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Interview with Mark Spencer of Asterisk 124

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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  • And PBX is...? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by The Lerneaen Hydra ( 885793 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @03:56PM (#14542266)
    Would someone care to enlighten we the proletarians as to what PBX is?
  • by DaedalusLogic ( 449896 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:26PM (#14542561)
    These guys built a digital voice recorder out of it: []

    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 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 and start making outgoing calls. Or purchase a DID and have incoming as well.
  • application (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @04:56PM (#14542847) Homepage
    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 ;)

  • Asterisk Scales? (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @06:32PM (#14543789) Homepage Journal
    Who's got reliable info on Asterisk scaling requirements? Eg. what hardware is needed in a cluster to support 10,000 corporate users (with a featurelist), or even 10,000 simultaneous phonecalls? Or, how many simultaneous users can a 2-Xeon/4GHz/4GB/250GB server support?

    The useful answer to this question for a real network design is pretty detailed. Where are some actual scaled usage/support results?
  • MythPhone (Score:2, Interesting)

    by qualico ( 731143 ) <worldcouchsurfer&gmail,com> on Monday January 23, 2006 @06:53PM (#14543961) Journal
    Got to add this link: []

    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: []

    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: l__coll__graph.jpg [] []

    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
  • by iamnotaclown ( 169747 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @08:50PM (#14544926)

    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.

  • by SoulDad570 ( 907759 ) on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:50PM (#14545335)
    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 better than SCCP. When the SIP evolves to support the rich PBX feature set, Cisco will be right there (in fact CIsco is involved in the SIP standards).

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