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VirtualBox Sandbox: Meet Incredible PBX for AlmaLinux 9

Don’t ask me why, but sometimes you just get the urge to try something new even though you expect to encounter a few land mines. Boy, did we. After Red Hat dropped support for the CentOS clone we all knew and loved, Rocky and AlmaLinux sprung to the rescue. While our Rocky 8 release has been well received, we never explored AlmaLinux until they announced the release of AlmaLinux 9, a clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 9 introduced in May, 2022.

One reason to explore new operating systems is to judge how well other components such as Asterisk® and FreePBX® are keeping up with the times. Suffice it to say, the future does not look encouraging. While Asterisk 20 has just been released, FreePBX 16 already is looking long in the tooth. For openers, it uses a node.js release that is 9 versions old. And then there’s PHP. FreePBX 15 required PHP 5.6 while FreePBX 16 relies upon PHP 7.4. The current shipping version of PHP is 8.1.10. Why does this matter? It matters because RHEL 9 and AlmaLinux 9 use SSL3 which wreaks all sorts of havoc using FreePBX 16. For example, downloading and upgrading FreePBX modules now is almost totally broken both in the GUI and using the fwconsole command-line tool. The only workaround is to issue the fwconsole command multiple times until one finally works thanks to a different bug in RHEL 9. Once that bug is addressed, FreePBX module downloads and upgrades will be a thing of the past. Thanks to one enterprising individual, we have managed to download and install most of the FreePBX modules with this script, but it was an hour-long process. Did we mention that Incredible PBX for AlmaLinux 9 is not suitable for production use? Don’t even think about doing it.

So why release Incredible PBX for AlmaLinux 9 at all? The short answer is that everyone deserves an opportunity to see where FreePBX is headed so that you can plan accordingly. Our suggestion is to stick with Incredible PBX 2021 with Debian 10 or Incredible PBX 2022 with Ubuntu 20.04 and enjoy a worry-free VoIP platform for the next 5 years. After that, either some of these issues will get addressed, or Sangoma will be history insofar as open source development is concerned.

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 any desktop computer except a new ARM-based Mac, adding Incredible PBX is a snap. Download the latest Incredible PBX for AlmaLinux 9 image from SourceForge, double-click on the downloaded image, and boom. In less than a minute, your PBX is ready to use with the very latest AlmaLinux 9 platform and Asterisk® 20 build plus all of the FreePBX® 16 GPL modules. There are no hidden fees or crippleware to hinder your use of Incredible PBX for as long as you like. If you set up an account with our Platinum provider, Skyetel, you can start making calls in minutes. 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. Speech-to-text, voice recognition, and a Siri-like telephony interface are as close as your SIP phone. Test things out by dialing these numbers from any SIP phone on your PBX:

  • 123 – Schedule Reminders
  • 947 – Today’s Weather
  • 951 – News Headines
  • 53669 – Lenny for Spammers
  • 86329 – Today in History

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 non-ARM desktop operating systems. 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 6 installers from VirtualBox.org or VirtualBox 7 installers from 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.

NOTE: The Incredible PBX VM requires a VirtualBox 6 or 7 platform. Adjust screen size in View -> Virtual Screen.

Installing the Incredible PBX Image

To begin, download the Incredible PBX image (3.5 GB) onto your desktop.

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 if you’re using an older version of VirtualBox. Then click Import. Once the import is finished, you’ll see a new Incredible PBX for AlmaLinux 9 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 System tab, verify Hardware Clock in UTC Time is checked. 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 Intel-based Mac. On Linux desktops, press the right Ctrl key. 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 root password when you are prompted to do so. Then update your admin password for web access: ./admin-pw-change. Also update your admin password for web applications: ./apache-pw-change. You’ll need these admin passwords to access the web GUI to manage your PBX as well as to use the AsteriDex and Reminders web apps. The above password updates are automatically requested when you first activate the virtual machine. You can update all of your other passwords using the scripts provided in /root.

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. Verify that you have enabled the Hardware Clock in UTC Time option for your virtual machine as documented above. If pbxstatus still shows an incorrect time, manually set the date and time and then update the hardware clock. Here’s how assuming 08130709 is the month (August), day (13), and correct time (7:09 a.m.) of your server:

date 08130709
clock -w

Configuring Skyetel for Incredible PBX

If you’d like to try out the Skyetel service at no charge, here’s the drill. Sign up for Skyetel service to take advantage of the Nerd Vittles specials. First, complete the Prequalification Form here. You then will be provided a link to the Skyetel site to complete your registration. Once you have registered on the Skyetel site and your account has been activated, open a support ticket and request the $10 credit for your account by referencing the Nerd Vittles special offer. Once you are satisfied with the service, fund your account as desired, and Skyetel will match your deposit of up to $250 simply by opening another ticket. That gets you up to $500 of half-price calling. Credit is limited to one per person, company, and address. Effective 10/1/2023, $25/month minimum spend required.

Skyetel does not use SIP registrations to make connections to your PBX. Instead, Skyetel utilizes Endpoint Groups to identify which servers can communicate with the Skyetel service. An Endpoint Group consists of a Name, an IP address, a UDP or TCP port for the connection, and a numerical Priority for the group. For incoming calls destined to your PBX, DIDs are associated with an Endpoint Group to route the calls to your PBX. For outgoing calls from your PBX, a matching Endpoint Group is required to authorize outbound calls through the Skyetel network. Thus, the first step in configuring the Skyetel side for use with your PBX is to set up an Endpoint Group. Here’s a typical setup for Incredible PBX:

  • Name: MyPBX
  • Priority: 1
  • IP Address: PBX-Public-IP-Address
  • Port: 5061
  • Protocol: UDP
  • Description: my.incrediblepbx.com

To receive incoming PSTN calls, you’ll need at least one DID. On the Skyetel site, you acquire DIDs under the Phone Numbers tab. You have the option of Porting in Existing Numbers (free for the first 60 days after you sign up for service) or purchasing new ones under the Buy Phone Numbers menu option.

Once you have acquired one or more DIDs, navigate to the Local Numbers or Toll Free Numbers tab and specify the desired SIP Format and Endpoint Group for each DID. Add SMS/MMS and E911 support, if desired. Call Forwarding and Failover are also supported. That completes the VoIP setup on the Skyetel side. System Status is always available here.

If VirtualBox is sitting behind a router or firewall on a private LAN, you’ll need to forward ports UDP 5060, 5061, and 10000-20000 in your router to the private LAN address of your Incredible PBX server. Also edit your extensions in the GUI and set NAT=YES in the Advanced tab of every extension. In Settings -> Asterisk SIP Settings, click the Detect Network Settings button and then Submit your changes and reload the Asterisk dialplan when prompted.

Finally, login to the FreePBX web GUI as admin using the password you assigned when you set up the virtual machine. Navigate to Connectivity -> Trunks and edit the Skyetel trunk. Change the Disable Trunk setting from Yes to No. Then click Submit and reload your dialplan when prompted. That’s it.

Configuring VoIP.ms for Incredible PBX

To sign up for VoIP.ms service, may we suggest you use our signup link so that Nerd Vittles gets a referral credit for your signup. Once your account is set up, you’ll need to set up a SIP SubAccount and, for Authentication Type, choose Static IP Authentication and enter your Incredible PBX 2020 server’s public IP address. For Transport, choose UDP. For Device Type, choose Asterisk, IP PBX, Gateway or VoIP Switch. Order a DID in their web panel, and then point the DID to the SubAccount you just created. Be sure to specify atlanta1.voip.ms as the POP from which to receive incoming calls. For more details about VoIP.ms, see this Nerd Vittles tutorial.

Configuring SendMail with Incredible PBX

In order to receive voicemails by email delivery, outbound mail functionality from your server obviously is required. If you’ve deployed your server in your home, your Internet Service Provider probably blocks downstream mail servers such as Incredible PBX from sending mail. This is done to reduce SPAM. In this case, you will need to configure SendMail using either your ISP or Gmail as an SMTP Relay Host. We have built an install script to set up a SmartHost using Gmail. You’ll find it in the /root folder. Simply run it and insert your Gmail username and App Password.

Configuring 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 (not recommended). Or it can be a standalone SIP device such as the Incredible PBX SIP phone. 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 in the Incredible PBX Wiki when you’re ready to get serious about VoIP telephony.

We recommend YateClient for Windows 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 can find them by navigating to Applicaations -> Extensions -> 701 in the FreePBX GUI.

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.

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 mostly 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.

Keeping FreePBX 16 Modules Current

For the reasons previously stated, we strongly discourage updating any of your FreePBX modules. Switch to a more stable platform as documented above when you’re ready to put Incredible PBX into production use.

Originally published: Monday, October 24, 2022

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


Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors

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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.


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