Ooma Arrives

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I received the Ooma today which I initially discussed on my podcast, the GearTech Update.

In the box were both the Hub and Scout which was a nice surprise as the Scout is sold separately or so I thought when I first read about this. I am not sure whether the initial seeds (1500 White Rabbits) are getting both pieces or if everyone does which somewhat offsets the future price of $400. Though the scout is around $40 as I recall – so not that much! You can certainly choose to add a Scout anywhere you want more hardware.

The hardware is both elegant and simple. There are lights to let you know which “line” is active and lets you choose whether you want to join a call or start on a virtual line. I used quotes only because the Ooma provides access to a second virtual line which is usually not available unless you take a call with call waiting. With the box and actually now with the flash on your phone you can switch and start a new call on a separate line. I’ll have to play with this more as I’ve only made a test call to my cell so far (it’s after midnight). You can also conference the two lines together with the box by pressing both line buttons together which is a nice bonus feature. The other buttons enable voicemail access, playback and delete. There’s another button which lets you push any call into voicemail like on your mobile – again a nice bonus feature though I would think this could be even more useful with an LCD display to show Caller-ID. The way cordless phones walk around our home, it’s quite possible to have the phone ring and have no idea where the actual handset is hiding …

I have the main Hub unit on my desk where it can directly connect into our network with my cable modem and router. It’s suggested that you place the Hub between your Cable Modem and Router so that voice can be prioritized over your data. In my past experience with VOIP services (Vonage and CallVantage) this made a noticeable difference and I’ve gone with the suggested configuration. I do however, have the main phone line running through my HP PhotoSmart 3310 Printer so the fax works. The Scout is directly connected to our phone line in the Kitchen with the cordless base station. The phone on my desk is a wireless extension as are the rest of the phones in the house.

When everything is connected and plugged in, Ooma auto-connects and configures itself. The lights blink and after a few seconds you are ready to set up your greeting and voicemail. This is the usual stuff – nothing really to report on this other than I had no issues. When Ooma is active on your phones you get a new dial-tone to let you know it’s on. You also get a visual reminder on both the Hub and Scout with the blue status light. If you lose power or have a network problem, the light turns red and you are back on copper. My plan once I really give this a test is to drastically reduce my Verizon monthly service (currently ~$100/mo) as we’ll only really need basic dial-tone and local calling for emergencies. Ooma also provides web access for call logs and remote voicemail access. I’m not sure that you can get mp3 voicemail attachments as I’ve had with other services and it looks like a flash player, so no listening via mobile phone just yet.

So far Ooma seems like a nice addition to our home telephone set-up, though I’ll be very interested to hear what my wife has to say when she sees and uses it for the first time. It does seem like a very friendly consumer design and other than the fact that we now have another small box on the kitchen desk (her desk!) I like how the boxes let you see you have a voicemail… perhaps now we’ll be better about actually listening to home voicemail messages! In many ways the boxes themselves are a new spin on the older answering machines and Ooma has even called this a Broadband Answering Machine. There’s clearly more under the hood as it’s a VOIP router with Quality of Service (QoS) and P2P inside. I”m guessing that the Scout runs on some home phone-line networking I also am not sure how the P2P really works yet or what the mystery USB port is on the Hub… I’ll post more once we really test this whole set-up. For now, here’s an unboxing… and yes I think I probably do look that tired most of the time.

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8 Replies to “Ooma Arrives”

  1. Wonder how your wife will feel when you tell her that all her long-distance calls go through someone else’s hub and their phone line, and that they can listen in with rather simple circuitry. And how will you feel when you are held responsible for illegal calls made by unknown people using your phone line.

    You said it’s a mystery to you how the P2P works. Well, it’s a security and privacy nightmare, but OOMA isn’t telling people that.

    And check your phone bill carefully to see if you are now being charged for Call Forwarding on Busy. Bet you are.

  2. They are activating the Call Forwarding feature I know that … I’ll be watching my future bill to see what’s up there.

    As far as the P2P stuff or monitoring… I’m not concerned honestly. If someone wants to hear us ordering pizza or talking with family that’s no big deal. Nothing to hide and nothing of value in the conversation.

  3. ooma uses sophisticated technology to ensure the security and privacy of our customer’s communication. Unlike other residential VoIP service providers, all signaling and media plane traffic over the Internet is encrypted with state-of-the-art cryptographic algorithms. We also have algorithmic and hardware counter measures to detect and prevent line-tapping. Rest assured, no one will be listening to your phone calls.

  4. Glad to hear you are encrypting … It would be nice if you guys were more forward with that detail (like Skype)… I think it will really keep the “hate” level down.

  5. Notice that Peng (as others before him) keep referring to the security methods provided “over the Internet” (like encryption). That’s nice, but the question about privacy (someone else monitoring your conversations by listening in on their own telephone line) have not been answered, except to say that OOMA has invented some “magic” to prevent “line-tapping”. I’ve described the simple circuit on my web site to do it undetected.

    Sorry, I don’t believe that OOMA has been able to defy the laws of electricity!

  6. Dennis Peng, you say “We also have algorithmic and hardware counter measures to detect and prevent line-tapping. Rest assured, no one will be listening to your phone calls.”

    But you never go into details. You honestly don’t expect customer just to take your word for it?

    You should clarify do you mean its in impossible for someone to listen or just hard and under most cases detectable?

    If you do somehow detect it while in the middle of a call what happens? Does the call get dropped?

    Also how do you detect an induction phone tap? I find it very unlikely you have the capability to detect an induction phone tap in a $400 device.

    Please explain. Without answers, how do you expect the potential customers to be secure about their calls. Also I will assume that without answer, you CANNOT detect or prevent induction phone taps, and therefore our calls are not safe.

    Make your own induction phone tap

  7. While I don’t deny that the security and privacy concerns are real, I think the question of the value of Ooma is much simpler. Will I EVER get $400 worth (or $600 worth after 2008) of calls/voicemail out of the box? How long will it last? How long does it take to “break even”? What is the warranty? What is the replacement cost if it dies? What do I lose in terms of quality, reliability etc. in the mean time? IOW, is it really worth all the trouble? For me, I don’t spend enough on US domestic calls to ever make it worthwhile and there are better/cheaper alternatives for cool voicemail (with voicemalil-to-email that Ooma lacks).

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