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The depth and breadth of Asterisk is staggering—installations with hundreds of thousands of users are now commonplace.

Asterisk scales up and down from individual lines to vast multiserver installations across multiple continents, but the way to start is to install the package, open up some of the configuration files, and start looking at examples.

I see Asterisk making deep inroads into the financial, military, hospital, Fortune 100 enterprise, service provider, calling card, and mobile environments.

In fact, there really aren’t any areas that I can think of where Asterisk isn’t now entrenched as the default choice when there is a need for a generalized voice tool to do “stuff.”Asterisk has been emblematic of the way that open source software has changed business—and changed the world.

Emailing recorded conference calls to the participants?

Integration of voice services into existing Java apps?

Leif, Jim, and Russell have not only put together a fantastic compendium of Asterisk methods, but they have also provided an excellent list of examples that will let the novice or expert quickly learn new techniques and “more than one way to do it.”Asterisk 1fantastically powerful and can solve nearly any voice problem you might have.

The affirmative answers just keep flowing, and at that point, the best thing to do is to sit the person down and start showing him quick demonstrations of how Asterisk can be quickly deployed and developed.

Asterisk is accessible because of the ease with which a novice can understand basic concepts.

Then it continues to succeed as the novice becomes a pro and starts tapping the “other ways to do it” with more sophisticated implementations, using AGI with Java, Perl, or Python (or one of the other dozen or so supported languages), or even writing her own custom apps that work as compile-time options in Asterisk.

But the first step for anyone, no matter what his or her skill level, is to look at examples of basic apps others have written.“There’s more than one way to do it.” I’ve been working with Asterisk for nine years, and this motto becomes more true with each release, each added feature, and each clever person who attacks a telecommunications problem with this incredibly flexible toolkit.

Then, I typically point the person toward the first edition of this book, , and set him loose.

I had the fantastic opportunity to work as the community manager for the Asterisk project at Digium for two years, which gave me one of the best vantage points for seeing the scope and imagination of the worldwide development effort pushing Asterisk forward.

In just a few hours of development (or longer, of course), companies can change the way they deliver products to customers, nonprofits can overhaul how their users interact with the services they offer, and individuals can learn to build a perfectly customized call-handling system for their mobile and home phones.

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