VERSION.tgz

When you’re ready to go public, move the /repo folder and its subdirectories from your private server to a public web server, issue the following commands within the main destination directory on the public server to remove the GPL repo toolkit:

rm -f git-grab12
rm -f repo.php
rm -rf src

The final step is to tell the Incredible PBX GUI the new location of your module repository. For this, you will need a fully-qualified domain name (FQDN) that points to the top-level directory of the repository stored on your public web server, e.g. http://myrepo.me.com. Once you have set up a DNS entry for this address and tested it to be sure it works, all you have to do is configure the GUI to find it. Issue the following command from the Linux CLI after logging into your server as root. Be sure to substitute your actual FQDN and your actual root password for MySQL if you have changed it from passw0rd. If you’re building a number of new servers, you could simply add this line to the end of the Incredible PBX install script. Be sure to copy the entire line below. It should end with double quotes.

mysql -u root -ppassw0rd asterisk -e "update freepbx_settings set value='http://myrepo.me.com' where keyword='MODULE_REPO' and description='repo server' limit 1"

Isn’t it amazing what you can do with some GPL code and a little documentation on how to use it? Freedom At Last!

Originally published: Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Support Issues. With any application as sophisticated as this one, you’re bound to have questions. Blog comments are a terrible place to handle support issues although we welcome general comments about our articles and software. If you have particular support issues, we encourage you to get actively involved in the PBX in a Flash Forums. It’s the best Asterisk tech support site in the business, and it’s all free! Please have a look and post your support questions there. Unlike some forums, ours is extremely friendly and is supported by literally hundreds of Asterisk gurus and thousands of users just like you. You won’t have to wait long for an answer to your question.



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


 
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 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. 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! 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.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. According to a recent tweet from one of the developers, these warnings now can be disabled. That change was more than a year in coming. []
  2. The latest versions of the GPL modules are available in FreePBX’s GIT repo. UPDATE: Although tarballs are available for individual modules, even that format on GitHub would require painstaking, individual imports within the FreePBX GUI and totally defeats the design and purpose of the Module Admin component of FreePBX. []

Introducing Incredible PBX with Incredible GUI for CentOS and Scientific Linux

If you’re looking for a pure GPL, open source Asterisk® aggregation with a pure GPL, open source graphical user interface, then today’s your lucky day. Incredible PBX™ with the new Incredible GUI for CentOS 6.5 and 7 is an independent aggregation based solely upon GPL code. Because of the nature of the CentOS platform, it was built from the ground up. The Incredible PBX installers are pure GPL open source code so you are more than welcome (encouraged!) to examine it, improve upon it, and share your discoveries with all of us.

Incredible PBX for CentOS 6.5 and 7 follows our standard install procedure which means it’s up to you to first create a CentOS 6.5 or 7 platform. If you prefer Scientific Linux or Oracle Linux, feel free to start there. All work equally well as a base platform and are supported by a worldwide group of developers. Once your OS platform is in place, simply run the Incredible PBX installer of your choice. After 30-60 minutes of whirring, you’ll end up with an awesome (free) state-of-the-art Asterisk-based VoIP server with the very latest version of Asterisk 11 as well as dozens of turnkey Incredible PBX applications. So enjoy a nice lunch while the Incredible PBX installer works its magic. No user intervention is required during the installation procedure. All text-to-speech (TTS) applications work out of the box. You can add Google’s Speech Recognition to many Incredible PBX applications by following our 5-minute tutorial.

Installing a Base CentOS Operating System

UPDATE AND WARNING: CentOS 7 build is not yet ready for prime time. Stick with 6.5/6.6.

Let’s begin by installing 64-bit CentOS 6.5 or 7 on your favorite hardware or Desktop. Or you may prefer to use a Cloud provider1 that already offers a preconfigured CentOS image. In the latter case, you can skip this section.

For those using a dedicated hardware platform or wishing to install CentOS as a virtual machine, the drill is the same. Start by downloading the 64-bit CentOS 6.5 minimal ISO or the CentOS 7 minimal ISO or . Burn the ISO to a DVD unless you’ll be booting from the ISO on a virtual machine platform such as VirtualBox. On virtual platforms, we recommend at least 1GB RAM and a 20GB dedicated drive. For VirtualBox, here are the settings:

Type: Linux
Version: RedHat 64-bit
RAM: 1024MB
Default Drive Options with 20GB+ space
Create
Settings->System: Enable IO APIC and Disable HW Clock (leave rest alone)
Settings->Audio: Enable
Settings->Network: Enable, Bridged
Settings->Storage: Far right CD icon (choose your ISO)
Start

Boot your server with the ISO, and start the CentOS install. Here are the simplest installation steps:

Choose Language and Click Continue
Click: Install Destination (do not change anything!)
Click: Done
Click: Network & Hostname
Click: ON
Click: Done
Click: Begin Installation
Click: Root Password: password, password, Click Done twice
Wait for Minimal Software Install and Setup to finish
Click: Reboot

Configuring CentOS 6.5 or 7 for Incredible PBX Installation

Now log into your server as root and issue the following commands to put the basic pieces in place and to reconfigure your Ethernet port as eth0. Make a note of your IP address so you can log in with SSH.

setenforce 0
yum -y upgrade
yum -y install net-tools nano wget
# decipher your server's IP address
ifconfig
# patch grub and ignore any errors if your server doesn't use it
sed -i 's|quiet|quiet net.ifnames=0 biosdevdame=0|' /etc/default/grub
grub2-mkconfig -o /boot/grub2/grub.cfg
# for CentOS/Scientific Linux 6.5/6.6 platforms, perform these additional steps:
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/update-kernel-devel
chmod +x update-kernel-devel
./update-kernel-devel
reboot

If you’re on a virtual machine platform, now would be a good time to make an export or backup of your CentOS image. The minimal install is about 500MB. Don’t forget to first remove your hardware address (HWADDR) and network UUID from /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-enp0s3 or whatever file name was assigned to your hardware. The saved image will be bootable with DHCP network support anywhere down the road.

NEWS FLASH: For those wanting to test things out using VirtualBox, a Scientific Linux 7 Minimal Install image (401MB) is now available on SourceForge. It gets you to right here in the install process.


Installing Incredible PBX for CentOS 6.5 or 7

Adding Incredible PBX to a running CentOS 6.5 or 7 server is a walk in the park. To restate the obvious, your server needs a reliable Internet connection to proceed. Be sure to use SSH (or Putty on a Windows machine) to begin because the installer locks the firewall down to your local network and the IP address of the machine from which you perform the install. Log into your new server as root at the IP address you deciphered in the ifconfig step in the CentOS installation procedure above.

WARNING: If you’re using a 512MB droplet at Digital Ocean, be advised that their setups do NOT include a swap file. This may cause serious problems when you run out of RAM. Uncomment ./create-swapfile-DO line below to create a 1GB swap file which will be activated whenever you exceed 90% RAM usage on Digital Ocean.

Now let’s begin the Incredible PBX install. You have a choice of GUI versions: 2.11 or 12.0.

NOTE: To more clearly identify packaging as we move forward, there has been a change in the Incredible PBX naming and numbering scheme. Henceforth, the file name and version reflects the Asterisk version, the GUI version, the Incredible PBX release number, and the OS platform. For example, incrediblepbx11-11.1.centos tells you the product includes Asterisk 11, the 2.11 GUI, .1 release number, and the CentOS platform.

To install the 2.11 GUI, log back in as root and issue the following commands:

cd /root
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/incrediblepbx11-11.1.centos.tar.gz
tar zxvf incrediblepbx*
#./create-swapfile-DO
./IncrediblePBX*

To install the version 12 GUI, log back in as root and issue the following commands:

cd /root
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/incrediblepbx11-12.1.centos.tar.gz
tar zxvf incrediblepbx*
#./create-swapfile-DO
./IncrediblePBX*
gui-fix

Once you have agreed to the license agreement and terms of use, press Enter and go have a long cup of coffee. The Incredible PBX installers run unattended so find something to do for the next 30-60 minutes unless you just like watching code compile. When the installation is complete, run /root/admin-pw-change to set the admin password for GUI access using a browser. If you’re using the version 12 GUI, don’t forget: gui-fix.

Log out and back into your server as root and you should be greeted by something like this:

Perform the following steps:

Make your root password very secure: passwd
Set your correct time zone: ./timezone-setup
Restart Asterisk: amportal restart
Create admin password for web apps: htpasswd /etc/pbx/wwwpasswd admin
Make a copy of your other passwords: cat passwords.FAQ
Make a copy of your Knock codes: cat knock.FAQ
Decipher IP address and other info about your server: status

Incredible PBX includes an automatic update utility which downloads important updates whenever you log into your server as root. We recommend you log in once a week to keep your server current. Now would be a good time to log out and back into your server at the Linux command line to bring your server up to current specs.

You can access the Incredible PBX GUI using your favorite web browser to configure your server. Just enter the IP address shown in the status display.

Choose Incredible GUI Administration from the Admin menu of the Kennonsoft GUI (shown above). The default username is admin and the password is what you set when the install completed. Now edit extension 701 so you can figure out (or change) the randomized passwords that were set up for your 701 extension and voicemail account: Applications -> Extensions -> 701. If you’re behind a hardware-based firewall, change the NAT setting to: YES.

Setting Up a Soft Phone to Use with Incredible PBX

Now you’re ready to set up a telephone so that you can play with Incredible PBX. We recommend YateClient which is free. Download it from here. Run YateClient once you’ve installed it and enter the credentials for the 701 extension on Incredible PBX. You’ll need the IP address of your server plus your extension
701 password. Choose Settings -> Accounts and click the New button. Fill in the blanks using the IP address of your server, 701 for your account name, and whatever password you created for the extension. Click OK.

Once you are registered to extension 701, close the Account window. Then click on YATE’s Telephony Tab and place some test calls to the numerous apps that are preconfigured on Incredible PBX. Dial a few of these to get started:


947 - Weather by ZIP Code
951 - Yahoo News
*61 - Time of Day
*68 - Wakeup Call
TODAY - Today in History

Now you’re ready to connect to the telephones in the rest of the world. If you live in the U.S., the easiest way (at least for now) is to set up a free Google Voice account. Google has threatened to shut this down but as this is written, it still works. The more desirable long-term solution is to choose several SIP providers and set up redundant trunks for your incoming and outbound calls. The PIAF Forum includes dozens of recommendations to get you started.

Configuring Google Voice

If you want to use Google Voice, you’ll need a dedicated Google Voice account to support Incredible PBX. If you want to use the inbound fax capabilities of Incredible Fax 11, then you’ll need an additional Google Voice line that can be routed to the FAX custom destination using the GUI. The more obscure the username (with some embedded numbers), the better off you will be. This will keep folks from bombarding you with unsolicited Gtalk chat messages, and who knows what nefarious scheme will be discovered using Google messaging six months from now. So keep this account a secret!

We’ve tested this extensively using an existing Gmail account, and inbound calling is just not reliable. The reason seems to be that Google always chooses Gmail chat as the inbound call destination if there are multiple registrations from the same IP address. So, be reasonable. Do it our way! Set up a dedicated Gmail and Google Voice account, and use it exclusively with Incredible PBX. It’s free at least through 2013. Google Voice no longer is by invitation only so, if you’re in the U.S. or have a friend that is, head over to the Google Voice site and register.

You must choose a telephone number (aka DID) for your new account, or Google Voice calling will not work… in either direction. Google used to permit outbound Gtalk calls using a fake CallerID, but that obviously led to abuse so it’s over! You also have to tie your Google Voice account to at least one working phone number as part of the initial setup process. Your cellphone number will work just fine. Don’t skip this step either. Just enter the provided 2-digit confirmation code when you tell Google to place the test call to the phone number you entered. Once the number is registered, you can disable it if you’d like in Settings, Voice Setting, Phones. But…

IMPORTANT: Be sure to enable the Google Chat option as one of your phone destinations in Settings, Voice Setting, Phones. That’s the destination we need for The Incredible PBX to work its magic! Otherwise, all inbound and outbound calls will fail. If you don’t see this option, you may need to call up Gmail and enable Google Chat there first. Then go back to the Google Voice Settings.

While you’re still in Google Voice Settings, click on the Calls tab. Make sure your settings match these:

  • Call ScreeningOFF
  • Call PresentationOFF
  • Caller ID (In)Display Caller’s Number
  • Caller ID (Out)Don’t Change Anything
  • Do Not DisturbOFF
  • Call Options (Enable Recording)OFF
  • Global Spam FilteringON

Click Save Changes once you adjust your settings. Under the Voicemail tab, plug in your email address so you get notified of new voicemails. Down the road, receipt of a Google Voice voicemail will be a big hint that something has come unglued on your PBX.

One final word of caution is in order regardless of your choice of providers: Do NOT use special characters in any provider passwords, or nothing will work!

Now you’re ready to set up your Google Voice trunk in the GUI. After logging in with your browser, click the Connectivity tab and choose Google Voice/Motif. To Add a new Google Voice account, just fill out the form. Do NOT check the third box or incoming calls will never ring!

IMPORTANT LAST STEP: Google Voice will not work unless you restart Asterisk from the Linux command line at this juncture. Using SSH, log into your server as root and issue the following command: amportal restart.

If you have trouble getting Google Voice to work (especially if you have previously used your Google Voice account from a different IP address), try this Google Voice Reset Procedure. It usually fixes connectivity problems. If it still doesn’t work, enable Less Secure Apps using this Google tool.

Troubleshooting Audio and DTMF Problems

You can avoid one-way audio on calls and touchtones that don’t work with these simple settings in the GUI: Settings -> Asterisk SIP Settings. Just plug in your public IP address and your private IP subnet. Then set ULAW as the only Audio Codec.

A Few Words about the Incredible PBX Security Model for CentOS

Incredible PBX for CentOS joins our previous Ubuntu build as our most secure turnkey PBX implementation, ever. As configured, it is protected by both Fail2Ban and a hardened configuration of the IPtables Linux firewall. The latest release also includes Port Knocker for simple, secure access from any remote computer or smartphone. You can get up to speed on how the technology works by reading the Nerd Vittles tutorial. Your Port Knocker credentials are stored in /root/knock.FAQ together with activation instructions for your server and mobile devices. The NeoRouter VPN client also is included for rock-solid, secure connectivity to remote users. Read our previous tutorial for setup instructions. As configured, nobody can access your PBX without your credentials AND an IP address that is either on your private network or that matches the IP address of your server or the PC from which you installed Incredible PBX. You can whitelist additional IP addresses by running the command-line utility /root/add-ip. You can remove whitelisted IP addresses by running /root/del-acct. Incredible PBX is preconfigured to let you connect to many of the leading SIP hosting providers without additional firewall tweaking. We always recommend you also add an extra layer of protection by running your server behind a hardware-based firewall with no Internet port exposure, but that’s your call. And it’s your phone bill. 😉

The IPtables firewall is a complex piece of software. If you need assistance with configuring it, visit the PIAF Forum for some friendly assistance.

Incredible Backup and Restore

We’re pleased to introduce our latest backup and restore utilities for Incredible PBX. Running /root/incrediblebackup will create a backup image of your server in /tmp. This backup image then can be copied to any other medium desired for storage. To restore it to another Incredible PBX server, simply copy the image to a server running Asterisk 11 and the same version of the Incredible PBX GUI. Then run /root/incrediblerestore. Doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Incredible PBX Automatic Update Utility

Every time you log into your server as root, Incredible PBX will ping the IncrediblePBX.com web site to determine whether one or more updates are available to bring your server up to current specs. We recommend you log in at least once a week just in case some new security vulnerability should come along.

In the meantime, we encourage you to sign up for an account on the PIAF Forum and join the discussion. In addition to providing first-class, free support, we think you’ll enjoy the camaraderie.

Originally published: Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Support Issues. With any application as sophisticated as this one, you’re bound to have questions. Blog comments are a terrible place to handle support issues although we welcome general comments about our articles and software. If you have particular support issues, we encourage you to get actively involved in the PBX in a Flash Forums. It’s the best Asterisk tech support site in the business, and it’s all free! Please have a look and post your support questions there. Unlike some forums, ours is extremely friendly and is supported by literally hundreds of Asterisk gurus and thousands of users just like you. You won’t have to wait long for an answer to your question.

NEWS FLASH: There’s a message thread to handle Bugs & Fixes for this new release. If you have issues with your install, start there.



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


 
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 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. 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! 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.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Some of our links refer users to Amazon or other service providers when we find their prices are competitive for the recommended products. Nerd Vittles receives a small referral fee from these providers to help cover the costs of our blog. We never recommend particular products solely to generate commissions. However, when pricing is comparable or availability is favorable, we support these providers because they support us. []

Turning the Page on Asterisk GUIs: Here’s to a New Beginning with a GUI Facelift

Having invested enormous energy in the Asterisk® and FreePBX® open source communities for a dozen years, it’s always disappointing when commercial interests fundamentally change the direction of open source projects. We witnessed it first hand with the Fonality® takeover of the Asterisk@Home and trixbox® projects many years ago. Today there is no trixbox or Asterisk@Home open source project. Fonality’s business phone systems appear to be thriving thanks in no small part to the customer base they inherited with the buyout of the Asterisk@Home and trixbox projects. Those projects also were responsible for the enormous success that FreePBX has enjoyed in the Asterisk GUI market. The demise of the trixbox project also led to creation of PBX in a Flash™. Unfortunately, history has a way of repeating itself.

As the FreePBX market share continued to increase, we began to hear concerns from vendors that were competing with the FreePBX parent company. First, there were complaints that a competing SIP provider was being barred from distributing a FreePBX-compatible module to their customers for use on their customers’ own servers. Next came complaints from a number of providers that monetary demands were being made for distributing the open source GPL version of FreePBX to customers who had subscribed to Cloud-based hosting services. In FreePBX 2.11 came commingling of commercial modules followed by a locked-in module for their own commercial SIP trunking service. Then, there was the free fax application that mysteriously disappeared to make way for a new $150 commercial application that did much the same thing. More recently, there was the module signature fiasco where Sangoma demanded unrestricted indemnification for its legal expenses in exchange for relaxation of daily email bombardments and nasty security alerts in FreePBX 12 when anyone attempted to install a module even for personal use unless the module was actually developed by Sangoma. And what used to be a publicly accessible collection of modules for each release of FreePBX going back to 2007 has now become hidden from public view with FreePBX 12 and beyond. This isn’t a disk space issue. And these aren’t mere coincidences. It’s a disturbing pattern. Ironically, many of the current FreePBX folks were among the most vocal critics of the commercialization of the trixbox project after the Fonality takeover. But when numerous people raised concerns this time around, one of Sangoma’s lapdogs launched a tirade on Reddit painting us as sufficiently despicable that we probably shouldn’t be trusted with matches

Ward believes that he can run around, signing modules that attack other peoples machines, and then when we get sued for it he can sit back and laugh. — xrobau a.k.a. Rob Thomas, Sangoma

Sounds like something we would do, doesn’t it? NB: Whose Bread I Eat, His Song I Sing1

So how do we find a middle ground that preserves the open source development process and the rights of those using open source GPL products while balancing the legitimate needs of businesses and developers to earn a living? History teaches us that you can’t do it with quasi-commercial products shrouded in open source clothing. There’s simply too much temptation to tilt the playing field in favor of the almighty dollar. This is especially true when a single company has overwhelming market share. When Digium abandoned Asterisk-GUI while signing on as a FreePBX promoter, Sangoma was handed a virtual monopoly in the Asterisk GUI marketplace. Coupling that market dominance with the events documented in the previous paragraph tells you all you need to know about the current state of the open source Asterisk community.

What we believe is needed is meaningful separation between the open source GPL modules that are included in FreePBX and the functionality of the GUI itself which has become increasingly proprietary with the commingling of commercial modules, trademark encroachment claims, the increasingly proprietary FreePBX ecosystem, and now module signatures and obfuscation. Could Sangoma have fixed these issues during the four months they have owned the project? Absolutely. Have they? We’ll let you decide that for yourself.

Truth be told, we’ve actually delayed releasing this article hoping that Sangoma would turn things around. Instead, they’ve chosen to keep things as they are while the rhetoric has become increasingly strident. So, in hindsight, this is long overdue.

Not sure why anyone would want to do it but Sangoma for quite some time has offered a tool to transform an open source PBX in a Flash server into a proprietary FreePBX Distro. Today we’re pleased to return the favor by offering a tool to enhance CentOS, Scientific Linux, and Ubuntu servers running FreePBX 2.11 by returning the project to its roots: (1) providing a public repository of FreePBX-compatible GPL modules, (2) removing the proprietary trademarks from the GUI, (3) eliminating the commercial components from the base product, (4) providing a new update utility for GPL modules that are compatible with FreePBX, (5) and publishing the licenses for all of the materials in Plain English. When you complete the setup, you’ll have the new Incredible PBX GUI platform running all of your existing modules.

Is this a fork of the FreePBX GUI project? We consider it more of a spoon to encourage Sangoma to do the right thing and to assist those that want a truly open source platform on which to build Asterisk servers. Generally speaking, we do not intend to enhance existing modules for FreePBX so, in that sense, this is not a fork of existing FreePBX open source code even though we have used GitHub’s fork utility to make duplicates of some FreePBX components pursuant to the GPL and GitHub’s terms of service. What we’ve done is a reconfiguration of the graphical user interface through the afforded design settings and module components in the product itself to better conform with what we believe is the true spirit of the GPL under which FreePBX is licensed. In the words of the GPL Preamble:

Some devices are designed to deny users access to install or run modified versions of the software inside them, although the manufacturer can do so. This is fundamentally incompatible with the aim of protecting users’ freedom to change the software. The systematic pattern of such abuse occurs in the area of products for individuals to use, which is precisely where it is most unacceptable. Therefore, we have designed this version of the GPL to prohibit the practice for those products.

By its nature, FreePBX is a toolkit that permits customization of Asterisk in numerous ways. For example, you can add extensions, trunks, routes to process calls, conferences, voicemail, and literally hundreds of other features. In addition, FreePBX modules allow sophisticated tweaking of the user interface that is displayed in the GUI itself. For years, we have offered Incredible Backup and Restore utilities that let you take snapshots of your GUI configuration which can be restored whenever and wherever necessary. FreePBX offers a more limited snapshot capability from within the GUI itself.

Today’s Incredible PBX GUI offering is essentially a snapshot of a highly customized FreePBX configuration which can be assimilated into existing FreePBX platforms. DO NOT USE THIS TOOLKIT TO UPGRADE A SERVER RUNNING THE ASTERISK-GUI OR ANY VERSION OF FREEPBX OTHER THAN VERSIONS 2.11 and 12. DO NOT USE THIS TOOLKIT IF YOU HAVE EXISTING FREEPBX COMMERCIAL MODULES YOU WISH TO USE OR PRESERVE. IF YOU HAVE PRECONFIGURED FREEPBX 2.11 OR 12 AND DO NOT WISH TO LOSE YOUR EXISTING SETUP, DO NOT UPGRADE TO THE INCREDIBLE PBX GUI. YOU CANNOT REVERT TO A TRADITIONAL FREEPBX GUI ONCE THIS UPGRADE PROCEDURE HAS BEEN EXECUTED SO MAKE A FULL SYSTEM BACKUP AND TEST IT BEFORE YOU BEGIN.

In order to insulate this new design from future changes that might alter its functionality or compatibility with the original product, we also are deploying an independent repository of the FreePBX open source modules pursuant to the existing GPL licenses. Ward Mundy & Associates, LLC will maintain this repository going forward. Future open source GPL additions to the repository will be screened and tested for compatibility before assimilation. This will not in any way hamper anyone’s ability to add modules of your choice using the existing module import capabilities of the product. Whether the imported modules are open source, closed source, proprietary, or commercial is your call so long as your use or redistribution of them conforms to the terms of the GPL. We would offer the same advice we give to those setting up a salt water aquarium for the first time. Build two separate systems so that you have one on which to test new modules before introducing them into your production machine. With tools such as VirtualBox and inexpensive cloud offerings such as Digital Ocean, CloudAtCost, and IP Systems LTD, building a secondary server is a 30-minute task. Of course, for production servers in the cloud, we continue to recommend our Platinum sponsor, RentPBX.

Will existing distributors of commercial modules modify them in such a way that they no longer function with today’s release? Unfortunately, that is a question that only the commercial providers can answer. Suffice it to say that every crippled module becomes a lost sale, but that is their call to make. What we can tell you is that both Incredible PBX and its snapshot of the Incredible GUI facelift are released as open source code for others to use or modify without restriction and subject only to the terms of the GPL license with no trademark restrictions or other gotchas on redistribution.

As time permits, we will further enhance the Incredible GUI installer to support PIAF-Green with Incredible PBX 11 as well as the standalone flavors of Incredible PBX 11 running on the Debian and Raspbian small hardware platforms.

A Word to the Wise. We shouldn’t have to cover this, but we will anyway. As someone who has been involved in software development for over 30 years, we stand ready to make any necessary tweaks to this release to address bugs or any proprietary components that may have inadvertently crept into the code base by virtue of loading pure GPL software of others. All affected parties know how to get in touch with us either by email or phone. As both a lawyer and a member of a family with a healthy collection of litigation attorneys, we also are fully prepared to play hardball if that is the path others wish to pursue. It won’t be without additional consequences. Potential adversaries would do well to take a history lesson from a really Good Book and then review their own previous conduct and our litigation history as part of any cost/benefit analysis. As one who has dealt with difficult situations throughout a lengthy legal and administrative career, suffice it to say we also have taken steps to document our design and to spread that design and accompanying tools, the repository, and all remaining open source components far and wide in the event alternative distribution methods become necessary. Capiche?

Getting Started with the new Incredible PBX GUI

Now you’re ready to begin the install. Continue reading the installation tutorial here.

Originally published: Friday, May 15, 2015


Support Issues. With any application as sophisticated as this one, you’re bound to have questions. Blog comments are a terrible place to handle support issues although we welcome general comments about our articles and software. If you have particular support issues, we encourage you to get actively involved in the PBX in a Flash Forums. It’s the best Asterisk tech support site in the business, and it’s all free! Please have a look and post your support questions there. Unlike some forums, ours is extremely friendly and is supported by literally hundreds of Asterisk gurus and thousands of users just like you. You won’t have to wait long for an answer to your question.



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


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for Incredible PBX users. 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. 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 Incredible PBX 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. 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! 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.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. NB: abbreviation for nota bene: used to mark something as particularly important. []

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