Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Ringing changes

The projects I work on sometimes get done all at once, and sometimes older ones will suddenly leap forward. Sudden leaps, though, are usually only after a long and often arduous journey to get there. Like right now, for example.

Today I “finished” another project: I changed the phones in my house. A few days ago, I mentioned on my personal Facebook that I was working on this. I shared a “Facebook Memory” about “In Dependence”, something I posted on May 8 of last year (in those days, Facebook had a “Notes” feature, which was like a sort of blogging platform, and I’d post both there and here). In last year’s post, I talked a bit about the phone system issues (and mentioned them again in a post the following month), but I never really talked about how difficult it was to do. I said on Facebook:
All of what I sad last year is still true. And, as it happens, over the past week I’ve been trying to locate *all* the pieces to the multitudinous phone sets so I can swap out the set I started using this time last year (the first set we ever had, and despite getting batteries for them last year, they’re on their last legs). It’s not gone well, and I may just buy a new set. All the ones I have are destined for e-waste recycling some day, anyway, so I may just do that sooner rather than later.
The fact is, I was shooting blind last year: I had no idea how Nigel had set up our system, or even what (or where) the parts of those “multitudinous phone sets” were. The fact they were missing was probably because the house was packed up by various people, not just the movers, and so, everything ended up separated. However, Nigel didn’t exactly keep things together in the first place, and that was a problem.

All of that meant that, for example, I might have phones, but not the base unit they needed to talk to each other and the VoIP phone line. Or, maybe I had one or two handsets, but not the minimum of three I wanted. Add to that the fact that I didn’t know how to set it all up, and I just couldn’t work it out.

In the post last May, I mentioned that as I was going through things, I found something and said to myself, “that box is for VoIP”. That allows me to hook up an ordinary phone system, and not use a specialised VoIP phone set, which was important because so many bits of those were missing.

When I found what was actually our first multiple handset phone system (one we replaced something like 14 years ago), I decided to use that and the VoIP box I’d also found. That worked, kind of, for the past year.

Things got worse over time because each handset a problem: On one of them, the screen didn’t work, but the buttons did—which didn’t really matter because without a screen it was impossible to see what number I was dialling). Another handset’s buttons worked, but it had no sounds (including a ringer). The third one rang and the screen worked, but the keypad didn’t.

I tried to deal with all of those problems, assuming it was just a wrong settings (it wasn’t). That third phone originally didn’t really work at all because it wouldn’t charge. I noticed a couple of the charging contact pins were bent, so I fixed that, but the keyboard was frozen because Nigel spilled paint on it at our house in Paeroa when we were doing it up. I opened up the phone (!) to see if I could clean the keypad. Turns out, it was covered by a clear silicon pad and escaped most of the paint. I was able to clean off what was keeping things from moving, but didn’t matter because the keypad still didn’t work. Maybe if I understood electronics I could’ve fixed it, but even if I had, it’d have been the only handset working correctly. And, of course, they were all probably the better part of 20 years old.

I limped along with that set for the past year, even as one phone suddenly started dying because the battery was still one of the originals (I bought two replacements), and even though the line connection was never great.

So, I again started the search for phones, and accidentally came across the base unit and a handset for was actually our second set of phones, one that had four handsets (which we needed at the time). The four handset system is the one we were using when Nigel switched us to VOIP ( found the other two handsets in my office where I’d put them “so I can find them” just yesterday; that was about a week after I’d started work on this).

Nigel bought an IP phone that could connect directly to the Internet through our system, and I found the base unit and all its handsets (four). I bought rechargeable AAA batteries and fired them up. One handset connected to the base, but the other three wouldn’t, even when I followed the instructions in the manual (which, of course, I had to download—that’s still missing). I knew this system was going to be difficult to set up (because I’d had enough problems with VoIP box), so, when I found the two missing handsets from the second system, I decided to use that—All I had to do was put in the batteries and plug it into that VoIP box. So, I did. And it worked.

So, I now have a somewhat better, fully functioning phone system, including a handset on my desk so I can answer it it it rings when I’m at my desk (it hardly ever does, actually). But even this, I know, isn’t the end of the story.

There’s one more set of VoIP phones, the last one Nigel bought, maybe a year or so before he died. He had trouble getting it to work, and one or two of the handsets seemed to have batteries that wouldn’t hold a charge. I have no idea whether Nigel bought the phones new or used, so it could be the batteries were on their last legs, anyway. They’re the type that’s in a pack, meaning they’re more expensive than ordinary rechargeable AAA batteries and have to be ordered from a specialist supplier. Because of that, and because I know that Nigel had some problems with them, I’m not keen on even trying to get them going.

Ultimately, I probably will need to get a newer phone system, and a VoIP system would be better. I’d need to do a lot of research to make that happen, including maybe even solving the handset registration problem I couldn’t easily do before. I have plenty of time to do that, though, now that I have a functioning phone system that I can use—for now.

The larger question, though, is should I bother keeping the “landline” at all? There’s really only one person who rings me on that line regularly, and one other person occasionally does. Everyone else rings me on my mobile, either directly or, if they’re overseas, through an App. I also use Zoom and Skype on my desktop computer rather than making international phone calls. So: Should I bother keeping the “landline” at all?

For now, I will. But because I don’t know that I’ll have one much longer, I’ll probably stick with the phones I have rather than buying new ones. Eventually, all the phones will end up going to e-waste recycling—it’s just a question of how soon.

This particular project lurched ahead when I found missing “pieces to the multitudinous phone sets”, and now it’s reached its latest conclusion point. It won’t be the last one, either.


Roger Owen Green said...

You're a noble man. I would have bought something new.

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