Goodbye PHX, Hello NYC (Astricon 2008)

It’s the 27th of September, and AstriCon 2008 is over. I have to say that I really enjoyed myself. Apart from the lectures that I attended, that had opened my eyes to some new areas of Asterisk (I’ll be needing to think about those), I’ve met some people and finally managed to achieve some of my personal goals – in regards to Asterisk and the Asterisk community.

One of the people I’ve met and we’ve talked extensively is Philippe Lindheimer, from the FreePBX project. Our main topic of discussion was regarding FreePBX training for Israel, where I am located. However, as the discussion continued, we started talking about the various aspects that we both see as problematic with FreePBX. My general take on the FreePBX issue is that currently, FreePBX is the only open source, feature rich, highly versatile PBX environment for Asterisk. As Philippe commented, FreePBX was initially designed to support all the varient Open Source PBX projects running around the market, however, as Asterisk is the most predominent one, the rest of the isoteric projects were, more or less, left out.

The highlight of AstriCon for me was actually not AstriCon itself, but the DevCon that started on the 26th, right after AstriCon. I admit that I didn’t have the time to stay for the entire DevCon (although I really would have liked to) – I can say that the short time at DevCon was well spent (at least in my view). During the DevCon, the participants had split into initial thinking groups, each one in charge of analysing either a problem or future aspect of Asterisk. Essentially, there were 3 major groups, a SIP group, a framework API group and a group that had made it its business to look at all the other aspects that were not covered by the two initial groups.

The primary groups (SIP and API) were formed after a discussion about the would-be soft belly of Asterisk. Being a consultant and platform developer, the API group appealed to me and I joined that group. The initial talks among the group members was around an idea for an application/function that I had, to add an XML-RPC client application for Asterisk. My main insentive for this is the idea that in 90% of the cases that I’ve used AGI, I’ve usually performed a database call or remote web service call, returned a value to Asterisk, and continued on my way. Utilizing an XML-RPC application or function will enable me to lower the bar on the knowledge my customers require in order to interact with Asterisk. I’ve realized the potential of such a standard interface, during a project I’ve done about a year ago – a database driven dynamic IVR engine, that works of a unified dialplan, without creating any configuration changes. As I discuessed the idea with corydon76, other people shared their feelings and thoughts on the idea, and slowly patterns started emerging and other people started contributing more ideas and thoughts. As a certain point I had to leave for a couple of hours, only to come back later one, after the group had designed a completely new engine for Asterisk’s logic. Basically, the framework is not just a framework, it seperates the application logic of Asterisk from the asterisk core environment, returning much of the control and power back to the application developer. It’s a little hard for me to go about and describe the various aspects here, however, the general agreement was that for Asterisk to evolve into the next starge – these changes are a must.

One of the new ideas introduced to the framework was the ability to create namespace hooks to Asterisk. This means that asterisk will provide to the developer a set of namespaces, allowing the developer to interact – almost directly – with an internal part. For example, tying SIP codec negotiation to an externally provided business logic. As brian mentioned this specific functionality, he got a set of screams from the SIP work group – which I warned him that would happen – but hey, we’ve got to laugh too :-)

Around 5pm the teams seperated – as most of the guys wanted to watch the presendial debate on TV, only to meet back around 8pm. Led by Kevin Fleming, we drove to a miniture gold course, not far away from the hotel. It’s the first time I ever played miniture golf – it’s alot harder than it actually looks.

For the time being, I’m well defining the XML-RPC application/function I’ve mentioned about, while corydon76 helps me in gaining the experience in writing the application/function to a workable code. While I’ve written a couple of patches for say.c and app_voicemail.c – writing a complete application from scratch is new to me – and it’s nice to have corydon76 as my tutor and guide on this one – Let’s see how it comes out in the end.

Oh, there’s also a small matter of the Digium Innovation award that i’ve won – however, that’s already old news on Google.

Our body is so fragile

It always amazes me how fragile our body really is. For those of you who had met in person, you know that I’m a fairly bulky guy – which means that I’m slightly larger than most people. In any case, there is nothing more frustrating than throwing your back – it’s the most annoying thing ever.

Throwing your back is somewhat like having an invisible fly hovering next to your ear, you can hear it, but you can’t swat it! A thrown back is just the same, you are perfectly fine in every other aspect, but you can’t do anything because you are STUCK!

I’m writing this post from bed, and believe me, as much as that sounds inviting – IT ISN’T!

Mobile browsing – BlackBerry eat your heart out

Ok , so i’m still taken by my E90, but I can’t argue with the facts. Browsing the internet with the E90 is a treat. The automatic page adjusting and resizing, makes almost any web page readable, just like on a normal PC.
The browser supports JavaScript, enabling AJAX based sites work just right. I admit that writing this post from the E90 isn’t that easy and fast, however, it is doable.
Another nice feature is voice activated dialing, with speech recognition, which means that you don’t need to train your phone.

I finally purchased a Nokia E90

Ok, I admit it, I’m a techno/gadget freak. There is nothing more exelrating then purchasing a new gadget and getting to learn it. For me, the Nokia E90 is something I’ve wanted to buy for a long time, but was not available in Israel at shops. I have no idea why is that, but only today I was able to purchase it off the counter.

So here I am, working on my new E90 to transfer my existing cell phone data. So let’s remark on the following: THE FACT THAT I LIVE IN ISRAEL – DOES NOT MEAN THAT I WANT TO DEFAULT TO HEBREW!
Who in their right mind will work with a Hebrew based cellphone, that is pure blasphemy.

So, I set it up to work with English, and now time to sync my mail. The full size keyboard makes the setup really easy and fast, however, the keys are a little too flat for my taste, making my somewhat chubby fast fingers mistype words – well, I guess I can’t have everything.

The inside screen size and resolution is amazing, making the entire use experience a most enjoyable one.

I will publish other findings as I come across them…