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After 60 Days Video Review of Plantronics Blackwire C720

Wendell Martin, Sales Manager at Landis Computer Technology Solutions, gives his experience using the Plantronics Blackwire C720.

Below is our First Impression Review of Plantronics Blackwire C720: click here

What If #Lync Would Get Call Me Using URL Functionality? #WebRTC

 

What if external users could interact with Lync user via a web URL? To initiate communication as opposed to current LWA that requires the Lync user to initiate?

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#Lync News Summary Out of #ITExpo Las Vegas 2013

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Below are some items I’ve noticed around Microsoft Lync coming out of ITExpo Las Vegas 2013. You can book mark as we will update as new items announced.

ITExpo website: click here
Take a look at Lync Partner Solutions Pavilion and events: click here

Announcements

  • 8/28/2013 – Lync TVA Server by Broad-Connect
  • 8/28/2013 – snom demos “Major New Capabilities” on Lync Qualified phones at ITExpo
    • Description: Not announced at this time.
    • Supports Skype to Lync federation: Click Here
    • PR – Click Here
    • Another recently mentioned new Lync Qualified feature: Enhanced Provisioning – Click Here

 

ITEXPO News

  • Tom Keating notes Lync Session “Jam Packed” - Click Here
    • “Digium / Asterisk employee who commented that the WebRTC session he attended and this Lync session were the two most well-attended panels..”

 

Other Recent Announcements

  • Microsoft Lync Resilient Branch Appliance by Audiocodes and Sonus: click here
  • Audiocodes Working to Lync Qualify New Audiocodes 420HD Desk Phone: click here
  • Sangoma: “Lync Express is a big part of what’s happening at Sangoma right now…” click here

First Impression Review Audiocodes 420HD Lync & SIP Desk Phone

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Below is my video review.

Audiocodes HD 420HD

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Side view

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Screen 144x48 pixels

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Wallmount vs Desk configuration

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Wall mount

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Headset, power, PC and Network Ethernet switch

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What’s in the box

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WebGui looks very similar to Audiocodes gateways and is very accessible.

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Codec Support from 420HD web interface shown below. (NOTE: Audiocodes FW release notes indicate Audiocodes has plans to add RTA (Real Time Audio) codec support sometime after Lync certification process complete.

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Summary

Notes: Audiocodes notes they are in the process of obtaining Lync Qualified status for Audiocodes 420HD but at the moment it is not certified   the 420HD has become Lync Qualified on Sept ember 2013. (click here) Since this is a new Lync device (review done using FW 2.0.1.44.5)  some features are currently not implemented that will be on final product.

Pros

  • Overall good design for common area or entry level voice centric IP phone
  • Nice, large, quality feeling, rubberized buttons
  • I like the “Silent” button on incoming call
  • Each number button can be easily assigned a speed dial via a nice phone user interface
  • Everything you need to wall mount is included in the box

Cons

  • No button dedicated to hangup / pickup functionality (depends on context, soft button)
  • No dedicated configurable buttons (often called BLF buttons and lit)
    • NOTE: does support assigning Speeddials to numeric keys
  • Lync functionality is, at the moment, new so has some Lync features not implemented
    • Call Park
    • Lync Contact List
    • Safe transfer

The Audiocodes 420HD seems to me to be a well designed common area and entry level desk phone that can register to Lync and SIP servers. (At the moment the 420HD is not Lync certified) It appears to me that Audiocodes 4xxHD series is designed to be well tuned to the needs of the “PBX experience user”. I think it is good to see Audiocodes planning to join snom and Polycom in the Lync Qualified devices market.

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http://unifiedme.co.uk/2013/07/configuring-audiocodes-400hd-series-phones-with-lync-server-2013/

First Impression Review of Logitech H650e USB Stereo Headset Lync Optimized

 

Below is my video review of the Logitech H650e USB headset that is Lync Optimized.

Logitech has a new focus on enterprise devices branded as “Logitech for Business” and the Logitech USB Headset Stereo H650e is one of the devices in the line up.  (Some others: the Logitech c930e)

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Below is a picture of the headset.  The H650e is a well built headset that has all the standard features you expect from a stereo USB headset. It does stereo, wideband audio, has acoustic echo cancelation and noise cancelling mic.

I would point out the unique flat tangle resistant USB cord.

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The controls for the 650e are on the cord and include: Mute, Pickup/Hang-up, Up and down volume. A nice touch is that you can feel the Up volume versus the Down volume by the raised plus button.

The volume has 25 settings. Top and bottom of range is indicated by a “double beep” and position in range is audibly indicated through the headset.

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To visually set or see the audio, click on Windows Speaker tray icon during a call.

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The Pickup/Hang-up button has a white indicator light and mute has a red light.

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The H650e has a flexible microphone boom that has a rubberized feel. As you will note in the picture above and below, the USB cord is well protected for daily use by “bend protectors” at the plug, controller and entry into the headset, which seems like a very good design to me.

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The H650e has a red light to indicate that headset wearer is on a call. This is viewable from behind.

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Other stuff in the box: getting Started guide, storage/protector pouch and clip to fasten cord.

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The H650e is a Stereo headset so if you want stereo sound delivered when it is available, go into Lync Options | Audio Device and check “Stereo audio playback”. (some premium Lync Optimized device willl create actual stereo sound. examples: Lync Room Systems, the Logitech c930e and some other devices)

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Some Notes

There is also a mono version of the H650e. Also there is a DECT wireless version call the Logitech Wireless Headset Dual H820e. (review coming soon)

Summary

Pros

  • Stereo, Wide Band audio that sounds great to me
  • Tangle resistant USB cord is a nice touch
  • Well protected USB cord looks designed for “Business” everyday use
  • Lync Optimized

Cons

  • at higher volumes I notice a very slight crackle in the feedback audio

My experience with the H650e is that is just works and provides excellent headset quality and experience at a quite reasonable price. When combined with the Logitech c930e you get an audio/video experience with technical specs that, at the moment, are hard to match from another single vendor. If you are a “Plantronics shop”, Logitech for Business is giving some very real reasons to look at alternatives.

New Lync Survivable Branch Option: The Resilient Branch Appliance or RBA Keeps Branches Up Via 3G/4G

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I was just alerted to the fact that there is a new Lync Survivable Branch option called the “Resilient Branch Appliance” or RBA. The RBA brings branch survivability via 3G/4G wireless mobile broadband to keep the signaling and data layers operational during WAN outage.

From my quick reading it appears that 3G/4G keeps signaling, presence, address book and web conferencing going during an outage of WAN. Voice is handled via PSTN breakout.

This means that there are 3 options for branch survivability: RBA, SBA and SBS. Alan Percy, in his article on the Audiocodes RBA, gives the below comparison of the RBA, SBA, SBS:

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An article by Telecom reseller notes that RBA’s are designed for <15 Office # of Seats, which means the RBA is designed for very small offices. (not sure Telecom resellers source for this though)

The RBA is an interesting idea new option in the survivability line-up, but it should be remembered that it’s design will not survive a datacenter WAN interruption.

RBA Models:

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RBA Configuration:

Sonus: Click Here

NOTE: I’m still trying to figure out if this is an official Microsoft moniker or just vendors (Audiocodes and Sonus mention it). I don’t see it mentioned here. or here.

I need to admit that if I had my dream SBA it might include the below features:

  • Ability to do Response Groups locally (& during outage)
  • Ability to do Call Park locally (and have call park for location) (& during outage)
  • some local seamless Voicemail option

See the links below for more information from vendors Audiocodes and Sonus on the RBA:

Audiocodes: http://blog.lyncmigration.com/2013/08/the-cloud-and-lync-survivability.html
Audiocodes models: click here

Sonus
http://stage.sonus.net/sites/default/files/DS_ResilientBranch_9_May_2013.pdf

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Cisco SRST: Click Here

Skype Now Runs In The Browser: Sans-WebRTC & Via Outlook.com

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An tweet by Mark Gillett, CVP Skype & Lync at Microsoft, alerted me to the fact that Skype now runs in the browser via a small plugin.

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How do you get going? Skype didn’t overly advertise to me to download the plugin. Actually I had a little time finding it. (probably looking too hard…) Below are the steps I followed:

Goto People and find a user that is online. Now click on Video Call.

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You will be asked to agree to a TOU & Privacy Policy.

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Now the plugin will start downloading.

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The plugin is approximately 4MB. (as shown below)

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Watch for the Security Warning and click Run

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Done!

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You can now start a call either from the People screen or the Communication pane.

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The Skype plugin is a different Window. (from the browser)image

Call in progress

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Pop out IM during a call

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You can also launch via the Communication pane.

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Our Outlook

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Some notes:

  • Skype from Browser does not require the Skype app, just the plugin
  • The plugin is around 4MB
  • Incoming Calls popup much like Skype client
  • I haven’t figured how to change audio/video devices (if you know, please comment)
  • Make sure geo.gateway.messenger.live.com is not blocked on your network.
  • Multiplatform support (source)
    • Windows: Explorer 8+, Chrome 19, Firefox 12
    • MAC: Chrome, Firefox

It looks like Skype is okay running in the browser. (albeit using a plug-in) Will there be this same openness to running “native” in a browser? Interesting road ahead.

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Skype FAQ: https://support.skype.com/en/faq/FA12247/how-do-i-call-video-call-and-instant-message-my-outlook-com-contacts

Polycom CX500 Wall Mount Kit 2200-44331-001

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The above is a picture of the CX500 Wallmount.

Some quick clarification around Polycom CX500 Wallmout Kit 2200-44331-001:

  • Part number 2200-44331-001 includes only 1 wall mount in the box
  • 2200-44331-001 only works for CX500 (not cx600)
  • The photo/image many websites use for part number 2200-44331-001 is incorrect (many websites are showing SoundPoint wall mount. See the below correct picture)
  • Does NOT mount on standard wall jack phone mount wall plate (example shown below), you will need to drill holes. (drywall screws included)

 

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http://www.homedepot.com/p/GE-1-Wall-Jack-Phone-Mount-Wall-Plate-White-76294/202698507

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snom UC Edition to Get Lync Server Centralized Device Setting Provisioning

 

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According to a recent video created by snom, it appears that snom UC Edition (Lync Qualified) will get another new feature: centralized phone setting provisioning. The video references (but not necessarily limited to) the below settings:

  • Language settings
  • Key assignments
  • Phone user interface customization

The video does not elaborate but considering it notes that “all you need to do is type in your login credentials” it would almost sound like this will somehow leverage native Lync Server functionality.

This is a quite interesting development considering that even Lync Phone Edition devices currently have no way of mass provisioning device and user settings centrally.

Is this the new feature snom has noted it will unveil at IT Expo? I guess we’ll wait and see.

Lync QOS: DSCP Tagging and Testing for Various Vendor Endpoints

 

Setting up DSCP on the Lync Server and Lync client is done via group policy

Elan Shudnow has an excellent article on this so I won’t redo his work. Take a look here:
http://www.shudnow.net/2013/03/03/enabling-qos-for-lync-server-2013-and-various-clients-part/

LPE Edition

It will get its DSCP tagging values directly from Lync Server via the Device Configuration | Voice Quality of Service value:

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snom UC Edition

NOTE: Still checking if snom UC Edition gets DSCP value from Lync Device policy. If you know, welcome your comment.

By default snom UC Edition devices are set to DSCP 40 (which matches Lync Server defaults). To change the DSCP value (or look what it is) log into snom web UI: (NOTE: the below snom device has been changed to DSCP 46 using snom TOS value of 184)

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Here is a chart to cross reference snom TOS value and standard DSCP dec values:

http://wiki.snom.com/FAQ/What_does_the_TOS_value_160_mean

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Audiocodes 4xxHD Series

Voice Over IP | Signaling Protocols | QOS Parameter

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Testing that the DSCP Tag is indeed in place:

Install Wireshark on the PC (to see traffic from Server) and/or Server.

Now expand the “Differentiated Services Field” under “Internet Protocol Version 4” and check the value pointed out in the picture below.

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http://www.tucny.com/Home/dscp-tos

www.Lync.Ideascale.com: Lync Community Feedback Statistics: 14% of Ideas Completed by Microsoft

 

Lync Ideascale is a community based forum started in 2008 to give everyone a way to give quick, structured, informal (Microsoft does not support this community in any way) feedback on the Microsoft Lync product. (actually I started this forum to create an organized way to store my list of wishes, but it quickly became more than that). Since then it has grown to over 350 contributors, 132 ideas and over 13,000 votes. As with other Lync efforts I’ve initiated, this one has grown way beyond what I initially expected.

While started to make a list of “wishes” Lync.ideascale has become much much more valuable in three ways:

  • You can quickly check if you are overlooking a feature, or if indeed it is missing
  • In idea comments there is often a work around for missing feature
  • Microsoft has addressed several of the TOP voted items

Below are some quick statistics to give you an idea what is happening at Lync.Ideascale:

  • 366 Community Contributors
  • Over 13,000 Votes
  • About 300 Comments
  • 132 Ideas
  • 14% of Ideas submitted have been addressed. To see items, click here.

Some quick visual charts:

Idea Status Report: 14% of Ideas Have Been Acted on By Microsoft

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Idea By Category

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Some tips when using Lync.Ideascale

  • Remember: no commitment from Microsoft to watch lync.ideascale
    • (but 14% gives hint it’s not impossible its being watched.)
  • I really suggest when you submit an idea that it be only one well defined item instead of a grab bag of grievances.
    • This lets us easily mark it completed (instead of it being partially compeleted)
    • Others can comment suggested workarounds more clearly
    • Example of good and bad entry
      • Bad: Response Groups have lots of problems
      • Good: Response Group delay on

imageSome other industry mentions I’ve noticed include Bern Elliot of Gartner. I don’t know if this makes compiling the “UC Magic Quadrant” report easier, but it certainly is a ground level view of Lync. Also appreciate the mention on the UC Architects Podcast in Episode 20.(another huge source Lync community created content)

Finally, thanks for you contribution on Lync.Ideascale…It has grown way above my initial expectation due to your help! And thanks for all your contributions to the Lync Community generally, Microsoft Lync is buzzing online because of it.