Book Review: Trixbox CE 2.6 from Packt
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trixbox itself is a “packaged solution” comprising the operating system, Asterisk and a back-end/front-end configuration tool based on FreePBX. Personally, I’m from the “old school” when it comes to applications and I do like to know what makes them tick. So with Asterisk for example, when I first started looking at it I wanted to try and understand the configuration files and how it really worked so I installed from source and built everything from scratch. trixbox CE (Community Edition) on the other hand provides a user-friendly front end to Asterisk and wraps the whole thing up with an OS and delivers the bundle as a free download which is a ready-to-run ISO.
I guess one downside to the appliance package like trixbox is that you are tied into using the vendor’s choice of OS (CentOS in this instance) rather than your own. However, there are several advantages too: you know it works, has been tested all together and is supported, to whatever extent the community provides, by the producer. Anyway, this post isn’t a plug for Ubuntu or a review of the trixbox product itself. This is a review of a book about trixbox.
Before we get into the book though, for those who are unfamiliar with what trixbox is, their website tells us:
Beginning in 2004 as Asterisk@Home, the trixbox® Community Edition (CE) telephony application platform is the open source software that has quickly become the most popular Asterisk®-based distribution in the world. trixbox CE combines the best of the open source telephony tools into one easy-to-install package, along with the trixbox dashboard which provides a web-based interface to configure and manage a complete IP-PBX system. The most flexible and customizable communications platform available, trixbox CE averages over 65,000 downloads a month.
And the Wikipedia, in what must be one of the shortest pages in the entire Wikiverse, states:
Trixbox CE is 100% free and licensed under the GPLv2. Founding members of the trixbox CE project are Kerry Garrison and Andrew Gillis.
The trixbox CE brand is now owned by Fonality. Documentation, help and community forums can be found at www.trixbox.org
So that’s what the book is supposed to be telling us about. Let’s see if does…
It is subtitled “Implementing, managing, and maintaining an Asterisk-based telephony system” and written by Kerry Garrison. It’s quite a hefty tome weighing in at around 300 pages and is produced with Packt’s professional and easy-to-read layout & styling.
Chapter 1 is a brief introduction into the whole telephony scene covering subject such as what a PBX is. It then moves the reader toward an overview of the key features of Asterisk. For the most part the author has a good writing style and gets the information over with clarity. There is some good advice too; whilst obviously the author wants to explain why trixbox is the bees knees, he does make a very sensible comment early on:
While trixbox CE does make using Asterisk dramatically easier, it is certainly a good idea to really get in and learn all you can about the Asterisk configuration files. The more you know about how the system works under the hood the easier it will be for you to troubleshoot problems and even add features to your systems that aren’t available in trixbox CE.
Chapter 2 introduces the reader to trixbox itself:
- Going over some of it’s history,
- briefly mentioning the commercial trixbox packages available from Fonality,
- looking at the core components that make up trixbox
- trixbox features with lots of screenshots
- and what you will need to try out trixbox such as a PC, perhaps an analogue line card and a SIP phone.
There are lots of URLs scattered about where necessary directing the reader to further sources of reading or links to relevant vendors and downloads etc. For someone who is getting started this is a good resource and introduction.
In Chapter 3 we get shown how to install trixbox, even showing novice readers how to burn a CD if you happen to be unfortunate enough to be using Windows.
I followed this chapter through myself and installed trixbox CE 2.6 in a VirtualBox VM. The instructions were good with plenty of screenshots and comments guiding the reader through the process. (Just FYI, on my PC Lobsang, the entire install in a Virtual Machine took just about 3 minutes!. During the first boot up I noticed that it uses the excellent OSLEC echo canceller by default. That’s a plus mark from me.)
Continuing through the chapter, after installing and doing a
yum updatewe are guided to the browser interface of trixbox…
The rest of Chapter 3 explains the various screens and basic navigation techniques to get around. Once again, I’d say the book is comprehensive and has plenty of screenshots and comments.
I’m not going to write about every chapter because, to be honest, the rest of the book is equally well put together and covers the subject in detail. Chapters 3 to 11 are what a good manual would be like. Having digested these chapters, the reader will know a good deal of how (and perhaps more importantly why) to plan, select hardware, install, setup, configure and maintain a trixbox system. There is plenty of “extra” information thrown in that explains what various features or aspects of the system are for and how they work. References to external sources abound and other vendors are given a decent mention where appropriate. Simply put, it’s good. If you want to use or manage a trixbox CE system this book would be an excellent resource in my opinion.
The final part of the book, Chapters 12 to 17, provide somewhat more orthogonal, but nevertheless valuable, information. We get to find out a little about:
- troubleshooting techniques and also where else to go to learn further skills,
- some of the additional trixbox utilities that are available like the endpoint manager,
- the basics of designing a decent callflow for the IVR,
- an introduction to a new end-user interface called HUD (Head Up Display),
- and an overview of the commercial trixbox Pro products.
In summary then, this is another good book from Packt that hits all the right buttons. It is well written, very detailed, and has good explanations of technologies and applications related to IP telephony.
As to it’s main purpose, that is explaining how to deploy and use trixbox CE, in my opinion this what a decent product manual should be like.