Interview with Asteriko developers

Posted 13 Apr 2005 at 10:35 UTC by yeupou Share This

Asteriko is a php web front-end to access Asterisk(tm) Free Software PBX. It includes user access to his own account, access to logs and auditing, administration, configuration and maintenance. It's based on php, uses a sql backend with adodb abstraction library, and smarty as a templating engine.

Follows an interview with Asteriko developers (Mose, Tom Bouillut, Loïc Monthorin and Erwan Lerale) made for Gna!'s hotspot #4.

The Interview:

Gna: Hello, Can you give a two line description of Asteriko your grandma(s) could understand (what is a PBX by the way)?

A: A PBX is for phone lines what a train station is for railways. It's where the voice chooses where to go. Asterisk is a free software PBX developed for years by an active community, and Asteriko is just like a way to access it by using the web rather than command line. Hey grandma, don't worry, it's just for phone... no, no, not fun ... P.H.O.N.E

G: Who are you? How many developers contribute to Asteriko regularly? How is leaded the project? What is the profile of the main developers

A: We are a group of friends initially, from which 3 or 4 contribute on the code of Asteriko. Loic is telecoms engineer, Erwan is network engineer, Tom is web software designer, Damian is independent one-person ISP, Mose is a software engineer, others are testers, advisers, cheerleaders, etc... Our average profile is 30-40 years old internet engineers in various companies or independent. We don't use any lead, each one has his skills and we combine them quite naturally.

G: When was started the project and why? There are many frontend available (http://www.voip-info.org/wiki-Asterisk+GUI). Why did you choose to roll your own?

A: Just because we could. Well, we started the project in early 2004, it was not so well spread and we wanted to have something that we could use easily for our own use.

G: How would you compare to other GUIs? What's your key value?

A: The key value of Asterisko is to provide a simple but powerful web interface that is usable without the knowledge of Asterisk's configs files (which are numerous and complex for the dummies). Most of others GUI only provide edition of asterisk's config files, Asterisko proposes an intermediate layer to make the configuration job more human friendly. We are telco engineers, network specialists, graphic designers, geeks. So, the Asteriko GUI is, on some aspects, very sharp. It uses the professional conventions from classic telco industry.

G: What are you targeting? IP Centrex and/or home PBX?

A: Both, and also, small companies that use a PBX as an internal service. We are also dreaming about a network of private PBX and peer-based communication systems. Asteriko would be useful in such a context.

G: Who are you targeting? Geek, Grandma?

A: Grandma is not the direct target of Asteriko, it's a pure geek or administrator tool. It should open the job of PBX administration to a wider range of people.

G: What features are you missing/planning?

A: We built the frontend and now are working on the backend. That's why we still are in pre-alpha. Asteriko works on developers servers but is not proper to be released soon. What is planned is a release soon. We would also like to build a LiveCD (Gentoo or Debian + Asterisk + Asteriko + Apache/PHP/MySQL...)

G: Which license did you choose for Asteriko and why?

A: The software is licenced under the GNU/LGPL licence. That choice is driven by the possible use of it in non-free distributions, and to make business have less reluctance to jump into that free software development.

G: Can you mention some real world use cases of Asteriko?

A: 2 of the main developers are working right now on a test platform (20 users) of asterisk+Asteriko on the Claranet infrastructure (http://www.claranet.fr). That first realworld case is experimental and will be used in development for validating the GUI by the use of it. There are also individual uses for developers, so we have several testing ranges.

G: Do you have any industrial or institutional support? If any, how so?

A: We have no support of no sort and don't need any for that project, as we are regular engineers we have our own resources and servers.

G: Are you looking for contributions? If so, what kind of contributions could be of use to the project?

A: Contributions are always good. As always documentation writers and translators are mostly welcome, but we also can use help from any PHP coder.

G: What tools do you use when working on Asteriko? Why?

A: We use PHP and MySQL, because it's a well-known combination of tools. We generaly use no IDE, and most of us are more vim users than emacs. About collaboration tools we use few things because we are in a physical proximity. We use a wiki for writing docs on http://nguild.org

G: Why did you choose Gna! as host? What Gna! tools do you use? Which features do you like most? Which features miss you most?

A: We picked Gna! because it's hosted in france and then we can speculate on a fast access (our core team is from Paris, we have some friends in UK, ES, HU). And because it's run by geeks that are working on nifty features that we could like to use, like GNU arch or Subversion. We mainly use right now the cvs and mailing-lists. We have not much users yet, but later we plan to use actively the bug tracker and support request system. Everything would be perfect if we could have a write access to the CVSROOT/ like on berlios to have more an extensive use of the CVS (modules, hooks, etc..).

G: Unfortunately, we do not plan to provide such feature for security reasons. It seems to us that, by design, allowing users to edit files in CVSROOT is generating a too high risk of security breach (we believe this "feature" was very likely to be one of the main causes of the compromise of the server savannah.gnu.org in 2004, along with linux ptrace bug).

G: Anything else?

A: Thanks for your great work!



Links:

Original Document (Gna!'s Hotspot #4)
http://home.gna.org/asteriko/
http://www.voip-info.org/wiki-Asterisk+GUI

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