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Two Thumbs Up: A New Flash Drive Installer for PBX in a Flash

We can’t promise you free sushi, but… one of the key goals of the PBX in a Flash™ project always has been to provide an install option that works reliably with USB thumb drives. And today’s new PIAF thumb drive installer with CentOS 6.4 provides support for every current version of Asterisk® and FreePBX®. In addition, you can build and deploy standalone servers for FreeSwitch™, SugarCRM™, NeoRouter™ VPN, YATE, and OpenFire™ XMPP using our award-winning 32-bit and 64-bit PIAF™ ISOs.

As luck would have it, CentOS followed the RedHat lead and pulled a 180 on the flash drive creation procedure with CentOS 6.4. You’ll recall in the CentOS 6.2 days, booting from a USB flash drive transformed that device into Drive A (sda) during the boot procedure. Well, that was then. Now it’s no longer ass-backwards so the procedure to create flash drive installers is officially different with CentOS 6.4.

As is true with the new PIAF 20645 stand-alone installers, the new flash drive installer performs a two-step installation procedure. During Phase I, CentOS 6.4 is installed after you pick your time zone and a root password. Once CentOS is installed, your server will reboot, display the server’s IP address, and prompt you to login with your new root password. You can do so from the console or via SSH or Putty. Once logged in, you have the option of loading additional drivers or beginning the Phase II installation procedure where you choose your desired version of Asterisk and FreePBX or one of the other supported applications.

The PIAF2 installer then syncs the time on your server to NTP, installs the latest yum updates for CentOS 6.4, installs the versions of Asterisk and FreePBX you selected (HINT: Incredible PBX 11 requires PIAF-Green and FreePBX 2.11) and some other utilities including WebMin, Festival and Flite text-to-speech support for Asterisk, and, of course, the Google Voice GUI which lets you configure PIAF2 to make free calls in the U.S. and Canada until May 2014. Finally the PIAF2 installer patches your system to activate the IPtables firewall for both IPv4 and IPv6 as well as adding Fail2Ban monitoring for Asterisk, SSH, and your Apache web server.

Our 20645 tutorial will walk you through the complete installation process once we have your USB thumb drive set up.

PBX on a Flash

Here’s the 5-minute drill to get a USB thumb drive loaded with the latest and greatest PBX in a Flash ISO. Once you get that far, follow the PIAF 20645 installation tutorial to get your system up and running. In less than an hour, you’ll have a fully functioning, rock-solid reliable PBX that can meet all of your telephony requirements. And, remember, it’s free and always will be™.

Prerequisites. To get everything installed on your USB Flash Drive, you’ll obviously need at least a 1GB Flash Drive. HINT: 2GB flash drives may be cheaper! Next, you’ll need a Windows XP/Vista/7/8 computer on which to set up the thumb drive. On the Windows PC, you’ll need to download and install the latest, greatest version of ISO2USB from SourceForge. We recommend you also download and install the HP Formatting Utility for flash drives. Finally, you’ll need to download either the 32-bit or 64-bit PIAF ISO from SourceForge.

Creating USB Flash Drive. Step #1 is to partition and format your USB flash drive as a FAT32 device. Some flash drives are temperamental about the formatting step. We can’t recommend strongly enough using the HP Formatting Utility to make certain you get a reliable, properly formatted thumb drive! Also be careful that you are, in fact, formatting your thumb drive and not your Windows hard disk!

Step #2, once the device is properly formatted, run ISO2USB. You’ll get a screen that looks like what is shown above. Click on the … button to the right of DiskImage ISO and choose the PIAF2 ISO that you downloaded to your Desktop. Make certain that the destination device shown on the bottom line of the display is your USB flash drive. You do not want to accidentally trash your primary drive!

Here’s the tricky part, and it’s not that tricky any more. You need to know the drive names of the devices on the target machine where you ultimately will be using this thumb drive. Try these commands on your target machine using a Linux LIVE CD if you’re unsure: dmesg | grep logical AND dmesg | grep sectors. For most modern machines with IDE drives, the names will be sda, sdb, etc. For older machines, they may be hda, hdb. You’ll know if it doesn’t work. 🙂

In the ISO2USB setup, we recommend you start with the default settings for the Hard Disk Name (sda) and USB Device Name (sdb). For Foxconn hardware and AMD BIOS machines, you may need to use sdc instead of sdb for the USB Device Name. A few other systems use sdd. In all cases, use sda for the Hard Disk Name. As we noted, you’ll know soon enough if you made the wrong choice. Just recreate the thumb drive using the next letter in the alphabet for the USB Device Name. 😉

Once you’ve double-checked your USB destination drive (HINT: the drive size is quite different), choose OK to begin. When the ISO install completes, don’t forget to Eject your USB flash drive before removing it from the Windows PC!

Using the USB Flash Installer. When using the new flash installer, remember that you need to boot your new machine from the thumb drive. On most newer Atom-based computers, you accomplish this by inserting the USB device, turning the machine on, and then pressing F12 during the boot sequence to choose the boot device. You’ll just have to watch the screen of your new computer to see if some other key is used to pull up the boot selection screen. If all else fails, you can adjust the boot sequence in the BIOS settings to boot first from the USB device. If you change your BIOS boot sequence, just remember to remove the USB device when the initial install of CentOS completes and the PIAF reboot sequence begins. If instead you again see the initial PIAF install screen warning you that your disk is about to be erased, then remove the thumb drive and reboot the machine once again. You’re now ready to continue on with the installation procedure. Just follow this link to the PIAF 20645 tutorial.

Where To Go From Here. If you installed PIAF-Green with Asterisk 11 and FreePBX 2.11 (our recommended platform for production use), then your next step probably should be the Nerd Vittles’ Incredible PBX 11 and Incredible Fax 11 tutorial. It’s a 5-minute addition. And, of course, all 50 Asterisk applications in Incredible PBX are also free.

PBX on a Flash

Getting Your Own PIAF Thumb Drive. Some have asked how to obtain your very own PIAF thumb drive. Well, it’s easy. Just ask when you make a contribution of $50 or more to the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects by clicking the PayPal Donate button at the top of this page, and we’ll get one off to you pronto. And, thanks in advance for your support of freeware and open source projects! Happy Thanksgiving!

Originally published: Friday, November 22, 2013

Just Released: AstriCon 2013 Videos. Digium has just released all of the videos from AstriCon 2013 on the new YouTube Asterisk Channel. It’s the best, free VoIP training you’ll find anywhere.

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

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