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


July 27, 2010  12:12 PM

Download Multiple Files/Links at Once

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Every once in a while I find myself at a site that has a ton of good links that I want to save or multiple files that I would like to download. Normally, this would require me to right click on every link and click “save as.” This is kind of a pain especially when there are over 20 files you want to save. A few weeks ago I ran into this when I came across a audio book that I wanted. Sites like Podiobooks.com often post one or two chapters a week so once the whole book is posted it could be several files. The one I was downloading was over 30 files. I was sitting there downloading each file individually and I was thinking, “there must be a better way.” That’s when I stopped downloading and started looking.

I use Firefox, so the first thing I did was search for an extension that would download multiple files or links. I found DownThemAll. Once you install the extension all you have to do is navigate to the page that has the files/links you wish to save then click Tools>DownThemAll!! Tools>DownThemAll!! as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1
Figure 1

The DownThemAll!! interface opens and you are presented with every link on the page. Simply check the links you what to save, select a location to save them, and click start. Happy downloading!

July 21, 2010  9:20 PM

How Secure is Your Password?

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

It seems everyday I have to create a password for some site or application. Being required to have so many passwords tends to make people lazy, and they end up using the same password for everything or, worse yet, they write all their passwords down somewhere. I’m not even going to get into how bad of an idea that is.

Do you have any idea how secure the password you use is? Let’s take a look at a few types of passwords and how long it may take to crack the password.

  • A 6 letter common word in under 5 minutes.
  • A 6 letter word that is not very common may take up to an hour and a half.
  • 6 random letters could take several weeks.
  • 6 random characters including  letters and numbers could take several months.
  • 6 random characters including  letters, numbers, and symbols would take over 200 years.

So, it looks like your password should contain at least six characters made up of letters, numbers, and symbols. While those characteristics do make a secure password, they are not the easiest to remember. Typically, easy to remember passwords are normal words, but as stated above, common words are not secure. The question is, how can we make a secure password that is easy to remember? Let’s take a look at what happens when passwords are made up of multiple common words strung together.

  • Two words together such as rivermoon could take more than two months to crack.
  • Three words together such as riverdaymoon could take several years to crack.

For me, it would be easier to remember riverdaymoon than Za3#h@, but maybe that’s just me.

Hopefully, this offers something to think about next time you have to pick a password. In the end, the  method you choose to create a secure password is up to you. Just make sure the password you pick is a secure one.

Note: Time estimates to crack a password are based on Brute-Force and Dictionary cracking methods.


July 15, 2010  4:12 PM

Free Remote PC Access – No Install Required

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

This must be the week for very cool free things. In my last post I told you that Cisco is offering free WebEx accounts. Well, I just found a service that allows you to remotely control PCs. The uses for this are pretty endless. I use it mostly to help my friends and family when they are having trouble with their PC. In the past I used Logmein.com. I really like Logmein.com, but it requires that you login to the service from the PC you want to install it on. That means I would have to tell the remote user what my password is to the service and then try to walk them through the installation. This new service does not require this.

The new service is called Teamviewer.com. All the remote user has to do is download a file and run it. They don’t even need to install it. When they run the setup file, it will ask them if they want to install it or run it. They simply pick run. A unique ID and password will appear on their screen. All you have to do is enter the ID and password on your PC and you are in.

The features offered by Teamviewer are similar to those found in Logmein.com. However, they do offer a couple things that the free version of Logmein does not, such as file transfer and VPN. Another nice feature is that you can choose to push your screen to the remote PC. This allows you to share a document or show the remote user how to do something. Using a feature called, “Browser based Presentation” you can share your desktop with multiple people. Those viewing your desktop do so using a browser so they don’t even need to download the Teamviewer software.

The software that you need on your end is that same software as the remote end. You can install it or simply run it without installing it. You can also access the remote PCs via a web browser. This is handy if you need to access a PC from a PC that isn’t yours.

Teamviewer works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. There is even an iPhone and iPad client available. The iPhone and iPad clients allow you to access PCs running the Teamviewer software –  it does not allow you to remotely control an iPhone or iPad.

The only limitation I can see with the free version of Teamviewer is that  you can’t use it for commercial purposes. That seems fair to me.


July 13, 2010  12:05 PM

Cisco Offering Free Webex Accounts – Really!

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

How many times have you started to sign up for a “free” service only to find out that it is only a trial? Well, when I saw that Cisco was offering free WebEx accounts, I assumed that it was a trial, but I decided to check it out. It turns out it really is free and it is not a trial. So, what’s the catch? Well, other than a few limitations there doesn’t seem to be one.

The new free service is called WebEx Meet. It allows you to hold WebEx meetings with up to four other people. For the most part it offers all of the features most people will need for a small web conference. You can share your desktop or upload a file and share only the file. You can make anyone on the call the presenter, or as Cisco says, you can “pass the ball.” The sessions can be recorded and you have up to 5 GB of storage for documents and other files.

Setting up an account is pretty simple, just enter you name, email, password, company name and you are ready to go. Setting up a WebEx conference is also pretty easy – just enter a name for the conference, a time, and the email addresses of those you want to invite. Optionally, you can add a password and an agenda for the meeting. WebEx will send email invite to those that you invited.

Starting the meeting is pretty simple, too. Just login to your WebEx account and click the Start button next to the meeting. All the attends have to do to join is click the Join button in the invite email.

Based on my initial test of the service, there are only two things that I normally do in WebEx meetings that I couldn’t with WebEx Meet. The first is WebEx Meet will not call you. Normally, once you join a WebEx conference you can choose to have it call you to start the audio portion. With WebEx Meet you have to dial into the conference and no, there is no toll free number. To be honest, I expected this, after all, it is a free service. The other feature is that I often allow someone else to share their desktop and then I take control of it. This allows me to offer remote assistance if needed. While WebEx Meet does allow me to have someone else share their desktop, I cannot take control of it. Again, this not a big deal  – it just comes in handy every now and then.

So, next time you need to have a quick, small conference, give WebEx Meet a try, I know I will be using it.


July 10, 2010  7:23 PM

Cico’s Tablet – Cius

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

It seems like everyone is trying to tap into the tablet market ever since the iPad was released. HP is coming out with one that is being called the Slate. Another company called Neofonie is supposedly going to release a table called the WePad (nice and original, not that the name iPad should win any creativity awards). So is it any surprise that Cisco announced its own tablet? It is call the Cius (sounds like see us and yes, it’s kind of a pun), but it’s not going to be released until Q1 2011 but that didn’t stop them from announcing it at Cisco Live.

Check out the specs, not too shabby:

  • Intel Atom 1.6Ghz processor
  • 32GB of flash memory
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • 3G/4G
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • Andriod OS
  • 7 inch high-res screen
  • Cisco AnyConnect VPN client
  • 720p video with Cisco Telepresence interoperability

At first glance you might look at this as just being one more device that is trying to capture some of the iPad success. But, I think this is going to prove to be different than the other copy cats. What’s going to make it different isn’t the hardware or the OS, but rather its positioning. Cisco is positioning this device as a business tablet and tying it in very tightly with Cisco’s business collaboration products. This will allow it to do some pretty cool things, for instance, you will be able to join a Cisco Telepresence conference from nearly anywhere you are.

So, the question is, is there a real need for this device right now? Well, seeing as how I didn’t see the need for the iPad and now use one everyday, I may not be the best person to ask. We will just have to wait until next year to see.


July 8, 2010  6:03 PM

Watch out Facebook, Here Comes Cisco

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

So, how much time do you spend on Facebook? I know people that must spend most of their day there based on how many updates I get about their farm, garden, or asking for help with some Mafia Wars job. While many people enjoy this, many employers aren’t so excited about it. According to a report by Nucleus Research, companies that allow employees to access Facebook during business hours are losing and average of 1.5% of the person’s productivity. For this, along with many other reasons, some companies are pulling the plug on Facebook.

I’m not sure what it is, but there is something that keeps drawing people back to Facebook. What if a company could tap into this draw and increase productivity instead of decreasing it? That is exactly what Cisco is hoping to do with their enterprise collaboration platform called Quad.

Quad is a wed based application, and, while it has some similarities to Facebook, its goal is more about connecting with experts and information that can help you do your job than finding that long lost high school love. This, of course, is a two way street. While it helps you connect with others that can help you, it allows others to find you when they are looking for help.

When a user logs into Quad for the first time, they create a profile. The profile includes information such as job title and areas of expertise. The user can also import their LinkedIn contacts if they so choose. The information stored in the profile is used to automatically add the user to various groups, called communities, that they may find of interest.

The main page of the interface is called the “My View” page and is customizable by the user. This allows them to place items of the most interest in a more prominent space. This is very similar to the way iGoogle allows you to customize your home page.  Once the My View page is configured, the user can start sharing information in a number of ways such as blogs, instant messaging, and videos.

Quad offers a number of tools for users, and once you start to peel back the layers, you start to see what it really is. What really makes it a powerful tool are the under lying applications that it brings together. What I mean by this is that while it allows a user to start video calls by simply pressing a button, the application that is really making that call happen is Communications Manager. With the instant messaging feature, the engine used for the instant messaging could be WebEx Connect. So, the real strength of Quad is that it brings all the Cisco collaboration tools together and makes them manageable from a single interface.


June 30, 2010  5:58 PM

iPhone 4 – Beyond the Hype (Part 2)

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

In the last post I discussed what I liked about my new iPhone 4. It is very seldom that I have found a product that I don’t feel could be better in some way. Don’t get me wrong, I feel there are many fine products, but there’s nothing wrong with asking for a little more. Sometimes you just might get it. So, just as with most any product that I have ever purchased, there are a few things I feel could be improved on the iPhone 4.

Mutitasking

I know I already mentioned this in the previous post, but I really don’t like the fact that all the apps go into the background when I close them. I want to decide if the app should go into the background or close completely.

Screen

Wait a minute –  didn’t I just say in the previous post that the display was nice? It is, but I am talking about the size of the screen. It seems many of the Android phones have larger screens than the iPhone. This is a double edged sword. While I want a larger screen, I don’t want to carry something the size of a netbook around in my pocket. However, it would have been nice if they could have made the screen about 10 millimeters wider and taller .

Battery

Yes, I know I said I like the longer lasting battery and I do, but why the heck can’t I change the blasted thing myself? While the new battery does last longer, it would be nice to be able to pop in a spare for those times I get stuck on one of those long conference calls at the end of an already long day.

So there you have it, the good and the not so good. All in all, the iPhone 4 is the nicest cell phone I have ever had. I am not saying it is the best cell phone around, but for me it offers nearly everything I want in a cell phone. It will keep me from switching to an Android model – at least for now.


June 28, 2010  9:13 PM

iPhone 4 – Beyond the Hype (Part 1)

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

I like to wait before I review any product I use. While hundreds of thousands of people rushed to post their review of the iPhone 4, I decided to actually use mine for a while and then pass judgment. First things first, I am by no means an Apple Fan Boy, as a matter of fact, there was a time I refused to walk down the apple software aisle. Until about three years ago, I never even owned an Apple product. Many years ago I did consider purchasing a Newton, but decided against it (one of my better decisions). I do not own a Mac, but I do own an iPad and, as evidenced by this review, an iPhone.

So, how does the actual product match up to all the hype? Pretty well, but not perfect. Let’s start with the things I like.

Speed

My previous iPhone was a 3G so an improvement in speed was what I desired the most. When I compare it to my iPhone 3G, I am not disappointed. To be honest, I actually was expecting it to be a bit faster since it uses the same processor as the iPad and has more memory, so I was a bit confused when it did not prove to provide the speed I am used to with the iPad. It turns out that while it uses the same processor, it was slowed down to help prevent heat issues.

Display

The display is indeed very clean and crisp. I have downloaded a few apps that claim to take advantage of the new display and I can tell a difference with the same app on my old 3G. I have never be one to demand high quality graphics, so I am not as excited as others. The old screen was fine for me, but this one is much nicer.

Multitasking

While few apps are actually truly utilizing this feature, it is nice to be able to have audio streaming via ooTunes while I check email or surf. Also, when an app is closed, even that aren’t multitasking aware, the app is placed into the background and not really closed. This allows you to switch to the app much quicker then if you have to load it. While this is nice, I don’t like the fact that it does this with every app I close even if I really want it closed. To completely close the app requires additional steps that I don’t feel should be necessary. I feel when you close an app, you should be allowed to close it completely or place it in the background. It seems this could easily be done with some type of gesture control.

Video

I have never really used the camera on my phone for any serious photo taking. If I knew I was going somewhere that I wanted to take photo,s I would take a camera. However, with the new camera in the iPhone, I may leave the camera at home a little more often. The video recording at 720p is really nice.

Battery

We all know that one of the main complaints of the previous iPhone was the battery life well, that and the fact that ATT’s network leaves much to be desired. With the iPhone 4 I can actually leave the office for the day and not have to worry about the battery running out. I don’t live in an area with 3G so I don’t know how that will affect it but from what I have seen the battery life is much better.

In the next article I will discuss some of the things about the new phone that I don’t like.


June 22, 2010  7:01 PM

Quicker and More Precise Cisco Searches

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Searching Cisco.com for information can sometimes test your patience. Depending on the time of day you are searching, the results can take what seems like a lifetime to load. When they finally load, you then have to spend time sifting through the 20,000 plus results to find that nugget of information you are looking for. I have found that it is often easier to just use Google. At the very least it returns the results a lot faster. Also, with Google you can have it search specific sites and even portions of that site. This, of course, requires that you know the proper syntax to do this.

While this is all very nice, there are times that I don’t want to have to try to figure out the correct Google syntax to limit my search and, thanks to searchvtg.com, I don’t have to. This site allows you to limit a search to a certain technology. Currently it offers 14 categories to choose from (they are Unified Communications categories only). Once you select the category, a search box appears in which you enter the search criteria. Click search and the results will appear much quicker than if searching at Cisco.com and they will be limited to the selected category. But that’s not all, above the results will be tabs that list subcategories (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1

Click one of the tabs and the results will be limited even more.

I’m not saying that this site is perfect and will be able navigate you to the desired information within the first few results, but it should save some time. So, next time you find yourself going to Cisco.com to search for something, make a detour and try www.searchvtg.com.


June 17, 2010  8:29 PM

Unity Support – Web Site of the Week

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

In the last article I discussed Cisco’s Support Communities. While these are an excellent resource for many Cisco products, they aren’t the only websites you should have in your bookmarks when you need help. One that I have been using long before Cisco Support Communities existed is ciscounitytools.com. Actually, when I started using it, it was called answermonkey.net. As a matter of fact that URL still works.

This website started as a site created and supported by a Unity engineer before Unity was a Cisco product. (Cisco acquired Unity via the acquisition of Active Voice in 2000.) It quickly grew into one of the best friends of many Unity engineers. After the acquisition, the site continued to grow and support the Unity product. A few years back, a more Cisco-friendly name was assigned to it.

This website offers Unity and Unity Connections utilities and training videos. Many of the utilities that are on this site are also available at cisco.com or may even be packaged with the product, but not all of them are. You need to make sure you check to see if the utility you are downloading is supported and will work with your version of software. The download page is well done and makes it easy to determine these things. Just because a utility isn’t supported, doesn’t mean you should avoid it, just be aware that you may not be able to get support for it from Cisco.

The training videos on this site are pretty down and dirty, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. They are mostly screen captures with voice over. You can tell they didn’t spend five days in a recording studio to create them, but who cares? They deliver the information in a straightforward, easy-to-understand format and that is what matters. If you are someone that would rather read, this site also offers a number of very detailed technical documents.

I could go on about this site, but to appreciate it, you need to check it out yourself. Do yourself a favor and hop over there or, at the very least, bookmark it so you have it when you need it.


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