Lots of Good Stuff at Astricon 2010

Just go back from last week’s Astricon 2010 held in Maryland this year and we are excited about what the future prospects are for FreePBX after getting a taste of what Asterisk 1.8 and beyond have in store for us, as well as other various technologies and applications that we will have at our disposal to keep forging ahead. Of course some of you have already been playing with 1.8 and FreePBX which we strongly encourage to help clear the path for the rest of the community.

It was pointed out to me that FreePBX was rejecting Asterisk 1.8 at installation time and sure enough, we had updated the install_amp script in trunk but that had not made it back to 2.8. It’s there now and I’ve updated the 2.8 tarball with the minor changes to the install script so that it should no longer complain.

We are told by the Asterisk community that their goal for 1.8 was ZERO dialplan changes. The feedback we’ve heard so far seems to reinforce that but if you run into bugs, let us know and we’ll try to get right to them. (On 2.8, we won’t make any changes to prior releases of FreePBX).

I’ll highlight some of the exciting technologies that we saw at this year’s conference but with everything going on, this will only be a small snapshot. As we start consuming new features and technologies in future releases, we’ll try to talk more about them here.

During the Keynote presentation, the Asterisk team had a great dog and pony show demonstrating some proof of concept of what the future eventually holds. The new project is called SCF (Scaleable Communications Framework), an extension to Asterisk, allowing true distributed and fault tolerant solutions some day. In the demo, they had a live phone conference going which was already distributed between two servers. They pulled the plug on one of the servers and the conference just kept on ticking. The project is at its infancy but it’s very exciting to see what the future hold!

We got a taste of some of the 1.8 features that are here today. Distributed device state information amongst servers is a very exciting one that will go a long way for those of you trying to better glue together multiple servers such as branch offices with their own instance. We’ll start to see what tools we might be able to provide that could facilitate setting up such configurations more seamlessly. The Calendar functionality in 1.8 should be a fun one to start thinking about enhancements and maybe a new module in FreePBX. This function allows the diaplplan to query calendar state information in making call flow decisions (similar to what you may do with the Time Conditions module). It also would allow the Dialplan to write back to your calendar. Those are just a couple of the MANY new features coming this way.

One very interesting gem that I came across on the exhibition floor is something called VQA for Asterisk (Voice Quality Assurance) by a company called Ditech Networks. This is an add on module to Asterisk that can play miracles on the voice quality passing through your PBX, removing all kinds of background noise, far end echo that traditional echo cancellation doesn’t not address, and more. It’s not free but at only $10 per port, it’s not exactly expensive either. We are looking forward to getting some licenses loaded up and determine what simple changes will be needed to allow FreePBX systems to take advantage of this great technology.

I’ve only skimmed the surface as there were many other interesting technologies that will find their ways into our sphere, but for now, it’s time to go back and start playing with some of these instead of just talking about it!

Philippe – on behalf of the FreeBPX team!

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