Google Calling: This Fixes Everything!

August 28, 2010

Google released a new feature in GMail this week, “Call Phone,” that promises to replace an entire VoIP ecosystem that I have cobbled together over the years.  First, I’d like to explain how things did work, and then I’d like to show how Google has simplified placing and receiving voice calls on my computer for me.

As with any good lesson, let’s begin by defining terms…

Google Voice
A free service that allows users to use a web interface to control how calls are placed and received on their existing telephones.  Voice gives users a single, public telephone number, but does not allow calls to originate or terminate at a computer.

A free service that allows users to place and receive computer-to-computer calls.  To work, it must be installed and running in the background on both computers.

A paid service, usually about $3.00/month, that allows Skype users to place calls from a computer to a telephone number in the US.

Sipgate is a company that offers virtual telephone service.  Users sign up, download the sipgate software, and then select a telephone number.  When someone dials the telephone number, the software rings like a telephone, and the call can be answered on the computer.  Users are allowed free incoming calls, but outgoing calls are billed by the minute.  The sipgate software is very buggy 😦

Kluge: /klooj/ (from The Jargon File)

  1. n. A Rube Goldberg (or Heath Robinson) device, whether in hardware or software.
  2. n. A clever programming trick intended to solve a particular nasty case in an expedient, if not clear, manner. Often used to repair bugs. Often involves ad-hockery and verges on being a crock.
  3. n. Something that works for the wrong reason.

Right.  Whether my iPhone’s battery is critically low or I need to record a call for use in a podcast or other multimedia work, I often place and receive telephone calls using my computer.  Until this week, I’ve had a setup much like the one shown here.

When someone calls my Google Voice number, all of my telephones ring.  Additionally, the call is forwarded to sipgate.  When the sipgate virtual telephone application is running on my computer, it, too, rings like a telephone.  By answering the sipgate virtual phone, I have achieved my goal.  The drawback is that the caller is being routed through two different companies before reaching my computer, and if anything goes wrong anywhere along the way, the call drops.

Since sipgate charges by the minute for outbound calls, I decided to go with SkypeOut, which is only $3.00 per month.  When I call someone, I want my Google Voice number to appear on their Caller ID.  Until a few months ago, this meant using SkypeOut to dial my Google Voice account, and then using the Skype keypad to direct Google Voice to relay the call to my destination.  It was a lot like using a calling card.  Now, Skype allows SkypeOut users to set their SkypeOut Caller ID, making the process much easier.  Still, SkypeOut costs me $3.00 each month.

Until last week, placing and receiving calls from my computer was a mess!  Now, any time I’m logged into GMail (which is always), I can use browser-based software to do all of this without buggy programs bogging down my system or monthly fees!

To place a call, I simply click “Call Phone” from my GMail contacts list.  I enter the number (or select the person from the integrated Google Contacts list), and I’m quickly connected.  My outgoing Caller ID is my Google Voice number.

To receive a call requires a few simple steps, described here in the Google Chat Help documentation.  Simply place an outbound call using “Call Phone” in GMail, then  navigate to your Google Voice settings.  In your list of phones, you will see a new entry for your GMail account at the bottom.  Simply check the box!

Now, calls can be placed and received using a simple web-based tool offered free from Google that integrates perfectly with the other Google tools I already use.  What a great week!  Just another reason why Every Educator Needs Google Voice.

2 Responses to “Google Calling: This Fixes Everything!”

  1. Great article, one small detail. Calls can originate terminate at the computer with a Google Voice phone number. As of now, there is still no charge and you can search for a number by area code or combination letter/numbers. It offers caller ID, transcription of voice mail and so much more. It is the only number I give out now and direct it wherever I want it to go.

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