Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Last night I got Asterisk working on my PowerBook with the help of Benjamin who runs Asterisk is an open source PBX. It allows your computer to send, receive, route and provide services on a wide variety of voice connections including SIP, IAX and various interfaces for normal phone lines. I've always had fairly complicated phone line and call management needs and now I can program everything myself. There is an amazing feeling of liberation when you realize how much control of your phone system you can actually have. Asterisk is a bit difficult to do without some help, but once you start to get your head around it, it feels like you're running a mini phone company. They even use legacy words like "trunk lines" which were named after the cabinets in the phone companies that held the groups of 9999 lines. It's going to take me awhile to get it completely configured, but I'm not going to feel truly VoIPy until I am in total control of my phone system.

Take THAT telephone monopolies! ;-)

UPDATE: François asked for more detail in the comments.

I'm using the PowerBook now mostly to play around. It will eventually be on a stationary machine. The first step will be to forward all of my calls to Asterisk. These include Vonage, Free World Dial, Voice Pulse and a few other VoIP things that I have. I will also try to find a service provider who will take all of my business lines and convert them to VoIP and forward them to my PBX. Vonage and Sound Pulse will allow me to dial out. The idea is to have all of my calls aggregate at my Asterisk PBX. Then, I can have various profiles on Asterisk that I can change in a number of ways. I'm hoping I can use, email, phone, Jabber presence, SMS and various other methods of changing my profile. The profiles will be set up to forward calls appropriately to me or my assistants. The calls can forward to a soft phone on my computer, my cell phone or any other phone that I register with Asterisk. I can also send calls to voicemail. If I can get caller ID working properly, I can set up different groups to allow me to let certain people through for emergencies.

Because the system is so flexible, there are a variety of configurations so I'm trying to figure out what I really want and how best to do it before investing in a bunch of interface cards. One key point will be whether I do the POTS termination myself or have a service provider manage my POTS lines. (POTS = Plain Old Telephone Service)


Asterisk is just one of the many software systems HELPING
to Route Around the ISOC and ICANN.

It is interesting that you think you are routing around the "telephone monopolies". Telephone companies have sold and supported PBXes for years. They love Asterisk traffic, it helps to sell more DSLs.

Asterisk and other software systems are helping people to route around the ISOC/ICANN/IANA monopoly, which you help to perpetuate. Hopefully, future generations will have you in their history books and note the damage you have done.

Hi Joi, can you share a little bit more (how-to, what you're doing with it, etc.)? Does this mean they have a driver for the PB internal modem working?


Glad to see you're riding the VoIP train. Asterisk is very disruptive. Just watch what else happens in the PBX and IP PBX space by others.

Let me know when you are in the USA's been too, too long...

Andy Abramson

Thanks for the info Joi.

We are about to go into a new office building in a couple of months (long construction time!), and we will be using Asterisk in substitution of an LG switchboard we have. All of us have been using headsets for a long time, and our CRM is already making the calls via the servers.

I think that for Asterisk, and for much of the VOIP community the question is: what is you Skype interconnection strategy? How do you handle Skype incoming, outgoing calls, presence information? Can you ignore it?

Yea, that's my biggest concern too--how does it deal with Skype.

One of the other problems here in the US is alarm systems. The only reason I keep a POTS line in the house is to maintain the burglar alarm. Not sure Asterik would affect that.

You can just get one of a variety of boxes that will let you take your analogs POTS line and just pipe it into and out of Asterisk.

Well, it's worth remembering that a POTS line is pretty handy during an emergency or a powercut, when nothing else will work.

It's interesting to see where this is all pointing to. In the future, will everybody want a securely located server that will manage all their information flows (web, email, rss, voice, documents, photos) from one place? That will be an interesting product. It will also bring up some interesting legal issues, because a lot of people will inevitably end up hosting their server in another country.

It should be possible in theory to build a skype-to-asterisk gateway using the skype API. But I don't think it's been done yet.


Welcome to the world of Asterisk !

My personal system consists of one SDSL line dedicated to voice traffic. I have 3 Asterisk systems running. I have connected my Vonage, Packet8 and SunRocket VoIP lines into these systems for dial out usage based on destination of call. I have given out IAXy units to family, so they plug them into their home DSL line, and plug a analog phone into that, and they have dial tone.

Wife and I both have our own IAXy units we take whereever we are going. Comes in handy when room offers Internet, we get our calls routed to us.

I have presence awareness working, but only a few people can see when I am on the phone or off the phone via IM.

I have installed * at 6 companies so far (all for free - they paid for equipment), one of which is a Medical Group office who now save $2300.00 per month they were paying to SBC/ATT.

Antoin - I think you are right. This idea of convergence is going to include EVERYTHING we do, in all aspects.

One thing that should be noted is that in some jurisdictions there are different level of service committments from the phone company to the customer/state/regulatory body based on the service offered. For example, POTS lines, should they go, have to be fixed in XX number of hours, whereas DSL lines or cable modems have a different standard. It is a throwback to the days of a regulated monopoly, but there are still some regulations in place about what has to be fixed and how fast.

In one sense, I suspect phone companies might want to reduce the massive support infrastructure required for "instant-fix" POTS lines (well, as anyone who has had a broken phone would agree, it isn't necessarily instant) vs. the more delayed response to data lines (T-1s and above have a different support level than DSL). Though on the other hand it certainly cuts into their revenues.

Unfortunately, in many places we're still tied into the monopolistic phone company. Sure we can get rid of a POTS line from them, but then we have to buy a DSL that goes over their same network (with quite possibly a reduced level of service)

Talking about asterisk ... I've been looking for decent information on fitting a medium-complexity call center (with multiple call agents being assignable to multiple client pools) with asterisk, or a shop willing to set up such a system. Can anybody provide me with pointers?

At home, we use asterix. I can call to my home and then the system does all, it's wonderful. I can use pholine, voip and others.

I was developed a connect-able SIP Stack for Japanese carriers in rightly authorized.
that can provide 03 numbers and 050 numbers.

Now I'm searching investers in Japan for my biz.

and also please check following here.


hello Joi,
i was just poking around looking for a way to route my landline phone calls over skype and came across this site. sounds like you have a decend understanding of this stuff. is this something that is possible to do with Asterisk? i'd love to be able to route my phone calls over skype to a remote location.
jbelushi98 at ya hoo d0t c0m