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In Use

In practice, I found that core PBX performance was solid. Internal calling, voicemail, hold, transfer, music-on-hold and conferencing all worked as I'd hoped they would. I rely upon several different service providers to handle incoming calls (including an 800 number) and outgoing call termination. All of my existing accounts worked immediately.

Note that all the phones and ITSP accounts were set to use G.711a audio, so no transcoding was required. This is especially important if I want to host MeetMe conferences, as the Soekris system doesn't have the CPU power to transcode and mix several streams at once.

Similarly, Astlinux provides a modified Music-on-hold capability that relies upon the availability of music clips prepared in the compression scheme in use at the moment. In my case that was G.711a. This is in contrast to a more general Asterisk installation, which uses the third party open source MPG123 utility to on-the-fly transcode MP3 files into whatever audio encoding scheme is in use on a particular call. The Astlinux distribution includes several clips in the G.711 and GSM formats. Instructions for preparing other music clips were easily found in the VoIP wiki at www.voip-info.org/.

Perhaps one of the greatest attractions of Astlinux, when compared to a more typical Asterisk installation, is that the PBX application and the host OS and drivers are bundled in the Astlinux software release. This effectively eliminates the need to establish separate maintenance cycles for Fedora Core, Asterisk, MPG123, and the other drivers upon which the installation depends. If you're not a Linux wizard this can also improve the reliability of the upgrade process, as you don't have to address each of the software pieces individually.

The upgrade process for Astlinux itself is very straightforward. Major upgrades require writing a new boot image to the CF card, while minor upgrades are performed at the command prompt using the astup script. This script accesses the server at www.astlinux.org to update all of the software on the system in one quick step that takes just a few minutes; it has made it a simple matter to update the system on a weekly basis.

Of course, the Astlinux distribution includes documentation. The ten-page manual provides a good overview of the philosophy behind the project, information on getting through the initial installation, and options for booting from various devices.

A vibrant and active user community has also grown up around Asterisk. The Asterisk-Users mailing list often passes over 300 messages per day among its readership of well over 10,000. Additionally, Kris Companies has provided a similar mailing list for Astlinux; while not nearly as heavily trafficked, it is active and Kristian himself is usually available to address detailed issues at length.

Between the manual, the two mailing lists and the VoIP wiki at www.voip-info.org I have never felt that support was lacking. With just a little investigation I've been able to overcome every issue that has arisen, and gained something of an education along the way.

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