If you've ever wanted more control over incoming phone calls at home or at the office, setting up a PBX system could be the solution, and Geek.com's John Rogers has a tutorial for you. He explains what a PBX is:
A PBX or "Private Branch Exchange" is like a miniature phone company/switch in your own office/house. The PBX is responsible for making sure calls are routed properly. Situation: when Joe wants to dial Suzy in the office down the hall or downstairs in the TV room, he just picks up the phone in his room/office and dials a local extension just a few digits long. [...]Also, if Joe has four teenaged kids, instead of answering their calls and acting as the house receptionist, he can just set up a menu that allows callers to dial the person they want and then needs not be disturbed.
Historically PBX systems are pricey and a hassle to install for individuals—you'd only find them in large offices. But Asterisk is an open source software solution for both home and corporate users. In addition to the basic features you would expect from a telephone management system such as call forwarding, routing, voicemail boxes, and extensions, Asterisk is extremely customisable and offers additional features such as:
- Home Automation using X10 addressable switches
- Remote home/office alarm/lock control
- Remote environmental/audio monitoring
- Conference Rooms
- Email reader (text to speech access to any email account)
- Remote Dictation
- Voice Recognition
- Ability to run system commands by phone - Remote Control
The potential of the system is amazing. A coworker of mine—sick of phone calls from the office at home—set up his Asterisk server to route all calls from the office right back to the office.
Rogers' tutorial details a basic Asterisk installation. He also recommends a free ebook from O'Reilly, Asterisk; The Future Of Telephony. You can bet if I hadn't recently ditched my land line for mobile phone only communication I'd be in my basement this minute digging up parts to build an Asterisk server.