Monday, December 29, 2008

Adventures in VOIP part 2

This is a continuation of Adventures in VoIP part 1


The harder half of this endeavor has been the configuration of Elastix. I missed most of the operating system install, but I have been doing a lot of the work getting the extensions set up and configuring the operating panel. My boss got to set up the inbound and outbound routes and configure the trunk lines on the server. Being a Windows guy (and my DOS days being long behind me) I am not all that comfortable working straight from a command line anymore. Thus I attempted to use the web gui supplied with the software.

The web gui is not actually all that bad. I can honestly say they spent some time working on it, but there is one thing they did that drives me absolutely batty. What the hell is up with the red bar? You go in and edit an extension. At the bottom of the form is your standard issue submit button. You think you've made your change, you go and check and nope! It's still the same. You must have missed the red bar. Check out the image. As you can see, the red bar isn't all that red and looks very much like it is a part of the natural background. Up until you look closely and see the pale blue text that says "Apply Configuration" and proceed to facepalm. Unembedded FreePBX (The Elastix form is actually a front end for this) does this right. Notice the orange on blue. Completely contrasting and smacks you right upside the head and tells you that you need to do something. It's noticeable.

Another annoyance encountered dealt with the batch upload. Rather than manually setting up 40+ extensions, you can load a simple csv file and get all of them in at once. After loading (I did remember to click the red button), only some of my extensions worked properly. Oddly enough, only the ones manually entered. I checked to make sure the settings were exactly the same and on a whim, I decided to just hit submit and reload the config. Of course previously unworking extension started to work. I then proceeded to manually reload all the extensions to get the working. I am certain I could have done that from the command line, I just didn't know the way and with my luck I would have just killed something on accident (Yes I have that kind of luck. Ask me about my dead RAID unit sometime, and try not to laugh too hard at me).

With that out of the way, the next task was getting the operator panel online. One thing we noticed is that it could only display 39 extensions in its default configuration. So after a bit of googling, I come across instructions for altering the operator panel. And there is no gui for this. Off to the command line I go. One way a lot of users decide to show more buttons is to physically change how big they are. This option is a no-go for me. Firstly, getting them to look good is a pain in the ass from what I have read. Secondly, our receptionist is somewhere around 70 and her eyes aren't what they used to be (She is surprisingly good with working a computer, as far as receptionists go at any rate. She calls in a timely manner when there is a problem and is polite when something needs fixed.) So to change button positioning, there is a text file to edit: op_buttons.cfg and a perl script to edit:

The buttons config defines the area that the buttons will take up in pixels on the screen. You can also change column headings, column colors and a few other options. The perl file is where you actually change where the buttons will be. Apparently you edit the perl file so it can generate a buttons config file (op_buttons_additional.cfg) and that file is included with the op_buttons.cfg to get the buttons and their placement. Any manual changes to op_buttons_additional.cfg get nuked whenever Asterisk restarts or the panel reloads. My first attempt at editing the two files was a complete disaster. I found out that it will not automatically extend its default four columns downward, but it will certainly add more to the right off the screen. So that was a dismal failure. I ended up removing the entry for queues (for call queues if you are running a call center) and extending my extensions there.

With that issue solved I moved on to the next one: I was not getting all of my parking lot extensions. For those who have not dealt with larger phone systems (namely me before this job) a parking lot is a set of extensions used for holding calls for other users. That way you can transfer the call there and someone can pick up anywhere in the shop instead of trying to get to their extension before the voicemail get it. Anyway, we have nine parking lots set up 51-59, and the operator panel was only displaying five of them. I double-checked my configuration and I had set up nine, so I delved into the mysterious perl file again and found this:
for (my $i = 1 ; $i <= $numberlots && $i <= 5 ; $i++ )
Now I don't know perl, but I am pretty damn sure I can recognize a for loop when I see it. Two seconds and a reload later and I am in business with all the lots.

And that is pretty much where I stand now. I'll publish further update(s) and anecdotes from the whole process when the system actually comes online.

This was written back on the 18th and since then the system is now online. There will be more forthcoming in this series as soon as I get time to actually write it.