Choice Open-Source VoIP News Nuggets
There have been a number of interesting events in the VoIP universe recently; we look at a choice sampling.
Open Telephony Training Is a Hit
The folks who maintain FreePBX, the popular Asterisk graphical interface and management system, held their first-ever Open Telephony Training Seminar last month in Charleston, South Carolina. It sold out early and was a big success, so there will be another one this May in Las Vegas. The course covers how to market, sell, deploy, troubleshoot, customize, and administer Asterisk/FreePBX systems. In addition, they added an optional "Day 0" that provides a basic foundation in both Linux skills and FreePBX basics.
The inaugural training had its quota of glitches and mishapsthe kind that become minor legends. Internet access was spotty and unreliable because, as they found out on the last day, the hotel forgot to turn on their wireless access point. They got Internet anyway by bridging their wireless network to the hotel's wireless network, which was supposed to be impossible. One of the presenters was betrayed by a trick knee and took a dive right in the middle of taking questions from the audience. Fortunately, he was not permanently damaged by the fall. Not physically, anyway.
Vendors showed up in droves: Aastra, SNOM, Digium, Sangoma, Rhino, and i9 Technologies all sent representatives and bags of swag, so attendees had all kinds of latest greatest gadgets to try out.
From the Land of Cool Gadgets: Logitech Wireless Headset
Logitech has a new stereo noise-canceling wireless headset, the ClearChat PC Wireless, that is supposed to deliver great sound quality, comfort, and it lets you wander as far as ten untethered meters away from your computer. It's a three-piece set that includes a little USB wireless transmitter, a stand, and the headset. This is not a Bluetooth device, but plain old 2.4GHz over USB. Logitech claims that it minimizes interference even in crowded wireless environments, which is what 2.4GHz is these dayscrowded.
Volume and mute controls are on the headset. The microphone automatically mutes when you rotate it upwards. The audio specs are impressive: The frequency response on the headset is 20-20,000 Hz, and 100-10,000 Hz for the microphone. If you have a couch near your computer, you'll be able to make VoIP calls, play games, listen to music, and record your deep thoughts in comfort.
PBXtra 4.0 Arrives With Cool New Features
Fonality have released a significant upgrade to their flagship hybrid-hosting platform, PBXtra 4.0. It's been over a year since the last release, and the time has not been frittered away. PBXtra has so many new features and improvements we're just going to hit the high points. The first one is its FindMe function has been so improved it might as well be called Stalker. Except you can turn it off. Anyway it uses a bit of clever artificial intelligence to determine presencewhen it detects that your mouse or keyboard have not moved for a set period of time, it forwards your calls in whatever way you've configured forwarding. But what happens if you're already on the phone but not touching the computer? No problem, because you have already configured it to not go looking for you when you're already on the phone. It also finds your active SIP device no matter where you are, whether you're in the office or at a remote location.
The FindMe control panel lets you easily create complex FindMe rules, such as times of day and days of the week, whitelists, super-VIP priority whitelists, and blacklists. A new feature that goes along with FindMe is Boomerang Mobile Integration. Boomerang allows calls received on mobile phones to be "boomeranged" back to any extension with a few keypresses. You can also record calls and store them on your PBXtra server. FindMe requires HUD, which is a user control panel, system administrator monitoring, and control panel, click-to-call-email-chat-and-more interface. HUD is a wonderful time-saving application, which you can see for yourself by taking the free version for a test-drive.
There is a new Call Screening feature that makes it easier than ever to screen your calls. Your callers must say their name, and then you decide if you want to accept the call, send it to voicemail, play a rude sound effect, or reject the call. (Actually there is no rude sound effect, but it wouldn't be difficult to implement one.)
Another new feature is Foncall. This is a Firefox plugin that lets you click on any phone number on a Web site to call it.
Yet one more useful and cool new feature is a graphical FXS/FXO and T1 interface card configuratorconfigure your interface cards with a few mouse clicks.
That's just the bits that I think are noteworthy; check out the release notes for an extensive list of new features and improvements.