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The Value of Users in Design

I’m on a bit of a rant at the moment.  iotum has just moved into new offices, and we’ve put in a spiffy new IP PBX.  Until now, we’ve been running our business in true startup mode: a single Vonage line with a couple of softphones for extensions.  My office and Howard’s were next to each other.  If the phone rang, we heard it, and one of us answered it on either of the analog handsets we had installed on the Vonage box. 

We broke down and got a PBX in the new offices. In recent months I’ve been using Gizmo Project, or Skype, for virtually all of my outgoing calls.  I’m spoiled.  I’ve become used to the softphone and much prefer a headset to a handset.  However, now that we’ve got a PBX, neither Gizmo Project, nor Skype, can be used as an extension on it.  Both products only work with the service they were designed for. 

No problem, sez I, I will just go find another softphone.  Easier said than done.  It’s as if I have returned to the dark ages of software design.  The hunt for a decent softphone is proving to be very very difficult. 

  1. Most have only extremely primitive integration with Outlook, which kills one of my favorite features: dial-by-name. 
  2. They all handle multiple soundcards badly, or not at all.  I have a laptop with an analog soundcard, and a USB headset attached.  I want the ring tones to be played on the sound card (so I can hear them), and the headset / microphone to be used for the actual call. 
  3. Most have incredibly poor design.  I’m a Windows user, and I expect Windows apps to behave like… Windows apps!  Go read the Windows UI style guide, folks.  Options are part of a top level menu called Tools.  They’re not called Properties, they don’t hang off the File Menu, and so on…  I’m singling out the designer of X-Lite out for a special place in hell.  It emulates a cell phone interface on the PC desktop, right down to the glare on the screen, and left and right arrow keys to navigate menus just like a GSM phone. 

At the moment, I’m back to a plastic handset hooked into a cheap ATA.  I take as few calls on it as I can, and encourage everyone I know to get a Gizmo Project account. 

If you know of a decent, standards based, softphone that works well with SIP PBX’s, please let me know.

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Sylvain Guy November 15, 2005, 8:07 am

    Here's a very interesting IM-Softphone (Open source) solution OPENWENGO :
    http://www.openwengo.com/ http://dev.openwengo.com/trac/openwengo/trac.cgi/ http://internet.newsforge.com/article.pl?sid=05/0… (software comparaison review with Skype and Gizmo)

    Best regards

    Sylvain Guy
    Project Manager

  • Alec November 15, 2005, 8:34 am

    Thanks Sylvain. Do you know of anyone who has compiled a binary for Windows with the advanced sip options turned on? The binary at OpenWengo requires you to use their service.

  • Thomas Howe November 15, 2005, 8:40 am

    How's Pingtel looking these days? SJLabs? Better yet, throw that stupid Windows machine away and allow yourself to be computing happy. Trust me, everyone deserves to be computing happy. You don't have to take it anymore. I'll personally help you to switch.

  • Alec November 15, 2005, 9:19 am

    They're all, politely speaking, crap. They either demand that you work with some proprietary backend, and make it impossible for you to interface with your own proxy, or they have bizarre user experiences. The Pingtel experience was especially bizarre with some little container that runs java applets used to configure it.

  • Sylvain Guy November 15, 2005, 9:47 am

    I don't know anyone yet.

    I have a real interest to have information about it too!

    I have readed somewhere that the open source version is configurable to work with the switch of the carrier you choose but i don't remember where!

    The information is propably there: http://dev.openwengo.com/trac/openwengo/trac.cgi/

    This option when set to yes allows user access to SIP profile dialog where he can specify his SIP Proxy and Registrar coordinates and account parameters. Meaningful values: no(default) yes

    I'm sure several readers should have interest about this solution.

    I apologize for my english.
    Best regards

    Sylvain Guy
    Montreal, canada

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