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!
Configure Linux to Work with Skype

I'll assume that because you're a Linux Journal reader, getting Fedora Core 3 up and running on your Skype server is a no-brainer. The only important thing to remember is that Skype is a Qt application (though it's also available in a version with Qt statically linked), and the Skype API uses D-BUS. Also, disable the screensaver (after all, there won't be any screen to “save”) and power standby features as these may interfere with Skype.

Here's a step-by-step guide to setting up Linux to work with Skype (it assumes you have set up a Linux user account named skype for the purpose):

  1. With your Skype server powered off, plug your Skype-to-Phone adapter in to your server using a USB cable and, for test purposes, connect its TEL socket to a regular phone handset.

  2. Power up the server and log in to Linux as skype.

  3. Download and install Skype for Linux. If you don't install from an RPM, you will have to add this file by hand, /etc/dbus-1/system.d/skype.conf:

    
    <!DOCTYPE busconfig PUBLIC "-//freedesktop//DTD D-BUS Bus Configuration 1.0//EN"
     "http://www.freedesktop.org/standards/dbus/1.0/busconfig.dtd">
    <busconfig>
      <!- skype.conf -->
      <policy context="default">
        <allow own="com.Skype.API"/>
        <allow send_destination="com.Skype.API"/>
        <allow receive_sender="com.Skype.API"/>
        <allow send_path="/com/Skype"/>
      </policy>
    </busconfig>
    
    

  4. Start Skype and then log in. Next (steps 5 and 6) configure Skype.

  5. Make sure Skype starts automatically at login (select Skype→Tools→Options→Privacy, and then check the box opposite Remember my password).

  6. As you want your Skype server to provide 24/7 phone service, you will want other Skype users to see your on-line status as always Online. Select Skype→Tools→Options→General, and then set Show me as “Away” when inactive to 0 instead of 5 minutes. Set Show me as “Not Available” when inactive to 0 instead of 20 minutes. Zero, in this case, means infinity or never.

  7. Switch to superuser mode by entering the command su and the root password.

  8. Download install-SkypeMate.zip and unzip it to get the file install-SkypeMate (this assumes your Skype-to-Phone adapter is compatible with the SkypeMate software—check before you buy).

  9. Change the permissions for install-SkypeMate to make it executable (skype@fc3:~$ is the command prompt; what follows is the command you should enter):

    skype@fc3:~$ chmod +x install-SkypeMate
    

  10. Run the SkypeMate install program:

    skype@fc3:~$ ./install-SkypeMate
    

  11. Exit superuser mode and reboot the Skype server. Log in again as skype.

  12. Double-click the SkypeMate icon on your desktop (which points to /usr/bin/SkypeMate). Skype will pop up a window asking you to give SkypeMate permission to use its API to control Skype (Figure 3). Check the box Do not ask me again, and then click Yes (that way, you won't be asked to give permission again).

  13. Select your USB Skype-to-Phone adapter as the audio device for calls (select Skype→Tools→Options→Hand/Headsets, and then under Audio Devices select the appropriate device from the pull-down list).

  14. For your convenience when dialing, you may want to set up speed-dial numbers for your contacts list. That way, you can pick up a phone handset and simply dial, say 10#, to call a specific contact.

  15. Test Skype by calling the echo123 call-testing service.

Figure 3. Giving Permission for SkypeMate to Connect to Skype through Its API

If you want to make calls to regular phones, you will have to sign up your Skype server account for SkypeOut, and if you want to receive incoming calls from regular phones, you will have to sign up for SkypeIn. Both services are available at Skype's cheap rates.

Installing Your Skype Server

Where are you going to locate your Skype server? Ideally, it should be somewhere with access to power, good ventilation, an Internet connection, your regular phone lines (RJ11 sockets) and out of sight. My choice was to install my Skype server in my basement (Figure 4), which is possibly the ideal location, but not necessarily one open to everybody. If your choices are more limited, that's all the more reason to think long and hard about where to put your Skype server once it's built.

Figure 4. Skype server to provide 24/7 phone service. Server is at the top of the photo, cable modem and wireless router are to the left, and the patch board for household phone wires is to the right. In the center of the picture is the power distribution cabinet for my house.

Figure 5. Phone Patch Board

Here's a step-by-step guide to installing your Skype server in your home:

  1. Cancel one of your regular phone lines (not the one that serves your home alarm system).

  2. Cut the incoming phone line that has been canceled where it enters your home (see sidebar).

  3. Connect the Skype-to-Phone adapter to all the handsets of your canceled phone line by connecting its TEL socket to the wall socket of the canceled line using a regular phone cable having RJ11 sockets at both ends.

  4. Test Skype again using the handsets plugged in to the canceled line.

  5. Power down your server and remove any borrowed hardware that was used during its configuration, but that is not needed for its operation, such as a CD-ROM and floppy drive.

  6. Move the server to its new location. Plug in all the cables and connectors, then power it on.

  7. Log in and test Skype once more.

  8. Remove the mouse, keyboard and monitor.

  9. If all has gone well, you now have 24/7 phone service on one phone line provided exclusively by Skype.

______________________

Comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

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.

White Paper
Linux Management with Red Hat Satellite: Measuring Business Impact and ROI

Linux has become a key foundation for supporting today's rapidly growing IT environments. Linux is being used to deploy business applications and databases, trading on its reputation as a low-cost operating environment. For many IT organizations, Linux is a mainstay for deploying Web servers and has evolved from handling basic file, print, and utility workloads to running mission-critical applications and databases, physically, virtually, and in the cloud. As Linux grows in importance in terms of value to the business, managing Linux environments to high standards of service quality — availability, security, and performance — becomes an essential requirement for business success.

Learn More

Sponsored by Red Hat

White Paper
Private PaaS for the Agile Enterprise

If you already use virtualized infrastructure, you are well on your way to leveraging the power of the cloud. Virtualization offers the promise of limitless resources, but how do you manage that scalability when your DevOps team doesn’t scale? In today’s hypercompetitive markets, fast results can make a difference between leading the pack vs. obsolescence. Organizations need more benefits from cloud computing than just raw resources. They need agility, flexibility, convenience, ROI, and control.

Stackato private Platform-as-a-Service technology from ActiveState extends your private cloud infrastructure by creating a private PaaS to provide on-demand availability, flexibility, control, and ultimately, faster time-to-market for your enterprise.

Learn More

Sponsored by ActiveState