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.

2018/09/24

Logitech Meetup ConferenceCam

In the past, I have used a Logitech cs3000, I had a furious love affair with a bc950, and then I settled down to just using my laptop camera when needed.  Except that did not give me some speaker phone features, no zoom, no pan, no “see the whole room” stuff.

For the last month or so, I have been wringing out a Logitech Meetup.

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I threw the box away today, because the Meetup now has a permanent spot in the Tsoorad Test Lab.  I find myself using it as a speaker phone AND a video provider on a regular basis.

Here is the Logitech market-speak.

MEETUP

All-in-One ConferenceCam with 120° field of view and integrated audio, perfect for small conference and huddle rooms

  • See everyone, even those close to the camera
  • Works with your video conferencing applications
  • Compact design minimizes cabling and clutter

Furthermore, Logitech claims that:

MeetUp is Logitech’s premier ConferenceCam designed for small conference rooms and huddle rooms. Stop crowding around laptops. With a super-wide 120-degree field of view plus a pan/tilt lens, MeetUp makes every seat at the table clearly visible. With integrated audio optimized for huddle room acoustics, everyone can be heard as well as seen.

The question, of course, is how well are these claims delivered?  Let’s find out.

OOBE

You also get a 16-foot USB cable, power supply, wall mount hardware, and user documentation. The system is certified for use with Skype for Business and Cisco Jabber and offers enhanced integration with BlueJeans, Broadsoft, LifeSize Cloud, Vidyo, and Zoom. That support includes the ability for remote participants to control the camera.

How long are cables?  Dang.  Break out the zip ties if you don’t need all that cable length.  Still, very nice to have.  Sit it on a windows sill, table, shelf, or other flat surface.  Or, mount it to the wall or something like that.  The mount will do both.

I had to put the batteries in the remote control module.  Oh! The horror of it all!

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But, let’s be somewhat careful and do some reading.  At which point I discover that the included cables won’t do 4k.  You will need an aftermarket cable to get the full bazillion square foot display that some folks want.  Good luck finding a USB 3.x A to USB C cable longer than 1 meter.  I just did 1/2 hour of google-fu and did not come up with anything longer than 10 feet.  And that was $92.  Be that as it may, my myopic senses probably cannot tell you the difference in 1080p and 4K coming out of this camera into a web-based video room.

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SfB/Teams

Here is the bottom line.  My use of the Meetup device in both SfB and Teams was totally seamless (I also have used the Meetup with Webex Teams, and meetings on Bluejeans and Zoom.  Seamless).  The Meetup is an extension of your local host – a Lenovo T530 running Windows 10 in my case.  Operated perfectly.

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Zoom/Pan/Tilt

Here’s a problem!  I spent too much time playing with the controls.  Addicting.  In and out. Left, right, up, down.  Fun!  And works well.  There is also a button smack-dab in the middle of the control module that returns the camera to dead center. And there is software for download that works pretty much as advertised.  You can also pair this thing with your BYOD to get access to the speaker phone and control the entire unit if wanted.

No zoom:

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Zoom

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Audio Quality

*I* thought the audio quality was quite good.  Volume, minimal distortion (if any) even at high volume levels; good timbre, overall, a solid 9.5 on the Tsoorad Goodness Scale.

Video Quality

I wish it had optical zoom instead of digital.  I mean, it sure looks like digital zoom.  Having said that, it did everything I wanted it to do in video terms.  I am a not possessing the requisite USB 3 cable to enable the 4K, but the 1080p sure looked pretty good to me…zooming in did result in some blurry stuff – I bet the 4K would fix that.  Impressive it is.  9.0 on the Goodness Scale.

Conclusions

Do you have a 6-10 person room?  Are you wanting to park something in there that participants can just walk up to and plug in and voila! they are in a meeting or can start hosting one?  Are you tired of the laptop camera restrictions on that scenario?  Don’t want to spend a large amount of cheddar on a dedicated wall unit like a Surface or other expe$ive system?  Then this Logitech Meetup is probably just right for you!  Typical great build quality, nice feature set, good controls, integration with just about everything, and with great audio/video quality.  What are you waiting for?

You can get one right here.

YMMV

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.

2018/06/14

audiocodes IPP firmware 3.1

A bit ago, I was the recipient of some new Audiocodes firmware for the 405, 440, 445, and 450.  There is an HRS version as well. 420 is not in this cycle.

Happy to report that based on rigorous Tsoorad Lab testing, all seems to be pretty good with this update.  Numerous new features (especially on the 445)  that bear looking at.  In my testing, I did not discover anything wrong – no devices bricked, they all came back working as expected, new features were there, everything worked as before (always a plus).

You can get yours right here. After 3.1 reaches GA, AC will  (I am somewhat convinced as they have in the past)  create and publish the necessary CAB files to enable pushing this update via SfB/Lync webserver methodology.  If you use the IPP Manager (either express or full) the IMG files work for updating – in my environment, it just works.


IPP Manager view of the new goodness:

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SfB CSCP view of the old goodness – but you get the idea, right?  Just noticed that the HRS image cab is not showing.  I have asked my AC contacts about that.  Time will tell.

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Either way, YMMV

2018/05/21

Official SfB 2015 Server Disable TLS 1.0 and 1.1 part 3 guidance

As you may be aware, we have covered the upcoming 31 October 2018 TLS 1.0/1.1 support being removed from O365.  You can find that guidance here.  As promised, Microsoft has finally published the last pieces of the series.

You can find part 3 here.

As usual, I strongly recommend that you start looking at this now – some of this might take a bit of planning and coordination on your part to accomplish in a clean fashion.

Now is the time to get your sales types contacting existing customers and offering to help.  This will not be a clean thing; rest assured that there will be “issues” and IMHO there is significant potential for unintended consequences.

YMMV

2018/05/17

Personal Development Plan Redux


I harp on goals and plans with my team. Without them, on a project basis, we are toast. Without them, on a personal basis, we might be okay, but perhaps coasting along without an objective. With them, we can suddenly frame success, determine present and desired states, and develop action plans for achieving the stated success criteria.

As a recap of previous rants on this subject, I recommend planning your future, obtaining coaching where needed, and getting a mentor (or three). As a follow-up comment to the mentoring, you don’t have to have a formal mentor relationship. Someone might be successful in what you want to be doing, and just listening to them or perhaps emulating them (no blatant weirdness please) is the mentoring you needed.

Sometimes a mentor can be a formal top-down thing; but in general, a somewhat less rigid arrangement works better. For the last six months or so, I have had a very-less-formal mentor. There has never been anything in writing or verbal that would have established a mentor relationship. But she is. She has the unique ability to synthesize information into a coherent conclusion and then present verbally off the top of her head. Or so it seems. Maybe she is practicing late at night for those random occasions.

At any rate, just getting to listen to her is a learning experience. She demonstrates skills that I have never mastered. Maybe one day. But there’s more! Sort of like the infomercial – BUT WAIT!

For my edification, for the same price of admission as before, we also get other pearls of wisdom that make you sit back and think. Sometimes that is good, sometimes it is a catalyst that you have been searching for and never realized it. Other times it points out something that maybe you should consider revisiting. The other day, here came this one.

Mindtools dot com. An interesting site to say the least. The specific item that brought me here was informative, instructive, and timely. But in poking around this resource, I found this little slice of goodness that ties in nicely to your needs to plan your future: https://www.mindtools.com/courses/lnV924x0/PersonalDevelopmentPlanning.pdf

While I am waiting for you to breeze through 27 pages that can predict your future, allow me to observe that we are getting close to the midpoint of year – a perfect time to be looking at a goals and objectives review; work and personal must be in balance and if you follow my mantra, people should have to really know you to tell the difference.

OK, hopefully you have taken a few moments to peruse that planning guide. Furthermore, I hope that you realize that you can use the same techniques with your customer’s projects. Benjamin Franklin, is credited with: “Failing to plan is planning to fail” and that is certainly true in my experience. This tool could be the one thing that creates a tipping point and helps you achieve your goals.

YMMV

2018/05/14

IPP Manager Express Redux

A while back, I did a little write-up of Audiocodes IP Phone Manager Express.  You can read that right here.  A few days ago I installed a newer version and there is enough difference to warrant a redux.  Specifically, I would like to record for my own purposes a configuration that works (so I don’t forget) and maybe you can use it also.

Pre-Conclusion Statement

If you read no further, know this, I like the IPP Manager, I really do.

What are we doing here?

What we need to do is support a number of Audiocodes IP phones – a bunch of 405HD and 450HD models. We want some very basic changes made to the default OOBE configuration, nothing major, but we do want to be able to hand the phone to the user and have it just work.  Audiocodes calls this “Zero Touch” – which was enough of an attraction to get me to try it.  But, I ran into some “difficulties” when I attempted to interpret what somebody thinks is really outstanding documentation into a workable configuration.  After several emails, and several configuration sessions, I managed to achieve parity with the configuration genie. 

Diving In

Installation went as easily as before.  I did not understand the need for a clean server before and I don’t now.  Fuzzy logic on that one.  But, OK, I am in a freebie lab situation.  While the install is happening, let’s verify DHCP Option 160.  And right there we started having issues.  Which option to choose seems to be an ambiguous question as both seem to to work equally well, with ONE of them being preferred, but not required, and no clear (to me) guidance of which is which for my needs.  What I thought would work did not.  I had to use plan B.

Plan A: http://1.1.1.76/firmwarefiles;ipp/dhcpoption160.cfg

Plan B: http://1.1.1.76/firmwarefiles;ipp/tenant/Default

This did not jive with MY reading of the docs.  However, I am sure that I was doing something wrong, so I tried plan B.  At that point I was in Tshooting mode, and I don’t really know if the DHCP Option 160 choice fixed it or if it was the other part I did.  Either way, I found the documentation a smidge confusing.

At any rate

The install churns along, and before too long, we have this lovely “modern” “more visually attractive” “metro” site open on our local machine. You will note the devices already registered – so nice.

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One of the things I neglected on my first pass through on the config of the tool, was the tenant.  Because the documentation said there was already one there… and so there was!  But it needed a touch of configuring itself, and that was a bit fuzzy as well. This version of the IPP Manager Express requires a “tenant” which is loosely equated to subnets, but could be a separate fiscal entity.  Clearly this line of management tool is meant for something much larger than my little slice of life.  OK, I can work with that.  A few more emails and a few guesses worked out the kinks in that one.

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If you are doing the “see if the picture matches” thing, here is where you will find the mismatch.  My default tenant picture there is of my lab, where only have one subnet in my lab.  It is just me and my 8 favorite cartoon characters.  254 addresses is more than enough.  But, I have this customer.  You know those pesky customers.  They always seem to expect some sort of defined success.  And don’t you know these folks expected this tool to provision their phones when they have at least 12-15 subnets in the 172.xx.xx.xx/16 range, and the potential for having  SfB clients or a SfB-hosted phone on any of those segments to include the VPN segment.  Yes, Jimmy, I told them not to run the audio/video across the VPN.  You may sit now.

Defining the “tenant” with the proper subnet mask is REQUIRED.  Now, I suppose you could do something dogmatic and create a tenant for each subnet.  You could.  But I did not have a business requirement (see above) for that.  And notice that the subnet in the pic is a MASK not an actual IPv4 address.  We will wait while that runs through a digest cycle.

What we did was define the client subnet as 255.0.0.0 or, /8 which is actually a huge supernet.  But works for the simplicity angle we were also looking for.  We know it is not technically correct to address it that way; but what it did was allow the one IPP Manager to handle ANY address needed.  According to the default tenant in this configuration of  IPP Phone Manager Express, any address that can talk to the server is on a valid subnet.

Moving On

The next thing was the need for a blank template per IPP model (the 405HD and 450HD) and then each needed a customization file.  Included in the install distribution is firmware from about April 2018, and the phones will make use of those firmware files that are newer than the phone. The point here is that I needed to create my own templates before things worked.  I may have (almost certainly) done something wrong in my initial setup.  I know I expected it to be more like my old version – so there is no telling what I did wrong.  I just know that what I have now works. 

Templates

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I am not going to go through the tenant template file – yours won’t be like mine, but you can clearly see where I have a default tenant configuration template for each phone type and they are tagged (the green/white check mark) as the default.

Once you get this far, you still have a dead stock phone.  Let’s take a look at the edit from here out.  Navigate through the various options and see what is what.   Then click on the button indicated.

That gets you to this:  Fill things out to suit your needs:

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Make sure that you select the “default” button or not depending on your needs.  You can always go back and make a new one if needed. I know that was needed in my case. Now, you would think that would do it, right?  Well, unless I was making a lot of bad choices, no, now you need to EDIT the entire thing. 

“Ah saved it.”  Huh?  Did I not already do that?  I guess not.

Let’s select “Edit” on our new template.

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And you get this:

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Scroll your badself down to the bottom – and there are multiple panes here – confusing as all get out when you work remote…. get to here:

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Generate your Global Configuration Template for this ONE PHONE MODEL.

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Woot!

Now, not done yet, we want to edit the template:

Select this “Features” button:

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In my case I needed the Daylight Savings Time and the Pin Lock.

Here is one, you can figure out the other I think.  But know that when you “SAVE” at the bottom, it will write a secondary config file that the global template will read and enforce.  And that file IS created when you click save.  Don’t ask me, the inconsistency killed me too.

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Save it…this file is actually located on the ACPhoneMgr drive.

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Why the different file saving scheme I have no idea.  But you need both for this to work.  At this point, power cycling a phone does the trick. Phone installs new firmware; reboots, then changes configuration as we want.  So nice.

Conclusion

There is some disconnect between the versions, perhaps due to my lack of mental agility.  This version seems to have some fuzzy documentation – again it could be me.  This is nice piece of kit once you get it cranked. 

PS

I bricked a 450HD while testing this. Phone recovery did not go so well.  Have you ever wondered why a phone with a USB port doesn’t read that port for firmware and as part of the phone bootstrap routine install whatever it finds there?

As always, YMMV







2018/04/19

SfB Disabling TLS 1.0/1.1 Guidance

On October 31, 2018, Microsoft Office 365 will be disabling support for TLS 1.0 and 1.1. This means that, starting on October 31, 2018, all client-server and browser-server combinations must use TLS 1.2 or later protocol versions to be able to connect without issues to Office 365 services. This may require certain client-server and browser-server combinations to be updated.

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4057306/preparing-for-tls-1-2-in-office-365

SfB impact?

At a high level, this requires installing Skype for Business Server 2015 CU6 HF2, applying pre-requisite updates to .Net and SQL, and finally another, separate round of OS configuration updates, i.e. disabling TLS 1.0 and 1.1 via registry file import. It is critically important that you complete installation of all prerequisites, including Skype for Business Server 2015 CU6 HF2, prior to disabling TLS 1.0 and 1.1 on any server in your environment. Every Skype for Business Server, including Edge role and SQL Backends, require the updates. Also ensure that all supported (in-scope) clients have been updated to the required minimum versions. Don’t forget to update management workstations as well.

Background reading:

https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/cloudyhappypeople/2017/12/22/the-end-of-support-for-older-tls-versions-in-office-365/

And then read part 1 here for more background specific to SfB/Lync and the supportability statements

https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/nexthop/2018/04/18/disabling-tls-1-01-1-in-skype-for-business-server-2015-part-1/

Part 2 here gets into the weeds a bit on “How To Achieve”.

https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/nexthop/2018/04/18/disabling-tls-1-01-1-in-skype-for-business-server-2015-part-2/

Part 3 will be published at a later date. 

Woot!

Here is guidance for Lync Phone Edition (LPE):

https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Skype-for-Business-Blog/Certified-Skype-for-Business-Online-Phones-and-what-this-means/ba-p/120035 

General TLS1.2 whitepaper:

https://cloudblogs.microsoft.com/microsoftsecure/2017/06/20/tls-1-2-support-at-microsoft/

Here is the Microsoft Exchange equivalent:

Part 1

https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/exchange/2018/01/26/exchange-server-tls-guidance-part-1-getting-ready-for-tls-1-2/

Part 2

https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/exchange/2018/04/02/exchange-server-tls-guidance-part-2-enabling-tls-1-2-and-identifying-clients-not-using-it/

And big surprise, part 3 to be published later.

Summary

If you or your customer is doing anything with Office 365 hybrid, then you need to be reading all of this and figuring out your next steps.

2018/03/06

Consultant Marketing Plan

My team gets tired, I am sure, of hearing me urge them to get out in front of Sales. Sales needs to have something to sell; engineers need sales to sell them. But, there is no process to follow to tell the local sales types what is available. After all, my skill set does not map directly to some nifty SKU in a catalog.

I am reasonably certain that is true for almost all humans. If that is true, and there is no process or guidebook on how to “get in front of sales”, how can you expect the sales team to sell something they don’t know about?

The answer, of course, is found in your personal marketing plan. Let’s pause here while you do some light reading here, here, and here. What do I get out of that reading? That the definition is going to change from group to group. So, here is my take on this. Marketing is educating the consumer about why they need/want you or what you offer. In this case the consumer is the sales team. The sales team needs to know why their customer needs/wants you.

How do I do that?

Here is the rub: The answer to that question is going to change for each person. I can give you general guidance, but my personality (or lack thereof according to the SO) will make what I do work for me, but not necessarily for you. But, let’s give this a swing anyway, ok?

Preparation

Another thing my team is tired of hearing is goals, objectives, planning, focus, and accomplishing those goals and objectives. So, start there. Make yourself a backwards planning shell and pick a date in the future and set a goal of being able to approach the FSM in your market with the offer of at least one presentation to the local weekly sales huddle. You might need to make sure that this presentation also appears in PPT format so that you can contact your neighboring branch FSM’s also.

What is the content of this presentation?

A better question is: what is the delivery? The content of the presentation is your willingness to help with pre-sales. Delivery of the message/presentation will take many forms and need constant reinforcement. One FSM might not want to have a “presentation” but is totally willing to do email and other options. Your delivery in that case is more electronic and you’ll have to make a point to get face time with the branch staff. And a solid point here is: nothing replaces face time. I don’t care how good your video conference solution is, it is not face time.

You need to have an elevator pitch tailored to the sales team. Delivery of that pitch does require face time. But you need to be doing that anyway. Sales won’t sell what they don’t know. They need to know you.

Your resume needs attention at least once a quarter. Maybe all you do is read it aloud and decide it is still valid. But maybe you might want to update a significant achievement. Maybe you achieved another goal and passed a test or two. Added some more Mic, Key to your signature block. But, at least it is up to date. And have it in PDF format so that you can drop it into email on demand. Perhaps, if you are ultra-inventive, you will create a one-page marketing slick.

Send the resume and/or slick to the FSM, CEM, CSM, et cetera. Make sure the RC gets a copy also.

You will also want to get together with your SDM, CSM, CEM, FSM, and AE types and flat out ask them what they need/want. Make an appointment with the SDM, FSM, CEM, CSM, and be prepared to discuss the following question:

“What can I be doing to help sales be successful?”

Notice that I approached this not as “what do *I* get” but rather what does the sales person get. Appeal to their personal interests and structure. I market myself to the sales teams. I educate them on what I offer to their success.

Remember that you have a story to tell; but you need to keep it out of the techie weeds and relate your skills and accomplishments in business terms. Technical details should stay in the 150-175 level.

On actual pre-sales calls you may need to drive past the 300 stuff, but for this purpose, something less detailed is much better. Your friendly sales executive needs to be able to spin the story to their customers. You need to give the sales team the data needed to create the story, but the data needs to be in an understandable form for the receiver, not the sender.

Time Time Time

But all this takes time. Building a reputation and instilling confidence in both your abilities and the idea of approaching the sales team is not going to happen overnight. It will take a bit. Take the time to create the goal and then figure out how to achieve that goal within the next quarter. Be prepared to adjust your plan based on input from the previously noted acronyms. Then take that plan to your SDM. You need an IDP outline anyway, right? It might as well be something useful!

In the end…

Being a consultant is much more than successful project delivery. A consultant should be helping with the entire sales process. A consultant recognizes the need to market themselves to the sales team and takes appropriate actions to achieve that goal.

Do you want to expand your career but are struggling with getting started? I am here to help.

YMMV

2018/03/03

FastTrack Network Checking

You may not know but Microsoft is providing a fairly nice tool to check your network for SfB performance.  Free.  Free is a very good price, eh?

I am not going to extol the virtues and services offered by fastrack.microsoft.com, I just want to delve a little into the network checking tool.  And, this tool has been around for a bit.  So, I wanted to get a little updated review.

First off, I cannot even find this thing anywhere on the https://fasttrack.microsoft.com site.  Sorry.  Maybe I am blind,  but I am not seeing it anywhere.  There is probably some zippy button marked “tools” but I am just not groking.  Having said that, I know of

http://ap1-fasttrack.cloudapp.net/o365nwtest

http://em1-fasttrack.cloudapp.net/o365nwtest

http://na1-fasttrack.cloudapp.net/o365nwtest

Here I am checking my lab tenant against the ap1 site.

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Note the two addresses given by the tool…

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The 76 address is my laptop, currently operating from a hotel out in the middle of the Oregon Cascade mountain range.  So, this connection is going to be testing from my laptop to the AP1 site to see how things stack up. 

With a little imagination, you could bury a workstation in some remote spot on your network, and pretty much map out the entire path to the world – giving a glimpse into how things line up.  This could be useful, yes?

You can see that the lag from here to there is running about 170 ms, which might be so great in some circumstances. 

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Overall, the tool produces a raft of great info… here is the summary tab.  Note that something is not quite right as the tool cannot simulate VOIP traffic.  Could be something you need to look into here?

Here is the same test run against the NA1 site.  Note the differences.  We also now have a MOS score.  3.2 is not as good as we want, but doable.  Not too bad for out of a hotel where I am sharing bandwidth with 200 other rooms.

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We also got some nice jitter measurements on this run…

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And finally, if you drive into the route tab, you will get more data points.

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What do you think you could do with information such as this?

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If you have questions about any attribute/factor measured in these tests, there is also a handy glossary. 


If you or your organization is considering moving to Office 365 in any capacity, this is one of the first tools you should be working. I have been telling customers for a long time that if we do our job right, then any problems will be network, firewall, or load balancers.  This tool can help you prove that.  In a more complex internal net, you might even be able to tell the network team right where to look!


YMMV

Logitech Meetup ConferenceCam

In the past, I have used a Logitech cs3000 , I had a furious love affair with a bc950 , and then I settled down to just using my laptop came...