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Suggestions for Home PBX/Key System? 165

foobar104 asks: "I'm fascinated by the idea of putting in a home PBX or key system. I don't really have a good justification for this; it just sounds like a neat thing to have. There are commercially available small PBX systems available for $500 to $2,000, plus another $500 to $2,000 for voicemail, but putting in one of those doesn't sound like as much fun as building one from scratch using an older PC and some off-the-shelf components. I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions for sources of information, tips, HOWTOs or other knowledge on this subject? I'm sure it's been done before; GNUCOMM and GNU Bayonne are out there, but I'm not having much luck finding tutorial-type info about them."

"The system I want to build doesn't need to be complicated. I'd like to have two outside lines and about five inside lines. I'd like the system to have all the standard cool features, like intercomm and station-to-station calls and such, but I'd also like to do some exotic things. For example, I'd like to implement a call whitelist system, where during certain hours of the day, only calls from numbers on a pre-defined "white list" ring through, and all other calls go to voicemail. I'm guessing that something like that will require programming, and I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty. I just don't know where to start.

It sounds like a fun hobby project-- to me anyway. Can anyone point me in the right direction?"

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Suggestions for Home PBX/Key System?

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  • Asterisk PBX (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 03, 2002 @09:38PM (#4006356)
    Check out the Asterisk PBX system by Linux Support Services. http://asteriskpbx.org/
    It is all linux based and the hardware is very nicely priced. I have this running at home and love it!
    • Re:Asterisk PBX (Score:2, Informative)

      by Multispin ( 49784 )
      I totally agree! Asterisk is a great system that is well designed to boot. If you want more than one incomming line, I'd strongly consider ISDN. ISDN is a really good voice facility. It has better voice quality and features in addition to often being cheaper than two POTS lines. Besides, ISDN cards are fairly cheap (I got one for our incomming trunks at work for $5 on eBay)

      For the internal lines, a couple Internet PhoneJack cards will do it. Current supported FXS cards (FXS is the type of line the telco gives you) only support 1 port per slot. If you need more, you can either use two machines and hook them together via VoIP or get a channel bank and T1 card.

      The channel bank solution can easily give you 24lines but would run around $700 ($500 for the t1 card and $200ish for a channel bank on eBay).

      H.323 and SIP support are in the codebase, but in beta quality. IAX is Asterisk's naitive VoIP protocol. It's also supported by gnophone.
  • by bmetz ( 523 ) on Saturday August 03, 2002 @09:40PM (#4006365) Homepage
    Some of the call filtering and voice mail things can be done with vgetty, an extension of mgetty. A $10 genero rockwell will do well with it. It's not a pbx but it's something for cheap.
  • Informative (Score:3, Informative)

    by SpatchMonkey ( 300000 ) on Saturday August 03, 2002 @09:41PM (#4006372) Journal
    You might find this [homeautomationindex.com] interesting. Search the page for 'PBX', it brings up some possibly useful links.
  • Nice system (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 03, 2002 @09:44PM (#4006381)

    It's not a DIY project, but these people make an awesome phone system for home/home office use.

    http://www.talkswitch.com/

    You can get a 2-line or 4-line system, and new systems due out will be able to handle VoIP.

    They're physically quite small, work with standard phones, regenerate caller-ID info (this was a killer for me, I couldn't find any other system that did it), programmable via PC.

    I've had mine for over a year, and mostly use it for the auto-attendant to screen calls, ringdown to try me at home, if I don't answer forward them to my cell,and the built-in voicemail. It's awesome!

    - Turbo
  • by YogaDude ( 570127 ) on Saturday August 03, 2002 @09:44PM (#4006382)
    You can build a PBX with Intel (formerly Dialogic) "MSI" boards. The MSI can take an analog interface from the outside and generate ring and dial tone for your station sets. You can use an SC bus capable voice board for voice mail. Ought to be able to find this stuff on e-bay at a reasonable price. As for how-tos, there is a wealth of material on the dialogic/Intel support site [intel.com] Check out the various documentation, especialy the the "Application Notes." There are also forums you can join for free and folks on the forum are very knowledgeable. The bayonne user community is also very helpful. I've been dying to do this kind of project for years but haven't had the time. Enjoy!
    • Haven't had time? Ditto. Using Dialogic MSI cards has appealed to me greatly. I program Dialogic T1 and voice resource cards on SCbus. I always wish I had time to make a cool system for home. Knowing me, I would end up with a product I could sell.

      The coolest feature that I still haven't found anywhere is a scripting language to alter the behavior of the system and phones. I would do that.
      • You ought to look into Bayonne. There's a write-up on it in the latest issue of Linux Journal. Bayonne abstracts the board-specific API to its own asynchronously oriented scripting language (ccscript) that can freely interact with other beautiful tools such as Perl, TCL, and, I think, Python. This ought to reduce development time in a huge way. The beauty of Bayonne is that you can slip other hardware onto the server and your app doesn't care because it's going through the Bayonne abstraction layer and Bayonne can handle other products besides Dialogic. My only reservation is that Bayonne does not appear to have plans for a VoiceXML interpreter. But who's perfect?

    • Dialogic is the standard in the PBX industry. If you use Dialogic boards, you can be assured of compatibility with the most software, and a long useful life for your hardware.

      On the other hand, Intel is good only with microprocessors, m. support chips, and motherboards. It might not be a good thing that Intel bought Dialogic. (Intel closed its consumer electronics division after many, many blunders.)

      System Release 5.1 for RedHat Linux [intel.com]
  • A few Places (Score:4, Informative)

    by puto ( 533470 ) on Saturday August 03, 2002 @09:46PM (#4006390) Homepage
    You can always find pbx systems on E-bay relatively cheap. My house has a 15 year old system that I got out of an old office building. has 2 lines running into it, voice mail, and runs fine.

    However, I want to kludge up something as well so here is my research for you.
    http://www.mtnsys.com/ Software
    http://www.openippbx.org/ Nix software
    http://www.virtualpbx.com/ More software.

    Hope this helps.

    Puto

  • I hate it when an abreviation is thrown in my face without explanation. Am I the only one?
    • Well, you could always search google, or for general tech acronym descriptions this site [techweb.com] is often helpful. from the techweb site:
      (Private Branch eXchange) An inhouse telephone switching system that interconnects telephone extensions to each other as well as to the outside telephone network (PSTN). A PBX enables a single-line telephone set to gain access to one of a group of pooled (shared) trunks by dialing an 8 or 9 prefix. PBXs also include functions such as least cost routing for outside calls, call forwarding, conference calling and call accounting. Modern PBXs use all-digital methods for switching, but may support both analog and digital telephones and telephone lines. See IP PBX and WPBX.
    • Private Branch Exchange (not public!)

      Michael (ex PBX engineer)

    • Check the Acronym Finder [acronymfinder.com], it's got huge database.PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange [acronymfinder.com]
  • by EMIce ( 30092 )
    Come on! Search google ya dummy!

    http://www.asteriskpbx.com/main/

    Searching for PBX and Linux will get you Aaterisk. Asterisk is open source, works with widely available, relatively inexpensive hardware, runs linux, and is very flexible. Here is a feature list:

    Extension routing logic
    Simple but functional voicemail, including e-mail notification
    Call bridging
    Call transfer
    Call parking
    Intercom (using sound card)
    Directory
    Execute arbitrary commands
    Simple configuration using text files
  • Openh323.org (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I've got faimly membrers in all the major calling areas in my state. My brother and I have pondered setting up a local calling network using Openh323 and cards from http://www.linuxjack.com/.
  • by fuerstma ( 15683 ) on Saturday August 03, 2002 @09:52PM (#4006408) Homepage
    And...

    I think you probably have two options. The biggest commercial effort in this area was called CyberGenie. I forget who made these units, but they are actually pretty neat. They no longer make them or anything, but they are on eBay for like ~$50... you can have up to 10 handsets I believe. The worst part of them is that the OS of the host machine has to be a Microsoft (ugh) and worse yet, Win98 is far and away the most supported OS. I'm on the CyberGenie mailing list (yeah, I guess I Dont get enough spam) and tons of people try to get these going with Win2000 and it isn't worth the trouble. Go ahead and Google for CyberGenie, it'll give you better information than I can give you.

    Your other option is to go out and buy yourself a Dialogic Card and program one yourself. A Simple 4 line ISA card will cost you about $100 on eBay. We use Dialogic cards at my work (http://www.telecorpproducts.com) for some real time voice processing stuff. Well a previous developer bought the wrong model so I borrowed it and took it home. Some of the Dialogic models have Linux support. I popped it into my Linux box, and then developed a simple C app to capture the caller ID information coming into my phone w/ the fairly easy to use Dialogic API that dumps the CallerID info into a MySQL DB. Then a simple PHP page to query the DB and viola.. from anywhere in the world I can see who's been callin our casa.

    From there it's pretty easy to do voice processing, transfers, etc... At work we take the raw voice coming off the card, do some shifting around, and then pass that information off to a RealAudio SDK/Server to send real time voice over the Internet (specific to call center monitoring)..

    Oh well, best of luck... you can either buy a canned, unsupported package or strike out on your own (and I hope open source the results so I can use it for my home!)
  • by mwillems ( 266506 ) on Saturday August 03, 2002 @09:55PM (#4006414) Homepage
    I have one too - 8 extensions, 3 lines (2 connected). Panasonic PBX: takes key sets or analog sets

    That is one of the most important variables: can you connect cheap analog sets, or must you use expensive key sets?

    Used to be a phone engineer so it's an interesting hobby but also useful: share 2 lines, connect through, redirect fax calls to the fax, etc - recommend you buy a cheap analog PBX - few hunbdred bucks in Europe.

    MW
    • I have a panasonic Hybrid PBX with 6 CO lines and 16 extentions. It works real well. It will take analog phones as well as the digital phones. The digital phones range from $40 to $100+ on EBay. I have picked up half a dozen digital phones on Ebay and they work pretty well.

      The best part is the music on hold, it blows people away :-}
    • I have a Panasonic 12x32, with 8x16 in cards in the chasis. I have two spare systems full of cards and about 30 extra phones (at work we pulled three working systems).

      I moved out of the house, and my wife broke all but one of the phones (not malicious, she is just rough on phones). It has one outside line connected.

      Considerations for a new system:
      - Caller ID passed to sets?
      - Can you use analog or key sets on the same line card?
      - Integration with PC? Some provide telephony interface for PC software.
      - Voicemail built-in or seperate? Full integration with PBX? Automated Attendant?

      BTW, a Panasonic is a Key System, not a PBX.

      And I won't mention how I submitted this story a week ago today and got it rejected within an hour. Oh. Too late. Fu2.
  • by isdnip ( 49656 ) on Saturday August 03, 2002 @10:02PM (#4006429)
    "Real" PBX systems have very complex software. Basic call control is easy. Features, especially keyset emulation, take a lot of code. This isn't something to code yourself in your spare time. You might have fun adapting what's out there, but don't confuse "IP telephony" with a real PBX. IP phones are expensive and don't sound as good as circuit phones.

    Standard PBX systems are designed for the famous "five nines" reliability. You don't get that from a regular PC -- for instance, PC hardware can't do hot swap, which any PBX worth its salt can.

    If you're adventurous, you can cobble together "carrier grade" hardware nowadays using off-the-shelf cards in the Compact PCI (which is more accurately "collosal PCI") form factor plus the H.110 bus, which supports 4K time slots of TDM voice. Of course that's overkill for a home system, but some serious phone gear is built that way, using off-the-shelf Sparc or PowerPC CPUs.
    • You might have fun adapting what's out there, but don't confuse "IP telephony" with a real PBX. IP phones are expensive and don't sound as good as circuit phones.

      Standard PBX systems are designed for the famous "five nines" reliability. You don't get that from a regular PC -- for instance, PC hardware can't do hot swap, which any PBX worth its salt can.


      IP Telephony can sound just as good or better than traditional telephony. With the Cisco gear we had (Call Manager and 7560 Phones) you could specify the bandwidth used, and on the high settings and low compression it was crystal clear. So don't just throw around statements saying IP telephony sucks.

      Oh yeah, and another thing, that same Cisco IP telephony system was based on regular rebranded Compaq servers that Cisco had made sure were nice and stable. Oh yeah and they garunteed "five nines".
      • If the call manglers were so nice and stable, why did 5 of them hit my web server within days of code red? List price on a 25 station system at that time was somewhere in the range of US$40,000.

        If you don't want all the fancy stuff, it does look like IOS will suport the voice cards on the smaller modems so a call manager isn't needed any more but it will take quite a long time to set up.
    • I found the Nortel VoIP phones were as good as other PBX system, but it was setup by having a special card sitting in a meridian 1 switch, running on 100MB ethernet hooked up to a Nortel shasta.. great fun. and all the features you could ever want. (IVR, voice mail, etc...) - but not really a setup you would have in a domestic environment, purely because of cost and rack space required.

      The ciscos VoIP kit by comparison never worked any where near as well and were very disapointing - if you have a choice always go for the nortel, or at least test out the ciscos for yourself before you buy (they may have improved and/or have a configuration that works for you..)
  • I've toyed with this idea myself several times but have never had the time (or resources) to do anything about it. ;-)

    linuxtelephony.org [linuxtelephony.org] is likely of interest. It has some good information and, just as importantly, lots of good links.

    Asterisk [asterisk.org] seems to be a strong, fully featured, GPL'ed PBX project which has some hardware associated with the project that seems to be pretty well priced.

    I can't seem to find my other links but they're probably linked off of linuxtelephony.org.

  • Home PBX (Score:2, Informative)

    by GreyyGuy ( 91753 )
    Just a reminder, a home PBX might be cool, but if your phones go through a PBX, you need to make sure you have a regular phone in case the power goes out.
    • or just a REALLY REALLY BIG UPS!! :D,, lol :), i have over $1500 of UPS's in my house, plus the emergency lighting systems and backup generator :),, who cares about power outages!!

      Reece,
    • Most professional PBX'es offer call through feature. I.e. they can be configured so that when power goes down or host PC crashes, external lines are connected directly to predefined internal lines (assuming you use regular analog phones). So you lack all the features of PBX and extra extensions, but at least you have regular phone. Worth checking if the PBX supports this before buying.
  • Many years ago I bought a complete system at a swap meet for $50. The electronics, the connectors, and a box full of phones. I've since bought another one for work. They don't have many new features, but they are solid as a rock. Systems show up on ebay all the time for less than $100.
  • I've been searching for this sort of thing as well. Key features for me are:

    1) Sidetracks telephone numbers not in a whitelist to a message which says something like "Telemarketers are unwelcome; others press 1 to ring through."

    2) Encodes voicemail to MP3 and forwards it to my email box. That way I can use the mouse to slide forward and back through the message, save important messages easily, and listen to it on my OK computer speakers instead of the crappy speakerphone speakers.

    Do any of the mentioned systems support that sort of thing?
    • Encodes voicemail to MP3 and forwards it to my email box.

      That's a fantastic idea. I mean really fantastic. Can't believe I've never thought of that.

      I hope somebody has a good suggestion on this subject.
      • funny thing is I worked at a company that sold a PBX that did this. Now bankrupt....
      • Sure, I used vgetty to do this earlier this year. It allows you to run any program after an incoming recording, so I set up a quick bash script to convert the recording to mp3 using the included tools and lame.

        Then it added an entry to a database containing the Date & Time, callerID, and length of the message. A simple php page allowed me to check the messages from home or work.

        Unfortunately, vgetty is very difficult to get working, and the sound quality of my modem was pretty poor. But it's all there, and very possible.
      • Consider looking at something like GoBeam [gobeam.com]. Although they do most of the work for you, it uses VoIP. It is all controlled via a web interface - you can set it to follow you (so if you dont answer your desk, it rings to your cell, then your pager..etc). You can set up specific groups for people who should be able to get through all the time, people who will get voice mail every time and so on, so you can restrict whom you talk to. Voicemails can be sent to your mailbox or previewed online. The units provide dialtone to whatever location your using it at so you can use digital OR analog phones (and fax machines). We had their service for a year and it was great, excellent at work and worked fine on my lines at home (1.5/128k AT&T Cable and a 1.1/1.1 SDSL line). Pricing is good too.
    • > Encodes voicemail to MP3 and forwards it to my email box

      Got it at work. The little blinky on my phone never lights up any more. Mighty fine for getting vmail in meetings, on the laptop, if potentially embarrassing.
    • Way back when I had (still have, somewhere) an all-in-one box called a Canon Navigator. Based on a 286 DOS PC (gives you an idea of the age), it had a built-in fax (doubled as a scanner and printer), touch screen, and some pretty nice telephony software.

      The phone software had features like:
      - digital answering machine, messages recorded to disk (as separate files for each msg)
      - automated dial-out using a pre-recorded message
      - similar automated functions for receiving faxes to files and automated sending of faxes
      - all of the above integrated with an address and phone number database
      - more stuff I can't remember right now.

      Some of the above had convenience interfaces -- for example, you could set it to give yourself (or somebody else) a wake-up call at a certain time.

      The point being, if you're going to use a general purpose computer as a PBX, you might as well take advantage of the fact that it's a general purpose computer. Make all of the above functions available via any other computer on the household LAN.
    • Check out Altigen's AltiServ.
      http://www.altigen.com/AltiServ_SmallOffice.htm

      "The AltiServ SmallOffice solution is a fully converged PBX telephone system that uses the LAN, the internet and the public telephone network to enable an array of applications that take advantage of the convergence of voice and data communications.

      The AltiServ SmallOffice supports both traditional and IP telephones as well as Voice over IP functionality, Contact Center capabilities, AltiWeb applications, T1-PRI interface, IP networking and interoffice trunking."

      It has tons of features including e-mail integration.

      "This allows AltiGen to support unified messaging giving the user the option of having their voice mail delivered to any POP3 e-mail server. Now you can access your voice mail without changing at all how you retrieve your e-mail now."

      Not sure how much it costs, but it sure looks cool. =)
  • As stated before, Intel sells a nice MSI card available in both PCI and ISA form factors. I have developed for the cards under both NT and 2000 and both platforms seem to run stable. There are several SDKs available for the cards, but the one we choose to use was 'Visual Voice' by Pronexus. It was a toolkit available for VisualBasic which worked well, but I dont believe it is being sold anylonger.

    Intel has a SDK made by them for the boards, and the boards come in various flavors. There are boards for use with T1/E1s, ISDN lines, MSI systems and there is also a board that can be used for general TAPI applications such as an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system. As for Intels SDK, it seems to be able to be used in both VisualBasic and C++.

    More info can be found at http://www.dialogic.com [dialogic.com]
  • the latest print issue of Linux Journal has an article on Bayonne...

    wha? you don't subscribe? tsk...
    • the latest print issue of Linux Journal has an article on Bayonne...

      As a matter of fact, that's what inspired me to Ask Slashdot. It never occurred to me that there might be others out there who shared my idea of a home PBX until I saw that article.

      I did find it a little light on practical information, though. It read like a design specification, which is all fine and good, but....

      wha? you don't subscribe? tsk...

      Wha? Linux Journal isn't free? tsk... ;-)
      • here here on your question. These packages seem to have SQUAT for documentation for the beginner. (for example where does the "idle" state get defined in the files? I just don't know where to start with the thing... sigh)

        I have two quicknet cards (phone jack and a line jack) and just want to do a simple computer answering machine... how the heck can I use bayonne to do that?

        On top of this, I tried openam and it simply garbled the audio.. even just from machine on local net to machine on local net.

        Sigh...
  • Though you won't get an CTI capabilities, there are a few consumer vendors who are making multi handset cordless systems that have many PBX like features, including multiple lines, station to station calls, directory features etc-We have a 2.4 Ghz Siemens system with two handsets that only cost about $100 Canadian from a surplus liquidator. I think Sony and Panasonic also make such systems.

    Another route is to buy a used Nortel Norstar system from some of the hundreds of key system vendors out there. Unfortunately they can get expensive but the telsets and ATA adapters often end up in junk and surplus shops or the local Goodwill for really cheap.

    Calum
    • I own a Siemens system now. It's in my attic. I replaced it with a couple of cheap 900 MHz phones after I put in my wireless LAN. I'd rather have 802.11 than 2.4 GHz phones.

      The Siemens system is really far from being a true PBX-type system. It's just a glorified cordless phone with optional answering machine. Oh, and the cordless handsets sound terrible from the other end of the connection.
      • I own a Siemens system now. It's in my attic. I replaced it with a couple of cheap 900 MHz phones after I put in my wireless LAN. I'd rather have 802.11 than 2.4 GHz phones.

        We've been pretty happy with ours, but the only bug is the short standby time. Since you had one, what kind of talk and standby times were you getting?

        I was plesantly surprised by some of the features in the Siemens system like station to station calling, barge in, and the caller log/directory features. It's by no means a true PBX, but for home use, it's not half bad. Even a small business could get a lot of use out of it.

        Calum

        • Since you had one, what kind of talk and standby times were you getting?

          Dreadful. If I left the cordless handset out of its cradle for about 36 hours, it would start giving off that high-pitched "low battery" beep. Which is an amazing thing to wake up to in the middle of the night when you've left the handset on your bedside table.
      • I am relieved to find that I am not the only person who thinks the voice quality sucks. I couldn't belive how this expensive 2.4GHz phone was bested by an old Panasonic that wasn't even 900MHz!
  • by Genady ( 27988 ) <gary DOT rogers AT mac DOT com> on Saturday August 03, 2002 @10:52PM (#4006580)
    The wife (who is a phone tech by day) says you need a Toshiba DK40 + Stratagy voice mail. I've programmed the DK 424 myself (with the add-on computer interface) and have to say it wasn't too bad. Don't let the sales guy tell you you can program it all through the phone though :)
    • The wife (who is a phone tech by day)

      Does she fight crime by night?
    • Oh dear God... not the Toshiba! That thing is the biggest POS! If you think it's not too bad; you must have a puch card interface for your other machines. Lord.

      Oh, but you can program it all through the phone. I've lost hours of my life doing just that. What was it, Extension #499?

      I just wish the damn thing had understood daylight savings. Or not getting trapped in a loop on Friday at exactly 5:01 pm.

      I wish I was employed, but I seriously don't miss that job in the slightest.
  • Try VOCP (Score:4, Informative)

    by Scutter ( 18425 ) on Saturday August 03, 2002 @10:54PM (#4006589) Journal
    You might try VOCP [sourceforge.net]. Good open source call routing system. Even has web integration for retrieving your calls over a network.
  • Reliability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsangc ( 177574 ) on Saturday August 03, 2002 @10:59PM (#4006600)
    The one thing that would concern me with making your own PBX out of an old PC and some CTI cards is reliability. What if the system crashes and someone needs to dial 911 or another emergency service?

    Keep at least one analog 500 set wired directly to a trunk/outside line.

    Calum
    • I have a PBX sytem at home I inherrited from a failed company. Dialogic hardware, running televantage software.

      I can't speak for other PBX systems, but my dialogic patch panel forwards the first two trunks straight to specific systems in case of system crashes.
  • Reliability -- (Score:5, Informative)

    by sillivalley ( 411349 ) <sillivalley&comcast,net> on Saturday August 03, 2002 @11:14PM (#4006639)
    Dealing with phone lines is a PITA. Look at the innards of something like a Panasonic PBX ( I've had one in the house for 10+ years), and one of the first things you notice is that a large percentage of the circuitry deals with spike and surge protection for all the lines going in and out of the box.

    I've thought about homebrewing a system, but don't have a 30 hour day just yet. The panasonic box is reliable -- it just sits in the closet and works. Oh, when power fails, it automagically switches the CO (incoming) lines to the first n extensions, so you're not totally screwed.

    Features with unintended consequences department: One cool feature of the panasonic system is the doorbell boxes. Put one on the front door, and you can answer the door from any phone connected to the system. Unfortunately when I first set up the system, the front door also rang the extension with the answering machine on it. We went away for the weekend -- when we returned, we found that the answering machine had been answering the front door! Oops! A "simple matter of programming" fixed that.
    • We went away for the weekend -- when we returned, we found that the answering machine had been answering the front door! Oops!

      Doesn't sound like an "oops" to me. Sounds like a feature. ;-)
    • We went away for the weekend -- when we returned, we found that the answering machine had been answering the front door!

      Bzzzt!

      "I'm sorry, we're not home right now. But if you check under the flowerpot, the front door key is there. You may take anything but my 3133+ PBX system!"
  • 1 idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by Izanagi ( 466436 ) on Saturday August 03, 2002 @11:26PM (#4006675) Journal
    I myself would just see about buying a used system. Try here [worldcom.com] or here [enron.com].
  • VoiceML & VoIP? (Score:3, Informative)

    by spankalee ( 598232 ) on Saturday August 03, 2002 @11:33PM (#4006693)
    This isn't a PBX reccomendation, but you should look into VoiceXML for your frontend/voicemail. You can all sorts of cool things like branching with DTMF, or speech recognition. You can record speech, playback messages depending on input, use speech sysnthesis.

    One thing I'd like to use that for is to leave messages for people who call in by letting them enter a PIN.

    The only problem is the software, the projects on sourceforge don't seem to be that far along yet

    I'd also check out VoIP for intercoms. There is opensource software for that. You could build your own VoIP intercoms/phones with a single board computer with built-in sound, or a usb soundcard, or the Creative Labs VoIP Blaster (there's oss called Fobbit to use that with Linux)

  • 3com makes an over priced "VoIP" system called the NBX 100. We got one of these for work and when we got a second office, we got another one. Its custom 486 pc like device that has all its devices hooked off a 10mb ethernet network. Its os is vxWorks. This seems to be a nice system for the geeky house if you can find one at a firesale. They have all the cool things like tapi so windows boxes and do stuff, they have pc soft phones. Of course they only support windows and won't desribe the packets that go over the wire (which aren't voip, but raw ethernet packets). I've got tcpdump and I'm slowly figuring out whats going on. The phones seem to be good but expensive and you want to keep them on their own port on a switch or at least away from links you want to be fast. For more details google for "nbx rant"
  • Really?

    I mean, unless you have a crap-load of people calling you (unlikely) why would you subject yourself to the proprietary systems of a PBX/Key system?

    A $40 Voicemail system is just fine, thank you.

    • A PBX can provide features that simple voicemail cannot. Some examples:
      1. Each handset can have it's own extension, and therefore can call other extensions - very handy for upstairs/downstairs.
      2. DID (direct-incoming-dial). This allows a public phone number to ring a single handset inside the house.
      3. Voicemail (PBX based) can utilize these features to allow for personalized messaging, and with a simple press of the button, all calls can go direct to voicemail (no ringing phones!!!).
      PBX's can be inexpensive when purchased used.

  • Surplus sites and auction sites like Ebay [ebay.com] are good for this sort of thing. Myself, I have a Computone Executech II key system with nice lcd speakerphones and programmable button consoles. I got the PBX and 15 phones on ebay for $65+s/h. While it is true you can't plug in a plain old telepohone (POTs), Even these old proprietary phone systems have some "auxilary" jacks on them for regular analog devices (fax machines, etc) you may want to use at an extension. I was able to use google groups to find all the pertinent wiring information before I even bid on it.

    I use this phone system in conunction with vgetty and this [vocpsystem.com]. If someone calls in and the VOCP system answers, you can do all the standard voicemail stuff, you can issue a page to my email pager, send a fax(which can be forwarded to email) or I can even dial into the system and get a PPP dial-up connection if I'm on the road and otherwise don't have internet.
  • There are a lot of cool and useful things that you could do with open box PC based PBX (here in Australia they are referred to as PABX, hav no idea why). I especially dream of all the cool things that you could do by integrating the PBX with an SME's ERM database , maintaining phone logs for every customer, bringing up the customers details based on caller-id.

    My question is just how much do you need the co-operation of the telco to get a system like this to work , i.e I might want 4 lines in but I don't want 4 different numbers, is there an open standard, or am I forced to involve the telco in how I setup my PBX?

    • I can't speak for how they do things in Oz, but in the US you can get (for example) four lines that are assigned to what they call a rotary group, or a hunt group. That means that the four lines get used in a round-robin fashion as calls come in. The first person to dial your number gets your line 1. The next person to dial the same number rings in on line 2, and so on, until it loops around again. So basically you're getting four lines with just one phone number.

      You can use a PBX with any number of incoming lines (as long as that number is at least one) and with any service from your telco. So the question of whether you buy a rotary group of lines or lines with distinct numbers is entirely up to you.
    • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Sunday August 04, 2002 @04:12AM (#4007217)
      am I forced to involve the telco in how I setup my PBX
      It entirely depends on what you want to do. Many PBX systems are perfectly happy sitting on a single POTS line. One caller ties up the entire system except extension to extension calls. This is what you commonly find at very small stores where you ring in and then punch up an extension. Busy's are common. The system is referred to as a key system. A user has to select one of the unused outside lines to place a call and has to select one of the ringing lines (or line on hold) to answer a call.

      A Private Branch Exchange is much more than a fancy termination for a POTS phone line. They run on some trunk lines. This does require some work on the Telco end to make it work. On the Key system, if one line is busy, callers would have to try later or try one of the other lines numbers. The Telco can have it so if the primary number is busy, it will roll over to a secondary number.
      On a trunked system, it is entirely diffrent. You can select diffrent numbers of incomming and outgoing trunks. In-comming calls and outgoing calls are placed on the first avaliable trunk. (you may have seen this, Dial 9 to get an outside line, not pick up line 3) Incomming calls as well as outgoing lines are trunked seprately. An example is an order desk using an 800 number. (operators standing by...) Many calls can be received limited by the number of incomming trunk lines and avaliable operators. The call center may have as few as 2 outgoing lines. A telemarketing center may have hundreds of outgoing trunk lines but just a few incomming lines.

      Another class of trunk is called DID, for Direct Inward Dial. You most likely have seen this for paging and not known it. A paging company may buy a block of 1,000 phone numbers and have them placed on 20 trunk lines. When you dial the regular phone number to call a pager, it picks up any free trunk line to the paging switch (sometimes as few as 10 trunk DID lines) and the phone company sends the last 3 digits of the dialed number. This way 1,000 phone numbers will fit on 10 or so lines. The calls are short so few callers will experiance a busy.
      DID lines are used for many PBX's so you direct dial a department or persons desk without dialing an extension. You can get DID for 1-5 digits to cover 2-100,000 phone numbers. A 1 digit DID does not require reserving all 10 numbers, 2 digit 100 numbers, etc. Getting 20 numbers reserved on a 2 digit DID can be done. My work phone is an example of this. To save on copper wire, all of the trunks can be multiplexed on an ISDN line or dedicated fiber optic line.
      Going trunked is overkill for home use. Look for stuff that will work on a POTS line. Some stuff is set up for trunked service and may support DID or ISDN.
      • am I forced to involve the telco in how I setup my PBX

        There is also some consideration to be given as to how the PBX picks up the phone lines coming into it. The typical telephone uses loop-start to pickup and line for an outgoing call. However, several older-style PBX systems uses ground-start. You'll need to have your lines configured by the telco depending on what kind you might need.

  • by Newer Guy ( 520108 ) on Sunday August 04, 2002 @12:24AM (#4006810)
    I picked one up for next to nothing that has four ports (four simultaneous voicemails) It came with a 286 (!) computer and a 100 meg hard drive that had hours and hours of recording time. DOS based of course (though I've heard that the newer ones use OS/2). As to a phone system...I'd look for small companies going out of business and offer to buy theirs cheap. A friend of mine got a Panasonic 10 line/25 phone digital system that way for 50 bucks (and he had to remove the PBX from the wall and unplug the phones).
  • by twos ( 83031 )
    I mean really why? I Like anyone would want multiple lines of telemarketers.....

    Humm lets write Slashdot and have the populous write out project plan...
    • Two words: Conference call!

      -- Terry
    • I mean really why?

      You know, I went to the trouble of putting it in the second line of my submission: "I don't really have a good justification for this; it just sounds like a neat thing to have."

      If you people can't be bothered to read two sentences into the story, we're going to have to resort to making the titles longer. And nobody wants that.
  • The Linux Answering Machine HOWTO [linux-india.org] is not exactly what you're looking for, but surely a good start.
  • Feature Wish List (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CySurflex ( 564206 )
    Feature Wish List from PC/PBX integration:

    • Being able to call in remotely and:
      1. changing settings of the phone system
      2. listening to voice mail
      3. having your email read to you
      4. control X10-home-automation stuff (call in through your phone and turn the air conditioner on 30 minutes before you get there!)
    • Being able to do all of the above through a remote web browser (including listening to voice mail through the web)
    • bonus: all of the above with speech recognition?
    • having an IM sent to you at work when you get a voice mail at home
  • http://vovida.org

    There you'll find a scalable open source softpbx that's scalable to the 5000 phone range. It's got Cisco research dollars pouring into it, and it's currently free. They have a soft client too! This thing has billing modules, h323 compatibility gateways.. Works with Cisco's VERY cool sip phones :)

    It really is aimed at the carrier type people.. but hell..it's pretty easy to get it all running on a P2-450 :)

    Take it easy all :)

  • A completely standards-based, scriptable solution:

    Get an analog SIP gateway, like the one sold by mediatrix [mediatrix.com].

    Then, a VoiceXML Interpreter [nuance.com].

    The calls come in the gateway, and get handled by the interpreter, which runs on standard PC hardware. You can configure the interpreter to run different VoiceXML apps based on the caller ID info. You can specify any kind of voicemail app you want in VoiceXML, complete with touch tone and speech recognition.

    While you're at it, you can write other vxml apps accessible only to certain people, verified with biometric voiceprint authentication. Here's a scenario: You forgot your housekey. Your electronic garage door opener, however, is hooked up to an X-10 device.

    Computer: Hello, would you like to leave a message?
    You: This is Joe Shmoe.
    Computer: Voiceprint identified. How can I help you?
    You: Open the garage.

    BTW, the Nuance interpreter comes free with a 2 port license (handles 2 calls simultaneously). Any more than that, and they start charging. The software includes the speech recognition, voiceprint authentication, and voicexml interpreter.

    Neat, eh?

  • I converted an old modem into a telephone line interface [interstice.com] for my computer, then wrote some simple scripts to handle voice mail, real-time special effects for phone calls, you know. Note that since it's a regular modem, you have all the standard modem features like caller-ID (which your script could use to implement your whitelist). Wouldn't be hard to add tone-detection (actually, I already had it working a while back but haven't integrated it into this project) to route audio to other machines. If you have a computer in each room, you can just skip the phones (and hey, add voice-recognition for dialing out). But if you want phones... you might check out the LinuxJACK [linuxjack.com] or related products.

    -Simon

  • not quite a pbx, but you could use VOCP to do things like page a pager when a certain voicemail box has a message, accept credit card numbers, and run perl scripts to do whatever you want.

    www.vocpsystem.com

    I'm trying to get it to work for my business so that it pages me depending on which mailbox a message is left in. I know that in theory I can link it into a credit card validator and a bunch of other things but I'm not there yet.

  • Consider the value of your time!

    It's really a waste of your time if you want to have a reliable, maintainable, system. The price of a small Panasonic keysystem is worth it, and there are plenty of places that support them. You'll end up with a much better solution plus if you're putting this in your house, it'll *increase* the resale value of your house. A roll-your-own solution based on a trash pc will *decrease* the value of your house.
  • I've been using the Cybergenie system for several years. It uses multiple handsets with individual mailboxes, and hooks seamlessly into Outlook (I know...). An additional feature is that I can call my home phone and have it read emails from my inbox. Like most text to speech converters it has some problems, but overall it works quite well.

    You can pick up the complete system off Ebay for about $120 (search for Cybergenie), and there is an updated driver set (3.0) which allows use with WinXP. The manufacturer went out of business several years ago, so there isn't any warrenty. There is a large user base for support, including a dedicated MSN newsgroup (just do a google search for Cybergenie to get links).

    It works well, and is relatively inexpensive, and links into my email inbox. Good enough for me.

  • bbs telecom (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mycal ( 135781 ) on Sunday August 04, 2002 @01:27PM (#4008390) Journal
    has 2 inexpensive pbx's, somtimes under $100 on ebay.

    The low end unit has 3 outside lines and 8 inside, the other 4 outside and
    16 inside.

    I use it with a voiceworks voicemail system I got for $300 on ebay.

    It does have caller ID support and RS232 out, so you could do some call filtering there, but it is not as clean as a PC based would be.

    I do really like it, I got it when I built my office and guesthouse and had to have an easy way to share phonelines and intercom. The side result is I only get about 1 telemarketer call every 3 months now, since they never dial through the greeting, and everyone has there own voicemail box. People at my company can also call me at 11PM at my office and not wake the house, totally cool.
    I have 2 outside lines and 1 VOIP line plugged into the outside which works
    well for all.

    The great thing about it is that it uses regular phones and cool keyphones, your choice, and it is analog, so modems and fax machines work well on the inside.

    This is definatly the way to go on a budget. Under $500 you should be good to go.

    mycal

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