Asterisk Ramblings

This page will house my random ramblings about neat things you can do to make your asterisk installation more useful for art.

For the last 4-5 years, developing asterisk voicemail ‘bots’ has been a fun hobby to help confuse scammers and provide audio for use in future bots.

Initially captivated by the previously-shipped “It’s Lenny” voicemail bot, where an old Australian man tells you about his daughters and how proud he is of them, we began work on a clone in the voice of Miriam, known as ‘MiriamBot’.

Over two years, the MiriamBot got tuned with new phrases and re-tooling of the one-sided conversation that Lenny was so infamous for. Minor changes were made to the narrative that Lenny follows, to account for Miriam not being Lenny, nor a complete 1:1 copy, as per the nature of Miriam’s personality.

This page hopes to offer you ideas on how to better make use of voicemail bots, and other neat things you can do to make things more… interesting for people who call you back.

Voicemail Tweaks

Typically, if you follow the age-old “It’s Lenny” installation instructions, you’ll start by creating a custom extension within the extensions_custom.ini file – Something like the below might look somewhat similar to what you have for ItsLenny.

[oldManXmas]
exten => talk,1,Set(i=${IF($[“0${i}”=”23”]?7:$[0${i}+1])})
same => n,ExecIf($[${i}=1]?MixMonitor(${UNIQUEID}${CALLERID(num)}.wav,r(${UNIQUEID}${CALLERID(num)}oldManXmas_in.wav)t(${UNIQUEID}${CALLERID(num)}_oldManXmas_out.wav)))
same => n,Playback(oldManXmas/${i})
same => n,BackgroundDetect(JobAppBot/backgroundnoise,500)

a custom extension with some useful options for file-naming

In the above example, the first line, ‘[oldManXmas]’ is the name of the Custom Destination that you need to create within your FreePBX install, under the Admin menu. In there, you’ll need to set a few things, mainly to direct the asterisk software to connect the Custom Destination to the voicemail bot, with instructions to have the bot answer, talk, wait 1 second, and then continue.

the MixMonitor section is the major bit of change in this example versus the “It’s Lenny” 4-liner that’s floating around. This line includes options to split the voicemail audio into 2 legs, so you get an ‘in’ and ‘out’ audio file, as well as the original mono call, and the 2 legs are labeled with the name of the bot, so that it’s easier to tell which bot got the call. This is useful for instant-replay situations and to help organize hilarious results more quickly. It’s also incredibly useful for creating new bots.

The example, oldManXmas, is a brand-new bot created from call audio acquired through these modifications of the standard custom extension configuration.

Note: The bot itself has not been tested on unsuspecting people yet, so it’s too early to tell if it’s a good one (the call was hilarious, so we think it will hit it off! (Created and put into use on 28 December 2022)

You can look at the example above as a sort of scripted sequence that gets initiated by the Custom Destination – which needs to have something like the below set up to work at all:

oldManXmas,talk,1

Custom Destination name needs to be set to <botName>,talk,1 in order to execute the custom extension’s scripted sequence

Typically, this is all you need to have a bot waiting for incoming connections, however you may wish to send people to extensions, so typically, a new extension with no new user is created, and pointed to the Custom Destination created above. This can be useful if you wish to ‘pull in’ a bot during a phone call, by simply dialing an extension on your phone system.

It’s a good idea to alert people that they are on a recorded line. You can set this up via many different methods built-in to FreePBX/IncrediblePBX, with either an interactive menu or scripted sequence. There’s too many methods to list here.

Now What?

Now you’ve got voicemails in mono, as well as ‘in’ and ‘out’ files, labelled with the UniqueID, CallerID, and botName in the filename. You can take the In and Out labelled files and put them in an audio editor, assign them left and right speaker positions, or mix them mono with volume-correction on crummy incoming phone lines.

This is how each episode of the show is mixed, so why not voicemails too? No longer do quiet phonelines need to be penalized when they call the bots – now you can raise their volume, and offer isolated audio for soundbites to use in later calls or hand it out for artists to use.

The goal here is to make funny audio more accessible. We like to get reactions, and capture that lightning in a bottle, for later use!

Take from this what you will, it’s written for educational purposes only. Check out the Angry Man Bot page for an example of an earlier bot that does wonders for capturing scammers and other annoyances. The instructions need a bit of an update based on what’s been written on this page.

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