Guess what I did on my flight from San Francisco to L.A? I took a Cisco class.
A while back I blogged about Cisco’s iPhone app called M-learning. Recently they have added an iPad app that allows you to access the same type of content, but takes advantage of the larger screen that the iPad offers. I took this app for a spin the other day, and I can say that, while the iPhone app is convenient, having it run on the iPad made it much more useful for me.
The content that I viewed was comprised of a number of videos and an interactive assessment. While you can view the videos from the iPhone app, the size of the screen often causes some of the information to be so small that you can’t make out exactly what you are looking at. The large screen of the iPad eliminates this problem. Don’t get me wrong, if you only have an iPhone the content is still viewable, but you may find yourself wishing the screen was just a little bigger.
The assessment test really impressed me. It is a combination of multiple choice and matching (drag and drop) questions. The interface is very intuitive and offers an experience very similar to that of the actual certification tests. The real value of the assessment test is what happens after you take the test. You are, of course, presented with your score and shown which questions you got correct and incorrect. You can then choose to review the questions. When you review the questions you are shown which answer is correct and offered an explanation as to why the answer is the correct one. For the ones you got incorrect you are offered an explanation as to why your answer was not correct.
To truly appreciate this type of learning you have to understand that is not necessarily a replacement for other type of training, but rather another way to learn. In today’s world things are changing faster than ever before, and you are going to have to take advantage of all types of new tools to keep up with technology.
I was working on a project today that required me to copy information from one PowerPoint file to another. While this is not a difficult process due to the number of slides I was dealing with, I thought it would be nice to have two instances of PowerPoint open so I could quickly cut and paste between the two. The only problem is that Office 2007 doesn’t let you run two instances of PowerPoint. You can open multiple files, but they all open in the same window. I wanted them in separate windows so that I could have one open on each monitor. IMO this is stupid and it was time for a hack.
While it looks like Office only allows one instance of PowerPoint to be running, it really allows one instance per user. So the answer is to have two users open PowerPoint. To do this all you need to do is create a new user account and use the runas command.
I created an account called “PwerPt” and assigned the password of “1a2b3c” You can, of course, name the account anything you want. Once the account is created, open a command prompt and enter the following command:
runas /user:PwerPt “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\POWERPNT.EXE”
Of course, you will need to replace PwerPt with the name of the user you created and you may need to modify the path so that it points to the path that PowerPoint is located on your system.
Now open PowerPoint as you normally do and you will have two separate instances of PowerPoint running.
In the last article we started looking at the steps required to configure intercoms in Communications Manger. The steps for creating the intercom partitions and calling search spaces were discussed. The next thing you need to do is create an intercom Directory Number (DN) and assign it to a phone. This can be done as two separate tasks or a single task.
The two-task approach requires you to first create the intercom DN. This is done from the Call Routing > Intercom>Intercom Directory Number menu in CCMAdmin. Creating intercom DNs this way allows you to create and configure a range of intercom DNs instead of one at a time. Once created, you must assign it to the phone. In the single task approach, the intercom DN is created when it is assigned to the phone. If you are only creating a of couple intercom DNs, this may be the desired approach.
The following are the steps required to create and assign an intercom DN using the single task approach. Many of the fields are the same as those that are configured when you create a standard DN. These steps only look at the fields that are required or unique to intercom DNs.
1. Select Device > Phone from within CCMAdmin.
2. Click the Find button.
3. Select the phone from the list that displays.
4. On left side of the screen, click the Add a new Intercom. If this link is not shown, you need to create a phone button template that has an intercom button defined and assign it to this phone.
5. Enter the DN in the Intercom Directory Number field.
6. Select the desired partition from the Route Partition drop-down list.
7. Select the desired intercom calling search space from the Calling Search Space drop-down list.
8. In the Speed Dial field enter the number of the intercom DN that should be dialed when this intercom button is pressed.
9. Click Save.
Once you have created and assigned an intercom DN to two phones, each listing the others intercom’s DN in the speed dial field, you should have a functioning intercom.
In my last post we looked at the intercom feature that is available in the current version of Communications Manager. In this post we are going to take a look at the actual steps that are required to configure an intercom. Four things must be done to configure an intercom. They are:
1. Create intercom partitions.
2. Verify/Modify auto-generated calling search spaces.
3. Create intercom directory numbers.
4. Assign intercom directory numbers to the phone.
Let’s start with configuring an intercom partition. Here are the steps for creating one:
1. Navigate to Call Routing > Intercom > Intercom Route Partition from within CCMAdmin.
2. Click Add New.
3. In the Name field of the new screen that appears, enter the name and description of the new intercom partition. A comma must be placed between the name and description.
4. Click Save.
When you create an intercom partition, an intercom Calling Search Space (CSS) is automatically created. When the CSS is automatically created, it is given the same name as the partition followed by a “_GEN.” For example, if the partition was named Tech_Intercom, the CSS would be named, Tech_INtercom_GEN. You may want to edit this CSS if the line that you use as the intercom line is going to be allowed to dial destinations other than another intercom in the same partition.
The following steps show how to modify the CSS.
1. Navigate to Call Routing > Intercom > Intercom Calling Search Space from within CCMAdmin.
2. Click Find.
3. A list of intercom CSSs appears. Select the one you want to modify by clicking on the name of it.
5. From the Available Intercom Partitions field, highlight the partition you want to add to the CSS and click the down arrow below the field. The selected partition should appear in the Selected Intercom Partitions field.
Remember that the order that the partitions appear in the CSS is the order in which they will be searched.
Now that the partitions and CSSs are configured you need to create the intercom directory numbers and assign them to the phones. The steps to configure this will be cover in my next post.
In earlier versions of Communications Manger there was no real intercom feature. You had to create speed dial buttons and set lines for auto-answer to emulate an intercom. While this worked for the most part, it did have issues. The biggest was when the phone auto-answered, it created a two-way audio stream. The problem was that if the called party was in the middle of a conversation and didn’t realize the line auto-answered, the calling party might overhear something they shouldn’t. The other issue was that if the called party was on a call, the intercom line did not auto-answer, making the intercom line non-functional.
In current versions of CM, a true intercom feature was added to audio stream. This feature allows you to configure intercoms that setup a one-way until the called party pressed the intercom button, at which time a two-way audio stream is setup. The one-way audio is refereed to as “audio whisper.” Another nice feature is if the called party is on another call, the audio whisper is still setup and the called party can hear the intercom caller.
There are basically four steps required to setup the intercom feature. They are:
1. Create intercom partitions.
2. Verify that the auto-generated calling search space is created.
3. Create intercom directory numbers.
4. Assign intercom directory numbers to the phone.
While there are only four steps, most of these steps require that a number of parameters be configured. In future posts we will take a look at the details for each of these tasks.
As you can see, the intercom feature has solved a number of the issues that the old work around had. One thing that some people do not like about the intercom feature is that it requires one of the phone buttons be dedicated for intercom use. I was recently showing a customer how this new feature worked. When I finished showing them they said, “that’s great, but all of the phones we have only have two buttons and they are already used.” That kind of took the winds out of my sails. I guess I could have looked at it as a sales opportunity. Besides telling them to buy all new phones (not a real solution) there wasn’t much I could do. While the new intercom feature isn’t perfect, it is a lot better than the old work around.
Have you ever wished you could change the caller ID information that was sent when you placed a call? This could come in handy when the person you are trying to reach is avoiding your call. Well, Cisco Communications Manager allows you to do this. However, it isn’t so that you can make prank calls.
In most offices, phones have four or five digit extension numbers. These are often the last four or five digits of the Direct-Inward-Dial (DID) phone number of the phone. By default, the extension number assigned to the phone is sent as the caller ID. For internal calls this makes perfect sense, but not for external calls. Imagine you get a call and the caller ID is 5734. I am not sure about you, but I might not even bother answering that call. In order to send out the Fully Qualified Number (FQN), an External Phone Number Mask can be assigned to a Cisco IP phone.
The configuration is actually done on the line level of the phone. Wildcards are used so that the extension number can be preserved and the rest of the number prepended to it. For example, if the extension number is 2002 and the FQN is 555-555-2002 the external phone number mask would be 555555XXXX. The X allows the original extension to pass through the mask. Figure 1 offers a graphical representation of how this works.
In some cases you may want to send out the company’s main number instead of the DID. This can be done be assigning the main number as the external phone number mask. For example, if the extension number is 2002 and the main number is 555-5555-5000 simply assign 5555555000 as the external phone number mask. Since no wildcards are in the mask, none of the extension number digits will pass through and 555-555-5000 will be sent out as the caller ID.
You may have heard the term “mobility” lately. It seems to be one of the latest buzz words. As with any buzz word, the exact definition of mobility is greatly dependent on who you ask. This is even true with Cisco mobility. The reason for that is that Cisco mobility is made up of a number of different products and features. This allows customers to pick and choose which features they want to deploy. In this blog I want to take a look at two of Cisco’s mobility features, Mobile Connect and Mobile Voice Access.
Mobile Connect allows a number of a number of different phones to ring when someone calls your office number. For example, you can configure it to ring your office, cell, and home phone. This allows the caller to always reach you by dialing one number no matter where you might be. This feature is often referred to as Single Number Reach (SNR). In addition to being able to answer the call from any of the phones, you are able to transfer the call between the Cisco IP phone and a cell phone. This is useful when you take a call in the office and end up needing to leave the office before the call ends. Simply press a button and the call is transferred to your cell phone. This can occur without the caller ever knowing the call was transferred.
Cisco Mobile Voice Access (MVA) allows you to place calls from the office even if you aren’t in the office. The way this works is the user dials into the MVA server and then dials the number they wish to reach. The call then originates from the office. By dialing this way the called party receives the caller ID of the caller’s office phone. This is useful if you only want to share your office number. This also encourages the people you call to dial you back at the office number which will then extend the call to all of your phones, if you are using Mobile Connect. You can see how these two features really compliment each other.
This week has been stressful for me, VERY stressful. I am teaching an extended hours class and have to finish writing my latest book by tomorrow. This has caused late nights and little sleep all week. This, of course, caused me stress but it seems like there was something else adding to it, and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Then I stumbled across an article that was reporting about a study done by East Carolina University that claims plying video games can help you relax. That’s when it hit me! Since I am traveling I haven’t been able to play my Xbox. OK, maybe it’s more the crazy schedule than the fact that I am not playing games at night. But the fact that video games may help reduce stress is interesting.
The study was underwritten by PopCap (makers of Bejeweled and such) so some may lend less credence to the study, but I think most will look pass that. The study focused on casual games and claims that playing casual games can reduce the symptoms of depression by as much as 57%. If you are interested in reading more you can find the study here.
What the study doesn’t tell us is the effect that the non-casual games have on your stress level. Some would assume that they increase your stress since the many of the games simulate high stress situations. While I do agree that sometimes the games I play increase my pulse, I find that they allow me to forget about the worries of the day and focus on something completely different. I think the distraction helps reduce my overall stress level. And hey, even if it doesn’t, that’s my story and I am sticking to it.
I got an interesting email today and I wanted to take a minute to share it with you. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you may remember that I blogged about Cisco’s Support Communities awhile back. These communities are places you can go to and view videos, read articles, and ask questions about various Cisco products. There are a number of communities, and they cover pretty much every technology that Cisco is involved with. Well, today’s email gave me one more reason to visit these communities, they are giving away a couple of iPads. Of course as with any “giveaway” there is a catch. You have to update your biography and expertise fields. I guess that’s not a huge price if I win. I know the odds are against me, but someone’s got to win, right?
If you have a few minutes, it might be worth your time to checkout Cisco’s Communities. Even if you don’t win an iPad, you will find a lot of good information there.
Imagine waking up tomorrow morning having no email in your inbox. That doesn’t sound like a bad thing does it? Then imagine that you are unable to access the Internet, no email, no online news, no online anything. How would that impact your life? OK, now calm down because the odds of that happening are very low. However, the Internet is about to have a space issue. The short and simple explanation is that we are about to run out of IPv4 addresses. You probably already know that all devices that connect to the Internet must have an IP address. IPv4 is the most widely used IP version today. The problem with IPv4 is that the number of unique addresses it can support is less than the number of devices that need to access the Internet. As a matter of fact, as of early this week there are no IPv4 addresses left in reserve. It became apparent several years ago that this was going to happen, so IPv6 was created. The problem is that many have been slow to adopt IPv6. The reason for this is mainly that it is change and change cost money. You know that old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, that is the attitude many took.
How could this happen? Why didn’t they design IPv4 to handle a larger number of devices? Well, IPv4 can support about 4 billion unique addresses. That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It sure sounded like a lot when IPv4 was first design. Actually, 4 billion is a lot until you think about how many IP enabled devices there are today. How many devices that you personally own require an IP address? Let’s start counting, your PC, DVR, game console, cell phone, printer, and the list goes on. Take my parents for example, they are on what I would call the low tech side of things, but they have at least five devices that require IP addresses. Take someone like myself and you are looking at least 20. You multiply that by the number of families in the world that have Internet access and all of the sudden 4 billion seems like a very small number.
So how do we know that in twenty years we won’t be right back here with IPv6? IPv6 can support over 340 undecillion unique numbers. How many is undecellion you ask? It a 1 followed by 36 zeros. It looks like: 1000000000000000000000000000000000000. It has been said that you could assign 100 IPv6 addresses to every atom on the surface of the earth and still have some left over. I haven’t done the math to prove this but if it’s true, we shouldn’t have to worry about running out of addresses.
So what does all of this mean to you? I guess that depends on who you are. If you are simply an average Internet user it will probably mean nothing. If you are someone that has to support a corporate network, it means that you will have eventually upgrade your systems to support IPv6 (if you haven’t already done so). In the end, things should continue to work for the end users just as they do today. That is, of course, if things go as planned. If they don’t go smoothly, you may wake up to no email one day…