Friday, November 5, 2010

PhoneGnome as a free alternative to Gizmo5

Gizmo5 was a popular free SIP service but it is now closed to new subscribers.

In addition to the PhoneGnome hardware box, PhoneGnome also offers PhoneGnome accounts without the hardware box - this is basically a free SIP service with open SIP credentials that allows users to use any SIP softphone or SIP compatible hardware device with the PhoneGnome service.

There are a few ways to sign up for a new PhoneGnome account:

  1. The easiest is if you already have a PhoneGnome account, you can setup an auxiliary account at the following link:
  2. Next, if someone you know has an account, they can send you an invitation, using the following link:
  3. Or Finally, anyone can create a free account simply by applying an initial credit balance of $5.00 USD or more to the account, using this link:

Once you have the account setup, navigate to Features / SoftGnome Remote Access / Activate to setup your SIP credentials and then use Features / SoftGnome Remote Access / Edit / View SIP Credentials to view your new SIP Credentials.

Next, you need to decide if you want to use your computer to place and receive calls (free) or whether you want to use a physical hardware SIP phone ($$). If you want to use a real phone, you might consider purchasing the PhonGnome box, because it makes setup fully automated, but if you already have a SIP phone, or want to use some other ATA hardware, you can do that too.

If you decide to use software, PhoneGnome provides a free PC softphone that you can download here: or you can use any SIP software that you like, such as X-Lite

And there you go - now you have a free SIP account just like with Gizmo5. You can add credit to the account to place calls to any number or simply use it to call other SIP users directly.

Going Further

Once you have the software or hardware setup to use the PhoneGnome account, you can get a free US number from IPKALL at when setting up the SIP forwarding of the IPKALL number, use your SIP credentials username and as the host (SIP server) (if you have the PhoneGnome Box, your SIP address will be shown on your home page at

Now, anyone can call you at this number and it will ring to your PhoneGnome account phone (or softphone). You can even set this number up with Google Voice as a ring-to destination or for placing GV calls.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

PhoneGnome on iPhone - making calls when there is no cell service

Have you ever been out of cell coverage and needed to make a call? This happened to me recently, where the place I was staying had wi-fi but I didn't have any AT&T cell coverage.

PhoneGnome offers a nifty iPhone interface which is great for checking voicemails, but it requires cell coverage to make calls. However, there is an answer: the SoftGnome feature and a SIP Phone on your iPhone.

Since PhoneGnome provides open SIP credentials with the SoftGnome feature, you can use any SIP softphone, including those for the iPhone. I installed Whistle, one of the few FREE SIP apps.

The Whistle app is designed to work with the "Whistle service" but I set it up on my PhoneGnome account from using the "Generic SIP server" option on the Whistle app and getting my credentials from the site under Features / SoftGnome / Edit / View SIP credentials. I never set up a Whistle account - and it works fine without one.

You really have two options here. You can use the SoftGnome SIP softphone setup for your main (home number) PhoneGnome account, or setup an extra free PhoneGnome account for your iPhone. The primary difference is what number the person you're calling will see and whether you want inbound calls from your home number to ring to the iPhone or not.

I primarily needed this for outbound calls, so it didn't make a lot of difference in my case. What was really neat is I did it all "on demand" when I didn't have any cell phone service over wifi. I downloaded and installed the Whistle app, and set it up all from the phone itself, never needing a PC. I dialed **3 and viola - I heard my number and was ready to make my first "real" call. So cool!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Easy Internet Phone Service

Does this sound familiar? You have a cellphone and a landline that together cost you more than $100/month but you hardly get calls on the landline. You have it just so you (or your significant other) don’t run up your wireless bill with long calls during peak hours. But your cellphone is definitely your primary phone.

That was me before I started using VoIP (voice over IP) at home about two years ago. It is easy and inexpensive to setup, will work with your existing telephones, and I’m only paying, on average, about $3/month for service now. Here’s how:

VoIP gets talked about a lot these days, but it is usually: some service from your internet provider (Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, etc) that is only marginally less expensive than the phone company, really complex to setup (Asterisk), requires your computer to be on all the time (Magic jack), or it doesn’t work with your existing equipment (Skype). What I am recommending doesn’t fall into any of those categories. I am using a SIP-based hardware box called PhoneGnome.

PhoneGnome offers “Personal Numbers" that cost $3.25 per month, $8.62 for 3 months, or $27.60 for 12 months, plus 2.1 cents per minute. Calling any number in the U.S. also costs $0.021/minute. The price for International calls depends on the location you are calling, and the prices fluxuate a little bit. Generally, International calls are quite inexpensive as well, see this link for the full list. Calling credit is purchased in increments of at least $5.

I should note that you don’t have to have a “Personal Number" to make calls, and you don’t have to have credits to receive free SIP calls. They are independent of each other.

PhoneGnome provides a free SIP Address and one of the great things about PhoneGnome is that SIP-to-SIP calls are always free. I set my parents up with this because of that. And because it is all going over the Internet, it is a free call whether they live in Luxemborg or Los Angeles. Calls to toll-free numbers (800, 888, etc) are free too.

You can also get certain U.S. phone numbers for free. The PhoneGnome blog explains how to get a free Washington-state number: - Since a lot of people are calling with VoIP or a mobile phone, a call is a call, is a call, so they don't care if you have a so-called "local" number or not, so in many cases this would be fine.

Another feature I use somewhat regularly is their call forwarding feature. If you are waiting for a call on your landline but want to run some errands you can just forward all of your calls to your cellphone. I know this can be done with most traditional phone services, but with PhoneGnome it doesn’t cost an arm-and-a-leg per month; you only pay your normal per minute outbound call rate.

The PhoneGnome hardware connects to standard or cordless phone. My house isn’t hooked up to any POTS (plain-old-telephone-service) service so the PhoneGnome box just plugs into my household wiring. If you still have a traditional land line service, you can also plug that service into the PhoneGnome box and use it as an add-on and use your existing phone(s) like a dual-mode phone. If you want the PhoneGnome to run to all of your phone outlets in your house, just disconnect the phone line coming into your house from the phone company (usually located in the phone box on the side of your house) before you plug the PhoneGnome into one of your phone jacks. Now all of your existing phones will be connected to your PhoneGnome VoIP service.

Setup is automated. Simply connect the PhoneGnome hardware device to your broadband router and telephone and navigate with your browser to: to register the device - it performs an automatic configuration and is ready to use in a few minutes.

Once you have that setup, you are ready to go. When you pick up the phone you will hear a dial-tone and you can make calls - You will just be saving a lot of money. Last year it only cost me $37 total (about $3 per month) for this setup! We mostly use it for long calls (my wife talking to her mom) or when we get low on rollover minutes.

There are a few downsides I should point out. You might not be able to transfer your current home number. If you want to keep that you will need to pay for a "Personal number" as described above and pay $20 to transfer the number. Unless you connect a standard landline to the PhoneGnome box too, there isn’t any 911 service either, but I can always call 911 with my cellphone so that isn’t an issue for me. PhoneGnome does include free caller ID, but unfortunately it may only show you the number (similar to cellphones) not the caller’s name, in some cases. Lastly you can’t use a fax machine, at least in my case (others have reported that FAX did work for them).

Friday, April 17, 2009

New fresh look at "My PhoneGnome" site

I didn't see any announcements anywhere, but I signed into the "My PhoneGnome" which is the web interface for the PhoneGnome service, and boy has it been upgraded:

Very nice. The top menu bar appears the same as before, so everything I knew before seems to be there still, but there is a new navigation bar along the left hand column.

The top "tabs" are the same as before: Home, PhoneBook, Voicemail, Find People, SMS, Settings, Features, and Call Analysis.

I'm still getting used to finding my way around the new left-hand column links. The links are divided into five groups: Quick Links, Online Access, Community, Features, and Help.

One really nice new feature of the new site is a "Help / FAQ" page that shows all the available on-line help files in one place.

The "Community" area looks interesting. I'll have to check that out.

Anyway, it's nice to see continued care and feeding of the PhoneGnome service.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

PhoneGnome keeps chugging along

PhoneGnome is the little engine that could. It's not getting much press coverage these days - and even I have been pretty quiet on this blog - but it just keeps on working (knock on wood). I've had it installed for several years now and I'm so used to it, I don't know what I'd do without it. I make a fair number of international calls. When I think about how much I've saved between these and domestic long distance calls, it's staggering. The little PhoneGnome box has paid for itself many times over.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Boost your landline with VoIP

The PhoneGnome blog has a post today showing how to use the little $99 PhoneGnome box to give our landline a shot in the arm and bring than old landline into the 21st century.

Step 1: keep your basic landline costs under control

If you're stuck with a landline, because it's required with your DSL service, or because you want landline 911, or any other reason, there's no use paying more than you need to for it. Services like 3-way calling, call forwarding, etc. are expensive from the phone company, even if purchased in a bundle. In order to get the cost of a landline down, you need to remove all those features - basic landline service can be as low as $3 to $5 per month (approx $10 per month with all the fees/taxes). But you lose the features - by connecting up a PhoneGnome box to that basic line, you get most of the call features back - free - without monthly fees.

And beyond those basic calling features, you get a whole slew of new features the phone company doesn't offer at any price, starting with voicemail to email - also free.

Step 2: Cheap long-distance calls

With PhoneGnome connected, you can keep using the landline for inbound and outbound local calls, while avoiding using it for more expensive toll and international calls. Activate a VoIP plan and all your toll calls will use the Internet at greatly reduced costs (sometimes even free).

Step 3: Mobile and more

If you're the kind of person that likes to keep things simple, there's not much you need to do to use PhoneGnome as shown above to save money and continue to enjoy features. On the other hand, if you like to take things to the limit, PhoneGnome lets you do that too, working with your mobile phone, PC, web sites, and VoIP services.

Probably one of niftiest "advanced features" is PhoneGnome's mobile integration capabilities. You can have your cell phone(s) ring with your home phone when someone calls your home number. You can check your voicemail from your cell phone with "Visual Voicemail". You can sling your home phone service to your mobile phone - to name just a few.


In short, just because you've decided to keep a landline, doesn't mean you have to pay a fortune for it or that you need to be stuck in the dark ages in terms of features. Just connect a PhoneGnome box to that old landline and enjoy VoIP features and cost savings along with landline reliability.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

PhoneGnome adds SMS beta

PhoneGnome added the ability to send SMS from your My PhoneGnome account. The rates look better than Skype's to most destinations.

Next, they need to add an API call for doing this to their (rather comprehensive) collection of free APIs.

Check out the company blog for details: PhoneGnome adds SMS sending