The Wizard at Work
We could set up customized local trunks via IAX (Inter-Asterisk Exchange) protocol or SIP (Session Initiation Protocol); we could choose from a few ITSPs (Internet telephony service providers) with profiles built into the software. (IAXtel and VoicePulses VoicePulse were the only included voice services in Beta 4, but others will be added in the next beta revision, according to company officials.) With the trunks established, the wizard presented us with several predefined calling rules (for local, long distance, international and 911 calls). The rules dont automatically have a trunk associated with them, but we needed only to add the correct outbound passage or change the dial rules and create custom dial patterns if we had a different scheme in mind.Lastly, the wizard presented us with voice mail and user extension configuration screens. Although not part of the wizard, we found it quite simple to create rules for inbound calls and create new voice menus. We created rules to forward incoming calls to different extensions, depending upon which trunk the call arrived from. At these extensions, we could create different voice menus and set up action sequences that would, for example, forward calls to extensions, play recorded messages or nested menu options, or offer callers interactive opportunities (press a key to do something.) AsteriskNow includes several prerecorded messages, but we would recommend using the built-in Record A Menu function to customize messages. As we found recently in David Endler and Mark Colliers book "Hacking Exposed VoIP: Voice over IP Security Secrets & Solutions," identifying prerecorded stock messages is one of the techniques a hacker could use to fingerprint a voice session. To create new messages, we simply needed to type in a file name and choose an extension. The AsteriskNow server then called that extension and prompted us to record the message. We easily created conference roomseither with or without a PIN for security. We also had the option to record the conference and set a few moderator options. While not the most comprehensive conferencing solution weve seen, we definitely liked that we could configure multiple simultaneous conference extensionssomething we have not been able to do previously with commercial VOIP PBXes. As with other Asterisk distributions weve tested, client interoperability was not a problem. We easily configured CounterPath Solutions X-Lite 3.0 and a pair of Wi-Fi-enabled VOIP phones (the Linksys WIP330 and Zultys Technologies WIP 2) to work with AsteriskNow. We also tested with a pair of Polycom SoundStation IP 4000 conference phones. Click here for eWEEKs outlook on VOIP for 2007. On the reporting and logging front, the Asterisk GUI allowed us to monitor active channels (both analog and VOIP) through the server, as well as transfer or hang up specific channels. Meanwhile, the System Info tab presented Linux kernel and Asterisk build information (but not ZapTel information, for some reason), resource utilization, and system logs. Sadly, we could not yet export the logs for analysis from the Asterisk GUI. One feature still lacking at this stage of the beta program is the ability to restore settings. As of Beta 4, we could back up our configuration data, but we could not import it. We hope this issue will be rectified soon. When and if it is, we foresee being able to easily migrate an AsteriskNow deployment to a different machine for long-term use. Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.
However, we discovered that the wizard does not present the full configuration options for call control rules. We could use the wizard to strip numbers from an outbound call, but we had to go into the regular configuration screen to prepend numbers.