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Asterisk TTS: Introducing Today in History

If you're a history buff and want a convenient way to find out everything that ever happened Today in History, then this week's text to speech (TTS) application for Asterisk® should be just what you need. Pick up any phone connected to your Asterisk system and dial T-O-D-A-Y (86329 for the spelling-impaired). The script will retrieve today's historical events and today's birthdays of interest from Yahoo News and play the results back to you over the phone using either Flite or Cepstral to handle the TTS translation. To speed up the retrieval process, you can also set this up as a cron job to download the latest events each day while you're sleeping. Thereafter, when you dial T-O-D-A-Y, the results are played back for callers instantaneously.

Prerequisites. If you're using PBX in a Flash, then all of the tools you'll need are already in place. And we have a script for you that will install the application in just a few seconds. For other users, you'll need an Asterisk server with PHP5 and either Flite or Cepstral to handle the text-to-speech chores.

Overview. If you've previously installed other Nerd Vittles text to speech applications, then the drill this time around is quite similar. There's a PHP/AGI script which gets stored in /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin. In this script (nv-today.php), you can change the default Flite TTS engine to Cepstral by changing the $ttspick variable setting from 0 to 1. Then there is a snippet of dialplan code that needs to be added to the [from-internal-custom] context in extensions_custom.conf for FreePBX installations. Once you reload your Asterisk dialplan, you're ready to go.

How It Works. The PHP/AGI script only does real work once a day. It always checks to see if there is an existing /tmp/today.txt file with today's file stamp. If there is, it exits gracefully. If today's file doesn't exist or if the file's time stamp is earlier than midnight, then the script downloads the latest information for today in history and creates a text file of the data. Then either the Flite or Cepstral TTS engine is called to convert the text file into /tmp/today.wav. The dial plan code is used to answer calls to extension 86329. Then it runs the PHP/AGI script, and finally it plays back /tmp/today.wav. Note: The PHP/AGI script, if run as a cron job or from the command prompt, should never be run as the root user, but only as the asterisk user. Otherwise, the today.txt and today.wav files cannot be replaced by the script when it subsequently is run from the dialplan.

Script Installation. If you're using PBX in a Flash, log into your server as root and issue the following commands:

cd /root
wget http://bestof.nerdvittles.com/applications/today/today.pbx
chmod +x today.pbx

Automatic Updates Using crontab. If you'd like to automatically generate the Today in History files each day, add the following entry to the bottom of /etc/crontab:

01 0 * * * asterisk /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin/nv-today.php

Manual Installation. For those using a different Asterisk aggregation that includes PHP5, FreePBX, and Flite, add this code to /etc/asterisk/extensions_custom.conf in the [from-internal-custom] context:

exten => 86329,1,Answer
exten => 86329,2,Wait(1)
exten => 86329,3,Set(TIMEOUT(digit)=7)
exten => 86329,4,Set(TIMEOUT(response)=10)
exten => 86329,5,Flite(Please stand bye while we retrieve: Today in History.)
exten => 86329,6,AGI(nv-today.php)
exten => 86329,7,Playback(/tmp/today)
exten => 86329,8,Wait(1)
exten => 86329,9,Hangup

Then issue the following commands from the command prompt after logging in as root:

cd /root
mkdir today
cd today
wget http://bestof.nerdvittles.com/applications/today/today.zip
unzip today.zip
rm -f today.zip
cp nv-today.php /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin/nv-today.php
chmod 775 /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin/nv-today.php
chown asterisk:asterisk /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin/nv-today.php
asterisk -rx "dialplan reload"

Running the Application. Now you're ready for a test run. Pick up any phone connected to your Asterisk system and dial T-O-D-A-Y. After a brief pause to download the data, today's events in history and today's birthdays will be played back over your phone using your favorite text to speech voice. To eliminate the pause the first time the application is run each day, simply add the crontab entry as outlined above. Enjoy!

Free DIDs While They Last. Sipgate is giving away a free U.S. DID with free incoming calls plus 200 free minutes for outbound calls. Better hurry. Here's the trunk setup for FreePBX-based systems:

Trunk name: sipgate


Registration Strong: ACCTNO:ACCTPW@sipgate.com/YOUR-DID-NUMBER

ACCTNO is the account number assigned to your sipgate account. ACCTPW is the password for your account. YOUR-DID-NUMBER is your 10-digit DID.

Finally create an inbound route using your actual 10-digit DID and assign a destination for the inbound calls.

Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.
Or Try the New, Free PBX in a Flash Conference Bridge.

Twitter Magic. If you haven't noticed the right margin of Nerd Vittles lately, we've added a new link to our Twitter feed. If you explore a little, you'll discover that the user interface now brings you instant access to every Twitter feed from the convenience of the Nerd Vittles desktop. Enjoy!

whos.amung.us If you're wondering what your fellow man is reading on Nerd Vittles these days, wonder no more. Visit our new whos.amung.us statistical web site and check out what's happening. It's a terrific resource both for us and for you.


Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors

FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

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Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.

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  1. Just ordered the free DID. The login name and password comes from My Settings, move cursor over "Phone Of yourname", select SIP Credentials and it will show you your sip-ID and sip-Password. That is what you enter for your username / fromuser and secret.

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