Hack 7. Update Your VoIP ATA Firmware
An ATA with up-to-date firmware will have fewer problems.
"Yesterday, I made phone calls through my VoIP TSP all day long! But today, I don't even hear a dial tone when I pick up the phone!" grumbled the frustrated consumer, regretting having replaced his local telephone service with a slickly advertised VoIP service from a California company called Ownage. This was the third or fourth time his VoIP service had quit working. So he grabbed his cell phone and frantically called the Support Department at Ownage.
The tech who answered wasn't especially helpful. She listened to the customer describe his recurring problem and then told him the same thing Support had been telling him ever since the first time the dial tone disappeared: "Sir, can you reboot your analog telephony adapter by removing the power cord and then plugging the power cord back in again after a few seconds? That should take care of the problem."
"But I do that every time. Ma'am, I bought this VoIP Hacks book that taught me how to wire my ATA into my home phone wiring so that I could replace my local phone service with Voice over IP, and now I'm very frustrated because every few weeks, I pick up the phone and the dial tone is gone. I have to run downstairs and reboot my ATA before I can place any calls, and I'm a little frustrated," the exasperated customer said. "Why is this happening?"
"Well, it's actually quite simple. The ATA receives an IP address from your DHCP server, which runs on your broadband router," she explained. "And your broadband router receives an address from your Internet provider's DHCP server. That IP address can change sometimes, when your DHCP lease expires, breaking the UDP socket that connects your ATA with our network here at Ownage."
"In English, please?" the customer said.
"Well, the problem occurs because your ISP assigns you a dynamic address that periodically changes," the support tech explained. "When it changes, the ATA loses communication with our VoIP server."
"So, it's my ISP's problem?"
"No, not exactly. Most ISPs use dynamic addresses for residential broadband customers to prevent them from, say, hosting their own servers. So, they have their reasons for using dynamic addresses, and there's little we can do about it," she told him.
"Then what do I do to stop it from happening again?" the customer asked.
"I'm glad you asked," she replied. "You can download the latest firmware patch for our ATA, which should make the ATA automatically reregister with our server whenever it loses communication. That would be the best thing to do."
"Is there anything else I can do?"
"If you'd like to hack a solution, you could build a system that can perform a regular, timed reboot of your ATA. Or you could cron a shell script that dials into a Dataprobe AutoPALthis is a really cool device that lets you remotely reboot thingsor you could…."
But he cut her off. "OK, I think I'll just download the firmware patch. Can I get it from your web site?" he asked.
"Of course. Is there anything else I can do for you today?"
"I don't think so," he said.
"Thanks for calling Ownage, sir. Have a good day," she said, and they both hung up. Satisfied, the customer picked up a pen and jotted down the entire conversation in the hopes of someday publishing it in a book about VoIP.
1.9.1. The Hack
Updating ATA firmware is a great way to stay on top of known performance issuesand it might allow you to take advantage of new telephony features introduced by your TSP. Most telephony hardware vendors tend to make their systems more stable with each release, so understanding your TSP's prescribed method for installing firmware patches onto your ATA is important. I've chosen Packet8 for this example. Refer to your specific TSP's support site for details on its update procedures.
126.96.36.199. Get the firmware update.
Packet8, for one, offers a Windows executable that you can download from its web site (http://web.packet8.net/download). This tool will automatically identify your Packet8-provided DTA-310 ATA, download the patch, and install it. If you prefer not to use the tool, you can install the patch using the Packet8 ATA's web interface. Instead of downloading the executable installer tool, just download the firmware file. Save it and remember the path where you saved it.
188.8.131.52. Locate your ATA.
Next, if you don't know your ATA's IP address, use Packet8's IP-address identification service to find out what it is. This will be helpful if you've forgotten it, or if your ATA is configured to get its IP address via DHCP. Simply pick up your phone and dial 0120003. This will play back a recorded greeting that includes your ATA's IP address.
Next, go to that address with your web browser, using a URL like this: http://10.1.1.200, replacing 10.1.1.200 with your ATA's actual address.
When the ATA welcome page appears, click the Upgrade Firmware link. Click the Browse button to locate the firmware image file you downloaded earlier. Then, click Start Firmware Upgrade. After your ATA has rebooted, the update will be finished.