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Interview with Mark Spencer of Asterisk 124

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the ripe-for-open-source dept.
comforteagle writes "OSDir has published an interview with Mark Spencer of Asterisk and Gaim about why and how he got started coding up the software platform PBX system and how it has become much more than -just- another phone system. He also shares his insights for the opportunities within the telecom industry for open source."
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Interview with Mark Spencer of Asterisk

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  • Would someone care to enlighten we the proletarians as to what PBX is?
    • Re:And PBX is...? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Qwell (684661)
      Private Branch eXchange.
      A telephone system.
    • Re:And PBX is...? (Score:4, Informative)

      by dud83 (815304) <dud@dCOBOLudcore.net minus language> on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:00PM (#14542300) Homepage Journal
      Officially it means: "Private Branch Exchange (private telephone switchboard)" In reality it is a switchboard placed inside your house or office commonly. You know, "press 1 for an outbound line" sort of thing!
      It's like a router with a NAT... Only for telephones not the internet...
      • Officially it means: "Private Branch Exchange (private telephone switchboard)" In reality it is a switchboard placed inside your house or office commonly. You know, "press 1 for an outbound line" sort of thing!
        It's like a router with a NAT... Only for telephones not the internet...


        A side note about being "behind" a PBX, is that the lines are not regular phones anymore. Typically, they are digital and not analog, which can be a pain if you need an analog phone line for things like a modem or fax machine.

        Doe
        • >Does anyone know if asterisk supports faxes?
          yes, I have sent, and recieved faxs through asterisk, but it depends highly on what your voice provider/hardware is, especially in-terms of throughput. my asterisk setup is using digium hardware to analog lines, and with asteriskathome (availble on sourceforge) it automatically wraps up faxs into a pdf, and emails them to you. for sending fax's, I used a linux fax driver on a seperate card, seperate install, installed as a samba printer.
        • Does anyone know if asterisk supports faxes?
          Yes through spandsp http://www.soft-switch.org/installing-spandsp.html [soft-switch.org]
        • Asterisk supports both normal analog phones or PBX digital phones "behind" the PBX, as well as VOIP softphones.

          I use Asterisk at home with a Digium card, and use regular analog phones with the regular house wiring. I also use softphones on each PC within my home network.

          Asterisk does support faxes. In my case, when a fax comes in, it is immediately recognized and routed to the fax machine, WITHOUT ringing any home phones, even if it comes in on my regular home phone line. I plan to change this so that
    • Re:And PBX is...? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chyeld (713439) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (dleyhc)> on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:06PM (#14542364)
      PBX - Private Branch eXchange. Sometimes also called Postbox exchange, or Private Business Exchange. I'm not sure what the 'official' meaning is.

      Basically it's a voicemail/call routing system. Almost every company that handles more than one incoming line has a PBX. It's the internal phone system. Extensions, voicemail boxes, hold music, voice menus, etc. are all run by your companies PBX.

      Asterix is an open source PBX designed to be run off any system that can run Linux. It's fairly extensible and because it runs on commodity hardware, very popular. Normal PBX systems can cost in the $10k amounts to do half of what a $5k Asterix system can. Plus, if you are truly a geek, you can setup your own home PBX off normal phone lines.

      Another reason Asterix is becoming popular is that it can handle Voice Over IP (VOIP) calls. This means you can setup a small home machine (many times people hook it into their router, PC or embedded) to work with a VOIP account such as Vontage and let you have more control with it.
    • Three letters that can convince a PHB to spend hundred of thousands of your salary/bonus dollars.
    • God I feel old
  • by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy&tpno-co,org> on Monday January 23, 2006 @03:58PM (#14542284) Homepage
    I have used and deployed * in a number of setups ( from large businesses to home ), and you folks should really understand something: This is the killer linux app.

    Samba is great. qmail/sendmail/ect...is wonderful as well. But, as far as getting linux in the door, this is the application that will do it. For example, my first * implementation cost about 8grand ( parts and service ).

    For a similar, but far less featured pbx from avaya, I was quoted 40grand. And that was a quote. Anybody here that has worked with phone venders should be chuckling right now at that number, as it amounts to a pie in the sky dream.

    So, for my small business, I saved them 30 grand right up front ( likely more ). On top of that, as their needs change, so can the phone system. Just the other day they found out I was taking my desk phone home ( to play with, but also get my phone calls ). When I told them why, they were floored that the system could do that, no matter how many times I told them it could.

    Larger businesses will see far more dramatic cost savings, and get more features to boot.
    • 8k for your first implementation - would you care to share how that was broken down? I have a small collection of PC parts I'd like to recycle into a phone system - what do I need to get?
      • Most of that was server and related costs. I spent about 6k on twin servers with a beefy UPS. If one goes down, I'll lose all current calls, but the phones and everything will be right back up as the second server takes over.

        About 2k was for phones. This was a small installation with some very specific needs.
    • For non-techies out there, the key to understand the parent post is that "*" in this text can always be replaced by the linux app du jour. Try it, you'll see for yourself that it works well.
    • by J0nne (924579) on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:23PM (#14542534)
      I have used and deployed * in a number of setups...

      The copy/paste trolls are getting lazier by the day. In earlier times they bothered to alter the post to fit the subject, but now they just use a wildcard...

      <insert monty python foot here>
    • I heard that * has some quirks; problems such as echo's, unstable after a couple of days. Do you experience that also? Or is it stable like Apache or linux kind of stability?

      Thanks.
      • I heard that * has some quirks;

        It does, but mostly you run in to them when dealing with the telco side of things.

        problems such as echo's, unstable after a couple of days.

        Echo isn't a problem if you get quality hardware, and my current asterisk server ( which I am talking on right now as a matter of fact ) has an uptime of over a month.

        Or is it stable like Apache or linux kind of stability?

        I would say it's about as stable as apache, if not more so. I can't remember the last time I had * just crash out for
      • by porkThreeWays (895269) on Monday January 23, 2006 @05:10PM (#14543005)
        Comparing Apache and Asterisk is difficult. The most often changed item of apache is the html. You can't make apache unstartable by having garbage html in your htdocs directory. Really, once the initial configuration of Apache is done, you probably won't make that many changes (for most sites). For asterisk, the thing you change the most is extensions. Extensions live in the Asterisk configuration. You _can_ break your Asterisk config this way and make it unstartable. The software itself is pretty rock solid, but because you will be activly making changes to the asterisk config (whether with vi or a front-end), it does lend itself to more human error. I tend to make any asterisk changes in batches at night because there's less "bitching factor" if the phone system is down for 30 seconds at 11pm than at 11am. If you are in a small business and will rarely add extensions, you could run your asterisk system for years without a problem.

        The biggest thing you want is your hardware on multiple battery backups and make sure your extensions config to make e-911 calls. There'd be nothing worse than a power outage and resulting emergency, and not being able to call 911.
    • This is True! (Score:3, Informative)

      by Greyfox (87712)
      I started playing with Asterisk a while back while experimenting with VOIP. I've recently purchased a digium FXO/FXS card and set up my landline with a voice menu system. The sky's the limit for what you can do with the system. Pretty much any small business could put a "professional" face on their company for the price of a moderately powerful machine, some network connections and a few SIP phones for their employees.

      It's not all that esoteric to set up, either. I didn't even bother with the various GUI

    • I am currently deploying Asterisk in a mid sized business, about 100 employees but only about 70 phones. We were looking at a quoted cost of $55K - $60K for a bare bones system from any vendor. Our total costs with Asterisk are going to be less than $20K and probably more like $17K. The test users absolutely love the system and a number of users are forgoing the $250 phone for the X-Lite softphone.

      The costs include two Asterisk servers with T1 cards, the POE switches and the phones. The second server is

      • So do the proprietary phone systems you mentioned include the redundancy your'e talking about with Asterisk? I'd expect not. We use Nortel (Norstar and BCM) systems and they dont even begin to think about redundant *anything*. Of course, that means that the cost difference should even be larger.
        • You're absolutely correct, the proprietary systems do not include the redundancy but they do include onsite service for a fixed length of time. The redundnacy is one of the ways we were able to sell the system to management, well the cost helped to.
          • FWIW, we have the on site support on the Nortels and they havent impressed me with their promptness. We have not had an entire system blow up (knock on wood), but one of the voice mail pieces wacked out and it took them 2 days to get it back. Your'e much, much better off with the Asterisk box. I'm jealous :-)
  • RE: PBX (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    PBX is Provate Branch Exchange. Phone switches, basically.

    Are you sure it wasn't Mark Spencer from Marks and Spencers?
  • > OSDir.com: What do you advise people to bear in mind if they plan to deploy Asterisk for their PBX needs? What should they know about the features and limitations of the software's current version?
    >
    > Spencer: Asterisk, as its name implies, was designed to do everything in telecom -- the name comes from the wildcard symbol. It can do most anything that you need it to do.

    A good answer, but I half-expected to read...

    "Asterisk? As its name implies - I regret that I have but one asterisk for my

  • Perfect timing for interview like this for me, i'm just building my first PBX system ever, and it ain't gonna be small :)
    I'm actually quite overwhelmed about that task, hopefulyl i get by fine :)
  • by pesc (147035) on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:14PM (#14542442)
    If you have iTunes, you can check out the latest systm video cast which features a demonstration by John Todd. Shows how to set up Asterisk. 47 minutes in length. Go to iTunes and search for "systm".
    • by Brian Stretch (5304) * on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:34PM (#14542639)
      Better yet, go here [revision3.com] and get the H.264 torrent (or whichever encoding you prefer). That page also gives you a slew of very useful Asterisk links.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Speaking of iTunes I saw this [alkaloid.net] posted on Asterisk-Users today: Podcasting via Asterisk's native voicemail functionality.

      Speaking of Asterisk as a killer app because it saves business so much money is just one facet. Another equally if not more important facet is the new possibilities introduced with an open platform. IMHO it's the same reason that Linux has gone so far: Simply put, openness breeds innovation.
  • by porkThreeWays (895269) on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:16PM (#14542469)
    I can not even begin to describe how great asterisk has been to the telecom industry. Asterisk will be (and is currently) just as important to the telecom industry as VoIP itself. I've delt with propietary telecom stuff before. It sucks ass. Take Nortel and Cisco for example. If you are going to buy Nortel IP phones, be prepared to use a Nortel soft switch. Up until recently you couldn't use Cisco power over ethernet with Nortel phones because of Nortel's non-standard implementation. Basically, every switch maker has made it as difficult as they can to use other comapanies equipment with theirs. Everything is expensive, non-extensible, and non-interoperable.

    Then there's asterisk. Asterisk uses open standards. Asterisk has an API for writing phone based applications. Asterisk has a clean code base to contribute to. Telecom has almost always wanted to stay as closed as possible. People thought VoIP would change this. It just brought new people to the secret game (Cisco and Nortel being the worst offenders). Asterisk has blown this door wide open. Now, I can use whatever SIP phone I want. I don't have to find a Unistim phone anymore. I can write my own programs to interact with callers. Waaaaaaaaay more than simple tree based IVR's. We're talking full fledged applications through the phone. Without paying a dime. Asterisk has blown the doors wide open on the secret game of telecom. Sure, there will be a lot of people who stick with their traditional telecom equipment. But for those of us willing to roll up our sleeves, Asterisk offers up a way more extensible and programmable soft switch than I've ever seen from the traditional guys.
    • I'd like to add to this...

      Not only can you use whatever SIP phone you like, you can also use whatever IAX2 phone, SCCP phone, MGCP device, etc...and you can use them together.

      You can call from an SCCP phone (Cisco) through Asterisk, over the internet to an IAX2 provider, who in turn connects to their provider via SIP, and then terminates to the PSTN.

      The * really DOES mean everything. Asterisk does this all seemlessly to the end users.
    • "Asterisk has a clean code base to contribute to." - Good joke! Did you ever had a look at the SIP module? At the deadlock handling? Asterisk has one of the ugliest codes which I have ever seen.
    • the secret game (Cisco and Nortel being the worst offenders)

      Care to elaborate on this? Cisco also sells a lot of SIP gear and are very serious about standards.

      Cisco's proprietary thing is SCCP, but SCCP not secret. Cisco tried to take SCCP to the standards committees, but that got shot down by competitors on the committees.

      Cisco sells SCCP products out of necessity, it's the only way to support the "300 classic PBX features". Standard SIP cannot do it (yet), and SIP with proprietary extensions is no

  • not astrix or asstricks or even trixast etc please get it right....
  • by DaedalusLogic (449896) on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:26PM (#14542561)
    These guys built a digital voice recorder out of it:

    http://www.basesys.com/ [basesys.com]

    It's used to provide a dictation service for large medical facilities down to small private practices. Medical dictation systems can cost $40,000+ from the biggest provider. (Dictaphone) We use this service though, and are very happy with their reliability. They can even support some proprietary Dictaphone hardware which uses DTMF tones not found on normal phones. (ABCD or Flash, Flash Override etc. for you military types.)
  • by qualico (731143) <worldcouchsurfer@@@gmail...com> on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:26PM (#14542563) Journal
    ...when you have a termination provider capable of connecting with SIP phones.

    Otherwise, when I go to a computer recycling depot, all I see is Asterisk boxes.

    I have run 4 lines on my 450MHz box with no degradation at all.

    You can buy cheap FXO cards for $10 and unlock Vonage Linksys PAP2s for $10 per FXS port.
    Slap that together with a $25 PowerMAC 9600 and bam!
    5 FXO + 10 FXS and witness the power of a fully operational PBX system for 175 bucks!
  • I am also evaluating Asterisk, I have it running at the moment in VMWare (Asterisk@Home) with Sipgate.co.uk

    Since I'm in the UK, that gives me an 0845 number which routes directly to the * server, where a digital receptionist prompts for choices 1, 2, 3 etc. It's been useful since I am starting my own small business, and I am able to have semi-professional numbers on my business cards, take voices mails and queue calls up coming in over my ADSL. Sure beats call waiting or investing all my money into a phone
  • by x.Draino.x (693782) on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:35PM (#14542654)
    Take it from me.. I work for one of those large close-sourced PBX companies. I love Asterisk. I think the initial jump in may be confusing to those who have never touched the command line before, but once you get the hang of it, it is much faster to configure than other PBX systems, and much more customizeable. Instead of having to use some special client to make a connection to the PBX server to make changes, all I have to do with Asterisk is SSH to the box and use vi ( of course ) on a couple of easy to understand text files. Asterisk can also interact with everything else on the box using perl or some of the built-in commands in Asterisk. So you could have it write to MySQL db, or email you everytime someone hits option "8" on the phone. All that is required for a simple VoIP system is an older machine ( preferrably 300mhz+ ), a NIC, and a sound card. This simple setup can get you up and running making phone calls from one softphone ( software based, no physical phone needed ) to another. Sign up with someone like nufone.net and start making outgoing calls. Or purchase a DID and have incoming as well.
    • All that is required for a simple VoIP system is an older machine ( preferrably 300mhz+ ), a NIC, and a sound card. This simple setup can get you up and running making phone calls from one softphone ... to another.

      Please pardon my igonrance, but for pure VoIP, do you even need a sound card in the Asterisk box?

      • I'm not *positive*, but I believe you are correct. I believe if you want any sort of other functionality, like voicemail, or any sort of menu system, it would be required. If you don't have those features, I don't really see the point of having a PBX though. You might as well use Skype or something similar.
        • I believe if you want any sort of other functionality, like voicemail, or any sort of menu system, it would be required.

          No, I don't think you do need one at all. All of the digital signal processing is handled in software. Digital/analog conversion is either done in the FXS/FXO cards, for traditional phones, or in the phone itself if you are using VOIP phones (that's why it matters what codecs the phone supports).

          • Well, you don't need a card per se, but it is probably better to have the timing on a Digium card vs. using zapdummy.

            I have my home * server with an FXO card and then use IAX to talk to my co-lo server (zapdummy). It's a good box to then tie to VoIP providers such as NuFone and Voicepulse.

            I'm setting up a 50-odd user environment right now with the kicker being four different countries. Just try to get an Avaya or Nortel partner to quote project management and integration costs for two countries.

            Blessed be t
      • no sound card required. U can still have voice menus,etc without.
        you would need the kernel module zapdummy to provide some sort of a timining interupt expected from the digium hardware by default, if you were running a pure VOIP box. That module now comes auto-setup with all the current asterisk auto installers.
    • I'm in charge of replacing our to-old NEC PBX for a brand new Asterisk in our ISP.

      As a Unix sysop for long time, with some knowledge in general VoIP/H.323/SIP, I would say that the jump into Asterisk is not too dificult. We use SSH/vi/etc. in our day-to-day task, so one more system is not hard to swallow.

      However I would like to point out that unless you are a really small user, with standard needs, for example in a situation where Asterisk@Home resolves all your needs, or you can live using only SIP or IAX,
  • Asterisk@Home (Score:5, Informative)

    by TeeJS (618313) on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:49PM (#14542775) Homepage
    For those wishing to play with Asterisk, you can't beat Asterisk@Home [sourceforge.net]. Nearly instant setup & web-based GUI config makes easy to administer too. I had it up and running in uner 10 min!
  • by Bentley (41087) on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:54PM (#14542830) Homepage
    Here's a link to a newer interview done with Mark Spencer last week, Jan. 19, 2006.

    http://gabcast.com/index.php?a=episodes&query=&b=p lay&id=91&cast=585&castPage= [gabcast.com]
  • application (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ch-chuck (9622)
    My * application is to send streaming audio to my cell phone. That is, before going out I plug the * console sound card into my streaming audio client. Then I can call in and dial the '1234' extension and listen to Internet audio from the car, while hiking, etc.
    Plus it was fun to play with setting up ;)

  • by Txiasaeia (581598) on Monday January 23, 2006 @06:03PM (#14543556)
    It didn't tell me why Obelix is so quick despite his girth, what's in that magic potion, or why my favourite Asterix film, Asterix and the Twelve Tasks, hasn't received an NTSC-DVD release yet. Instead, the interview was all about technology or some such nonsense. Don't the submitters check their links before they turn them in?
  • Mark Spencer will be speaking on Sunday at the Southern California Linux Expo [socallinuxexpo.org]. In addition Digium will be exhibiting Saturday and Sunday.
  • For what it is worth, I've been running Asterisk for a few years now. It promises a lot, but I always find that half of everything is literally broken in it. For example, recently we've been having lots of problems with app_queue.c and threads, and the monitor() function, and the mixmonitor() function (which completely segfaults asterisk on an x86_64). (The problem is not in my configuration, as when I don't change anything in the configuration, random things break between versions.)

    This wouldn't be a
  • MythPhone (Score:2, Interesting)

    by qualico (731143)
    Got to add this link:
    http://www.zen13655.zen.co.uk/mythphone.html [zen.co.uk]

    Anyone tried this?

    The future of video phones is cerainly destined for the TV.
  • by anthm (894202) on Monday January 23, 2006 @07:31PM (#14544287) Homepage Journal
    My name is Anthony Minessale, After considerable contribution to Asterisk I have learned a great deal about telephony here is a list of my personal contributions to Asterisk: http://www.cluecon.com/anthm.html [cluecon.com]

    The biggest lesson I have learned is that the fundamentals of Asterisk are built on assumptions and hard coded limitations. The flow chart for its code will make you dizzy:

    http://www.freeswitch.org/astdoc/structast__channe l__coll__graph.jpg [freeswitch.org]
    http://www.freeswitch.org/astdoc/pbx_8c__incl.jpg [freeswitch.org]

    People who use asterisk from the outside wouldn't know there is absolutely no structure or discipline in the code and may not care. But once they invest a ton of time trying to make their dream Telco or whatever their dreams may be, the truth is all too obvious. Spoken from experience, only a seasoned technical wizard with years of computer skills to boast will ever be able to successfully implement Asterisk beyond a modest implementation. To truly understand how Asterisk works holds only a slightly smaller prerequisite. To those who find this unimportant, I understand your point, but be aware that Asterisk, being an open source project, needs to have a somewhat easy learning curve to attract new developers especially considering the developer turnover they suffer due to the maddening politics their community has to offer. The development is focused on owning all the code even if it means re-inventing things that already exist just to maintain the right to sell the code. This practice is fine with me though I am less than pleased by the end result when the home-rolled version is a poor contender with several existing solutions. The modular intentions of Asterisk are great though there is no structure there either. Any module can dig its way into nearly all of the code of the core and often, inexperienced module programmers will re-implement existing functionality to the extent that even inside the same C source file, you may find multiple versions of the same functions with different names. The other problem with Asterisk modules are that many of the in-tree modules carry cross dependencies that make it impossible for the core to function without them. Some modules even depend on each other. This practice limits the portability since many operating systems will not tolerate one dynamic object from using symbols from another without hard linking them together. This is not the worst offense as far as portability; there are dozens more with many being accredited to Linux-specific assumptions. Apart from the technology problems the biggest remaining problem to consider is the community. The first experience for most Asterisk newcomers is an IRC channel where people fight for supremacy like information hungry pirates hording what they know and then sticking it to people for being so "stupid". (In other words, in the same boat they were in a few months back.) For those of us who are experienced developers, we are used to the l33t thing. The deal breaker is the issue management process. Submissions will generally be ignored for months then a one sentence overview will command the developer to fix minor issues and resubmit. This is almost tolerable if the submitted code was a new feature but more times than not it also happens with meaningful clean-up and repair of broken core functionality. I have heard this same complaint from countless ex-asterisk contributors over the past year and I am sure it is the number one cause of their ex status.

    In conclusion, I actively develop Asterisk code but now I only do it as a consultant. I am quite good at it and I know what I am talking about and I feel that the issues with Asterisk will never be addressed because there may be more Asterisk users every day but there are also less developers every day too and soon all the developers will be
    • Question:

      Why C and not C++? I've worked on a lot of large software projects (both C and C++), and although C++ is far from perfect, it is orders of magnitude better for something as dependent on extensions as as what freeswitch is proposing to be.

      You're losing out on many useful features (data hiding, polymorphism, inheritance, references, the STL, etc.) and risking the same problems of loosely defined structure by tying freespace to C.

      • The core is in C, but extension modules can be in C++. I will be working on some of these in C++ in fact.

        Of the little code that I have had time to look at, I like anthm's design thus far. If only there were more hours in the day so I could spend more time familiarizing myself with it. Damn school getting in the way of real life!
      • Linux is in C, and it's very very readable code. It also performs well and isn't very buggy. The kernel is loaded with extensions. (every driver, including filesystem drivers and network protocols, is an extension) Follow the Linux coding style if you too want to write millions of lines of portable high-performance code that doesn't crash left and right.

        Where is the OS written in C++? There are a few failed experiments, and Windows using a C++ compiler to compile what is essentially plain C, but nothing

      • I have to remind people that C++ was originally implemented in C as a set of macros. While we certainly can miss many of the obscene features of C++, we disambiguate the code by going the simpler route. While C++ implements a lot of nice ideas, remember that these are programming techniques, to make the program easier to read and maintain. They are properly not language features. At the end of the day, it's all object code, anyway.
    • Well, I know nothing about the internals of Asterisk. But I am experienced with Linux and a couple of other OSS projects. In my opinion, a lot of OSS projects tend to be hair-balls. Evidently, the "Million monkeys in front of a million keyboards" principle is at play.
    • from: http://www.freeswitch.org/docs/ [freeswitch.org]

      "Licensing
      Freeswitch is licensed under the terms of the MPL 1.1"

      this license is *not* compatible with the gpl. even mozilla.org has stopped using this license:

      Mozilla Relicensing FAQ
      http://www.mozilla.org/MPL/relicensing-faq.html [mozilla.org]

      mozilla is relicensing all of their code under a triple mpl/lgpl/gpl license in order to make their products compatible with the gpl. please consider doing the same with freeswitch.

      read this if you need some more convincing as to why to relice
      • The GPL isn't everything. There are some fairly standard GPL-like licenses out there that can be nice.
        • LGPL: now the "Lesser General Public License", it's not just for libraries anymore
        • Creative Commons has some very nice licenses
        • "Open Software License v1.1" as obtained from www.opensource.org

        Many of these are a nice middle ground between BSD and GPL. If somebody modifies your code and then includes it in a proprietary product, you get the right to any changes made to your code. You don't also get un

    • The big screw-up is timing. Here I am, doing nothing but IAX2. There is no reason that I should have to load a zaptel driver! ("zaptel" being Digium's line of PCI cards) Asterisk refuses to use the normal Linux real-time clock features (POSIX timers, /dev/rtc, etc.) for timing. The zaptel driver is a crude piece of crap that was rejected by the kernel developers. It is unfit for serious use.

      Being Linux-only is really not the problem. You could call it an advantage even, since your code will be much simpler
      • Re:stuff to fix (Score:3, Informative)

        by Corydon76 (46817)
        Here I am, doing nothing but IAX2. There is no reason that I should have to load a zaptel driver!

        And if you're using IAX2, you don't need to use Zaptel normally. The only reason you'd need to use Zaptel with IAX2 is if you were doing IAX trunking, something which most people do not do.

        A little bit of background for those readers unfamiliar with the issues. Telephone systems use a very strict timer of 8000 Hz. Given that this is far too heavy of an interrupt load for the PCI bus, Asterisk compromises

        • It seems you rely on zaptel for more than just trunking. There's something about conference calls. As for me, plain old IAX2 connections (no trunking, no conference, no analog) were suffering from horrible dropouts until I got that damn fake zaptel driver loaded.

          Either you're the one spreading FUD, or you really don't know much about timing.

          The RTC can operate at higher speeds like 2048, 4096, and 8192 HZ. You probably ought to offer that. Many computers can handle it just fine. The only reason why a modern
          • I don't even want a kernel to have module loading enabled; a traditional full-custom kernel is faster and leaner.

            You were doing alright until you threw that in there; it would have fooled the majority of the /. posters. Throw up some benchmarks to show everyone how much you're saving in ram and how much more efficient your kernel is. I'm afraid it's quite clearly you who are clueless. I'm going to hazard a guess that you run Gentoo and have at least 240 characters in your USE flags, claiming that it

            • by r00t (33219)
              Sorry dude, I'm not your Gentoo weenie. I've actually done OS development for real-time embedded systems. Imagine a computer that keeps an airborne laser focused on an incoming missle while both objects move wildly and even the air itself introduces enough distortion that you need to compensate by warping the mirror to focus your laser. Imagine a computer that controls and monitors a jet engine test stand. I've worked on the OS for both of those, the first being non-Linux and the second being Linux. I think
          • I think I've already addressed that. Telephony needs a pure multiple of 1,000 to function correctly, and the Zaptel dummy driver that operates on top of RTC by dropping 24 interrupts gets a "close enough" heartbeat to be used. It's not perfect, not optimal, but it will work.

            Apparently you feel that because the RTC generates an interrupt, we ought to use that without going through Zaptel. Again, that's already been addressed: the PSTN requires a more exact source of interrupts. Consider trying to inte

            • You gripe about having to skip a tick every now and then to use a 1024 Hz clock for a 1000 Hz tick.

              Meanwhile... the 1000 Hz clock isn't perfect. It varies from system to system, and even varies with temperature.

              To top it all off, you run packets OVER THE INTERNET and you're worried about a wee little bit of wobble from a 1024 Hz RTC?

              Come on, this is ridiculous.

              In any case, I don't have a RTC chip at all. It does not exist on Macintosh hardware. My kernel supports POSIX timers, which are intended for real-ti
      • I run Asterisk on 3 different 64-bit Alpha systems running linux, it runs flawlessly, much better than it ever did on an x86 machine... One of them even has a zaptel card installed, which also works perfectly...

        I did however have major trouble getting Asterisk to work on sparc.
    • by Corydon76 (46817) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @03:24AM (#14546745) Homepage
      I am also an Asterisk developer and the list of my contributions to Asterisk are about as long as anthm's. While I certainly agree that he's entitled to his opinion, I disagree with him on many of his points.

      The modular intentions of Asterisk are great though there is no structure there either.

      There is plenty of structure, here, and while in the past some of the lines between different concepts have been blurry, we are continually improving the definitions and coming up with yet better core structures. We're improving. Anthony even made some of these contributions, but we have rejected some of his more radical patches (mostly implementing the idea that everything, even the module loader itself, should be able to be unloaded). While we agree with modular design, there should be a limit; something has to be core, or all your product is is a module loader.

      The other problem with Asterisk modules are that many of the in-tree modules carry cross dependencies that make it impossible for the core to function without them.

      This isn't true. I'm not sure where he got this idea, but certainly some modules depend upon others. That should be a given, but the idea that the core depends upon a module isn't true. Perhaps we modularized something that he thought should be core?

      The first experience for most Asterisk newcomers is an IRC channel where people fight for supremacy like information hungry pirates hording what they know and then sticking it to people for being so "stupid".

      We cannot control how other people act in public. Certainly we have a very vibrant community, but the first experience for Asterisk newcomers is generally the mailing list, not the IRC channel. While we certainly try not to feed the trolls, anybody who has been reading Slashdot for more than a week knows that the trolls stick around. And while we might rebuke others for being cruel on IRC, we cannot control how our users interact. For one thing, we cannot monitor the IRC channel 24/7; for another thing, our work is on Asterisk, not on controlling other users.

      I would defy anyone to find a vibrant open source software community that does not have people who will respond in sometimes nasty ways to people who have not yet learned to ask Smart Questions [catb.org].

      Submissions will generally be ignored for months then a one sentence overview will command the developer to fix minor issues and resubmit.

      I'll admit that this has been a problem in the past, but we are working hard to correct it. Bugs filed are generally addressed the next day or at least within 7 days of them being posted. While there are certainly bugs that we reject, quite frequently patches go into SVN within hours of them being submitted. There are also complex patches that require more thought and careful consultation with other developers, to ensure they take the code in directions that we wish to go. These are generally the types of bugs which remain open the longest -- not because we're ignoring them, but because we are carefully considering them.

      soon all the developers will be nothing but users who have no other choice but to try and be developers

      It's unfortunate to hear such an elitist attitude. We all were only users once. Those of us who were interested enough learned and progressed and became developers. It's terrible that some people have forgotten this.

      I could go on for ages documenting more issues but they tend to fall on deaf ears.

      They actually didn't fall on deaf ears. Many of anthm's criticisms were taken quite seriously and have been addressed. It's sad to see another developer take his ball and go home, but we continue to move forward, with or without him. We aren't his keeper, and it's certainly his right to develop whatever he likes.

    • by gst (76126)
      Did you have a look at Yate (http://yate.null.ro/ [yate.null.ro])? I have also used Asterisk long enough to learn to hate it, but Yate looks very nice. It doesn't have as many features as Asterisk, but the code base is very clean and it does look rather easy to extend.
    • For non-traditional connections, let me do 16-bit linear samples at 48 kHz.

      Conversion should happen as required.

      Whenever one side of a connection starts to get ahead or fall behind, let me choose how to fix it. I may wish to cut corners, doubling or dropping individual samples. I may wish to have a polynomial interpolation done for a temporary rate conversion. See the "sox" audio processing source code.
  • by davidc (91400)
    ...Last time I looked, Marks and Spencer didn't sell Asterix books.

    /a shame.
  • Local talk (Score:3, Informative)

    by digitalhermit (113459) on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:18PM (#14545151) Homepage
    FYI - Mark Spencer will be talking at our local Linux group tomorrow. Check www.flux.org for details.
  • Is his middle name Sand? ... I'll get me coat.

"What man has done, man can aspire to do." -- Jerry Pournelle, about space flight

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