Ask Mr. Andrews: Please Help, I’m a Newb!
Q: Dear Mr. Andrews – I am new to Asterisk and VoIP enabled PBXes in general…can you point to any resources that will help me expand my knowledge?
A: The wonderful thing about technologies like Asterisk, FreeSwitch, trixbox and other “open source” platforms is the sense of community and opportunities for open exchange of ideas and general knowledge transfer that they foster.
Communities – Using Asterisk as an example…there are a number of great places online to explore the technologies surrounding Asterisk Open Source PBX, and to engage with the huge community that has grown up around it.
- VoIP-Info.org – VoIP-Info is something of a “wikipedia” for open source telephony. Take a look at the “Getting Started” section of VoIP-Info.org for a general primer on VoIP. The site also goes into great depths to describe the ecosystem of software and hardware surrounding Asterisk, including SIP based IP Phones and endpoints, and connecting your IP PBX to the traditional PSTN.
- Lists.Digium.com – head over to http://lists.digium.com. I recommend you sign up for the Asterisk-Users listserv which will expose you to the global user/developer community surrounding the project. In general, the Asterisk community is very open and supportive of new users who are just getting their feet wet with Asterisk. Great place to interact with other users, get technical support and follow the progress of the overall Asterisk project.
Books – There are a number of great reference books out there that explain Asterisk setup and deployment in technical detail. I recommend:
- Asterisk: The Future of Telephony by Jim Van Meggelen, Jared Smith and Leif Madsen
- Configuration Guide for Asterisk PBX by Flavio Goncalves
- Asterisk for Dummies by Stephen P Olejniczak, Brady Kirby and Mark Spencer
- VoIP Telephony with Asterisk by Paul Mahler
Blogs – there are a ton of great blogs out there that cover Asterisk and “open” SIP/VoIP platforms for a variety of viewpoints. Some of my favorites include:
- VoIP Insider – Our own blog here at VoIPSupply
- Asterisk VoIP News
- Tehrani.com – from the folks at TMC
- The Asterisk Blog
- Asterisk.org Blog
- The Digium Blog
- Nerd Vittles
Finally, if you are like me, you learn best by “doing”.
Depending on your comfort level with general Linux system administration, you could choose to download Asterisk in its native format by going to http://www.asterisk.org/downloads and grabbing the latest stable version of the source code. Install it on a spare PC and pick up some entry level hardware (IP phone, softphone, TDM interface card) and roll up your sleeves.
If Linux is not your strong suit, there are a number of more “user friendly” approaches, including things like:
All of which add an intuitive user interface wrapper to the core Asterisk code, and do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, eliminating any prerequisites for hardcore Linux administrator experience.
I am sure I missed a resource or two, so if you aren’t an open source newb, help out those who are by placing your favorite open source telephony resources in the comments.