Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Active Noise Cancelling Smackdown: Plantronics Blackwire C725 vs Jabra Evolve 80

So I recently obtained two different Active Noise Cancelling headsets that are Lync/Skype for Business optimized devices. I've been using both the Jabra Evolve 80 (E80) and the Plantronics Blackwire C725 (C725) quite a bit and one thing I've noticed is that even though they are both Active Noise Cancelling, they are Apples and Oranges when you go to compare them. So I thought it would be interesting to highlight their Pros and Cons and really help those that want to find the right headset for their situation.

It is important to note that both of these headsets were given to me directly by each vendor and my assumption is that they hoped I would review them. There was no guidance as to how that was done from either vendor. These views can be considered my own opinion.


Let's start off with a opening statement of each product from each vendors own marketing material...

Plantronics Blackwire C725

The Blackwire 725 USB Headset is great for keeping you focused in noisy office environments. Featuring Active Noise Canceling technology, a nose-cancelling mic, and hi-fi stereo performance, the Blackwire 725 minimizes external noises while ensuring that PC-based calls and multimedia come through crystal clear. With the Blackwire 725, distractions go down and productivity goes up.


Jabra Evolve 80

Jabra Evolve series is a professional range of head-sets designed to improve concentration and conversations. Premium noise cancellation technology gives you peace to work in a noisy environment, open office, effectively creating a concentration zone around you so you can stay focused.


Round 1: Fit and Comfort

Right away you will notice the biggest difference between the two. The C725 is an ON THE EAR muff, where the E80 is an OVER THE EAR muff. Using both for very long calls I've noticed a few things.

E80 Fit and Comfort Negatives
  • Can start to become itchy where the muffs touch your skin
  • People have complained that it is too tight on their head (squeezing their noggin)
  • The mic is ONLY on the right
  • They are pretty bulky

C725 Fit and Comfort Negatives
  • None that I can think of

E80 Fit and Comfort Positives
  • Muffs have lots of padding
  • Band against head is padded

C725 Fit and Comfort Positives
  • Very comfortable with lots of adjustments
  • Mic can be on either side of head
  • Not bulky
  • Band against head is padded
  • Muffs are padded well


Route 2: Sound Quality

This one I realize is fairly subjective. So this is one that you'll definitely have to take with a grain of salt. But it really comes down to what do you do with your headset. Do you like to listen to music AND use it for Lync? or is this strictly a business headset only used for communication? Depending on how you answer those two questions, I could probably guess which one you would choose.

C725 Sound Quality Negatives
  • Great sound quality, but for music won't blow you mind.
  • Ear muffs allow for extra noise to creep in

E80 Sound Quality Negatives
  • Certain voices can seem deeper than normal
  • Needed to adjust side tone audio out of the box (hear yourself)

C725 Sound Quality Positives
  • I think I could literally hear a pin drop on a conference call
  • Voices sound very natural
  • Sidetone audio was perfect out of the box (hear yourself)

E80 Sound Quality Positives
  • Very rich bass
  • Music is phenomenal


Round 3: Noise Cancellation

You would think that two products that highlight Active Noise Cancellation as a major feature would actually be very similar. But I'm here to tell you that they are very different.

E80 Noise Cancellation Negatives
  • Noise Cancellation is only for the person wearing... ambient noises can be heard on Mic!
  • Needs battery charged to work

C725 Noise Cancelling Negatives
  • Ambient Noise can come in around ear muffs
  • Doesn't work unless you are in a call or using audio from PC
  • Can't be used with smart phone or other audio device (iPod)

E80 Noise Cancellation Positives
  • Amazingly effective at cutting out ambient noise
  • Can be used with smart phone (if battery is charged)
  • Has "Listen in" button on side to let you hear ambient noise... 

C725 Noise Cancellation Positives
  • Amazingly effective at cutting out ambient noise on the MIC
  • Pretty good at cutting out ambient noise on the muffs
  • Don't need to worry about charging a battery


Conclusion

The point of this blog post was not to find a winner, but to point out that these two headsets meet very different needs.

If you are in the office (especially cubes or call center) and on the phone all day long, then the C725 would probably be the better choice.

If you travel a lot and need a headset that you can use on the road and on the plane, then the E80 is probably a better choice.

Quite honestly, I plan to use both of these headsets depending on what I'm doing. Who knows... maybe Plantronics or Jabra will create a Active Noise Cancelling headset to rule them all.

Extras

E80 Extras you need to know
  • Listen In button is nice, but not obvious (push the jabra on the side with the mic)
  • When microphone is in the up position it is automatically muted
  • You will want to adjust sidetone audio, because otherwise you may not hear yourself at all
  • Headset can disconnect from call controls and be used with smart phone
  • Extra audio adjustments in the Jabra app on the PC.
  • You will stand out in a crowd when you use these
C725 Extras you need to know
  • The microphone boom can be used on left or right side of head
  • The headset automatically answers a call when you put it on

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Lync/Skype for Business Loud Ringer

Loud Ringers for Lync/Skype for Business is one of those problems you think can't be solved. But I stumbled upon a technique awhile ago that can be used to solve this problem. This technique though, uses pieces of the product in ways they were not originally intended. But I will say that I have been doing this since Lync Server 2010 and I hope with writing this blog that more people will use this technique and maybe it will get a better method for implementation by the product group.

So enough dancing around the topic.

In order to execute this technique we need the following:
  • Analog based Loud Ringer (Algo 1825 for example)
  • Gateway with Analog FXS ports
  • Create a Lync/Skype for Business Analog Device
  • Device that can do Pin Authentication for a Common Area Phone
  • Lync/Skype for Business user that has SimRing capability
Step 1
First step is to setup the FXS port and Gateway so that a dedicated number can ring that port. I prefer to use non-DID numbers for this application, but it just has to be a unique number in the Lync Dial Plan. Later we actually use this number when defining the Lync/Skype for Business analog device LineURI. Because there are so many Gateways with FXS out there, I'm not going to get into specifics in this area. But I generally route the extension portion of the number to the port. For example if +13005551000;ext=9572 is the intended LineURI, only the 9572 portion would be configured for routing to the port on the Gateway. 

Not getting the hint? 

I manipulate the number either in the trunk configuration of Lync/Skype for Business (my preference) or the gateway to just be the extension.

Oh you you are one of those people who don't like to use ;ext= ? Then you'll have to figure out the Pin Auth on your own later.

Step 2
Next we add the Gateway with the FXS port to the Lync/Skype for Business Topology. Nothing special here, but make sure it is communicating on the correct port/protocol.
Once the Topology has been published and replication has occurred, you will need to create an analog device in Lync/Skype for Business. 

Here is an example of the command: 

New-CsAnalogDevice -LineURI "tel:+13005551000;ext=9572" -DisplayName "Someone's Loud Ringer" -RegistrarPool <same pool as Loud Ringer user> -AnalogFax $False -Gateway <IP or FQDN of Gateway just added> -OU <your favorite OU>

Here is the technet for reference.

Pssst don't forget to do an Address Book Update... you'll need it soon and might as well have it working while we do this other stuff

Update-CsAddressBook on the pool that has the user with the need for the Loud Ringer.

Step 3
Once AD Replication happens we need to set a client pin for this analog device. Say wha?! Yes... just stick with me here... 

Here is an example of the command:

Set-CsClientPin -Identity "Someone's Loud Ringer" -Pin <any pin you choose>

Here is the technet for reference

Step 4
Login to the Analog Device like a Common Area Phone using Pin Authentication. For example the extension is 9572 and the pin is well... whatever you set it to. It doesn't matter if this device stays logged in or not, we just needed to log it in once as a Common Area Phone.

This would be a great time to call the Analog Device from lync and make sure the Loud Ringer is actually working. That way we aren't troubleshooting the physical install too... later on.

Step 5
Set the SimRing for the user that needs the Loud Ringer. This can be going to their PC or getting their username and password, or using SEFAUTIL. The bottom line is you want to set the SimRing for the Analog Device above which should. 

If you don't see it as a contact you can add, you might have forgot to update the address book on the server, or maybe you need to log out and back in to force an update.

Step 6
Call the user who needed the Loud Ringer and hear their praises and celebrate that you solved that problem for them that has been hanging around for a year or two. Or if it doesn't work... dig out your Lync Debugging Tools and Wireshark. I know you'll figure it out.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Unofficial Microsoft Ignite Party and Contest/Giveaway List

Last year I had a huge blog post on everything about attending the Lync Conference. Since I'm not from Chicago, or haven't spent any time there other than the airport, I left that to the experts like John Cook. So this year I'm focusing a Microsoft Ignite party and contest list for the benefit of all...

You'll see a serious bent toward Lync/Skype related activities because that is the area I'll be focused on and have the most connections to... but regardless of what discipline your event is focused on you can leave feedback or reach me on twitter if you want to have your event or contest listed. I'll also try to update this while at the conference as well in case there are any last minute things I come across. So check back often.

Parties

Saturday

There is an MCT day on Saturday, May 2, 2015 from 12:30 to 9:30 pm for MCTs and MCT Alumni will be full of informative round tables, presentations and will culminate with a party in the evening. Registration to Ignite is not required to attend, but you do have to hold or have held an MCT certification. via @vladcatrinescu

Sunday

TheKrewe is having a Meet N Greet event on Sunday May 3rd from 7:00 to 10:00pm. They currently are SOLD OUT but claim they will be releasing more tickets closer to Ignite. Need to follow their Twitter and Facebook feeds to get that information the quickest. The event is at Kaiser Tiger: Home of the Bomber. via @tiberGreg

Office 365 Network Mixer is on Sunday from 7 to 10pm. Let us give you a warm welcome to Ignite! Gather with the Office community for an evening of great company, tasty appetizers and live jazz by the Chris Greene Quartet as we all get ready for a big week ahead. First 150 people to arrive receive a goody bag and we’ll be raffling off great prizes. See you there!

One of the official Microsoft Events will be Ignite After Hours will be held each night from 8:00pm to 11:00pm through Wednesday according to the Agenda at select Hotels. Haven't seen an official list of which hotels, but will post once I see it.

Monday

Official Microsoft Ignite Welcome Reception by Microsoft in the expo hall.  6:15pm - 8:15pm

Event Zero/The UC Architects have a Unified Communications professionals party again this year (sponsored by UC Architects last year). Last year it was like the who's who of the Lync #ucoms world and we could all just mingle and chat. No loud music... no flashing lights... plenty of drinks.... and fun party games. It was by far my favorite party. The party will be held Monday the 4th of May, starting at 9:00PM (after the Microsoft welcome reception). Word is Ken Lasko will be MC this year. I think this might be the entire reason they hired him...

SPR Consulting is hosting a complimentary evening of appetizers, cocktails, and big thinkers starting at 7pm on Monday. Will be held on the 99th floor of Willis Tower where you’ll get an opportunity to network with like-minds, gain insight from our partners at their “ask the expert” cocktail tables, and take in wonderful views of the city. Each guest will receive a pass to stand 1,353 feet in the air on The Ledge. via @vladcatrinescu

Worlds Largest SharePint:  And the legendary SharePint tradition will continue at Ignite with what no doubt will be the biggest SharePint ever. Virgin Hotel Chicago Manor Room 7:00 P.M  (If you're a SharePoint person, do not miss this one) via @vladcatrinescu

Ignite Rocks is the reborn Jam Sessions from TechEd. All Ignite attendees are invited and if you’re a musician or a singer or just enjoy good music performed by your fellow attendees, stop by the House of Blues starting at 9 PM Monday night.

RightPoint is doing an Ignite Kick-Off and revealing an exciting new product and doing it at Shake Shack. The event is Monday May 4th from 8:00pm to 11:00pm and they say it is All you can eat and drink burgers, fries, frozen custard, beer and wine.

One of the official Microsoft Events will be Ignite After Hours will be held each night from 8:00pm to 11:00pm through Wednesday according to the Agenda at select Hotels. Haven't seen an official list of which hotels, but will post once I see it.

Tuesday

An Epic Partner Party to Celebrate Skype for Business is Tuesday, May 5th from 6:30pm to 11pm. They claim... Epic Food... Epic drinks... Epic views... Epic cigar rolling... All included. It is at Epic Restaurant which looks amazing. Need an invite for this party so go talk to your favorite person at AVST, Nectar, Plantronics, Polycom, ScanSource or TATA Communications

Petri.com/Thurrott.com is doing their 2nd Annual Happy Hour. The first get together was at Microsoft TechEd 2014. The Happy Hour will be held at Kroll's South Loop on Tuesday, May 5th from 5:30 to 7:30pm. If you RSVP AND you are one of the first 300 they have a Petri.com and Thurrott collectible beer stein for you.

scheduledMaintenance party by eNow had the coolest venue last year at the GhostBar in Las Vegas. I had some great conversations with people that I don't necessarily run into in my normal circle of friends. Being we have multiple disciplines of products going to this Ignite event... I expect this will be one that will have lots of new people for you to get to know. The party this year is at Vertigo Sky Lounge - 2 West Erie St and is on Tuesday May 5th. Get your request in early... and it doesn't hurt to impress @SchdMaintenance

Microsoft Learning is doing an MCP Party on Tuesday from 7-10PM at The Museum of Science and Industry. There is no details on any registration (details in April), but at some point I imagine you'll need to prove you are an MCP, which is not hard to obtain.

AvePoint is throwing a RED party at the Chicago Union Station. This one is geared toward SharePoint attendees they have things you need to do to get VIP access otherwise you might have to beg for a ticket at their booth. From the pictures on the page this party looks pretty epic.

Metalogix Best of Breed Party at the House of Blues on Tuesday at 9pm! Best of Breed Awards honor the efforts of individuals or teams who have significantly increased the value of SharePoint, Office 365 and hybrid solutions in their organization, advancing collaboration, productivity, and security through best practices and innovation. Get the details here.

Several vendors and organizations (AudioCodesJabraIntelepeerLync Users GroupPexip, and ScanSource so far) are co-sponsoring a party at The Field Museum Tuesday evening. This party will be by invitation only and you will need to talk with your favorite person at one of the sponsoring vendors or wait for the "Request an Invitation and RSVP" link when it is available and posted here. Last year this was the "Vintage Vegas Nights" party and was a very popular event. When so many vendors and organizations pool their money you know a good time will be had by all.

One of the official Microsoft Events will be Ignite After Hours will be held each night from 8:00pm to 11:00pm through Wednesday according to the Agenda at select Hotels. Haven't seen an official list of which hotels, but will post once I see it.

Wednesday

Protiviti & Nintex is doing a Microsoft Ignite Happy Hour on Wednesday, May 6th from 6:30-8:30 pm at The Godfrey Hotel. Enjoy delicious hors d’oeuvres and cocktails on 4th Floor Rooftop overlooking the Chicago Loop and network with other SharePoint users and SharePoint MVPs. via @vladcatrinescu

Bootlegger's Bash party by Thycotic has my interest piqued sufficiently. I am a sucker for good jazz (played bari sax in High School) and they plan to have specially crafted vintage cocktails. Sounds like a great place to mingle and meet new people to me. The party is on May 6th  from 7pm to 11pm at 19 East 21st Street.

The 8th Annual UC Roundtable at Microsoft Ignite has been announced. Can't say it is a "Party", but get enough of the #ucoms crowd in a room together and things are never boring. Billed as a free-flowing discussion about issues, questions, and experiences related to Exchange, Office 365, and Lync (Skype for Business) Server. Pretty much anyone that works with the above technologies is welcome to RSVP. The Roundtable is from 6pm to 10pm on Wednesday at Tavern at the Park.

One of the official Microsoft Events will be Ignite After Hours will be held each night from 8:00pm to 11:00pm through Wednesday according to the Agenda at select Hotels. Haven't seen an official list of which hotels, but will post once I see it.

Thursday

Microsoft Ignite Celebration is on Thursday May 7th and everyone is already invited. Microsoft always puts together a top notch party for its attendees... last years Lync Conference party was at Hakkassan in Las Vegas... some pictures are on a my conference report. If you have someone joining you that isn't an attendee you can purchase a companion pass just for the party.


Contests and Giveaways

The Basics

In general, you should make sure you bring a decent amount of business cards. The large majority of contests and giveaways will collect those as a way to enter. It's also highly likely we will see some contests via twitter. So signing up and getting your account established before the conference is a good idea. It is also a great way to keep tabs on what is happening at Microsoft Ignite. You can search hashtag #MSIgnite to see the majority of what is going on. If you want to follow me, you can find me here: @ucomsgeek  I will be doing a lot of tweeting during the event and the #ucoms #skype4b crowd I hang out with is never boring

The Contests and Giveaways

Come by the Office Theater on the Expo floor at #MSIgnite 5/7 at 10am to see #TheUCArchitects record an episode. You could win a Surface!

Win a free Busylight at the Busylight Booth 417!

Microsoft Ignite IT Hero Sweepstakes. Nokia Lumia 830 phone for you and your "IT hero".

@Gradient says if you follow them for a prize... Winner announced on May 8th.

Bring your business cards to the Event Zero/The UC Architects party for chances to win gear

Vision Solutions is giving away a "Double-Take scarf" for anyone who attends their Microsoft Ignite presentation in booth 232

GSX is giving away a Microsoft Band. To enter the contest fill out the form on this page. You can also follow @GSX_Solutions to see some comics featuring #RobotUser every week up until the conference.

conceptSearching is giving away a free conference pass to Ignite. All you have to do is take a survey on how you use SharePoint, Office365, or OneDrive for Business and any challenges. Contest ends March 31st...

Looks like The UC Architects are going to have another giveaway this year. In the past there has been A LOT of prizes in this giveaway. I'll update with more information as I find it. But typically you just need to get your business card to a guy wearing a UC Architects t-shirt. While you are waiting for ignite... go listen to some of their podcasts. They are awesome for anyone that works with Lync, Exchange, O365 or practically anything else connected to the Microsoft universe.

Australians... here is your chance to go to Microsoft Ignite. Fancy joining the world’s brightest minds at Microsoft’s Ignite conference to talk cloud infrastructure, management, productivity, big data, coding and more? Sign up to the Microsoft Virtual Academy today and you could be in with a chance to win a trip there. This phenomenal prize includes return flights, accommodation, a full conference pass plus spending money.

The Lync Users Group is giving away a trip to the Microsoft Ignite Conference to an attendee of one of our winter 2015 events.  To enter, just attend one of our January or February 2015 events and complete your survey.  We will draw the winner from our nationwide events on or before March 2nd with immediate contact for the winner.  The winner will receive a full conference pass, airfare, hotel and a visa gift card to cover expenses courtesy of the Lync Users Group and our sponsors.

SolarWinds will be at Microsoft Ignite this year (May 4th - 8th) with buttons, stickers, and awesome giveaways in tow.  In addition, they are giving away 1 extra full conference pass worth $2,200.  You have to submit a compelling story of how SolarWinds has made your life easier and it has to be received by March 4th.


Monday, February 2, 2015

What to do when you can only hear yourself think while using Jabra Evolve 80

So I recently started using a Jabra Evolve 80, which is quite a phenomenal piece of hardware. It sounds great and is easy to use. I also found myself listening to music more and I've almost completely stopped yelling at my kids to stop having so much fun (just kidding) while I'm working, thanks to the active noise cancellation technology.

But...

There was one complaint I had... When I used it as a headset my voice was muted... like when you talk with fingers in your ears. You only hear the vibrations through your jawbone... which is usable... but definitely not ideal. With one ear headsets, you have an open ear so you can still hear yourself talk and it is more natural.

Well today's blog post is the result of @mitchsteiner and I having a conversation about the Evolve 80 and he was complaining that his voice was too LOUD. I thought to myself... how can that be... I hear nothing and it is too loud for him... there must be a way to adjust this. So as Mitch and I talked he called it sidetone and that is what I started my search for.

After searching for awhile on Jabra's website I came across the ability to adjust the "sidetone" audio, which kudos to Mitch for actually calling it what it was and proof that if you have traditional voice skills they never die.

So here it is in all its glory...

How to adjust sidetone for your Jabra Evolve 80

1. Open the Windows control panel and access the Sound control panel applet.

2. Select "Playback" tab and then right-click the Jabra EVOLVE LINK MS device and choose "Properties"



3. Once the Headset Earphone Properties have displayed, Choose the "Levels" tab.


4. On the "Levels" tab you will see an item for "Sidetone". Mine was set to -18 dB and I needed a slight adjustment to -15 dB. In order to set the level you will need to get on a phone call with a buddy and talk while you adjust and click "OK" (sorry no "Apply"). To hear the change you might have to change to much louder than -15dB and then bring it down to your liking.


5. Enjoy and show your friends.

I would like to make special note that this is a USB ONLY function. If you plug the headset straight into a mobile device this Sidetone function is not there.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

My views on what HoloLens means for Unified Communications

Warning... this is strictly an opinion piece with a lot of wishful thinking.

Wow... Microsoft dropped a bombshell on all of us with HoloLens. I spend a lot of time talking about technology with my kids (I have 5 in case you are wondering) and what the future could look like. I've been hoping for something like HoloLens for a very long time. I talk with my kids about how computing can be different, how user interfaces will change and what it could mean for how we interact with the world. Of course with kids you just have to give them that little push and their minds go crazy with possibilities because they don't know the boundaries that adults do.

One of my dreams is to be able to record every part of my real life and then be able to replay past events at will and have them projected via Augmented Reality into real life so I can see them again. Get to experience people from my past and see those little nuisances about them as humans that get lost in memories sometimes. I don't expect HoloLens to do this out of the box of course... but it is the first step in that direction.

My kids of course see completely different possibilities... it was a lot of fun to show them the video of the news briefing and to see them sucked in by the magic of the HoloLens technology... then the video showed a Minecraft like game that was being played in the real world and their little brains literally exploded. This was something they knew... but completely played in a different context.



Their brains exploded yet again when the video blew up a wall with Minecraft TNT and revealed a whole world behind it with the wall becoming Minecraft blocks.



Suddenly they weren't limited to the Minecraft world that is finite... as one of my daughters put it... "I can build a castle in the backyard now (we have over 2 acres). See how they have no boundaries?

We went on to talk more about how it could be used, very excitedly I might add.

My oldest daughter asked "do you think I could design dresses for my sisters and see what they look like on them before I make them?"

Another daughter thought about her drama class and everyone having a HoloLens and being able to see their stage design and practice on the stage before it was even built.

My 15 yo son being a recent Star Trek fan (yes he watched all the seasons on Netflix... from the beginning) saw the possibility of Holodeck like experience but was quick to point out that the Holodeck can create real objects you can interact with... and not holograms.


But listening about my kids and their ideas about the HoloLens isn't why you pulled up my blog (although that may get me more visits)... 


Unified Communications and the HoloLens

When I saw HoloLens for the first time during the Windows 10 news briefing my mind was going crazy with what this means for Unified Communications. I think for many of us, we've been waiting for the "what is next" for Unified Communications and I believe HoloLens is it. Obviously Microsoft already sees it as a communications tool because they showed clips of it being used as such.

A woman walking through an office environment having a video conversation with a colleague who mentions uploading a file to OneDrive, then I assume what he uploaded becomes viewable to her instantly.




In another demonstration a woman is trying to fix a drain and again is having a video conversation, but now the person on the other end can draw indicators as to what to do that become holograms for the woman in her real life view.



In another view we see two people interacting with the surface of the planet Mars and the other person is represented as an avatar. They are both collaborating with the surface of Mars and indicating where they want to do the work.



We already know that Skype and Lync are sharing a lot of technologies, and the next version of Lync will be called Skype for Business. We also know that Microsoft is creating an Enterprise version of the HoloLens. So I think it is safe to assume that anything that the HoloLens can do with Consumer Skype will apply to Skype for Business.

HoloLens and the Skype for Business Call Center

One of the more exciting things that popped in my mind was a Consumer Skype calling a Skype for Business Call Center using HoloLens. Think about product support where it is really hard to describe your problem and even harder to tell someone the solution (like installing a light switch). How amazing would it be to see the problem, and then to be able to instruct using holograms as to what to change to fix the issue.

Obviously this could be killer for Help Desk applications, especially hardware issues. But I think more importantly, this would be a key use of the Skype-Lync Federation that Microsoft has been building on and recently added the ability to do Video. Consumer to Business communications is clearly something Microsoft has been trying to crack for a long time.

HoloLens and Skype for Business Meetings

I have a couple different visions for how it could be used.

First of all if we want to take the notion of how meetings are today in the Lync product, I can easily see being able to put different pieces of content/modalities all around your office, on different walls, floating in space in front of you. You won't be limited to the real estate of the computer screens to display all the different modalities. I think it would be really cool to move things around like minority report. Maybe if you want to upload a file from your PC, you look at it and then everything you've uploaded to OneDrive from that PC appears as an option. You literally grab the file using your hands and drag it over to the meeting.

I can also see meeting rooms setup to hold meetings where avatars represented by holograms appear in seats and the content appears in various places around the room. When someone speaks, the audio appears to come from that direction. With the ability for people to indicate with holograms what they are talking about, suddenly the whiteboard we have today, can become so much more. What happens when a Visio diagram becomes 3D (because at some point it will be a Universal App right?) and now we can interact with each the elements as holographic objects.

Take the last example and lets take it into a Holodeck style room. Now a real estate company can visualize a map of an area and have all the participants again represented by avatars. But now they can collaborate on which areas to focus and maybe even overlay what their new development could look like. Maybe instead they take a walk through of a new building that an architect rendered for them even before it is built.

Conclusion

In my mind, Microsoft has quite a bit of work to do to enable this type of collaboration. We need a new type of media and SDP application type. Skype clients have to be written for the HoloLens that not only can talk to Consumer Skype, but also Skype for Business. That client also needs to be aware of the PC client as well, because along with HoloLens type data, there will no doubt be the need to share Desktops, PPTs, and other more traditional content.  There will be privacy issues that will need to be addressed, because now with a device like this, it will be hard for people to know when they are on camera or not... or even more important when they are being recorded.

Finally I think it would be stupid to not assume that every Unified Communications manufacturer is now starting to brain storm what HoloLens means for them. This is after all a device based on Windows 10 and has an API that they can leverage the same as Microsoft can. Obviously Microsoft has an advantage when developing for their own platform, but none of what I've written here is strictly something that only Microsoft can accomplish.

I'm excited for what the future holds with this new Holographic computing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Gotcha with AudioCodes 2013 SBA Patching

So I happened upon on interesting tidbit of information while patching an AudioCodes SBA today. Unfortunately I was trying to fix a customer issue so I didn't take the time to do screen shots... I'll try to update in the future with a set of screen shots, but hopefully the words will be enough for now.

It used to be on Lync 2010 SBA with AudioCodes they wanted you to patch only by the web interface, I never understood why we couldn't just run the LyncServerUpdateInstaller.exe on the desktop and be done, but like a good installer I know when to push limits and patching ain't one of them. In order to do this you had to extract out 4 patches, which matched up to the components listed in the screenshot below. The screenshot is from a 2013 system, but the 2010 system looks similar. 



Fast forward to 2013 SBA and I dutifully patched all the components listed. However, I happened to run the LyncServerUpdateInstaller.exe just to check and low and behold the Windows Fabric component still needed to be updated. With a big sigh... I got that .msp file and uploaded via the web interface and it said the update completed successfully... Sweet!

Wait... lets check the LyncServerUpdateInstaller.exe file again... nope not updated. "Oh wait" I said to myself in my head... I think it needs a reboot. One reboot later... still not updated.

I finally ran the LyncServerUpdateInstaller.exe and kicked off the update from there... which did require a reboot and low and behold it is now updated.

So with this new found knowledge I decided to go pull down the latest AudioCodes 2013 SBA Update Product Notice from AudioCodes related to updates and guess what? RDP patching is now one of the methods specifically called out. Also of note in that PDF, when you are patching via the web method there is zero mention of the Fabric Update. 

I also did check the latest AudioCodes 2010 SBA Update Product Notice and it allows RDP update too...

But here is the morale of the story for Lync 2013 SBA, patch only via RDP interface for AudioCodes to get all the updates on the box.

You may or may not be able to apply this knowledge to Sonus. Feel free to give feedback if you have experience in that area.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

AudioCodes Configuration Logic

I've been working with AudioCodes products since the early 2000s. My first encounter was a couple of Mediant 2000s with 16 PRIs each. The configuration of those boxes for the most part was handled by following a document provided by Nortel. The funny thing is that most of the documentation over the years that has really helped has been solution specific guides done by a product manufacturer so that Audiocodes can work with their product.

The problem with Audiocodes is that its capabilities are so diverse and flexible that writing a single document that actually helps you through your specific configuration is nearly impossible. Years ago, you could actually download ready made configurations depending on what your PRI connection it was and you would be 99% there. Fast forward to today and configurations aren't that simple anymore.

The number one complaint I hear about Audiocodes is that it is so hard to configure and other products are ready to go in minutes. While I can't create any fancy wizards for Audiocodes configs, I can try to help people understand key parts of the AudioCodes configuration process so that the product is not as frustrating.

Global vs Profiles

One of the big concepts to get with Audiocodes is that there are many parameters that can be set at a Global Level and then overridden by a profile that applies to that feature. Profiles are useful for changing the behavior of communications to a particular system. For instance, if one system supports Early Media, but another does not, with Profiles you can adjust the signalling for each system. This applies not only to the IP side of the gateway, but  also the TDM side if applicable.

Another key concept with profiles is where you can have them applied. Some profiles, like IP Profile can be chosen in several different areas, which I think adds to the confusion on configuration sometimes. For example if I am using an IP Group, I can specify not only a Proxy Set, but also an associated IP Profile. If I'm not using IP Group but instead specifying a single target IP in the routing area, again I can specify an IP Profile on the route itself.

As a best practice, I always use profiles to control the various different features for each system, even if they need similar settings, they each get their own profiles so I can adjust individual settings in the future.

Before I go any further I need to mention a couple of basics. First of all, when looking at the menu's I always recommend changing to the the Advanced or Full view depending on the system you are looking at.



Also, whenever you hit "Submit" the change takes effect immediately unless the system tells you it needs a reset. However, if the system has a power loss and you have not hit "Burn" then the changes are not saved permanently to the configuration. It is a good habit to burn frequently. It only takes once of having to redo your configuration to learn the lesson.


I also highly recommend doing backups of the configuration. Which can be done manually or you can use my PowerShell script to do the backup



IP Groups

IP Groups are awesome because they pull together several different key pieces to communicating with other SIP systems. I use IP Groups primarily because I can specify a Proxy Set which allows for me to specify multiple IP addresses or DNS names for the system to send SIP signalling to, but I can also specify an IP Profile to be used too. This is key if you have multiple servers you need to communicate with that act as a pool or cluster.


Below you can see where we specify a proxy set (identified by a number) and the IP Profile as well. One thing to keep in mind is that you have to specify a SIP Group Name which ends up being the portion after the "@" in a SIP URI. The AudioCodes gateway/SBC doesn't really care what you put in here, but the far end system might. In the example I used the IP address configured on the AudioCodes network interface that communicates with that system. The network interface used is controlled by the SRD and Media Realm specified. If you have a system that uses a single IP, SRD and Media Realms is not used.


In the example below this is an SBC Enabled Mediant, so the SBC settings are exposed in the IP Group. Below are the defaults, which are fine most of the time, but if you needed to do some message manipulations for this IP Group this is where it would be specified.




IP Profiles

 As mentioned before, IP Profiles control much of the SIP signalling and allow for adjustment per system we are communicating with.


I think many of the parameters are self explanatory, and if not the documentation can help understand what each of these parameters do. Most of the really good stuff in the example I've provided is in the SBC section below. If you have a TDM based gateway there options are different but many are similar.


The SBC area of the IP Profile is really one of the key aspects of SIP Signalling and truly is what makes an SBC a Back to Back User Agent and allows for the adjustment of signalling between disparate systems. As an example, one of the latest items I've had to adjust was the hold format to Intelepeer SIP Trunk that did not like the hold format Lync used. 

Because this was an SBC Application enabled configuration, I could accept the hold format from Lync and send a different hold format to Intelepeer. Another piece that can be useful is controlling the REFER behavior, which sometimes has to be set to Handle Locally to keep disparate systems happy that don't understand REFER.


Coder Group

Coder Groups are pretty basic allowing you to specify a codec list and features (such as silence suppression) to be used when specified in an IP Profile above. If you have ever heard of transcoding between different codecs, this is where that magic happens for AudioCodes. You can specify G.711 for one IP Group and IP Profile and then specify G.729 in a different IP Group and IP Profile combination.


Tel Profile

This is taken from a TDM based system and not the same as the examples above from an SBC. I wanted to talk a bit about Tel Profiles because I've found having a different one for each one of your TDM lines is crucial. Tel Profile for each TDM trunk is specified in the Hunt Group area when you define what your different ports are doing.

Why?

Couple of features... Echo and Analog DID.

Controlling the volume is key for solving echo issues. Other than misconfigured microphones, the number one cause of echo issues is volume being too loud. Being able to control volume from PSTN (Input Gain) and to the PSTN (Voice Volume) for those lines that are too loud is the key feature that helps address the issue. Why is this? Because when the volume is too loud the reflected audio back from the far end isn't detected by the echo canceler and allowed to pass through as normal audio. If you wanted to see this for yourself, increase the volume to the PSTN to the point where it causes echo.

Also, if you have the unfortunate luck to encounter a site with Analog DID then Polarity Reversal and Enable DID Wink are key features in the Tel Profile you will need to enable on a per port basis.



VoIP Routing

One of the more confusing aspects of the AudioCodes configuration is VoIP routing (non SBC Application). The key is to make note of where the communications is coming from. This determines which of two routing tables you will hit. If the call is starting from the TDM/PSTN world, then you will hit the Tel to IP routing table. If you are starting from another SIP system or SIP Trunk then you will hit the IP to Tel routing table.

Sometimes, it is necessary to route from PSTN to an Analog port and in order to accomplish this you have to route the call to the gateway itself. The first line below is an example of that. Once you do this you will now hit the IP to Tel routing table which allows to routing to a Hunt Group (which in turn was assigned an Analog port).

Conversely, if you start in from another SIP system and you need to route to another SIP system through the Audiocodes, the call would hit the IP to Tel routing table first. The key to routing to the Tel to IP routing table going this direction is sending it to Hunt Group "-1". This technique may be necessary if you need to route analogs from MediaPack to MediaPack and want to keep it entirely in the AudioCodes world.



One other thing that almost always comes up is manipulation of numbers either Destination (Called) or Source (Calling). In the screenshots above the setting is to Route before Manipulation. This is my preferred method, but it is important before you start manipulating to understand if the manipulation will occur before or after routing. This will determine which numbers you put in your routing tables.

Now that I've mentioned this, I try very very hard not to do any manipulations in the gateway/SBC. I prefer to do all this in Lync. Sometimes there is no way around it, especially if you need to deal with manipulations when doing Fax or other analog solutions.



Dialing Plan Notations for Prefixes and Suffixes 

AudioCodes is not nearly as flexible as RegEx when it comes to number matching, but it isn't terrible if you know what you are doing. Below is from the AudioCodes documentation.

The dialing plan notation applies to the Number Manipulation tables, 'Tel to IP Routing' table and 'IP to Trunk Group Routing'. The dialing notation applies to digits entered for the destination and source prefixes to represent multiple numbers.

[n-m] Represents a range of numbers. Note: Range of letters is not supported. 
Example [5551200-5551300]#: represents all numbers from 5551200 to 5551300. ��123[100-200]#: represents all numbers from 123100 to 123200.

[n,m,...] Represents multiple numbers. Up to three digits can be used to denote each number.
[2,3,4,5,6]#: represents a one-digit number that starts with 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. �� [11,22,33]xxx#: represents a five-digit number that starts 11, 22, or 33.
[111,222]xxx#: represents a six-digit number that starts 111 or 222.

x Represents any single digit. 54324: represents any number that starts with 54324.

Pound sign (#) at the end of a number Represents the end of a number. 54324xx#: represents a 7-digit number that starts with 54324.

A single asterisk (*) Represents any number. *: represents any number (i.e., all numbers).

Conclusion

Give me some feedback on whether this hit the mark or not. I have a lot of information about AudioCodes up in my head and like the people that write the documentation, it is difficult to get it into a usable format for a wide audience.