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Introducing Incredible PBX and the New Incredible GUI for the Raspberry Pi 2

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We’ve been huge fans of the Raspberry Pi since its introduction. And the Raspberry Pi 2 with its quad-core processor and gig of RAM transformed the platform from a tinkerer’s dream machine into a production workhorse. Four months ago, we introduced our Gotcha-Free PBX with Asterisk® 11 for the new platform. But Asterisk-GUI had a steep learning curve, and Digium now has officially discontinued support of what we believe was a terrific product with enormous potential. So today we’re pleased to introduce the all-new Incredible PBX with the Incredible PBX GUI running the very latest Asterisk 11.18 release together with all of the GPL-compatible PBX GUI modules you’ve known and loved for the past decade. No strings, no trademark gotchas, just pure GPL code that you can share and embellish as you see fit without legal retribution from us.

Target Audience: Home or SOHO/SBO seeking a GPL PBX with a web-based Graphical User Interface

Default Configuration: Asterisk 11 with Incredible PBX GUI, Kennonsoft GUI, and NANPA dialplan

Platform: Raspbian 7 running on a Raspberry Pi 2

Standard Memory: 1024MB

Recommended Disk: 16GB+

Default Trunks: Google Voice, CallCentric, DIDlogic, Future-Nine, IPcomms, Les.net, Vitelity, VoIP.ms1

Feature Set: SMS messaging, VPN, Reminders, ConfBridge Conferencing, AsteriDex, Voicemail, Email, IVR, News, Weather, Voice Dialer, Wolfram Alpha, Today in History, TM3 Firewall WhiteList, Speed Dialer, iNUM and SIP URI (free) worldwide calling, OpenCNAM CallerID lookups, DISA, Call Forwarding, CSV CDRs

Administrator Utilities: Incredible Backup/Restore, Automatic Updater, Asterisk Upgrader, phpMyAdmin, Timezone Config, Plug-and-Play Trunk Configurator, WebMin, External IP Setup, Firewall WhiteList Tools

As if that weren’t enough good news, we also are pleased to introduce our new 10-Layer Network Security Model for future Incredible PBX builds including today’s Raspberry Pi edition.

  1. Preconfigured IPtables Linux Firewall
  2. Preconfigured Travelin’ Man 3 WhiteLists
  3. Randomized Port Knocker for Remote Access
  4. TM4 WhiteListing by Telephone (optional)
  5. Fail2Ban Log Monitoring for SSH, Apache, Asterisk
  6. Randomized Ultra-Secure Passwords
  7. Automatic Security Updates & Bug Fixes
  8. Asterisk Manager Lockdown to localhost
  9. Apache htaccess Security for Vulnerable Web Apps
  10. Security Alerts via RSS Feeds in Kennonsoft and Incredible PBX GUIs

No single network security system can protect you against zero-day vulnerabilities that no one has ever seen. Just ask the FreePBX® folks. Deploying multiple layers of security is not only smart, it’s essential with today’s Internet topology. It works much like the Bundle of Sticks from Aesop’s Fables. The more sticks there are in your bundle, the more difficult it is to break them apart. If a vulnerability suddenly appears in the Linux kernel, or in Asterisk, or in Apache, or in your favorite web GUI, you can continue to sleep well knowing that other layers of security have your back. No one else in the telecommunications industry has anything even close. It’s all open source GPL code so we would encourage everyone to get on board and do their part to make the Internet a safer place!

Getting Started with Incredible PBX and Incredible PBX GUI (RasPi 2 Edition)

Here’s a quick overview of the installation and setup process for Incredible PBX featuring the Incredible PBX GUI:

  1. Install Linux for Raspberry Pi 2 – Install Raspbian 7 Platform
  2. Configure Raspbian 7 – Optimize Raspbian 7 for Incredible PBX
  3. Download and Install Incredible PBX + Incredible PBX GUI
  4. Install Incredible Fax with HylaFax/AvantFax (optional)
  5. Set Up Passwords for Incredible PBX
  6. Configure Trunks using Incredible PBX GUI
  7. Connect a Softphone using Incredible PBX GUI

1. Install Raspbian 7 Platform for Raspberry Pi 2

For those with Raspberry Pi experience, this is the same drill you’ve performed a dozen times before. For newbies, here’s the procedure. You’ll need a microSD card of at least 8GB, and we strongly recommend a 16GB or 32GB Type 10 card for Incredible PBX. We’ve tested both the SanDisk and Transcend cards, and they work great.

Begin by downloading the RASPBIAN Wheezy image from RaspberryPi.org to your desktop. After you’ve unzipped the image, you need to get it moved to your microSD card. RaspberryPi.org has excellent tutorials that will walk you through the process using a Linux, Mac, or Windows desktop platform. Don’t forget to unmount the card before removing it!

Once you have your microSD card ready to go, plug it into the slot on the back of the Raspberry Pi 2 and then plug in the power cord. On your attached monitor, you can follow the boot up process. When the login prompt appears, log in as user pi with the password raspberry. Choose text mode for bootups!

2. Optimizing Raspbian 7 for Incredible PBX

The first time you boot up your Raspberry Pi 2 with Raspbian 7, it will run the raspi-config script. This allows you to make a number of changes to your Raspberry Pi environment to maximize performance. Let’s take advantage of it.

Option 1. Expand the File System to fill your SD card. Otherwise, there’s insufficient disk space to complete the install.

Advanced Options. Enable Remote SSH access to your Raspberry Pi 2.

Tab to the Finish option and press ENTER. Then choose Reboot and YES.

After the reboot, log back in as pi:raspberry and set a very secure root password: sudo passwd root. Decipher your IP address so that you can log in as root via SSH: ifconfig.

We strongly recommend completing the install by logging in as root using a desktop computer via SSH or Putty (for Windows). This gives you the ability to scroll back up and find errors if something happens to come unglued during the install process. It also assures that your desktop computer will be whitelisted in the automated setup of the IPtables firewall.

3. Install Incredible PBX on Your Raspberry Pi 2

Adding Incredible PBX to the Raspberry Pi 2 is easy. To restate the obvious, your server needs a reliable Internet connection to proceed. Using SSH (or Putty on a Windows machine), log into your Raspberry Pi 2 as root at the IP address you deciphered in the ifconfig step at the end of the Raspbian install procedure above.

Now let’s begin the Incredible PBX install. After logging in as root, issue the following commands. The install takes less than an hour and runs unattended so there’s no need to watch unless you’re curious about how sausage is made. Remember, as part of the build process, we compile all of the major components for Incredible PBX from source. And you can review the open source GPL script to see how it’s done if you have an interest or wish to embellish. It’s Gotcha-Free code so go for it and share your discoveries. After all, that’s what open source is all about!

cd /root
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/incrediblepbx11-12.2.raspbian.tar.gz
tar zxvf incrediblepbx11-12.2.raspbian.tar.gz
rm -f incrediblepbx11-12.2.raspbian.tar.gz

4. Install Incredible Fax for Incredible PBX (optional)

Administrators have been trying to stomp out faxing for at least two decades. Here’s a hint. It ain’t gonna happen. So go with the flow and add Gotcha-Free Faxing to your server. It’ll be there when you need it. And sooner or later, you’ll need it. This install script is simple enough for any monkey to complete. Run the script and enter the email address for delivery of your faxes. Then, if you’re in the U.S. or Canada, press the Enter key to accept every default entry during the HylaFax and AvantFax installation steps. For other countries, read the prompts and answer accordingly.

cd /root

When the installation finishes, reboot your server to bring faxing on line. After rebooting, change your AvantFax admin password: /root/avantfax-pw-change. You can access the AvantFax GUI with your browser by logging in as admin with your admin password from the previous step suing either the Kennonsoft admin menu (pictured below) or from within the Incredible PBX GUI itself by clicking on the AvantFax tab.

Outgoing faxes using standard document attachments can be created using the AvantFax GUI. The faxes will be sent out using your default outbound dial rules. You can add a dial prefix in sending a fax with AvantFax to force the call out a particular trunk that has been preconfigured in the Incredible PBX GUI.

Incoming faxes will be delivered to the email address you specified when installing Incredible Fax; however, incoming faxes will be ignored until you configure a destination DID to accept the faxes. For the incoming route of the destination DID, specify:

5. Initial Configuration of Incredible PBX

Incredible PBX is installed with the preconfigured IPtables Linux firewall already in place. It implements WhiteList Security to limit server access to private LANs, your server’s IP address, your desktop computer’s IP address, and a few of our favorite SIP providers. You can add additional entries to this WhiteList whenever you like using the add-ip and add-fqdn tools in /root. There’s also an Apache security layer for our web applications. And the Incredible PBX GUI has its own security methodology. Finally, we randomize extension and DISA passwords as part of the initial install process. Out of the starting gate, you won’t find a more secure VoIP server implementation anywhere. After all, it’s your phone bill.

Even with all of these layers of security, here are 10 Quick Steps to better safeguard your server. You only do this once, but failing to do it may lead to security issues you don’t want to have to deal with down the road. So DO IT NOW!

First, log into your server as root with your root password and do the following:

Make your root password very secure: passwd
Set your correct time zone: ./timezone-setup
Restart Asterisk: amportal restart
Create admin password for main GUI: /root/admin-pw-change
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

Second, log into your server as admin using a web browser pointed to your server’s IP address and change your extension 701 extension and voicemail passwords:

Click USERS tab in Incredible PBX GUI
Click Incredible PBX GUI Administration
Log in as user: admin with admin-pw-change password

Last but not least, 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 Raspberry Pi 2 up to current specs.

6. Configure Trunks with Incredible PBX

Now for the fun part. If this is your first VoIP adventure, be advised that this ain’t your grandma’s phone system. You need not and should not put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to telephone providers. In order to connect to Plain Old Telephones, you still need at least one provider. But there is nothing wrong with having several. And a provider that handles an outbound call (termination) need not be the same one that handles an incoming call (origination) and provides your phone number (DID). We cannot recommend Vitelity highly enough, and it’s not just because they have financially supported our projects for almost a decade. They’re as good as VoIP providers get, and we use lots of them. If you’re lucky enough to live in the U.S., you’d be crazy not to set up a Google Voice account. It’s free as are all phone calls to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. The remaining preconfigured providers included in Incredible PBX are equally good, and we’ve used and continue to use almost all of them. So pick a few and sign up. You only pay for the calls you make with each provider so you have little to lose by choosing several. The PIAF Forum includes dozens of recommendations on VoIP providers if you want additional information.

With the preconfigured trunks in Incredible PBX, all you need are your credentials for each provider and the FQDN of their server. Log into Incredible PBX GUI Administration as admin using a browser. From the System Status menu, click Connectivity -> Trunks. Click on each provider you have chosen and fill in your credentials including the host entry. Be sure to uncheck the Disable Trunk checkbox! Fill in the appropriate information for the Register String. Save your settings by clicking Submit Changes. Then click the red Apply Config button.

7. Configure a Softphone for Incredible PBX

We’re in the home stretch now. You can connect virtually any kind of telephone to your new PBX. Plain Old Phones require an analog telephone adapter (ATA) which can be a separate board in your computer from a company such as Digium. Or it can be a standalone SIP device such as ObiHai’s OBi100 or OBi110 (if you have a phone line from Ma Bell to hook up as well). SIP phones can be connected directly so long as they have an IP address. These could be hardware devices or software devices such as the YateClient softphone. We’ll start with a free one today so you can begin making calls. You can find dozens of recommendations for hardware-based SIP phones both on Nerd Vittles and the PIAF Forum when you’re ready to get serious about VoIP telephony.

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 Applications _> Extensions -> 701 and write down your SIP/IAX Password. You can also find it in /root/passwords.FAQ. Fill in the blanks using the IP address of your server, 701 for your account name, and whatever password is assigned to the extension. Click OK to save your entries.

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:

DEMO - Apps Demo
123 - Reminders
947 - Weather by ZIP Code
951 - Yahoo News
*61 - Time of Day
TODAY - Today in History

If you are a Mac user, another great no-frills softphone is Telephone. Just download and install it from the Mac App Store.

Configuring Google Voice

If you want to use Google Voice, you’ll need a dedicated Google Voice account to support Incredible PBX. 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!

IMPORTANT: Do NOT under any circumstances take Google’s bait to switch from Google Chat to Hangouts, or you will forever lose the ability to use Google Chat with Incredible PBX. Also 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. Good News! You’re in luck. Google has apparently had a change of heart on discontinuing Google Chat support so it’s enabled by default in all new Google Voice accounts. Once you’ve created a Gmail and Google Voice account, go to Google Voice Settings and 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’ve adjusted 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 configure your Google Voice account in Incredible PBX. You can do it from within the Incredible PBX GUI by choosing Connectivity -> Google Voice. Once you’ve entered your credentials, you MUST restart Asterisk from the command line, or Google Voice calls will fail.

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.

If you have difficulty finding the Google Chat option after setting up a new Google Voice account, follow this tutorial.

NOTE: There are all sorts of rumors circulating again that the Google Voice free ride may be coming to a close. We’ve heard this song before, but who knows?? Whether true or not, you are well advised to not rely solely on Google Voice for your phone calls. That’s the real beauty of a PBX. So take advantage of it!

Another option is to use one of the inexpensive SIP Gateways to Google Voice. HINT: The Simonics trunk in the Incredible PBX GUI is preconfigured. All you’ll need is your credentials.

Adding Speech Recognition Support 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!

To use Wolfram Alpha by phone, you first must obtain a free Wolfram Alpha APP-ID. Then issue the following command replacing APP-ID with your actual ID. Do NOT change the yourID portion of the command:

sed -i "s|yourID|APP-ID|" /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin/4747

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 access Wolfram Alpha by phone, dial 4747 and enter your query, e.g. "What planes are overhead." Read the Nerd Vittles tutorial for additional examples and tips.

OK, Smarty Pants: Show Me the Beef!

We know what some of you are thinking. "What does a fast food worker really know about VoIP and Gotcha-Free PBXs?? Before wasting a bunch of time on this, show me the beef!" Fair enough. Sit by your phone and click the Call Me icon below. Type in a fake name and your real phone number. Click the Connect button, answer your phone when it rings, and press 1. You’ll be connected to the Incredible PBX IVR. Pick an option from the menu of choices and take the Incredible PBX apps for a spin on our dime… actually it’s Google’s dime. Everything you see and hear is part of what you get with Incredible PBX for the Raspberry Pi 2 including the ability to set up your own click-to-dial web interface exactly like this one. The demo just happens to be running on our hardware instead of yours. So… what are you waiting for? Click away and try Incredible PBX for yourself. And, by the way, nobody besides the NSA and Google will be monitoring your call. 😉

Nerd Vittles Demo IVR Options
1 – Call by Name (say “Delta Airlines” or “American Airlines” to try it out)
2 – MeetMe Conference (password is 1234)
3 – Wolfram Alpha (say “What planes are overhead?”)
4 – Lenny (The Telemarketer’s Worst Nightmare)
5 – Today’s News Headlines
6 – Weather Forecast (say the city and state, province, or country)
7 – Today in History
8 – Speak to a Real Person (or maybe just voicemail if we’re out)

Homework Assignment: Mastering the Incredible PBX Feature Set

Now would be a good time to explore the Incredible PBX applications. Continue reading there. If you have questions, join the PBX in a Flash Forums and take advantage of our awesome collection of gurus. There’s an expert available on virtually any topic, and the price is right. As with Incredible PBX, it’s absolutely free.

Originally published: Monday, June 8, 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.


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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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 Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Vitelity and Google provide financial support to Nerd Vittles and the Incredible PBX project. []

1 Comment

  1. Hi,
    Would it be possible to install on a USB stick and not on a SD card ? I mean install the boot on SD card but run the rest from the USB stick. I have experienced corruption 2 times with my Rpi when power outage has taken place.

    [WM: Our experience suggests that USB sticks tend to be less reliable long term than SD cards. Power failures are always a problem. Get a UPS.]

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