Free* long distance

*It’s not actually free, since you pay an annual fee.

I finally broke down and bought one of these. I’ll use it primarily as a backup with my laptop when I’m traveling. It’s running on 64-bit Win7. So far, it works adequately. I had to do a bit of experimenting with USB ports to get it to ring a phone for incoming calls on the laptop.

  • Outgoing calls are not a problem. Plug it in and start making calls after a software install included on the dongle.
  • On the laptop, I had to try a number of USB ports before I found one that would ring the telephone on incoming calls. I’m not really concerned with that, since I won’t be using it for incoming calls.
  • The phone you plug in should have a REN (Ringer Equivalence Number) of 0.0 or the phone probably won’t ring. The REN is located on the bottom of the phone. If you’re buying a new phone, the REN should be listed on the box. If it isn’t, it means that the REN is high. Notwithstanding that, my Motorolla MD481 with a REN of 0.0 does not ring on incoming calls.
  • Voicemail and call forwarding are provided.
  • Be aware that it is a basic phone service, not an extravagant system like Vonage – which I use – or your local phone system.
  • 911 service is typical for a Voip phone system in that it’s NOT CONNECTED to local police, fire or any other type of local emergency service.
  • There are a limited number of Canadian area codes available should you choose to request a local phone number. For example, in Alberta, there are only two available area codes-one for Calgary and one for Edmonton.
  • When your computer goes to sleep, or is off, the phone isn’t available.
  • I don’t recommend it without a primary phone service in the house – whatever primary phone service you choose to use.

Again, let me be clear: Under no circumstance would I attempt to use it as my primary phone service.

More Vonage troubleshooting tips

VonageI’m very happy with my Vonage account and consequently wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have had a couple of what I consider to be minor problems, easily remedied:

  • caller i.d. time resetting, which I covered here;
  • a constant busy signal, mentioned here.
  • sometimes, I will get a “#” appearing in the phone display. When I check for a dial tone, I get a beeping. To cure this, I unplug the phone’s power supply and plug it back in. Problem solved. I have absolutely no idea why this happens in the first place.

ZDNET’s Rick Fairlie has come up with several additional troubleshooting tips for one’s Vonage phone. Read about them in his column here.

Vonage dial-out problem

VonageUpdated below

I had a Vonage dial tone, but every time I tried to dial out, the dial tone would continue on through the number-pad entries, and the dialed number would sound busy. The dial tone continued sounding in the background. I was unable to connect to any dialed number.

I rebooted my modems and the Vonage modem, but still the dial out problem persisted.

As a last resort, I unplugged the power supply from my telephone, and then plugged it back in. That solved the problem in it’s entirety. I’m not sure why that solution worked. Possibly the problem had something to do with the phone’s circuitry when I turned off the power via the fuse box in order to install a ceiling fan.

All in all, I’m happy with my Vonage account. It’s much cheaper than a regular land-line telephone account and includes all the features in Vonage’s basic fee that would be cost-plus with other providers. Vonage is also much cheaper than those solutions sold by cable television and internet providers.

The only other issue I’ve encountered is the caller id time-set problem, which I covered here.

Update: I’ve had this dial tone problem occur one more time. Rather than reboot everything, I merely unplugged the phone’s power supply from the wall socket power outlet, plugged it back into the power outlet, and everything was good to go one more time. Why is it happening? I don’t know, but I consider it to be a minor annoyance.

It’s Vonage time

VonageUpdate June 25, 2009: I picked up a new Vonage V-Portal to replace my old D-Link VTA adapter. Upon installation of the V-Portal, I discovered that the modem’s internal time zone was set to Alaska time. I called Vonage customer support and had them reprogram the V-Portal to the Mountain time zone and I was good to go.

The Vonage customer support numbers can be found on Vonage’s home page, at the bottom. Click on the “Contact Us” link.

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I was having the usual trouble with my caller I.D. time being reset every time I received a call. I searched the internet for the obvious cures, but none worked. Why do people who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about profess to have solutions to problems?

Here’s why some Vonage customers have that time resetting problem with Caller I.D.: each Vonage telephone modem comes pre-set with a default time zone.

Here’s the solution: call Vonage customer support and ask them to reset their modem to your time zone, and voila! Problem solved.

Don’t bother trying the internet solutions that you find should you search online for answers to the problem. None of them work.