Build a Skype Server for Your Home Phone System

Build this Skype server to provide 24/7 phone service through regular phone handsets in your home—and save a bundle of money in the process!

One irritating feature of Skype is that it must be running on a computer for you to make and receive calls. That is, when your computer is off, Skype doesn't work. Moreover, when you run Skype on the computer you use day in and day out, Skype's performance (call quality, reliability and so forth) can suffer if you are doing other things that deprive it of the runtime resources it needs.

My solution was to build a Skype server that provides 24/7 phone service with the minimum of hassle and fuss. By dumping your regular phone company and taking back control of your home phone wiring using a Skype server, you will have not only a phone system with nearly the same capabilities as before—indeed, in some ways better—you will also save a bundle of money! In my case, I save a little less than $700 US each year (this year, next year, and the year after that, and so on), or about 82% off of my old phone bill.

Using a Skype server plugged in to the existing copper phone wiring of your home means that you can lift a receiver anywhere in your home, at any time, and get a regular dial tone. Incoming calls either from Skype users or regular phones ring all handsets throughout your home. Basically, you can make Skype behave like a regular phone line, but at a tiny fraction of the cost.

You have three choices when building a Skype server: buy a new computer, build a new computer or convert an old machine you have conveniently at hand. This article shows you how to build a new computer from scratch to act as a Skype server. However, whichever path you take, the configuration is the same and is covered in this article.

Skype is not an all-or-nothing proposition, as you can mix and match Skype with your existing phone system, and run the new alongside the old in parallel. That way you have the comfort of having a regular land line and, at the same time, reap the benefits of Skype, such as free Skype-to-Skype calls, and long-distance and international calls at very low rates. This is the approach this article takes, and the configuration you should be aiming for should look something like that in Figure 1. Keeping one of your regular phone lines neatly sidesteps issues such as 911, 411, regular fax and alarm system monitoring (make sure the regular phone line you keep is the one used by your home alarm).

The setup shown in Figure 1 also simplifies the configuration of your Skype server a good deal. Indeed, making multiple instances of Skype run under Linux to support multiple phone lines is another article in itself!

Figure 1. Using a Skype Server to Replace an Existing Regular Phone Line

Build a Skype Server

Whether you buy, build new or piece together a Skype server from computer parts you have at hand, you must first make sure that what you end up with will meet Skype's minimum software and hardware requirements, which are:

  • Fedora Core 3 (Skype also supports SUSE 9, Mandriva 10.1 and Debian 3 or newer. However, Linux support for Skype add-on hardware is presently extremely limited. In the case of the SkypeMate software used in this article, it is limited to Fedora Core 3 only).

  • 400MHz processor.

  • 128MB of RAM.

  • 10MB of disk space

  • OSS-compatible sound device (or ALSA with OSS-compatibility layer enabled).

  • Broadband Internet connection.

Pay particular attention to the fact that these are minimum hardware requirements for a single phone line. If you scale these requirements in proportion to the number of phone lines you want your Skype server to support in the long run, you won't go far wrong. You might even want to build in some margin for future expansion. Skype is advancing at a phenomenal rate, with each new release bringing new features and improvements to existing features. All of this new functionality must surely come at the cost of increased hardware resources.

For my Skype server, I decided to build a new machine that would be small, both in terms of its physical size and its power consumption (as it runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year). The specification, and cost, of my Skype server is shown in Table 1. Remember, a Skype server needs no mouse, keyboard, monitor, CD-ROM or floppy drive—other than at the time of its configuration.

Table 1. Typical Cost of Building a New Skype Server from Scratch

ComponentCost (US)
IN-WIN BT610P.180BFU2 Black steel MicroATX computer case, 180W power supply$39.99
BIOSTAR M7VIG400 MicroATX motherboard with AMD Duron 800 mobile CPU $69.00
OCZ value series 512MB (2 x 256MB) 184-pin unbuffered PC 2700 DDR SDRAM $43.75
10GB Hard disk drive (used—salvaged from an old system)Free
Skype-to-Phone USB adapter (Figure 2)$43.90
Linux operating systemFree
Total cost$196.64

Figure 2. A Typical USB Skype-to-Phone Adapter

Building your Skype server requires that you assemble it from the parts. I won't cover the nitty-gritty details as there are plenty of on-line resources to help you in this task; for example, there's a step-by-step guide to building your own PC at PCMechanic.

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Comments

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Can you comment more on the

ctran2's picture

Can you comment more on the SkypeOut/SkypeIn of Gizmo? Or links?

Why use skype instead of asterisk?

WhizzMan's picture

Everywhere people setting up PBXes for home or office use, using asterisk. It is open-source, uses open standards and is free to use. Why would I want to use a closed source application that will not support a lot of telephone hardware if there is a very good open-source alternative that is used in thousands of business telephone exchanges around the world already?

Skype Server on windows XP

Zen's picture

Hi,

Can a Skype Server be built on a Windows XP box?

Thanks!

Set up a Skype phone system using PrettyMay

Jacky Fu's picture

If you have a Windows XP box, check out PrettyMay Call Center for Skype which is a Skype Based PBX software for Windows.

Skype/Telbox on XP

dave's picture

Neat project and well documented!
I am running the Skype/Telbox setup with my XP laptop. Runs 24/7 and gives access to the landline and Skype phones. Our rural location will lose power ocasionally but the laptop and BBU batteries do hold up for a few hours. The laptop is a P3 and occasionally the CPU has a problem keeping up with the virus scanning etc. and drops out Skype.
Maybe it is time to try out my Ubuntu laptop on Skype.
Has anyone got the Telbox working with Ubuntu yet?
Dave.

Command line

Henry's picture

Um ... maybe I'm missing something, but how does this work if you don't want to keep your linux box (in my case FC4) logged in to the GUI? In other words, can Skype be invoked from the command line? I hate the thought of having my server logged into Gnome much less hooking upa monitor and keyboard to it. Plus if the box is ever cycled I wouldn't want to have to load up Skype again manually.

Is there a way to do this from the command line?

Command line respose

Sanzone's picture

Hey Henry, very good questions. Wish I new the answer, did you get one? I would like to know, I want to build one that is command driven also?
John

xp

Anonymous's picture

Why leave it logged in? create a service and it will run in the background under a service account

Skype-to-Phone USB adapter

imageek's picture

Where would i get one of these? Is it named exactly like that? Thanks for any repsonse

SpeedDial

steve's picture

Build the server, got skypemate working and skype on REDHAT.
How do you do speed dial. Linux skype does not have speeddial alocation.?????

Slackware

Milktoast's picture

I'm trying slackware 10.2 now but the SkypeMate will not install.

The instructions are not very clear... install this/install that... usually an RPM or something and there is not much documentation on the web about SkypeMate.

I hate that the instructions in LJ are usually based on REDHAT... not everyone uses that crap... how about trying a source install once in a while... e.g. Slackware.

Sorry to rant but this really bugs me.

HAHA

Anonymous's picture

You think RedHat is crap? Slackware is dead man, even Debian has better more often updated packages then Slack. Sorry, don't agree with you on that one...
If you really think you should make some waves talking smack about other Linux distros, use Debian and then we're talking!
Peace!

BullFeathers!

Doctor Who's picture

Not me.
I just implied that RedHat isn't a mainstream one. Debian contains too many you must do this, you must do that. Slackware doesn't care if you do not set up a mail service straightaway, or even if you don't need X windows. They even gave up Gnome not long ago.

Especially since the good people at Skype now tell me they are indeed looking into working with Slackware, to test things out. Given time even they will come around.

Debian on the other hand won't. We're lucky that its still considered relevant for other platforms.

And when was the last time you even looked at Slackware? It evolves slowly. Like you humans do.

I also see you replied to my other self. I Strongly suggest that you take the time to try out Slackware 11.0. It may even work for you.

---
I keep time in a TARDIS. What is that thing on your wrist doing?

I keep time in a TARDIS. What is that thing on your wrist doing?

Gentoo baby Gentoo!

x3nos's picture

www.gentoo.org

I'd rather be compiling. Ha ha.

You would, would you?

Anonymous's picture

You *really* would prefer compiling?

Skypemate on Slack

Ioannisb's picture

Hi there!!!

Did you find any solution about Skypemate on Slack?
I have the same problem!!!!
I even mail to the programmers that wrote it ....... but there's no answer...

I have "easy bluebox" voip box and I cant make it work....

Thanks

Skypemate on Slack

Harry's picture

It's been a few months. I'm wondering if anyone has had any luck using skypemate on Slack 10 yet?

Harry

Skype on Slackware 10.2

Leo Whiteway's picture

Actually I have changed from Slackware 10.2 to Vector 5.1.1
Vector is a derivative of Slackware.
I have Skype running and quite well. It was not a problem. I just installed it.
I do have a problem and that is that I can't seem to make it ring when I get a call. Very annoying but if I am near the computer and see the little box come on and it tells me I have an incoming call, I can answer. The other thing that works is I can see if I have missed a call and then can return the call.

ringer equivalence

Juan's picture

The Skype adapter's ring voltage generator can only drive one telephone's worth of load. It is incaple of driving the wiring in your house with multiple phones connected. The writer of the article obviously
has never actually built this. It works but only if all your phones are wireless. I have been running my phone system this way for a over a year.

Skypemate on Slack

Harry's picture

I've had more time to play with SkypeMate. I give up on getting it to work under Slackware 10.2. I ended up using strace to figure out what was going on. To make a long story short, SkypeMate is written for Fedora Core 3. Additional packages will need to be installed and/or upgraded for SkypeMate to work under Slackware 10.2. Example: dbus needs to be installed, gcc needs to be upgraded to 3.4, extra unused mixer devices need to be removed (/dev/mixer3), etc.

At this point, I've pretty much given up on Skype and SkypeMate. Now on to Asterisk.

Harry

SkypeMate on Ubuntu LInux

Lonetree's picture

so much of comments and discussion on RH, slackware etc. why isn't anyone taling about ubuntu? I have tried this on ubuntu but it seems that it didn't work at all, anyone of you has done this before?

thanks

RHEL/CentOS4

repetty's picture

With Fedora Core being so closely related to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, has anyone tried this with RHEL or CentOS?

Skype for Fedora3 installs and launches on CentOS4 without error. I've downloaded the SkypeMate software, also for Fedora3, but it insists on have the Skype-to-Phone adapter in place before proceding with the install.

--Richard

Reliability of Phone vs Cable connection

Anonymous's picture

While I have had both Cable and phone I have found that the cable can go out for days on end but the phone will only be out for a few hours (longer if the wires are down). Anyone going this way should be prepared for the possibility of no phone or internet for days on end.

Where and when do you live?

Anonymous's picture

I haven't had my cable internet go "out" for like 4 years.... I do live in a big city, but still....

Cable Can go away for toronto big city.

Anonymous's picture

Hello ,

I just remeber in last month, It went out for 10 hour cable connection.

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