The ResVoip project started in April 2005. The name is short for the Residential Voice over IP Project; a project with the goal of making residential VoIP easy-er for those who want it. The key idea is that you should need to know how all the tech and system admin works.
I’ve always been very focused on what I do. When there’s something I want to know more about, that usually means full emersion, or as close to it as possible. Asterisk was no different.
I discovered Asterisk in early 2004 while working on an independent telecom project. I was approached by a colleague of mine at CQPress who was looking for a way to automate the sending of phone calls based on a database. He was a .net developer, and had little UNIX experience, and I was a systems guy (sr engineer) with a comp-sci background. He ran is idea past me, and while I wasn’t convinced that the service he wanted to build would be useful, I thought it would be an interesting challenge.
After a few hours on the Googles, I came across Asterisk (pre version 1). Shortly after, I discovered FWD, and the Pulver store. Jump to three weeks later, and you’ll find me sitting, sleep deprived, in my living room surrounded by 8 budgetone phones and a shuttle box acting as a pbx, entering in code examples I was reading from http://voip-info.org/wiki/. In that time, I had learned how most of the config files worked and was now struggling with the low bandwidth codes, dialplan, softphone and hard phone options and carrier selections.
The other guy, who I’ll call P, the one who sparked my interest in his project initially was now also looking in to Asterisk. He had his own test lab, but was lucky enough to have someone trail blazing for him. There were a lot of phone calls where I would explain concepts to him which had taken me days to figure out on my own, and he was quickly absorbing them. We were both curious how we could apply our new found knowledge to build something practical.
While immersed in all of this, we came across a posting for Astercon Atlanta. P & I, along with a systems admin friend, also from CQPress, jumped on a plane, with bags full of phones, and laptops. We were ready to hear everything everyone in the industry was doing, go to all the seminars, and then go back to our room in the evening and experiment while everything was fresh in our mind.
We left Astercon with some new ideas, which meant taking what we learned, and further experimenting.
I had a buddy who was running a computer lab at Columbia University. I convinced him to setup a Linux box on the campus network, and let me run a PBX on it. It was a great idea, since everyone knows that the Ivy League has the best bandwidth, and being in NYC, it was close to all of the ISP interconnects as well as some of the carriers I was using.
A few dozen sipuras and few hours ssh’ed to the box in NYC (living and working in DC), all my friends and family now were enjoying dirt cheap phone calls, no monthly costs, and free calls between each other. I had purchased the domain ResVoip.com, and the project was born. Keep in mind, this is long before any unlimited calling plans on landlines or cell phones, and when calling Canada still meant international call. Using Telix’s international service, while they were still trying to figure out how to bill for it, I was able to save my friends and family tons of money. They didn’t need to know anything about how the project was working, other than how to report issues back to me. All of this is going on with little to no operating costs for me – the bandwidth is free, and the calls are just a few dollars a month, with 20 or so people motivating me to keep going. Then it happened. My buddy in NYC and I had a falling out. He decided that our friendship wasn’t working for him when we discovered that I was dating his sister. Long story short, I had to find a new host for ResVoip.
I discovered 1&1 internet root servers and everything changed. I signed a one year agreement for a $70/mo linux box, with decent bandwidth, ready to run my PBX. It took me a day or so to get my PBX up and running. A few DNS changes later, and a few hours translating my dialplan back in to the box manually, ResVoip was back online, where it lived happily for more than a year. Towards the end of that year, usage dropped, as users became frustrated having to pre-pay for minutes using paypal to VoipJet and their other carriers, as Vonage and Skype started to become popular.
Asterisk@Home was now making Asterisk achievable to those who didn’t have the background to get it up on their own. It was a great tool for automation, and finally, a central place where community developers could work together, instead of duplicating efforts. I decided that I wanted to give something back to the community myself. I wanted to find a way to simplify what I had learned, and make it available as a service. I didn’t know how to do it, or why I wanted to do it. I just knew that it would be helpful, and follow along the lines.
It was now 2006, and I had moved on from CQPress, and was now an Asterisk consultant. I had mastered it, and was now making a living off of it. I had created a version which was now being marketed by a local telecom VAR. I was helping with deployments, training technical staff & sales people, as well as doing product development. My deployments were now being shipped overseas and being used as part of US AID contracts, running embassy call centers. ResVoip was now being using to tie many of these client sites together. It was the demo line at the client sites, letting the sales reps call someone in their office to show clients how easy it was. It was the way we called in to the African PBXs (over IAX) so that we could fine tune IVRs. It was less of a personal project, but now a hub in a spoke of other Asterisk systems. It made plenty of sense for me to unload it. I enjoyed the people I worked with, so I handed the system over, under the agreement that I could still use it for personal use all I wanted – but now I wasn’t carrying the cost.
After a few months, I had almost entirely stopped using ResVoip. I had collected most of my Sipuras back from the friends and family and was winding down on my Asterisk consulting. I had started that company with P & N, launched a product, and then sold my stakes. The company had great potential, and P & N both left CQPress to run it full time. It was recently on the cover of the Chicago Sun Times. I was now back to 9-5 with a DC non-profit, managing an IT department. Asterisk was still a hobby, but that was it.