Trixbox/Asterisk Progress Report

Two steps forward, one step back. There has been some incremental additions and improvements to our home internet phone system project based on Trixbox.

I’m reminded of a foreman I once had who boasted that he had a vacuum cleaner in every room of his house so that he could take care of any spillage or dust immediately. This is the guy who lined his entire garage with ceramic tile; it looked like an operating room. S.O. is starting to compare us with him, only in our case we have multiple phones.

Anyway, click on the sketch to view the larger version. You’ll see now that we have three SIP phones. All three are the Grandstream Budgetone phones. I’ve got two in my home office, along with the Trixbox server, and we’ve placed one of the phones in our upstairs study. I mentioned before that the power supplies appear to interfere with the television set, so the upstairs phone only gets plugged in when we’re going to actually make calls. Too bad…I still have to yell up the stairs.

We have two Verizon landlines. I have my old two-line phone on my desk. One line is our “home” line and one line is the “business” line. The business line now goes into the Trixbox, so that I can take calls there and transfer them to any of the three SIP phones. Right now, I have any inbound call ring at my desk, but eventually I’ll see about an automatic call director. (“Welcome to Microdesign. Press 1 for technical support, 2 for database and software development, or 3 for videoconferencing”)

Outbound calls from the SIP phones can go out over the internet either via VoicePulse (the default outbound route), or, if you prefix the call with a ‘9’, they’ll go out via the business line. VoicePulse calls cost 2 cents per minute or less. The business line has eight cent per minute long distance via MCI. As a test we’ve been using the VoicePulse lines exclusively, and I note that even without a single call, I’m paying $10.00 per month for the MCI connection in monthly charges, FCC fees, and taxes. So, the MCI long distance service is certainly a candidate for dropping if my confidence in VoicePulse continues as high as it has the past couple of weeks.

The PSTN “home” line remains untouched, it is connected to a phone in our kitchen and an extension in the bedroom.

Why is this taking so long? It is a question of confidence. I’m moving incrementally because I want to be confident about the reliabilty of every step of the chain. If parts aren’t reliable, then I need to know about that and either design a workaround, or decide to live with the limitations. Right now, “best practices” suggest that for client calls, the PSTN still has the edge over the internet, but for interoffice calls, and “casual” long distance calls, the savings in phone charges will add up substantially. The goal is to have a reliable, scalable, business phone system…and I think I’m on the way.

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