If you’re new to the VoIP world and aren’t quite ready to dive into the Nerd Vittles cloud computing offerings, then we have a one minute setup solution today that doesn’t require you to buy anything ever. You can use almost any desktop computer you already own to bring up the VirtualBox® edition of Incredible PBX® in less than 60 seconds. If you’ve followed Nerd Vittles over the years, you already know that VirtualBox from Oracle® is one of our favorite platforms. Once VirtualBox is installed on your desktop computer, adding Incredible PBX is a snap. Download the new Incredible PBX vbox image from SourceForge, double-click on the downloaded image, check the initialize MAC address box, and boom. In less than a minute, your PBX is ready to use.
The really nice thing about playing along today is it won’t cost you a dime to try things out for yourself. And, if you really love it and we think you will, there’s no hidden fee or crippleware to hinder your continued use of Incredible PBX for as long as you like. Of course, the Incredible PBX feature set is included as well which brings you nearly three dozen applications for Asterisk® that will revolutionize your communications platform. Just add your credentials and speech-to-text, voice recognition, and a Siri-like telephony interface are as close as your nearest SIP phone. If you later decide you’d like to migrate your server to an inexpensive cloud-based platform, Incredible Backup and Restore make it a 15-minute turnkey task.
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.
Installing Incredible PBX 13 with VirtualBox
To begin, download the latest Incredible PBX vbox image (2.6 GB) onto your desktop. Incredible PBX 13-13.10 includes all of the very latest FreePBX® 13 modules.
Next, double-click on the Incredible PBX .ova image on your desktop. Be sure to check the box to initialize the MAC address of the image and then click Import. Once the import is finished, you’ll see a new Incredible PBX virtual machine in the VM List of the VirtualBox Manager Window. Let’s make a couple of one-time adjustments to the Incredible PBX configuration to account for possible differences in sound and network cards on different host machines.
(1) Click once on the Incredible PBX virtual machine in the VM List. Then (2) click the Settings button. In the Audio tab, check the Enable Audio option and choose your sound card. In the Network tab 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. That’s all the configuration that is necessary for Incredible PBX.
Running Incredible PBX in VirtualBox
Once you’ve imported and configured the Incredible PBX Virtual Machine, you’re ready to go. Highlight the Incredible PBX virtual machine in the VM List on the VirtualBox Manager Window and click the Start button. The standard Linux boot procedure will begin and, within a few seconds, you’ll get the familiar Linux login prompt. During the bootstrap procedure, 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 VM window. Always gracefully halt Incredible PBX just as you would on any 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. Change your passwords immediately by typing: /root/update-passwords.
Setting the Date and Time with VirtualBox
On some platforms, VirtualBox has a nasty habit of mangling the date and time of your virtual machine. Typing date will tell you whether your VM is affected. If it’s a problem, manually set the date and time and then update the hardware clock. Here’s how assuming 01070709 is the month, day, and correct time of your server:
date 01070709 clock -w
Overview of the Initial Asterisk Setup Process
For those new to PBXs, here’s a two paragraph summary of how Voice over IP (VoIP) works. Phones connected to your PBX are registered with Extensions so that they can make and receive calls. When a PBX user picks up a phone and dials a number, an Outbound Route tells the PBX which Trunk to use to place the call based upon established dialing rules. Unless the dialed number is a local extension, a Trunk registered with some service provider accepts the call, and the PBX sends the call to that provider. The provider then routes the call to its destination where the recipient’s phone rings to announce the incoming call. When the recipient picks up the phone, the conversation begins.
Looking at things from the other end, when a caller somewhere in the world wishes to reach you, the caller picks up a telephone and dials a number known as a DID that is assigned to you by a provider with whom you have established service. When the provider receives the call to your DID, it routes the call to your PBX based upon destination information you established with the provider. Your PBX receives the call with information identifying the DID of the call as well as the CallerID name and number of the caller. An Inbound Route on your PBX then determines where to send the call based upon that DID and CallerID information. Typically, a call is routed to an Extension, a group of Extensions known as a Ring Group, or an IVR or AutoAttendant giving the caller choices on routing the call to the desired destination. Once the call is routed to an Extension, the PBX rings the phone registered to that Extension. When you pick up the phone, the conversation begins.
Configuring Asterisk to Support NAT-Based Routing
With a VoIP server, many PBXs and Extensions are housed behind a NAT-based router that is found in most homes and businesses. These routers assign private IP addresses that are not accessible from the Internet. This causes SIP routing headaches because there are actually two legs to every call, one on the private IP address of your server or extension and another on the public Internet with an entirely different IP address. Routers supposedly handle this handoff of the call using Network Address Translation (NAT) and SIP ALG. With Asterisk-based PBXs, we want the PBX itself to handle the NAT chores so it is critically important to do three things when setting up your PBX. First, turn off SIP ALG on every router used by your PBX and every extension connected to your PBX. Second, tell your PBX about your public and private IP address setup. Step #2 is done in the Incredible PBX GUI with a browser. Login as admin and choose Settings:Asterisk SIP Settings. In the NAT Settings section of the form, click Detect Network Settings. Make sure your public and private IP addresses are correctly listed. Then click Submit and reload your dialplan when prompted. Failure to perform BOTH of these steps typically results in calls with one-way audio, i.e. where either you or the called party can’t hear the other party in the conversation. The third rule to remember is to always configure SIP Extensions on your PBX with NAT Mode=YES. This is rarely harmful and failure to configure SIP extensions in this way typically causes one-way audio in calls as well. IAX extensions avoid NAT issues.
Configuring Extensions with Incredible PBX GUI
Extensions are created using the Incredible PBX GUI: Applications:Extensions. Many SIP phones expect extensions to communicate on UDP port 5060. If this is the case with your SIP phone or softphone, then always create Chan_SIP extensions which communicate on UDP 5060. If your SIP phone or softphone provide port flexibility, then you have a choice in the type of SIP extension to create: Chan_SIP or the more versatile PJSIP. Just remember to always configure SIP extensions with NAT Mode=YES in the Advanced tab. If your VoIP phones or softphones support IAX connectivity, you may wish to consider IAX extensions which avoid NAT problems.
When you create a new Extension, a new entry is automatically created in the PBX Internal Directory. If you wish to allow individual users to manage their extensions or use the WebRTC softphone, then you will also have to create a (very) secure password for User Control Panel (UCP) access. Choose Admin:User Management and click on the key icon of the desired extension to assign a password for UCP and WebRTC access.
Configuring SIP Phones with Incredible PBX GUI
SIP phones and softphones typically require three pieces of information: the IP address of your server, the extension number, and the extension password. If you’re using a PJSIP extension, you also will need to change the port to UDP 5061. If your server is behind a NAT-based router, SIP phones also behind the same router need to use the private LAN address rather than the public IP address. If the SIP phones are outside the router protecting the PBX, then use the public IP address and make certain that you also map ports 5060 and 5061 from your router to the private LAN address of your PBX. Beginning with Incredible PBX 13-13.10, you now can make free SIP URI calls worldwide from almost any SIP phone or softphone. Our SIP URI tutorial covers everything you need to know.
The PIAF Forum can provide you with helpful information in choosing high quality SIP phones. Yealink phones are highly recommended with minimal issues. Cisco phones are the most difficult to configure. Insofar as free softphones, we recommend the Zoiper 3 offerings for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. Zoiper 5 still is experiencing some growing pains. A key advantage of the Zoiper softphone is it supports IAX extensions which eliminate the NAT issues entirely. On the Mac platform, we also recommend the Telephone app which is available in the App Store. For SRTP communications, use Grandstream Wave.
Configuring Trunks with Incredible PBX GUI
Perhaps the most difficult component to configure in the PBX is the Trunk. Almost every provider has a different way of doing things. We’ve taken some of the torture out of the exercise by providing configuration settings for dozens of providers. All you need to do is edit the desired Trunk (Connectivity:Trunks), change the Disable Trunk entry to No, and insert your credentials in both the PEER Details and Registration string of the SIP Settings Outgoing and Incoming tabs.
UPDATE: Whether your desktop PBX has a static IP address on the Internet or not, you now can take advantage of a terrific Nerd Vittles Skyetel offer of $50 in free service using Skyetel’s just released support for dynamic IP addressing. Start by mapping UDP ports 5060 and 10000-20000 to your server from your router. The firewall settings and Skyetel trunk setups are preconfigured in this VirtualBox image. Once you get this far, you’re ready to install Skyetel’s new dynamic IP address updater. This is required since you never actually register a trunk with Skyetel. Here’s how. Log into your server as root and
cd /usr/src. Then follow this tutorial to put the pieces in place. While this is beta software at this juncture, we have tested it with excellent results. However, if you run into issues, please post your questions on the PIAF Forum. Now jump over to our Skyetel Tutorial to claim your $50 credit and to get your account set up and configured. Effective 10/1/2023, $25/month minimum spend required.
Of course, Incredible PBX comes preconfigured with setups for dozens of other providers that let you register a new trunk on the provider’s server. VoIP.ms (free iNUM), CircleNet, CallCentric (free DID and iNUM), LocalPhone (25¢/mo. iNUM), Future-Nine, AnveoDirect, and V1VoIP are excellent options.2 Most don’t cost you anything unless you make calls. Review our complete SIP tutorial here: Developing a Cost-Effective SIP Strategy.
Configuring Inbound Routes in Incredible PBX GUI
Inbound Routes, as the name implies, are used to direct incoming calls to a specific destination. That destination could be an extension, a ring group, an IVR or AutoAttendant, or even a conference or DISA extension to place outbound calls (hopefully with a very secure password). Inbound Routes can be identified by DID, CallerID number, or both. To create Inbound Routes, choose Connectivity:Inbound Routes and then click Add Inbound Route. Provide at least a Description for the route, a DID to be matched, and the Destination for the incoming calls that match. If you only want certain callers to be able to reach certain extensions, add a CallerID number to your matching criteria. You can add Call Recording and CallerID CNAM Lookups under the Other tab.
Configuring Outbound Routes in Incredible PBX GUI
Outbound Routes serve a couple of purposes. First, they assure that calls placed by users of your PBX are routed out through an appropriate trunk to reach their destination in the least costly manner. Second, they serve as a security mechanism by either blocking or restricting certain calls by requiring a PIN to complete the calls. For example, if you only permit 10-digit calls and route all of those calls out through a specific trunk with a $20 account balance, there is little risk of running up an exorbitant phone bill because of unauthorized calls unless you’ve deposited a lot of money in your account or activated automatic funds replenishment. This raises another important security tip. Never authorize recurring charges on credit cards registered with your VoIP providers and, if possible, place pricing limits on calls with your providers. If a bad guy were to break into your PBX, you don’t want to give the intruder a blank check to make unauthorized calls. And you certainly don’t want to join the $100,000 Phone Bill Club.
To create outbound routes in the Incredible PBX GUI, navigate to Connectivity:Outbound Routes and click Add Outbound Route. In the Route Settings tab, give the Outbound Route a name and choose one or more trunks to use for the outbound calls. In the Dial Patterns tab, specify the dial strings that must be matched to use this Outbound Route. NXXNXXXXXX would require only 10-digit numbers with the first and fourth digits being a number between 2 and 9. Note that Outbound Routes are searched from the top entry to the bottom until there is a match. Make certain that you order your routes correctly and then place test calls watching the Asterisk CLI to make sure the calls are routed as you intended.
Design Methodology for Outbound Routes
There are a million ways to design outbound calling schemes on PBXs with multiple trunks. One of the simplest ways is to use no dial prefix for the primary trunk and then use dialing prefixes such as *1 and *2 for the remaining trunks.
Another outbound calling scheme would be to assign specific DIDs to individual extensions on your PBX. Here you could use NXXNXXXXXX with the 1 Prepend as the Dial Pattern with every Outbound Route and change the Extension Number in the CallerID field of the Dial Pattern. With this setup, you’d need a separate Outbound Route for each group of extensions using a specific trunk on your PBX. Additional dial patterns can be added for each extension designated for a particular trunk. A lower priority Outbound Route then could be added without a CallerID entry to cover extensions that weren’t restricted or specified.
HINT: Keep in mind that Outbound Routes are processed by FreePBX in top-down order. The first route with a matching dial pattern is the trunk that is selected to place the outbound call. No other outbound routes are ever used even if the call fails or the trunk is unavailable. To avoid failed calls, consider adding additional trunks to the Trunk Sequence in every outbound route. In summary, if you have multiple routes with the exact same dial pattern, then the match nearest to the top of the Outbound Route list wins. You can rearrange the order of the outbound routes by dragging them into any sequence desired.
Configuring Incredible PBX for VirtualBox
In order to take advantage of all the Incredible PBX applications, you’ll need to obtain IBM text-to-speech (TTS) and speech-to-text (STT) credentials as well as a (free) Application ID for Wolfram Alpha.
NOV. 1 UPDATE: IBM moved the goal posts effective December 1, 2018:
This Nerd Vittles tutorial will walk you through getting your IBM account set up and obtaining both your TTS and STT credentials. Be sure to write down BOTH sets of credentials which you’ll need in a minute. For home and SOHO use, IBM access and services are FREE even though you must provide a credit card when signing up. The IBM signup process explains their pricing plans.
To use Wolfram Alpha, sign up for a free Wolfram Alpha API account. Just provide your email address and set up a password. It takes less than a minute. Log into your account and click on Get An App ID. Make up a name for your application and write down (and keep secret) your APP-ID code. That’s all there is to getting set up with Wolfram Alpha. If you want to explore costs for commercial use, there are links to let you get more information.
In addition to your Wolfram Alpha APPID, there are two sets of IBM credentials to plug into the Asterisk AGI scripts. Keep in mind that there are different usernames and passwords for the IBM Watson TTS and STT services. The TTS credentials will look like the following: $IBM_username and $IBM_password. The STT credentials look like this: $API_USERNAME and $API_PASSWORD. Don’t mix them up. 🙂
All of the scripts requiring credentials are located in /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin so switch to that directory after logging into your server as root. Edit each of the following files and insert your TTS credentials in the variables already provided: nv-today2.php, ibmtts.php, and ibmtts2.php. Edit each of the following files and insert your STT credentials in the variables already provided: getquery.sh, getnumber.sh, and getnumber2.sh. Finally, edit 4747 and insert your Wolfram Alpha APPID.
Using Asteridex with Incredible PBX
AsteriDex is a web-based dialer and address book application for Asterisk and Incredible PBX. It lets you store and manage phone numbers of all your friends and business associates in an easy-to-use SQLite3 database. You simply call up the application with your favorite web browser: http://pbx-ip-address/asteridex4/. When you click on a contact that you wish to call, AsteriDex first calls you at extension 701, and then AsteriDex connects you to your contact through another outbound call made using your default outbound trunk that supports numbers in the 1NXXNXXXXXX format.
Taking Incredible PBX for a Test Drive
You can take Incredible PBX on a test drive by dialing D-E-M-O (3366) from any phone connected to your PBX.
With Allison’s Demo IVR, you can choose from the following options:
- 0. Chat with Operator — connects to extension 701
- 1. AsteriDex Voice Dialer – say "Delta Airlines" or "American Airlines" to connect
- 2. Conferencing – log in using 1234 as the conference PIN
- 3. Wolfram Alpha Almanac – say "What planes are flying overhead"
- 4. Lenny – The Telemarketer’s Worst Nightmare
- 5. Today’s News Headlines — courtesy of Yahoo! News
- 6. Weather by ZIP Code – enter any 5-digit ZIP code for today’s weather
- 7. Today in History — courtesy of OnThisDay.com
- 8. Chat with Nerd Uno — courtesy of SIP URI connection to 3CX iPhone Client
- 9. DISA Voice Dialer — say any 10-digit number to be connected
- *. Current Date and Time — courtesy of Incredible PBX
Continue Reading: Configuring Extensions, Trunks & Routes
Don’t Miss: Incredible PBX Application User’s Guide covering the 31 Whole Enchilada apps
Need help with Asterisk? Visit the VoIP-info Forum.
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.
BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.
The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.
VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!
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.
- Some 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. [↩]
- Some of our links refer users to sites or 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. [↩]