Hello Thirdlane Community!
It has been many months since I've spoken with many of you, but rest assured that I have been active as ever in the world of integrating hardware and software. I wanted to take a moment to talk about some upcoming improvements to the Phone provisioning system. As there are many new changes, I will post several topic-specific posts to speak in detail as to the changes and what went into the process. These topics are:
- vTech now entering the SIP business phone market
- Translation Maps
- Phone templating
- new button types
- Multicast Paging
- Company Directories
In this article I will discuss the vTech phones and the RPMs and they go somewhat hand-in-hand.
vTech enters the SIP business phone market
In June of this year I was contacted by vTech about the possibility of getting the Thirdlane Communication Manager product to support vTech's new line of SIP business phones known as ErisTerminal. Shortly afterwards vTech agreed to sponsor the development of their phones into our provisioning system. There are several models of phones supporting some pretty interesting features yet coming in at some entry-level pricing.
Their conference phone comes standard with 4 remote microphones connected via DECT to expand the pickup range of large conference rooms. The mid and executive models of phones (VSP 725/735/726/736) support low cost DECT headsets (VSP505) for hands-free operation as well as a DECT cordless handset(VSP601) for a 2nd handset of the same phone. Gen2 phones (VSP726/VSP736) also support microSD cards for on-device recordings and Remote XML that can be used for Company Directories.
I found the overall construction to be rather well made given its price point. My biggest complaint about a lot of these low cost manufacturers is that they seem to always try to make the corded handset rather short and overly curved, making balancing it on your shoulder nearly impossible. vTech seems to have taken their long experience with digital and analog phones and brought that to the SIP market.
The only drawback I saw was that their DSS keys used DESI strips instead of LCD, which means that some editing and printing is needed to know the button assignments. They do provide a handy editable PDF file allowing you to type the entries and print them as opposed to having to be handwritten. Still, many customers are still drawn to this very classic appearance of what they expect a business phone to look like. If you are looking for a low cost solution for your customers that support a lot of features, I highly recommend giving them a serious evaluation.
For more information check out their site Here
Templates and firmware now in RPM format
You read that correctly. During the development of the vtech provisioning files, and my previous experience with Yealink structure drastically changing from v60 format to its current structure, it became fairly apparent that for these files to work as designed, the firmware versions need to be at the same release level that their configuration files where written. All too often new features are included but either error out or get ignored because the phones often get shipped with half a decade old firmware. I realized that by rolling everything into modularized RPM packages that link through dependencies, the config templates and the firmware could be kept in lock-step.
Through collaborative discussion with Alex, we arrived at an interface, similar to the additional sound packages interface, where you can easily select the manufacturers package and click 'install/update selected'. This new menu option is located under System Settings -> Device Provisioning -> Template Bundles.
In order to support a multitude of devices we decided to move away from the monolithic models.txt in /etc/asterisk/provisioning/ and create a directory inside provisioning/ called models.d. This enables each package of templates to maintain and replace their own file independently. The models.txt will still remain for legacy devices and devices not yet adopted into the new system. Additionally your overrides in user_provisioning will continue to work as before with its own models.txt should any of those settings need to be altered. Another advantage to RPM packaging is the ability to script post-install actions to ensure that any asterisk-based support files are also update and supported.
Several Thirdlane members came forward to sponsor, some in part, some in full, the development of specific models of phones. As of this moment, all of the Polycom devices are supported, all the vTech devices are supported. The current Yealink models that work on v80 are now supported. The Cisco SPA models 5xx are also supported.
If you're interested in sponsoring the inclusion of your devices into the new provisioning system, feel free to email me