First, some history.

I attended my first AstriCon back in 2008 and somewhere, I still have my Skype for Asterisk button. At the close of the conference Digium asked for comments—I suggested that the convention look at Orlando, Florida.

Back then, I traveled from Michigan (the dating Yeni period), yet I still maintained a strong bias for Florida. I thought (with the exception of Australia/Asia) Florida could provide both a convenient travel point (for both International and domestic travelers) as well as combine the possibility of a family vacation in the Sunshine State.

Seven years later, AstriCon 2015 granted my wish and I attended Astricon2015 in beautiful Orlando, Florida.

Arrival and Setup

I arrived in Orlando on Monday, meeting up with Alex Balyshov on my way to the hotel. Since I drove from Gainesville, picking Alex up at the airport just made sense.

The conference, held this year at Loews Royal Pacific Resort (at Universal Studios), would actually start on Tuesday (with most technical sessions starting on Wednesday). The Kamailio project had been offered some exhibition space in the open source section of the expo and I would need to help Daniel (@miconda) with the set-up.

Daniel had already arrived and we met-up for a uninspiring lunch at Margaritaville. After short walk back to the hotel, we checked out the expo space.

This year, the Kamailio project would be sharing the open source area with the Homer project and the folks from OpenSIPS. We found our table, set-up the banners, and the next morning would return with some electronics and cookies (Yeni generously donated some Asterisk and Kamailio cookies).

Astricon Begins

Tuesday comes with a “softer” start—no keynotes, no breakfast. We finished the set-up of the Kamailio booth and the expo room quickly became a pre-networking event among the participants.

FreePBX brought “a few” phones, Twilio arrived, Digium (of course), and regular participants of the Asterisk community all found themselves in the expo hall.

I used this time to (unwisely) upgrade my laptop to Jessie for (what I could only imagine) seemed like a good idea at the time. That being said, being in the expo hall allowed me to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in years.

Note I didn’t say colleagues, peers, business vendors… I said friends. Asterisk, as an open source project, needs a strong community to grow, strengthen, and stay relevant. As a community, we share our discoveries and encourage others to build on them as well as find their “own path.”

You develop friendships with others in the community and Astricon creates a great environment to meet with each other. Normally, we communicate by IRC, email, conference calls, or other remote methods of communication. Every now and then, it’s good to meet up and have a beer (or two).

“Wow Fred, you really put on some weight,” is something best delivered face to face.

Fred Speaks at Astricon

This year, I was honored to attend Astricon as a speaker, presenting “Expanding Asterisk with Kamailio.” I’ve tweeted, blogged, promoted, and discussed Why I love Kamailio for years, and presenting at Astricon allowed me to share the benefits of two projects that I work and consult with often.

I was humbled by the attendance and reaction—again, it’s an honor to present and to represent software that means so much to me was just (simply) a great experience.

I get pretty calm before speaking—not sure why. In high school, I remember absolutely hating public speaking. Today? Not a problem at all. No fear, no nerves… I actually enjoy it.

So, pre-talk I do the once over of my presentation; making sure the equipment functions, slides look good on screen, notes appear where they should, sound works, etc. Making sure equipment functions (test, test, test) really helps you focus on the talk itself.

I started to look around the room and noticed familiar faces. Having Daniel in the audience did provide a small “intimidation” factor (much as if you were to let’s say discus the benefits of using a Tesla in front of Elon Musk). It was great to see that the familiar faces were being drowned out by new, unfamiliar faces.

The talk started, went as planned, and I was generally pleased with how it went. (watch it here)

Friends Have Different Opinions

One of my favorite comments from the talk came from Alberto Sagredo (@albersag). He tweeted a photo of Brian West (@briankwest), of FreeSWITCH, introducing me before the Kamailio talk.

@freeswitch introducing #kamailio @fredposner. Curious 🙂 all we are friends

My response was simple:

Yup. No reason not to be friends.

Sure, you could look at FreeSWITCH as a “competitor” of Asterisk and perhaps in the past there may have been some “intense” looks—but I’ve never been to an Astricon without Brian. Brian was one of the first people I met at an Astricon and someone who exemplifies the spirit of community.

Also, I’m not someone who believes you can only use Asterisk or FreeSWITCH. Some people, like yours truly, believe you can (and should) use both.

Years ago, I became frustrated with the lack of “movement” of Asterisk. I’ve said many times, I’m not a programmer. I try to help the project with documentation, sharing examples, and reporting/assisting with bug fixes; but the programming is best handled by true programmers.

In large scale deployments, especially when interacting with databases, Asterisk had a tendency to lock; sometimes even requiring the system to be physically rebooted to recover. Granted there were tools to work around these issues, but some of the code in Asterisk was starting to show it’s age.

FreeSWITCH introduced an alternate choice based on a more modular design. At the time, it resolved many of the SIP and locking issues I would see in large scale deployments. I began to deploy a combination of FreeSWITCH, Asterisk, and Kamailio and (even with the major improvements in Asterisk) still do so today.

This doesn’t mean that FreeSWITCH doesn’t have problems—no solution is perfect. The best experts are familiar with more than one tool to accomplish a client goal.

Bottom line here is that at Astricon, even “competing” projects can be friends.

Friends Don’t Drink Alone

From dinners to social hours, Astricon remains a friendly community. Digium generally sponsors a fun night for all, but even when walking around, new friends are simply a “hello” away.

As with every Astricon I have ever attended, I left the conference with more friends than when I started.

If you’ve never attended an Astricon, and have any interest in Asterisk (or VoIP), I urge you to join me next year at Astricon2016.