Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Phoning It In

Last night I ran into another one of those what-is-it-with-this-house moments. Rewinding a bit in the day, during lunch I ran out to Staples to return the new mouse I'd bought for Evelin's laptop; the old mouse that had seemed to have given up the ghost decided it wasn't ready for the scrap heap when it saw the new model arrive &mash; it started working perfectly mooting any plans to replace it. (Both the old and new are/were corded optical mouses; I just don't feel the love for cordless mouses, no matter how much certain people may talk them up.)

While making the return, the woman at the service desk asked if I'd be buying anything else today. I said no, but while she was handing the transaction, I cast my eyes over the clearance table. There were a couple of multi-extension cordless phones on sale, so after I got my card credited for the mouse I started poking around.

We have two old cordless phones, each of which has its own basestation. One is a 900 MHz unit; the other is 2.4 GHz. I haven't noticed any troubles yet, but our wireless network is 8011.b/g, which also uses 2.4 GHz, and since we should be switching entirely from Verizon to Vonage soon (we're just waiting for the old number migration to be finalized) I thought it might cause some issue to have a 2.4 GHz phone carrying VoIP traffic in the same loop as the 2.4 GHz network carrying Internet traffic. Plus, the 5.8 GHz phones (AT&T 3658Bs) were better than half price and looked neat, and would give us a third handset.

The upshot of all this is that Evelin will probably be Freecycling the 900 MHz phone + answering machine and the 2.4 GHz phone soon.

But that is just the lead up to the what-is-it-with-this-house issue.

When I put the new basestation in place (on the wall in the kitchen) it hung too high; the bottom of the cabinets made it impossible to put a handset in the basestation cradle. Removing the faceplace, it looks like it will be easy to just cut a channel down the wall to shift where the wire comes out of the wall and then I can spackle and rehang things. (Also I also discovered at this point that the Harvest Gold paint was applied over a fairly cutesy country wallpaper — little red houses and fruits.)

Of course it isn't that easy: The first problem was the plaster crumbling, including a nice chunk that popped out when I tried to put in a plastic screw anchor. Nothing too drastic happened, however; I just had to use more spackle that originally planned for.

The interesting thing was that the phone line didn't terminate directly into the jack; instead, there was a four-wire termination plate just hanging inside the wall. Only red and green were attached, so I stripped the black and yellow wires and attached them. Also, instead of the jack leads being crimped under the screws, they terminated in these neat little red, green, yellow, and black clips that snapped on top of the screws on the line plate. I snapped them down and pushed everything back into the wall and went about setting up the basestation.

The first indication that something was off was that the "in use" light kept flashing. We thought maybe it was because everything was charging for the first time, but it did seem a bit odd that a few hours later a partially charged handset couldn't get a dialtone.

This morning any hope that it was just a charging thing went out the window. Evelin called to say that the new phones weren't working; I later tried to call to see if I would get the answering machine ... again nada.

So, as soon as I got home, I tried a standard phone (the one normally connected to the VoIP line) to test the jack. No luck, it was back into the wall for me. Thankfully, it turned out to be a simple fix: One of those neat clips had popped off, probably dislodged by a bit of plaster falling behind the wall. After snapping that back on and putting everything back together, the "in use" light stopped flashing and the phones could ring.

At some point, I should probably replace the jack and how the line is terminated — perhaps whenever we redo the kitchen or when I go back to pain over the spackle and bit of wallpaper — but for now it's working.

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