Hi All!

I spend a lot of time looking for better solutions for my clients and I'd like to share a couple to save other out there some time.

Everyone has heard of Asterisk, the excellent and incredibly versatile communications server, but most think that you still have to configure it through arcane config files that have a very long and steep learning curve. I looked at and tried many interface alternatives, like Asterisk GUI, PBX-in-a-flash, and various others. FreePBX really seems to be the best way to setup an Asterisk box, by a wide margin. It is in very active development, with lots of users and forum info. The front-end organizes the conf files in particular ways and keeps a lot of stuff in MySQL databases, so you won't be able to tweak certain .conf files by hand, but that shouldn't be a problem for most.

Bear in mind that Asterisk, as a communications server, is a lot like Apache, the HTTP server we all know. It's extremely powerful, but very empty when you first install it. FreePBX is a little like a content management system like Drupal or WordPress, but for Asterisk instead of Apache. It simplifies a lot of stuff, but, still lets you have all of the options you would have without it.

Faced with a sudden need to implement PBX alternatives for a few clients with 5 or 6 locations, FreePBX is the way to go.

I also discovered a ridiculously cheap and capable little box for fast Linux deployment: Acer's Veriton N2620G, which is selling for about $280, including shipping, at Newegg:
It's quite a bit faster than the Atom-based tiny boxes. It comes with Linpus Linux, but I've been installing CentOS on them. You DO need to know the following trick: when installing a distro, you will probably need to pass the i915.modeset=0 or nomodeset kernel parameters when booting from install CD, or you will likely get a confused and flashing display. I've deployed a couple of them and they look like they're going to be great boxes.

Good luck,
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