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.:: Introduction To Octel's ASPEN ::.

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Current issue : #45 | Release date : 1994-03-30 | Editor : Erik Bloodaxe
IntroductionErik Bloodaxe
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Title : Introduction To Octel's ASPEN
Author : Optik Nerve
                              ==Phrack Magazine==

                 Volume Five, Issue Forty-Five, File 23 of 28


                           AN INTRODUCTION TO OCTELS
                                BY OPTIK NERVE

The Automatic SPeech Exchange Network, or ASPEN for short, is a high
performance voice processing system which interfaces and integrates with a
variety of PBX and Central Office (CO) equipment. Interfaced systems require
the caller to enter an extension, while integration provides a personal
greeting automatically. Both of these provide the ability to return to the
operator if necessary. ASPEN systems offer voice mail, Information Center
Mail-Boxes (ICMB), Enhanced Call Processing (ECP), networking, and
transaction processing. The Aspen, Branch, Branch XP, and VPC 100 hardware
is only significantly different in their port and drive capacities. The
following information is presented to introduce an overview of the hardware
in an ASPEN system, and its function for it as a whole. This is not a
"how-to" file and you will not find anything related to fraud in this


Each ASPEN system contains the main cardcage, the I/O cardcage, the drives,
power supplies, and the system manager terminal. The system manager printer
is optional. ASPEN hardware consists of:

    o  CPU Board
    o  File card
    o  Line board
    o  Telephone Interface Card (TIC)
    o  Scanner board
    o  Winchester drives
    o  Power supplies
    o  System manager terminal
    o  System manager printer (optional)

The cardcages of the system contain the following boards, each identifiable
by a unique color coded tab indicating the slot into which the board fits.


    o  CPU (yellow)
    o  File card (dark green)
    o  Line boards (light green)


    o  Scanner board (pink)
    o  TICs (purple)


The following subsections present a functional description of the
characteristics considered standard on ASPEN system hardware.

The CPU board contains a microprocessor with access to one megabyte of
RAM. It is identical, in function, to a personal computers' CPU,
executing instructions, and controlling serial I/O to the scanner board
and system manager terminal.

System communication between the boards uses three main buses: the control
bus, the data bus, and the polling/status bus. The eight megahertz control bus
works on a request/response procotol; for each 16 byte message sent by the
CPU to a board, a 16 byte response must be sent back to the CPU. The data bus
moves large amounts of data (20KB transfers) between the CPU, file card, and
line boards at eight megahertz. All digitized speech to and from the line
boards and file card travel on this bus. The polling/status control bus is
used only between the scanner board and TICs. The scanner board polls each TIC
port for an on-hook/off-hook status every ten milliseconds.

The file card controls the drives and is the primary system file manager.
The file card controls the Winchester ST-506 interface. The file card also
stores frequently used prompts of less than three seconds in a speech cache

The line board contains microprocessors with access to 128KB of RAM. The
line board has four channels, each matching a channel on a TIC. The Aspen may
contain as many as six line boards, but this is limited to four, and even
two on lower end Aspen models. Line boards perform several important
functions including: encoding and decoding of digitized speech, tone
detection, DTMF detection, silence detection, speed control, and DTMF tone
generation. Speech is encoded at a rate of 25K samples per second using Delta
modulation. Each of the four channels on the line board has a tone detection
circuit, which detects dial, busy, reorder, and ringback tones generated by
most PBXs and COs. The proprietary design limits talk-off during message
playback.  Talk-off may occur when the voice generates tones similar to DTMF
tones.  Silence detection recognizes spaces between words so that the voice
message can be compressed for disk storage, optimizing disk space. The
system also recognizes silence during message recording and prompts the user
to continue.  The line board controls message playback speed without
affecting voice frequency pitch by controlling the amount of silence
between words.  Playback can be normal, slow, or fast. The line board is
equipped with a tone generator used for dialing when ASPEN places an
outcall or transfers a call.

The Telephone Interface Cards (TICs) provide interfaces to either the
Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) including CO, or to a PBX. In
most installations, the TIC emulates a regular telephone to the PBX or the
CO.  Octel Communications has special TICs that emulate electronic digital
sets in a Mitel PBX and ROLM PBX. The four channels on a TIC connect
directly to the four channels on a line board. The TICs use transformers to
provide electrical isolation to protect the line board and the network or PBX.
The TICs communicate with the scanner board through the polling/status
control bus located on the I/O backplane.

The scanner board, as mentioned above,  communicates with all TICs through
the polling/status control bus. By continually polling all TIC channels, the
scanner board detects new incoming calls and reports this change in status
information to the CPU board though one of the four serial I/O ports. It also
provides RS-232 data connection to the PBX when required, and the serial I/O
port which interfaces the system managers terminal with the CPU. The scanner
board includes a built in modem used to remotely access the system
administration functions. The local system manager terminal and the modem
circuit share the same serial I/O port, and the first connection has priority
over the second. (ie: If the modem is connected, the local system manager
terminal cannot access the system)

The system manager terminal is used to enter and change information within
the system database. The system manager terminal is a Wyse 50 terminal
used by ASPEN to report administrative information. The printer is an
optional device used to produce a hard copy of output produced.

The Disk Communicator provides connections between the file card and the
drives. If more than four drives are installed, a multiplexer (MUX)
communicator board selects the four drives in the first cabinet and the
four drives in the second cabinet.

These drives store system software, mailboxes, voice prompts, messages, and
greetings. Octel Communications uses its own formatting technique and disk
controllers. Standard drives are formatted for a capacity of 60, 90, or 190
megabytes. The drives (0-1) contains all software and voice prompts needed to
operate the system.

The ASPEN power supply is located in the center of the system housed in a
single case, which actually contains two supplies. One supplies +5/-5 and
+12/-12 volts to the boards, while the other provides +12 volts for the
drive motors. There are no replaceable fuses in an ASPEN system. If the
current draw or input voltage reaches a defined level, the power supply
turns itself off automatically, necessitating a reset of a single circuit

The Woobox and the PBX Integration Device (PID) provide integration to
different PBXs. These devices stand alone and are peripheral to the ASPEN
chassis. ASPEN integrates with the AT&T Systems 75 and 85 using an A/PID.


The following is a general description of a typical call through ASPEN and
the boards involved in the process:

  o  Subscriber dials the ASPEN pilot number, either directly or is
     forwarded to APSEN by the PBX.
  o  A TIC senses ring voltage and raises a flag to indicate an
     incoming call.
  o  The scanner board polls all TICs for change of status using the
     polling/status control bus and detects the raised flag.
  o  The scanner board commands the TIC to answer the call (go off-hook)
     by sending a command on the polling/status control bus
  o  The scanner board alerts the CPU board of an incoming call
     by sending port identification information over the serial
     I/O port.
  o  The CPU commands the corresponding port on the line board to
     begin listening for DTMF tones, silence, or dial tone. The line
     board informs the CPU of call process through the control bus.
  o  The CPU commands the file card to send digitized voice prompts,
     "Hello, this is ASPEN...", over the data bus to the proper
     port on the line board. The line board converts these prompts
     to analog and passes them to the TIC
  o  The caller dials the desired destination number through DTMF.
     The line board interprets these and passes the information
     to the CPU.
  o  The CPU instructs the file card to find the user record of the called
     party, check for the location of the personal greeting, retrieve the
     greeting, and pass it to the line board. The line board converts the
     greeting to analog and passes it to the TIC
  o  After the greeting plays, the caller records a message. The line board
     digitizes speech and stores it in buffers of six seconds each (20KB)
  o  Using the control bus, the CPU sets a data bus transfer between the line
     board and file card. The file card decides which drive has the most free
     space and where to wire this message. The six seconds of digitized speech
     is transferred from the line board to the file card. The file card then
     writes the six second segment to the disk. This process continues until
     the caller finishes the message.
  o  The file card updates the user record of the called party by placing 11
     bytes in the mailbox. The 11 bytes define the message location on the
     disk, sender, time, priority, and length.
  o  The caller terminates the call by pressing the one key
  o  The line board informs the CPU through the control bus that the call has
     been terminated
  o  The CPU commands the file card to send the good-bye prompt to the line
     board which converts it to analog and passes it to the TIC
  o  The CPU commands the scanner board to disconnect that port
  o  The scanner board commands the TIC to hang-up (go on-hook) through the
     polling/status control bus
  o  The scanner board continues polling all TIC ports for change of status


I hope this information provides you with a more solid background of
how the ASPEN system functions. The basic aspects of this system can also
apply to other similar PBX interfaces. Although the above information
cannot really be used for anything illegal, I have provided it, for
informational purposes, to those who "feed" on telco-bits as I do.

Greets go out to: Ludichrist, Squarewave, the ID-Crew,
                  #hack, and #phreak

You can reach me at nerve@netaxs.com, but please use my following
public key to encrypt all mail before sending it. Thank you...

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