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Home Phone System That Syncs To Computer? 405

An anonymous reader writes 'In comparison to the advanced technology in today's smart phones, the standard home phone is painfully backwards. My current setup is a Panasonic system that has 4 cordless phones over one base station. Setting the time on one phone changes the time on all the phones; however, this is not the case for the phone book. Each entry must be manually copied (pushed) to each handset. Is this as far as home phone technology has come? What I would like is a phone system that I could sync to my computer so I could update the phone book over all the units (if not sync with Address Book or Outlook), keep a log of caller IDs, or even forward me new voicemail notifications. Does anyone know if such a system exists?'
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Home Phone System That Syncs To Computer?

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  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 05, 2009 @04:45PM (#29999404)

    What's a "landline"? :-)

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by dreamchaser ( 49529 )

      "What's a "landline"? :-)"

      It's the line that always works. A lot of us live in places that still have very poor cellular signals. Most adults have landlines so I'll assume you're young. I'm not knocking your choice, but don't assume that everyone can do without one.

      • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

        by digitalhermit ( 113459 ) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @06:03PM (#30000494) Homepage

        I have a landline in my house. It has an answering machine [1] attached to it. Attached to the answering machine is a telephone [2] with a spiral cord [3] connecting the handset to the base. No seriously. On the side of the handset there's a volume knob [4] and a switch that selects between "Pulse" and "Tone" [5].

        [1] An answering machine is an ancient device that records incoming messages onto a "cassette tape".

        [2] A telephone is a device that connects via a "landline" to the switching station or the operator or something like that.

        [3] A spiral cord is a strange cord that is perpetually tangled. Used to connect a telephone base to the handset.

        [4] A volume knob is an analog electric device that increase or decreases the volume of the earpiece speaker.

        [5] Pulse dialing used a series of pulses to generate the digits in a telephone number. Many phones had a place for a "label" where one could insert a written (or typed) phone number list.

        God. I feel old.

  • That's a great question, and an even better request to broadcast to manufacturers. I have a 4 unit/1 base V-Tech cordless system at home that I love (rugged [survived a drop in a toilet and kept on working], battery life, etc), except for wishing that it did stuff that it doesn't. The feature tech isn't the difficult part, it's getting the manufacturer's attention so they know it's wanted.
  • by clutch110 ( 528473 ) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @04:47PM (#29999428)

    Time for overkill solution number 1:

    1) Buy a SIP to POTS adapter
    2) Install asterisk on your Linux server (You do have a Linux server right?)
    3) Create a web app, preferably Ruby on Rails, that connects to Asterisk over the management port and dials a phone number and rings it back to your home phone line
    4) Profit until the system breaks and the wife wrings your neck because she can't call to make her beauty salon appointment!


    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      But can an idiot grandma in a hurry figure out how to do that?
    • Or just get Google Voice and make your calls using the Web interface. No need for an address book in the phone at all, and Google's done all the hard work for you.

      Not as easy as a speed dial, but if you have a landline you might also be interested in saving the long distance charges...

    • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @05:06PM (#29999708)

      Time for overkill solution number 1:

      1) Buy a SIP to POTS adapter 2) Install asterisk on your Linux server (You do have a Linux server right?) 3) Create a web app, preferably Ruby on Rails, that connects to Asterisk over the management port and dials a phone number and rings it back to your home phone line 4) Profit until the system breaks and the wife wrings your neck because she can't call to make her beauty salon appointment!


      If you don't want to kill it that much, you could switch to a VOIP service for your home number. But your solution does have that cool Dr. Seuss/Rube Goldberg vibe, so don't let me discourage you.

    • by Jay L ( 74152 ) *

      You left out a few parts of the overkill solution:

      5. Excellent O'Reilly book on Asterisk
      6. RSS feed for NerdVittles / PBX-in-a-Flash
      7. Copy of VMWare Fusion because hey, why bog down the Linux server when you have a fast desktop?
      8. Subscription to TWO different SIP providers because you want to compare call quality
      9. iPhone to use until you get around to reading that Asterisk book ...

      hypothetically, I mean. I'd imagine. Pure conjecture, you understand.

  • by hey ( 83763 ) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @04:48PM (#29999440) Journal

    ... they work *all* the time.
    Personally, I would never replace my POTS phone with anything "high tech".

    • Personally, I would never replace my POTS phone with anything "high tech".

      Unless you have an older model made by AT&T (bonus points if it's rotary and heavy enough to kill a horse), or use business-quality phones at home, chances are good that the quality and feature set of your home phone is "adequate" and not much more.

    • Hmm, you've never heard of Fairpoint, then. :)

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      I haven't had a POTS phone since 2002, and never missed it. In fact, I've never seen it NOT work since then. When the tornados tore through my neighborhood in March 2006, my phone worked fine. POTS phones were out for weeks.

      I really don't see much use for POTS phones, or for making them "smart" (which would only require a wifi or bluetooth connection to your PC, and a little software).

      Damn, dude, I'm 57, you must REALLY be old. Are you on the right site?

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Too bad, because outside the cordless I have Cisco phones on a Asterisk box. works ALL THE TIME as well, and my VoIP service never goes down unless internet is out, and if internet is out, then POTS phone is out too. (DSL is screwy that way)

      the Cisco voip phones are incredible sounding.

  • It's called Asterisk (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 05, 2009 @04:48PM (#29999448)

    Yes, it's called Asterisk, but it requires more than a box you buy at a retail store. You can share a phone book and click-to-dial (Asteridex) based on entries in MySQL. It supports about every feature you can think of for the phone, from wake-up calls to auto-forwarding. Get a VOIP trunk running SIP and you'll also pay far less for phone service. You still need a tiny server running Linux, some IP phones, or an analog card, but you'll have total control and all the features you want. Personally, I like FreePBX (, and there are even easier-to-setup versions such as the distro at [].

  • Cost (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ewoods ( 108845 ) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @04:48PM (#29999450)

    The biggest reason this doesn't happen is cost. Those crappy phones you mention (I have similar setup) costs the manufacturer pennies to make. There's no fancy operating system, no connectivity with disparate systems, no pricey architecture, nothing fancy. In order to do what smart phones do, the cost would go up. Your smart phone isn't cheap, but the price is subsidized by the phone provider through deals with the manufacturer and built into the cost of the plan as a whole. Good luck, but I wouldn't expect it to happen any time soon because most people won't pay hundreds for a home phone system when they can get one that works with 4 handsets for $50.

    • You might think that a proper telco like AT&T might want to make a good wired-phone infrastructure, to stop the flight of people to cell phones, so they'd encourage the development of features like syncable phone books, and Internet-accessible voicemail (a la Google Voice) and things like that.

      Then you'd remember that AT&T bought out Cingular a while ago, so they probably make more money off your cell phones anyway, and they're just try to wring as much as they still can out of their existing infr

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      How much would a wifi or a bluetooth chip set them back?

  • Cybergenie (Score:2, Informative)

    by alatar_b ( 670896 ) [] It did exist, and there are still some available out there if you look hard enough. It had some issues, the main one being lack of sales hampering the development of the technology any further, but it worked pretty well all being said.
  • Microsoft Cordless Phone System []

    You might be able to find one on EBay...

  • My phone setup (Score:5, Informative)

    by flyboyfred ( 987568 ) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @04:49PM (#29999462)
    I have a Panasonic phone system with 3 cordless handsets and one base station. It keeps all of the phone book entries centrally, so if you change it from one handset all get the change. Same with the caller ID log. No connection to my computer, but this sounds like most of what you're asking for. Maybe you just need a newer phone?
  • CLX475 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 05, 2009 @04:49PM (#29999464)

    I have a Uniden CLX475 ... it does pretty much everything you ask ...

  • Depends. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @04:49PM (#29999474) Journal
    Good old fashioned POTS stuff has its advantages(phones, even wireless ones, are incredibly cheap, you can carry the signal over cable of virtually arbitrary crappiness); but sophistication isn't really one of them. Even DECT gear, while ostensibly some kind of standard, is little more powerful or interoperable than the old-school proprietary RF linked wireless phones.

    If you want power, you really want VOIP phones(even if you end up using a copper POTS line to dial out, though you can often save money by using a SIP provider). Voicemail sent to your email, speech to text, configurable menues, contacts lists that connect to LDAP/AD backends, the whole deal. Unfortunately, VOIP hardware tends to be substantially more expensive than the old POTS stuff(unless you count software VOIP clients running on hardware you already have) and need proper modern data connections(either wired or wireless ethernet, usually).
    • Good old fashioned POTS stuff has its advantages(phones, even wireless ones, are incredibly cheap, you can carry the signal over cable of virtually arbitrary crappiness)..

      If you define "carry the signal . . ." to mean sound quality gets worse and worse the crappier the cable gets. There's some pretty craptacular wiring out there. I have had to pull out all the POTS wiring in a house ("quad" cable spliced with anything convenient: scotch tape, bandage tape, nothing . . . all hooked together in a bizarre ring/star/daisy chain hybrid group loop disaster ) because I couldn't understand anybody and vice-versa..

      • Heh. I've got a short run of CAT5 going from phone box outside to a rafter in my attic, each wire spread out, stripped, and wrapped around a nail. Then CAT3 from the nails to the phone jacks in the few rooms that have a landline phone. Voice quality is no issue.

        My DSL on the other hand is CAT5 from the phone box outside up into the attic down thru a wall to a wall plate. And I get constant disconnects due to "timeout waiting for PADO" which apparently is due to too much noise on the line.

    • by Ecuador ( 740021 )

      Instead of VOIP phones dialing out of POTS, you can also get the features the OP wants by going the opposite way. For example I have simple DECT phones hooked on a Thomson VOIP DSL router, which router can have a unified address book, call logs etc. Obviously this is solution is dependent on having a DSL+VOIP provider in your area.

    • by ericfitz ( 59316 )

      A good old wired POTS phone will work even if the power is out at your house. No UPS necessary.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sandbags ( 964742 )

      Pots hardware, a generic VoIP provider, and a google voice number... Done.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Albanach ( 527650 )

      My Siemens Gigaset A580 IP phones can load and export their directory in vcard format - it should be trivial to script something to automatically sync this via their web interface.

      They can handle six voip providers and have a POTS connection.

      Couldn't ask for more in a set of phones.

  • I have at least one friend who set up Asterisk for their home system, and got SIP phones where hardware phones are needed, and put software phones and headsets on all the computers. [] []

    I've not played with the free (as in beer) solutions, but the semi-free business versions (Trixbox, Digium) do support a shared speed-dial list. Plus you gain intercom, paging, music on hold, etc.

    • Asterisk would definitely do it. You can get SIP instruments for under $100 each. Power over Ethernet switch with 8 powered ports isn't too expensive and eliminates the need for wall warts at all your extensions (Assuming you get PoE capable phones). Migrate or replace your home phone number with a VOIP service, they're not that expensive, might even come with an incoming fax line.

      P.S. Grandstream phones relatively are cheap. You can get executivey, businessy, or homey type models. They can import your

  • We purchased an $80 VTech cordless phone system around three years ago (three handsets, one base station, and two other charging stations), and it seems to keep both its caller ID records and its phonebook data in a central location. If you make an entry on one unit, it shows up immediately on all three.

  • I've been looking at Skype headsets for a while, but I wanted something that would work without being connected to a computer, and would work with my existing panasonic 4 station system. Verizon had some great ideas in their Audrey-like home phone station, but cost-wise and lockin sort of kept me away.

    Everyone's going to wireless or VoIP - there's not going to be any more innovation in the home phone arena. And in the commercial VOIP arena, this already exists in $500 desktop units.
  • by pavon ( 30274 )

    I see many posts recommending switching to VoIP and using Astrix. I have no experience with setting up an ISDN system, however it seems like they do everything he is asking, and he would have less to rewire going that route. Are there any simple, reasonably priced ISDN PBX boxes that would work well for this?

  • When my wife got an Android phone, do you know how she put people's phone numbers into it? By editing their phone number in her gmail contacts. I'd say that's pretty damn synced. She never entered a single number into her phone, and me, never having used it, and not having a cell phone myself [and thus not savvy with them], could still figure out how to call someone in about 3 seconds.
  • by Xerfas ( 1625945 ) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @05:01PM (#29999644) Journal
    SIEMENS GIGASET S680 BLUETOOTH DECT PHONE [] easy to program, easy to use. I have worked with Siemens dect systems when I worked with Siemens HiPath 4000. Most new dect phones got sync to PC that I have used.
  • I got rid of my regular land line, and went with "Phone Power", a cheap VoIP provider out of Calfornia. (Only $14.95 per month if you're willing to sign a 2 year contract with them, and you get unlimited calls to anywhere in the USA for that price.) I'm sure there are many other inexpensive choices as well. (I was previously using "AT&T Callvantage", but that one is going away so I had to switch services. It cost more like $25 a month anyway.)

    A nice side-effect of switching my service to VoIP is, I

  • Doesn't do anything about synching the phone books, but logging caller id, forwarding voice mail to email, remote access to voice mail: PhoneValet [].

  • My phone does all the stuff you want. And it has no wires. And nobody asks, "Is Bobby home?" when I answer it. It keeps an extensive callerID history on board and a full accounting of all incoming and outgoing calls is available online. I can synchronize my contacts and calendar with the computer. Got voicemail notification and everything.

    Land lines are dying. The chances of seeing major integration improvements are slim to none so, if you're stuck on the idea of keeping a land line, just start lookin

  • 30 seconds of Google (Score:2, Informative)

    by bensode ( 203634 )

    Google much? []

  • I finally realized that we did not need a home phone since everyone in my house had their own cell phone. My Blackberry uses my wifi network when I am at home and for $15/month I have have unlimited local and long distance through the Rogers talkspot plan. Now I don't miss any calls since there is only one number to reach me no matter where I am. I even have a bluetooth handset phone that automatically connects when I am in the house. Its great not having to answer the phone and find out the call was fo

  • It was a product that was just a little ahead of its time for the home market, but it never really took off. Cool in concept, being able to listen to voicemail on pc or the phone. If I remember correctly though, the downside for why I didn't buy one was that I wasn't leaving the computer on all day back then. Microsoft Cordless Phone []
  • by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @05:27PM (#30000018) Homepage

    I see lots of people deciding they don't need a landline any more. Well, for a single person or in the case where everyone in the house has a cell phone, that can work. It works better when your wireless carrier has a WiFi component to their plan - although since they lose money by the fistful on these I would expect either the carrier or the plan to disappear.

    But what happens when you have a three-year-old child? Going to get them a cell phone? I don't think so. And while you can teach a three year old to dial 911 calling from a cell phone may not be anywhere near as easy or helpful. In a house the GPS chip isn't going to work so well, so your phone isn't going to know where it is. Meaning that the fire department doesn't know where to go.

    Landline phone service is also just plain more reliable. If you live in an area where there are weather-related power outages, which is just about anywhere, you can't assume that the cell tower infrastructure has much battery backup - some have none at all. Contrast this with the landline Central Office which when the batteries start getting low fires up the generator to keep dial tone available. I have had no electricity from the power company for more than 24 hours after an ice storm, before there were cell phones. After a few hours a cell phone would be a paperweight under these circumstances.

    Why do you need a land line? Children. Emergencies. Power outages. Maybe you don't care now, but you very well might in the future.

    And one thing to consider. If enough people drop land lines, they will disappear entirely. Try, just try to find a pay phone outside of an airport or train station today. Nobody needs them, unless your cell phone dies and you need to call someone like maybe a tow truck. Good luck, because pay phones have been declared obsolete. So now there is no alternative. Land lines might be declared obsolete as well - in which case good luck teaching your young children how to dial out on your Blackberry.

  • by mpapet ( 761907 ) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @05:31PM (#30000058) Homepage

    Having set up Asterisk a couple of different places AND attempting to integrate most of the things discussed, I can tell you there are a whole chain of problems.

    a phone system that I could sync to my computer so I could update the phone book over all the units
    Meaning a single address book shared/synced at all phones? You would need phones with *some* kind of open client interface. Of which, there are exactly zero.

    (if not sync with Address Book or Outlook),
    Please, dear Lord. No. This is another binary jail. But it looks like you want your home computer's Outlook client to be somehow involved. Which, is another programming mountain to climb separate from the first feature.

    keep a log of caller IDs
    This, Asterisk can do. A more flexible solution requiring some coding is Freeswitch. As others have mentioned, you have to plug the POTS line into your PC. Is there a GUI that can render the results to meet your satisfaction? Maybe.

    or even forward me new voicemail notifications.
    Asterisk and Freeswitch can do this too. But, there are numerous details that drive people away. Do the hard/soft phones you end up using have ways to implement call forwarding? How about controlling call forwarding at the server only? Is there a GUI available to meet your standards of usable? I haven't worked with Asterisk in a long time though maybe there are prettier ways of doing things now.

    Dog forbid you want to integrate your mobile phone into the fray.

    BTW, there's a whole forest of patents on voicemail notification alone. Even *if* something was made, it probably violates patents. []

  • For the life of me I can't remember the brand, but I got it at Sam's club. I'll see if I can note it later tonight and enter it here as a reply to this comment (if i remember) Its 4 phones (supprots up to 6), 1 base station, 3 chargers, 8.1GHz. Phone calls can be transfered between handsets easy, room to room pager functions, 2 phones can conference even miles from the base station (handy on long car trips with multiple cars trying to stay in touch).

    most importantly, it has 2 nice features i think you're

  • See:

    SL785 on Amazon []. It is the only cordless phone on the market that has some semi-smartphone features.

    You can push .vcf cards to the phone via Bluetooth (I exported from Google, and pushed my entire contact list in one go). Alternately, you can use the optional software to sync a handset with Outlook via USB or Bluetooth.

    Once one handset is updated, you can push the entire phonebook to any other handset.

    The phones themselves are very pretty and well made, and work great as phones. They can also display ph

  • Try OpenPeak (Score:4, Informative)

    by JoshDM ( 741866 ) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @05:39PM (#30000178) Homepage Journal
    Open Peak []

    It is as though they took an iPhone and applied it to a workplace telephone system.
  • Vonage (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Orion Blastar ( 457579 ) <> on Thursday November 05, 2009 @05:44PM (#30000248) Homepage Journal

    Vonage keeps track of all numbers you dialed or called you, along with voicemail you can dial into, access via email, or access via their web interface.

    I don't know about updating phone books for cordless phones, but since I switched to Vonage I have better control over my voicemail and list of phone numbers via the web interface and it emails every voice mail entry to my address along with a speech to text of the message.

    Vonage uses a CAT5 Ethernet connector and then any POTS phone. As long as you have the Internet with an Ethernet port (Like a Wireless hub with Ethernet ports in it) you can use the Vonage box. Plus it has free Long Distance to the USA and 60+ foreign nations. My wife and brother-in-law use it to call family in Thailand for free. About $33 a month after taxes.

    The other thing is Google Voice but that is still in beta testing.

    The thing is cordless POTS phones never caught up with cell phones yet, but that is a good business to get into and develop smart POTS phones that sync up phone lists, etc.

  • Siemens Gigaset (Score:4, Informative)

    by dUN82 ( 1657647 ) on Thursday November 05, 2009 @06:34PM (#30000868)
    I am using a Siemens Gigaset system along with a Siemens M34 USB dongle, which allows you to manage directory form your PC and Skype etc, but you have to do it via outlook, which is painful as well. Personally, I found google contacts to be the most useful across platforms that can be a feature for home telephone that can be further explored. There are later Gigaset phones that allow you to simply copy your sim contacts from your mobile phone to your home phone or batch send it via bluetooth, but I found Siemens phones are not very popular in the US, which it strange because I found Gigaset phones are far more superior in call clarity, os friendliness and have better industrial design and build quality, and runs on standard AAA batteries instead of those battery packs.

Don't get suckered in by the comments -- they can be terribly misleading. Debug only code. -- Dave Storer