While I really like all of the things that Asterisk allows me to do with my phone system, I’m really not very fond of its configuration language. The language provided in Asterisk 1.0 is slightly better then sendmail.cf, but it’s still a lousy language. They made a few small improvements early in the Asterisk 1.2 development process that helped a bit, but I assumed that we’d have to wait for another year or two before someone broke down and wrote a decent language for Asterisk.

It looks like I may have been overly pessimestic. I discovered the Asterisk extension language on a list of new features for Asterisk 1.2 today. Somehow I’d missed this when it first went into Asterisk.

Here’s a chunk out of my old config file. It’s not perfect, but it’s what you get when you’re stuck dealing with line numbers:

  exten => s,1,AbsoluteTimeout(7200)
  exten => s,n,SetAMAFlags(default)
  exten => s,n(analog),Dial(${TRUNK}/${ARG1})
  exten => s,n,Congestion
  exten => s,analog+101,Macro(condsetcid)
  exten => s,n,SetCIDName(LAIRD SCOTT)
  exten => s,n,SetAMAFlags(billing)
  exten => s,n(nufone),Dial(${NUFONE}/1${ARG1})
  exten => s,n,Congestion
  exten => s,nufone+101,Busy

And here’s the equivalent using the new configuration language:

macro diallocal( number ) {
    SetCIDName("LAIRD SCOTT");
    switch(${DIALSTATUS}) {
      case BUSY:

It’s still not ideal–${VAR} is ugly–but it’s vastly better then the old syntax. This plus a bit of Rails integration should give us a really nice phone environment. I’m rapidly approaching the “tear it down and rebuild it” point with my Asterisk system–there’s a lot of stuff that I’d like to add that just doesn’t fit in with my current configuration files–so I’ll have a set of articles on integrating Asterisk, AEL, and Rails in a few weeks.