Free Outgoing Calls

So awhile back, I hit onto this page while searching for VoIP info: Zero Cost Voip Calls. The blog really only has 2 entries:

This gave me an idea on how to make free outgoing calls with my current setup: VoiceStick Replacement – IPKall with GrandCentral

I basically have unlimited incoming calls now due to IPKall + FWD + PAP2. But to make outgoing phone calls, I still had to use my cell phone, and what sucks about making phone calls to customer service and technical support is that you’re on hold typically for over 30 minutes and that drains your minutes quite fast.

Anyway, it turns out GrandCentral connects you with anyone in your address book on their dime. It’s similar to the function on Google Maps when you find the business you want to contact, and they have the “call” button which prompts you for your phone number and connects you directly to them.

So you just need to create an entry in your GrandCentral address book and then click call. What happens then is they’ll call you directly on your line and since you don’t pay for incoming calls, it’s a free call to you. Once they confirmed that there’s someone on your side, they’ll connect you to the other party. Simple as that.

What’s neat about this is that you can basically make any phone calls within the United States for FREE! I’m not sure about Canada, but it’d be sweet if you can make calls to Canada for free too.

These past few days I’ve been playing with GrandCentral a bit since I’ve set it up for my parents and there are some very neat things. One really neat thing is the ability to record a conversation. Even if you selected to not record initially, you can hit “4” in the middle of the conversation and it’ll begin to record immediately. However, they appear to have only enabled that for calls you receive and not calls you’ve initiated from their web UI.

Another interesting thing is RingShare, where you can customize the ring people hear when calling you. By default, it’s set to the American ring, but you also have the British ring and the Japanese ring. You can also go through the gallery and choose from a small selection of chimes and even people talking.

One thing I really want is the option to turn off the screening process completely. Even with Call Screening off, it still prompts me to push 1 to start chatting. I can definitely see it as a useful feature, but to my parents, it just complicates the process.

Unlocking PAP2 Adventure

So I had quite some fun unlocking the PAP2. And by fun, I really meant headaches. First sign of trouble was when I noticed this PAP2 came with the 3.1.9 firmware which makes it impeccably harder to unlock than anything before.

However the guides posted on B$: Linksys PAP2 Unlock Info also included instructions on unlocking for firmwares 3.1.9 and higher, however they’re much more difficult. When unlocking my previous PAP2, all I had to do was setup a TFTP server and force it to upgrade the firmware. However the latest firmware prevents updating the firmware without administrator access and the admin password isn’t provided.

These new instructions required me to setup the following:

  • TFTP Server
  • DNS Server
  • HTTP Server

The instructions also called for setting up a DHCP server, but I decided to use my router to do that.

I ended up using SolarWinds TFTP Server, SHTTPD, and Simple DNS Plus. At first I wanted to use IIS that comes with XP, but I was hitting into issues with permissions and I just didn’t want to deal with that.

I pointed * to my main box that was hosting the the TFTP server and HTTP server. Following the directions, I created a similar environment that the PAP2 would try to connect and update the firmware with, which required getting the actual encrypted updated xml, but replacing at the location of where the new firmware is supposed to be, with something that I had.

After doing the 1st step, I hit into a snag. No longer was I able to access the PAP2 via the browser nor would **** access the IVR (interactive voice response) system. However, looking at my DNS and TFTP logs, I noticed that it would still try to connect to different address at * I thought I’d just “bricked” my PAP2 and began looking replacements for it on Amazon. Meanwhile, I left a message for Diggler on the forums telling him about my situation and asking if it’s recoverable at all.

Diggler comes back and tells me the good news. Turns out I didn’t kill my PAP2 and this was expected if it was able to get the encrypted xml, but not the updated firmware. The updated xml file told it to disable web access and if I continue to hit *s, the IVR system will eventually come up. With the ability to reset the PAP2 now that I can access the IVR system, I would be able to repeat this for as many times as I want.

So I decided to check the logs on my SHTTP server and even though it was sending the file, the logs show 404. Someone else said they were having problems with SHTTP and said wxWebServer had worked for them. I also tried this, but it didn’t work and no logs were generated. I finally gave up and decided to go back to IIS and BAM! It worked!

The rest of the unlocking steps were pretty straight forward.

Other useful guides:

I then setup GrandCentral to IPKall to FWD and now line 1 at my parents house is a new number they can use to receive calls. I was surprised that sticking the PAP2 into a line 1 jack actually made all the line 1 jacks in the house work. Derek had told me that it’s worked for him, but I had little luck back at my place. Then again, I really just plugged it into a jack and then plugged in a phone in a different jack, and that didn’t work.

With the web UI, they can also make calls, but that’s a blog entry I’ve been meaning to post for some time. Maybe sometime soon.

VoiceStick Replacement – IPKall with GrandCentral

So VoiceStick, one of my free VoIP service providers decided they were going to start charging money. I was on the Next2Nothing plan where all incoming calls were free, but they would charge 2¢/min for all outgoing calls. I was fine with that since I didn’t plan to make any outgoing calls.

However a month or 2 back, they secretly started charging money without notifying the users. I only found out after Ungsunghero mentioned it to me and realized I had a negative balance. Since I was on the “free” plan, there was no need to provide a credit card and I might have started out with some free credit. When I saw my balance, it was at -$1.32 or something like that.

I’ve mentioned VoiceStick previously, stating how they were better than IPKall both in quality and the fact they can provide local numbers from anywhere in the USA. IPKall restricted your number to be in the Seattle area which was either 425, 206, 360, or 253. My IPKall still works fine and I haven’t had any problems with it, but now I lost a local number for my parents in LA to call me. Worse case scenario, they can still call my cell phone.

Anyway, I was just telling Derek and Tekman a few weeks back about GrandCentral, because Tekman needed a number which wasn’t long distance for his son’s school to call him. I told him about GrandCentral and how it’s basically choose a number and get free call forwarding. GrandCentral has a whole slew of neat features. Call forwarding is just one of the many.

I believe GrandCentral (being in beta) is still an invite-only service, so if you’re interested, feel free to leave your name and email in the comment area.

This got me thinking… Can I get a local number in LA (626 area code) and have it forward to my IPKall phone number. I decided to give it a shot and it turned out quite successful. Initially, I was having some quality trouble, where I had a hard time hearing the other side and vice versa. It turned out it was because I was “uploading”, which caused more deterioration of the VoIP connection than previously with my other VoIP services. Of course the quality isn’t as good as what VoiceStick was before and probably worser now since it’s going through 2 VoIP connections (first through GrandCentral, then through IPKall/FWD), but I asked my parents to give it a try and with my “uploading” software closed, the quality was actually rather good.

Setting up GrandCentral is pretty easy. You provide some information, give it an area code/address and it’ll return you a set of phone numbers to choose from. I wanted one that was easy to remember (basically one with repetitions of digits and found a pretty good one after going through about 30).

Setting up IPKall is a bit more difficult. At this point, I’m going to assume you already have a VoIP Phone Adapter (such as the “unlocked” Linksys PAP2) or you’ll be using a PC-Phone software (somewhat like Skype) provided to you by FWD.

IPKall isn’t exactly a VoIP service. They’re sort of a door that can connect a phone number to an existing VoIP service that allows incoming connections. They recommend FWD (Free World Dialup) as the VoIP service provider. FWD doesn’t provide actual phone numbers, but they allow incoming connections and what IPKall does is to connect an incoming call into that VoIP service. I’d suggest setting up the FWD account before you setup the IPKall account.

Creating an account on FWD is pretty straight forward. What you’ll want to keep note of is what your FWD Number is and the password you set. You’ll need this information to setup your VoIP Phone Adapter. Here are the settings I have on my Linksys PAP2:

SIP Port: 5060
Use Outbound Proxy: No
Register: Yes
User ID: Your FWD Number
Password: Your FWD Password
Use Auth ID: Yes
Auth ID: Your FWD Number

Anything I didn’t mention, I’m assuming it’s the default. After saving, check the registration state and see if it changes to Online. It usually takes less than 5 minutes if the information you enter is correct.

Creating an IPKall account is pretty much like GrandCentral. You give them some information, select the area code you want, then select your phone number. After your account is created, update the following settings:

SIP Phone Number: Your FWD Number
SIP Proxy:

Although it says it may take up to 60 minutes for the changes to take effect, I’ve noticed that creating a new account can take a day before the phone number starts working.

Now go back into GrandCentral and tell it to forward all calls to the IPKall phone number you just setup and everything should work just fine!

If you need help, feel free to leave a comment.