The Pogoplug Series 4 is a little network attached device that makes your external drives accessible remotely. Under the hood of this device is an ARM processor running at 800 MHz, which is supported by the Linux kernel. If you’re looking to build your own PBX on the cheap, [Ward] runs us through the process. Since the Pogoplug 4 is currently available for about $20, it’s a cheap way to play with telephony.
Step one is to convert the Pogoplug to Debian, which mostly requires following instructions carefully. After the Pogoplug is booting Debian, the Incredible PBX bundle can be installed. We’ve seen this bundle running on a Raspberry Pi in the past. Incredible PBX’s preconfigured setup based on Asterisk and FreePBX gives a ton of functionality out of the box.
With your $20 PBX running, there’s a lot that can be done. Google’s Voice service allows unlimited free calling to the USA and Canada. With Internet connectivity, you get email notifications for voicemails, and can query WolframAlpha by voice.
It looks like a consumer good, but this PBX server blade was built by [Benoit Frigon] over the last couple of years. It brings multiple telephone extensions to his home service.
The device runs Asterisk open source PBX software. Because it will be on all the time he wanted something that doesn’t draw a lot of power. The 500 Mhz system seen on the left has just a half a gig of ram. It’s enough to do the job and at 10 Watts it’s not going to break the bank when it comes to paying the electric bills. The board in the middle is used to interface the analog handsets with the land line. From the look of it he’s got it rigged for two extensions.
That’s all somewhat par for the course with PBX rigs, but the enclosure is where he really shines. [Benoit] used 22 gauge aluminum sheet to fabricate the enclosure which is designed to blend in with the rest of his home’s rack mount hardware. To provide control at the rack he added his own LCD and touch-sensitive button interface to the front of the case based on a PIC 18F2520. The system can also be accessed via the web thanks to a custom interface he coded.
[Ward Mundy] has found something great by combining a GXP-2200 phone with Raspberry Pi to create a private branch exchange. So the idea behind a PBX setup is kind of like a company intranet. All of the phones in the system are assigned an extension number and have access to the internal system functions like voice mail, and sharing phone lines to the outside world. We’ve talked about using an RPi as a PBX before, but the high-tech phone he’s using this time around pulls everything together remarkably well.
The GXP-2200 is available for under $200. It runs Android and has a full color touch screen pictured above. It is marketed as a multimedia phone and indeed it brings Skype and Google Voice to the party. But it also offers six SIP lines. The hardware even seems to be planned for this type of use as the phone offers a second Ethernet port to which the RPi board can be connected. In this example [Ward] simply screws the RPi to the phone’s plastic stand and connects the two using a six-inch cable. From there the PBX can be configured with the phone’s browser. How’s that for slick?
We’re not sure why this use didn’t immediately come to mind when we got our hands on a Raspberry Pi board, but the hardware is almost perfect as a PBX system. PBX, or Private Branch Exchange, is basically an in-house phone system. This guide which [Ward] put together shows you how to do some interesting things with it.
When talking about PBX setups the most common software package is Asterisk. That’s what’s at work here, rolled up with a bunch of other helpful software in an RPi targeted distro called Incredible PBX. All it takes to get up and running is to partition and burn the image to an SD like any other RPi distro. The configuration ends up being most of the work, starting with changing the default password, and moving on to customizing the environment to match your phone numbers and your needs. As with PBX setups on other embedded Linux devices, Google Voice is your best friend. The service will set you up with a free phone number.
This guide doesn’t delve into hardware connected hand sets. You’ll need to use a SIP phone. But that’s easy enough as there are free apps for most smart phones that will do the trick.
[Headsheez] found a way to get his home phone service for free. He’s using a set of tools that we’re familiar with to route service from a typical analog phone system (which involves the extensions wired into your home) through a server to the Internet. On the hardware side of things this starts out with an Analog Telephone Adapter which translates the analog signal for use in a PBX system. He uses a copy of the open source PBX project called Asterisk which we’ve also seen used on devices like routers and the SheevaPlug. The actual telephone number comes from a Google voice account which for now is a free service but there’s no guarantee that it will remain that way in the future.
This should provide seamless service just like you’re used to with a traditional home phone line. There’s even caller ID for the number – but not the name – for incoming calls. The one big feature that is missing from this setup is the ability to call 911 for emergencies.
As you well know, today is March 14th – aka “Pi Day”.
Celebrated in math classrooms around the country, this truly is a celebration that belongs to the geeks. Here at Hack-a-Day, we too love Pi day, though we might not outwardly celebrate it with as much gusto as expressed by some of our readers.
[Chris Poole] is one Hack-a-Day fan who knows how to make the most of this mathematical holiday. He has put together a neat SIP-based phone service that reads Pi aloud to anyone who calls. He is running Asterisk in combination with Perl to read off the numbers, and is using a free SIP DID number to accept the calls. We gave it a shot earlier today, and were greeted by a gentle synthesized voice reading off the numbers of Pi. We’re not sure how many digits it is programmed to handle, as we stopped after about 20, so give him a call and let us know how many digits you make it through.
As a parting note, no Pi Day would be complete without a few obligatory Pi-related (albeit old) web comics and pastry concoctions, so here you go!
XKCD – Pi Equals…
XKCD – e to the Pi Times i
XKCD – E to the Pi Minus Pi
Spherical Pi Pie
[Greg] has been working on a version of Debian/ FreePBX/ Asterisk for people to be able to drop onto a SheevaPlug. If you haven’t seen it, the SheevaPlug is a tiny computer housed in a wall plug. They made some waves when they were announced last year, and we’ve spoken of them several times. [Greg] is offering up the operating system in a pre configured format for SD cards so you can just download it and drop it in your SheevaPlug. Yeah, there’s a little bit of work to do before it will boot, which you can see in the video above. Thanks for sending this in [Greg], keep up the good work.