About Me

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TsooRad is a blog for John Weber. John was a Skype for Business MVP (2015-2018) - before that, a Lync Server MVP (2010-2014). My day job is titled "Technical Lead, MS UC" - I work with an awesome group of people at CDW, LLC. I focus on collaboration and infrastructure. This means Exchange of all flavors, Skype, LCS/OCS/Lync, Windows, business process, and learning new stuff. I have a variety of interests - some of which may rear their ugly head in this forum. I have a variety of certifications dating back to Novell CNE and working up through the Microsoft MCP stack to MCITP multiple times. FWIW, I am on my third career - ex-USMC, retired US Army. I have a fancy MBA. One of these days, I intend to start teaching. The opinions expressed on this blog are mine and mine alone.

2018/08/20

Polycom VoxBox

You would think that the market is fairly saturated with speaker-phone devices that plug in via USB or attach via BT and work with anything that is connected to the PC.  Right?  I mean, these things have been around for almost as long as I have been knowing what a USB connection is and the difference between an A, and a B USB.

Apparently I am wrong – Polycom has a device called VoxBox.  I have been living in a cave lately, from all appearances, and totally missed this product.  The Polycom website claims that the VoxBox is certified for Office 365 and SfB.  You’d think so seeing as how it connects to the PC or BYOD via USB/BT and is therefore abstracted from what is actually providing media.  It thinks the media is coming right from the port.  But, SfB does know what to do with it.  Teams O365 doesn’t like the on-device controls, but Teams O365 doesn’t like any on-device controls (yet).  So, I think it is safe to say that subject is a wash in terms of function.

Marketing blather straight from Polycom’s website:

Polycom VoxBox sets a new standard in ultra-compact USB / Bluetooth speakerphone performance and packs it with HD Voice and patented NoiseBlock noise reduction technology. Give your mind and ears the quality they deserve—in offices, in huddle spaces, and wherever your travels may take you.

Better Sound. Hear Everyone.

  • Hear everyone – Designed and built for group conversations, so discussions are interactive and everyone is clearly heard
  • Easy to connect – Simply pair using Bluetooth, or plug in via USB — no software driver required
  • Sounds better – you will hear the difference with 4 microphones and our high quality, low-distortion speaker
  • Stay focused – eliminate meeting disruptors like echo, noise, and insufficient microphone range

Let’s see if that is true in testing.

OOBE

2 cables (USB and USB+security cable), a little wrench (for the anti-theft cable) and the unit itself.

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Square, solid, brushed aluminum-like finish.  Looks good; feels good; and the bottom has whateveritis that stops it from sliding around.  So, pretty good from that angle.

Function

Here is the official data sheet. 

As you might guess, I did not test the VoxBox with just anything, I used SfBS and Teams Office 365.  Surprised?  Ha!  Don’t be.  I plugged it in, my laptop went dink-donk, and I had a functional speaker phone.  It doesn’t get any easier.

My ONLY niggle with this unit is that the mute button is bit too sensitive. I swear that several times just thinking about the mute button caused it to activate. 

Lights are easily visible, even in office lighting levels of brightness, and the lights themselves are understandable as to what they are indicating.  As long as you don’t expect the + and – to provide video zoom you are good to go.

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Audio was clear and presented with good volume out to a 12x12 room size.

Conclusions

This is a high quality speaker phone device.  I had zero issues working this device with both Teams O365 and SfBx.  I set up about two feet from the device and normal operations were crisp, clear, and all the device features were indeed as advertised.  With the exception of achieving world peace, I would say the marketing mavens had accurate VoxBox blather.

You can get one right here.


YMMV

2018/08/14

Logitech Brio & C925E

A pair of nice cameras recently went through the wringer here at the Tsoorad Test Lab.  It has been a long time since I last looked at camera add-ins/add-ons.  I am a laptop user by day, and a lurker when not running a meeting where I need to show some slight sign of being an adult.  Ergo, I have no need for an camera. 

Until that is, I go into an environment where desktops still exist, and those desktops are no longer the large box that used to be, but they still have the normal limitations… like camera’s that don’t exist.  Therefore, last month the camera issue came up again.

Enter the Logitech Brio 4K PRO WEBCAM. According to the Logitech material, the Brio provides:

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OK… what else might this thing offer?

  • Video resolutions up to 4K (ultra-high definition) at 30 fps
  • 5X digital zoom (with digital pan / tilt)
  • Automatic exposure and contrast adjustment with Logitech RightLight 3 and HDR technology
  • Software-selectable field of view (90, 78, or 65 degrees)
  • Dual integrated omni-directional microphones with noise cancellation

The Logitech C925E webcam is offering a reduced feature set (no 4k) but also a reduced price point.

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Software

The available-for-download software is useful for adjusting all of this. Pan and zoom to boot.  Not a large amount of adjustment range, but enough.  Useful rather than over the top.

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Zoom and Pan…starting with this:

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Still good image resolution….

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OOBE

Oddness – why does the C925 webcam come with an internal privacy shutter when the Brio does not?  The Brio has a clippy-thing that is the privacy shutter – but you have to put it on yourself. Huh?  You would think that the privacy shutter would be built-in on all add-on cameras…but apparently I am in the minority opinion on this subject.

Moving past that, both cameras have a good solid feel.  Materials are very nice, the hinges and other parts were not falling off nor did they appear to want to do so anytime soon.  Always a plus when I cannot break something.

The Brio needs a USB3 port to do 4K.  I have it hanging off a USB3 hub, and it seems to be happy. Both have a threaded boss on the bottom of the mount so you can setup on a tripod or other such device.  The Brio has a separate cable, the 925 has an attached cable.

The Brio documentation included with the units was the now de rigueur one page cartoon.  Surprisingly effective in this case.  What does that say about me?  The 925 had booklets of languages…and cartoons. There was more safety documentation than instructions.  I know that there is always someone, but do we really need to warn the dainbread about using this product in the bath/shower?

And, a final discriminator…the Brio has a velvety carry pouch.

Picture Quality

Brio on the left

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Different default field of view, and the Brio is doing some automatic light show stuff.

SfBx/Teams

What Tsoorad review would be worth its electrons if it did not have some hook into SfB/Teams?  Well, this review is no different…

The Skype client loves these things.  You just have to plug them into an appropriate port and then go choose.

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Teams wants to be different, yet the same.  Bipolar city.  But still, here the cameras are for the choosing.  Hey Microsoft! I sure wish you could do it before deciding to call. 

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Summary

As expected, Logitech has nice solid devices here; for my purposes the video quality was much better than my onboard laptop camera and was past what I see people typically using in my day-to-day experience.  If you have a need to go up on the big screen, the 4K looks really good – so good you might want to check your makeup before hand. 

I wanted these units to work with SfB/Teams without me having to do anything past choose it.  They both functioned as expected and the output looked great doing it. If you are needing it, the Brio + software can potentially enhance your security and the 4K video is really nice.

You can get a Brio here and a C925E here.

YMMV

2018/08/07

Audiocodes 445HD

A while back, I bricked a 450HD. Ooopseyo!

When I contacted Audiocodes to whine for a new one they sent me a 445HD also.  Why?  Beats me, maybe they think I will review it?

Here is the official marketing fluff. Assuming you take the time to read all that, does it all add up to “An advanced high-end business phone with a color screen and integrated sidecar for speed dial contacts and presence monitoring.”

Yes, I think it does.  If you are in the market for a higher-end low-end phone, this is it.  Need some color in your users life or they can’t keep up with the Jones?  This is it.  Need something to connect to Office 365 SfbO?  This is it.

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Here is the 445HD feature list:

Certified for Skype for Business
Graphic 4.3" color multi-lingual LCD screen (480x272)
6 programmable multi-function keys
4 soft keys
12 programmable speed dial keys with presence monitoring on a dedicated LCD (376 X 60)
GbE Support
USB headset support

In case you have not done any professional reading here is the overall Audiocodes IP Phone “highlights.”

High voice quality
Support for SILK codec
Full duplex speaker phone
Robust security mechanisms
PoE or external power supply
Out of the box global redirection server support
Multi-language user interface
Centralized management with AudioCodes IP Phone Manager (available for download free of charge)

Build Quality

The only complaint I can gin up on this subject is the stand portion – I always think I want more adjustability.  Other than that (and that is extremely minor), the materials and construction are top-notch.

Does it work with Skype (Online or on-premises – better known now as SfBO and SfBS)?

Duh!  Why else would I be writing this?  Yes, near seamlessly.  Not totally seamless because to do web login I have to jump through some O365 hoops.  But, in the end, I will paraphrase a popular Norte Americano beer spot: “…works great, less hassle…”

I have full status for system users… if they are on SfB, then I see their presence.  The side car can be programmed with an extension on the system, and I get presence from that minimal information.  So nice.

Audio

Audiocodes provides great audio.  Maybe even excellent audio.  IMHO, much better than the competition.

But how is this thing to use?

I use it as a calendar minder, a phone call maker, a redial source because I am lazy, and a speaker phone because I don’t want a headset clamped on my noggin all day.  Did I say it has a color screen?  Visually, the 445HD works really well.

Buttons are large, with excellent tactile feedback. Programming the phone can be done via IP Manager, configuration files stored on an FTP or TFTP, or the device has a web interface.  All of this thought out for maximum ease of use, which is mostly delivered upon.  An example would be the attached sidecar buttons. Although, can it really be a sidecar if there is not a detachable piece?  It’s all one unit. 

So how about the “side buttons” which are referred to as “function keys.”  No matter.  Find a “function” key that has a blank display and press it.  The phone immediately pops to that menu and allows you to enter in your favorite bodega for delivery. 

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and a few judicious key presses later we have lunch on the hook.

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It won’t take an advanced degree in psychodynamics to figure out the rest of the phone either.  The controls are very clear and solid feeling.

Support

Depending on to whom you address the question, Audiocodes has great-to-excellent support for the HD IP Phones.  You can count on the dev’s there to be looking at their firmware and they are ever-improving things.  Mainstream, forward looking, and easy to contact.

Summary

I like this phone device.  Great price point, great feature set.  The only thing missing is touch, but the target for this device is not the touch crowd.  I can see this device as that “in-between” model where you need something more, but just not all that more (see 450HD).  Typical Audiocodes quality means you cannot go wrong.

You can get your very own 445HD right here.

YMMV

2018/07/12

Landis Contact Center

Now, this is significant.  MVP Matt Landis and his merry band of mavens is getting their contact center out to the world. This is a happy event for those of us looking for just a bit more than nested RGS.

Hot off the email press:

https://www.landistechnologies.com/office365contactcenter/


We Plan to Announce Office 365 Contact Center is Publicly Available as Preview at Microsoft Inspire 2018

We wanted to you to be the first to know what we will be announcing at Microsoft Inspire 2018:
Las Vegas, Nevada 7/16/2018 - At Microsoft Inspire 2018, Landis Technologies LLC is announcing that Office 365 Contact Center is now publicly available as a Preview. The Landis Technologies Office 365 Contact Center provides Microsoft Partners with a call center solution that can be provisioned and running in minutes. To read more: https://www.landistechnologies.com/office365contactcenter/ .... read more




Copyright © 2018 Landis Technologies, All rights reserved.
Landis Technologies Office 365 Contact Center


YMMV



2018/07/09

Sennheiser SfB headset review (July 2018)

This review is going to cover the “Sennheiser SC 75 USB MS Binaural UC Headset USB 3.5mm” (there is a serious product title) and the Sennheiser SD Pro 2 ML DECT Wireless Binaural Headset (a shorter title but still a mouthful).

The 75 is a wired (USB via an inline module adapter thingy).  The SD Pro2 is a DECT wireless.  Both have a place, and both are very nice units.  Both are Binaural.  I tend to run to binaural when at all possible due to my hearing loss.  And music sounds way better.  Two ears are better than one.  Trust me.

But, wired v wireless is a big differentiator.  For the center mass of your office workers, a wired headset will work just fine.  But some people (like me) like the flexibility of the BT or DECT modality so they can walk and talk.  I know several customers who routinely go to the server room and you would never know they are not at their desk.  DECT has a range (projected/published) of 300 feet.  Whether or not you get all of its range is problematical and depends on perfect conditions.

The SC 75:

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SC 75

Coming out of the box the SC 75 is in two pieces – the cable that plugs into the inline module, and the overall headset.   Pretty basic.  However, that basic stuff is good. Plug it in and it works.  Simple as that.  SfB picked it right up and I was operational.  Teams required that I tell Teams to use it.  After that, seamless. 

The SC 75 audio quality that is a solid 9.5 on the Tsoorad Goodness Scale.  Build quality seems very nice.  Materials are typical Sennheiser.  No ANC, but that is a personal preference.

The SD Pro 2

 

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Now this is my type of device.  Wireless.  DECT.  Comfort.  Great quality, both build and audio. ANC. A superior piece of gear.  My SfB client loved it…it did not have to do anything but tell it to be the preferred device one time, and after that, all was golden.  I suspect that the “one time” thing has to do with me having like 12 headsets currently going through testing.

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Of the two, I spend most of my testing time with the SD Pro 2.  It meets my personal needs better than the wired headset.  Having said that, I need a travel headset also, and the SC 75 does meet that need.  So, the bottom line is, you can’t go wrong with either!

You can get the SC 75 right here, and the SD Pro 2 ML right here – and both worked equally as well with Microsoft Teams as they did with SfB.

YMMV

Yamaha YVC-1000MS-NA Review

Unbeknownst to me, Yamaha, a firm who I thought made great motorcycles and my mother’s piano, is also making a very nice, Skype certified, medium/large conference room audio solution.  Comes OOBE ready to be a speakerphone for the SfB client.  The nice folks at Yamaha let me play with one for a few days. 

Here is what the Yamaha marketing mavens have to say:

“Ideal for medium and large spaces, this intuitive communications system features separate microphone and speaker units for flexibility during audio, web, and video conferencing. Designed to support 2 external speakers and 5 daisy-chained microphones, it’s the perfect scalable solution for accommodating larger meeting rooms and additional participants. Adaptive echo cancellation and human voice activity detection (HVAD) minimize background noise, facilitating natural, stress-free conversation during every call.”

If you poke around their website, Yamaha also has the obligatory case studies.

Ya…. well, OK, it’s good for them to say it, quite another for us lowly consumer types to actually realize it.  Let’s break open the box and see what is what.

The Box

Out of the box, you get a main unit, wires/cables to match, and an external microphone.  There is also a small pamphlet of instructions which I did not read until afterwards.  Does anyone read those things first?

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Build

One of the first things I noticed was the build quality.  We got good stuff here.  Solid.  Construction on par with what I expected from a musical instrument manufacture (based on mommy’s piano).  And that theme carried through acoustically also.

Controls are easy to see and use.  The connections are clear and sturdy – no cheap shortcuts here.

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Audio

Quality sonic delivery – at least according to the Tsoorad Test Lab Standard Ear Device.  Great volume as the timbre of the delivery carries the audio track farther than some rinky-dink speaker system does.  Or at least it sure seems that way to me.  At any rate, audio quality in this unit is now my measuring stick.

Skype

The YVC-1000MS is essentially treated as a speaker phone device. This is the comparison between the two versions, with the right side being the SfB certified.  I connected to it with USB and BT.  Both modalities were treated as you would expect SfB to treat them.  Seamless.

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Yamaha provides a zippy tear sheet.

You can get your very own YVC-1000MS right here.

Conclusion

A great piece of kit.  I am not sure that this is a center-mass market thing.  But, for a mid-to-high-end conference room need, and in a place that does not need/want/use video (there is a ton of that BTW), this is where I will look first.  There might be other solutions out there, but this one clearly sounds the best, is seamless with a variety of platforms, and has the build quality to outlast the competition.

YMMV

2018/06/26

Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC/B6200

A Plantronics BT device came into my hands the other day.  I have been thinking about this device style for a while – I see folks with them, and always thought my existing BT device was good enough.  But, I keep seeing them, so…what’s the story. What’s the draw?

Here is the official market speak on the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC. 

Here is a pretty picture, just so we know what we are talking about.

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Isn’t that just the world’s best cell phone photograph?  I was going to use the PLT graphics, but that would be just sucking up, because… I am fixing on saying how great the 6200 UC is – maybe only for me, but these things are bordering on being the greatest thing since sliced bread.

As I pondered what to say, I realized that after testing with Skype, SfBO, Teams, and my cell, all to great success; (great audio, pretty good background noise suppression (ANC), and typical excellent Plantronics build quality) that I wanted to continue with Magic Slim and The Teardrops.  That in itself is telling.

Usually I test a device, make some quality comments, observe if it does what my use case scenarios dictate, and determine comfort and audio quality – and then, fair or not, compare to my existing device stable.  In the case of the 6200,  I just kept using them and knowing that I had 9+ hours of battery, I kept testing.  At some point, I stopped testing and just was “using” because this device moved into the “actively used” category.

So, let’s dive in:  According to the aforementioned market-speak:

Features

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You can get a fancy market-speak sheet to impress your budget approval process.

Fit and Function

The Tsoorad Test Labs says that this 6200 is a 9.9.  I had to adjust to the ear thingies.  Small was too small.  Medium was too medium.  Who uses the large?  The device around the neck thing pretty much was a non-issue.  I like the idea of ripping the earphones out and dropping them, and they go nowhere.  Nice if you are like me and wonder where the earbuds went to.

Laptop, SfBS, SfBO, Teams

All my laptop functions worked as you would expect from Plantronics.  Already paired to my cell phone, inserting the BT600 dongle resulted in a few binks and bonks and wala! working as expected.  I typically do not operate my headset on two at once, I find that the ever-changing volume settings bothersome, and if you are a music at work person, the constant interruptions in the music flow are bothersome as well.  I am sure there is some esoteric setting buried in Windows somewhere to stop that, but I have never found it.  SfB 2016 client picked up immediately.  Teams picked up immediately. 

Audio in/out

Audio quality for voice is very nice.  Good volume control in terms of range of adjustment.  Bass response is at least as good as any other earbuds I have tried.  Microphone pickup sensitivity seems most excellent as well. 

Musically, the 6200 suffers from lack of driver size just like any other set of earbuds – I don’t care who makes them, bass is achieved by moving air, and those little cones in an earbud simply are taxed by bass.  Having said that, the 6200 cranks along right well.

There’s even an APP for that.  Yes Matilda, in the space of just a few minutes I was controlling my 6200 with my phone.  Gosh, how exciting!  Firmware updates, turning things on and off.  I felt empowered.

What’s in the box?

A carry case (actually pretty nice), a short USB cable that connects to either the 6200 or the included charging dock/stand.  And, for you double-up-the-device types, a BT600 dongle so as to enhance the laptop media experience. Oh, and three sizes of ear cushion thingies.

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Cost

There are various views on this subject.  Personally, I think to a large extent you get what you pay for.  If you want to pay $29.99 for a set of wireless earbuds that are BT, have ANC, and that deliver some serious music reproduction chops, while allowing you to make and take calls on your cell and your laptop, then get ready to be disappointed.  But, if you want something that rocks functional, is durable, with features you can use, and then proceeds to wallop music, then this is the price point for that excellence.  You can get yours right here.

Summary

Usually, in testing I include all the stuff above. The Tsoorad Test Lab Score is limited to the 9.9 (ear bud fitment) so the 10’s I was going to give it in all the other categories got trumped.  I could have said that.  OR…

In this case, I could have just made this statement: “These things are firmly in my “keeper” category.”  Seriously excellent stuff here.

Polycom VoxBox

You would think that the market is fairly saturated with speaker-phone devices that plug in via USB or attach via BT and work with anything ...