June 11, 2008 Leave a comment
This is how I do voip at my house. Before I start, here are some of the features so you don’t have to read the entire article before you figure out it’s something you don’t want to do:
- Free incomming calls from everyone
- Actual telephones can optionally be used to make the call
- Your computer can also optionally be used to make the call, though you should probably either use your computer or a telephone, unless you have some type of mind power.
- $0.019/min for outgoing calls to regular telephones (free for sip calls)
- Make use of grandcentral’s features http://www.grandcentral.com/home/features
- I also pay $4/year for caller id and I paid $50 for my telephones, $25 for my webcam, and $60 for my sip gateway. The advantage is these are one time costs, and I can reuse this equipment.
I’m sure this isn’t the best way, but it seems to work and was relatively easy to setup. The monthly cost turns out to be much much less than I was paying for my cellphone and also much cheaper (and better – though it takes more work) than going through some bozos like vonage. I will try to explain the details below. However, the short answer is gizmo, grandcentral, some hardware, and some software.
For my voip network I chose gizmo5. There are alternatives out there, but gizmo is cheap, it uses sip, and the client works on linux. I also seriously considered ekiga, but couldn’t figure out how to call regular phone numbers with it (doesn’t mean it’s not possible – but it’s not obvious how to do it). I also looked into skype, which just doesn’t compare.
Gizmo also has some cool features like the ability to record calls.
Gizmo’s website is located at http://gizmo5.com. They give sip to sip calls for free, and charge .02 for outgoing. They charge ~$30/year to reserve a local number, which you can optionally buy so you have a local telephone number. I chose not to do this and use grandcentral instead (see below). The disadvantage is people in my neighborhood have to use long distance to call me. It’s really unimportant to me though, as most of my friends and family primarily use cellphones or voip.
Note for your phone to work, this step is optional. However, this computer client can be used to make and receive calls from regular telephones.
For my computer, I bought a webcam. My model was the logitech quickcam communicate STX from newegg. Both the built-in microphone and the camera worked out of the box in ubuntu. It is cool to be able to use all the features like the webchat and recording conversations.
However, these were mostly just bonuses. My primary goal when I started was to replace my telephone.
For my real telephone I needed a voice gateway. For this I picked up an unlocked Linksys SPA3102 for about 60 shmackaroos. To configure it, I followed this guy’s tutorial for the most part http://www.voipuser.org/review_49.html.
I plugged the line port of the router directly into the wall RJ-11 outlet so all my regular telephones work when plugged into the wall.
Alternatively, you could setup an asterisk box here, but chances are it will be more complicated and more expensive. Also, it will be more feature rich, so it’s a trade off. There were basically no asterisk features I was dying for that I know about (the spa3102 and grandcentral already have more features than I know how to use) so I went the cheaper easier route. The only features I’ve really exploited so far are traffic redirections. eg I redirect 411 to 1-800-goog411. Although these features are basic, they are nice.
For regular telephones I bought a pair of the GE ultra slim set. I’ve been very happy with them so far. They transmit in the 6.0 GHz range so avoid a lot of the interference. They look sleek, and you can do cool shit with them like set ringtones.
Tying it all together with GrandCentral
So, I chose to tie it all together with grandcentral. With this I was able to have one 208 number (Idaho’s area code) for both my work and home phone (I also occasionally share my girlie’s cell phone, so I put that on there too). grandcentral also allows incoming calls to happen for free, since it is able to tie incoming pot calls and redirect them with sip to my gizmo schwag. I added the gizmo number to my grandcentral account.
Lastly, because I want people to call me back on this grandcentral number, I paid gizmo the $4/yr to be able to change my outgoing caller id with them.
Hopefully this helps some of you new people get started with voip. This was my first experience with it other than the occasional skype or ekiga call. My goal was to get a good working solution where it was feasible to replace my home phone – and I think this definitely is adequate. Do I care about not being able to call during internet or power outages? not really. In terms of the call quality and the extra features, I am very happy.
Anyways, thank you, I’m going to bed.