October 8, 2005

The ultimate phone setup.

Ok I have finally found a geeks phone setup that I think is good enough for full time use.

Like many people a few years ago my wife and I decided to loose our land line in favor of cell phones. This decission saved us about a hundred bucks a month. About 6 months ago I began working on a startup company with a friend and my phone bill went from about 40-50 bucks a month to well over 200. This was unacceptable so I began researching options that would enable me to continue making the phone calls without the extra 150 dollar cost. I had messed with asterisk in the past on a contracting job and I really liked the way it worked so I started looking into voip solutions.

I then stumbled on a list of voip providers and I looked into what they provided and their costs. I settled with a smaller company Broadvoice. I setup an account for a total of 32 dollars for the first month. I had an old box sitting in the corner that I had gotten from a local electronics fleemarket I installed AMP on it and placed it downstairs in my rack. I then got a softphone from X-Ten Networks called X-Lite. It took me all of 2 hours to get setup with broadvoice install AMP and setup the x-ten client to make the first call. I made several calls to my cell tweaking setting like the inband dtmf etc…

Over the next month I had made more than 3000 minutes worth of calls. The total bill for the next month was just under 23 dollars. A significant savings so I was convinced this would carry me through. Over the next couple of months I began experimenting with some of the other options offered by the asterisk server. Things like hold music, acd groups, time of day routing, meetme, and agi. All of these items seemed like they would be to difficult to mess with and I was really happy with the phone service I had. But being the geek I am I began working on getting these features up and running.

It wasn’t long before I realized the on hold music was already working and all I had to do was use the AMP interface to upload some MP3s I wanted people to hear as background music. This option itself made my setup act like a thousand dollar phone system. I then added some call groups and setup an acd and finally added a call tree that was based off time of day. Now I was up to a ten thousand dollar phone system.

Then I discovered meetme. This module allows you to have people dial into your pbx and enter a code to join a conference. This was the greatest now all those conference calls I had could cimply dial me up. I didn’t have to worry about dialing up four differnt people and getting them all online. They could just dialin when they were able and we were good to go. I couldn’t stop there though after all I had seen the festival support.

I looked around and found a php agi interface for asterisk. AGI is a simple send expect interface to the asterisk server. Calling a specific extension in the dial plan can invoke an agi script so you can interact with the server from a dynamic source. Once more it had its own simple interface for text to speach. This enabled me to quickly whip up a script that could retrieve my email filter out what spamassasin had flagged as spam and read my my email over the phone. the same interface also gave me control over the lights I already have setup in my home. Dialing in and entering the appropriate code will envoke an option in my pbx to control the lights in my home. This allows me to call my home while out of town or on the way home and turn various lights on. This was all done using phpagi, flipit, festival and asterisk the only additional hardware was a simple x10 firecracker module that I got in a kit from x10 a few years ago for 6 dollars shipping.

In the future I plan to get some real voip phones. Right now I’m looking real close at the BT102 phone. It looks to be about the right price, sub $100. It supports a lot of the features I want including programmable buttons and multiline display capable of displaying information sent back from the asterisk server.

Asterisk coupled with a good voice over ip provider like broadvoice is the ultimate geek phone setup. You can literally do anything with this setup that would have cost you a couple hundred grand to do with an aspect setup less than 7 years ago. I know it isn’t cool to use referals but if you decide to go with broadvoice please us me as a refferal doesn’t cost you anything and I get like a month of free service for each refferal that stays signed up for three months or more.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.