Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Windows Home Server and Magic Jack

I'm not a fan of advertising. Normally, when you see the TV ads like the ones for KaBoom! I don't buy the product simply because of the goofiness of the ads.

With that said, I went out and bought a Magic Jack yesterday. I'm not really going to use it as my main phone until they offer me the ability to transfer my existing number, but at $40, I figured what the heck.

My first project was installing it on my Windows Home Server (since it's running 99% of the time anyway). Magic Jack doesn't work without being plugged into a computer. It's a voice over Internet device that simply plugs into a universal serial bus port on your computer and it has an RJ11 jack for your telephone. You plug the dongle into the USB port, you plug the phone into the dongle and voila, you get a dial tone.

Windows Home Server is not listed as a supported OS on the Magic Jack website. I wish they'd get rid of that corny video.

My first thought was that I'll just plug it in and see what happens. I did and it didn't. The instructions say, plug it in and it will install itself. I did this on my Windows 7 machine and it worked fine. On my Windows Home Server not so much.

I discovered that if I opened up "My Computer", there were two additional devices. A magicJack removable disk and a magicJack CD Drive. If you double-click the CD Drive, it fires up the auto installer and installs the software, putting a magicJack shortcut on your desktop.

Unfortunately, for me, at this point, it cratered because it couldn't find an audio device. I'm not real sure why this requirement even exists. To use the phone service, you don't need an audio device. But, I decided not to fret. My problem was that I was using Remote Desktop to get to my WHS box and Remote Desktop audio driver is not supported. Easily fixed, by reconnecting, but this time changing the Remote Desktop program to play audio "on the remote computer".

My next challenge was the registration. Windows Home Server is very strict about Internet access. Since it is your home server is doesn't want trackers or any kind of harmful software getting to it. It's default settings are very strict. I recommend leaving them alone. It's safer. In order to bypass this setting I simply registered the device on my Windows 7 box. It seems that the registration information is associated with the device (it may even be written to the device). Register it on your XP machine or Vista machine or Win 7 machine and then move it back to your WHS machine. It comes up and asks for your email and password the first time you use it, but after that you are golden.

If you know how to do Internet searches, there are sites that show you how this little dongle can be setup to control all the phones currently in your house (by basically taking the cable from the dongle and wiring into your switchboard). I'm going to try just back-feeding it as soon as I get my other account closed. It won't be as elegant, but I really don't want to put my WHS box in the garage nor do I want to buy a dedicated netbook just for MagicJack.

There are also sites that tell you how to configure MagicJack as a service on a Windows Server box so that you don't have to be logged in for it to work. That's how I have mine setup now. As long as my WHS box is running, I have phone service.

One thing kind of cool that I don't see mentioned very often is that this device gives you a USA phone number. So you could be in India, for example, and have a USA phone number where family and friends could call without incurring an International long distance charge. It costs about $25 per year. The first year is included with the $40 purchase. That includes caller ID, call waiting, voice mail and free unlimited long distance to anywhere in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Voice Mails come as an attachment in an email to the email address you used when registering.


  1. I had a magicJack for 1.5 years then it stopped working properly. It turns out that for some reason my MJ phone number got disconnected from my MJ account in the MJ database. You would think that would be a simple enough fix for the MJ support department, but nooooo. After 30 days without service, MJ support finally said that they had no way to reactivate my MJ phone number and I would have to choose a NEW one. The bottom line is that the MJ service does work, but don't depend on that MJ number for inbound calls. Definitely don't transfer your own number over to MJ control. They might lose it!

  2. Thanks for the tip Tim. I can see where Magic Jack might not have the infrastructure in place to maintain a solid database for all its customers and its customer's phone numbers. They don't seem to be a "smooth operation".

    I hadn't thought about the possibility of loosing my phone number. That'll be something else for me to speak to the Spousal Unit about before I shutdown her phone service.

  3. MagicJack-FemtoCell and WHS might be the perfect solution, transfer your cell conversations to MagicJack's VOIP service.

  4. "I discovered that if I opened up "My Computer", there were two additional devices. A magicJack removable disk and a magicJack CD Drive. If you double-click the CD Drive, it fires up the auto installer and installs the software, putting a magicJack shortcut on your desktop."

    All I got was a magicjack USB drive. Double clicking that did nothing.

  5. Hey Brian, I had heard Magic Jack was working on something of that nature, but I never investigated it. It'll be interesting to see how well they integrate with the current setup. It seems like you would have to install a 2nd sim card in your cell phone or get one of those phones with 2 sims.

    Mr. Anonymous. I can't help you. I've tried it on 3 different computers and it always comes up with a USB drive and a CD drive. I think the "USB" portion is where it stores your personal settings and the CD portion is the read-only memory where the installation files are kept. If it's not giving you a CD drive, it may be a defective dongle. You could try putting into a different computer.