Asterisk Fax, Cheap VoIP Providers, Free Calls and more …

As I recently explained to a good friend of mine, the essence of Jewish holidays is, more or less, the ever growing consumption of food – due to our great fortune with people trying to kill us and not being able to do so. Putting that aside, now a days, the essence of Jewish holidays, at least in Israel, is to basically sit at home and do nothing.

Last week was Passover. For those not in the know, Passover is the weird Jewish holiday when we’re not allowed to consume any bread or bread like products. On one hand, it reminds us our ancestors who travelled the desert for 40 years, and had to leave Egypt in a rush, so their bread didn’t rise. So, we eat Matza Bread to remember that time. However, today, you can make bread from a multitude of other ingredients, not only White Flour. For example, you can make bread from Potato Flour, Soy Flour or even Rice Flour – in other words, anything else by White Flour. I’m confident the orthodox Jew will claim that I’m wrong – but hey, that’s my 2c on the matter. In any case, Passover started on the 7th of April, and lasts 7 days. The first 2 days and the last 2 days are national holidays. So, the only work days that remained were: 9th, 12th, 13th. The 9th was a Thursday, no use working for one day, 12th was a Sunday, most of my customers abroad are not working, 13th was a Monday – hence – a single day of actual work to do. For a workaholic, like myself, that is more or less a nightmare.

VoIP Providers

Recently, a post on voip-info.org had caught my eye:

  • 2009-04-15 – VoIP Providers Ranking AZ-VoIP-Providers publishes latest International Top 10 VoIP Providers Ranking on 15-April-2009.

I’ve decided to visit that website and take a look at the providers the “so-called” list offers. So, in general, the site is nothing more that a so-called “VoIP Link Farm”, promoting some services over others. In general, the site only contains some logos of service providers, a shit-load of Google banners, and some poor content relating to the actual pricing of the service providers – in other words, nothing new. So, if you’re looking for the real thing, stay away from this site, there is nothing special in there.

Fax For Asterisk

Digium Releases Fax for Asterisk

Per Digium’s website, the Digium Fax for Asterisk is:

Digium's Fax For Asterisk is a commercial facsimile (Fax) termination and origination
solution designed to enhance the capabilities of Open Source and commercial Asterisk
as well as Switchvox. Fax For Asterisk bundles a suite of user-friendly Asterisk
applications and a licensed version of the industry's leading fax modem software from
Commetrex. Fax For Asterisk provides low speed (14400bps) PSTN faxing via DAHDI-
compatible telephony boards as well as VoIP faxing to T.38-compatible SIP endpoints
and service providers. Licensed on a per-channel basis, Digium's Fax For Asterisk
provides a complete, cost-effective, commercial fax solution for Asterisk users.

Ok, Fax is one of the most anticipated parts that Asterisk had been in need, since the creation of Asterisk. While back in the days of SpanDSP and Hylafax you were able to go about and send/receive faxes, in a somewhat reliable manner (who am I kidding, it was only 80% reliable), Digium’s Fax for Asterisk is surely a new step-up. This new add-on shows that Digium is maturing, becoming increasingly serious about their approach to the Enterprise market. I’ve been working with the FREE Fax-For-Asterisk license, which provides a single license and I have to admit – it works fairly well (what am I talking about, currently, 100% of faxes pass through without a hitch!).

New blog – The GreenfieldTech Blog

Well, after working on my own, for a period of more or less 2 years time – I’ve finally expanded GreenfieldTech. GreenfieldTech now enjoys 2 distinct divisions: the telecom division and the web analytics division. To read more about it, you’re welcome to visit our new company blog at http://blog.greenfieldtech.net/

GreenfieldTech announces the general availability of app_cashmaker for Asterisk

Udim, Israel. April 1, 2009 –GreenfieldTech Ltd., a leading provider of Asterisk solutions and Asterisk training services in Israel, today announced the availability of it’s patented app_cashmaker application for the Asterisk Open Source PBX system. The CashMaker application is intended to be used by various content suppliers, wishing to distribute Audio and Video based content, utilizing their Asterisk server.

The application is built to accept an inbound call into it, then, according to various information gathered in correlation to the callers caller ID and/or inbound DID number, will correlate a relevant content stream directly to the caller. The content distributor doesn’t even have to care about what content to distribute, as the application will connect directly, via the Internet, to a remotely available RTBSP streaming server at GreenfieldTech data center.

“The app_cashmaker application is the result of the cumulative work of over 3 years in the making, testing various content business models and applications. The main problems most content distributors have is how to gather the content and manage it, with app_cashmaker, this requirement is negated, thus allowing the distributor to concentrate on what they do best – flooding the newpapers with ads and marketing material to promote their content delivery service”, says Nir Simionovich, CEO and Founder of GreenfieldTech.

Simionovich indicated that the central content distribution facility is managed via a GTBS cluster environment, implemented partially utilizing Amazon’s EC2 and S3 structures, while utilizing GreenfieldTech’s proprietary streaming and clustering technologies. Currently, GreenfieldTech had submitted 10 different provisional patents, relating to the technologies comprising the app_cashmaker application and service. GreenfieldTech marketing team had indicated that initial beta trials had showed an increase in content availability, via the GreenfieldTech BSC Cloud facilityof over 40% with an increase of almost 80% in content delivery success.

Simionovich estimates that by the year 2010, over 20,000,000 will use the GreenfieldTech app_cashmaker facility, disrupting completely the way mobile, audio and video content is distributed around the world.

Asterisk is the world’s leading open source PBX telephony engine, and telephony applications solution. It offers unmatched flexibility in a world previously dominated by expensive proprietary communications systems. The Asterisk solution offers a rich and flexible voice infrastructure that integrates seamlessly with both traditional and advanced VoIP telephony systems. For more information on Asterisk visit http://www.asterisk.org 

For more information, please refer to the GreenfieldTech website at http://www.greenfieldtech.net.

Asterisk updates, rants and raves

Well, I guess it’s time for another Israeli Asterisk update post – one that was well due a long time now. This post was written after the recent hectic 3 weeks of Asterisk events and news here in Israel. So, I guess we’ll open with some news – beep, beep, beep.

Asterisk based Contact Centers

EasyRun, a world wide provider of Call Center and Contact Center solutions had announced the availability of its EpicAcce solution.

EasyRun Partners with Xorcom to Offer the Industry’s First Enterprise Grade PBX Agnostic Contact Center

EPICAcce Delivers the Industry’s First PBX Agnostic Enterprise Grade Contact Center Solution

For those in the know, the EpicAcce solution is based upon the Asterisk Open Source PBX system, bundled inside a Xorcom XR3000 appliance. I’m proud to say that I had some involvement in the development of this product, mainly, having trained the EasyRun lead developers in the workings of Asterisk – in the first Asterisk Bootcamp that was held in Israel last year. The EpicAcce appliance is defined as a PBX agnostic contact center solution, thus, it will work in any type of PBX or enterprise installation – making it the ideal solution for any company wishing to embed a contact center to their customer care, without the requirement of changing their entire company telephony infrastructure. In addition, the same unit can also be used as a the company PBX system – after all, it is based on Asterisk underneath and FreePBX as the management interface for Asterisk.

Asterisk gains recognition by the TheMarker.Com

About 3 weeks ago, I got interviewed by Amitai Ziv, a telecom reported from the TheMarker.Com IT news section. The interview (in hebrew) is available at the following URL:

http://it.themarker.com/tmit/article/6255

Now, while the article had mentioned about 25% of the actual interview and also summed up various statements from other people two, in general, it was very supportive of the Asterisk initiative and movement in Israel. I guess, well at least from my point of view, this article is a valid turning point – where the Israeli main stream industry acknowledges Asterisk as a valid business viable solution. In addition, as the founding father of the Israeli Asterisk users forum (www.asterisk.org.il) it is a great honor to be interviewed for this magazine. Sure, I make a living from promoting Asterisk and developing Asterisk based platforms, but having your face (although a horid picture) in the paper and having your name mentioned in a positive manner – is always a good thing.

Israeli Telecom Manager Club recognizes Asterisk

Yesterday I attended the “Israeli Telecom Manager’s Club” quarterly meeting, which was focused entirely on the viability of Asterisk and other Open Source based solutions. While most of the audience was made of large companies and captains of industry (Coca-Cola, TEVA, Israeli Electric Company, others) – I didn’t get the dreaded lazy eye I got almost 3 years ago.

When I started promoting Asterisk in Israel, almost 7 years ago, people looked at me as the crazy guy that has no idea what he was talking about. After all, I was an IP/Web technologies engineer, suddenly, starting to talk about telephony – in a world where 50 year old engineers were controlling and dominating entirely. Suddenly, a new kid on the block comes in and says: “Listen, Open Source can do it as good – if not better“. Yesterday was a turning point, suddenly, all these people came in to listen to me, preach and promote, both Asterisk and proper Open Source adoptation and GPL compliancy.

Israel is changing, companies start realizing that using GPL and modifying GPL products isn’t something to be taken lightly – it must be done with experts, and people that actually know what they are doing in the Open Source world. The old time Open Source geeks are starting to gain the industry recognition – Israel is finally starting to reach the state where the US and Europe are currently located at.

Digium announces availability of Support Services

This is not the first time Digium had tried doing this – first time was about 2.5 years ago. The current support services are based upon a signed service agreement, allowing the customer to receive phone based support services. According to the Digium website, the pricing model is as following:

                               <strong>SMB L1   SMB L2   Enterprise L3   Enterprise L4</strong>
Included Systems (Servers)        1         1          Up to 5         Up to 10
Included Cases (Incidents)        2         5             10           Unlimited
Additional Server Price           —         —          $495.00         $395.00
Named Contacts                    1         1             1                3
Price - 1 Year Subscriptions   $595.00  $1,995.00     $3,995.00        $7,995.00

Ok, not that I have a problem with that – I guess in the world people are willing to pay upto 300$ for a support incident – however, in Israel, that makes no sense. Judging from my experience supporting Asterisk, over 90% of the support calls can be resolved in less than 30 minutes. Charging an amazing price of 300$ for remote hands support, for an incident of 30 minutes – that is outragous. It’s true, I’m a Digium fan and I promote their products where ever I go, however, in Israel – this model will not cut it.

My company, started rendering Asterisk support services in Israel back in December 2008. Our support model is completely different – making it ideal for the Israeli market. Our support model is based upon a base line service agreement, indicating that you pay a total of 2,300 Israeli Shekels (around $500) for up to 10 hours of phone based and remote hands support services. These are rendered for a single server only – additional servers will cost you a couple hundrad more shekels, but the overall agreement in terms of time remains in tact. People in Israel know that support cases happen once every few months, so paying an identical price for getting 2 incidents handled simply doesn’t make any sense in the Israeli Market.

TDM400 Compatible GSM Module

ASTERISK GSM MODULE

ASTERISK GSM MODULE

A new product on the market introduces a GSM module to the ever popular Digium TDM400P card. The new module, available at http://www.asteriskgsmmodule.com/index.html is a plug-in for the TDM400P card, allowing it to accept a GSM SIM card – instead of the standard FXO module.

Finally, a plug-in for Asterisk that negates the need to work with a GSM converter. The bad thing is that it requires a patch to the wctdm.c Zaptel driver, and aparently, isn’t yet available for DAHDI at all – but I guess this will be fixed in the short future. I surely hope that these guys will contact Digium and maybe introduce the driver into the main stream driver distro, after all, Digium doesn’t make GSM modules – so it’s no competing with any Digium product.