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Using My PC For Plain Old Telephone Service?

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the pots-and-plans dept.

Communications 248

TheJerbear79 writes "I recently accepted a work-from-home job that will involve using my landline to talk to customers. When I log into the phone queue, my landline will ring, I'll put in a three digit code, and then calls are routed to the phone line I'm on. It essentially turns my landline into a softphone. Rather than using a regular handset or obtaining a nice business phone with a headset and speakerphone, I would like to use my PC's modem in conjunction with a normal PC headset and soundcard. I know the hardware is capable, but the modem didn't come with appropriate software. Has anyone found anything cheap/free that would suit this kind of usage? Just for clarity, I don't want to use a VOIP solution; I need to use my plain old landline. My reason is this: if I'm watching a movie or listening to an MP3 while I'm waiting for a call, I don't want it to ever be apparent to the person who is on the phone with me, and I want to route all the audio I use through a single headset. I've scoured Google for anything close to this application, and all I've managed to find is information on VOIP software or programs that turn my PC into an answering machine, neither of which will work."

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248 comments

Perhaps a better solution... (5, Informative)

Guido del Confuso (80037) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552457)

This is probably better to do in hardware than in software. Here's what I'd try:

Get a phone that has a jack for a headset. These are usually a 3/32" connector that carries both microphone and audio. Connect to this an adaptor that splits it into two 1/8" connectors, one for headphones and one for mic. You probably have some headphones with a boom mic attached that has separate lines for audio and microphone. Just run the mic line into the mic port on the splitter, or use a lapel mic. Take the audio from the telephone, and feed it into a hardware mixer--just pick up any cheap mixer from Radio Shack. Then you can mix your computer's audio into the headphones as well. That way, you're not dependent on the computer working properly to be able to do your job, you can control audio source volumes quickly and independently from each other, and you could even add something like a DVD player or stereo to your mixer and be able to listen to that as well.

If you wanted to get really fancy, you could throw an audio compressor with sidechaining, such as the Alesis 3630 [alesis.com], into the pipeline. Route the telephone's output so it goes through the compressor's sidechain channel, and run the computer's audio through the main input on the compressor. Then, whenever audio comes in through the phone line, the sound of the computer will automatically lower.

Re:Perhaps a better solution... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24552565)

I just wanted to say you sound very knowledgeable (and helpful).

Re:Perhaps a better solution... (5, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552697)

Yeah, that's what I'd do as well. Keep It Simple, and all that. Of course, another solution would be to mute the speakers before answering the phone...

Re:Perhaps a better solution... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24552789)

Do you even know what a compressor/limiter does? What use would a piece of studio equipment (rack mounted, at that) have in his setup?

Re:Perhaps a better solution... (5, Interesting)

Guido del Confuso (80037) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552901)

No, I honestly don't have the foggiest notion what a compressor does. That's why I suggested using it. I just wanted to sound like I knew what I was talking about.

I suppose, theoretically speaking, that someone who had some clue as to what he was doing could try connecting the phone's audio to the sidechain jack on the compressor. Then, he might think about setting the attack to the minimum, and the release to the maximum. He might also set the compression ratio somewhere in the neighborhood of 15:1 or higher, and the threshold fairly low.

If you did that, it would reduce the level of the audio from the computer, which is run through the main input on the compressor, whenever the level on the sidechain is higher than the threshold--or so I'm told. If that were the case, you could probably use that setup to take calls without ever having to touch your mixer, since you would need to have silence on the line for more than the maximum release time (three seconds on the 3630) before the music would come back up again.

Boy, if only that would work, DJs might use the same technique to duck audio levels when talking into the mic [wikipedia.org]. Too bad I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Re:Perhaps a better solution... (5, Interesting)

oncebitten (893231) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553091)

That's a pretty good description of ducking. Although since the OP wanted to entirely mute the audio, s/he'd be better off using a limiter or a gate.

A limiter is a compressor with more than 20:1 reduction. A gate is (sort of) a compressor with an infinity:1 ratio.

And, if you didn't want to pay for a compressor/limiter/gate, you could probably figure out a way to get Ardour to do it.

But muting the speakers is probably the easiest way.

Re:Perhaps a better solution... (4, Funny)

T3Tech (1306739) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553191)

Well you see, a compressor takes air... no wait that doesn't have anything to do with audio. Ok here we go, a compressor....

Re:Perhaps a better solution... (4, Funny)

daBass (56811) | more than 5 years ago | (#24554381)

A compressor makes the sound smaller, so you can transfer it faster. By adding a compressor to the line, he can handle a larger volume of calls.

This of course is only useful if he is paid per call. If he is paid for time spent on the phone, then he should get something that will convert everything into a WAV or AIFF file so it takes forever to come through.

Re:Perhaps a better solution... (4, Funny)

EatHam (597465) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553643)

No, I honestly don't have the foggiest notion what a compressor does

Apparently. If you knew what a compressor does, you would not be recommending refrigeration equipment when clearly what is required is audio equipment.

Re:Perhaps a better solution... (0)

Amouth (879122) | more than 5 years ago | (#24554487)

read the next artical.. they are remobing compressors from refrigeration stuff.. this is just an example of reuse

Re:Perhaps a better solution... (4, Insightful)

Fex303 (557896) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552917)

What use would a piece of studio equipment (rack mounted, at that) have in his setup?

Because you can? I mean, come on, this is slashdot, we'd come up with a remote controlled robotic flyswatter that runs Linux and is also a webserver given the slightest opportunity.

And the OP only suggested using a sidechain "if you wanted to get really fancy". And it is really quite fancy. Also, it would make for an extremely elegant solution to the original question.

Re:Perhaps a better solution... (4, Funny)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553437)

... I mean, come on, this is slashdot, we'd come up with a remote controlled robotic flyswatter that runs Linux ...

Could you do that? really? Can I order a beowulf cluster of them please? Please!!!

Re:Perhaps a better solution... (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553559)

Just one more to back it up, that's the easiest and best solution.
You probably want to have as much security and redundancy as possible, and hardware phones are simply more reliable. You can get a second phone for cheap if one should fail for redundancy.
And if you get a wireless set, you don't have to sit in the same spot all the time and can walk around with the phone on your belt. Have another wired phone switched in parallel so you can pick that one up should the batteries be running low.

Re:Perhaps a better solution... (1)

data_dreamer (749045) | more than 5 years ago | (#24554299)

Use the first hardware suggestion, but instead of an actual phone buy a way2call hi-phone desktop. It connects directly to your landline, has the same headset jack, and will also let you dial out and answer with your PC through TAPI.

Asterisk? (5, Interesting)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552469)

Maybe you should run Asterisk at home where you have a lot of flexibility available to do just about everything you ever wanted (and some more too)

As an added bonus you can even blacklist callers so you can get rid of the telemarketers.

Re:Asterisk? (5, Informative)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552517)

Addition:

I suggest that you take a look at http://www.asterisknow.org/ [asterisknow.org] for Asterisk as an appliance.

Add a TDM410 [digium.com] card to be able to connect your POTS line.

The use of a softphone like Express Talk [nch.com.au] will allow you to use your headset. Some softphones will automatically mute your movie or music when a call arrives.

Re:Asterisk? (3, Informative)

Dr J. keeps the nerd (1061562) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553247)

The hardware hack in the first post is the way to go, but you'll learn something from using Asterisk (this means it's hard to use... incredibly cool, but with great power comes the occasional configuration headache: it does not know what you mean). If you use it, you don't need an external softphone. You can dial or receive calls from the Asterisk console.

If you don't want to do this in hardware and you don't want to buy a digium card (or its equivalent) and discover The Future of Telephony, consider calling in to the queue through a VOIP service from any old softphone. If you're a Windows user, I recommend X-lite, but they're mostly created equal. If you have to forward your home phone to your VOIP service, that's not so hard. Your friends who have recommended this option are not stupid.

I can't recommend a free VOIP service (Free World Dialup is now no longer free), but there are many that are pennies a day.

Re:Asterisk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24553583)

At $600 for that card, thats one expensive telephone...

Re:Asterisk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24554451)

Asterisk sounds like good stuff, but I couldn't find a *simple* description of how to set up a home system. There is a ton of documentation out there to be sure. I've got a single POTS coming into the home and a handful of phones (including a cordless). Is there a cheap solution where I can plug an Asterisk PC in the middle for filtering calls? Emphasis on cheap.

Re:Asterisk? (4, Interesting)

dch24 (904899) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552627)

Just a quick note, though. The audio that has already been put through your work's phone system will pick up a significant delay going through a Digium card.

The latency can introduce noticeable echoes (probably only on your speaker, not the other end) and make the call quality unacceptable.

YMMV

Re:Asterisk? (2, Informative)

Baloo Ursidae (29355) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552807)

Most people using computers for telephony don't bother with speakers and a desktop mic and go straight for the headset, thus eliminating the possibility for that problem.

Re:Asterisk? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24552859)

You are new to telephony aren't you. Echo is not always between speaker and mic.

Re:Asterisk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24553339)

Wrong. The delay does not come from the Digium card.

Re:Asterisk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24553575)

I don't quite see why there would be a significant delay - voip/network latencies and jitter buffers would cause delays, but a card that is just being an fxo on the circuit switched pstn, possibly bridged to a real analogue phone on an fxs port would likely only introduce a few (tens of?) milliseconds.

Can you point me to anything which supports your conclusion - also, just make sure to get the hardware echo cancellation version.

Re:Asterisk? (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552653)

As an added bonus you can even blacklist callers so you can get rid of the telemarketers.

That might not be useful in this case. My immediate assumption was that the article was about someone logging into a predictive dialer... I hope I'm wrong, otherwise we're going to have pages of posts helping a telemarketer do his or her job :)

Re:Asterisk? (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553613)

I hope I'm wrong, otherwise we're going to have pages of posts helping a telemarketer do his or her job :)

That's a risk that we have to take. But don't forget that there are other people reading this too.

Just take a look at the Asterisk Telemarketer Torture [voip-info.org] if you have problems with Telemarketers.

And even if this is a single telemarketer, the catch is to make it impossibly ineconomical to run a telemarketing company. Many that are employed may have had to chose between being unemployed or be a telemarketer.

Re:Asterisk? (2, Insightful)

krazytekn0 (1069802) | more than 5 years ago | (#24554455)

Whether we like it or not, the world needs telemarketers, and they have families to support and cute little puppies too. I tried it just out of high school for about a month, I couldn't do it, but I met a lot of great people that sit on the phone and get yelled at all day for those two or three sales, just because that's what they need to do to support their families.

Telemarketers don't have anything I'm interested in buying (partly because my budget can't take it) but from experience I know that it's better to just hang up and let them get on to the next call than to sit there and yell at them or worse, give them false hope that they are about to get a sale.

Next time a telemarketer calls during a nice dinner with your family, remember, you don't have to answer the phone, so if you do, you're the one interrupting your dinner, secondly, they most likely have a family that they wish they could be with, but instead they have to call you.

Re:Asterisk? (4, Informative)

diego.viola (1104521) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553329)

I recommend FreeSWITCH instead of Asterisk.

Works better, it doesn't have deadlocks, it's SIP stack is 100% RFC compliant, complete, all follow all the standards.

FreeSWITCH developers also don't re-invent the wheel every time they add something, they re-use stuff, like PCRE, Apache Portable Runtime (APR), SQLite, Sofia-SIP, etc.

I highly recommend FreeSWITCH instead of Asterisk.

http://freeswitch.org/

How does FreeSWITCH compare to Asterisk?
http://freeswitch.org/node/117

Not a softphone (5, Interesting)

profplump (309017) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552475)

It doesn't turn your landline into a softphone, it turns your landline into a landline, which works just as any other landline.

So you want to mute your computer when the POTS phone rings; why can't you ask that question instead of pretending that you have some magically non-VoIP softphone?

That being said, I think an standard audio compression and mixer is the right choice; prioritize the POTS audio and the computer will automatically be reduced in volume when the POTS line is active.

Re:Not a softphone (4, Informative)

0xygen (595606) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552883)

The reason he didn't ask your suggested question is simply because that is not what he wants to know.

He is asking what software is required to route the internal modem's POTS audio to the speakers and mic.
Most decent modems used to come with the necessary dialler software, however it is rapdidly disappearing.

He is NOT asking for external hardware to manage the relative levels of the PC audio and a separate POTS system.

Re:Not a softphone (3, Insightful)

BLAG-blast (302533) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553305)

He is asking...

I read his guy's "question" a few times, I've got no idea what he's asking, you could both be right, for all I know. I'm not even sure how what he's asking for will solve the problem ("no body should know I'm slacking off and watching TV when I'm supposed to be working").

I think this guy's just bragging about having a work from home job, while trying to act all old skool and cool by dissing VOIP.

I realise this is totally unacceptable (5, Insightful)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552515)

My reason is this: if I'm watching a movie or listening to an MP3 while I'm waiting for a call, I don't want it to ever be apparent to the person who is on the phone with me,

It won't be.. because you'll have paused it before answering the phone because you can't hear what they are saying if it is still playing.

Re:I realise this is totally unacceptable (1)

Samah (729132) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552701)

I don't see that as unacceptable. Sounds sensible to me.

Re:I realise this is totally unacceptable (2, Insightful)

Heembo (916647) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552821)

I don't agree - the poster is smart to want the entertainment audio to *forcibly, automatically* lower when his (money making) phone call arrives.

Re:I realise this is totally unacceptable (3, Insightful)

Fex303 (557896) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552925)

Absolutely. I've paused playback from computer to take personal calls and then accidentally started it playing again (stupid me for making my play/pause keybindings something easy to reflexively push). Not a problem for my personal calls, but it would be totally unacceptable for business calls.

Re:I realise this is totally unacceptable (3, Insightful)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553481)

Maybe you shouldn't be slacking off and watching tv/movies while you're supposed to be working?

Re:I realise this is totally unacceptable (4, Funny)

Fex303 (557896) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553625)

Oh yes, here we are on slashdot, where no one has EVER done anything on work time except work diligently.

Re:I realise this is totally unacceptable (1)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553419)

I don't agree - the poster is smart to want the entertainment audio to *forcibly, automatically* lower when his (money making) phone call arrives.

Are you saying you might have seen through my "insightful" post to the true "pedantic" nature? :-)

Re:I realise this is totally unacceptable (2, Interesting)

ByTor-2112 (313205) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553009)

Even better, write a script that looks for the good old "RING" text coming down a serial port and automagically mutes the audio. Problem solved.

Hardware maybe? (5, Interesting)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552523)

A lot of speakerphone capable modems have a set of line-out/speaker jumpers on the board as well as the 1/8" jacks on the back panel. Can't you just link that to the line-in jumpers on your sound card and then run it all through the Volume Control mixer of your choice?

Maybe it's not really a problem. (4, Interesting)

deft (253558) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552573)

You know, as a voice actor/actress, a little mp3 music in the background might not be a bad thing, maybe set the mood. Perhaps you dont need all the fangled gadgetry.

best of luck with the new job!

Re:Maybe it's not really a problem. (5, Funny)

antic (29198) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552803)

That's nice and all, but I suspect "movie or mp3" is nerd code for porn here and this guy will be doing a lot of "hard work" from home.

Re:Maybe it's not really a problem. (4, Insightful)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552947)

this guy will be doing a lot of "hard work" from home.

Better at home than at the office.

Re:Maybe it's not really a problem. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24553077)

this guy will be doing a lot of "hard work" from home.

Better at home than at the office.

I thought your medication was supposed to control those urges?

Re:Maybe it's not really a problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24554479)

Learn to quote.

Re:Maybe it's not really a problem. (2, Funny)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 5 years ago | (#24554163)

You know, as a voice actor/actress

I'm sure there are lots of people here who are just dying to know which. I'm also sure there are quite a few who aren't that fussy.

Your hardware probably isn't capable at all. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24552607)

"Dear slashdot, I have a work at home job and want to watch porn during business hours. How do I stop callers from listening in? My budget is exactly $0."

*sigh*

You probably can't get the raw audio from your modem. Hardly any modems do full-duplex audio.

Get a phone with a headset jack and an automatic audio switch.

If you really want to go ghetto you could have one earphone connected to your PC and the other to the incoming call. That's probably the cheapest way to make sure the callers never hear you listening to porn.

Re:Your hardware probably isn't capable at all. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24552739)

Correction:

Dear slashdot, I am a phone sex operator and want to watch porn during business hours. How do I stop callers from listening in? My budget is exactly $0.

Re:Your hardware probably isn't capable at all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24554035)

You make that joke, but for the description provided that is exactly how work from home phone sex lines operate. I wouldn't be half surprised if the truth in this AskSlashdot was that he is a gay phone line operator. Hey, it's meant to be quite well paying ...

Re:Your hardware probably isn't capable at all. (4, Interesting)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553193)

Actually, I have an even easier system, my friend did this at a lan party (he had his music on one machine, his game on another).

1) Buy 2 pairs of headphones (One big muff-type set and one ear-bud type set)
2) Put the earbuds in and the muff-style ones over top.
4) Hook one to the phone, the other to the computer

Problem solved!

Re:Your hardware probably isn't capable at all. (5, Interesting)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553397)

You probably can't get the raw audio from your modem. Hardly any modems do full-duplex audio.

The early 1990s called. They want their modems back.

Nearly all modems today are just cheap soundcards with a relay attached (i.e., softmodems). They can almost all do full duplex audio. I know, because I did a bunch of research into the subject when setting up vgetty in linux.

You'd even be hard pressed to find a hard modem that doesn't do full duplex. Since it doesn't cost them any, they usually include that feature just so that they can advertise that it can do soft phone stuff.

Re:Your hardware probably isn't capable at all. (2, Informative)

david.given (6740) | more than 5 years ago | (#24554295)

Yes, I use vgetty as an answerphone --- I have it set up so that messages get ogg compressed and emailed to me (because I'm much more likely to actually *get* them that way than I would if I simply relied on noticing the flashing light on the answering machine).

What software is available that can make use of the modem in full duplex mode? I know, for example, that Asterisk can't, and requires weird proprietary hardware rather than a standard modem, which is a shame, because modems are practically free these days.

one solution (1)

alonsoac (180192) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552631)

you can get a Linksys 3102 voip adapter. You plug in the land line and network cable to the adapter and connect with a softphone like X-Lite from the PC to the adapter to get the calls.

Re:one solution (1)

kwark (512736) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552721)

That would be my suggestion: just use voip already, your reason for not using voip is just silly. Good softphones will let you run scripts to mute/pause your mediaplayer.

Added bonus of a spa 3102 is you can still use a plain old telephone if you want to.

Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24552679)

Why make it so complicated?
All you need is to have the modem connected to your land line. your modem should then be able to tell some script or program that the phone is ringing so the program/script can pause your movie

Re:Simple solution (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552871)

Depending on the modem and the driver, all you need is something that pauses the movie or lowers the volume on that input to the mixer when the ring line is raised. As almost all softphone systems that support serial port or modem usage track the ring line, this should be pretty straightforward. In the event of telemarketers calling during business hours, I also suggest finding a good ring oscillator or some other really jarring sound distortion filter.

Go with Plantronics... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24552695)

Plantronics makes great phone headsets for the call center industry. They have some models that take audio from a phone and audio from a PC, so you can listen to audio from your PC while you wait for a call.

It sounds like you're unfortunate enough to work for a very cheap company that forces its call center employees to work from home, and won't even buy/loan you a decent phone.

I'd look for another job asap.

Here's an even simpler option: get one of the multimedia USB keyboards with many extra buttons. One of them is usually the volume/mute button.

Which OS? (5, Insightful)

bloodninja (1291306) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552727)

Is this for your Amiga box, or the C64?

Really, if you don't tell us what OS you are using, it will be hard to suggest software. Not all /.ers still run slackware.

Re:Which OS? (1)

T3Tech (1306739) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553257)

Not all /.ers still run slackware.

No? Did I miss the story on the official change of /. user OS?

Re:Which OS? (4, Funny)

pla (258480) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553261)

Really, if you don't tell us what OS you are using, it will be hard to suggest software. Not all /.ers still run slackware.

Well, sure, not on all of them... Gotta admit, that young upstart Debian makes a heck of a desktop machine. But still Slackware on all the "important" machines, naturally.

Re:Which OS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24553561)

If you are in Mac you want to check "phone valet" an expensive but apparently exellent solution.

If you're on Linux you can follow the project "ANT is not a phone" which aims at the basic functionalities of phone valet

If you're in Windows.. don't know

Re:Which OS? (1)

juanitobanana (1342487) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553569)

I posted the last comment and I AM NOT a COWARD! (just new)

Re:Which OS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24553813)

I didn't post the last comment and I AM NOT A BANANA! (Jackass! >:( )

new modem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24552775)

I had a modem, back in the day, that had it's own headphone and mic jacks. I used it to make POTS calls just by sending an AT string with the number to dial and some other codes to turn on the jacks.

I cant remember any of the specifics, but i'm sure it is possible to do. Modems are dirt cheap, maybe you could find one with this ability?

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24552839)

I have been looking at this for quite a while as I was looking for exactly the same thing some months ago. On MAcintosh they have an apparently amazing solution which is http://www.phonevalet.com "phone valet", but it is pretty expensive (comes with hardware and therefore they will ripp your heart off)
On the Linux side there is an interesting project being developped which apparently aims to do the same basic functions:
ANT is not a phone http://www.antcom.de/ant-phone/

I hope someone who knows about this can give us more options as this is all I found (I haven't been looking much for windows anyway)

old HP had this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24552843)

Back when I had an HP desktop, it came with software to do exactly this. I don't remember the model number, but brand new it came with a 166MHz processor and 16MiB of RAM.

My guess is that this is hard to do because it requires treating the modem as a sound card. Non-winmodems act like serial ports, which cannot act like sound cards for your purposes. Winmodems can do this, but there isn't one standard driver for all winmodems. I suspect my HP "phone" program was designed specifically for the modem that came with the machine.

Re:old HP had this (1)

fishyfool (854019) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553033)

It came with an Aztec modem soundcard combo. They came in a few hp's and a whole lot of packard bells.

You're looking at this as a software problem... (3, Interesting)

subreality (157447) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552845)

... But as someone who dabbles in both sides, I'd suggest you look into hacking some hardware.

I don't have enough details to give you the specifics, but here's a generic solution in general terms:

First, look how you can simplify your problem. Does the music really need to be through the same headset? If you can play it through speakers, you can eliminate mixing, which makes things easier. If you need to mix, it depends what kind of headset you have. USB? Line out/mic-in? USB will limit your options.

I'll assume it's analog, so we need to mix a line-level out from your sound card with a line-level out from the phone. Many cheap phones provide a line-out, or you can just add an amp to the handset connection of your existing phone, or perhaps even get away with just a transformer or even wiring straight in. Experiment and see what works.

Mixing can be done with a DJ-style mixer. This also gives you convenient knobs to turn up and down your music and callers' voices. So just plug the sound card line out and the phone's line out into the mix board and you're ready to go.

You'll need some sort of switch to answer your phone. Buy a DPDT toggle switch. Wire one half into the phone's hook switch. Use the other half to control a mute button / kill switch / input select / any other control on your DJ mixer which can be used to cut out the music input. If your mixer doesn't have this, or you mix some other way, you can use the second half of the switch to control a pair of relays, which cut out the signal from the sound card. Now you can answer without picking up the handset, and the music will cut out at the same time.

Possible variations on this theme: Wire the phone line-out to your computer's line-in, and wire the second half of the DPDT to control a pin on your parallel port, then write a small program to poll the port and mute the line-in or pause the MP3 playback when the bit toggles. This moves some functionality into the computer; I'm sure you can figure out the tradeoffs.

The advantages of a hardware solution like this are: Your phone no longer depends on the computer to work; you get convenient hardware knobs to adjust the audio; you can answer the phone with a hardware switch instead of trying to find your phone app; and you hopefully have fun hacking together a simple but useful electronics project.

Good luck with your new job, and whatever phone solution you create!

Not allowd to hear the movie? (1, Redundant)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552847)

How about turning the music/movie off when a call comes in? Or just on hold.

this software might help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24552867)

I was looking for exactly the same thing some months ago. On Macintosh they have an apparently amazing solution which is http://www.phonevalet.com "phone valet", but it is pretty expensive (comes with hardware and therefore they will ripp your heart off)
On the Linux side there is an interesting project being developped which aims to do the same basic functions:
ANT is not a phone http://www.antcom.de/ant-phone/

I hope someone who knows about this can give us more options as this is all I found (I haven't been looking much for windows anyway)

Keen.com? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24552915)

Keen.com, liveadvice.com, niteflirt.com - I suggest you nose around these sites and see if you can figure out how they do it (they have a TON of infrastructure on their end)

Voice/Speakerphone modem software (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24552921)

I think the info you're looking for is here: http://www.modemsite.com/56K/voice.asp
Quoting: "Voice modem chipset makers include in the driver or firmware code to interface to the wave device, but do not develop the software that provides voice functionality. The modem makers generally bundle "compatible" third-party voice modem software. Some voice modem software offerings: Ring Central, BVRP, and Messaging Software."

Maybe its your choice of music (1, Funny)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 5 years ago | (#24552995)

I bet OP is in his 50s and listens to Spice Girls cover songs of Metallica, AC/DC and Eminem songs. Its not just the swear words that are embarrassing, its the music itself.

Or maybe he's listening to mainstream movies with suggestive titles: Die Hard, Dirty Harry, The Italian Job.

So listen to some New Age Mediation music and watch Fried Green Tomatoes.

Problem solved!

Re:Maybe its your choice of music (3, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553421)

"So listen to some New Age Mediation music and watch Fried Green Tomatoes."

A bullet would be quicker and far less painful.

Perhaps something here? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24553059)

http://www.GNUtelephony.org/

Get Real! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24553085)

If you want to do business... do business... don't be cheap.... and stop playing around with

"soundcards and what if I'm listening an mp3... and what if whatever"

Get an asterisk setup... connect your land lines in there.... set up an auto attendant and a voice mail for when you are not near the phone to pick up.

Get a PHONE... if you want quality with your paying customers, get a phone.... what's the big deal? A cisco 7940 is like 50 bucks in ebay this days.... is compatible with most "real" headsets, and will give you the best voice quality in the market.

I mean.... a cheap computer to run asterisk with one of those Intel Modems (15 bucks) to connect your land line.... like 80 bucks for an old machine (any old P3 or P4 will suffice)... a cisco phone, like 50 bucks.... total budget 145 bucks (ebay)....

What do you get with that? proven performance that is business quality, that everyone knows that works.... when I'm doing business that is what I want.

do you want to start a company with less than 145 bucks for phone infrastructure? come on! get real!

Go with asterisk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24553107)

Apart from being rather easy to run and maintain, it has a good deal of web resources to get started and can be done with relatively inexpensive hardware.

Uhm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24553183)

What's a..."modem?"

Silly rabbit ... (0)

psergiu (67614) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553269)

... learn your Hayes AT command set.

To answer without expecting carrier and all volumes loud should be something like:

ATX0L3M3A

Re:Silly rabbit ... (1)

RogerWilco (99615) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553465)

Yeah, I was also thinking something along those lines. Those more fancy AT commands are often non-standard on your basic modem, so you'll need to read the manual to see what does what.

In general there should be a command to just pick up the phone on an incoming RING and wait for the user to +++ATH and also keep the volume enables (default it goes off after the handshake, but if incoming is VOICE, then it will need some special commands anyway).

Should be trivial to at least hear what is happening on any half decent modem, you'll need one where you can talk back from your microphone, and where preferably the audio from your modem is piped into your soundcard mixer too.
I'm not so sure about that part of the setup, will depend on the drivers and hardware of the modem. An external modem might be an advantage here, if it has audio in/out.

what now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24553495)

Good grief, use a regular phone to answer calls and hit pause or mute, as need decrees. Why the heck do you need to overthink this?

Remember doing this once (1)

BrianRagle (1016523) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553549)

Maybe I am dating myself here, but I remember doing this all the time in the late 80s/early-90s, using my franken-puter and the software bundled with the stupidly expensive modem. Variations on the WinFax line up of software could accomplish this, despite having "fax" in the name, leading one to believe it was only for faxes.

As some of the whippersnappers on here may or may not recall, a "fax" was the way we used to "send pages" to other folks, magically transforming hard-copy on one end, into sounds transmitted over the line to become hard copy on the other end. It was truly a marvelous age!

Now git offa my lawn!

Re:Remember doing this once (1)

bestinshow (985111) | more than 5 years ago | (#24554071)

"Maybe I am dating myself here"

Aren't most Slashdotters?

Personally, for the problem the poster has, I'd just hit the pause button on the media player. Muting audio automatically is all very good but annoying if the video keeps playing and you lose track of where you are, so you definitely want to pause it. PC audio out of desktop speakers which you can hear quite well despite wearing a phone headset for the phone calls.

Re:Remember doing this once (1)

BrianRagle (1016523) | more than 5 years ago | (#24554123)

I tend to agree that some overthinking is happening here with the original poster. It seems to me there those who often use a modern bit of technology, such as a VoiP app like Skype, which does more or less what he is asking regarding media control when a call comes in, and then expect all apps to do the same, whether they are of this century or not. Sometimes, ya just gotta pause the thing manually.

Why? Overkill? (2, Interesting)

evilviper (135110) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553597)

Rather than using a regular handset or obtaining a nice business phone with a headset and speakerphone, I would like to use my PC's modem in conjunction with a normal PC headset and soundcard.

What?

You find yourself in need of a $10 headset for your telephone, so, of course, your first reaction is to dedicate your far more expensive, terribly power wasting, and necessarily less-reliable computer to the otherwise unimaginably simple job... It makes perfect sense!

The first thing I though of when I read this (3, Insightful)

rikkards (98006) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553647)

I recently accepted a work-from-home job that will involve using my landline to talk to customers.

Please take me off your call-list :)

Bigger issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24553735)

If you're employed with a call center, you've got bigger issues to deal with. Don't work from home! Its bad enough that all of these companies outsource their calls! Don't make it worse by working from home instead of the call center! You're ruining it for everyone!

Microsoft's Telephony API, maybe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24553837)

Last year I had to write some software for a PC modem under Windows and I used Microsoft's "Telephony API" or "TAPI" to do it.

What I as told during that process was that there really aren't any PC modems out there anymore that support two-way voice communications.

This is, I was informed, a hardware issue, and there's no possible way round this limitation.

I can't verify that as true and it's been a long time since I used the software, but the Microsoft newsgroup for TAPI was still quite active back then, and they should be able to tell you what modems you can buy to get yourself closer towards this goal.

Dunno if you've found a solution elsewhere in the thread, but TAPI seemed very robust and full-featured when I used it, and has been available from Windows 98 onwards as an integral part of the operating system, as far as I remember.

Lets talk about the KISS method... (3, Insightful)

quetwo (1203948) | more than 5 years ago | (#24553955)

Ok, I know /.ers love to involve their computer with everything. The suggestions of using modems and pinning out the audio seam pretty innovative, but in all reality when you start to mix non-phone equipment with the phone you will loose quality. Just trust me on this one. What I would suggest is that you get a nice Uniden or Cortelco phone. Uniden's you can find at pretty much any Best Buy or Target. Cortelco's are available at Greybar or similar contractor stores. Most of these phones have speakerphone and a headset plug. In the phone world, headset plugs come in pretty much three styles -- separated MIC/LINE (used mostly with computers), Cell-Phone combined (mini, mono connector that carries both in one plug), and a QuickDisconnect (flat, 4-connector headset used by people in the PBX world). Unidens and Cortelco's will most likely have the cell-phone combined connector. You can walk over the the cell-phone side of whatever store you are at and get a descent headset. All of these phones have mute buttons, that are usually very easy to find. There is no need to add the complexity and unreliability of adding in components that aren't designed to do this task. Remember, it is your job on the line, so you may want to spend the $25 for the solution above and do it right.

Stop trying to use a Modem.... try this: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24554051)

1) get a cheap ATA like the LinkSys SPA3102. It has FXO and FXS. $75 or less.
2) install an Asterisk server (or whatever flavor of linux PBX you prefer). Free!
3) hang a cordless phone off the FXS port (in case you are away from your desk, drinking mai-tai's by the side of the pool)
4) call the telco and get a 2nd phone # (not line) and assign a distinctive ring (if you would like to differentiate between WORK calls and personal and use the PBX to make some decisions based on the ring. You don't NEED this, but it will keep the kids from answering and is cheaper than a 2nd line, although I recommend a dedicated 2nd line.)
5) install the X-Lite softphone on your PC and connect it to the asterisk PBX on an extension. (or use whatever softphone you like that supports SIP or IAX)
6) If you have 2 lines, you can even configure some follow-me roaming style ring groups and reach out to your cellphone if you are away.

Now you can listen to MP3's, play Doom/Quake, get drunk by the side of your pool, while still appearing as though you are sitting behind a desk that you spent 1 hour in traffic to get to.

8yuo Fail It? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24554291)

Dis7ribution. As minutes. At home,

Finally starting that home 1-900 business. ;^) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24554369)

I can imagine that no one would want packet loss when listening to a phone sex line but do you really want to be coupled to your computer while helping someone get their jollies?

I'd think you'd want to be able to move around the house and do other things.

How about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24554437)

you just do you freaking job - no wonder the dollar is a useless currency

Something like this... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24554459)

I think the poster is looking for something like this, though perhaps cheaper.

http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/win/20024

I'm also rather surprised this basic functionality isn't more widely available, or built into an OS as a gimmick. I remember my first laptop back in '95 came with something similar preinstalled.

VoIP router (2, Informative)

clik (1342551) | more than 5 years ago | (#24554465)

Hi, do you know this? _http://www.avm.de/en/Produkte/FRITZBox/FRITZ_Box_Fon_WLAN/index.html this device work as a pbx\asterisk and you can plug in traditional phones and ip phones as you need and route plain old landline to ALL devices connected to. I dont know if work on USA landlines (is a european product) but is a great device I use with satisfaction. Sorry for my little english
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