The Dial String Blues

Let's start with the telephone number.  Sounds simple, but Microsoft's attempt to make dialup's flexible introduces enough mystification into the dialing process to effectively prevent weak souls from pursuing the problem to achieve even one single successful connect... ever!

We are all proud of our home towns, but Bill Gates must be extremely proud of his home area code, since it is the default area code for every (USA??) Pocket PC produced.  Not only is it the default, there are at least four locations inside the PPC where it is entered as the default area code.  Since users who happen to live in the Seattle area are unlikely to have setup problems, Microsoft may be insulated from the fact that the rest of the world is extremely frustrated be frustrated by it's home area code.

Here's the skinny.  All of Microsoft's current operating systems, including the PocketPC OS, attempt to determine if you are calling from your home area code, and, if not, the OS is designed to put a "one" plus the area code in front of the number you will be dialing.  Since the default area code that arrives on the device is Seattle, if you don't live there, the OS is gonna put your local area code in front of the number before it dials it.

OK, so you are going to fool the OS by not entering an area code with the number huh?  Gotcha!  the "blank" area code is still not the same as Bill's default entry, so the OS adds the blank area code, and, helpfully, put's a "one" in front of that since it "qualifies" as a long distance call because it doesn't have the Seattle area code... are we having fun yet?

Actually, not only will the problems will go away once you have your own personal home area code entered and dialing configure in all of the right places, when and if you travel, the numbers will automatically combine to dial correctly on the road.

One useful trick, since the PocketPC does not have any way to hear the connect tones is to "listen in" on an extension phone when dialing.  Since a primary problem is what's actually being dialed, hearing a modem answer points to login issues, while a human voice can only mean that the wrong number was used... plus you can apologize for rousting someone out of bed with your experimentations.

The PocketPC settings location to set up your own area code and dial strings up can be accessed by;


If you havn't edited it yet, you should see the area code for Seattle. While you may think that you have found the whole answer, after you correct Bill's default area code entry, slow down a second to understand what the software designers were trying to achieve.

The first assumption of the "dialer" software is that every telephone number you store in the device will include the area code and that assumption is the crux of most problems in accessing a local number, notably, "no area code" tells the computer that the number is not in your area code and as a result the device will dial it as a long distance number by adding a "1" to the front of the number.  Computers may be logical, but no one will ever call them rational.

In addition to understanding what's behind the software design, there is a second area code entry that also needs to be addressed!

At the top of this screen you will see a "location" box which will most likely say "Work" or "Home."  After you correct the area code in the entry that was visible when you get here, click OK, pull the location down and select the other location as well. Assuming you don't work in Seattle, correct that one too.

Additionaly, if you don't live in the good ole "US of A" you need to change the country code for each one of these entries as well.

While we are here, let's go ahead and set up a new "location" for the purpose of calling from a motel or hotel on the road and the education that doing it will provide.  Since motels and hotels are split on whether you should dial "9" or "8" to get an outside line when calling from your room, we are going to create two new entries... one for each eventuality.

For the first one, click "New" and Enter the description "Motel 9+" then leave the area code blank.  Hide the "keyboard" or character recognition boxes to expose and click "Dialing Patterns" and fill in each of the boxes to start with "9," (nine-pause)  Next, "blank" the area code field, but leave the country code populated with your own country code.

Click "OK" then create a second new entry named "Motel 8+" that is identical except to begin the lines with "8," instead of "9,"

Click "OK" and go back to "Work" and select the "Dialing Patterns" there as well and confirm that they actually match how your phones at work are set up.

Before you leave, Click "OK" and tap "Dialing" and confirm that the location showing is the location that you normally call from.  (More on this later)

Microsoft's intentions were honorable and those assumptions included the fact that the user might be mobile... something highly likely for Pocket PC users.  With the setup above, when you dial a connection from your "Home" city using a complete number (including area and country code) the dialer will then compare the area and country code in the number to the area and country code in the current "Dialing Pattern" and if they are the same, will both omit them as well as omit the "1" necessary for long distance dialing.  The "Calling From" pulldown allows you to set up the eventuality that you will be calling from other specific locations, including calling from another country.

That's why it is essential that you include the country and area code with the telephone in every "Connection" that you set up.  That way, next week while traveling and have the need to access your office modem connection, by selecting the appropriate "Motel" in the "Dialing from pull down, the number dialed will be automatically compounded to dial correctly without editing.  In short, it is essential to configure these "Dialing Locations" before you attempt to set up your first modem connection, which we will do now.

Assuming that you are still in the "connections" tab, tap "modem" and select "New Connection..."  Enter a descriptive name and change the ridiculous baud rate to 115200.  On the next screen, enter the phone number and be sure to include the country and area code.  Leave the next screen at the defaults and finish.

Now the fun part... and you don't even need a modem to see the results of your work.  Go to the "connections" folder and tap the new connection that you have created.  Just below the "Save Password" check box, you will see a phone number such as "T555-1212"  This is exactly what the modem will dial... "T" to use tone dialing and the exact digits that will be dialed.

Now, pull down the "Dial from:" box just below it and select "Motel8+"  When you do, the phone number above it will automatically change from "T 555-1212" to "T8, 1 512 555-1212" (spaces added for clarity)

If you are an international traveler, you can create a "location" for a different country that, when selected, will revise the local number so that it can be dialed without modification while in that country, and, when you get back home, selecting "Home" dials only the seven local digits with no editing necessary.

We have discovered the Sam's AT&T 1000 minute cards.  They have a great long distance rate (currently 3.9 cents/minute) but making a call totals up to over thirty digits.  Took a while, but we got those codes programmed into all of our phones (dial "7" to get the service, and then dial "8" to punch in the number at the "bong tone") If you get one of these, know that you can "recharge" it with a discover credit card by phone at the current Sam's rate, or, you can buy additional cards at Sam's and recharge with them so that all of those programmed codes plus your PPC will not have to be updated and edited.

Here's what I use for using Sam's  from motels that use 8 to get an outside line...

Start any dial up connection icon

Tap "Dialing Options"

Create a new Dialing "location"

Name it "Motel 8 ATT"

put "999" in the area code field

tap "dialing patterns"

edit the "for longdistance..." to contain the following;

8,1800-506-9511,,,,1(your card number here),,,1,FG

tap ok

Then pull down "Motel 8 ATT" to use it.

The above can be used with a modem to dial voice credit card calls as well using either the "data port" or an RJ telephone line splitter.  I have modem connections for the numbers I normally dial and simply tap "connect" pick up the phone when the "dialing" message appears and tap "cancel" when the phone starts to ring.

Additionally, if you need to dial 10 digits for local calls (no "1"), set up the following;

New pattern named "Local+AC"

enter the area code "999"

Tap "dialing patterns"

In the "Long Distance" box, change "1FG" to "FG"

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