Where there’s will….there’s a way

a.k.a. The logic behind the third Asterisk in my home office

I work from a home office. I have for over 10 years. About three years ago I gave up my last land line and went 100% voip. Since then I’ve had an Asterisk server in my office.

At first I ran Asterisk on Fedora Core 2 using an old P3-800 Dell desktop. But I quickly found that I wanted more of an embedded approach, not unlike the Asterisk appliances that have become popular of late. I soon arrived at Astlinux as the preferred approach for my needs, most recently running on a recycled HP T5700 thin client. Low power. Low heat. Silent. Reliable. Great!!

A couple of months ago I read about Askozia, a project that combines FreeBSD, the m0n0wall GUI framework and Asterisk. As a long time fan of m0n0wall I thought that this could finally be something to rival Astlinux. Astlinux has only the most basic GUI. Since my configuration is not complex a GUI might be useful. To test Askozia I used another HP T5700 thin client device…that’s two servers running. To this point it looks interesting but I’m not yet certain that I want to put it into production use. I need more time to become familiar with its operation and administration.

Of course I also added a number of phones and a couple of ATAs over time. In picking my favorite phone I find myself torn between the Polycom IP600 and and Aastra 480i CT. There is no question, the Polycom is a GREAT phone. But the Aastra is just about as good…and the cordless capability is simply wonderful! It lets me wander around while on long calls, tend equipment, get coffee, etc. The backlit display is really handy as well.

Well, my employer in evolving their US operation decided that a hosted virtual PBX approach would be most ideal. It would tie together our two formal offices with a handful of home offices in a cohesive manner. We selected Junction Networks OnSIP service as the provider and I was given the task of setup and administration.

Junction Networks has been very good to work with. The service has been reliable and they provide good support for common voip devices, including Polycom phones. However, they don’t directly support Aastra phones. They did offer to help me investigate making the Aastra work with their servers, which are a combination of SER and Asterisk.

For a couple of weeks I tried various settings but I couldn’t quite achieve voip nirvana. The best I could do was make the phone use their proxy and register for a few minutes. But eventually the registration would drop and I would stop receiving incoming calls. So for a few months I went back to the Polycom device as my primary phone. It’s ok, but being tethered all the time is becoming a real drag.

So I decided to look for an out-of-the-box solution. I bought a GN9350 DECT cordless headset. It connects to a Polycom phone inline with the handset RJ connector, or to a PC via a USB connection. For some reason the GN headset was really noisy and induced a lot of echo into conference calls. It was simply unacceptable so it’ll be set free through the magic of Ebay some day real soon.

Which brings me to my current solution…I’ve built yet another Asterisk server with a minimal configuration that just bridges the Aastra phone to Junction Networks. Junction Networks supports Asterisk directly, even providing me solid config examples. I just got this working but it looks good so far. So my Aastra phone is about to make it’s way back onto my desk. I’ll be unwired again, which will be great.

The one issue I’ve yet to figure out is voicemail. When the Astlinux server access an incoming call from Junction Networks they figure that the call has been completed, even though I may not answer my phone. So I suspect that VM will have to be handled locally.

My primary server still handles our home line and variety of supplemental services like FWD, SIPPhone, etc. Several phones deal with Junction Networks directly. And the Astra 480 has its own Asterisk instance just to allow it to deal with Junction Networks. Then there’s an Askozia testbed.

I suppose I could merge many of these functions onto one server…but there’s no real reason to do this. It may be better to keep personal traffic separate from business calls.

Who might have thought that I would be using three Asterisk instances in a one man office? Certainly not I. Luckily each runs on minimal hardware with essentially no hard cost. Oh, the joys of Asterisk.


2 thoughts on “Where there’s will….there’s a way”

  1. I’m trying to set up a 9122i with onsip junction networks, i can’t get it to work and the support at onsip isn’t helping, how did you configure your 480 to work?

  2. It looked like I had the 480 working with Junction Networks at first, but it was losing registration over time. I could call out reliably, but not take incoming calls.

    My solution was to insert a small Asterisk server inline with the 480. The Asterisk box (a T5700) registers with Junction Networks and passes the calls to/from the 480. Junction support for Asterisk is a a lot better, including config examples.

    You can’t really get such a device pair to fit into the OnSip hosted service correctly as a native device. You need to set it up to use their termination services and have a SIP URI. Then treat it as an external SIP device from the perspective of OnSip.

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