Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A softphone for your ooma service

How would you like free US calls from anywhere you have your PC and an Internet connection? Want to access your home ooma service from a hotal, at work, or from Starbucks?

Here's how.

1. Purchase PhoneGnome box. $99.95

2. Connect the PhoneGnome to your ooma hub. PhoneGnome LINE port connects to ooma hub PHONE port.

3. Get SIP credentials and SIP Softphone software from site. Sign in and navigate to Features / SoftGnome Remote Access / Edit / View SIP Credentials

You can use the free ExpressTalk software (shown above) provided by PhoneGnome or the SIP softphone of your choice (X-lite works well on the Mac). If you have a Wi-fi SIP phone (or a dual-mode phone, such as Nokia E series, N80, or N95), you can even use that. Dial any US number and the call will be placed over the Internet to your ooma hub through the PhoneGnome box.

You can also use the new Mobile Web feature to make ooma calls from your ordinary cell phone.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

ooma - so what's not to like?

Given all the good things I've said about ooma, there must be some things not to like. Here are a few:

1. After putting in your initial settings, there is not much reason to visit the ooma Lounge, aside from listening to your voicemails, which you can do on the phone.

2. Ooma basically takes over your phone service and cancels what you already have in place with your carrier (you still pay the bill though). You might lose archived messages if you use the phone company's voicemail service. Not everyone will be comfortable with this.

3. There is no way to bypass the ooma hub and force a call to use your landline. This is a minor nit, but there are times when I'd like to do this and I can't with ooma.

4. Caller ID. This is probably the biggest hassle. When you call someone, they may not see that it is you calling on their caller ID. They won't know it's you and so they might not pick up. This can be really annoying, as it's somewhat random. You can avoid this by dialing *82 before each call, but who wants to do that every time you pick up the phone to make a call. I think this single limitation pretty much excludes ooma as a business or professional option (in many states it's illegal for businesses to block caller ID on calls they make).

Of course there's also the price, but I'll assume you've already done the math on that and decided the rather high one-time cost is worth it for unlimited US long-distance calls and free voicemail. In reality, many people will probably never break even, but it's nice never having to think about how much you're spending on long-distance calls (you still have to pay extra for international calls).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

ooma stopped working today

Bad news today.

The blue light is on (which is supposed to mean it's working) and I get the ooma dial tone, but when I dial a number, I get an immediate busy signal, no matter what number I dial.

Since this is the first time I that I've needed technical support, I'm also just now discovering that it isn't great. I realize it is a Saturday, but nobody answers at Chat or phone. I'll see how long it takes to get an answer back to my email.

The Chat system appears somewhat broken too. It says "Next in queue, Estimated wait time 0 minutes, 37 seconds" but nobody ever actually picks up.

I also found nothing helpful in the knowledgebase/FAQs and there is no forum that I can find.

UPDATE 11/12/2007: Calls are working again. Apparently this was my first experience with an ooma system outage. I'm not sure exactly how long it lasted, but I know there was a window of about four hours where I couldn't make calls but I didn't try again until the next day and by then it was working again, so I'm not sure when they fixed it. It could be worse. Hopefully this will be a rare occurrence. They might save themselves some trouble by putting some kind "system status" page on their support website.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Up and running

It took a little while to get everything setup and working, but my ooma service is now fully operational (including phone service changes, which I'm still unclear about).

The hub is bigger than I expected but feels very solid in construction.

Call quality so far has been quite good, but there is a faint "buzz" in the background that isn't there if I bypass the hub and connect directly to the phone line.

The voicemail is pretty cool, but I wish I could get the messages as an attachment in email. ooma lacks some of the features I had with Vonage, such as ringing several phones when people call. I also miss the softphone feature. But it's nice not to have monthly fees!

I've seen some people complain about the little "ooma tone" that both parties hear on all calls, but I'm not bothered by it, and so far nobody I've called has been either.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Awaiting delivery of ooma kit

My friend recently got an ooma kit and now I'm waiting to receive mine.

It looks sweet!