Android VOIP phone and Raspberry Pi mate for an intriguing PBX setup

[Ward Mundy] has found something great by combining a GXP-2200 phone with Raspberry Pi to create a private branch exchange. So the idea behind a PBX setup is kind of like a company intranet. All of the phones in the system are assigned an extension number and have access to the internal system functions like voice mail, and sharing phone lines to the outside world. We’ve talked about using an RPi as a PBX before, but the high-tech phone he’s using this time around pulls everything together remarkably well.

The GXP-2200 is available for under $200. It runs Android and has a full color touch screen pictured above. It is marketed as a multimedia phone and indeed it brings Skype and Google Voice to the party. But it also offers six SIP lines. The hardware even seems to be planned for this type of use as the phone offers a second Ethernet port to which the RPi board can be connected. In this example [Ward] simply screws the RPi to the phone’s plastic stand and connects the two using a six-inch cable. From there the PBX can be configured with the phone’s browser. How’s that for slick?

Building a PBX setup around the Raspberry Pi

We’re not sure why this use didn’t immediately come to mind when we got our hands on a Raspberry Pi board, but the hardware is almost perfect as a PBX system. PBX, or Private Branch Exchange, is basically an in-house phone system. This guide which [Ward] put together shows you how to do some interesting things with it.

When talking about PBX setups the most common software package is Asterisk. That’s what’s at work here, rolled up with a bunch of other helpful software in an RPi targeted distro called Incredible PBX. All it takes to get up and running is to partition and burn the image to an SD like any other RPi distro. The configuration ends up being most of the work, starting with changing the default password, and moving on to customizing the environment to match your phone numbers and your needs. As with PBX setups on other embedded Linux devices, Google Voice is your best friend. The service will set you up with a free phone number.

This guide doesn’t delve into hardware connected hand sets. You’ll need to use a SIP phone. But that’s easy enough as there are free apps for most smart phones that will do the trick.

[Thanks Jamie]

Here’s a button, call someone who cares…

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[Les] had thousands of dollars of expensive IP Telephone infrastructure at his fingertips, so he figured he might as well play around a bit – after all, what good is all that equipment if you can’t have a little fun?

Inspired by the “Awesome Button” featured on Make, he started thinking about what sort of feature he would like to have available at the push of a button. He must have had Travis Tritt on the brain the day he started building his creation, since he named it the “The Call Someone Who Cares Button”.

[Les] picked up an “emergency stop” button from eBay, wiring it to a TeensyUSB, just as it was done in the Make article. He mapped the button to the pause/break key, then whipped up a bit of C#code that listens for that key to be pressed. When toggled, the button sets forth a series of events that gets his boss on the line ASAP.

It’s a fun little project, and while I might have built a button that introduces fake static and echo into the line before dumping the call, I think it’s pretty cool all the same.

Since it seems that just about everyone has built some derivation of the Awesome Button, share yours with us in the comments, and be sure to stick around to see a quick video demo of the CSWC button in action.

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Vocera B1000A teardown

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[Gray] over at Geek Chique had a bit of an eBay mishap and was suddenly the proud owner of 16 Vocera B1000A badges. If you are not familiar, these badges are small, lightweight communications devices similar to the famous Star Trek communicator, which allow users to talk to other individuals via VOIP. He was working on getting the remaining badges up and running by reimplementing the server software, and figured that since one of the badges he purchased was not working, he might as well take it apart.

It took him awhile to get the well-made badges apart, requiring a rotary tool and some elbow grease to get the job done. Inside, he found that the device was split into two circuit boards, one being the “WiFi” board, and the other the “CPU” board. The WiFi board uses a Prism WiFi chipset, which was incredibly common at the time of construction. The CPU board sports small SRAM and flash chips as you would expect, with a Texas Instruments 5490A DSP running the show.

While it remains to be seen if tearing the device down helps [Gray] to get things up and running again, it never hurts to take a closer look to see what you are working with.

Hacking analog phones for VOIP

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[Tyler] has been using Google Voice extensively for some time now, but he hasn’t quite found a microphone/speaker setup he is happy with. He tried a headset, but that just didn’t do it for him.

While browsing around at his local thrift store, he came across an old Model 500 rotary phone for just a few dollars and decided it just might do the trick. Once disassembled, he mapped out the circuitry and got busy wiring up the handset to a pair of 3.5 mm stereo plugs – one each for the earpiece and microphone.

Once everything was reassembled, he hooked it up to his computer and gave it a spin – success!

While he is happy with how the phone works at the moment, he already has plans for improving it. He is currently looking for a way to use the handset hook to disconnect calls as well as a way to implement the rotary dial for number entry. We think that hacking a Bluetooth headset would easily take care of the first part, as well as eliminate the need for any sort of wired interface to his PC. It would also make it dead simple to use with any other Bluetooth-enabled device such as a cell phone.

We’re pretty sure he is open to implementation suggestions, so let us know what you think.

Hackit: Why we don’t need phone numbers

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We’re starting to think that phone numbers are deprecated; it may be time to integrate how we connect telephones with the new digital millennium. To get a firm grasp on this topic it is important to take a look at the reason we started using phone numbers, why we still use them, and the why’s and how’s of transitioning to a new system.

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Vonage on iPhone

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Vonage has promised to release an official iPhone app to compete with other providers such as Skype, and it is currently working its way through Apple’s well documented approval process. Unfortunately, this app would most likely come with an initial cost and/or subscription fee, though a way has been figured out to retrieve Vonage’s SIP authentication information, which would allow use of the Vonage network over other iPhone SIP Clients such as Fring. This solution does still contain the Wi-Fi only clause, but we have ways of making you talk, iPhone. This could also possibly be used on other platforms with SIP clients such as Android or WinMo.