Technology

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With some of my family overseas, Skype and iChat have become important tools for voice communication, second only to the cell phone and face to face protocol. It occurred to me that outside of telemarketers and the very occasional late-night pizza dial, the land line has become a relatively unused service. Unused, yet a consistent and not insubstantial monthly bill.

With thoughts of finally ditching the land line, but still a bit resistant to going completely phoneless in the home (what about when my cell battery dies?), I came across an article in Linux Journal by Andrew Sheppard, author of Skype Hacks, that shows you how to reconfigure your home telephone system to be completely routed through a server running Skype and Linux.

My solution was to build a Skype server that provides 24/7 phone service with the minimum of hassle and fuss. By dumping your regular phone company and taking back control of your home phone wiring using a Skype server, you will have not only a phone system with nearly the same capabilities as before–indeed, in some ways better–you will also save a bundle of money! In my case, I save a little less than $700 US each year (this year, next year, and the year after that, and so on), or about 82% off of my old phone bill.

Using a Skype server plugged in to the existing copper phone wiring of your home means that you can lift a receiver anywhere in your home, at any time, and get a regular dial tone. Incoming calls either from Skype users or regular phones ring all handsets throughout your home. Basically, you can make Skype behave like a regular phone line, but at a tiny fraction of the cost.

There are some big benefits to switching to a Skype server. It’s likely a lot cheaper and if you’re a regular Skype user, you can now use the service with any handset in the house instead of sitting at your computer.

There are also some downsides. The phone system still remains one of the most reliable services. It’s more likely that I’ll lose electricity than I won’t have a dial tone, which may be of some concern for fire and bugler alarm systems. You also wouldn’t have 911 service in this scenario, but if you have a cell phone anyway, this may be a moot point.

What are the rest of you hackers doing for phone service these days? Is it time to give up the land line entirely, simulate it with a Skype server or VoIP service, or are you still happily rocking the POTS? Give us a shout in the comments.

Build a Skype Server for Your Home Phone System
Andrew Sheppard’s Skype Hacks – Tips & Tools for Cheap, Fun, Innovative Phone Service

18 thoughts on “Build a Skype server and replace your land line

  1. Not to say that it’s necessarily more expensive than a dial tone, but the electricity cost of a dedicated server and associated peripherals could easily reach in the several hundred dollar range:

    watts * (24 hrs/day) * (30 days)
    _______________________________ = kw/hrs per month
    1000 watts

    .. so for a 200 watt system (server and peripherals), you’re talking 144 kwh, which at $0.15/kwh will run $21.60/month or $259.20/yr.

    If you’re already running a dedicated server, tossing VOIP on top won’t add much. But otherwise, make sure you’re taking into account the energy cost, especially if you’re using old leftover components from the ghost of computers past… the older the computer, the greater the power draw.

  2. Funny, my only phone has been a cellphone for the past 4 or 5 years, and I hate it. I’ve decided to ditch the cellphone when my contract runs out and pay much less for a landline. The cellphone simply sits at home, just to make local calls, and with terrible sound quality! Sometimes old standards are all you need. As far as internet phones go, any internet connection I’ve had has never been very reliable.

  3. I’m using FreeSwitch, running on a VPS I rent. Calls come in either direct via the SIP protocol, or via PSTN via a Gizmo5 call-in number. From there, FreeSwitch looks at my LDAP address book to figure out how to route the call. I can bridge the call transparently to my cell phone, or answer it via a SIP client (I’m using Zoiper for now) on my computer with a Bluetooth headest. I’m planning to pick up a SIP analog telephone adapter to cut out the computer, too.

  4. It always works. If your pair of copper wires is intact from your hardwired telephone to the central switch, you get dialtone.

    Plus, it’s a source of free, low voltage electricity for when the lights go out.

    All the phones in my apartment (save for the phone by my recliner) are pre-Bell System Breakup Western Electric manufactured devices.

    Each averaging 20 to 30 years old. These will be working long after I’m dead.

    These phones were build to last, with minimal maintaining.

    Also in favor of the landline, I get DSL via Verizon. Unlike Comcast, the local cable monopoly, Verizon doesn’t mess with my BitTorrent streams. They don’t what I do, as long as I pay the bill every month.

  5. We switched to Skype as our home phone. We used to spend $25/ month for about 1 call/ day; now we spend $6/month.

    BTW, after we switched, I picked up the old land line to see if it was disconnected and heard a dial tone. I tried to call a number and a recording said we had tried to place a call from a line that has restrictions. But, since it tried to dial, I think we still have 911 service on the disconnected land line. SCORE!

  6. … is that it’s a pain in the arse to set up and use Skype as a trunk on an Asterisk server from what I’ve seen.

    Skype, if you’re listening: LET US SKYPE WITH SIP!

    1. I doubt this.. If I replace my landline as you said with skype server .. My Landline will totally depend on my Internet Connection than! Thats bad for a Wire I think :p

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