PhoneGnome arrived in the mail this morning. PhoneGnome is a small box that allows you to take control of your phoneline from your telephone company. Essentially, it inserts itself between the phone, and the telephone network, and lets you make calls for free, or very little, using the internet. I’ve been itching to get my hands on one for a while.
The box itself is roughly the size of a couple of decks of cards. It has a phone line IN, and OUT jack on one side, and ethernet on the other. Most people will install it on an office phone at home, in order to have a convenient second line, with low cost long distance and voice mail.
I didn’t follow conventional approach on the installation, I’m afraid. A few years ago, I had a proper wiring system from OnQ put into our house. This allows me to rewire cat5 and coax connections easily from a central point.
I inserted PhoneGnome between the telephone company and the entire phone system for the house. You can see this in the picture on the right. The red arrows point to ordinary phone lines coming coming into and out of phone gnome (the blue box). The blue arrow points to the ethernet connection. Beside the ethernet connection is a power cable.
Once powered up, it takes about 5 minutes for PhoneGnome to go through it’s registration sequence. Then you’re ready! Pick up the phone, and make a phone call. The way it works is as follows:
If you’re making a local call, it simply routes the call over the local phone lines. This ensures the best quality, doesn’t interfere with 911, and lets you keep your existing phone number.
If you’re making a long distance call to another PhoneGnome user, the call is routed over the internet, and is free to both users.
If you’re making a long distance call to a non-PhoneGnome user, then you can specify a long distance carrier to use. The one I chose is charging two cents per minute.
If you are receiving a call, from either the PSTN, or the Internet, PhoneGnome simply routes the call to your ordinary phone.
The rest of the setup was pretty simple. I visited http://my.phonegnome.com, obtained a password and logged in. Then I chose a long distance provider, activated the telemarketer block feature, and was done.
I tried it with good results several times. However, my brother-in-law complained that the sound quality had deteriorated. The culprit turned out to be my boys, who were downloading games from the Internet. Luckily my Linksys WRT54GS lets you specify that certain MAC addresses have priority at the gateway. I programmed the MAC address of the PhoneGnome in again, and the sound quality improved.
PhoneGnome also lets you access Earthlink, SipPhone, and FWD SIP users directly, without having to go to the PSTN, thus saving money, and promoting interoperability! So, I called Andy’s Gizmo account to see if he was there.
My only complaint was that some of the documentation was a little rudimentary.