Last year I found a few articles on how to setup Skype to work with a PBX like Asterisk or FreeSWITCH. This last weekend, I finally got Skype working using my home phones. The solution was tested on Windows and deployed on a Linux PC. I’ve deployed it on Linux as a replacement to expensive home phone service. Using Windows introduces many undesired issues for me (stability, license costs, etc).
I wanted the ability to extend this solution beyond a simple 1 line phone in the future, possibly adding a PBX and other PBX capabilities around this Skype-at-home use.
- Use normal home phones just like regular phones. Making and receiving calls like you’d expect. Visitors to your home don’t need any instructions to make phone calls (except 911).
- Setup speed dial entries to both Skype and normal telephones. It would probably be useful to create 911 speed dial entries to your local police or fire department switchboards
- Cheapest home phone solution that I’ve discovered that doesn’t demand tracking of your web traffic.
I’ve been interested in saving some money on home phone service since around 2001 when I dropped the babybell service for a VoIP solution. Over the years, I’ve switched providers and ended up with the cable company phone service to get the best quality for the buck. Now they’ve raised the prices and I’m looking again. I’m not interested in Vonage at $25/month when a $3/month plan will cover me. Further, I already own the necessary equipment to get this all working. You may already own the equipment too.
It always seemed that a $3/month SkypeOut account could be linked to a PBX (Asterisk/FOSS) to make this happen. A few months ago, I asked about this on Lifehacker, but didn’t get any acceptable answers.
If you are a smart phone user AND a Linux nerd, you WANT a Nokia N900.
Here’s a very detailed review, perhaps too detailed.
The highights are:
- CDMA (tri mode) and GSM (quad mode) cellular phone with 3G data speeds
- WiFi supported
- Linux – full multitasking; listen to music, surf the web, download files, and 5 other apps at the same time, no need to close apps to do something else* take that Apple lovers
- GPS and GeoCache-ready apps
- QWERTY Keyboard take that Apple lovers
- SDHC expansion memory, easily swapped, 32GB internal plus external slot
- 800×480 screen take that Apple lovers
- 3D graphic acceleration
- 5Mpix Camera with near HD-quality video
- User swappable battery take that Apple lovers
- Plays almost any video or audio media take that Apple lovers
- 1,000s of free Linux apps – lots of software is an understatement; xterm, PDF, RDP, VNC, games, Office/Productivity, IM, RSS
- Excellent VoIP and Skype support (Ovi, Google Talk, Jabber, and SIP) take that Apple lovers
- Connects to your MS-Exchange server including Calendaring
- Oh, and all the things you expect from a PDA – contacts, calendars, email,
The review compared the keyboard to that of another Nokia phone, but I’d like a comparison with a Blackberry QWERTY keyboard, which I consider FANTASTIC for thumb typing. I’m curious about built-in security features too, though a lock code is standard.
The only downsides to this device are:
- Data plan needed (monthly cost)
- Unclear that any subsidy will be provided by any cellular provider.
- Unlocked price – $584 on Amazon. Ouch.
- Screen size reduced from 4.1" to 3.5" so it is about the size of an iPhone.
- No voice dialing?
- Java was not shipped with the device, but it is definitely available.
I’ve been using Google Voice, GV, and the prior GrandCentral for almost 3 years. The main thing that GV added was free transcriptions for calls and voice mail. This is great, when it works well, but not so great when the transcription is, shall we say, inaccurate.
Yesterday, a Comcast tech spent almost 3 hours at my home. Primarily, he installed their VoIP device onto my coax network. Along the way, he fixed a few other things …
- Phone service
- On-Demand to work (stopped working a few months ago)
What the tech did:
- Found and corrected a nick in the main coax to the street (nick was on the street side, not my house side).
- Added an amplifier to the coax network
- installed a SIP ATA/UPS in my breakfast room (my request)
- replaced a 10 year old cable to the digital cable box – he called it “blow back” on 1 end of it. That didn’t fix my on-demand.
- replaced a coax splitter on the HDTV
- Swapped out my old bundle for a new bundle – goodbye Dexter, hello Entourage.
- He didn’t have an HD cable box in the truck, so he said I needed a new one.
- All of us are on hold with the VOIP Install Team – 30 minutes! They finally answer and ask 5 trivial questions. This call was made using my new phone service.
Cost $0, besides the $39 install of the phone service.
- I log in to my old SIP service and forward all calls to the new temp Comcast number. Test. Working.
- Log in to GC and remove the old number and add the new number to my global phone service. Test. Working.
- Unplug my phone system from my ATA and plug into the house wiring. All phones are working.
The voice quality is as good or better than BellSouth ever was. $19.95/month with unlimited local and long distance. Since I did a bundle (internet, digital cable, phone, hbo/starz) the monthly price is fixed for 1 year. It should be $130/month. That is what I was paying without hbo/phone, but I had Showtime. So, for the same price, I get phone. I’ll miss shotime, but not that much. Of course, they tried to get me to get it all for $158/month – all channels – sports, HBO, SHO, MAX, TMC, STARZ, IFC, etc. everything. Perhaps after I get some income, who knows.
This morning, I:
- took the old HD cable box to the local Comcast and swapped it out. New box has firewire output too.
- Plugged everything back in … fixed the connections … HBO isn’t working – except on-demand. It works now. Reboot. Wait … HBO channels not working.
- Called Comcast … they answered quickly and immediately turned on the HBO and other services that weren’t working. Good.
- In need to figure out how to connect my laptop to the firewire port and record unencrypted QAM shows in HiDef.
While I had them on the phone, I complained that my internet speed didn’t test out anywhere near the advertised speed 8M/384K – I get 2M/180K. Transferred to the internet department … he looked at my devices and didn’t see any issues over the last 2 months except the occasional reboot. No errors. Time to schedule a tech. Monday.
Since last Friday (7/10/08), I’ve been experiencing problems with my paid VIOP service, voipgo.com. Goodbye voipgo.com
- Inbound calls don’t ring all the time. If I reboot the ATA and it registers, the phone will ring. 10 minutes later and calls are sent directly to voicemail.
- Oubound calls don’t go out. I get a busy signal – even to my cell phone number.
- VMS calls just get a “beep” like NASA uses or eventually a busy signal.
- Online chat support is never answered – it didn’t show as working for a few days
- The online chat initial connection appears to be non-English. Hacked?
- VMS website login was working earlier in the week – not anymore.
- Someone installed the wrong certificate on the myvoipgo.com website. They’re using the plain voipgo.com cert from Go Daddy.
- My internet is working perfectly. And has during all this testing. I’ve told my ATA about my new IP address since a power outage last week.
- Neither the Softphone nor the ATA aren’t working. I’ve double checked that g.729 is the preferred codec as my account is setup. It will fallback to g.711u/a or GSM.
- Yes, I can ping my defined SIP server AND Yes, the registration comes back as completed.
This setup worked when I left on vacation at the beginning of July. Nothing has changed.
This is the last time I’ll deal with phone issues. Comcast Voice will be installed later today and this is goodbye to VOIP from any small player. I can’t tell if it is there fault or perhaps Comcast is doing something to block SIP – I don’t know. I do know that I need phone service at the house.
Ok, so with all the traveling that I’m planning to do this year, I didn’t want to drag a laptop along, but still wanted to be relatively connected and recharged.
So I bought a Nokia N800. Comes with a worldwide charger and very long standby time for a device like this – 10 days. I know 14 days doesn’t work – recently left it in standby in my car as I went to Hong Kong for almost 2 weeks. I got to reset the date/time upon return.
The N800 is turning more and more into a multi protocol mobile communication device for WiFi connections. If you have a cell phone with a data plan, you can connect via bluetooth and usae it. I don’t.
- For the first day, I couldn’t get it to connect to my household Wifi. Thankfully, the 2nd day, it connected WPA2 and life was good.
- The web browser is really nice. Not just nice for a hand held, but nice for any platform. I have more trouble with Firefox on my laptop than I did with the built-in N800 browser.
- I spent toooo much time the first 3 days trying to find acceptable input methods (typing, stylist, handwriting recognition). I’ve decided to teach it the old Palm Graffiti. Well, that didn’t work – too much overlap between upper/lower/numbers, since letters and numbers aren’t entered into different parts of the screen.
- First thing I needed to do was upgrade the firmware from OS2007 to OS2008. Fairly easy and it seemed to be helpful with app compatibility.
- 2nd thing became obvious quick – I needed more disk. The included 128MB SD simply wasn’t any where near enough. Ordered an 8GB MicroSDHC.
- The default apps are lacking. Basically, it is a web browser with trivial video and audio playback. Oh, and you can IM lots of ways. I don’t IM, so who cares?
- That isn’t to say it didn’t come with other applications – it did. Email, SIP client, GoogleTalk, Skype, and a bunch of games that are worthless to me.
- The built-in contact manager is worthless. I’d be embarrassed if I were Nokia. Phone is an optional entry for each contact. Crazy. Even after I setup the SIP client, it insisted on using gtalk for phone calls. I HAVE A PAID SIP VOIP SERVICE! Let me use it!
- Ok, so I started grabbing free applications for this baby.
|Camera for quick picts||MPlayer for audio/video||GPS Mapping Software 3 kinds|
|ssh – fire, wheel, unix, ssh ….||a bunch of normal Linux tools||Weather|
|Claws for email||FBReader (an ebook and other file format reader – text if beautiful on this device)||PalmOS Virtual Machine|
|Voice Recorder (for quick voice recordings)||DiskUsage||Password Safe|
|rsync/grsync – fire, wheel, unix, ssh ….||HP 42 Calculator||FM Radio|
- The built-in video camera appears to be worthless. I loaded an app to snap pictures with it. Grainy is putting it nicely. For video conferencing, I could see where it may be nice, but I don’t do that today.
- FM Radio app – recently learned that the headphones are the antenna.
- GPS Mapping – there seems to be a bunch of software for this available. Probably due to the N810 having built-in GPS. Before I ran out of storage (128MB), I was able to get 1 size of detailed maps for Hong Kong and Atlanta. The zoom was bad, but what do you want when you’re missing 20+ detail levels? Can’t wait for that 8GB SD to arrive.
- I really need to get the SIP client working ASAP. I’d hate to be stuck without Skype-out as my phone when I’m out of the country. Also, wouldn’t it be cool if someone called my house and I answered when in Costa Rica or Hong Kong or Germany? That alone makes it worthwhile!
- IMAPS and SMTPS is working, but doesn’t work with my IMAP server folders … yet.
Ok, so what’s wrong that can’t easily (read free) be corrected?
- Sucky contact management – I’ve never seen anything this bad. Heck, an XLS file with autofilter is better. It is unacceptable for a pocket device with Skype, SIP, and email capabilities NOT to include a contact manager at least as good as Palm had in 1996!
- Text entry – the finger tip entry should be the default, not handwriting recognition or peck for letters. Palm Graffiti won’t work.
- Bluetooth N800 Keyboard for data entry, typing.
- How to delete the apps/games that I don’t want? Some that are part of the OS?
- How to reorder the applications in their lists and re-group them?
- Hotels have 100BT connections, not WiFi in the rooms – what am I to do since there’s no RJ-45 port? Ordered a tiny wifi router today.
They did do some things besides the browser well. 1-click installs using normal Linux tools, USB Drive when connected to a PC, SD memory (and all the smaller versions with SDHC up to 8GB), RSS feeds, Google search on the main page, World Clock shows local time based on where you click. There’s a bunch of GPS and phone connectivity stuff that I don’t plan to use too. Bluetooth connections for these devices is expected.
I’ll add more to other articles as I learn more. I’ve got to get a usable PIM app on this thing QUICK.
How much did this thing cost me? Nokia N800 Costs.
I was working through a problem with my VoIP service provider the other day and they recommended I trash my old ac-211 and switch to this device:
$57 Something about it working well and having good voice quality.
Ok, I’ve had this SIP ATA since before Xmas 2007 and never spent the time to get it working perfectly until this weekend (late May 2008). Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned by testing it at the front and inside my network.
- g.729 is a nice codec for VoIP/SIP. You may have to request it to be enabled so your account can use it. g.729 is high quality with low bandwidth – see my [[VoIP Codec and Bandwidth]] table here.
- if you use g.729, then your softphone probably won’t support it. G.711 may be your only choice – at a higher bandwidth cost 80 v. 30.
- For troubleshooting, I began by placing my HT-502 outside my router – as the 1st device after the ISP modem.
- it worked here, I setup my router as a DMZ so the website, email, and other hobby stuff would continue to work.
- however, there was a problem – bandwidth was limited!!!! My normal 2.5Mbps down was capped at 120kbps down. UNACCEPTABLE
- I moved it behind my router with a static IP address on my internal network. I verified all the needed firewall ports were opened (basically 5060) (see elsewhere on this site for more details) … and I began testing.
- No joy. I played with all sorts of settings that the Grandstream HT-502 supported – no joy — until I set the NAT IP Address
- The NAT IP needs to be set to your public IP address. This setting allows the SIP protocol to include the IP inside SIP packets and not trust NAT. My ISP uses DHCP, but my IP address hardly ever changes, say once every 3 years, so I’m golden. VoIP/SIP is working. I can make and receive phone calls. Provided my network is quite, it sounds better than a really good cell phone with very little bandwidth used.
- Next was to configure the QoS for the best voice/data bandwidth trade off possible.
- I use DD-WRT in my cheap router. It supports QoS. I configured it so all traffic is listed as bulk except SIP traffic, which gets Premium service. Just to be safe, I setup the MAC Address for the ATA with premium service level bandwidth too.
- Now, the test is to run a full down/up broadband speedtest – using someone other than your ISP. My results came back as 2450kbps down and 220kbps up Not stellar, but it works. Inside the dd-wrt settings, you configure what your actual bandwidth is – using 85% of each to be safe. So for me, thats around 2000/190. Enter those values in the Applications & Gaming —> Quality of Service tab.
- I called a friend and chatted with them while running the bandwidth speedtest again. Wonderful!
- Next, I discovered that my voicemail access wasn’t working because the DTMF tones couldn’t be understood. My DTMF settings that work are:
- DTMF Payload Type: 101
- DTMF in audio: Yes
- DTMF via RFC2833: No
- DTMF via SIP INFO: Yes
I hope this helps someone – anyone else. As usual, your mileage may vary with any of this data based on your equipment, software, firmware, technical skill and service providers. If you are really stuck, drop me an email and I’ll help if I can (but I’m not a support service either).
Voice Over IP – Voice Over Internet Protocol.
Basically, using your Internet connection for really cheap phone service.
Sunrocker and ‘Vonage’:http://vonage.com/ are popular providers. Sunrocker has gone out of business.
There’s also a free one-number service . These folks give you a local number (u chose it) that you control where and when it rings on other phones. I use it to ring the house, cell, and work phones simultaneously. It also announces callers, so i can send folks to voicemail if I can’t speak to them right then. The system has many other features and is currently free.
SunRocket was my VoIP provider. They’ve run a number of specials – most recently $199 for 2 years of unlimited service
Let me know if you want to sign up. A referral would be much appreciated.
August 2007 Update — They’ve gone out of business. I kept my Gizmo and moved to a new, monthly only, provider. That provider has some problems. If I figure them all out, I’ll post an entry here.