We wanted to drop you a quick note on the 2.10 progress and all the great feedback everyone has provided both in our [url=/news/2011-09-22/freepbx-2-10-beta-lots-of-credit-to-the-schmoozecom-com-team]last blog post[/url] as well as the various forum threads and tickets that have been filed! We also want to make sure everyone is aware that we will be at Astricon in Denver this year so come to the Open Source corner and visit us at the booth, you may even have a chance to wind a valuable prize, read on for details!
I’ll get straight to the Astricon logistics for those of you who are just looking for “free stuff.” (since when did anyone in an Open Source community want stuff for free …) In addition to a FreePBX update that will be presented during the conference on Wednesday, several members of the FreePBX team and more notably our biggest development contributor Schmooecom.com will be there as well. Even better, we decided to have some fun and Schmooze very generously offered to “raffle” a complete and totally awesome phone system at our booth. So how much will these raffle tickets cost? Well it’s Open Source, so it’s FREE right! (not completely, you will have to part with a business card for the drawing at the end!)
What exactly did Schmooze offer? In a nutshell they worked together with several other great partners and supporters of the project in including Aastra, iSymphony and Sangoma to offer a complete phone system, the server of which is depicted here:
The system comprises an Official FreePBX Appliance that is an Atom 525 based dual 160GB mirrored drives, 2GB of RAM and no moving parts outside of the disks. Retail value for the bare appliance (with FreePBX Distro installed) is $925. In addition, they have included 9 commercial module licenses retailing a combined total of $3380. Schmooze worked with Aastra to provide two phones, 6757 and 6731, retailing for $283 combined. They worked with i9 Systems to provide iSymphony Conductor Edition with a 5 users licensed and 1 Queue retailing $695. They worked with Sangoma to provide a B600D with 4FXO and 1FXS with hardware echo cancellation retailing for $912.
This is an awesome looking and functioning system with an overall value of $6195. If you factor in the true value of FreePBX, you’ve got a phone system that would cost you well over $10K from anywhere else! One lucky winner will return from Astricon with this amazing deal so make sure to leave room in your bags if that person is you! We hope to see you there, come by the booth for details!
Ok, on to other important matters, what have we learned and done with FreePBX 2.10?
Going through the feedback we’ve seen so far there are a few areas to touch on. The first one is the overall impression and feedback on the new GUI layout. Overall the message we are hearing about this is that most people like it though there are the obvious rough edges that have been expressed and are being worked. We were honestly and very pleasantly surprised that there has been minimal feedback saying that we really need to have an additional left menu bar version of the GUI. Is that a correct assessment, despite I know there were some comments saying that they think they preferred the old format? It think a hats off to mbrevda from Schmoozecom.com for the awesome work he has done on this. Please keep telling us what you think!
Concerning some of the feedback, let me start with a repeated request that there were too many mouse clicks. Mbrevda met the challenge on this one and has added the ability to hover over the menu items so now no mouse clicking is required to review what is there. Another important theme that was mentioned in the blog is the category names and what gets put where. We previously said this will never be agreed upon by everyone but there may be better ways to do it and are open to your input. There was one suggestion put forward but not much discussion beyond that. We have added back the ability, which you may not have known about in earlier version, to completely modify the menu layout with a freepbx_menu.conf configuration file (in ini format). There is already a sample file that comes with FreePBX. I would suggest we spring up a discussion in the forums if people need help with this and then this can be used as a median to suggest better default layouts. With this file in conjunction with an “on/off” Advanced Setting, it is easy to change the layout and share ideas via a sample configuration file to get some community discussion in a forum thread!
There were also multiple requests for a “home” style button to bring back the System Status screen without having to navigate a menu. This is something that several of us agree on and there are a couple options. One which you can test yourself is to use the freepbx_menu.conf file to create one since a category with a single GUI page within it will automatically get promoted to a top level button. The other option is to use the image of Tango to the left as a link (Tango is the frog). Currently that link can be customized in Advanced Settings and fires off a new window so as it stands now, it is not ideal. We could add an Advanced Setting so the link fires in the current window vs. a new window which would address this. Thoughts on which direction we should go on either or both of these?
Another change that was made was to take off the User Panel menu item that was hard coded. Access to the panel is available from our Distro GUI as well as most other Distros. If you want it back, there is a new module that does nothing more than put the button back into the FreePBX menu structure.
Last thing to discuss in today’s blog is the status of FOP. We have brought up the issue in the past that FOP is not really supported and provides a very difficult challenge for us since we know the functionality is attractive and important to many people. In an older blog we brought this issue up and the fact that we would be forced to remove it from 2.10. We have not yet carried through and which has led to much of the confusion. We will address what the issues are and what we are doing or plan on doing to try and address it.
Currently FOP is not supported and has not been for some time. It also has known issues on Asterisk 1.8 which is the supported Asterisk version for FreePBX 2.10. The plan for the short term is that we are going to try to take all of the FOP functionality and make it into a fully installable module that can be provided as an “unsupported” module for those who wish to try and work with it. The new horizontal GUI layout lends it self well to do this. Since FOP is fully Open Source, we would hope that there may be some volunteer programers from the community who come forward to try and provide some support for FOP once we do this if it remains important to some of the community.
In the interim, we have been working or trying to work with both the FOP2 developer (same original developer of FOP) and i9 with iSymphony. Both of these products provide similar functionality as FOP. On the FreePBX Distro there are RPMs that will help get both of these loaded. FOP2 provides a 15 “element” free license though you have limited control on what you can put in those “elements.” Up to now we have been unsuccessful in trying to find a way that would allow you to seamlessly upgrade to a paid version through the FreePBX site though this can be done on your own directly with the FOP2 developer. There is also a module in FreePBX that helps you manage this available from him.
On the iSymphony front there is a free license available from i9 Technologies that delivers most of the iSymphony Conductor functionality for 5 users and there is also a FreePBX module available to control this. Currently it can be installed with an RPM on the FreePBX Distro and you can buy the full version from the FreePBX store. Also with the Beta Version of the Distro iSymphony will be installed during the install of the ISO by default now and the client can be separate client from a different website like you use to.
We are continuing to investigate on the Operator Panel front how we can improve this situation and experience and if there are other ideas from the community we are always welcome to hear them!
For now, your feedback has been great so keep it coming! We will be putting out some Framework Updates very shortly that delivers much of what is described above. For those of you pulling directly from the 2.9 SVN branch, you already have most of it.
For now, come say hi at Astricon, we are looking forward to seeing some of you there!
Philippe - on behalf of the FreePBX and Shmoozecom.com Teams for all they have done for us recently!