Monday, March 26, 2007

ExpressTalk for PocketPC

ExpressTalk for PocketPC

The light and easy to use VoIP softphone ExpressTalk is now available for PocketPC as well. You can download the software using this direct link.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Open source VoIP development in Romania

No doubt that Romanians love open source. It was proven before with Linux and PHP and now it will be demonstrated again with VoIP/SIP. At least 2 open source VoIP projects were started and heavily developed in Romania:

OpenSER. An open source PBX derived from SIP Express Router. In June 2005, two SER core developers Bogdan-Andrei Iancu, Daniel-Constantin Mierla and one main contributor Elena-Ramona Modroiu (all Romanians) started OpenSER project. Many others joined later.

Yate. An open source IP-PBX developed in C++. For quite some time it was solely developed by Paul Chitescu and Diana Cionoiu, Romanian programmers.

Besides these projects, Asterisk has a solid user base in Romania.

Record phone calls without requiring any hardware or software

A new service launched recently by 2ReCall lets you record any US outgoing call on any phone, wireless or landline, without requiring any hardware or software. All you have to do is dial a toll free 800 number and then enter the number you wish to dial. Have your conversation and when you’ve finished log on the website and access the recorded file.

The rates are either 20 cents / minute or 15 cents / minute, depending which plan you purchase: $4.95 / month for 500GB space or $9.95 / month for 1GB space and lower per minute rates.

Place a Call for Free widget on your website

Jaxtr lets you place a call for free widget on your website. A site visitor will type a phone number and the system will call automatically both your registered phone and visitor specified phone and then link the calls.

At this moment Jaxtr is a free service. Users will receive a limited amount of minutes for free after which their calls will be redirected to voicemail.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Manage cell phone voicemail messages on your computer

GotVoice is a nice service that allows you to enjoy the convenience of having your home, cell & work voicemails emailed to you, or access them online from anywhere, at anytime. Although the feature is common now with almost any VoIP plan, is still something to wish for if you have a more classical provider such as Bellsouth, AT&T, SBC, T-Mobile, Cingular, Sprint, Verizon.

GotVoice manages to deliver you by email the voicemails from the above providers. They handle this by dialing in your provider’s voice system, entering the PIN you specify and then retrieve the messages.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Forward your mobile and landline to a number overseas via Skype

What you are doing with your home and cell phones while you are traveling overseas? Most probably you’ll leave both at home, since landline is not quite portable and mobile roaming charges are not low.

Using SkyQube device you can now forward both your landline/cell to an overseas number. Just take out the SIM from your mobile phone and put it into the device or plug the PSTN landline, install the software on a computer and automatically transfer the calls to another phone number. Your friends that are calling you home or on the cell will not even notice that they are forwarded overseas.

Top 10 Skype Hacks

People like tops! Articles such as “Top 10 gadgets of all time”, “The most useful software” etc. will always make to the first page of social websites such as Digg.

In this article I’ll show you the top 10 Skype hacks:

1. Running multiple instances of Skype on the same computer

This is one of the most requested features not only by Skype users, but also by other voice and IM applications users. For instance you may have a Skype Work account and a Personal account and normally you want to communicate with peoples from both lists in the same time. Until this feature will be supported by Skype you may use one of the following workaround.

2. Run a small customer support center using only Skype

One of the least used features of Skype is its ability to register simultaneous from multiple locations. Although this feature may say nothing to a home user, a small call-center business can make use of it by implementing the call-center business using Skype.

3. Disguising your Voice

By using Voice Changer software you tweak your speaking voice in real time by adding echos and other sound effects. Find out more from this article.

4. Integrating Skype in a SIP PBX

PBXes should not scary anymore. As showed by this article even Windows users can setup in less than 20 minutes a full feature PBX with unlimited extensions, voice mail and call attendant. Skype can be integrated very easily in such setup by using free software from NCH Swift Sound as described by this article.

5. Call Skype contacts from mobile phone

You can do this by integrating Skype in your own PBX as described by previous hack, or by using an online service such as this one, or even by doing your own setup using a free piece of software called Vox for Skype.

6. Skype without a PC

Do you like Skype but you don’t like to be near the computer when making phone calls? There is good news for you: at least a few companies have launched Skype devices that don’t require a PC. The following article presents 2 of them.

7. Home Security System

You need 2 separate Skype account for this one. Put a webcam on an always on computer and setup Skype to automatically answer calls and fire up the webcam. To check in use the other Skype account to call in.

8. Skype wake-up call

Using Windows Task Scheduler create a new task that runs Skype executable according to your needs. In the Run box specify after the path to Skype.exe (usually "C:\Program Files\Skype\Phone\Skype.exe") the following parameter: /callto:phonenumber where phonenumber is the number you wish to dial in international format. Also make sure that Skype is associated with callto: links in Sykpe options.

9. Offer abroad relative the chance to call you for free on your mobile phone

For only $29, your abroad relatives and friends can call you for free on your mobile phone. All you have to do is forward ("Tools" -> "Options" -> "Call Forwarding & Voicemail") your Skype account to your cell phone number. Your friends will only use their Skype instances.

10. Make money developing Skype voice services

If you are a developer you can develop Skype Tellme applications and charge the users according to your plan. Check this article for a starting point.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A VoIP device you cannot get in US

In Germany there is a popular product from AVM called Fritz!Box Fon Wlan. It is an all-in-one device for all your communication needs. Its specifications are absolutely remarkable:

Networking features

  • ADSL modem

  • LAN Router

  • Wireless Access Point (IEEE 802.11g - 54 Mbit/s and 802.11g++ - 125 Mbit/s )

  • Bandwidth Management (ADSL traffic shaping)

  • Firewall

Telephony features

  • Fixed-line PBX

  • IP PBX. Register up to 10 different SIP providers for both incoming and outgoing calls. Each extension is configured individually. Create dial plans. etc.

Personal storage

  • USB host for sharing on the network USB printers or USB mass storage devices

Too bad this product is not (yet) available outside Europe.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Call Romania for 1 cent / minute

After InternetCalls, another Finarea/Betamax company has announced its low cost 1 cent / minute rate with Romania. For more information visit Low-Rate VoIP website.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Make low cost international calls from your mobile phone using ANY VoIP provider and NO extra hardware

To make cheap international calls from a mobile phone using VoIP is not a novelty. There are a couple of possible solutions out there:

  • use your data plan and a softphone. Disadvantages: Available only with expensive devices and plans and limited to internet connectivity and available bandwidth;

  • use your data plan to activate the phone call. Disadvantages: Requires a data plan and a provider to support web activated telephony (although some tricks are possible using VoXaLot). You cannot obtain always the best rates.

  • use a PSTN access number. Disadvantages: The provider must offer this service.

  • use a hardware ATA device at home that offer a gateway between your PSTN line and a VoIP account. Disadvantages: Requires extra hardware.

  • use a dedicated Linux box with Asterisk and DISA (Direct Inward System Access). Disadvantages: requires an extra machine and Linux which is still scary enough for the majority of users.

The solution described in this article has the following advantages:

  • use any VoIP provider. Select the provider that has the best rates with your destination.

  • use more that one VoIP provider. The provider will be dynamically selected at the moment your make the phone call. Besides hi-availability through redundancy, more providers allow you to call different destinations at best rates;

  • requires no extra hardware. Nothing to buy.

  • doesn’t require Linux.

  • you don’t need a data plan. Just call a real US phone number (that you select) from your mobile phone or any other phone.

  • Easy to implement. In only 20 minutes after reading this article you’ll have your system up and running.

Step 1. Required software

For implementing this solution you need to download and install the following Windows applications.

NCH Axon. This is free software period.
NCH IVM. Although not free, you can use the trial version and if you like it you can buy it at a later time.

Step 2. Configure Axon

Axon configuration will be done using a web browser. Click on Web Control button in main Axon window to launch your default browser and log into Axon configuration site.

First you need to define an extension for the call attendant. Go to extensions tab and click on Add New Extension button. Ignore for now the other extensions that come with the system. You can clean them later when you’ll have a better understanding of this software.

Manage PBX extensions

Just complete the minimum information for the new extension:

Extension ID: 200
Display Name: DISA (which stands for Direct Inward System Access)
Password: disa

Add DISA extension

Second you need to define external lines. For this switch to corresponding tab and eventually remove any existing data on this tab before adding any new line.

Manage PBX external lines

Since the system will be used to make cheap international calls from USA we need at least one VoIP provider that provide a real US phone number and one or more VoIP providers that offer good rates with the destination.

FreeDigits is the perfect candidate for the US provider due to their offer: Free Read US Phone Number and Free Unlimited Incoming Calls. As international providers we’ll select SmartCall and TelefonIP due to their good rates with Europe (especially Romania).

The following images show how to configure these providers in Axon.

Add FreeDigits provider

Add SmartCall provider

Add TelefonIP provider

After you finish adding the providers, the External Lines tab should look like in the following image.

External providers

The last thing that we need to configure in Axon is the dial plan. This specifies what provider should handle a particular destination number. To keep things simple we’ll edit the default dial plan, adding the information as in the following images:

Dial plans

Configure default dial plan

Step 3. Configure IVM

IVM is a SIP client that will answer automatically and present caller an interactive voice menu. IVM will be used to implement our call attendant.

From the main IVM window, click on Settings then go on Telephony tab, clear existing items there and then add a new VoIP provider settings. Since IVM will connect to our Axon server, and both are installed on the same machine, we’ll specify localhost in server field, 200 as SIP number and disa (or the password you set when you defined the 200 extension in Axon) as password.

Configure IVM VoIP account

Next, press the OGM button on the main toolbar to open the OGM manager. Here create 2 new items: Enter access code and Enter destination number.

IVM OGM Manager

The complete instructions for creating these items are displayed in the following 2 images, the important areas being highlighted. Please note that you need to change the out going audio messages for both items by recording new voice prompts. Also put a secret 4 digits code in the corresponding textbox and a valid phone number in the CID textbox. The CID setting allows you to avoid entering access code if you initiate the call from the specified phone number.

Define [Enter Access Code] prompt

Define [Enter Destination Number] prompt

That's all! Now take a break and after that call your FreeDigits phone number from a cell phone (or any other phone). If you did the settings carefully you should hear the first voice prompt asking you to enter an access code. Using phone keyboard enter the 4 digits access code you setup. If the code was correct, you should now enter the destination number after the second voice prompt. Please keep in mind that the destination numbers should be prefixed with 01, 02 or 03 according to the dial plan you defined in Axon at step 1. The prefix automatically selects the desired VoIP provider.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed spending the last night hacking Axon/IVM and writing this tutorial. Come back soon for the second part of the article which will show you how to integrate Skype in this solution.

Comments welcomed!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Speed dialing long sequences of numbers from mobile phones

One of the least used features that almost any cell phone has nowadays is the ability to store in one single entry a phone number and a sequence of digits that will be sent as touch tones after the number is dialed.

Look in your phone manual how to enter characters p and w when you dial a phone number. Both characters introduce different types of pauses in a dialing sequence.

Let’s say you want to reach a GizmoProject user from your cell phone using a SipBroker PSTN access number and a simple dialing method. For illustrating this example will take a simple example:

PSTN Access Number: 214-261-9940
SIPBroker SIP Code: *747
SIPPhone Number: 1-747-474-3246 (SIPPhone Echo Test)

All you have to do is to add a new entry in your cell phone agenda with the following number:


The method can be used in the same way to ease dialing of sequences described by this article and this article.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Web Activated Telephony for mobile phones

In one of the previous posts I presented a powerful solution of Web Activated Telephony with cost control using a service from VoXaLot (a Jajah for advanced users).

Looking recently on VoXaLot site I note that they enhanced the Web activated telephony service to allow VoIP calls to be initiated from a mobile phone. To do this you must set-up the Web Callback Phone Book and then using your mobile phone go to:

A data plan is required for this. Since the connection is used only for activating the call, a GPRS connection is more than enough. The service is perfect for using those SIP providers that offer grate rates with certain destinations but don’t provide PSTN access numbers.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Get a local phone number for GizmoProject from GrandCentral

GizmoProject 3.0 was just released a few days ago. Besides the other bells and whistles, the voice features of this release are quite impressive:
  • Free call's to any GizmoProject, Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk, or Windows Live user.

  • Free voicemail with customizable outgoing message.

  • Free mobile and landline phone calls between you and your friends on your contact list.

  • Free conference calls between mobile phones, landlines, and Gizmo Project users.

  • Call recording.

  • Second login to a 3rd party SIP PBX. You can now log into a 3rd party PBX (like Asterisk) and the Gizmo Project network at the same time.

  • SIP number doubling your GizmoProject user id. With this number you can receive calls from other VoIP networks, you can use your GizmoProject account with a regular SIP phone adapter or you can receive calls with free PSTN Access Numbers.

If the above features alone still don’t convince you to try GizmoProject and SIPPhone then this will surely change your mind:

GrandCentral added recently a feature to ring your GizmoProject SIP number, together with the other PSTN numbers you specify. This is like getting a free local phone number for your GizmoProject or SIPPhone ATA.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Call Romania using Web Activated Telephony and SmartCall or TelefonIP

Advanced users have probably figured out immediately how to do this after reading the previous post. For the rest of readers the current post should provide the missing information. Also is very important to mention that SmartCall and TelefonIP are 2 VoIP providers that offer good rates with Romania.

Step 1. Create an account with either one of these 2 providers.

Step 2. Create an account with a provider has offers free phone calls to US (or your living country).

Step 3. Register your selected providers with VoXaLot and eventually add entries to your VoXaLot Web Callback Phonebook.

That’s all. Each time you want to call family/friends or business partners in Romania, just log in to VoXaLot account and click on the appropriate phonebook entry. Your landline/mobile phone will start ringing and in a few seconds you’ll be connected with your destination.

Web Activated Telephony with cost control

The concept of Web Activated Telephony is not new anymore. Since Jajah popularized this concept a lot of VoIP companies embraced it. Even Finarea/Betamax launched a similar service at

In case of all these companies the principle is the same. The caller enters his phone number and destination phone number in a form on a web page. Then the system is calling simultaneously both numbers and connects the calls.

Because the VoIP calls don’t use parties’ bandwidth, this solution is preferred by dialup or mobile users and beginners (because you don’t need anything to install or configure).

Since not one, but two calls are terminated to PSTN you’d expect that the cost of web activated telephony to be higher than the standard method of calling a PSTN number from a SIP device. Interesting enough the price is affordable in most situations.

For advanced users, the guys at VoXaLot offer even a more powerful web activated telephony solution in which the caller has a better control over phone call cost.

Let’s take a simple example. Let’s suppose that you are living in US and you want to call a friend in Romania using Web Activated Telephony and also you want to have a good control over your costs.

First you need to signup with 2 VoIP providers. Prepaid providers are the best choice for beginners. Try to find a provider that has best rates for calling US and one that has best rates for calling Romania. Next, open an account with VoXaLot and register these providers with them:

To make a phone call, go to VoXaLot Web Callback page and enter your phone number and destination phone number. For each number specify the VoIP provider that should handle the connection. If you are connected via dialup you can specify a delay after which calls begins (in this time you’ll have to disconnect from Internet and release the phone line).

When you talk using this method you’ll consume call-out minutes of both providers. Anyway, carefully choosing the 2 providers can translate to really cheap phone calls. You can even do cheap internationally phone calls from your mobile phone if you have a data plan.

An alternative method (and better in my opinion) of doing cheap PSTN to PSTN phone calls via VoIP was described in the article: Mobile to VoIP bridge.