Easier Said than Done

With the news that AT&T is going to buy out T-Mobile, unless the US Regulatory stops it (like that would happen), it would seem as if I would end up paying more than I would like for phone service. If I was to go with AT&T choosing either a locked up iPhone, or just as locked up Android phone, it would seem as if no matter what, I would have to consider trying to reduce my demands. So far, the best option is to use an IAX server, along with a dedicated Google Voice account.

However, the problem is to find a budget friendly, and resource friendly system. In goals to try to keep things to less than $150, it would mean I would have to rely on used systems that are either lacking in capability, and/or power hungry. One example is a 160 watt Dell Optiplex which only has 256MB of memory for about $90. Now, mind you – the system won’t be running at 160 watts all of the time, but as with all servers, it should be running 24/7. Even at 100 watts, this would mean that every day, the server will cost 2.4kw. In a month, that would be 72kw per month. On someone that has to pay for electricity, and on a tight budget, that is discouraging. This is one reason I am not considering commissioning my desktop to the task. I’m assuming 3¢ per kilowatt as I hadn’t received my first electric bill yet, this could mean an extra $30 per year just to make phone calls While this may not sound like much, keep in mind that I am on a tight budget, and there is a refrigerator that runs 24/7 as well as an iPod dock that runs nearly 24/7. Either dock is only 10 watts per hour which means that the iPod dock would require 10 days of 24/7 usage for it to rack up the same power demands the server will require in 1 day. Thankfully, servers don’t require monitors beyond the initial setup. A better option will be an HP that is used in a  smaller package, but with a slightly faster CPU, and more memory.

A near perfect solution as for needs go would be an Aleutia T2 which runs on a dual core 1.6 Atom CPU, 2GB memory, a 32GB SSD, and using a whopping 20 watts of power (making a $6/year bill), this system will meet the demands except for the $685 price tag (as of 2011-04-17) which is almost as much as my monthly income – this makes it impossible to get even though it is actually better. So, if I was to pursue, I maybe forced to rely on a more conventional desktop PC. However, this system would perform faster, and more reliably than any desktop for the needs I have for it.

Now, I am sure that some are asking what the heck is an IAX server. IAX is acronym for Inter-Asterisk eXchange. Basically, it is a free IP PBX system that homes, and businesses can rely on. The newer versions of them would support Google Voice calling, and eNUM support. For those in the US, Google Voice if you have an account will allow you to make free calls anywhere in the US, or Canada. In addition, many other countries are far cheaper than a conventional phone company, and especially much cheaper than any cellular carrier. Unfortunately, there is no E911, but that can be fixed really cheaply. eNUM is much like using the Internet to make a phone call in the same way you might go to a web address. It is a bit more complicated that that, but as one could go to a web site in another country without paying extra, the idea is to tell the eNUM system your phone number, and the SIP address in which that phone number can be tied to. If I had eNUM support (no longer do), someone in Asia can use eNUM to call +14122532956 which would actually send the call over the Internet to uid@SIP.tld which with some configuration could actually be my IAX server. Likewise, I would be able to call any number in the eNUM registry which would make my calls free. Of course, any case where the call isn’t associated with eNUM, the call will then use Google Voice, and therefore charged at Google Voice’s rates.

Another capability is to have multiple numbers (even in other countries) without having to have multiple phone jacks. An example could be that I could set up my Chris’ Google Voice line (with his permission) which will be associated with a particular phone (extension). Anytime someone would call my brother, it would ring that one particular phone, and any time someone uses that particular phone, it would show his Google Voice number in the CID. I would probably not opt for this as that phone would ring too many times for my flavor. Nonetheless, you get the idea. Also companies like Call Centric or Local Phone can provide telephone numbers for other countries so a call from that country could be a domestic call for them.

Now, why would I want one? It’s not like I make a lot of calls, nor do I make international calls. Well when you compare T-Mobile’s contract rate plans, and AT&T’s contract rate plans, AT&T is $40 more than T-Mobile. This is per month, and when you assume the contract term of two years, this is almost a $1,000 premium over the cheaper for the same quality of service. Again, tight budget does not allow for such money to be wasted needlessly. An IAX server would allow me to use an Android, or iPhone to connect to an IAX server using a SIP account, and make the calls for virtually free. If I had an extra $700 lying around, my cost of operations for a home phone could literally be pennies a week rather than more than $1.00 per day. This would include assuring E911 support for the SIP phones if any are needed. Keep in mind if you are using a cell phone, 911 is already available. By doing this, I could reduce a phone plan when I am forced to choose to the lowest plan (as I don’t use the phone much) and never have to worry about overages. And since I could use Google Voice, all of my SMS will be counted as data. This means a savings of $20 additional to what most would pay. I could actually bring the bill down to what I feel I should be paying, and that would include the charges of an IAX server.

And what would I have to change as for habits. Well, very little. Instead of me choosing the normal dialer, I would have to choose a SIP dialer. All of my contacts would still be available, and this is of course if I would want to use my cell phone. If I would want to use what would be my old cell phone as a wifi phone, or use my SIP phone when I am home, I would have to do nothing but dial a number. In addition, I could do some neat tricks like set all 611 calls to ring my cellular carrier from my home phone. I could dial 3784 to call the local pharmacy rather than looking up the telephone number to the local pharmacy. I could dial 3663 to call the local grocery store rather than looking up the telephone number. Once set up that way, it would be as simple as dial by letter (such as drug for pharmacy or food for grocery) which makes life simpler. Of course, if I change the pharmacy (such as moving), I would simply have to make that change on the IAX system, and not remember anything new.

So, here is to hopes and dreams that I can find a worthy enough system to serve as an IAX server. I would need to acquire an ISP with a lower latency, but this is a small price of consideration. The effort would be worth the savings indeed.

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