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%%  PhonePak Voice/FAX Review                By:  David Tiberio          %%
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If you want to have your own personal voicemail and ansering system,
PhonePak from GVP is one of the best choices. This system allows your
computer to answer the phone and accept FAXes, messages, and deliver
listings of services. Other features include telephone extensions and
multiline setups.

This product has been in development for many years, and also has been
available for years, but most people don't realise the power of this
system. With it, you can mimic telephone systems used by many large
companies.

The nice part about this board is that all messages and FAXes are stored
on your hard drive. Most PhonePak users will probably start leaving
their computers on all the time, so that the board can answer the phone.
If the computer is off, the phone works, but the PhonePak doesn't
answer for you. Audio messages can be played back using DirOpus, DSS,
and of course with PhonePak. I also set up a cron that runs the PhonePak
line manager every few hours in case I accidentally exit the program.

The most basic software setup is a simple answering machine. The message
can be one of the included messages, or it can be recorded at 9600Hz with
a digitizer (one is built into the card). The built in digitizer uses
the phone handset as the microphone. Although 9600Hz is rather low, it
does have decent clarity. In fact I have played music over it and it
does sound good.

A more advanced setup allows you to create mail boxes and extensions, so
the caller has to press an extension to transfer to, or automatically
be transferred by the system. Voice messages can be saved, along with
FAXes. When viewing a FAX, an audio message will also be played if it
was recorded by the FAX sender.

The number of extensions is almost limitless. Each one has its own
extension number and parent mail box. You could also design extension
based upon employee names. I like to use my area code (516) as an
extension because it helps people remember it when they call. Also,
I could program it to use the initials of our employees or their first
names. For example, using the initials of Bob xanth, a person would
hit 29 on the phone keypad. Most words are hard to spell out using
numbers, but it can be done. I have too many 0's in my office phone
number, so I can't make up a sensible word. My grandmother though
has a good one; her number (different area code though) spells out
NAB-FOOD, which is what I usually do when I visit her. :) But of
course she doesn't have a clue on how computers and codes work
(apparantly like most of our contest readers... heh). :)

The board can also detect a FAX machine that has called the line and
receive the FAX automatically, such as from a SupraFAX modem, another
PhonePak, or a standard FAX machine. The PhonePak however is paperless,
using IFF files for saving or importing FAXes. It can also import
ASCII text to a FAX, using the included PhonePak font (actually the
font is CGTriumverate at 33 pointsize). The FAXes can optionally be
redirected to a printer.

Another nice feature of the board is that you can enter a DTMF code
on the touch tone keypad of a phone on the system and simulate calling
into the system. This is very nice for testing out how it works.

PhonePak also comes with its own scripting language. Most likely users
will use the ringing and transfer functions, although it can also
schedule events. One thing I would like is to be able to tunr it off
and run my BBS on off hours, which I expect the PhonePak can do
easily just be modifying the number of rings.

One lacking feature is a ZModem protocol. In our modern age of computing,
it would be nice for someone with a computer to be able to call and
upload a file to my computer while I am away.

PhonePak also has a remote access system, using passwords. I can call
from vacation and check messages, delete them, or change the answer
messages that I had recorded. A small trifold card is included which
I keep in my wallet. I also recently added a 1-800 toll free number,
so customers can call my office, or to allow me to check on my messages
remotely. Of course though you need a touch tone phone in order to
do this.

Amiga 3000 users will have problems if they have a REV 9 Buster. I bought
2 new REV 11 Busters, neither of which worked with my system. The
board would not be detected. So I instead bought a 16 bit RAM board and
transferred my static column ZIPs from the motherboard to the RAM
board, enabling the PhonePak to work properly.


- USENET REFERENCES -

AMINET: ftp.luth.se, ftp.etsu.edu, ftp.cdrom.com, ftp.wustl.edu
PhonePak_24_1.lha    biz/patch  352K+GVP PhonePak Software v2.4 - Disk 1
PhonePak_24_2.lha    biz/patch  639K+GVP PhonePak Software v2.4 - Disk 2
PhonePak_24_3.lha    biz/patch  482K+GVP PhonePak Software v2.4 - Disk 3


As Edward Cayce might say, that is all for the present...