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Voice Over IP or VOIP seems to be the buzz word on everybody's lips at the moment and with good reason. Forwarding your calls over the internet instead of the phone lines can save you big money. As a communications consultant I have received many enquiries about VOIP as of late and as a Linux fan I have read much about the progress of the open-source Asterisk PBX project headed up by Digium. Utilizing the power and adaptability of Linux, one can build themselves an Asterisk based server on commodity hardware for a fraction of the price of a proprietary system. Installation and configuration can be very tricky however if you aren't blessed with Guru linux skills, enter Trixbox.

The Trixbox project, formerly known as Asterisk@home, is designed to make it possible for almost anyone to set up a fully functional Asterisk server in less than an hour using GUI configuration tools and a web browser. It is based on Centos and has just about every goody imaginable for a phone system and even comes bundled with the open source Sugar CRM, although we will not be testing this setup as it is outside the scope of this article and outside of the needs of most people. Personally, if I am building a phone system then I would prefer that it just concentrated resources on making and receiving calls, but it is a nice option none the less.

To test Trixbox I am using a custom built rig running a 3ghz Pentium 4 processor on an Intel motherboard with 512MB of Ram, I opted for the Intel board because I had read on the Asterisk message boards that Intel chipsets provided the best performance for Asterisk. The system it is replacing is a Siemens Hipath 3350, a fully featured mid-range PBX that is about four years old. I consulted the message boards again and opted for the Linksys SPA94, as my IP phone of choice, which a lot of people had reccomended. I would have preferred a phone running IAX, Asterisk's native protocol for communicating, but as the world seems to be converging on SIP as the de-facto standard, all the high quality phones appear to only support SIP.

The install is as painless as the Trixbox website claims and took my machine about thirty minutes in total, including the time and date configuration. I cant imagine anyone with reasonable PC skills having any trouble with it. Once you boot up the system it drops in to a console with the message "For access to the Trixbox web GUI use this url: http://192.168.0.82" although the IP address will be different depending on your situation. I jumped on to a neighbouring PC, on the same network, and fired up firefox with the IP address I was given and was greeted by the trixbox welcome screen. The welcome screen has links to the configuration pages for each application along with summarized descriptions, which make it very friendly for the intrepid novice. The Menus are as follows:

Voicemail and RecordingsThis is the Asterisk Recording Interface. It provides a user friendly web interface to voicemail and call monitor recordings. As well, it provides access to user settings in Asterisk.

Web MeetMeThis application helps you manage the web based conferencing ability of trixbox.

FOPSimilar to HUDlite, FOP is an operator and call-control software. FOP runs inside your web browser using Flash, vs. HUDlite which runs on your Windows XP, Mac or Linux desktop.

SugarCRMThis is an open source contact center software, great for managing your contacts online, scheduling and most importantly sales force automation.

These menus are designed so that anyone can access them which is handy for employees wanting to check their voicemail or change their message, switching from the user mode mode however opens up the password protected "Restricted Area" which is where all the fun happens. In the restricted area I set up a couple of phones without to much trouble and an SIP trunk that I purchased from 0064. There are many more options but I am initially just looking to replace the functionality of my current system which is basically to be able to make and receive calls and voicemail. One really nice touch wasthe ability to specify your own shortcut keys to mimic your old system, which means no staff training for me which is a huge bonus.

My SIP account came with some free credit which allowed me to make a couple of test calls so I plugged in my phones, called each other, which worked flawlessly, took a deep breath and dialled my cell phone. Much to my surprise it worked first time and the call quality wasn't half bad either. I called my partners cell phone and she couldn't even tell that I was calling from a different system until my free credit ran out.

All in all it took me less than a day to have a completely functional phone system that was now making calls over the internet at a fraction of the cost of our normal charges. The test was so successful in fact that it is now our only system and has been working solid for two weeks. The only issues I have come across have been related to our internet provider dropping rather than Trixbox itself. To combat this I have since installed an analogue line card from Digium to work as a backup, I would reccommend this to anyone shifting to VOIP for their business as the internet doesn't tend to be as reliable as the old copper phone lines. Aside from that Trixbox has saved our business hundreds of dollars already and was indeed as easy to install as claimed. This can only spell trouble for the Telcos as more people realise that they are paying far more than they need to for calls and shift to Linux based Asterisk solutions.

Rate This Article: poorexcellent
 
Comments about this article
Useless Article
writen by: Rob davy on 2006-12-15 18:20:54
As an article aimed at the average computer literate person hoping to find the answers to setting up their own VOIP system, this fails badly. There's no mention of the hardware needed to turn his computer into a PBX, or where to get this hardware from. No mention of the cost (last time I checked, the cards were a little pricey). Same goes for the phones themselves. No mention of what this "SIP Account" is (SIP is a protocol - how do you have an account with a protocol?). Where does one get this 'account' from? How much do things cost? Generally, pretty useless. Sorry
RE: Useless Article written by Rob davy:
Useless Article
writen by: Rob davy on 2006-12-15 18:21:38
As an article aimed at the average computer literate person hoping to find the answers to setting up their own VOIP system, this fails badly. There's no mention of the hardware needed to turn his computer into a PBX, or where to get this hardware from. No mention of the cost (last time I checked, the cards were a little pricey). Same goes for the phones themselves. No mention of what this "SIP Account" is (SIP is a protocol - how do you have an account with a protocol?). Where does one get this 'account' from? How much do things cost? Generally, pretty useless. Sorry
RE: Useless Article written by Rob davy:
Ummm.....
writen by: John on 2006-12-15 18:39:13
RE: Ummm..... written by John:
I agree
writen by: Mohammed Moussa on 2006-12-15 19:46:38
No I agree with the first poster. Im interested in setting up voip in my home and while very computer literate, have no idea about much to do with voip. This article did not help at all in explaining what needs to be done and especially how to actually make a call over the net
RE: I agree written by Mohammed Moussa:
Riiight
writen by: Jack9 on 2006-12-15 20:06:37
So the answer is still Asterix, not Trixbox. I have the O'Reilly Asterix book which I'll look at next weekend and I'll look into the Trixbox package for CentOS. The title is definitely misleading.
RE: Riiight written by Jack9:
Another example of planet zoltar linux
writen by: kirk badger on 2006-12-15 20:17:00
RE: Another example of planet zoltar linux written by kirk badger:
Completely worthless
writen by: steve on 2006-12-15 20:44:17
This should not even be called an article, more like a brief summary void of all but the most rudimentary information.
RE: Completely worthless written by steve:
You have failed
writen by: Iam8up on 2006-12-15 22:57:55
RE: You have failed written by Iam8up:
Dear Morons....
writen by: Your Daddy on 2006-12-16 06:35:54
Sorry for the harsh title. But, if you don't understand what was written, please, remain silent and be thought a fool instead of typing and removing all doubt. Also, if you state that you're computer literate, um, that's the first sign that you're not. Nice article.
RE: Dear Morons.... written by Your Daddy:
Where to start...
writen by: Your momma on 2006-12-17 16:06:14
Rather than hatin', here is a good place to start for information: http://www.asterisk.org/
RE: Where to start... written by Your momma:
Let me man write
writen by: bng44270 on 2006-12-18 22:16:35
I am sorry, but if this guy want's to write an informational document that reads somewhat like a sales pitch, i think he should. I personally think these types of documents, being very general, are far more likely to avoke theoretical or hypothetical ideas. Good Goin' Bro!!!!
RE: Let me man write written by bng44270:
Oh, GROW UP!
writen by: Wolfon on 2007-01-06 10:50:45
RE: Oh, GROW UP! written by Wolfon:
Shuddup Stoopid
writen by: Shuddup Stoopid on 2007-02-08 00:08:33
I think the best way to sum things up are to state a few points: * As stated above, this is an ARTICLE, not a tutorial * The guy mentioned in the ARTICLE (not tutorial - some folks need a refresher) that he searched forums, etc. for information here and there... Maybe you should too. * If you're the type that likes a fancy-ass wizard to configure everything for you, *nix isn't for you - go buy a Windows box * The guy's doing this for a living and you're not, so please read the title to my post. </.02>
RE: Shuddup Stoopid written by Shuddup Stoopid:
Mr
writen by: rupesh on 2007-02-19 05:04:21
hey guys, why not try the globe7 on linux. it is very good and easy to use.
RE: Mr written by rupesh:
Globe7 Ranked No1 VOIP now in linux
writen by: megana on 2007-05-09 06:05:57
hey guys, yes i agree with MR, why all these nonsence Use Globe7 now it relaesed for Linux in flavours SUSE, REDHAT FEDORA 2,4,5 ,,,, It is not only a VOIP but including many features like ONLINE TV, 1GB free space to uplad ur videos,, download from below link http://www.globe7.com/linuxsys.php
RE: Globe7 Ranked No1 VOIP now in linux written by megana:
Agree
writen by: Badger on 2007-06-16 06:04:25
RE: Agree written by Badger:
TrixBox
writen by: phonevilay on 2007-08-02 23:33:28
RE: TrixBox written by phonevilay:
CIO
writen by: Randy on 2007-08-17 09:01:04
Was this supposed to be an instructional manual? I was just looking for an opinion on a linux based phone system. I got what I felt was a good opinion on Trixbox. Now that I know someone uses it and likes it. I will go to the actual site for instructions, supported hardware and the like. Thanks for the info.
RE: CIO written by Randy:

Comment title: * please do not put your response text here