Mar 142011

I’ve been tinkering around with a Cisco 7970 IP phone. After spending 3-4 days of trying to get SIP working on this device, I gave up hope and started working with SCCP. The good news is that it worked straight away!

Using Asterisk and the greatly improved chan-sccp-b project, the majority of the features work out of the box.

While the concepts of sccp are a lot different than using separate SIP accounts, sccp is much more like standard phone system operating on lines instead of accounts. If you are struggling getting one of these devices working on Asterisk via SIP – save yourself the hassle and get it running using SCCP!

Jan 032011

It’s been a while since my original script to use for Australian caller ID lookups and since the online database disappeared, my script went into the archives.

Now its back.

Thanks to the API functions offered by Reverse Australia we can now have caller ID lookups back in Asterisk!

You’ll need a few things to achieve this:
1) Obviously a Linux PC running Asterisk
2) Asterisk::AGI Perl module
3) LWP::UserAgent perl module (should be included with your distro)
4) A running MySQL Database
5) My cid-lookup-v4.agi script.

Setup the MySQL Database with a table called ‘cid’ and two fields called ‘name’ & ‘number’. We use this to store unidentified inbound callers as well as cache looked up details from Reverse Australia. This means you can go edit the details later and have them show as you want rather than as unknown or the content returned from Reverse Australia.

Setup is VERY basic. Throw cid-lookup-v4.agi into your agi-bin directory, then place AGI(cid-lookup.agi) in your extensions.conf where you process incoming calls.

You will need to edit the script and change the setup for your MySQL database – as well as add the Reverse Australia API key.

Looking up calls online is optional.

This has been tested with the following configurations:
CentOS 5.5 with perl-LWP-UserAgent-Determined from rpmforge.
Fedora 14 with stock F14 perl-LWP-UserAgent-Determined package.

If you use CentOS, it is much easier to use the prebuilt perl packages from rpmforge. If you use CentOS, save yourself the heartache and use rpmforge for perl modules!

Feb 122010

Well, I’ve completely given up on the commercial Digium Fax for Asterisk module. After completely rebuilding my config to test the module I encountered tons of issues. Faxes were failing 99% of the time. I rebuilt the free app_fax with spandsp and straight away things were back to 100% success rates for both sending and receiving.

Sorry Digium but you just can’t compete on this front.

The tech support offered to me after my last post was polite, but you can tell that they are not intimately familiar with every portion of Asterisk and seem to overlook details from previous communications. It was a nice notion by Digium but notions don’t make products work!

Jan 162010

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 .”

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.