Telecom Madness!

I find it cool that I still have the same telephone number that I had in high school.  Yes, if you knew what my phone number was in high school, you can still reach me there now.

Once upon a Land Line

My family moved to Headingley, just west of Winnipeg, in October 1971.  At that time, Headingley was an independent rural municipality, separate from the city of Winnipeg.  We got a rural telephone number (204)-864-xxxx, typical of St. Francois Xavier and Lido Plage, to the west and north, further out of town.  This meant that calling into Winnipeg was long distance, even though it was only about 9 km (5.5 miles) away!  Very annoying.

There was quite a fuss going on in Headingley at the time.  Manitoba Telephone System (MTS), the government owned monopoly on phone service, claimed that if we wanted to have local calls to Winnipeg, then we had to be part of the city.  That was crap.  Communities to the northeast of the city, like Lockport, had local calling to the city, and were not part of the city.  The city of Winnipeg was actually several independent cities at that time, each with its own council and mayor/reeve.

Nonetheless, around 1972 the province of Manitoba amalgamated all the independent cities in an effort called “Unicity”, and in so doing, subsumed Headingley into the City of Winnipeg.  Now, I think that the Unicity concept was a good thing, especially in the area of control of development – although on the other hand, Winnipeg hasn’t done a very good job of development control…  more on that, another time.

So, around 1972, my family got a new Winnipeg phone number, (204)-xxx-1334.   All of my friends knew this number, of course.  And I knew all my friends’ numbers.  It was what we did in those days!

Dean gets his Own Phone – in His Basement Lab

Around 1980 or so, while living at home, I was frustrated by not being able to use the phone when I wanted to, and I had decent income, so I got my own phone installed into my lab in the basement, (204)-xxx-5620.  I was so thrilled!  When I tried to call my best friend Dave, his number was disconnected… oh no!  It turns out that when I was at Polo Park getting my number assigned, Dave’s mom was at another MTS store getting a new number as well, and she got the one just before mine, (204)-xxx-5619.  My personal number is long gone now, but she still has hers, and that’s how I remember it – one less than mine, ha ha ha.

Grabs Control of Old Family Telephone Number

Later, when Dayna and I bought the house and moved out to Headingley with Eric, I called MTS and told them that they had my first initial wrong (my mom’s initial is “M”), so effectively transferred the phone to me, heh heh.  Later, we “ported” the number to Shaw, our cable TV and Internet provider.

When I moved away in 2011/2012, Dayna let the phone lapse.  I called Shaw to get my own phone, they told me it had lapsed, so I picked it up again.

Moving to VoIP… and to Arizona!

In 2013, when I moved to Phoenix, I ported it to VoIP provider  I had a Grandstream HandyTone 286 adapter, with a 4-phone Uniden cordless telephone system.  It was very nice in Phoenix, as I could have several phones about the house.

Way cool, I had my long time Manitoba telephone number, and it rang in Phoenix.  Caused pollsters and telephone solicitors no end of confusion, hehehe.

Adding Numbers

While I was in Phoenix, I actually signed up for a couple of other numbers, including a conference call number in Winnipeg, conference call number in Phoenix, a toll-free (800) number, just going crazy 🙂

Toll Free Line

The toll free number was to encourage my mom, my son and my brother to call more often, if they had no long distance.

Conference Call

I used the conference call number for governing board teleconference meetings, when I was chair of SAE Arizona & Nevada Section.  It was a bit expensive, as it cost me 1.5 cents per minute per caller…   and, as I seem to recall, it cost me big one time that someone didn’t hang up before I did!


All the telephone numbers rang to the same phone.  It worked well.  An additional feature was an embedded answering machine – a message left on any number would be converted to a WAV file and E-mailed to me.  I could get them anywhere, how convenient.

And the cost was low, low low!  It’s about 3 a month for an account, which includes an automatically assigned Winnipeg number, then about3.50 a month to maintain the 1334 number that I ported from Shaw.  Calls were about 1.5 cents a minute (one way more expensive than the other, don’t recall which), so it was really difficult to get up to $10 a month.  Nice!

Now, the sound on that system was not great.  The big challenge that I found was that there appeared to be a significant transit delay for the data.  It’s amazing how very small delays, say 100 mSec, can be extremely frustrating.   You think someone else is stomping on you during talking, but it turns out that it’s because of the small delay.  You have to keep that in mind.

Mom’s “Long Distance Phone”

It worked well enough that I got my mom a Grandstream HandyTone 486 and a 2-phone cordless telephone system, intended only for making calls.  She saved a lot of money using it to make all her long distance calls.

Moving back to the ‘Peg

When I moved back to Winnipeg, I ported my Phoenix cell phone (480)-xxx-5952 into as well, so I could continue to receive calls and exchange texts with folks who had that number.

Porting to and Getting a VoIP Desk Phone

One day, I found out about another VoIP provider,  I started an account there, just to see how well it worked.  They had better sound quality, and more services, so I transferred my (204)-xxx-1334 and (480)-xxx-5952 to and got a Grandstream GXP1620 2-line VoIP desk phone.  I love it!   The sound is awesome, practically perfect, way better than my cell phone.  I have one line on each number.  Even better, the (204) number costs 1.70 a month, and the (480) number costs0.85 a month.  I’m paying about 1/2 cent per minute on the (204) number and about 1 cent per minute on the (480) number.

Headset Highly Recommended

When I started applying for jobs all over the place, and having to do so many telephone interviews, I got a DailyHeadset model 4332802404 (ASIN B076KP2SX4) on Amazon (where else 🙂 ) which plugged right into the GXP1620 and worked flawlessly.  It is fantastic.

SMS Almost as well as a Real Cell Phone! actually has an Android application that can text (SMS) through an SMS-enabled account, and my former Phoenix cell phone number (480)-xxx-5952 was such an account, so I can text message anyone in the USA almost as easily as before.  The only thing is that it doesn’t support MMS (pictures, songs, and videos), so, don’t even try.  On the other hand, you can do SMS from’s web-based portal, so you can SMS from your computer.

They also have the “ SMS” Android application that can use your mobile phone’s data plan to do SMS almost as well as native SMS.  Follow the directions on the website, you have to set up a “callback”.

The Android application can host SMS for multiple telephone numbers at the same time, allowing you to select between them.

A recent update: it appears that they’ve made SMS available on my original land-line phone as well, so perhaps they’ve lifted the requirement that it was originally a cell phone, to make SMS texting work.

Send and Receive FAXes Too! also has FAX numbers you can rent for $2 a month.  That lets you send and receive FAXes using E-mail to/from your computer!  It works great.  I’ve used it only a few times, but it’s a neat toy nonetheless.

Caller ID Foibles

The one challenge that I’ve had using is the caller ID information on outgoing calls.

I don’t know if it’s my VoIP desk phone or the system, but it sometimes gives the Arizona number for calls made from line 1 (the Manitoba line) and the Manitoba number for calls made from line 2 (the Arizona line).

Eric also reported that his phone claimed I was calling from Egypt (country code +20), so his phone was misinterpreting the caller ID information.  The start of the “204” Manitoba area code was getting interpreted as the country code.  Contrary to what tells you, when it asks you to give the 10 digit caller ID number, give them 11 digits, prepending the “1”, and that fixed the problem.

Incoming Calls: the One Challenge

For some reason, incoming calls have been a challenge.  The VoIP server must be able to route back to your VoIP phone, in order to ring it and set up the connection.  Years ago, this seemed easy, and it all worked.  Of course, I didn’t make any notes about how to set it up (argh).  But recently, I found out that neither of my numbers would ring through to my desk phone.  Curses.

My solution was to forward a bunch of ports through my firewall to my VoIP phone.  UDP ports 5060 (1st line), 5062 (2nd line), and 10000-10200, to be precise.  Then I had to deal with my dynamic IP resolution.  Well, I have a subscription to, so I can readily resolve (say) (or whatever, they have lots of options for TLDs) to my local firewall’s outside address.  The challenge is getting the  (oops, now that it’s owned by Oracle, they call it server updated.  In the old days, I used an old WRT-54G firewall/router flashed with DD-WRT.  That worked well back in the day, but I’ve abandoned it recently because the WRT-54G got a bit sluggish and lacked features (like 5 GHz band support).  If you go that route, be careful – there are a lot of WRT-54G variants, and not all of them can be flashed to DD-WRT… and some that can, are restricted in functionality once flashed.

Anyway, without my handy DD-WRT router, I set up a Raspberry Pi that runs inside my network, with ddclient connected to dyndns (see directions), which keeps the IP address on dyndns pointed to my firewall/router.


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