Asterisk, Gizmo Project and RadioHandi
I'm not a VoIP geek by any stretch. Some people just get insanely excited about the idea of running their own PBX at home or what not, but I'm really not that type of person. However, I have to say that this video demo of Asterisk over at Kevin Rose's SYSTM really piqued my interest. Using an inexpensive telephone adapter - $100 for the Sipura 1000 - they were able to get a SIP-based VoIP server with full-on IVR functionality up and running in no time. It's pretty damn cool, I have to say - having calls routed from your phone to your desktop whereever you are, or using one of the new WiFi SIP handsets (the Hitachi 5000 for example) to make calls by connecting back to your home server through any WiFi Access Point. I'm definitely impressed enough to want to geek around with it.
Before I started down that path though, I wanted to play with The Gizmo Project's SIP voice stuff and the new free voice conferencing service launched at ETel called RadioHandi. I've played with VoIP stuff before using Skype and other IM clients (like Yahoo!'s IM with Voice) but I hadn't actually played with a system that could interact with external IVR systems. The first thing I tried when I installed the Gizmo Project was a call to TellMe. I was amazed to find myself talking into my PC mic and navigating menus of an IVR - this is something I had only really done with a phone before - pretty cool. (Too bad it's not Multi-modal, but that's a whole other discussion...)
Then I "called" RadioHandi via their Gizmo name ("radiohandi" of course), and found that I was in the same sort of menu - though this one didn't have voice recognition, so I had to get the virtual phone keypad and click my way through it like that. It's very interesting - the idea of being able to connect like this with my PC, and have others dial in to a local phone number is very compelling. I'm starting to see what all the VoIP buzz is about! Took me a while. :-)
Things I don't understand though: What the heck is a SIP number? What exactly is Peering? Where does the match between your SIP number and your IP address and service provider come in? If I had any SIP client and you had a SIP client, could we do a peer-to-peer voice conversation without the need of a middle server? Can any SIP based client call into TellMe and RadioHandi or doesn't that work?
I guess I'm trying to lay down my Internet based knowledge on top of the Telecom system, which probably doesn't work well. But I have a server at an IP address, but which I access with a domain "russellbeattie.com" - I have a home machine with another IP address, but because I don't have a domain, it's mostly inaccessible to me, except when I use services like Avvenu which keep track of it for me via a client. How does the SIP universe work? Do I always need to register with a central service like Gizmo or Yahoo! and then they do the name/number resolution and then connect? Or is there some standards-body sort of method out there like IP addressing or domain names or something?
Anyways, cool stuff. By the way - I was going to use RadioHandi to set up a conference, but their "beta" service is a bit more like "alpha" at this point, so I was getting SQL Insertion Errors when I tried to set up a room. So I guess I'll hang out in the "ETel Party Line" for a bit, extension 0035. :-)