Last week we took VitalPBX to the Cloud with our rock-solid firewall. And this week we’ll show you how to get VitalPBX up and running on any desktop computer in less than a minute using VirtualBox®. If you’ve followed Nerd Vittles over the years, you already know that VirtualBox from Oracle® is one of our favorite platforms. Almost any desktop computer can serve as a VirtualBox hosting platform. And once VirtualBox is installed, adding VitalPBX is a snap. Download the VitalPBX image, initialize your MAC address, start up the VM, and boom. Instant PBX perfection! The really nice thing about our tutorials is it doesn’t cost you a dime to try things out for yourself. And the Incredible PBX® feature set is included as well. Just add your credentials and speech-to-text, voice recognition, and a Siri-like interface are as close as your nearest SIP phone. Splurge with a $4.99 one-time purchase to add Google Voice, and you’ve got unlimited free calling in the U.S. and Canada. So why wait? Let’s get started.
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 for VitalPBX VM
To begin, download the Incredible PBX for VitalPBX .ova image (1.0 GB) to the computer on which you installed VirtualBox.
Next, double-click on the VitalPBX .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 VitalPBX virtual machine in the VM List of the VirtualBox Manager Window. Let’s make a couple of one-time adjustments to the VitalPBX configuration to account for differences in sound and network cards on different host machines.
(1) Click once on the VitalPBX 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 VitalPBX.
Running VitalPBX in VirtualBox
Once you’ve imported and configured the VitalPBX Virtual Machine, you’re ready to go. Highlight the VitalPBX virtual machine in the VM List on the VirtualBox Manager Window and click the Start button. The standard CentOS 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 for VitalPBX is merely running as a task in a VM window. Always gracefully halt VitalPBX just as you would on any computer.
Here’s what you need to know. To work in the VitalPBX 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 root password immediately by typing: passwd.
VitalPBX comes preconfigured so we need to login to the virtual machine for one primary reason, to obtain the IP address of VitalPBX. Once you’ve deciphered the IP address, point your favorite web browser at the IP address you wrote down. You’ll be prompted to create an admin password for your PBX and then you’ll be asked to register the PBX with Telesoft.
We’re assuming your VitalPBX VM is set up behind a hardware-based firewall. If not, you should immediately configure the firewall as documented in our VitalPBX in the Cloud article.
First, you’ll need to change the password for Extension 701: PBX:Extensions:Edit:701. The Edit option is the four-bar icon in the upper right corner of the VitalPBX dialog window. Click Save and Reload your Dialplan.
Next, you’ll need to register a Google Voice trunk with the Simonics SIP/GV Gateway for a one-time fee of $4.99. This gets you unlimited incoming and outgoing calls to the U.S. and Canada if you live in the U.S. Otherwise, set up a SIP trunk and enter your credentials in PBX:External:Trunks:SIP. If you’re using the Simonics gateway, the SIP trunk already has been set up. Just enter your credentials and change Disable Trunk to NO as shown below:
CAUTION: In choosing a DID for outbound calls with Incredible PBX, we strongly recommend that you use a Google Voice trunk. The reason is that, as long as your Google Voice account has no money allocated to it, Google will manage outbound calls to 10 and 11-digit phone numbers and block those that may incur enormous long distance charges from unscrupulous "merchants" in certain Caribbean countries. If you don’t heed our recommendation, we urge you NOT to link an Inbound Route to the Incredible PBX custom context. It’s your phone bill.
If you plan to use VitalPBX for "real work," then you’ll also want to change the Conference credentials for 2663 (C-O-N-F): PBX:Applications:Conference.
The VitalPBX virtual machine comes preconfigured to direct all incoming calls to Allison’s Demo IVR for Incredible PBX. If you’d prefer some other setup, change the Destination of the Default Inbound Route: PBX:External:Inbound Route:Default.
Configuring Incredible PBX for VitalPBX
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 has 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 VitalPBX
AsteriDex is a web-based dialer and address book application for Asterisk and VitalPBX. 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://vitalpbx-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.
Before AsteriDex Click-to-Call will work, you must authorize AsteriDex to access Asterisk from your browser. After logging into your server as root, edit the following file in /etc/asterisk/ombutel: manager__50-ombutel-user.conf. For each public IP address you wish to authorize, add an entry like the following immediately below the existing permit entry in the file. The non-routable IP address subnets already have been configured so, if you’re using a browser behind the same firewall as VitalPBX, you can skip this step. Otherwise reload the dialplan after adding public IP addresses:
asterisk -rx "dialplan reload"
Taking Incredible PBX for a Test Drive
You can take Incredible PBX for VitalPBX on a test drive in two ways. You can call our server, and then you can try things out on your own server and compare the results. Call our IVR by dialing 1-843-606-0555. For our international friends, you can use the following SIP URI for a free call: email@example.com. For tips on setting up your own secure, hybrid SIP URI with VitalPBX, see our original tutorial. The FreePBX® setup is virtually identical except for the location of the custom SIP setting for match_auth_username=yes. On a VitalPBX server, you will enter it here: Settings:Technology Settings:SIP Settings:CUSTOM.
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 VitalPBX
You can call your own IVR in two ways. From an internal VitalPBX phone, dial D-E-M-O (2663) to be connected. Or simply dial the number of the DID you routed to the Incredible PBX Custom Context. Either way, you should be connected to the Incredible PBX IVR running on your VitalPBX server. Be sure that you heed AND test the CAUTION documented above. Enjoy!
Originally published: Monday, April 9, 2018
— Ward Mundy (@NerdUno) January 9, 2018
Need help with VitalPBX? Visit the VitalPBX 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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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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