Already at Inspect my gadget, I have given you a How-to which shows you how to have your computer alert you of the incoming calls to your mobile/cell phone. Now it is time to do the same for your landline phone. Using old technology we can easily acheive this. You will never miss a call again unless you choose to.
There are many free tools which can assist you in achieving this. Attach your computer to a modem and you have a complete call management system. You are even able to use your computer as an answering machine, with advanced features such as replying with a pre recorded message depending on who the caller is.
This could work well in the workplace depending on your workplaces’ phone system. We always feel the need to answer a phone immediately, dropping everything we are doing, no matter the importance just to find out it is a telemarketer on the other end. Most other methods of communication don’t require this speedy response, such as email. To get out of the habit of dropping everything, this will give you the choice. You can always call the caller back, as once this is set up your computer will log all incoming phone numbers.
The reason I first set this up in my home and started to research how to get this happening, I would watch a fair few films with my wife and I didn’t like being interrupted by the phone if it was a sales person. Now as we watch the film and the phone rings, we know who it is and can decide to take the call or not.
Whilst this is ideal for a home theatre PC setup, read on and I am sure you will be able to find your own reasons for setting this up.
What you need:
- Windows PC (All Versions)
- Other operating systems have software to do this though we are concentrating on Windows in this article.
- A landline phone line with caller ID enabled
- I am using the Engin VOIP service but any analog line will work
- Caller ID comes at an extra cost through most Australian phone service providers.
- A modem which accepts caller ID
- Most modems will offer caller ID. I once read on another site that all modems released after 1998 have this, though I cannot confirm that. I have come across modems that do not work with caller ID. I bought a modem off the bargain counter at Office Works for $40. If you shop at the right places, you can get internal modems for around the $15 mark. If you ask family and friends, they may well have one they are no longer using and give it to you for free.
Wiring it up:
This information should come with whatever modem you get your hands on. Basically, you want to put your modem in between your landline and your phone. If you modem only has an input, you will need to get a splitter. These should be really cheap, $5 should cover it.
Below is a simple diagram of how to plug it all in. There is nothing special here.
Caller ID Software:
While there are many shareware options for caller ID software, we will only look at what is available for free. This is one of the few scenarios where it looks like purchased software will do a little more for you and work slightly better than the freeware options, but I have been able to do all that I want with the freeware caller ID solutions listed below.
PhoneTray Free 1.25: This is a nice little utility that will pop up a balloon in your task-tray with the callers name and phone number. You can blacklist callers and choose which message you return down the line to them.
My favourite feature of this utility is the full screen mode which will pop up over the top of movies. Another nice feature is the ability to associate different rings for each caller. You can disable your phones ring and have all ringing out your PC speakers. You can disable this feature also.
You can have the caller ID name and number spoken to you also.
Available from Traysoft. They also have a few commercial applications which look like they would be worth having a play with.
YAC: Yet another Caller ID Program: This utility is very neat in its reporting. You are able to format the phone numbers to some extent and put a name to the number.
The screenshot on the left pretty much sums up what YAC does. What makes YAC special is its listener. When you are on a network of computers, YAC will report to all the machines on the network that a call is taking place and the popup will show up on all the screens.
Available from Sunflowerhead
Call Alert: This utility doesn’t look quite as nice as the others, but it does the same job. It has an address book, a blacklist and a talking caller ID.
You do have the ability to call back in this one if you miss a call.
While this utility is by no means my favourite. It works and it is free.
If you have setup your computer to receive mobile calls via bluetooth, you may want to use this as the pop up is the same for both, a bit of unity is nice.
Available from IVRSoft.
The options aren’t huge but that is not the point of this article. I have had a good search around the internet for more and have had no success. You may want to search for yourself and see what shareware is available, as there are many other worthwhile applications out there for a minimal cost.
All the freeware and shareware applications I have found do not allow for decent tailoring of numbers. They assume the numbers are American and hence giving it that punctuation. Even if you can edit the codes, I have not found it possible to get mobile phone calls and landline calls punctuated correctly simultaneously. While you can put up with this, for the utilities that let you import contacts from another address book, the punctuation is wrong and therefore it does not work as the utility recognises it as a completely different number.
Phone Dialling Software:
There is also a huge amount of number diallers available for free. As nothing beats using a phones keypad for this, I won’t go into what is available. In Outlook 2003 (and possibly other versions too) you are able to go into your contacts and right click on a contact and call the contact, picking up your handset after this. It’s a nice feature if you use your contacts as your main household address book.
We have touched on the most basic use for attaching your phone to your computer. This is the first step in what I hope will be a whole series of articles exploring what you can do with your phone and your computer combined.
We have opened up the communication between the two and there is no reason why we can’t move into more advanced areas such as recording your phone calls, using your computer as an answering machine and sending SMS’s.
The ultimate aim is to use your mobile phone from anywhere to communicate with your home phone, so that you can control the electronics of your home. It would not cost a great deal of money to have your computer control heaters and slow cookers in your house, using voice recognition, you could tell your computer exactly what to turn on and off from wherever you are.
Home automation may sound extreme using your phone and modem, but it has been possible for quite a few years now. Home automation is only now taking off and the best method currently is to use your old faithful dial-up modem to communicate with your home automation system.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and found it useful. Please stick around and check out some more articles at inspectmygadget.com.