a way to share and reference emails, rants, thoughts and musing to help our customers. These are official ring-u wiki pages, but actual full customer names, IP addresses, etc may be edited.

Faxity Fax Fax! - a rant

We aren't going to lie, “Fax” is the most arcane anachronistic thing in the internet era that we can think of. Arguably goes back to Alexander Bain's British patent 9745 on May 27, 1843 for his “Electric Printing Telegraph”. 1880 for a “scanning phototelegraph” - but those were over RADIO. yes: RADIO!

On May 19, 1924, scientists of the AT&T Corporation “by a new process of transmitting pictures by electricity” sent 15 photographs by telephone from Cleveland to New York City with an intention of being used for photo's in a newspaper. And “telefax” was born. Yes: 1924.

E-mail, and photocopiers should have killed the fax in the 1990's. It uses a range of encoding and speeds that were designed to work over old fashioned analog phone lines. They don't work any differently because you have a 10+Mbps internet connection, they negotiate with the other end and end up at speeds typically ranging from 1200 bits per second (1200 baud) to 57k baud, with 14,400 bits per second being the most common.

Worse is the image quality: 98 to 200 scan lines per inch is terrible. Grab an old mobile phone, take a picture of a page and it will look better. Or use a cheap scanner and email the resulting image file or PDF and it will be awesome. Only use a fax for that old fashioned low tech look from the 1980's.

What should we be doing instead?

Use a basic scanner or a camera on a mobile and take nice high res images. Email the resulting image files or PDF's. Use pre-arranged and tested encrypted email if it must be secure.

But isn't fax secure?

NO! - There is nothing inherently secure about fax. Over analog lines a fax can be copied with a simple “tape recorder” or siamesed into a listen only fax machine. if faxing over most VoIP systems, that digital version of the stream is easily copyable. If using a web interface or email interface to send/receive faxes you have multiplied your threat/exposure surface. Type in a wrong number or hit the wrong speed dial and it's doubly sure the wrong place or person will get that fax. The FBI has had some epic failures from faxing things to the wrong places. There is no end to end verification.. and in some cases your received fax is floating in a pool of other paper or digital faxes for some human to parse and forward. There is no encryption or verification in a fax!

Why did it take 14 hours for them to get my fax?

Because your fax machine can send one fax at a time, they can only receive X faxes at at a time. It's a small finite number. If the receiver is busy, your system will try again and again every few minutes or hours. It can take many minutes or hours to send a single large (multi-page) fax. This is 202x: You can stream a 10 video's of dancing cats at the same time, why are you doing this? See below.

Why does ring-u support fax?

Because government agencies, health insurance companies and faxerthals require paperwork to be submitted via fax. Either they really don't want your paperwork/information or they are just prehistoric faxerthals (no insult to Neanderthals or other prehistoric species intended, we apologize and won't kick your pet dinosaur any more). We want to help our customers endeavor to be a high technology efficient business, even if it's dealing with faxerthals.

For more info on ring-u fax support: Just the FAX

Faxerthal Defined
A pre-internet creature or entity that still requires documents via fax.
2020/05/14 20:43 · admin

Wireless VoIP/DECT Phone Ramble

We get asked about this a lot. This is a slightly cleaned up and generic version of an email I just sent out. Seems I sent something like this out once a month or more. It was time to add it to the Wiki.

Generic version of a common email

John,

We feel your pain with the basic Grandstream WP720/750 combo's. We stopped promoting them on our website… enough said? They work… mostly… the base box (the WP750) goes brain dead. It needs rebooting. We've seen better results with the newer WP752 base station, even with the older phones. Once subscribed to a new base they'll update firmware which will help. And even newer firmware on the WP750 may help. But.. they aren't my fav.

The Yealinks work a lot better than the Grandstreams as a DECT phone. There is even a high end version of the Yealinks for campus wide roaming across base stations (W80). But the W60 and W56H I have at home works well. I wish it had a better “clip”, I put a lanyard on it and use it when working from home outside. It's got great range. I hate the 2.5mm headphone jack… but as a phone it works very well and has good sound for a small handset. We have other customers using them and they are not getting negative comments like we have with the Grandstream 750/720

Grandstream WP820

Next interesting option is a GrandStream WP820. Once configured, this Android based WIFI (no base station) phone is awesome within your wifi coverage area. We have one in the office and it's what gets used when out and about in the office. We are in a commercial metal building, it does not reach our parking lot. Sound quality is very good and it works like a good VoIP phone should. Transfer, hold, etc.. features work well and it has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack.

We have issues getting them to configure sometimes. They go to deep sleep when not configured and we have to get someone to fiddle with the buttons to keep them awake. Once configured they are fine as they don't go to deep sleep. They can also be manually configured easily.

WP820's last over a weekend not plugged in.. If you have good WiFi coverage (and not a “mesh”) these are awesome. Our office has Ubiquiti AP's, but any good WiFi AP should work well.

Cisco 8821

You asked about the Cisco 8821. I've never seen a Cisco 8821, not even sure if it handles generic SIP in all flavors. If it does generic VoiP SIP then it will work, it'll just be an experiment figuring out a few settings. It's usually extension #, SIP server (Hello Hub) IP Address and a password. Cisco's sometimes need a few extra boxes checked. If you want to try, we will help.

Other

Same goes for any wireless VoIP phone. If it'll do industry generic SIP/VoIP, it'll probably be working in 5 minutes. Maybe 10 if we chat a lot.

Other mobile options: Generic “POTS” wireless phones plugged into a Grandstream HT802 ATA (POTS) phone adapters and cheap android phones mobile phones on WiFi using a VoiP “app” like Grandstream Wave or Zoiper. There are a lot of ways to make good dedicated wireless phones work. –Mike–

2020/04/30 19:46 · admin

Taking your phone home for a visit

It's March 2020, a lot of us are working from home on short notice. Including the ring-u.com staff. We are blessed with a good local internet service provider, and we already had the port forwarding rules in our firewall to allow remote phones. All we had to do was change the “SIP Server” to use our public IP rather than the internal network private address. Every phone has it's own web interface. we just logged into the phones we took home with either the default password or the one we had set and changed it to the public IP using it's dynamic DNS name of ru113.ring-u.net.

Under the support tab on the customer portal you will find your systems dynamic name, just like our example on the right. It's ru plus your account number plus ring-u.net. Every system is different.

Set your SIP Server and maybe the SIP Outbound Proxy on your phone to that name. Save your changes. Your phone will probably stop working because most firewalls won't allow an inside connection to the external IP. Take that phone home. It should work.

Things you may have to discover first.

  • Your phone's IP address. Usually displayed easily from the phone menu, or a button.
  • Your phone's default login and password. Often both are admin. Some vary.
  • Your systems public dynamic DNS name. Look on your customer portal support tab at https://portal.ring-u.com when you are logged in.
  • Is your firewall configured properly. Check with the 'Port Check' button under the support tab. This button also displays detailed information about the firewall port forwarding rules needed for this to work.

And lastly, of course you can call us for assistance. We'll help as much as possible from afar. 423-456-6700 option 3.

2020/03/18 13:14 · admin

Voicemail Transcription "BETA"

We are experimenting with voicemail transcription. We tried building our own, but the pizza and beer we have been offering the 2 computational linguists we know wasn't getting any attention. We then did what every small company does: we outsourced it to our favorite “Big Friendly Giant”: Amazon. We will also be experimenting with Google and other providers soon.

Status (March 2020) Voicemail transcription is working for us and a handful of customers. We are offering it to customers that ask for it for free. That may or may not last long. We are experimenting, the code is evolving, and we are not sure how much this is going to cost. Yet.

If you want to try it: Just Ask (as of March 5th, 2020). This may ALL change quickly. Things to know about what and how we are doing it and our concerns, that may also be your concerns:

We are intercepting the initial email your Hello Hub sends out with the attached “wav” format audio file. You get the original email as quickly as possible. We send just the audio (not the email addresses or phone numbers involved) to Amazon's transcription engine, receive back a transcription, and insert it into a copy of the original email and send it to you. This means that while in testing, you will get two emails a minute or three apart. The first without the transcription. The second with a transcription as well as the original audio file.

Caveats:

Things that are important to us, and should be important to you:

  • Transcription works reliably and usefully. Useful and accurate are not the same thing. We (and Amazon) are not responsible for the accuracy of the transcription. Too many variables. It should work well enough that you gather useful information, or know that you need to listen to the recording carefully yourself.
  • Transcription works quickly enough to be useful.
  • We (ring-u.com) does not store your voicemail recordings or transcriptions longer than is useful to make it work. Currently this is a 30 minute window. It allows us to monitor and tune things if it breaks.
  • We try to remove the wave files and transcription jobs from Amazon (our BFG) as quickly as possible. As soon as your transcription is received typically.
  • You should not use voicemail transcription, or email forwarding for voicemails that may contain sensitive financial or medical data. There is nothing inherently secure or “HIPAA Compliant” about this service. Such things do exist, it requires some technical and documentation expertise that we do not want to attempt or misrepresent at this time.
2020/03/05 17:32 · admin

Zoiper on Pixel with fi.google.com

As “Chief Tech” for ring-u, I sometimes need to be part of the tech support call group when out of the office. My personal mobile/cell phone is a *Pixel 3* and I'm using fi.google.com which blends T-Mobile and Sprint (and others?) for coverage. Your business (and personal) use of your ring-u phone system may need to do the same. My magic configuration that works better than others;

  • Port forwarding on our office firewall as described in the External / Remote Phones wiki page. You might also enjoy: Port Forwarding Geek Out
  • Zoiper (a softphone application from the Play Store) on my Pixel 3, autoconfigured via Bar/QR Code from the customer poral.
  • Google VPN turned OFF seems to help a lot with receiving incoming calls. Your Experience May Vary.
  • Zoiper PUSH notifications turned ON. This is essentially a proxy service provided by Zoiper. It is only required to receive incoming calls. AFTER you configure your extension, turn it it. It works. Bad news: Zoiper charges $0.99 per month for this magic proxy service. It works. It is needed because of all of the deep networking expertise used by various mobile carriers to make your data heavy mobile device work through multiple layers of ip address translation, firewalls and gateways. Worth $0.99 per month for me.
2020/03/05 17:16 · admin