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Mac Mini becomes Linux-based IP PBX

Oct 16, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 9 views

[Updated Oct. 17, 2006] — An East German company will soon begin selling an IP-PBX setup based on a Mac Mini running Linux. 4S Newcom's Blue4S package comes with an iPod Shuffle that acts as a boot device for the Mac Mini, plus five Linux-based phones.

(Click for larger view of Blue4S)

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The Blue4S package uses the iPod Shuffle as a boot device for the Mac Mini. The Shuffle boots the Mini into a Linux From Scratch environment that also includes 4S Newcom's “4S IP PBX” software. The Linux OS and IP PBX software can optionally be installed directly onto the Mac Mini's hard drive, after which the Shuffle can serve as an emergency repair disk — and as “the world's most elegant MP3 player,” according to 4S Newcom.

4S Newcom spun off from Snom, a Berlin-based company that has long sold Linux-based VoIP business phones. The Blue4S package also includes five of Snom's Snom300 model, a basic but programmable business phone featuring a simple, menu-driven user interface, browser interface, two-port switch, four-way navigation button, and a simple, two-line LCD display.

Typically, small IP PBXs such as the Blue4s connect to external networks through PCI cards such as ISDN BRIs (basic rate interface) or GSM radio cards. However, the Blue4S has no PCI slot. Asked about external network connectivity, “Harry,” a press officer at 4S, explained, “You connect through VoIP, i.e. it gets provisioned with a trunk (which is an inbound number, which is also used for outbound calling). The trunk connects it to a carrier platform (until here it's all SIP). The carrier platform (e.g. 4S ITSP Solution) handles the NAT traversal.”

4S Newcom's iBlack
(Click to enlarge)

Harry adds, “We also offer the big brother (Black4S, pictured at right), which has one PCI slot (no moving parts btw.). We equip that with a quadGSM or quadBRI (4 ISDN ports) for SME environments. And for rack-mounted environments you can obviously run [the 4S IP PBX software] on any Intel server.”

The 4S IP PBX software that runs on the Mac Mini includes a web-based user interface described as “slick and intuitive.” It lets administrators configure inbound number blocks, users, extensions, outbound routing, and advanced features such as auto attendant, voicemail, and conferencing, according to 4S Newcom.

Additional touted IP PBX features include:

  • SIP proxy, registrar, and location server according to RFC3261
  • Automatic forwarding
  • Music on hold
  • Multi-user telephone conferences
  • Voicemail
  • Auto-attendant
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
  • Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)
  • Low-rate codecs
  • Maintenance via web interface
  • Call hunting
  • Dialog agent
  • Speed dial
  • Available for Linux and Windows 2000/XP

Dr. Harry Behrens, managing director of 4S Newcom, says, “We have put our complete IP PBX on [the iPod Shuffle]. It is so compact that even on the smallest iPod Shuffle (512 MB) enough room is left for four full hours of music.”

Behrens adds, “Conventional PBX systems at this configuration cost ten times as much.”

4S Newcom claims that its Blue4S is the “world's smallest IP PBX.” However, a Netstix running AstLinux is obviously much, much smaller.


The Blue4S entry level system will ship Nov. 6, priced at 3,000 Euros (approx. $3,750), according to the company. It includes a Mac Mini, iPod Shuffle, five Snom300 phones, and a 4S IP PBX license for up to 250 users, and 30 parallel calls.

The launch is timed to correspond with the VON Europe trade show in Berlin, Nov. 6-8.

Fifty-one percent of the first thousand systems sold will be donated to the VoIP Competence Center at the Technical University of Dresden. Behrens comments, “We are an East German company and like to invest in the local human capital.”

4S Newcom changed the name of its product from “iBlue” to “Blue4S” in early November.

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