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Asterisk 1.8 Released With Support For Google Voice 83

Thinkcloud writes with a note that long-standing open-source VoiP software Asterisk has just been updated, and it's packed with more than 200 enhancements, security updates, and new features — including calendar integration and support for Google Voice and Google Talk. Asterisk's fully-featured PBX includes call waiting, hold and transfer, caller ID, and other useful tools so it's a great option for small businesses that need to watch costs."
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Asterisk 1.8 Released With Support For Google Voice

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  • by ickleberry ( 864871 ) <web@pineapple.vg> on Saturday October 23, 2010 @06:07PM (#33999518) Homepage
    I don't think any business can "spend like they just don't care" in these recessionary times. Except maybe Google themselves
    • Additionally - asterisk is quite scalable- so I think large businesses would also benefit quite nicely from using this. My experience is that ever company I've ever come across spends too much on telephony.
      • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @07:14PM (#33999910)

        Unfortunately, the small business is HIGHLY unlikely to have any of the skill set to get asterisk running, negotiate the Voip mine-field, and not lose calls and voice mail, and generate crippling telephone disruption for the entire business.

        The benefits it offers just start to make it worth while at about 25 users or so, due to the falling prices of cat5 phone systems which you can pick up for pretty cheap these days, especially on the used market.

        Asterisk is probably not really warranted until you have a hundred desks or so, and only then if you happen to have a fairly good geek on staff.

        It is scalable, but not for the entry level technician unless all you want it to do is handle voice mail.

        • by Low Ranked Craig ( 1327799 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @07:53PM (#34000220)
          There are a number of packaged implementations, like PBX in a Flash and Elsatix. If you have basic knowledge of TCP/IP networking you can work your way through it. There are lots of tutorials. I wrestled my way through it and found that it's not that hard unless you need copper lines. Just need to pay special attention to security so you din't end up with a $10,000 phone bill. We're getting ready to dump Vonage for straight VOIP by the minute. For what I'm paying Vonage every month I can have 3 numbers, each with 2 "lines" and 5 times the minutes. We went from PacBell, to Cox to Vonage and now to ala carte VOIP - our phone bill will have gone from $75 to $15 a month...
          • How good is the programming language to setup and use? Back when GV was new I registered (xxx) xx-HOUSE. I have 1-wire setup throughout the house for stuff like the furnace. Garage door, etc.

            I want to be able to dial into my Asterisk box and enter my pass code and see if the garage door is open (and optionally close it). Set thermostat temp, etc.

            • by adamstew ( 909658 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @09:00PM (#34000650)

              Asterisk has AGI. Think CGI, but through asterisk instead. You can hook asterisk in to PHP, Perl, Python, etc. You can use your scripts to create your own voice menus, and program your own functionality.

              It's fairly simple. I setup asterisk at my company, which is a fairly large health clinic. I wrote a script (executed by cron) that connects to our practice management software, pulls down a list of appointments for the next day, and makes an automated phone call to each patient reminding them of the appointment. It's fairly sophisticated: It detects answering machines and will wait until the "beep" before it leaves a message, tells the patient the date, time and the name of the clinician that they are seeing and asks them to "press 1 to confirm" or they can "press 2 to speak with a receptionist". It also manages the outbound bandwidth, it never has more than 5 calls going simultaneously. It will also try busy numbers and no answers 3 times, waiting 5 minutes between each try.

              After it finishes the calls, it e-mails the log of what happened to one of our receptionists who handles the exceptions...no answers, busy, disconnected numbers, etc. It also keeps a verbose record of exactly what happened throughout each call... time it dialed, when it was answered, if it left a message, what the user did, etc. Finally, it has a "do not call list" that the system won't call a patient if they've asked not to receive them.

              Overall, it's pretty limitless. If you have some API for your garage door, thermostat, etc. that you can interface with PHP, Perl, Python or a number of other languages, then you're good to go.

              • May I suggest that you run this setup through your legal department? That sounds utterly HIPAA-noncompliant: "Hello, this is the office of Dr. Obstetrician calling for Teenage Daughter to confirm her appointment for tomorrow at 9:00AM. Have a nice day!"

                Chances are that's not a huge deal for you. For example, my wife's a podiatrist, and few people are going to be mortally embarrassed to have an appointment for her to see their ingrown toenail. Still, it's something you might want to think about. Maybe consid

                • It has been run through the legal department. Whenever we get a phone number, we always ask if it's okay to leave messages at that number. It won't leave a message otherwise.

                  Also, we NEVER mention anyone's name or any personally identifiable information about someone. Just that "This is a reminder phone call for an appointment at with Dr. . To confirm this call..."

                  • Gotcha. I think it's a great idea, but thought I'd mention that stuff just in case. I'm sure you're all too aware of how nitpicky HIPAA gets about stuff. For a while, the local gov't liaison person wanted my wife to have a "take the next number" machine in her lobby and call patients back by number. I'm not sure if they ever understood why my wife flatly refused to have any part of that idea.

        • by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @08:00PM (#34000272) Homepage

          Crikey, I've run my house on asterisk with very little maintenance for the best part of a decade. I have multiple incoming numbers, least cost routing, Direct Inward System Access on a 1-800 number which I can use from hotels/airports etc, conference calling that gets used for family calls and work. An added bonus is the easy NAT traversal of the IAX protocol. It's easy to get a box up and running behind a domestic router.

          For anyone looking for a really easy set-up, there's things like Trixbox.

          Certainly it can seem daunting and there are pitfalls to beware of. However, small businesses are often spending a fortune on telephony that could be better placed, or they could be enjoying a feature set well beyond that currently available to them. As an example, we had a Nortel PBX with about 20 extensions and were looking for an extra two lines. Either we needed a card installed to provide the extra lines, or they could make a software change to enable VoIP and we could have added two SIP phones using our existing networking. The cost of either option was > $3,000.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by icebike ( 68054 )

            But you sir, are a geek. /tips hat/.

            And presumably no one paid for your time.

            • Yes, I'm a geek. My time was more than paid for in reduced call costs. A day or so configuring asterisk probably saved me about $1,500 in international call costs in the first year of ownership.

              There were two points I was trying to make. My setup has been almost maintenance free, meaning a very small TCO. Secondly, there are GUIs available that really should make this within the competence level of many small business tech's.

              • by wrook ( 134116 )

                Yes, especially Trixbox is very easy to set up if you have a dedicated machine for it (and you don't need much for an Asterisk box). For an installation cost, Asterisk is much cheaper to install than your average hard line PBX in my opinion. Well, I guess Nortel is out of business now, but those Nortel PBXs were a bitch to set up and maintain (add new lines, etc). My only real complaint about Asterisk (as long as I don't look at some parts of the code ;-) ) has nothing to do with Asterisk itself. I fin

            • You can buy a preconfigured Asterix setup including the computer it runs on for ~2k. Even for people without an inhouse geek, that still seems better than 3k.

              • That 3k was for TWO additional lines on a phone system that had already cost over $20k, or $1,000 per extension!

        • by dskoll ( 99328 )

          Totally untrue. We have 8 employees and run Asterisk. We hired a consultant to set it up, and then maintained it ourselves. It was much cheaper to set up and run than our former proprietary PBX from NEC.

          I liked Asterisk so much I even run it at home. I have implemented countermeasures to avoid telemarketers and I love it.

        • As a /.'er, I can say that Asterisk was cost effective for us when we got over 6 extensions. I had no real knowledge of Asterisk or creating a dial plan, but we got it together and it has worked reliably for years.

          Compared to paying Digium or one of the other providers the recurring fees, it is marginally cheaper... even with out-sourcing our linux administration. Compared to the proprietary systems that you need to have a telecom vendor re-program, Asterisk seems to pay for itself in less than a year wit

    • by mrsteveman1 ( 1010381 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @06:21PM (#33999612)

      in these recessionary times


    • Maybe not in America, but there are other countries out there, and their economies are not necessarily sucking as hard as yours is right now.
      • No, many of them are doing worse.

        At least the US isn't (yet) being run by people who think the way to deal with a recession is to cut spending.

  • by nikomo ( 1338131 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @06:16PM (#33999582)
    This is extremely off-topic, but this is a good place to ask this question. Could I host Asterisk on my VPS and then call other people through Asterisk with my Nokia phone that supports SIP (both through WiFi and 3G/3.5G). Basically, SIP-call to my friend's SIP-supporting phone who's connected to my Asterisk, from my SIP-supporting phone that's connected to the same Asterisk. Figure it would basically be free calling since we all have unlimited 3G plans.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sslayer ( 968948 )
      Yes, you'll be able to do that. That is, probably, the most basic functionality of Asterisk. You can, as well, make your Asterisk server connect to another SIP provider (like voipbuster and the like) and redirect your phone calls through the trunk it provides. And that's just the beginning...
    • Since Asterisk is a sip proxy/pbx and this is its main function, I would say yes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      You can, this is exactly what asterisk is for..
      Be careful about the ToS with your telco - they might explicitly forbid the use of voip over 3G, and might actually block it at a technical level. You might need to hide the traffic in a VPN, or one telco i'm aware of blocks SIP but doesn't block IAX.

      You can do a _LOT_ more with asterisk than just that tho, for instance you could sign up with sipbroker which would let people in many countries around the world call you for the price of a local rate call, you cou

      • by nikomo ( 1338131 )
        I don't think that'll be a problem, I live in Finland and we actually still have rights here as far as telecommunications goes. Nothing is filtered except for the website blocklist that the police forces ISPs to block childporn on a DNS level. I have yet to see anything get blocked through my 3G, I've downloaded lots of Linux LiveCDs through P2P networks through 3G.
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by hweimer ( 709734 )

      As others have pointed out already you can surely do this with Asterisk, but I think in your case the question is whether your 3G network operator allows SIP traffic on their unlimited data plans.

    • Except that 3G tends to have a very shitty latency.

      I've worked on VoIP for almost 10 years now. I've tried to pass voice through mobile networks since the times of CDMA 1X. It just doesn't work very well. 3G is a huge improvement, and it all depends on what network you are on, and your current signal, but don't expect it to work like a regular call.

      Regarding asterisk on a VPS, that shouldn't be a problem.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by wolrahnaes ( 632574 )

        I've been intermittently experimenting with VoIP over mobile networks for the past few years, and it seems very carrier dependent. Myself and a coworker have both used softphone clients on jailbroken iPhones over the AT&T network, both EDGE and 3G, with decent success. EDGE was a bit flaky with G.711 and G.722, but G.729 was solid and 3G worked fine with all. Latency was a bit unpredictable on both, though much more stable on 3G (150-400ms vs. 200-900ms). On 3G it's never made a call intolerable.


        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Agreed on the network-dependent part. Bandwidth is usually not the problem, with high-compression codecs and good silence detection you can squeeze voip on plain old GPRS (I've done it using GSM and g729). Latency is always your biggest enemy. Remember, you are measuring your latency up to your server, from there, you have to add termination latency, which of course varies according to your destination. Calling overseas becomes an issue, because you'll be dealing with at least 200ms from 3G latency + anothe

    • by EdIII ( 1114411 )

      You might be able to go one step better...

      SIP traffic usually sucks balls on cell phones. I just don't see enough quality in the 3G connection to support it in most cases. Making a voice call is usually much higher quality.

      If you have friends and family plans on your phones you could add a PSTN number that is connected to your Asterisk box. Setup a reverse IVR.. and you now have a working gateway that allows you call anywhere in the world you want at the prices of a decent VOIP provider. Think of like a

      • by numbski ( 515011 )

        Granted, I know we're talking internationally, but 25cents for a minute of cell phone airtime???

        T-Mobile here, I pay $125/mo for 2 phones, "unlimited" data, sms, and mms. 1500 shared minutes. Reasonably speaking, $25 of that is data, fees, and taxes. 1500/100 is 15 cents per minute, but more than that, we get unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling, so we get much more than that.

    • Timing in a virtual machine could be an issue. I do run asterisk at my job on Xenserver and it works pretty good. But i'm hearing that vmware might have issues.
    • If that is all you want, you might as well get an account with any of the SIP providers out there. With the one I used, calls are usually free as long as they don't touch the "real" telephone system. So calling any of your friends who's also using SIP is free. With the one I used (sipgate), I actually got a POTS number for free, as well, so people could call me with their regular phones; often for free since they have free calling for "landline" numbers. I've tried this using two Nokia phones over Wifi, nev

    • Two reactions to your plan:

      1. Yes, you can definitely do it, but no, you will probably not be happy with the quality. As of the last time I looked at Asterisk, a finer-grained real time clock was required for optimal performance. That could either be via the Digium hardware (which you wouldn't have on a VPS) or a RTC/ztdummy/?? module compiled into the kernel, which you most likely don't control.
      2. Congratulations. You just reinvented fring [fring.com].
  • I hope DAHDI is better supported this time. I had a lot of trouble getting it to work under a plain (Ubuntu server) installation as it involved modifying settings that weren't really documented. :-/
    I reverted to using the AsteriskNOW installation and even that needed a manual change to one of the config files for it to recognise two FXS channels...
    • I've been through DAHDI and Zaptel-hell many times in 1.4, 1.6, and now 1.8. Playing around with the 1.8 code (beta has been out since mid summer), DAHDI/dahdidummy is working just fine on my Ubuntu 8.10 box for conferencing. Coaxing Zaptel into behaving was hell the first time around, this isn't bad at all. So be happy. :-)

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @06:53PM (#33999818) Homepage

    Google Voice is useful and fun, but its interface with the telephone network remains flaky. See "Can't send text message from sprint phone to my Google voice number" [google.com] and "Google number not callable from certain numbers" [google.com] Google Voice seems to have an ongoing problem keeping their blocks of phone numbers properly visible to other carriers. Troubles have been reported with Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile numbers for over a year now. There are also some limitations on calling into and out of Google Voice from VoIP systems.

    The problems may stem from the fact that Google didn't implement Google Voice. It's just "Grand Central", acquired and re-branded. It's not a "telco quality" system. It's not ready for prime time as your main phone system for a business.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      These issues you name actually happen with all companies.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Really? Not any telco ive ever dealt with.

        • I've definitely run across it once or twice. The first time was with Bell phone cards, which for some reason had issues dialing the "778" prefix (newer prefix in BC, Canada). It really sucked when I'd bought a few cards to keep in touch with my GF while out-of-town, only to find the damn cards didn't recognize her number.

          The second time was with 1-8xx routing issues from the local Fido (Rogers) network. NO 800-type number would work, they'd always come up as busy. Other networks worked fine. This one croppe

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've been testing Google integration in Freeswitch and there's WAY too much latency to use this for anything other than a novelty.

  • I've long heard of asterisk and I've visited the website (even downloaded it at one point) but what I fail to grock is what can an individual actually do with it? Maybe the Google link in will help, but I call Google voice with my land line, not voip, and Google chat's communication doesn't give me an inbound number. If I can use the technology for something interesting at home I would set up an asterisk system, but I just can't see what I can do with it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You just need a SIP provider like Gizmo5. They are now owned by Google. This lets me make and receive unlimited free calls to anywhere in the US from any device that has a SIP client like my PC or my iPhone. As long as data is unlimited then calling is unlimited since its all VoIP on my end. Google Voice provides the link to PSTN.

      If I call out, Google voice calls my Gizmo5 SIP number and my other party. If someone calls my Google Voice number, Google calls my SIP and connects me with the caller.

    • by nikomo ( 1338131 )
      Free SIP calling between friends? That's basically what my thread was about.
    • by sampas ( 256178 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @07:25PM (#33999994)

      I replaced my home landline with an Asterisk box running on a Supermicro Atom D510 mboard, specifically PBX in a flash [pbxinaflash.net], which is the Cliffs' notes version of FreePBX [freepbx.org]. FreePBX is based on Asterisk, but provides a spiffy web interface for configuration that's more advanced and free-er than the others. That said, you'll still need to be comfortable at the command line on Linux and a text editor such as vi.

      With Asterisk, you can do voicemail, have your voicemail emailed to you, have multiple boxes, pay $1.50 per month for a phone number plus $.01/minute for calls with a SIP provider such as Vitelity [vitelity.net]. You can have conference calls (you'll need to pay $10/channel for g729 if you want to scale at all on home bandwidth, though.)
      You can have ring groups, different extensions, etc. I have one for emergency late-night network issues, which only those with the secret extension can access to wake me up.

      There's an unlimited number of stupid tricks you can do, but you'll need to learn the difference between trunks, routes, and dial plans. That said, it's pretty cool. But then you'll want to buy Aastra SIP phones, which come with open-source phone applications, so it will cost you more. If you want to light up your in-house phone lines, it's $200 for an FXS card. If you want to use an existing landline as a trunk, it's $200 for an FXO card. (Double check which is which before you buy because I can never remember which is which.)

      The best part about running your own PBX is that (1) you can send telemarketers to voicemail hell and (2) it's trivial to fake callerID, which helps with (1).

      • $200 for FXS and FXO? I can get an ADSL modem with both for less than that.
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "If you want to light up your in-house phone lines, it's $200 for an FXS card. If you want to use an existing landline as a trunk, it's $200 for an FXO card."

        A Linksys 3102 has both 1 fxo and 1 fsx and costs about $60. A Linksys PAP2T has 2 fxs ports and costs about $50 (only downside is the lack of t38 (but that shouldn't matter much for home use)).

    • You can route between your land-line and SIP or IAX enabling you to do all kinds of fun things. You could use a SIP client via the internet to be able to answer you landline when you're on vacation .
      You could use bluetooth to detect proximity to your server and then auto-switch your landline to forward to your mobile, or just go straight to voicemail which in turns sends an email with the voice-message.
      You could set up a callback service so that you can call your land-line and press a special key and as
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kasparov ( 105041 ) *
      You get an inbound number with Google Voice. You can now have that routed to an Asterisk box. From there, you could do any kind of filtering of the call you want. You could have Asterisk check your calendar to see if you are currently in a meeting and handle the call differently from there. You could get a SIP client for your smartphone and register it to your Asterisk box at home and then make make free outbound calls with Google Voice w/o having to have any voice plan. Asterisk makes it possible to do jus
    • by wrook ( 134116 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @08:26PM (#34000442) Homepage

      As others have said, Asterisk becomes much more obvious if you have an ITSP (Internet Telephone Service Provider). Here's an example of what I have done with it. I moved to Japan 3 years ago, but I still wanted to keep in touch with my friends. Calling long distance to/from Japan is expensive, no matter what plan you have. So I bought a DID (Direct Inward Dial) for my old home town. This gives my friends a local number to call. It routes over the internet to my Asterisk box and rings a softphone on my computer in Japan. The DID costs me $5 a month. Of course, there is a huge time change between Canada (where I moved from) and Japan. Asterisk has voice mail. If my phone isn't running on my computer, Asterisk takes a message and emails me the contents. When I wake up in the morning, I can listen to the message from my email and call the person back. Outgoing calls cost me 2 cents a minutes to North America and there are unlimited plans with many ITSPs (I don't bother because I don't make many outgoing calls).

      Even without an ITSP Asterisk is useful. Perhaps you are used to using Skype or Google Talk to make computer to computer voice calls. Asterisk lets you talk to your friends using SIP (and now I guess Google Talk), but still have all the PBX features. So for instance, if your friend wants to send you a voice mail via SIP they can. You can set up conference calls fairly easily as well. You can buy very inexpensive USB handsets that look like telephones and hook them up to your computer. If you set your softphone's audio device to the handset, it ends up working pretty much like a normal phone. Or you can buy a SIP handset (a bit more expensive) and simply plug it in anywhere you have a network connection. This allows you to set up as many extensions controlled by your Asterisk PBX as you want. It's handy if you have kids, especially since DIDs are really, really, cheap.

      Finally, for some fun you can easily set up ring groups on Asterisk. Talking on a cell phone is generally expensive. Instead, you can set up a DID for your Asterisk box and everyone can call you there. If you have your softphone up, it will ring that first. If it isn't up (or you don't answer it) you can get it to call your cell phone with an outgoing call. You can even set up a voice mail menu that asks the calling person if they would rather leave a message or try your cell phone. And to be even fancier you can vary the response based on who's calling. If it's someone you don't know you can direct them to voice mail immediately, if it's someone you don't care about much you can just allow them to ring the softphone, if it's likely to be important than you can forward to your cell.

      This should give you a few ideas. There are really an endless number of options. Especially since you have source code with Asterisk you can make it do whatever you want.

      • Calling long distance to/from Japan is expensive, no matter what plan you have.

        Bizzare. It's free for me.

    • by dskoll ( 99328 )

      I have a POTS line, but I still use Asterisk plus some home-brewed programming to implement some nifty features:

      • Telemarketer Deterrence: Any call coming from a non-local area code (except for a few hand-whitelisted numbers) goes to a recording asking the caller to press "1" to prove he/she is not a telemarketer. This completely kills automatic diallers. Based on my logs, I see that it stops between 3 and 7 calls per week.
      • Number Recall: All my call records are logged to a PostgreSQL database. If I fo
  • I am finding more and more that ordinary folks use Skype for their business and private calls. It works fine for a one or two person Mom and Pop Shop. So ordinary folks are getting very open towards VoIP in general.
  • I stumbled across this post a few day ago, a simple tutorial:

    http://blog.polybeacon.com/2010/10/17/asterisk-1-8-and-google-voice [polybeacon.com]

  • I looked at various Asterisk-based distributions for the residential phone system I run in my condo complex, and I found them all to feel pretty messy and hacked together. I kept looking and found SipXecs (http://sipfoundry.org), which is an amazingly polished open source project used in many companies.

    It has a completely-integrated web management interface that controls all aspects of system config and operation. It is highly scalable, allows for clustering, comes pre-integrated to support SIP trunks

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus