We use a MagicJack USB dongle for long-distance telephone calls over our Internet connection. The price is hard to beat and the unit works amazingly well most of the time. We have a cordless telephone base unit connected to the USB dongle and the handsets can be used throughout the house and deck. Provided of course that the MagicJack software is running.
MagicJack does not operate as a Windows service. It needs its application to be running under a logged-in Windows user. Initially, I had the USB dongle plugged into my desktop workstation. But since I often reboot or run heavy CPU applications, my workstation was not the best place for running the MagicJack.
Recently, I set up another computer on our network as a file server and I also wanted it to host the MagicJack instead of my workstation. This server would run Windows 7 and it would be headless (i.e. not have a monitor, keyboard or mouse of its own). To manage the server, I would log into it using Windows Remote Desktop Connection. The question was: could I get MagicJack to operate in this environment?
In my initial attempts, the MagicJack software kept crapping out, but…
…there is a trick.
I discovered that the MagicJack will stop working if it doesn’t have access to the local audio devices on its host computer. You’ll know this because when you try to place a call and you dial the number, you’ll get a dial-tone back immediately.
In order to run MagicJack on a server like this, you need to ensure that the server audio devices are not taken away from MagicJack. And of course, you must not “log off” the remote computer, just disconnect from it.
Here’s the step-by-step procedure for getting MagicJack to run on a headless server.
1. Don’t plug in the MagicJack USB dongle just yet.
2. From another computer on the network, run Remote Desktop Connection. E.g. On Windows Vista and Windows 7: Start > All Programs > Accessories > Remote Desktop Connection.
3. In the Remote Desktop Connection pop-up, click “Options”.
4. Open the “Local Resources” tab.
5. Under “Remote audio”, click “Settings”.
6. Under “Remote audio playback”, select “Play on remote computer”. Click “OK”.
7. Open the “General” tab, enter the remote computer and user name information and click “Connect”. NOTE: For this to work, the remote computer must already be.
8. Login to the remote computer.
9. Plug the MagicJack USB dongle into the remote computer. Then follow the usual procedure for starting the MagicJack application.
10. When you want to disconnect, do NOT log off the remote user. Just click the Close [X] button at the top of the remote desktop. This will leave the remote user session and MagicJack running. You can reconnect to the same session later with Remote Desktop Connection.
If the server has to reboot, you need to log back into the server so that Windows will load the MagicJack code from the USB dongle and start the application again. This might happen, for example, if Windows Update forces a reboot.