Get to Know: Members of the FreePBX team

Hey All,

As part of my earlier effort to introduce you to some new members of the FreePBX development team at Sangoma, I wanted to also highlight some of the existing members of the team so that you can get to know them better.

The first person this week is Philip Joseph from our Bangalore office:


Q: Where are you from and where did you grow up?

A: I am from Kerala, also known as “gods own country” in India.  Once I completed my basic education, I moved to Bangalore in 2004 to do my higher studies in computer science.
I completed my master in computer science from Christ University, Bangalore (2009).

Q: How did you get into working in the telephony industry?

A: As a part of my internship I joined a company called astTECS in 2009, who does business with open source software (mainly Asterisk).

There I put my feet in the Asterisk world and I start playing with most of the Asterisk based applications such as A2Billing, asterCC, Vicidial, FreePBX(2.9), and custom applications on Asterisk. I continued to expose myself to it however possible until mid 2015. Then I started doing freelancing work with Asterisk applications where I have made cloud telephony applications and IP based communication (for factories). In this project I used FreePBX 2.11 and customized FreePBX in many ways and implemented many new features. Some of the features included extension priority overriding and passcode for dialing while doing paging with a DTMF response from paging device, turning paging to private communication, as well as dial out conferencing (scheduled/dynamic).

All of these FreePBX experiences helped me to get into Sangoma in 2017 Feb.

Q: What is your favorite part about working on FreePBX?

A: I like the Queue Callback module which I have spent a lot of time making more reliable and stable. Also Paging, Paging Pro, and other modules.  Warm spare backup in 15. And many more.

Q: Is there an area you’d like to see improved in the project?

A: Yes, generally there is some room for each module to improve.  From a new module point of view, I think we should add dial-out scheduled conference support.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

A: Apart from work, I love spending time with my family. Also, wine making, horse racing, and driving are some of the hobbies.

Our second is Franck Danard, who works in France (he is on the right):

Q: Where are you from and where did you grow up?

A: My name is Franck Danard and I’m 53 years old. I come from France and I grew up in Nantes, close to the west cost in south Britany. Now, I live in the countryside about 30 km from Nantes.

Q: How did you get into working in the telephony industry?

A: I worked at Tandy France and one day I found another job. So I started to work in telephony in 1989, and not only with telephony systems. I worked on alarm systems, video surveillance systems, and fire alarm systems. I grew up not only with Alcatel PBX systems, but also with other telecom systems, fax systems…etc.  And finally, I worked in the support team online for NXO before working fully on Asterisk systems for IT’TEK, which led me to eventually working at Sangoma.

Q: What is your favorite part about working on FreePBX?

A: I don’t have a specific part I like to work on in FreePBX more than any other. All the modules are different. I like the diversity.

Q: Is there an area you’d like to see improved in the project?

A: Maybe high availability, GUI themes. I don’t know. Just a few ideas like that.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

A: I like cooking everything and even for 50 people. I make bread homemade. I compose some music and I make arrangements for my father, I have my home studio, and I
mix bands in small concerts. I just need to get out my telescope, I haven’t used it since our daughter was born (for 11 years). I like stars. Also, I like to sail by boat on the river. It’s very quiet and wonderful. Sometimes I like to code personal apps for home automation systems.

That’s all for this week, but be on the lookout for more posts introducing other members of the team.  Thanks to both Philip and Franck for taking the time to answer my questions 🙂

Best wishes,

Matthew Fredrickson

 

Year End Message to our Open Source Community

Hello Everyone,

As a public company CEO, I write a “Letter to Shareholders” once per year, leading up to our Annual General Meeting. But shareholders are one of the multiple ‘key constituencies’ at Sangoma (others would include customers, employees, and yes, our valued open source community). So, as 2019 draws to a close, I thought I’d write to you too, given the importance of the community to Sangoma! I realize it’s turned into a long letter, but open source is critical to Sangoma, so there is lots to cover in a year. And hopefully this will help us to continue increasing communication between Sangoma and the community. Perhaps this can even become a yearly tradition if you find it useful?

At AstriCon this year, in addition to all the discussions about products (and your wishes in that regard), I personally received 3 requests from the community, more than any others: communicate with us more frequently (from all parts of Sangoma right up to the CEO, not just engineering), do so more carefully (ensuring all at Sangoma are sensitive to the perspectives from the community), and give us a chance to engage more with Sangoma (& tell us how to do so). So, here you go!

In this first inaugural letter, I’d like to start modestly by saying that we at Sangoma know we’re not perfect. After all, it’s just a company made up of a good group of (mostly) engineers trying our very best to do a great job for customers, including you. So, while we’re human and imperfect, you have over 300 people doing our sincere best for you every day, and we are “ALL IN” on open source and the community. And if the community is united, we can create an ecosystem that helps so many companies (both users and resellers/integrators alike) build their businesses. Let’s do that together, cooperatively!

Sangoma’s Unwavering Commitment to Open Source

As many of you have heard me say (too many times?), Sangoma takes our stewardship of Asterisk and FreePBX extremely seriously! As I said above, open source is SUCH a major part of what we do. In 2019, we have continued to invest millions & millions of dollars into FreePBX and Asterisk. Over the past several years, Sangoma has grown quickly, becoming a significant company with well over $100 million in revenue. We are the only substantial player in our industry for whom open source is a vital part of our business, arguably the only proven firm with the strategy and financial resources that can continue making these large investments in open source, and we fully intend to maintain our leadership in this category.

And I thought you might be interested to know that our investment in FreePBX and Asterisk, takes many forms, well beyond software development. On the product side, of course it’s true that we spend heavily in engineering, but we also provide community forums (for discussion, feature requests, support), offer free bug fixing, product training (both live and online), technical support, and extensive infrastructure for things like mirror servers and a translation platform. In addition to those product focused initiatives, Sangoma also invests deeply in the broader open source telephony ecosystem, helping to support/grow it with our own conferences and user meetings, by supporting other open source projects (by using them in our products, speaking at their conferences and inviting them our events), by encouraging better inter-op between projects, etc. No one else comes close to Asterisk’s 25 million downloads!

Executive Appointment of Sangoma’s new Open Source Leader

As those of you at AstriCon heard, Sangoma has appointed Jared Smith as Vice President of Open Source Community Development. I’m very proud to have an executive of Jared’s stature leading us in this area! Jared has tremendous experience in open source, has contributed code for over 20 years, and is well known/respected by many of you. He has worked on Asterisk, FreePBX, Red Hat’s Fedora Project, and ran the open source programs at Bluehost & Capital One.

Jared will focus on growing the Asterisk/FreePBX communities, ensuring we are meeting YOUR needs. You will be hearing more from him in the next week, but central to Jared’s role is our desire to work much more collaboratively with the community, have you more directly determine the product direction, and to ensure Sangoma communicates with you in a more respectful/professional manner, without any rude or antagonistic tendencies in forums/etc. Everyone knows Sangoma’s pedigree in open source, but our company’s commitment to it was concentrated too much in too few people. I take responsibility for that, and with Jared’s help, we are changing that. Please give him a warm welcome!

Product/Software Development

We know that (of course!) you care more about Sangoma’s development of the software you depend upon, than anything else we say. In Jared’s words: “Hey Bill, the community is going to look at our actions more than our words. Open source communities are obviously technical and therefore can be pretty skeptical about what companies say. They are really good at looking past marketing language and evaluating whether or not a company really does what it says it will do. Let’s show them that we’re the leaders in the community, not just tell them.” So this section is meant to do exactly that!

Firstly, in 2019 Sangoma focused most of our open source product work on ongoing software development for FreePBX and Asterisk (and bug fixing of our two core projects, naturally). Our focus was on core platform work and new features (both key parts of the major releases of Asterisk 17 and FreePBX 15 in October). But we’re also working to even extend the products into new novel areas. One such example is that Sangoma is introducing new IoT functionality to integrate with FreePBX and enable Access Control in an office from our Softphone/UC client software (no more white swipe cards!). We know you count on Sangoma to innovate on both Asterisk and FreePBX to keep them current, and we’re committed to doing so. In fact, we’re making a special effort in 2020 to roll out significant new capability monthly! It will start in January with FreePBX functionality to comply with Kari’s law, which comes into effect in February. And finally, on the software development topic, Sangoma will be making a concerted effort to further strengthen product quality on FreePBX and Asterisk in new releases during 2020, with less ‘throw it out there & let the community find bugs’. Jared will cover all this, including the plans for Feb/Mar/April monthly releases in his coming note.

The second key product initiative at Sangoma in 2019 has been investment in building up our open source engineering teams even more. It’s no secret that there has been some change in staff during the year and we’re not hiding from that. But with change comes an opportunity for renewal, and that’s exactly what we’re doing! Our dev teams are growing, we’re hiring (hint!) around the globe and now have open source development staff at Sangoma on 5 continents (with Asterisk and FreePBX devs in Huntsville, Toronto, Bangalore, San Diego, Columbia/Ecuador/Uruguay, Atlanta, Eastern Canada, France, and Niger Africa). With so many users around the world, we want engineering talent around the globe too. So if you had any concern about some of the changes in staff, please don’t worry. Sangoma is growing faster than most all companies in our space, is the only one with resources to contribute this kind of investment into open source, and we’re 100% committed.

And thirdly, I thought you’d like to know that product training has gotten a significant ramp-up in attention at Sangoma over the last 6 months. We have been investing more effort into content and course delivery, especially on open source. So, I’m very proud to share that it’s working. We’ve had an astounding 10k trainees take our online courses in the past 6mo!! 70% of these have been open source, with ~2000 in Asterisk & ~5000 in FreePBX. Nobody else even comes close.

Community Engagement and Promotion of our Open Source Projects

In 2019, Sangoma continued our investment to build awareness for our open source platforms, to ensure that both FreePBX and Asterisk receive the credibility they deserve (and that you count on in your business). These efforts range from social media activity, to press releases, to speaking with leading industry analysts (and stock market research analysts), to organizing/hosting events, to fostering healthy/professional relationships with you, the community. I’d like to cover the last two in a bit more detail below.

For 2020, we have already begun planning several of our key events for the year, including the following for open source:

  • AstriCon 2020 will take place in October in Florida. We had suggestions for other locations (including Toronto) but travel proved to be a possible concern, so we’re playing it safe. And we also received some very good feedback from the 2019 event, so we will be adding an additional open source track, making presentations longer (to leave more time for Q&A), and we’ll be bringing back the Dangerous Demos. Details to follow by April.
  • By popular demand we are also bringing back FreePBX World! It will be co-located at AstriCon in October.
  • Asterisk and FreePBX training sessions: As you’ve heard, product training has really accelerated at Sangoma over the past 6 months, and only Sangoma can provide you with official Certification. Better yet, because we see training as a key way to strengthen community interaction, Sangoma has decided to offer Half Price Training, during January through June of 2020 to get as many members certified as possible. That means a $1500 course is available for a very limited time for $750! More on this from Jared shortly, but please note that the first 4 courses of the year are already scheduled and are filling fast (January is Asterisk Advanced in the US (Wi), February is FreePBX in Europe (Italy), March is FreePBX for the US, and April has Asterisk again).

In addition to the above, in 2020 Sangoma will be reinventing the ways in which we foster relationships with you, our open source community, under the new theme of “Care, Engage, Support”. Care about your open source projects, Engage more easily/frequently with Sangoma as the steward of your projects, Support Asterisk/FreePBX in your decisions/deployments. This theme goes beyond my earlier point of ensuring professional communication. And we’re of course not taking away any of the mechanisms you already use and value, such as forums, AstriCon, etc. But we want to encourage more substantive, more respectful interaction between Sangoma, and you as the users. In that spirit, we ask for your input on what you’d like (and Jared will follow up on this point in his coming note). In the meantime, we have several new initiatives that I have personally spearheaded, being launched under the “Care, Engage, Support” theme for 2020, which Jared will cover in detail.

  • A new FreePBX/Asterisk “Voice of the Community” (VoC) Program, where Sangoma facilitates key community influencers and regulars, to post to the community on Sangoma websites/forums/blogs. I hope this encourages thought leaders in the community to communicate powerfully to all members, foster loyalty, and profile those that echo the cause we all believe in so strongly. In my view, not all messaging needs to come from Sangoma.
  • A new mechanism available to ALL community members to submit ideas/input/questions to Sangoma via confidential email without requiring every request to be publicly visible immediately. Some members may feel more comfortable being able to provide ideas/questions this way, and if it facilitates more input, then all the better.
  • A new 1-day, live, “Open-Source Reseller Advisory Council” (OSRAC). Sangoma does this with selected resellers in our non-open source business, and it’s always incredibly well received by partners (plus it helps us gather market needs). Our first OSRAC meeting will be the week of Feb 10, by invitation, and will involve awards. We’ll cover part of your cost, so to be considered, speak with Jared and he’ll connect you to our organizers.
  • Quarterly newsletters dedicated to FreePBX/Asterisk/open source. Community input sought, so reach out to Jared.
  • More direct engagement with Sangoma engineers. We are committing more time from our devs to engage directly with you, empowering them by giving them time away from coding to ‘make it happen’. You’ll see more blog posts, more answers in the forums, and a new series of videos delivered by our Engineers on FreePBX & Asterisk.
  • Keeping open source lively and fun by creating an online merchandise store and new areas of the web for contests and trivia. Show off your passion and excitement for FreePBX, Asterisk and open source!

In summary, Sangoma is FULLY committed to our stewardship of FreePBX and Asterisk, and we take our responsibility very seriously. It is important to us in so many ways, we have the resources to continue supporting/funding it, and the desire to listen to you… in order to make changes that continuously improve your projects. Sure, we’re human, so we’ll make honest mistakes, but I personally pledge that we will always do our sincere best (Sangoma is ALL IN, on you!). After all, open source projects thrive when the community is engaged and throws their support behind the project/company/steward. As Taylor Swift says: “the haters are gonna hate hate hate”. Let’s please NOT join them. There are enough folks in our industry who wish it would all just go away. We don’t need in-fighting nor attacks… let’s cooperate, because after all, we’re in this together, so let’s unite to support Asterisk/FreePBX, as one community/company/project/steward?

Thank you, we appreciate you, and we are looking forward to a great 2020 together! Finally, I wish you and your family/friends a very happy holiday season.

Warm Personal Regards,
Bill Wignall
President and CEO, Sangoma Technologies

FreePBX 15 Alpha Now Available for Testing

It’s been a long time since we last updated you on the work in FreePBX 15. We started working on FreePBX 15 around August of last year. Throughout this time, we’ve continued to support FreePBX 14 and 13 with countless bug fixes and even a few new features. In this post we’d like to bring you up to speed on what’s been going on in FreePBX.

When we began working on FreePBX 15 our goal was to limit the number of features being added to focus on a small number of pain points we’ve repeatedly heard about from YOU! In fact, it’s your feedback that’s helped us to complete the 2 major features of this release; a reworked version of backup & restore with the ability to do between major version restores (want to back up from 14 and restore to 15? Now you can!) and a way to allow you to better integrate FreePBX into your existing workflow and processes using an API (Application Programming Interface).

FreePBX 15

Learn more about the new Backup and Restore in FreePBX 15 on our wiki: https://wiki.freepbx.org/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=114852215

While we’ve been quiet since January with our most recent blog post asking for additional feedback on FreePBX 15, the team has been hard at work ensuring we are able to deliver on what we promised and give everyone a chance to play with it. Without further ado, on behalf of the FreePBX and Sangoma team, we are officially releasing FreePBX 15.0 in alpha today for everyone to play with. In this alpha release, all open source FreePBX modules support the new backup & restore methods, which will allow for between major version restores. Instead of trying to group all data together in backup & restore each module is now responsible for its own data during the backup and restore process. Second, we have completed about 10 modules using our new built-in API, powered by GraphQL with more planned soon.

FreePBX 15

Learn more about the FreePBX API on our wiki https://wiki.freepbx.org/display/FPG/API

Now with that said, we also know that we asked you for feedback for what you wanted to see in FreePBX and we’ve been actively watching and listening to your suggestions. Unfortunately though, we were unable take on the added workload and really focus on any additional features you’ve ask for, but we look forward to working with the community to bring them to future releases of FreePBX.

Great, but how do I get FreePBX 15?

In the past, we’ve traditionally released an ISO and asked everyone to download and install for testing. However, we are taking a different approach this year with the hopes that it’s easier on YOU to test and provide feedback on the new functionality. This year we are releasing a version upgrade module but not through our traditional methods. Usually we release the version upgrade module via module admin, when we release our release candidates allowing customers to upgrade from the previous version, as we feel the product is close to its final release. This year we are releasing the version upgrade module at the link below which users can manually choose to download, upload and install to move to 15 and not wait for FreePBX 15 to be released as a Release Candidate. Once we feel FreePBX 15 is closer to an RC we will publish new ISOs and move the version upgrader into the module admin system in FreePBX.

However, before rushing off to upgrade your system, please note that this is NOT INTENDED FOR PRODUCTION USE. Let’s me say that one more time, please DO NOT INSTALL THIS ON A PRODUCTION SYSTEM! The version upgrade module is being provide for users to upgrade a new installation or backup of an existing system. The code will have bugs and at this point shouldn’t be relied on for production use.

To try out FreePBX 15, follow the following steps:

At this point you have done the equivalent of downloading and installing the module as if it had been available online. To complete the process, select the ’15 Upgrade Tool’ from the FreePBX Menu and follow the instructions on the screen to upgrade to the ALPHA version of FreePBX 15.

We hope you enjoy this release and that it makes working with FreePBX easier for everyone moving forward. As always, please report any issues to issues.freepbx.org.

Andrew Nagy, On behalf of the FreePBX Team

Choosing the Right IP Phone: Part 1 – End User Features

Choosing an IP Phone for your business can be an overwhelming task when considering today’s extensive market offerings. It’s difficult to identify the clear ‘winner’ when most makes and models offer similar hardware specifications when compared to their class, such as large color displays, multiple programmable buttons, HD voice, speakerphone and more line extensions than you’ll ever need.

So, playing the numbers game down a data sheet is clearly not the correct way to make a selection, but then how do you make the right choice?

The compelling differences between IP phone vendors becomes evident when focusing on the level of integration they have with the phone system (or PBX) they are paired with. Typically, IP phones designed by the same manufacturer as the phone system provide the highest level of integration because all the time and money is spent perfecting the combination. This allows the IP phone to leverage the full software capabilities of that phone system, enabling phone users with an advanced level of features. Check back soon for a future blog post where we will be discussing phone system features.

For businesses using FreePBX or PBXact phone systems, the IP phones that have the tightest level of integration are Sangoma s-Series IP phones, since they are all designed to work together and made by the same manufacturer – Sangoma Technologies. The s-Series IP phones offer users many advanced features and in fact go even a step further to offer some very unique features not seen on the market today.

Some of Sangoma’s s-Series IP phone unique features are:

BLF (Busy Lamp Field) Long & Short Press: The ability to long press or short press BLF extensions to have customized actions. For example, you can program a BLF extension so that it can intercom the extension if idle state, or go straight to voicemail on busy state, by simply short pressing the BLF extension. BLF Long & Short Press Features Guide

5-way Conference Calling with Leader Drop-off: Allows users to intuitively add up to 5 participants on a phone call. Great for taking care of business right away instead of having to schedule a conference call to invite your parties. The conference leader can even disconnect from the call without affecting others on the call. More on Conference Calling

Phone Apps: Advanced phone applications allowing users to control most popularly used features using the display and navigation buttons. Think of PhoneApps as having full-screen control to manage each of the tools most commonly used, such as DND, call-forwarding, conferencing, which completely eliminate the need to remember feature codes. This saves users and businesses time and money. List of Phone Apps & Demos

UC Intelligent Features: Most of the features users control from their IP phone are actually adjusted on the phone system! This keeps all the intelligence with the phone system (and not locally on the phone) so that it is able to do things such as: update all the user’s other devices when they update their presence settings to Do-Not-Disturb; send voicemail to the user’s extension if a call is forwarded to the user’s alternate number which goes unanswered…etc. Many of the other manufactures’ phone features are controlled locally on the phone, leaving the phone system unaware of those change, which spells unexpected phone events for users. What is UC?

UCP Integration: Ability to customize Sangoma IP phone programmable buttons and PhoneApp settings directly from the User Control Panel of FreePBX and PBXact, allowing users to customize the look and feel of their s-Series phones without the need for IT support. Check Out UCP for EndPoint Manager

So, which is the right IP phone for you? It all depends on what type of solution you are looking for. If you are looking for a basic phone any phone will do, but if you are looking for a solution to help users be more productive, save your business time and provide staff and customers the best experience possible, then it’s the IP phone that best utilizes its ecosystem.

For more information on Sangoma IP Phones for FreePBX or PBXact visit: https://www.sangoma.com/products/phones/

FreePBX 14, Distro 14 & More!

It’s sure been an amazing year here at Sangoma. We are finally proud to announce the official stable release of FreePBX 14 and also the stable release of our Enterprise Linux 7 based distro which contains many updated system libraries, not least of which is PHP 5.6.31, NodeJS 8.1.4, and Python 3.6.

Over the last 16 months, we’ve been hard at work developing FreePBX 14, and we’d like to highlight four (of the many) major improvements: Auto-Update Security Releases, Distro updates in Module Admin, Calendar Module, and an upgraded User Control Panel (UCP). To learn more about all of the new features of FreePBX 14 make sure to checkout our last blog on FreePBX: https://www.freepbx.org/freepbx-14-release-candidate/

Since then, we’ve also introduced a few major features in parallel into FreePBX 13 (that are also in FreePBX 14), the most significant one being multiple and improved directory support in User Manager. Now you can setup multiple Active Directories, LDAP directories and internal directories to control the Users that are on your PBX. FreePBX will even auto create extensions for you from your remote directories. Of course, as FreePBX is an Open Source project, this is all completely free!

You may be asking yourself “What does a new version of PHP or NodeJS get me?”. Previously in FreePBX 13 and lower we were working with PHP 5.3 and NodeJS 0.12. By requiring newer versions of these as part of FreePBX 14, apart from significant improvements in the languages themselves, the performance improvements are the most noticeable difference. This means you’ll have a snappier FreePBX on your hand, with much quicker reload times. Behind the scenes, on the back end, we are also able to utilize new libraries that also have performance improvements in themselves.


https://lornajane.net/posts/2014/php-5-6-benchmarks/

We’ve started work on FreePBX 15 which we hope to have an early release of in October 2017. Three of the most important features we are planning for FreePBX 15 is a complete revamp of our RestAPI, Backup and Restore upgrades, so you will – in the future – be able to restore from and to a different versions (Only 15 and higher, so will be able to restore – for example – 15 into 16 or 17 into 15), and a new File Store module, which will allow you to store backups (or faxes and other files) on S3, FTP, email, ssh and more!

Over the next year we will also be working on bringing FreePBX onto PHP 7.x with commercial modules.

With the release of this blog we have also released a version of the FreePBX module “Version Upgrader”, which is for standard manual, or custom installed systems, and will help the owner upgrade all the associated packages (PHP, and Node, as mentioned above). For FreePBX Distro installs we are fine tuning and checking a simple one-line command that you can run on your server to upgrade the Operating System to 7, and FreePBX to 14 at the same time, all automatically. Of course, when running this RPM your system will reboot and there will be downtime, and there are some minor prerequisites (such as a 64 bit machine, and at least 10gb of free space). As of today the distro upgrader is being released as a public beta, and more information is available on our wiki page: https://wiki.freepbx.org/display/PPS/Upgrading+from+FreePBX+10.13.66+to+SNG7

Please remember, as adoption of FreePBX grows there may be things we missed. If you find any issues please open a bug at https://issues.freepbx.org and we’ll look into it as soon as we can. You can also ask for help on our Community Forums, where you may be able to get assistance from experts in the community, too.

Thank you for using FreePBX and we look forward to what develops through 2017!