Is there any way I can convert my Cat5 port into a phone jack?

I just got done moving everything up here to college when we (being my roommate and myself) discovered that we do not have a working phone jack. What we do have, though is a working ethernet port (I believe that’s the right terminology, anyway). Is there anything we could buy or something we could do to make that into a phone jack?

Sure. We’ve got lots of this at work. You just buy yourself a telephone adapter, plug it in, and at the patch panel you plug the patch lead into the telephone system instead of the computer network.

But you probably can’t do that last bit, and you probably want the network port anyway, right? So you need some software like Skype.

Not realistically. You can get suitable RJ-jack adapters for your end, but the Other End is a BIG problem to say the least. And since the college probably doesn’t want people who think that they can convert an ethernet cable into a phone cable making wiring mods, give it up.

Note, you can do Voice over IP: connect a computer to the Net and make phone calls that way. You need to find a suitable VoIP provider, etc. But that’s a whole 'nother way of doing things.

No, despite appearances, they’re two completely and entirely different things. If the phone jack itself is bad, then the thing to do is to buy a replacement. The installation is very easy–just match the red wire to the red terminal and the green wire to the green terminal. Ignore the yellow and black wires, unless you have a two-line installation. In fact, look inside the existing jack (usually it’s just one screw holding the cover on), and make sure both of those wires are securely connected to the proper terminals. If they are, check the wiring leading to the jack, if possible. Be sure there are no breaks or places where the wire is badly crimped. If everything looks fine, you should contact the person responsible for this and have them come fix it.

OTOH it is quite likely that the phone line has to be connected to a patch panel elsewhere to prevent unauthorized use of the phone lines. LD billing charges and all that rot you know.
Save yourselves a lot of grief. Ask first, tinker with wiring last.

Well, it’s working. Somewhat using Q.E.D.'s suggestion to replace it, I took off the faceplate and basically jiggled wires around, and then put it back on. I didn’t think I did anything, so I didn’t test it right away. But, not long ago, I picked up the phone, and lo and behold, there was a dialtone. Now I have to figure out why the phone doesn’t ring when people call me.

Look on both the base and handset for a small switch. It might be labeled “Ring” or “ringer”. Be sure it’s set to “On” or if it has multiple settings, “Hi”, “Med” or whatever. If the switch is already set as I’ve indicated, try working it back and forth several times. If none of this works, then it’s possible that the phone’s ringer circuit is fried. Borrow a telephone from a neighbor and test it.

I tried all that. I called a number that the phone company gave me and went through a prerecorded menu to “move in” my number. I hope that does it, otherwise I’ll have to go get another phone, I guess.

Well, I think our phone is connected to another line. We got a call today, but from a woman looking for a different room. My roommate called what is supposed to be our phone number, but our phone didn’t ring. Another bit of technology angst; I bought a splitter for our one working internet port, and, of course, it isn’t working. Is there something I’m missing with that or what?

You cannot simply use an RJ-45 splitter on an ethernet port. If you want to connect two or more computers to the network, you’ll need to purchase a hub or router and at least one additional CAT-5 ethernet cable. You can get them fairly inexpensivly on eBay, and even retail electronics store prices aren’t too bad–typically $30-$40.

Well, this is what I bought, and it claims to work straight from the wall jack. Mainly out of curiousity, why is another hub neccessary?

No, that won’t work for what you want to use it for (taking 1 inet connection ang going to 2 computers). The radio shack device does have its purposes, but you would need 2 of them (one in your room, and the other in the wiring closet) to run 2 inet lines or 2 phone lines over 1 cable.

So, what should I get?

A hub is basically a smart repeater/amplifier. It chooses one port at a time and repeats it to all the others. Otherwise you would split the output signal in half (or more) (as well as causing a host of other nasty signal degradations, like ground loops, etc. – and screwing up the negotiation between the network cards (Ethernet cards expect to be connected to exactly one other device, and multiple voices talking at once could completely befuddle their little built-in brains)

If you keep your eyes open, you can often find them for under $20 or under $10 on clearance or sale in the big discount computer shops (NOT CompUSA or the like). I got a bunch of them on sale at Microcenter for $10 each several years ago: they have 4 ports and an uplink, and are about the size of a pack of cigarettes. You could also buy outlets (socket/plate combinations) with a built-in hub for around $25 at around that time.

A router is similar, but more sophisticated. It echos each packet from the input port to only the correct output port. This means you don’t tie up more of the network than necessary with echoed chatter (Think of a party line, vs separate home lines. It takes a while to find a silent moment to get a word in, and if everyone is talking over everyone else, and then everyone has to repeat themselves more often.) Since Ethernet is at least 10 Mbps (and often 100 Mbps or 1000), you probably won’t notice the advantages of arouter if you’re just sharing a network connection

I think you confused a router with a switch.

So, basically, if I want to make one jack into two, I need to go buy a hub? What exactly does the thing I have do?