Can you hear me now? Tales from a Cisco voice instructor


April 23, 2011  9:49 PM

New Personal Tracking Software is Creepy

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Do you ever get that feeling that you are being watched? Well, it may be more than a feeling. A new piece of software is making it easier for people to track where you have been, when you went there, that is, of course, if you post your Twitter or Facebook status when you are out and about.

The software is called Creepy and it can extract the geolocation information that is included with most types of mobile posts to social sites. Alla person has to do is enter their handle (user name) and if they have made mobile posts, others will be able to see where you were and when you were there.

The program was not created to be used by stalkers, but rather to try to bring to light that every time you are online you leave a breadcrumb of trails. Often that trail says nothing more than you like buying collectible coasters on ebay or you are really into turtle egg soup. But this trail is an actual trail of your daily whereabouts.

There are other sites like pleaserobme.com which previously used Twitter updates to show how many people unwittingly were telling the world they weren’t home. Pleaserobme.com has since stopped posting this information as they feel they have proved their point and don’t feel anything can be gained by continuing to do this. But since Creepy is a program someone can install on their own, turning it off isn’t so easy. Now that the software is out in the wild, there is no way to control how it is used or who uses it.

So, how do you protect yourself from falling victim to this? Well, the most logical way is not to post to social websites when you are on the road. However, if you feel you must, you could try a few of the following tips:

Be inconsistent with your post. Don’t post the same time from the same place everyday. This will prevent someone from learning your patterns.

Don’t post when you are alone.

Don’t state how long you will be somewhere

If possible, remote into your home PC and post from there. This way your real geolocation information won’t be attached to the post.

In the end, the most important thing is to know that you can be tracked and act accordingly. It is better to always act as if you are being watched because maybe you are.

April 18, 2011  10:15 AM

Make Your PC Boot in Under 30 Seconds

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Earlier this week I spent a day refreshing my laptop. If you use Windows, I am sure you know what I am talking about. All is great when you get you new PC. It is faster than any PC you ever had before and then you start to use it. In about a month you start to notice a slow down, but nothing you can’t live with. At least it’s still better than your old PC. Within about 6 months, it is so slow you start to think that your old PC was faster. Sooner or later you have to break down and blow away your PC and start over. It’s a pain, but a price you are willing to pay to get some speed back. Here’s the kicker – even after doing all that it still takes my PC several minutes to fully boot. This normally isn’t a problem since I don’t have to boot my PC everyday.

But what about those times when you are on the road and as soon as you power down your PC you think of one more thing you need to look up on the Internet or realize you forgot to send an email? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could boot your PC in less than 30 seconds and take care of that quick task? Well, today I found a way to do that. There is an OS called Splashtop that can be run co-resident on a Windows PC. Once installed, you have the option to boot Windows or Splashtop. My PC boots Windows in around three minutes, but with Splashtop it boots in just under 30 seconds. Spalshtop is what one might call a web OS. Once booted the only interface a user has access to is a web browser. At first this seems very limiting, but it really isn’t. For many users the majority of what they use their PC for is done within a browser. Just think about it, email, Facebook, YouTube, and, of course, web surfing. Splashtop also supports web apps that can be found in the Chrome app store, which allows even more functionality to be added.

While Splashtop won’t replace your Windows OS, it will certainly come in handy when you need to quickly boot your PC or maybe make a nice alternative for that relative that is always calling you because they loaded something on their PC that they shouldn’t have (yes Mom, I am talking about you).


April 14, 2011  3:05 PM

The Cisco Flip, Flops

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Last week Cisco surprised many people when John Chambers said that they were going to drop the somewhat popular Flip camera. To be honest, I was surprised when they made the acquisition in the first place, but it seemed to work for them – at least that what it looked like. Cisco made a conscious decision to get into the home networking market when they acquired Linksys, so the Flip acquisition seemed like the next move in this area.

So what went wrong? Why didn’t it work out? It reminds me of a quote I heard once, “It is impossible for an individual to consistently act in a way that is inconsistent with ones nature.” Cisco’s nature is networking. That is what they do, and they do it well. Be it IP, voice, video or storage networks, networks is where Cisco excels. This is why the Linksys acquisition made sense and the Flip did not. Another thing that caused the Flip to lose some of its appeal is that nowadays many phones can record video at 720p. Who wants to carry around two devices if they don’t have to?

Another product that Cisco launched that I didn’t quite see how it would be successful is the UMI. The UMI is a high definition video conferencing solution aimed at the home market. The cost is around $600 per unit plus a monthly fee for each location. I just didn’t see these landing in many living rooms. Well, they haven’t abandoned this product, but they did move it to their Cisco Business TelePresence product line and will be marketing it as an enterprise product instead of a home product.

To be honest, these decisions make me feel good. It looks like Cisco is getting back to doing what they do best, networking.


April 6, 2011  1:10 PM

Dos and Don’ts to Avoid Spam and Phishing

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

This morning I received my fifth email stating that my email information may have been compromised. As you most likely know by now, a company called Epsilon was compromised by hackers last week and an untold number of email addresses and names may have been obtained. The reports claim that only email addresses and names were obtained.  If all that was obtained were email address and names, one wonders how much damage could be done –  plenty!  As this was a fairly large penetration.

There are a number of things that could  be done with this information which range from minor annoyances to major pain for the customer. For example, the addresses could be used to send spam or, more likely, phishing schemes.

So know the question is, how can you protect yourself now that your data may be in the hands of individuals that maye have less than honorable intentions? Here are list of dos and don’t when it comes to email.

DON’T open email that you have any suspicion may not be legitimate. If it is legitimate and the individual trying to contact you really needs to, they will try another means.

DON’T open attachments that you were not expecting. Especially ZIP files and NEVER run exe files.

DON’T use your company email address for personal things.

DON’T ever send credit card or other sensitive information via email.

DO call a company that you received a suspicious email from to see if it is legitimate but DO NOT use the phone contained in the email. Check a recent statement from the company to get an legitimate phone number.

DO use a separate email account for things like shopping online. It’s easy enough to get a gmail account. You could go as far as to register your own domain and use a different email address for each account you sign up for. This allows you to see what account is creating the spam and terminate it.

DO use a webmail client (such as gmail.com) as they are more resistant to some types of self replicating spam. Mobile devices such as iOS based (iPhone, iPod and iPads), and Android are also less susceptible to these forms of spam.

DO use common sense. If it looks like spam and it smells like spam, then it probably is.


March 31, 2011  7:34 AM

Cisco Unified Communications Small Office Solution

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Cisco has recently released its newest unified communications system, but this time the target customer is a bit different than it was for past products. This new system is called the Cisco Small Business Unified Communications 320, and it is aimed at offices that only need 24 phones or less. While this is not the first time Cisco has released a Unified Communications system for small offices, this model seems to be a bit more refined than earlier offerings. This device offers the following features:

  • 4 port Gigabit Ethernet Ports
  • VLAN Support
  • 802.11 b/g/n WAP
  • SIP trunk support
  • 12 FXO ports
  • Integrated voicemail and auto-attendant

The amazing part of this device is that Cisco packed all of this functionality into a package about the size of a home router. All you have to do is add a 24 port switch and this little box can handle all of the data and voice needs of many small businesses. You will also need phones, but the fact that this device supports the low cost Cisco SPA300 and SPA500 SIP phones means the entire solution is much more cost effective then other Cisco Unified Communications solutions. And with the economy like it is, the ability to deliver cost effective solutions is more critical then ever before.


March 30, 2011  5:24 PM

Configuring Communications Manager Departmental Speed Dials

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

I had a student ask a question today that I have heard a number of times before. I had the answer ready and then at the very end of the question he added something that made the question slightly different. I had to stop and think about it for a minute. He was asking about configuring corporate speed dials in Cisco Unified Communications Manager. As I mentioned in a blog a while back, Cisco does not have corporate speed dial function per say, but you can use translation patterns to simulate them.

The twist the student threw me was that they wanted departmental speed dials. For example, he wanted to assign 50 speed dials to the sales department and 50 different speed dials to the warranty department. His integrator recommended that they use abbreviated dials. While this works, it requires that the speed dials be configured on all the phones in a given department. Once this is done it works well enough until they have to change one speed dial. In order to do this they have to change the speed dial on every phone in that department.

The solution we came up with is very similar to the solution I described here. Here’s the short description of how it works. Translation patterns are created which changed the number defined as the speed dial to a fully qualified number. For instance, to configure speed dial 01 which would result in 810-555-5555 being called, a translation pattern of *01 is created and the called party transformation mask is set to 8105555555.

The main difference is that they required that when sales dialed a speed dial, such as *01, it called a different number than when the warranty department dialed it. The solution was to create multiple translation patterns and place them in different partitions.  For example, for the sales department a translation pattern of *01 is created and assigned to the Sales_SD_PT partition. For the warranty department another translation pattern of *01 is created and assigned the Warranty_SD_PT partition.

Next, the Calling Search Space (CSS) for the devices in each department needs to be updated to include the appropriate partition. If the devices in both departments currently use the same CSS, a separate one for each department needs to be created.


March 28, 2011  9:47 PM

Take Five and Learn Something New Today

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Want to learn how to change a flat tire or learn about poisonous birds?  Or maybe you need to know how to transfer data from you old iPad to your new one. Well, if you have five minutes, I’ve got the site for you. 5min.com is a site that provides a wide variety of short instructional and DIY videos. Many are around five minutes long, which allows you to view them even if you only have a few minutes on your hands.

The range of topics is pretty impressive and ranges from art to video games and nearly everything in between. There are over 20 topics and include over 140 subtopics. If there is a specific topic that you are interested in, you can use the site’s search option. However, I find it more entertaining and informative to just browse around the site and see what catches my eye.

So what’s the catch? I don’t know that I would call it a catch, but the site is ad supported. This means that you have to view a short ad before the video plays. The ads aren’t that long and seem like a small price to pay to view the videos. The video player interface offers a few features that come in handy when viewing instructional videos such as zooming, slow motion, and scene selection.

So, the next time you want to learn how to make Spicy Chicken Drumettes or want to see how to do the Stingway Shuffle, jump over to 5min.com.


March 25, 2011  8:18 AM

Customize How You Share Your Dropbox

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Got a file you need to share with a friend? No problem! There are about a million different tools you can use to do that. The easiest, of course, is to email it to them. But let’s say you have 50 photos you want to share with friends and family. You could zip them up and email them a single file. However, you will most likely end up with two things. The first, a very large file and the second, a bunch of computer illiterate friends calling you asking what a Zip file is and what they should do with it.

Another way to do this is to post the photos to Dropbox and share them. If you don’t know what Dropbox is, it is a service that allows you to upload files and store them on the “cloud.” You can get a free account that gives you 2 GB of space. It allows you to share folders, but a new site called Views.FM allows more flexibility and a cleaner user interface.

Views.FM is linked to your Dropbox account and is just a front-end service. No files are actually stored at Views.FM. While some of the things Views.FM allows you to do can be done directly from within Dropbox, there are a few features that allow you to add more customization. The first one is that you can choose to share a single file. This is handy if you want to share a document that you have in a folder but don’t want others to view other documents. The other thing that really makes this interface stand out is how clean and simple it is. Thumbnails of all the photos are automatically displayed for all photos and mp3s can be streamed. Next to each file is a large download link that users simply can’t miss.

One drawback, if you even want to call it that, is that anyone you want to share files with needs to have a Dropbox and a views.FM account. It’s not a big deal, but it is another step that the recipient has to go through the first time they view what you share. All in all it is a nice interface, and you may just want to check it out.


March 22, 2011  7:47 PM

WebEx and the iPad 2

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

I have been using WebEx on the iPad ever since it has been available and, for the most part, I have been pretty pleased with it. The main thing I missed was being able to stream video. This was, of course, due to the fact that the iPad did not have a camera. As I am sure you know by now, the iPad 2 has two cameras, one on the front and one on the back.  You may not know Cisco has released a new version of the iPad WebEx app that allows you to stream video from the iPad.

I had a chance to play around with this new version of WebEx today, and I was very pleased with the results. I was connected over a rather slow DSL link and the video transfer was very clean. I did not encounter any noticeable frame loss. I happen to use Cisco’s new high quality video WebEx system while testing this and that simply made the experience that much better. In addition to streaming video, here are a few other features the new WebEx app offers:

  • Log in to see My Meetings
  • Schedule, start, and cancel a meeting
  • Invite others to a meeting
  • Pass presenter capabilities to another participant
  • High-quality, multipoint video
  • Voice-activated video switching
  • Full-screen video
  • Floating video window

If you have an iPad and you ever attend WebEx meetings, do yourself a favor and download this app.


March 19, 2011  12:34 PM

In Search of the Elusive iPad

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Perhaps you are one of the hundreds of thousands of people that stood in line last Friday to purchase the iPad 2. Or, perhaps you ordered on online as soon as they went on sale. If so, you are not experiencing the joy of being an iPad 2 owner. However, if you are not one of those that currently have one of these devices in hand but desire to, odds are you will be waiting a little while.

I am in the latter camp. I was busy doing frivolous things like working when the iPad 2 went on sale. I was also out of town and figured I would pick one up when I got back home. I really didn’t expect to walk right in and pick one up. I figured I would have to stalk the stores until I found one. My first stop was at Best Buy. I found out that I could reserve one – so I did. I was told that I was pretty close to the front of the line so I would most likely receive mine when the next shipment came in. However, no one would even guess as to when that might be.

One week later…

No call from Best Buy yet, and they have stop taking reservations for the iPad 2. The official statement on their website is:

“We apologize for the inconvenience, however, as of 3/17/11 we will not be taking new reservations for the iPad 2. This is due to uncertainty in inventory levels and to ensure that we successfully fulfill all of the existing orders.”

Meanwhile, over at the Apple store the story is just as bleak. If you order one online today the wait is 4-5 weeks. Add this to the fact that four of the components required to build iPads come from Japan, and the story gets even bleaker.

Lots of people are complaining about the long wait, but I think we all need to stop and realize that we are talking about a gadget, that’s right – it’s just a gadget! It will be obsolete before you know it. After the events that took place in Japan over the last week, it seems that we could spend our time on things more important than wondering when Best Buy is going to call and tell you your dreams have come true and your iPad 2 has arrived. Maybe we could spend just a few minutes doing something to help others, maybe even people halfway around the world that you will never meet.


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