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Systems Integration and Public Participation with FreePBX

It’s been an interesting few days in the FreePBX® VoIP community with a thread on the VoIP-Info.org and another on the FreePBX Forum. It’s prompted us to revisit what open source development is all about and what all of this means to those of you that rely upon Asterisk® and FreePBX.

After the departure of the Schmooze folks from Sangoma, virtually all development has been moved behind closed doors with the first opportunity for public participation occurring after new features appear in modules pushed to the so-called Edge repository. This is where folks can shake the kinks out of modules that presumably are almost ready for prime time. For example, take a look at the Changelog for the Framework Module. Prior to the departure of the Schmooze team, changes were managed by openly-accessible tickets. But now you will notice tickets bear a FREEI designation indicating restricted Sangoma-internal access only.

Beta previously was an appropriate moniker for these modules. If you read the FreePBX forum post above, you’ll note that now modules are being pushed to the Edge repository not only before public comment but apparently before much of any internal testing is performed by the Sangoma folks. The net result is you’d be crazy to ever use Edge modules in any production environment where, in the past, Edge modules more typically were used to fix something that was already broken in the traditional repository. Because the Bootstrap module is the lynchpin of virtually all other FreePBX modules, a recent glitch that had not been tested broke almost everything in FreePBX 16 if you happened to be using Edge modules.

I’m reminded of the old adage about marine aquariums. You never want to put a new fish in your main tank unless you’re willing to risk killing all of your other fish. This latest fiasco prompts our cautionary note about further use of the FreePBX Edge repository. Don’t load new modules on your production servers without testing them first in a VirtualBox sandbox unless you have a snapshot or backup of your server that can be deployed in minutes when something cataclysmic occurs.

And that brings us to our response concerning what Incredible PBX® is and is not all about. Going back to the early 80’s, we began tweaking hardware and software deployments to eliminate much of the pain associated with deployment of automated systems. Our friend on the VoIP-Info forum refers to Incredible PBX as a fork of FreePBX. Quite the contrary, it is anything but a fork. We use the FreePBX GPL modules exactly as they are published by Sangoma with an additional master key not controlled by Sangoma for your protection and for ours. This allows us to block specific module updates that prove to be dangerous for our users. Equally important, Incredible PBX offers improved functionality and stability, the same features that are typically associated with the work of a systems integrator… that you pay for. On the stability side, we migrated to new FreePBX repositories maintained by Clearly IP simply because the FreePBX repos had become extremely unreliable and proprietary. Sangoma deploys modules using key signatures that only they control. That means if you make any improvements or changes the FreePBX Dashboard displays all sorts of security alerts, something your customers and end-users would prefer not to see. Some of you may recall this was our primary objection to module signatures years ago.

On the enhancement side, we’ve tried to add free components that our millions of readers have clamored for. You may recall that Nerd Vittles was the first to provide turnkey Google Voice support for Asterisk over a decade ago. We then tackled security after numerous compromises of FreePBX systems around the world. Since then the list has grown exponentially. Here’s the added feature set you’ve enjoyed by deploying an Incredible PBX platform instead of the FreePBX Distro. And, unlike FreePBX commercial modules, these components won’t cost you a dime and are freely distributable. So the choice is yours.

  • User-customizable installers for Rocky 8, Debian 10 & 11, Ubuntu 20.04, Raspbian
  • User-customizable images for VirtualBox, VMware, Proxmox, and Raspberry Pi
  • Preconfigured, free faxing with HylaFax and AvantFax
  • Preconfigured, secure IPtables firewall
  • Preconfigured, secure Fail2Ban
  • Preconfigured PortKnocker
  • Preconfigured NeoRouter VPN
  • Preconfigured OpenVPN
  • Preconfigured, secure WebMin
  • Preconfigured SendMail and Postfix
  • Preconfigured ODBC Integration for FreePBX
  • Sample ODBC Database Lookups for FreePBX
  • Dozens of Preconfigured Trunk Provider Setups for FreePBX
  • Preconfigured, secure PUBLIC Access Setups for FreePBX
  • Preconfigured scripts to update CentOS, Debian, Ubuntu, Raspbian, and Rocky
  • Preconfigured scripts to update or upgrade Asterisk
  • Preconfigured scripts to update or upgrade FreePBX
  • Preconfigured scripts to update or upgrade PHP
  • Preconfigured script to implement PPTP
  • Preconfigured script to implement TFTP
  • Preconfigured script to implement SAMBA
  • Preconfigured script to implement Gmail Smarthost for SendMail/Postfix
  • Preconfigured script to implement non-Gmail Smarthost for SendMail/Postfix
  • Automatic Update Utility to resolve bugs and security vulnerabilities
  • Integrated TTS apps: FLITE, Festival, PicoTTS, GoogleTTS, Amazon Polly
  • Integrated TTS apps for Voicemail Transcription
  • Integrated STT apps and samples for Asterisk and FreePBX
  • Integrated Voicemail Transcription for Asterisk with Email Delivery
  • AsteriDex 4 web-based MySQL GUI with FreePBX Dialer & Lookups
  • Telephone and Web-Based Reminders for FreePBX with Email and SMS Alerts
  • TTS News Headlines for FreePBX
  • TTS Weather Forecasts for FreePBX (by ZIP Code and Airport Code)
  • CallerID Superfecta for Asterisk
  • MailCall for Asterisk via TTS
  • SMS Scripts for Skyetel and VoIP.ms Message Blasting
  • Speech-to-Text Directory Assistance for Asterisk
  • Wolfram Alpha TTS for FreePBX
  • U-Rang Screenpop Utility for Asterisk
  • xTide TTS for FreePBX
  • Facebook Messaging Integration
  • Twitter Messaging Integration
  • Skype and Gizmo Telephony Integration
  • Teleyapper Message Broadcasting System for Asterisk
  • Scripts to disable Module Signature Checking with FreePBX
  • Script to configure time zones worldwide
  • Incredible Backup and Restore Utilities for all OS platforms
  • LENNY, The Robocallers Worst Nightmare

People hear the word "fork" and get scared away from testing alternative VoIP solutions. If you’re one of those folks, we would encourage you to spend an hour with Incredible PBX using one of our supported virtual platforms: VirtualBox, VMware, or Proxmox. We think the decision will be a no-brainer after your testing. For a list of all of our free VoIP solutions, visit the Incredible PBX Wiki. Enjoy!

Originally published: Monday, May 23, 2022

Need help with Asterisk? Visit the VoIP-info Forum.


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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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  1. I have been working with what eventually would evolve into IncrediblePBX since the "Asterisk at Home v0.6″ early days. Having been through nearly *all* the distros of various vendors & tech stacks even, over almost a couple decades, I can say from reasonable experience that what you Ward & team have been doing here with IncrediblePBX is without equal.

    Not enough thanks I can offer. Via myself alone, many businesses & people benefit from your efforts, year in & year out – and when I mention IncrediblePBX’s value-add/praise it is seconded even by the uninitiated if for no other reason than stability.

    Thanks chief!

  2. Ward,
    Have you looked into the Oracle Cloud "Always Free" servers. These are excellent for Non-Production PBXes, especially if a person just wants to play around with a PBX, or setup an applications specific PBX for emergency purposes. You can’t beat the price or performance. It definitely worth a look. Plus, you can create a "Community Image" that can be made available to other users.

    [WM: Must be something to the old adage: "Great minds think alike." Take a look at this week’s article.]

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