An application as richly featured and complex as the Asterisk PBX requires administrators to have the best documentation available. While a lot of information is available at many Web sites , beginners may find a good book to be the best starting place. eWEEK Labs recently took a look at two books—one we can highly recommend for beginners and one with more script examples for the more adventurous.
eWEEK Labs found OReilly Media Inc.s 404-page "Asterisk: The Future of Telephony," by Jim Van Meggelen, Jared Smith and Leif Madsen, to be the most helpful book for Asterisk newbies weve seen to date. After a brief explanation of some telephony concepts, the book dives into installation instructions and then slowly builds the readers familiarity with various concepts—providing a series of exercises to build the readers understanding of the role and structure of Asterisks many configuration files. However, the application appendix provides less-than-ideal documentation for more advanced configurations. The book, published in September, costs $39.95.
Taking the opposite tack is Paul Mahlers "VoIP Telephony with Asterisk, Second Edition," published in August by Signate LLC, a provider of technical services for Asterisk and VOIP (voice over IP) telephony. Mahlers book immediately dumps a fully formed dial plan in the readers lap and then haphazardly tries to backtrack to explain the initial presentation. However, Mahlers book introduces more concepts than OReillys offering, presenting more script examples for a wider variety of Asterisk apps.
Annoyingly, the $39.95 "VoIP Telephony with Asterisk" frequently hawks Signates Asterisk Installation 2005 CD (available for an additional $60 from www.signate.com), which includes the Asterisk binaries and a full Linux distribution based on CentOS. However, the sound configuration advice throughout the text applies just as well to an ad hoc Asterisk implementation.
Neither book will satisfy the most advanced Asterisk users, however, since neither delves into complex operations for large deployments, such as leveraging an external MySQL database to store the dial plan.