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Another Feather in the VoIP Cap: Fedora 20 Comes to PBX in a Flash

Summer has always been the season for experimentation at Nerd Vittles, and 2014 is shaping up to be a banner year. Red Hat® has been a pioneer in all things Linux® so we were anxious to take their latest technologies for a spin. Nothing sums up Fedora™ 20 better than Cubieboard’s graphic (shown above). For those new to open source, Fedora is where the Bleeding Edge action is. If you like roller coasters and fast cars, then you’ll feel right at home with Fedora 20. Suffice it to say it’s the 10th year anniversary edition and the twentieth release of Fedora. What’s new? Well, almost everything. At the desktop level, you’ll be struck by how quickly Fedora components are closing the gap on Windows® and Mac OS X®. In particular, the new LibreOffice™ office suite will leave you wondering whether your favorite word processor has been ported to Linux. It’s that good. And graphics support in Firefox® is every bit as good as any browser you’re currently using on any platform. Of particular interest to us was Fedora’s new support for the Cloud and more important to VoIP, the ARM® platform. This opens up exciting possibilities with the Raspberry Pi® and especially the third generation BeagleBone Black® with its new 4GB flash drive. Is that enough trademark symbols for you? If we missed any owned Word®, our apologies. Yes, you all own your brand names. And no, we didn’t invent any of this. We’re in the aggregation business, trying to make all the pieces work together. For a look at everything new in Fedora 20, be sure to read Danny Steiben’s terrific review. While there still are a few rough edges, it’s actually a much better product than the graphic above might lead you to believe. Here is sample displaying a favorite webcam site, ours.

What does all of this have to do with VoIP? Everything. Fedora is where RedHat experiments with new technologies that ultimately find their way into Enterprise Linux® releases.1 With last week’s release of RHEL 7, CentOS™ 7 cannot be far behind. And much of the new Linux technology found in Fedora will be coming to a VoIP desktop or Cloud near you very soon. So it was important for us to see just how well Asterisk® and FreePBX® perform using the current PBX in a Flash™ installer. If you’re one who likes to read the last page of a book first, we’d give Fedora 20 an A-. And we don’t give out many A’s.

Our tasks for today are three-fold. We’ll show you how to install PBX in a Flash on top of an existing Fedora 20 installation. Then we’ll show you how to roll your own Fedora Remix, a generic operating system that you can embellish and redistribute to your heart’s content (pursuant to GPL2) without worrying about RedHat’s legal beagles. Finally, we’ll provide a Fedora Remix appliance for VirtualBox® that will let you deploy and play with Fedora 20 and PBX in a Flash on your favorite desktop computer. The complete appliance setup takes less than 5 minutes on almost any Windows, Mac, or Linux desktop.

Installing PBX in a Flash Atop Fedora 20 or Fedora Remix

Before you can install the latest PBX in a Flash aggregation, you’ll first need an operating system platform on which to run it. In the case of Fedora 20, that means downloading and installing the Live Media Desktop Edition. For today, we’ll assume you’re installing Fedora 20 on VirtualBox, but any relatively recent desktop computer should work equally well.

You actually have two choices for your operating system: the Fedora 20 platform described above or the PIAF-FC20 Remix which is a superset of that platform. The choice is completely yours. The Fedora Remix is not provided or supported by the Fedora Project. It has been created and is maintained by Ward Mundy & Associates LLC on behalf of the PBX in a Flash Development Team. Download the official Fedora software from here. Or download the PIAF-FC20 Remix ISO from SourceForge.

Let us restate the obvious. This is Bleeding Edge technology. Only deploy it behind a hardware-based firewall with no Internet port exposure. It is not safe to deploy this aggregation on the open Internet. It’s your phone bill. 🙂

Create a new Fedora 20 Virtual Machine in VirtualBox:

Type: Linux
Version: Fedora
RAM: 1024MB
Default Drive Options with 20GB+ space
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) and click Live CD/DVD

Install and configure Fedora 20:

Start your Virtual Machine
Start Fedora Live (be patient while it loads)
Click: Install to Hard Drive
Choose Language and Click Continue
Click: Install Destination (do not change anything!)
Click: Done
Click: Continue (to autoconfigure disk)
Click: Begin Installation
Click: Root Password: password, password, Click Done twice
Click: User Creation: admin, admin, password, password, Click Done twice
Wait for Software Install and Setup to finish
Click Quit
Click Activities and Search for terminal
Click Terminal icon
shutdown -h now
Close the VM window and choose Power Off Machine

Adjust Virtual Machine to Remove Live Image:

Settings->Storage: Click on Fedora Live ISO
Click: (-) icon to remove Live ISO
Confirm: Remove
Click: OK
Restart Virtual Machine

Fedora 20 Initial Setup:

Accept default kernel for boot
Click: Admin user, enter password, Accept
Choose Language, Keyboard
Ignore Link to Data in Cloud, Next
Start Using Fedora
Click: X to close Gnome Help window
Activities, Search: terminal
Click: Terminal icon
su root
enter your password
init 3
login again as root
ln -sf /lib/systemd/system/multi-user.target /etc/systemd/system/default.target
service sshd start
chkconfig --level 2345 sshd on
ifconfig (decipher IP address for SSH login)
shutdown -h now

Once you login with admin:password, the Gnome Desktop will appear. Navigation is similar to a Windows or Mac desktop. Clicking on the Power button and then the Settings icon will bring up the Settings window. Clicking on Activities will bring up the Application list and Search bar. You can drag any of your favorite apps to the left toolbar for quick access. For our purposes, type terminal in the search bar to access a Terminal window. Switch to the root user: su root. And enter your root password. Then complete the steps above to configure Fedora 20 for PIAF installation. You will NOT lose your ability to also use Fedora 20 apps in graphics mode. Switch between modes with init 5 for graphics and init 3 for non-graphics, multi-user mode. PIAF installation and operation requires run level 3. But, once it’s installed and operating, you can easily switch to run level 5 to use desktop applications such as FireFox and LibreOffice. The advantages of a multi-purpose platform for those who travel or for deployment at small remote sites should be obvious. A single computer could be used to provide BOTH desktop computing services as well as a full-featured PBX with secure connectivity to home base.


Preliminary Steps for PIAF3 Installation:

Restart Virtual Machine
Login as root using SSH so you can cut-and-paste
cd /etc/yum.repos.d
# change gpgcheck=0 for all repos
yum -y install httpd* php wget nano iptables-services glibc.i686
sed -i 's|SELINUX=enforcing|SELINUX=disabled|' /etc/selinux/config
systemctl enable httpd.service
systemctl start httpd.service
systemctl stop firewalld.service
systemctl status firewalld.service
chkconfig --level 2345 firewalld off
cd /root
wget http://pbxinaflash.com/piaf3-install.tar.gz
tar zxvf piaf3-install.tar.gz

PIAF3 Installation Procedure:

Phase 1: Allow automated install to complete (2,000+ new components)
Phase 2: Following reboot, choose option C to exit to command prompt
Type: piafdl
Flavor: PIAF-Green
# expand the size of your SSH window now by doubling its size
Enable make menuconfig option: Y
Time Zone: your choice
FreePBX: 2.11
Master password: your choice
When menuconfig opens, press down arrow, right arrow, left arrow, and X
Wait for reboot and login again
Post-install script will run and leave you with a functional system

Congratulations! Enjoy your new Bleeding Edge VoIP platform.

Rolling Your Own Fedora Remix

We promised you a quick tutorial on building your own Fedora Remix using Fedora 20 as a base. It’s actually pretty easy and can be built using the platform you created above. After logging into your server as root, issue the following commands to create the ISO. When you’re finished, you’ll have the same Fedora Remix ISO that can be downloaded from our SourceForge site.

mkdir /root/remix
cd /root/remix
yum -y install livecd-tools spin-kickstarts
wget http://pbxinaflash.com/piaf-fc20-remix-ks.tar.gz
tar zxvf piaf-fc20-remix-ks.tar.gz
livecd-creator --config=fedora-live-desktop.ks --fslabel=PIAF-FC20-Remix \

PIAF3 VirtualBox Appliance with Fedora Remix

You may be asking, "Why the knuckle drill with rolling your own remix when Fedora provides the ISO for you?" The short answer is because RedHat has rules (lots of them) on how you can redistribute their open source products (many of which aren’t theirs at all). Most of these rules address which trademarks of theirs can and cannot be used and under what circumstances. For anyone building virtual machines, it’s simply the cost of doing business with RedHat. If it were as easy as removing the fedora-logos, fedora-release, and fedora-release-notes packages and replacing them with the generic-logos, generic-release, and generic-release-notes packages as RedHat’s site suggests, life would be easy. Unfortunately, there are dozens of commingled dependencies that get broken by directly swapping out these RPMs on a live system. While it has never been legally tested, as things stand today, you are forced to build your own ISO with the appropriate packages in order to comply with Red Hat’s licensing rules. Once you’ve done that, then creation of virtual machine appliances with the remix operating system are straight-forward and simple to create. We have built a VirtualBox appliance that will provide you a functional system on any desktop computer in minutes. The .ova appliance (3.1GB) is available for download from SourceForge. For those that want to experiment with this exciting new platform without the installation hassle, this virtual machine appliance is for you. After downloading the .ova image, just follow our previous VirtualBox tutorial to get started. It only takes a couple of minutes. At a minimum, change your root password by running passwd and change your FreePBX maint password by running passwd-master.

What’s Still Broken with PIAF Running Fedora 20

The new PIAF install procedure lets us push the latest fixes to every system as necessary. These always get loaded the first time you log in as root and configure your network for DHCP access, and you can reapply the latest fixes by issuing the command touch /etc/firsttime and then logging out and back into your server as root. With the latest fixes, the bug list is tiny. Apache authentication for FreePBX now works just as it does in all other versions of PBX in a Flash. Simply log into the FreePBX web GUI with username maint and the maint password you set up with passwd-master. The original PIAF status application has been replaced with an interim status app that provides most of the same functionality as the original. Zend Guard loader remains broken because Fedora 20 uses PHP 5.5. It means FreePBX commercial apps will not yet function. With those two exceptions, PBX in a Flash running under Fedora 20 should be indistinguishable from PIAF running on other OS platforms.

We really need your help identifying bugs! Much of this platform will ultimately be part of the new CentOS 7 and RHEL 7 builds. If you happen to stumble upon problems, particularly in FreePBX which now is dependent upon a new version of PHP and the new MariaDB database engine which replaced MySQL, please post a comment on the PIAF Forum AND open a bug ticket in the FreePBX Issue Tracker. The PIAF and FreePBX Dev Teams take all bug reports seriously and appreciate your assistance. Enjoy!

Originally published: Monday, June 16, 2014

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Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Did you happen to notice who is using someone else’s trademark in their brand name? But we digress. []

1 Comment

  1. If you’re installing this as part of a Digital Ocean droplet for Fedora 20, there’s a final set of steps to execute after you login at the completion of the above install:

    cd /root
    wget http://pbxinaflash.com/fixup-fedora.tar.gz -O /tmp/fixup.tar.gz
    tar zxvf /tmp/fixup.tar.gz -C /root
    mv status /usr/local/sbin/.

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