Oh, FusionPBX, how you vex me

Reinstalling any piece of software is never fun, but that’s especially true when you are starting over from scratch with a piece of software that seems to take forever to install. And when you get to almost the end of the process and then f–k it up, that really doesn’t make your day.

I decided to reinstall FusionPBX because I regretted a couple of choices I had made during the initial install. I realized that I would rather use Apache than the default Nginx for serving web pages, and also that I’d prefer to use MySQL rather than SQlite for the database. It was the latter choice that got me into trouble. Near the end of the install, this screen appeared (click on it to enlarge the image):

I especially want you to note the last few lines of the above image, which tell you what to do on the second page of the web-based part of the installation, which looks like this:

Note that the two fields mentioned at the bottom of the first image are the bottom two fields on this image.  So I filled in just those two fields, but not Database Name, Database Username, or Database password, because the first screen didn’t tell me to and because I didn’t know what I was supposed to put in those fields.  I figured that if I was missing something necessary, it would tell me and return me to that page and let me enter the missing information.  Oh, how foolish of me to think that!

What actually happened was that it printed out a screen with nothing but a bunch of MySQL error messages, and if I tried to use the back button in the browser to go back and try again, it the gave me a page with nothing on it but the background (no login screen).  After a couple of hours effort, I was well and totally screwed, and basically had to go back and start from scratch, because I had no idea how to recover from this.

My biggest complaint about FusionPBX is that they assume far too much knowledge on the part of the user, and often it’s knowledge that the user would have no way to obtain.  I couldn’t find anything on their wiki about what needed to be entered on the above screen when installing FusionPBX and MySQL, nor could I find anything that worked on how to recover from a bad install (removing config.php, as suggested on one page I found, did NOT do it because apparently the MySQL part of the installation had been partially, but not completely finished).

So if you noticed that I sort of stopped posting articles about FusionPBX, it’s because I am just finding that everything I try to do is taking me far too long, and I just get tired of all the assumptions of what I should know, when the fact is that I don’t know and the documentation doesn’t tell me what I need to know.  As I write this I am tired, and not just a little ticked that this install blew up in my face, so to speak.

Of course, if anyone had this issue before and it had been documented in an online forum, I could (hopefully) find that by using a search engine and perhaps have found out what was supposed to go in these fields.  But if someone asked in IRC and it was explained to them, well, that explanation is gone forever, and at the times when I try to do things like this IRC always tends to be like a ghost town.

EDIT: I submitted an “issue” about this, and was a little perplexed by the response posted by FusionPBX author Mark J. Crane:

Certainly this can and will be improved as time permits. Priority of database support in FusionPBX is in this order PostgreSQL, SQLite, and MySQL. The order of ease if use is SQLite, PostgreSQL, MySQL. Native support in FreeSWITCH is SQLite and PostgreSQL was recently added and MySQL is unlikely to get native support in FreeSWITCH because the libraries to do it are GPL however it is still possible to use via ODBC.

As I said before this will be improved as time and resources allow.

I hate to say it but I’m starting to more and more think that this author just doesn’t get it. When you are a user and you are following an “Easy Install” script and it offers you three choices for database server, you assume all three are pretty much equally supported unless there is some statement to the contrary. Here he’s making it sound like MySQL is a low priority and not fully supported, but he’s not at all addressing the fact that the Easy Install script offers all three as choices, yet if you pick MySQL it will not work and will screw up your installation. “Time and resources” were available for someone to put it into the “Easy” install script as a choice, but not to make it actually work, and this response suggests that the author really doesn’t care all that much if you have problems. Maybe it would take a lot of time and effort to make it work, but I’ll bet it would not take a lot of time to remove the MySQL choice from the Easy Install script until it does, which is something an author might do if he were the slightest bit considerate of his users.

F—k it. I’m through with FusionPBX. It’s just not ready for “users” yet. I’m not saying it won’t work well enough for some people, especially the types that still look upon software installation as a challenge or a game, where part of the “fun” is getting it all to work. But if you’re expecting to just install and go, and have everything work as it should, you might be sadly disappointed.

6 Comments

  1. “Of course, if anyone had this issue before and it had been documented in an online forum, I could (hopefully) find that by using a search engine and perhaps have found out what was supposed to go in these fields. But if someone asked in IRC and it was explained to them, well, that explanation is gone forever, and at the times when I try to do things like this IRC always tends to be like a ghost town.”

    The MySql install questions are the typical ones used e.g. installing WordPress as well so experience doing other installs would have helped. Yes, the install script should halt if you don’t supply the data. You should submit an Issue to FusionPBX to correct that.

    For casual users such as yourself, IMHO Linux is not the choice to make but we already discussed that. BTW Windows 8 is only $40 until Jan 2013, already bought 1 copy, will buy another for use in VM’s

  2. FusionPBX had a forum for quite a while, however is was not well utilized and is now gone. Forums require an extra level of effort that a 1-person project can’t provide. So IRC is it for now. There are IRC channels that provide archives, e.g. OpenWRT, perhaps a question to ask Mark?

  3. Gerrit, I did submit an issue, which can be viewed here. Of course it doesn’t inspire confidence that a fix will be forthcoming anytime soon when there are 96 unresolved issues as I write this, some of which seem fairly serious. One of the reasons I keep suggesting a forum is because that’s one way to build a community, and out of a community you get talented people that might be able to assist with your project, and particularly with fixing bugs. IRC is more like a “drive by” situation, where you come in, hopefully get the information you need (which is not available for anyone else to see, except for those on the channel at that time), and then leave, and your messages are gone forever. Do you think that something like PBX in a Flash would be anywhere near as popular as it is without their forums? If the FusionPBX forum was not well utilized, there was probably a reason for that (it might have been crappy forum software that made it difficult to use, and drove potential users away. In my opinion, sites like BroadbandReports.com and PBX in a Flash both have great forum software – the two are very different but what they have in common is that they are easy to use, and it’s easy to follow particular threads of interest without needing to wade through a bunch of other messages that may be of no interest at all).

    If you read the bottom of the issue I submitted, you will see what is basically my response to your comment:

    A plea to all concerned with the FusionPBX project: PLEASE do not assume that new users have ANY experience at all in creating or using databases, at least not on anything more than an extremely superficial level (which is to say, you use software that uses a database, but you neither know nor care anything about the database as long as it works). I’ve used Asterisk@Home and its successors for several years and I could probably count the times I’ve ever had the need to directly look at or modify the database on my fingers, and even then I used a tool such as phpMyAdmin or Webmin’s database browser to do it. I honestly have no clue how the other fields (not specified by the text in the Easy Install script) should be filled in. I’ve never directly created a database in my life, so why anyone would assume I should know how to fill in this information (or that it needs to be filled in at all) is beyond me…

    Please remember, it’s supposed to be an EASY install script, not a script where you get to the end and it all blows up because you make a mistake, because you assumed the script’s instructions told you EVERYTHING you needed to do!

    Also, please remember that at the outset of this I was trying to do something that would be repeatable by others. Buying an operating system to run a server is not something everyone wants to do, and you haven’t even suggested that doing so might help with this particular issue (would the Windows version somehow magically fill in those blanks with the correct information?). I’ve read a lot of negative things about Windows 8 in particular, and what about those who might find these articles after January, when I’m sure the price will be higher than $40 (unless perhaps Microsoft discovers they have come out with another dog version that no one wants, and decide to keep the price low just so they can make something off of it). Also, if someone wants to create a new .ISO file or a virtual machine image, they can’t do it using non-free software and still give it away.

    There are reasons people use Linux, and it’s not always just because they are either too cheap to buy an OS or have better ways to spend that money. If you want others to repeat what you have done, saying that they need to go out and buy something (particularly something intangible like software) is a good way to kill enthusiasm, and also to insure that they will be a whole lot MORE pissed off if they can’t get things to work as they need them to. I don’t want people pissed off at me because I told them to buy an operating system as part of the install process, and then they discovered that they are having as many issues with FusionPBX as I’ve had. I don’t care if you hate me because you don’t like my political views or my views on issues or religion, but it would really upset me if I caused people to waste money on something that in the end just won’t work for them.

  4. Also, I do understand that one person cannot develop software AND run a forum. And forums DO need to be effectively moderated, otherwise they can blow up into flame wars, and you also get the “resident expert” know-it-alls that want to play the role of forum guru even though half the time they are talking out of their ass, so to speak. Both BroadbandReports and the PBX in a Flash forum are pretty good about making sure that such people are persona non grata in their forums. But I have seen other forums where that’s not the case, much to their detriment. So it is a bit of a catch 22 – a decent forum will attract people, one or more of which might make a good moderator, but without a decent moderator at the beginning it’s hard to create a good forum in the first place. I don’t have an answer for that conundrum.

  5. It was not the forum sw, it was the effort required to monitor users, provide answers in 2 places (IRC and Forum) etc. It takes time and effort. And there is a wide range of users involved, those who know almost nothing and those who are experts. With only a few people actively involved in answering questions, something has to give.
    As to 96 issues, that might seem like a lot but some are marginal issues, some are enhancement requests, and there are of course more than 1 person working on resolving issues. The Linux scripts e.g. are supported by some users who find them useful. FS has over 400 open issues, perhaps not the best VoIP solution, if using that criteria? I managed defects on one Telco project, total of 25000 defects handled. It went into production with > 600 still active but they were all analyzed for risk. So I don’t find 96 a big number at all.

    BTW, Mark has already made the cidlookup.conf.xml align with the FusionPBX wiki with the wiki so I don’t have to do that now :-).

  6. Ian Smith said

    Hi.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one to hit this problem – and I’ve found their Wiki frustrating to find any help on this. I’ve ended up having to use the sqllite install (which I really don’t want) in order to get a working system for evaluation.

    Hope you get a meaningful reply to your issue ticket.

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