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DFR Telecoms VOIP Diary

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2019

Posted on 19 January 2019 by John

Sam and Roger want me to move an auto auto with regenerator relay set from Parkend to Norchard but I am pretty sure that it does not exist. It was discussed but never built. I have the relay can and regenerator at home available for the build. It's probably a good idea for both Norchard to Asterisk junctions to have regenerators as this will clean up any dial pulses from faulty dials. No chance of doing this at Parkend also, but I guess that all calls to the digital network can be connected at Norchard only. Calls from the Parkend digital network to the Strowger can be handled at Parkend without any problem as the low back EMF relay set has been built and just needs cabling in.

Posted on 30 April 2019 by Peter

Sam and Peter met at the Jasmin cafe for lunch and to discuss the the Norchard - Asterisk gateway. Sam and Peter proceeded to the railway to get the Supermicro !U short server case from the loft. Whilst Sam was in the loft he recovered DP 10, an old fashion 4 wire cable terminated on B151 & 152. Peter recovered the MDF cabling for the scrap bin. The brand new, in the box server case, proved to be obstinate in giving up 1 of the case screws. Whilst at Norchard Peter and Sam indulged in a little retail therapy for men and surfed e-bay. They purchased a mini-itx motherboard for the new gateway, at the staggering cost of £30 including memory and an embedded CPU. They decided to go to Peter's to extract the stubborn screw. When they final removed the screw using a No 1 screwdriver in a cross point screw it revealed sadly that the SuperMicro case can only be fitted with a SuperMicro motherboard, cheapest on e-bay £229. Plan B. Peter had a dig around and came up with a couple of suitable VESA type cases, these are neat and compact and should be able to be fitted in the exchange without too much trouble.

VESA case
The day culminated for Peter in more retail therapy hunting for the additional parts required for the gateway. A successful day really. Anybody interested in how the gateway will go together have a chat with Peter on Wednesday.

Posted on 8 June 2019 by Roger

While Sam was manning the Beer Tent, Roger had a look at some of the Asterisk problems. First stop was Parkend. The Raspberry Pi that runs Asterisk and FreePBX was not working. It responded to 'pings' confirming it was powered and the network was fine. But the Pi would not serve up the FreePBX Configuration Web Page and ignored ssh remote login requests. As there is no monitor there all he could do was power cycle it. It failed to boot and looks like the SD Card had failed. Roger tried the SD card in a laptop. Initially it would not read but then sprung into life. Maybe the contacts on the SD card were dirty. The Pi has been taken back to Roger's home for investigation along with the spare Pi from Norchard.
Sam had mentioned the Grandstream HT802 ATA was having problems recognising the loop disconnect digital from some [rotary dial] phones. Roger had found the ATA worked fine with a digital keypad phone in Loop Disconnect mode, with a rotary dial phone he had and when driven from a DAHDI module on another computer. So perhaps the issue was down to the pulses per second. Roger borrowed the special 8 pps and 12.5 pps phones John had made for testing. Both of these special phones do not work with the HT802 ATA so that confirms the ATA needs quite exact timing for the pulses per second. That is unfortunate. At least there is the workaround of DAHDI cards on a Linux PC with Roger's specially modified software driver that can support a wider range of pulses per second if needed.

Posted on 9 June 2019 by Roger

Roger has repaired the Parkend Asterisk Raspberry Pi. The micro SD card had failed and gone into Read Only mode which meant that it could no longer function as it writes log files to the micro SD card for every phone call. At least the card was still readable so using a Windows laptop and some SD Card cloning software he could copy all the data onto a new micro SD Card. The Raspberry Pi now boots up again and all the configuration is retained. It will be installed on site soon. As for the broken micro SD card, Roger cannot remember where it came from. It has no brand name on it so was probably cheap one that got acquired along the way.

note from Roger : "It was a handy failure to have early on. When I used to make embedded systems years ago they always ran in a Read-Only mode so if the electronics failed they would still run, you just could not save any new settings. That got me reading the Asterisk forums where several people had workarounds to make their Asterisk read only. The drawback is when you power cycle you loose the logs. But I'd rather have that that then not booting up at all."

Posted on 15 June 2019 by Roger

Roger and Peter met at Norchard around 4:30pm to install the next phase of the Asterisk digital phone system at Norchard and to re-install the repaired Parkend Raspberry Pi that had a bad SD Card. We now have three interlinked Asterisk Digital PBX systems all talking to each other. They are "Norchard Pi", "Parkend Pi" and "Norchard Dell".

1) "Norchard Pi" serves 4 digit extensions 4500 to 4599. They tested it with three digital Avaya SIP phones and a Grandstream ATA which supports two analogue phones (both MF and LD). The test message can be heard on ext 4599.

2) "Parkend Pi" is back in service now. It serves four digit extensions 43xx and 47xx. It has as mix of Avaya digital SIP phones and Grandstream ATAs and MediaTrix ATAs for analogue phones. Test messages can be heard on 4399 and 4799.

3) "Norchard Dell PBX" is the original Asterisk computer that Paul used to run. It acts as the hub with links to Norchard Pi, Parkend Pi and Strowger. (it continues to serve the three digit SIP numbers (4xx) some of us have in our homes.

Peter and Roger spent some time making test calls between the Parkend (43xx) and Norchard (45xx) four digit extensions and making calls to and from the Strowger. The main problem identified was that some phones and ATAs had settings that assumed three digit extensions and needed to be changed to allow four digit extensions to pass. Once that was sorted we could call from any phone to any other phone. Next steps will be to get more phones installed onto the digital system at Norchard using either the Grandstream ATAs or the Avaya SIP phones.

Posted on 19 June 2019 by John

We started the day with a session configuring ATAs and SIP phones for use on the Asterisk scheme at home.

Posted on 20 July 2019 by Peter

Peter met Roger at the postage stamp. The plan for the day was to work with Roger on X 304 to increase his faulting skills. Sam had previously said to Peter that X 4322 could not dial out. Roger and Peter tested ringing X 4599 and X 599, all appeared to work. Andrew Woodrow found us lurking on the platform and told us X 4322 was faulty, really good that we bumped into him as he told us the phone went dead, further investigation revealed that the phone did indeed go dead. Andrew reported he could not ring the signal box at Norchard. A level 5 issue was suspect. Dialing X 599 did in fact fail on a large percentage of calls. We then tried to reproduce the fault from X 4303, no failures! Whilst Roger went into super asterisk mode Peter decided to check the other digital phones, all working except X 4302. No phone plugged in! Off to get the butt, no dial tone, in fact very dead, next stop frame and the ATA.
Check of Pair and Port on the records, no record for either, was it supposed to be a SIP phone? A quick dive into the FreePBX Applications/Extensions menu revealed that X 4302 should be a SIP phone, borrowed X 4301 and plugged it into each of the Data sockets, the phone did not even attempt to boot, ah cabling. Yes Patch Panel Port 1 was patched to the microtek switch, no POE (Power over Ethernet). The cabling was patched correctly, and X 4302 was back in service. I can safely say I prefer Data patching, even quicker than jumpers on a krone frame. Peter went to the exchange to find Roger delving into the Dialplan and various other settings including looking at the Mediatrix box. The Mediatrix box had needed a reset to clear the fault on X 4322. Roger could only work for half a day finishing at 12:20. Peter went to meet Sam and have lunch. After lunch Peter and Sam marked the places for new duct and boxes to be provided whilst the long siding is being relayed. The new duct should hopefully arrive next week. A very good days work.

Posted on 21 July 2019 by Peter

Peter met Sam for lunch, after lunch they collected stores to finish installing X 4320 in the Ground Frame. Sam went to the ground frame whilst Peter re jumpered X 4320. With dialtone going out on DP 1 Peter wedged the frame and sent a tone, on arrival at DP 1B the tone was not to be found, Sam went to find the tone while Peter provided a new Line Jack Unit 4/1A for X 320 and X4320. DP 1A appeared to be the culprit as the Pair was still connected to DP1C, crimped through and worked a treat. Retired to the cycle cafť for coffee.

Posted on 24 July 2019 by Roger

On Wednesday I popped into Parkend to pick up my laptop charger. I was told by the station staff that the Asterisk system is not working. The problem is that they were dialling numbers with a Hash on the end and "525#" is not a valid extension. The LinkSys ATAs could be set to recognise a Hash key to signal the end of the number to dial (so you can make a call straight away without waiting for an inter digit timeout), but the ATAs in use at Parkend do not support this (or I've not found a menu option to add the feature yet).

Posted on 3 August 2019 by Roger

Sam, Peter and Roger worked at Parkend in the morning looking at some Asterisk issues. The first asterisk trials used Grandstream ATAs to link telephones to the SIP system. Sam had got some MediaTrix ATAs from ebay. These work well but there were a number of settings that needed to be configured which were sorted out today. We also reinstated the dial plan on ATAs and Avaya phones to improve calling.

Posted on 4 August 2019 by Roger

All Level 4 numbers are now 4 digits.
Home users that were on 485 or 495 are now on 4485 and 4495 respectively. Thomas has moved from 402 to 4402. DialADisk has moved from 416 to 4416.
There is no need to change any of your ATAs or SIP phones. I've made it work with the existing settings. (so your ATA may think it is ext 483, but Asterisk treats it as 4483)
For extra telecoms fun, ff you put in an old 3-digit Level 4 number, eg 400 Speaking Clock, it plays a "the number you have called has been changed to ..." message. Right now it goes on to complete the call, but eventually I'll turn that off.
I've tested this all on SIP to SIP calls. I've still to test the Strowger side of things so may have got a rule wrong there.

Posted on 5 August 2019 by Roger

I wanted to test Strowger to Asterisk calls from my sofa to save a trip to Norchard. So I implemented a new Asterisk configuration to do this.
From a SIP phone, call 14402.
The 1 tells Asterisk to make a Strowger call to 4402.
Strowger receives a call to 4402. As Strowger Level 4 is an Asterisk level, the Strowger calls back into Asterisk, in this case getting the Thomas music.
So this tests a junction in each direction and tests John's new strowger to asterisk hardware from my sofa. Doing it a second time will use different junctions and so all four junctions can be checked with two calls.

Note : If you have a dial plan in your ATA which is 0x|4xxx|xxx then this won't work for you as it will pick up the first 3 digits (in this example 144) and start calling.
I think you need a rule like this : 0x|[2356789]xx|4xxx|144xx

Posted on 6 August 2019 by Roger

The directory of all the current digital extensions is now available under the VOIP INFO button on the front and main menu pages.

Posted on 9 August 2019 by Sam

Peter and Sam met up at Parkend to look at the public wifi that the railway had requested. Sam spent a few hours configuring the switch while Peter installed the ceiling mounting for the wifi access point in the Staff Room, with help from Paul Wilson, before looking at records for the Strowger. A power cut curtailed ongoing work, so Paul and Sam went to find a pub still open instead.

Posted on 10 August 2019 by Sam

Sam arrived early (8am!) to finish configuring the switch before the staff arrived for the day. Once this was complete, Sam then set up the wifi hub with it connected directly to the cabinet, and reconfigured the Asterisk and ATAs/SIP phones for the change of IP address from reconfiguring the switch. He then went to Norchard to sort out some other bits and bobs for the railway.
Peter and Sam met for lunch at 12.30, then went to Parkend to finish the wifi. They drilled the hole for and ran the cable to the new wifi hub, and installed it at both ends. Peter went home, and Sam fixed a few issues that had come to light with the new setup, and then set up a firewall rule to stop people from accessing the BT homehub via the mikrotik switch, so no guests could access it.

Posted on 13 August 2019 by Roger

The new VoIP phones have a Caller ID display. Roger has added a special Caller ID to the Strowger to Asterisk Junctions so that calls from Strowger will say they are from "Strowger Line 1" or "Strowger Line 2" on the Caller ID display. This will help with diagnostics in the future. Right now Line 1 is jumpered out so all calls are via Line 2.

Posted on 31 August 2019 by Roger

Roger and Peter worked at Norchard today. First they investigated why Strowger to SIP calls fail on approx 1 in 8 calls. Turns out asterisk is seeing an extra pulse from the Strowger so instead of receiving 402, asterisk thinks you called 1402. John has had some thoughts on this.
On the digital SIP system they set up a new firewall and network router (made by Mikrotik) and a Cisco POE switch in the office and configured six digital phones on the 45xx range. The Norchard Raspberry Pi has been moved from the exchange to the office but you would never notice it had gone as it is so small. All the kit is in the data cabinet in the office. Please leave it switched on.
They also had a tidy up.

Posted on 21 September 2019 by Peter

Peter spent the morning at home with Roger remotely accessing his asterisk, things did not go to plan as Roger got locked out by Fail2ban. A l in the password had been transposed for an i. Once resolved Roger used the Parkend VPN to access Peter's switch which is currently failing with regular monotony. After much hunting around Roger found that a database had been locked against write commands. The strange thing is that logging into the FreePBX dashboard all appears to be up and running with no issues. It was decided to reset the system and see what happens. Thanks to Roger for linux lessons and expertise. Switch was reset up and running fine but for how long?
On Saturday afternoon Peter went to the railway after lunch. Having taken extra patch cables he proceeded to start flashing the AVAYA phones with the new SIP software that Roger had loaded onto the TFTP server. Mass production started and all flashed phones have been labelled "SIP Ready".

Posted on 22 September 2019 by Peter

Peter once again had lunch at the railway, Sam played mister shifter taking boxes of phones from above the shop office for Peter to flash. Peter decided to flash all the phones from the loft, which he accomplished by about 4:30 and was pleased the job was finished. The only outstanding issue was that 31 phones would not flash and all stuck with "discovering" displayed on the screen. They all get stuck in the upgrade process at the same place. Maybe older firmware needs installing in a step by step upgrade but it's something to look at another day. Peter was curious as to why there was an excess of phone bases in the office, Sam replied there are more AVAYA in another loft. Cant win 'em all!.

Posted on 23 September 2019 by Peter

Sam had recently tried unsuccessfully to log in to Peter's asterisk but now managed after the switch had been restarted. Sam found the disk writes were running at a colossal speed despite the fact that the asterisk was unable to process calls, it had failed within 24 hours. The writes were saying that a module had depreciated and should be accessed via the system console It would help if the system could be accessed by the console, impossible because of the disk writes. Sam and Peter decided it was time to download and burn a new image and reload the switch completely, yet to be done!

Posted on 28 September 2019 by Peter

Roger came over to Peterís house with the intention of building the Norchard Asterisk Gateway. Whilst Roger built the new gateway box, Peter tried to put together a simple powerpoint pictorial of the assembly of the gateway. Roger finished first, he powered up the switch. Alas not a lot going on, only the motherboard main light blinking once on start up, then all dead. After a bit of a logic faulting session the problem turned out to be the cheap Chinese DC-DC converter which was dead. Fortunately Peter had a spare 600W power supply which was pressed into service and all was well The system booted. Roger set the BIOS boot choice to USB and rebooted the system, all going well and the packages were installing nicely. Roger had to leave so Peter just left the machine running. With all the packages installed Peter plugged in the network cable, removed the USB drive and rebooted the switch, came up a treat. On looking at the console for first boot there should be an IP address, no IP address so the system was rebooted, still no IP address. Lesson learned here is that the system needs a network connection during the build process. The USB drive was re-installed and the build process restarted, this all went well, the switch came up with an IP address and Peter was able to login. The image burned to the USB drive was the latest 64 bit version released in May this year.

Posted on 3 October 2019 by Peter

Peterís FreePBX server.
Despite a reboot after Roger and Sam had accessed Peterís FreePBX it was still exhibiting the same issues. Peter, now in possession of the new image, decided to reload his server to see if the new image would fix the outstanding issues. Although the reload itself took about an hour configuring the trunks and extension took considerably longer. Well the reload of the system proved to be even worse than before. Could the issue be hardware related? Only one way to find out. Peter dis-assembled the gateway server and pinched the motherboard. Along with this he reordered a new motherboard, memory and DC-DC converter for the gateway. Peter removed his server from the cabinet and rebuilt it using the proven motherboard from the gateway and once again went through reloading the image. The new build went very well, and the server was up and running. Wait and see time. When setting up FreePBX it is necessary to use the correct firewall settings for the systems network cards.
All appeared to be well but extensions were dropping off the system and access from Peterís laptop was blocked. Fortunately Peter was able to use the browser on his home automation system to log into the server. On logging in Peter discovered that fail2ban was blocking login attempts not only from his net phones but had also blocked his laptop. The answer was the set up of the LAN card, once this was fixed and fail2ban was restarted all was good to go. The server with the new motherboard is working correctly, hopefully the end of the issues that have plagued Peterís machine.

Posted on 8 October 2019 by Peter

Whilst Peter was remotely checking his server looking at Fail2ban and IPTables using the command line, he somehow managed to lock himself out and is now unable to log in from outside his LAN. Peter being away from home had been updating Roger and Sam with progress reports. Roger rang Peter and was able to login to the server via Peterís home automation system. We did not get too far with this as Roger only had the morning. The issue with the SSH login from the net, it was decided, is not a big issue and the fact that it now takes two passwords and is via another machine is in fact an added security feature so no further action is to be taken here.
Aside from Peterís FreePBX machine Roger and Peter spent a couple of hours discussing the roll out of digital phones at Norchard. Here one of the issues is that the Avaya phones require PoE and cannot be locally powered. Roger and Peter discussed the pros and cons of the Cisco switch supplied by Adam Williams. On the downside the switches do not posses a web interface. On the upside these switches are as cheap as chips and eBay has a glut of them. They can be purchased for as little as £20 each, not the exact mathematics but it works out at less than 50p a port. ATAís for analogue extensions work out at around £14 a port and PoE injectors average out at a little less. Roger and Peter talked about setting up VLANís on these switches and came to the conclusion that a simple standard template for all switches would be a good way to go. In addition to this the switches could be simply colour coded to show which VLAN is which, along with same colour patch leads.

Posted on 15 October 2019 by Peter

Sam purchased six cisco switches,
2x 3750 Series,
2x 3560 PoE-48,
2x 3750 PoE-48

Posted on 16 October 2019 by Peter

Peterís FreePBX
Since rebuilt with the new motherboard swiped from the Norchard asterisk gateway, Peterís server has been performing exceptionally well, everything is functioning as it should do. Peter is carrying out a lightweight stress test on the machine, more to check call processing than actually test the limits of the machine. To do this he has set up a couple of Sipgate trunks and a couple of Norchard trunks that send calls in and out of his home automation system. For the strowgerites reading this, a test call sender, well two. The current uptime of the machine, as of now at 8:00 oíclock Wednesday morning, 2 days 13 hours plus and over 3000 calls passed. All good then, along with this, the phone system is also processing broadcast (paging) calls to remind Peter to take his medication and to get up as it is railway day.

Posted on 28 October 2019 by Peter

Peterís FreePBX
After many trials and tribulations Peter's FreePBX has now passed in excess of 15000 calls in the past 3 weeks so now proven to be stable and running nicely.

Posted on 2 November 2019 by Peter

Roger came to Peter's. The 6 new cisco switches Sam purchased from e-bay were instantly recognised as being supplied by a reputable company that Roger had used before. Roger unpacked the switches and they all fired up fine. Although the switches in the main part are programmed from the CLI "Command Line Interface" they also have a very easy to read basic GUI "Graphical User interface". These comes up as the same colour as the front of the switches, nice and easy to identify for us non data wallahs. On the GUI you can label each port so that it is a good place to use the extension numbers. The switches now need to be transported to Norchard, It needs to be decided where to fit them. On the up side the cost of PoE ports is spiralling downward rapidly. The purchase at £54 of four usable 48 port switches works out at a staggering 28 pence a port and we have 192 at our disposal. We have no excuse for not fitting Avaya phones everywhere as an analog solution is £28 for 2 ports.

Posted on 28 December 2019 by Roger

Peter and Roger spent some time in Parkend installing one of the ebay Cisco POE switches. This sits along side Peter's loaned Netgear POE switch. 4300 and 4301 are moved over to the new Cisco switch. Roger found that the Norchard PC is about to fail. The hard disk is running read only mode with lots of disk errors so the config will be migrated to a new system in the New Year.


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