Raichu Asterisk Anyone? – PIKA WARP REVISITED

When I last reviewed the PIKA WARP Asterisk appliance, I  named the post “Pokemon Asterisk” – today I’ve decided to review the PIKA WARP Asterisk appliance again, only this time, with the newly released Asterisk GUI 2.0 release – our cuddly Pikachu is now a Raichu (relax, it took me about 30 minutes to find out what a Picachu evolves into).

The new PIKA appliance now boasts the new star fangled Digium Asterisk GUI 2.0, which takes the old Asterisk GUI (which was OK, but still had some miles to go) and more or less throws it into the waste bin. The new GUI is far more useful, far more usable and most importantly – makes life way easier for the integrator. While the previous version of the PIKA Warp appliance was targeted for developers, the new version of the WARP is aimed directly into the heart of the integration scene.

Asterisk GUI 2.0 on PIKA WARP

Asterisk GUI 2.0 on PIKA WARP

Now, I have to admit that after upgrading the system to the new PIKA WARP cuImage I had some issues logging into the system. So, what I did is more or less hack myself in via ‘single user mode’. Here’s a small guide on how to do that. Before we being, you will require a serial cable connection to the WARP appliance in order to do this, which means, this is more or less a hardcore procedure.

The PIKA WARP Serial Connector Port

When the system boots up, and you are confronted with a message saying “Hit any key to stop autoboot:” simply hit any key on your keyboard, and you’ll be fronted with the “=>” prompt, indicating that the boot loader is now waiting for information. Now, we need to tell the PIKA WARP appliance to boot into single user mode.

To do so, we need to modify the ‘ramargs’ environment variable of UBOOT, to indicate that we want to start single user mode. Enter the following command:

setenv ramargs setenv bootargs root=/dev/ram rw ramdisk_size=130000 single

This will indicate to the UBOOT loader to initiate a single user mode bootup. Once in single user mode, you can use the ‘passwd’ command to change the root password of the PIKA WARP appliance. This procedure can be used by an other PIKA WARP based appliance.

Once of the nice additions in the new Asterisk GUI 2.0 is the support for Class of Service, which doesn’t really exist in FreePBX. In many offices, managers like to restrict various extensions from accessing different parts of the telephony system – that is performed utilizing the Class of Service screen.

Class of Service management

Class of Service management

The “Class of Service” management enables you to create groups with access to specific trunks or PBX functions, thus, enabling you to seperate users and groups of users from specific PBX resources. For example, some users can be completely restricted from using outbound trunks, while others can be restricted to using a single FXO interface out of 4 connected FXO interfaces. In general, this is one of the best features in the GUI yet in my opinion.

I’m currently reviewing the new version, so once I have new information I’ll post my findings.

PIKA Warp + FreePBX = Still some distance to go…

As I wrote a couple of days, I’m currently in the process of evaluating the PIKA WARP appliance. As I already said before, the PIKA WARP isn’t a real PBX, but actually a framework for building PBX type appliances.

For me, the entire evaluation process is more or less a process of trial and error, trying to figure out how the box is built, both from the software side and both from the build-tools provided with the appliance.

The process of flashing the new FreePBX based images wasn’t much of a hassle, actually, after more or less fucking up the box a couple of times, I became fairly handy with both the warploader and uboot tools, used to flash the onboard flash memory with a new boot image. After flashing the FreePBX about 3 times, I got it to come up right on my browser window, which produced the following screen:

PIKA FreePBX Screen

PIKA FreePBX Screen

Now, it was fairly clear to me that MySQL (a mandatory component of FreePBX) isn’t a shoe in for the WARP appliance, after all, for an appliance it would be a blowtware. So, FreePBX here comes with SQLite, which on the surface should provide for similar functionality. Having worked with SQLite in the past, I knew for fact that some portions of FreePBX will not work – who am I kidding? if they would work it would be the most amazing thing I’ve seen a long time.

Mainly, this is caused by variations between the SQL code and various table management that FreePBX imposes on the FreePBX database structure, when installing or upgrading new or existing modules. For example, trying to go about and install the FreePBX IVR module yields the following error:

FreePBX error on WARP appliance

FreePBX error on WARP appliance

Well, that’s understandable – basically means that the unit isn’t yet fully useable with FreePBX – but we are getting there I guess, after all, rome wasn’t built in a single day.