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Monday, 15 September 2008

CallerID review of MCE Plug-ins

I decided to take a look at Caller ID and Windows Media Center to see what was available and how easy it is to set up? Mainly because as I am living in Thailand now and I never know who is calling the house phone, because I cannot speak to them in Thai that well!

My idea was to have a pre-configured contacts list of friends and family members over here and when they call, if no one is home but me at least I know who has called and can then tell the misses to call them back.
I will be taking a look at TapiRex and MCETapiRex first of all and then in a later review, I will be looking at Vista CallerID which is a free program, TapiRex is not free however, but is only $19.99 US and the MCE plug-in is free.

Frst some considerations have to be made to get CallerID working, your phone company needs to usually enable this service at extra cost to you. It cost me about 5 UK pounds to enable the service on my phone line and they even sent me a new telephone with a CallerID display not too bad at all!

Second you need a computer modem that will support CallerID. It's the Tapi 2.1 Modem drivers that handles CallerID and most newer modems come with Tapi drivers.
I had some issues with the in-built modem on my Acer laptop. If you are not sure your modem is enabled for CallerID take a look at this here where you can test it using Hyper Terminal. Hyper Terminal no longer ships with Vista but you can download it from here. Don't use the Release Candidate version as it has expired. You may also find this CallerID Repair utility helpful as well.

Thirdly the person who is calling you and their network operator needs to pass through the CallerID information, on mobile phones for example you can disable this in the settings so if you are testing with your own mobile phone make sure CallerID is set to Yes.

OK so now some of the more technical stuff is out of the way, lets look at TapiRex in a little more detail.
The software installation was pretty straight forward, you can pull in contacts from Outlook as I am not using Outlook on this PC, I picked the Database option for my contacts. It's just a simple case of adding in your contacts name, phone number and photo if you have one.

TapiRex creates a system tray icon and runs in the background waiting for incoming calls. By right clicking this icon you can gain access to the Options and Latest Calls List. This list contains a record of all the calls with information like: Date / Time, Duration, Caller, Callee, Incoming, Outgoing, Answered etc.

In the Options I had to tick two options under Connection, for my modem to work and pickup that there was an incoming call and for the notification to be displayed on screen.
These were: Get CallerID in "OnCallerID" and Handle as Data Modem. You may or may not have to set these opitons for your modem.

Once I had gotten the correct settings enabled it all then started to work, I called the house phone from my mobile phone as a test. The desktop notification popped up informing me of the incoming call, you can turn the desktop notification off, if you only want the MCE one switched on.
There is a very nice setting in TapiRex on the Notifications tab, where the MCE Notification is listed you can select the Edit button and turn on:- Pause media on incoming call. This is great if you are playing music or a movie and an incoming call comes in, it will automatically stop the media playback in Media Center cool!
The areas that I have blocked out in black on the screen shots are just where it shows the phone number of the person calling you.

Overall I think TapiRex is a solid application and with the MCE integration it makes an excellent addition to your Media Center setup, well worth the asking price of the software I feel. Next I will be looking at the free Vista CallerID to see how I get on with that.
Desktop and MCE notifications:


Anonymous said...

TAPIRex is a great app and the support is very good as well.

Joseph said...

Another one to consider is YAC and Vista YAC Addin.

I have a little trouble getting my modem understanding the response so that caller id notices from any app will popup. BUt I am there.

I like Yac and BobgVant Vista Yac Addin really well because you can push the notification to other machines. but I and a couple other are having issue with multiple popups.

Joseph said...

I should also mention I cannot get the VistaCallerIDMCE addon to work at all. Vista Caller Id worked, just not the addon.