All posts tagged Ooma

The kitchen counter

The kitchen counter, sans phone and answering machine clutter.

My wife got tired of having a wireless phone and an old answering machine in the kitchen, since she uses only her iPhone.

That’s really my thing. I still like having wireless phones available in several rooms. But I could see her point, and moved them out.

Undeniably, the counter looks better without them, and there is more food preparation area that is easier to clean. The new 24″ flat TV and TiVo Mini (both bought with our cord-cutting savings) take up only a small corner of space that wouldn’t be used much anyway. Cord clutter behind the set is down to an absolute minimum. But where do I put the phone and answering machine now?

As told in an early post, Cord-cutting: Hold the phone!, my first big cord-cutting salvo was to get rid of the cable company’s phone service and replace it with an Ooma Telo internet phone device.

It costs a measly $4/month in government fees (part of it covers 911 service), which is well worth it to still be able to use all those phones around the house. I kept our old phone number for a one-time $40 charge.

However, the Ooma device has been stuck back in our office where it could have the requisite Ethernet connection to the router. So we weren’t taking advantage of its ability to be a slick modern answering machine. Instead, we had an old Radio Shack machine on the kitchen counter (See previous post Lightning, round #3).

This morning, I ran across an item on Amazon: Ooma Wireless Plus Bluetooth Adapter, a little USB dongle that plugs into the Telo. It connects with your wifi network, allowing you to place the Telo in a location more convenient than adjacent to your router/modem. (It also lets your smartphone make a Bluetooth connection.)

I considered buying one, but two of the Amazon comments put me off.

One said the dongle runs hot. The other said, “When it loses its signal, the Ooma has to be completely reset. Frustrating. Put in a Powerline next to the Ooma and hardwired Ethernet to Powerline. Works much better.”

Well, there was my answer. We already use Powerline to get internet and home network to our theater room and den (see Powerline vs. Ethernet wiring). I had an extra Powerline adapter on hand. Duh.

Ooma in the Tiki room

Ooma Telo, wireless phone, X10 remote, LED light remote. Click to enlarge.

The Ooma Telo was moved to the next-best place for an answering machine: our “Tiki lounge“, a highly-trafficked area adjacent to both the theater room and the den. That turned a desk clutter item into an active, useful one.

While signed into my dashboard at my.ooma.com, I set the number of rings before voicemail answers to 4.

I can also review incoming, outgoing, and missed calls on the dashboard call log. Very handy to check out some of those bogus numbers we occasionally get calls from.

Just discovered a free Ooma app that lets me make outgoing calls on my wifi-only smartphone. If I subscribed to Ooma Premier for an extra $10/month, I could receive incoming calls on it as well. But the main objective of the cord-cutting exercise is to save money.

I would rarely if ever need to get my messages while away from home, but it can be done very easily with Ooma by calling your own number, entering your PIN, then following the spoken menu. (Or by using the free Ooma app.)

Clutter reduction, improved answering machine, and boosted WAF (wife acceptance factor) at no additional cost. Can’t beat it.

2014-09-05 15.45.53

Linksys router piggybacked on my eBay cable modem

As you recall, I ordered a used cable modem to replace the one the cable company wanted to repossess or charge $6.99/mo for, due to my cancellation of their phone service in favor of the Ooma internet phone.

The $15 Linksys cable modem from eBay came in today. As you can see, it matches the wireless router I have had for years. It is on the DOCSIS 2.0 standard, same as the old modem.

I burned some minutes on my new pay-as-you-go cell phone to talk with tech support at the cable company. Gave him the new modem’s hardware address and serial number. He registered the modem in their database. A change was required in the Windows Vista PC to let it automatically find their DNS servers, and a couple of power off/ons of the devices, but eventually it worked.

Nothing needed to be changed in the old router once I hooked it back up. I did need to give the PC a fixed IP address again, so the X10 Commander server and Plex Media Server could work as before.

Well, they just don’t make it easy, do they? In fairness, it could have been a lot harder. Their website was helpful, as was tech support. It’s just that the pricing and service structure is carefully calibrated to funnel you toward more services, more dollars and more dependency.

Of course it can be daunting to mess around with this stuff. But my mission is to cut the cable bill, at least as much as is spousally feasible.

I returned the cable company’s modem to their store. Made a ‘border run’ on the way home to celebrate.


FUD Prequel: Hold the phone!
The (Cable) Empire Strikes Back with FUD
FUD II: The Modeming



You may recall that I broke the “bundle” by terminating phone service and using an Ooma ‘Voice over Internet’ box.

I received this letter yesterday:

“Dear valued customer,

“Thank you for being a customer of (local cable co.) When you previously subscribed to both (our) Digital Telephone and High Speed Internet, (we) provided you complimentary use of a combined Internet & Telephone Modem. We appreciate that you are continuing your (our) High Speed Internet service. However, (we) regularly charge a standard monthly Modem rental fee of $6.99 for (our) Internet equipment when telephone service is no longer included. Because your Digital Telephone is no longer active, a $6.99 monthly Modem rental fee will begin to appear on your bill after 30 days from this notice unless you take other action before then.

“We want you to be familiar with the other equipment options offered by (us):

  • For as little as $10 a month, you can reactivate (our) Digital Telephone service and continue using your existing Modem without a rental fee while ensuring you have the reliability and security of (our) Digital Telephone.
  • As an alternate option, you can purchase or rent ($6.99/Mo.) a wireless Internet Modem from (us) and return your combined Internet & Telephone Modem at (our) nearest store.

“We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause. Contact us at 1-877-xxx-xxxx, or visit (our) Solutions Store to reactivate (our) Digital Telephone or discuss equipment options.”

Sounds like they REALLY want to keep that phone business.

Another unmentioned option: provide your own modem. You might presume that if you acquire a modem to meet their requirements (list available online), and use their helpful installation guide (available online), you would be in good shape.

However, there is this:

“Not all equipment sold by (us) is available in every market (of ours). Check with your local market to find out what equipment is available. Also, some modems that have been purchased from a second hand vendor, such as online auctions, garage sales, pawn shops, may not work on the (our) High Speed Internet service.”

I plan to call their tech support and investigate this FUD-inducing (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt) statement.

I said cord-cutting would be an odyssey, didn’t I?

(to be continued)

Linksys WRT54G router and Ooma Telo

Our new phone setup: Linksys router and Ooma Telo

A springtime cable bill proved to be a call to action.

We had come to the end of a year of $50 off the monthly bill. I had “earned” that by vaguely threatening to cancel more TV service, having set the stage by cancelling a couple of non-essential tiers over a year prior.

But now, the bill was back in its full glory. I didn’t think the same ploy would work again, and I don’t like to be bluffing, so I started looking into ways to seriously lower the bill.

The phone was a good place to start. Consumer expert Clark Howard recommends Ooma, a Voice over IP (VoIP) provider. They sell a box that plugs into your router and your phone jack to provide free internet calling, except for the monthly FCC fees of under $4.  I found a refurbished Ooma Telo on either Woot! or 1Sale, I forget which.

The instructions recommend that you place the Ooma box after the cable modem, but before the router. I tried it and it worked, but the X10 server software running on our main computer got confused. So I switched the Telo to connect out of the router, and it was fine. I also adjusted the router’s Quality of Service (QoS) settings to prioritize the phone traffic.

I have been totally satisfied with the result. Pick up one of our landline phones, hear the Ooma dial tone, then make the call as before. Sound quality is indistinguishable from the cable provider’s service. You do not need a high level of internet service for this to work (more detail in a future post).

Ooma offers a Premier service for $10/month, which includes a second line, call forwarding, caller ID, and all the trimmings. I took advantage of the free trial, but since the object of the exercise was to save money, I opted out of Premier. One nice bonus: caller ID seems to be part of the basic deal. The FCC fees were as advertised, under $4. I did elect to port our existing phone number to save everyone the trouble of updating. That was a one-time $40 charge.

After the porting took effect, I called and cancelled the cable phone service. It didn’t save as much as you might suppose, since it broke the “bundle” discount. But from here on, any further downgrades would bring full savings.

Oh, and I got another $10 off the bill for the next year.