My Life with Asterisk — Part 1

So, I started using Asterisk a few years ago. I started working for a small IT company; my prime focus was on developing a sellable SMB phone system product. Unfortunately, the firm folded just as we were ready to launch.

At the time, the dialplans and routing all needed to be crafted by hand, in the early 1.2 days. A healthy portion of my time was involved in learning about extensions, contexts, and priorities. As I looked forward to implementing Asterisk at home, I found a fun device called the Linksys NSLU2, affectionately nicknamed the “Slug.” After attaching a 4GB flash drive, I installed Debian and Asterisk, again with a handcrafted dialplan. Fast forward another year, I had upgraded the hardware to a Mini-ITX system with a hard drive and no CD drive. Through all this time, I was hand-crafting a dialplan.

While my knowledge of Asterisk dialplans grew, several web interfaces became usable. I and some close friends tried to use the AsteriskGUI created by Digium from the original AsteriskNOW distribution. At the time, the AsteriskGUI was somewhat usable but had some significant bugs; I continued to use Asterisk with a hand-written dialplan. Since then, Trixbox was the biggest proponent of the FreePBX. Once AsteriskNOW added FreePBX as an option, I figured it was worth a try. After setting up a demo system and dabbling with it, I was pleased. My only hestiation was that the base distribution was and is CentOS, which is a fine base, but I tend to prefer Debian-based distros…

With that in mind, I have tried at least 3 or 4 times over the last few years to install FreePBX on my existing Debian-based system with its custom dialplan. Each time, I have fallen short of getting it setup. Mostly, I just haven’t invested the time to really solving that problem. In stead, I had the chance to spend the evening helping my buddy Mike learn all about Asterisk. We spent the time with the newest 1.7 version of AsteriskNOW. It was fairly clear, after some experimentation, that I needed to leverage this much more flexible tool to maintain my phone system. I tried one final time to install FreePBX on my phone system, with the same results as before, incomplete with too many holes and issues for me to spend my time with.

That night, after Mike had gone, I resigned myself to replacing that Debian base with the CentOS base of the AsteriskNOW distribution, figuring this was easier. Of course, nothing about this install was easy. I’ll share more in part 2…

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