UPDATE 19/01/2010: I got a call from Patrick at Digium this morning. He had a quick step through the problem I was having regarding the Fax for Asterisk application. Apparently the free / trial 1 license Fax for Asterisk does not come with support. From what I have been told, the ones you actually buy should have a link for support. I can’t test this to verify it, but this is what I’ve been told. Patrick has also started a bug report on the license issue so hopefully this will get fixed for everyone.
For those of you who do a lot with Asterisk, you know how this story goes, those who don’t need a warning!
Digium is the creator of Asterisk – an open source telephony project – and probably one of the worst companies to deal with in the history of computing. The Asterisk open source people are quite – well – disowning of anything done by Digium and it is almost considered a sin to try and get help in the Asterisk IRC channel.
So what makes Digium so bad?
1) Quite a while ago I purchased a number of g729 licenses. These are $10USD a piece and should (in theory) allow you to legally transcode between other codecs and g.729 on your asterisk server. These license for these codecs are tied to the MAC address of your network interfaces.
Sadly, if your network interfaces are changed, or the machine that you run Asterisk on changes, then your licenses are now invalid. If the boot order of your network interfaces change, your licenses are now invalid.
Digium is kind though. If you request Digium to relicense your codecs then they will – once. After that, you need to buy them again. I have had Digium flatly refuse to relicense my g.729 licenses after experimenting with running Asterisk in Xen and needing to relicense 5 times. I now use the fully functional and freely available g729 codecs for asterisk.
2) I recently got a couple of Digum Fax for Asterisk licenses. These are Digiums commercial offering for sending faxes using either T.38 or falling back to g711. You are offered a free license for 1 fax at a time and multiple concurrent faxes can happen at once if you purchase more licenses.
This is all well and good, however when you get a free license, or when you buy these, there is ZERO support. If you try to find somewhere to lodge a support case then you find that it is just about impossible. The support area of their web site tells you that you need to register one of your hardware devices to get support. If you email the address that sent you the licenses, you get told (after a 3-4 day wait):
“This request for technical assistance was sent to Digium Customer Service. Our technical support team can be contacted at +1 256-428-6161 or http://www.digium.com/support .”
My options are to be awake and call them internationally at 3am in the morning, or tough it up and get no support at all. Great customer service!
So what do I need to contact Digium support for? Well it seems there is a SLIGHT bug in their fax product that doesn’t release a license slot when a fax fails under certain conditions. This means if you have 10 licenses and 10 faxes failed in a certain way then the only way you can send or receive any faxes is to restart asterisk – causing ALL calls to drop. This probably should have been picked up by their testers before releasing their commercial offering, but I’m starting to think that their customers ARE their testers!
Overall, my dislike for Digium is growing at a rapid pace and wonder how long they will continue to ignore their customers with shonky procedures and if it will eventually mean the end of them. Time will tell.