Can someone explain the differences between all the various Asterisk packages?

I’m about to start a project to replace an existing SIP phone system with an asterisk based solution, I’ve been looking around and am not entirely sure where to start.

There’s the FreePBX distro, the PIAF one, the Trixbox one, etc. Wondering if anyone could give me a quick breakdown on the differences.

I know Trixbox has a paid support model, but after that I’m not entirely sure what the differences are.


trixbox is out of the picture, they have not updated their software in over a year and turned their back on FreePBX.

There are many subtle differences between PBXIAF, Elastix and the FreePBX distro. We tried to focus our distro to be a stable reseller friendly platform.

The trixbox Pro system is Asterisk based but is not FreePBX, so it is not a reasonable comparison.

Schmooze, one of the supporters of this project offers a commercial system that is an enhanced FreePBX and Asterisk based.

The three distro’s are all based on CentOS, Asterisk and FreePBX so you should load them up and see what you think. This is a great use of Virtual Machines. I test them all using VM’s on my PC. Don’t forget to look at our latest beta distro, many enhancements.

Elastix also hasn’t updated in some time, and is reported to have installed backdoor passwords. AsteriskNOW hasn’t been updated in some time as well (it still installs with versions of Asterisk that Digium no longer supports).

In my view, the only two choice are The FreePBX Distro and PBX In A Flash. The main difference between the two are:

  1. The FreePBX Distro- comes with Asterisk 1.8 only. When the Distro is updated, the devs provide a simple script to update.

  2. PBX In A Flash- allows you to choose between Asterisk 1.4, 1.6, or 1.8 upon install. You cannot change without reinstalling. No official upgrade path. If a new distro comes out, you can use a command called “update-sources,” but it may not work. The only surefire way to upgrade to a new version is to reinstall and restore your settings from a backup (which may or may not work) or reconfigure manually.

Functionally, both have an almost identical basic feature set, although PBX In A Flash has built in support for Google Voice, while you have to add an unsupported module to the FreePBX Distro.

FreePBX is true open source. All source code is at for you to download and modify.
The FreePBX distro is also true open source.
After the installation of FreePBX distro a free commercial module is downloaded and installed (sysadmin).

PBX in A Flash contains non-open source programs from the start. In their ISO there is a closed source program included (piafdl). That closed source program downloads about 20-30 more closed source programs and a payload. The content and what those programs do is unknown as the distro clearly states that you can’t ask for the source and you will be prosecuted if you even try to decompile the scripts.
That is NOT open source.

If you believe in true open source, don’t use PBX in A Flash.

AsteriskNOW is true open source.

The above text is my personal thoughts…

I don’t normally respond to Mr. Carlsson except when he grossly misrepresents our distribution.

PBX in a Flash uses freeware installers to protect the integrity and security of our distribution. This is perfectly permissible under GPL2. Many Asterisk aggregations including the FreePBX distro load certain copyrighted, encrypted components or use installers that are not licensed under the GPL. They are freeware. If you wish to review what transpired during any PBX in a Flash install, a complete log documenting every step in the installation procedure is included on your new server and can be found in the /var/log directory.

Ward, I don’t misrepresent anything. I am just stating the fact. If you don’t like facts, that’s your problem, not mine.

Open source well defined:
[]The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
]The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
[]The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
]The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
PBX in A Flash fails in freedom 0, 1, 2 and 3, that is not true open source.

FreePBX pass in freedom 0, 1, 2 and 3. This is true open source.

The above text is my personal thoughts.

I’m by no means an expert on the FreePBX Distro, but it would appear that the SysAdmin module which is fully integrated into the FreePBX Distribution fails all four of your tests above. I happen to like it anyway. And, as I noted before, that’s perfectly fine. What gives me heartburn is when you begin touting the FreePBX Distro as pure open source code (which it’s not) and slamming others for using something other than “pure GPL.” We clearly label our installers as freeware and define the conditions of use. Nothing precludes installing the PIAF distro without our installers. Many do, and the scripts are freely available on our forums and elsewhere. Is it possible to install the FreePBX Distro without simultaneously loading SysAdmin? I don’t think so. Can it be removed later? Of course. The same goes for our installers. In fact, we remove them automatically.

Anyone wanting to know what’s installed on PIAF systems can easily find it. It’s all laid out in the log. There’s nothing sinister going on despite some of your previous statements. And there are plenty of ways to monitor what’s being installed on your system and to determine whether zombies are either loaded or running on a server. They aren’t as someone with your claimed level of expertise should know!

Anyone wanting to redistribute a copy of PBX in a Flash to a neighbor or a perfect stranger is more than welcome to do so. This can be done by using the ISO images, a backup image of a hard disk, a flash drive ISO, an OpenVZ template, or one of several install scripts that load PIAF on a Linux distribution of the user’s choice using scripts that you are free to modify to your heart’s content.

We don’t recommend redistributing modified versions of any application including ours. It is and always has been fraught with peril. Why? Because you may not know why we did what we did in the first place. Our foremost concern is security. Contrary to your assertions here and elsewhere, it has nothing to do with hiding anything from you or from anybody else.

Here’s the risk. Once people, such as you in another thread on this forum, start recommending that folks tamper with the PIAF security model because of your own theories about security, we draw the line. We adopted the Apache security model after a very real hole was discovered in some very old FreePBX code. It involved the ARI module as I recall. Then another one arose in CDR reports. With the CDR issue, it was possible to compromise a server if certain code was embedded in SIP CallerID records. Philippe quickly fixed both problems, but like everyone else, Philippe acknowledged that there were portions of FreePBX that were written a very long time ago by people that were no longer around. So nobody knew or knows whether all of that old code is secure and bug-free or not. As a result, we opted to switch security models. FreePBX opted to stay the course. That’s fine. We’re comfortable with our model, and others do things differently. The world won’t end!

But, if you change our model or recommend to others running PIAF systems that they change our security model and the system gets compromised, then that becomes your problem, not ours. Frankly, I find it irresponsible to suggest such a change to others without any explanation of the advantages of the alternatives… especially when you don’t know the history behind our adoption of the Apache security model in the first place. It’s especially disturbing because you hold yourself out as an “expert” and someone offering “Official Paid Support” to others. Whether your comments are personal thoughts or not is quite irrelevant under the circumstances.

FreePBX distro is pure open source. There is no code in it that contains closed source or compiled scripts. None. That is pure open source.
After the install there is one (1) free commercial module installed, just as I said in my previous post.
Your distro ISO does contain a closed source script.
You do the math.

FreePBX will always pass freedom 0,1,2 and 3. You can browse the source code here, with installer, scripts and what not

You can track all changes in the timeline

This is what Open Source is about.

I have not told anyone to tamper with the PIAF security model, I answered a question how one could get a fundamental thing in FreePBX to work with piaf. I also stated that if the system was exposed to Internet it should not be used.

Perhaps you can give me some insight of how to use the Administrator module in piaf?

Ward, piaf fail in freedom 1:
The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

I can’t study the work, nor can I change it, I am stuck with a closed source program that I don’t know what it does to my system or how it do it. Sure, I can “study the logs” but if I want to modify any of the programs I am out of luck.

The above text is my personal thoughts.