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Asterisk: The Future of Telephony by Leif Madsen, Jared Smith, Jim Van Meggelen

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The Promise of Open Source Telephony

Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch.

—Eric S. Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar

In his book The Cathedral and the Bazaar (O’Reilly), Eric S. Raymond explains that “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” The reason open source software development produces such consistent quality is simple: crap can’t hide.

The Itch That Asterisk Scratches

In this era of custom database and web site development, people are not only tired of hearing that their telephone system “can’t do that,” they quite frankly just don’t believe it. The creative needs of the customers, coupled with the limitations of the technology, have spawned a type of creativity born of necessity: telecom engineers are like contestants in an episode of “Junkyard Wars,” trying to create functional devices out of a pile of mismatched components.

The development methodology of a proprietary telephone system dictates that it will have a huge number of features, and that the number of features will in large part determine the price. Manufacturers will tell you that their products give you hundreds of features, but if you only need five of them, who cares? Worse, if there’s one missing feature you really can’t do without, the value of that system will be diluted by the fact that it can’t completely address your needs.

The fact that a customer might only need five out of five hundred features is ignored, and that customer’s desire to have five unavailable ...

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