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


June 15, 2010  8:11 PM

Cisco Support Communities



Posted by: Dave Bateman
CCO, Cisco, community, support

If you have been around the Cisco world for long, you have certainly heard someone say, “it’s on CCO.” This was most likely when you were trying to find the details for some Cisco product or configuration. CCO stands for Cisco Connection Online and is often used when referring to Cisco.com. So, saying “it’s on CCO” is kind of like saying, “it’s on the web.” Great, now you know the information exists, but you are really no closer to finding it. Information is often only valuable if it is accessible. Cisco is in the information business and should know this better than anyone. The main problem is that there is just so much information and no one can know it all or even know where it is all stored.

I have a solution for this. Since no one can know everything, but everything must be known, than it must mean that many people know pieces of it (sorry if that got a little philosophical sounding). Let’s take these people that know all the pieces and put them in a room. Then, when we need to know something, we just go to the room and ask them. I think Cisco was thinking the same thing, but they couldn’t find a room large enough for all of these people so they created the Cisco Support Communities.

There are nine major communities which are:

Network Infrastructure

Collaboration, Voice, and Video

Security

Data Center

Wireless – Mobility

Small Business

Service Providers

Idea Center

Career Certification

Lately I have been hearing, “it’s at CCO” a little less and “you can find that at the support community” a little more. So, the next time you are looking for information on a piece of Cisco gear, hop over to the support communities and see what they have to offer.

June 11, 2010  7:34 PM

How to Split, Merge, and Extract Pages from PDF Files



Posted by: Dave Bateman
extract, merge, pdf, split

Today I needed to convert a PDF file to Word format. There are a number of programs that will do this, so I fired up my favorite converter and started the process. The PDF I was converting was quite large and the resulting Word file was several hundred megabytes. This made the Word file unmanageable and caused my PC to revolt and take an unscheduled break.

I figured the best thing to do was to split the PDF into multiple files and convert each file which would result in several smaller and more manageable Word documents. Deciding I needed to do this was the easy part, finding an affordable, and by affordable I mean free, program that would do this.

After ending up at websites that would happily sell me such a program, I found PDF Split and Merge. It is a great little program that let’s you split PDF files based on a number of different criteria, as seen in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Figure 1

For me, the bookmark option worked great since the document was split into chapters and properly bookmarked.

The program also allows you to merge multiple PDF files into a single file. While I didn’t need this feature today, I am sure there will come a day.

While the main purpose of this program is to split and merge PDF files, you can also use it to extract pages from a PDF file. Most free PDF readers offer the ability to extract pages only after you upgrade to the paid version. So, I guess that really isn’t so free. Why not save a couple bucks and use PDF split and merge instead?


June 6, 2010  6:40 PM

A CCNA Study Tool that is Almost Fun.



Posted by: Dave Bateman
CCNA, Cisco, Games

Everybody knows that studying is a drag. I suppose there are a few people out in the world that enjoy studying, but I have never met one. If you are like me, you will find pretty much any excuse to avoid studying. The problem with this strategy is that sooner or later we run out of either time or excuses so we have to buckle down and get to it.

While I have not found anything that makes studying truly fun, I have found some tools that can make it a little more enjoyable. If you find yourself having to study for the Cisco CCNA test, I would suggest some of the games you can find at the Game Arcade found at Cisco’s Learning Network Website. I wrote about a few of these games in earlier articles “Binary Game – Trying to Make Learning Binary Fun” and “Cisco’s Got Its Game On.” One I have not mentioned yet, but many people find fun and challenging is, Cisco Mulitplayer Challenge. As the name implies, this is a game you can play against others.

Starting the Game

To start the game, click on the Multiplayer Challenge icon found in Cisco’ Game Arcade. When you logon to the game, (you will need a CCO account to access this game, but don’t worry if you don’t have one, you can get one for free) you will be presented with three categories to choose from, CCNA, CCNA (Spanish), or ICND1. Pick the category that is appropriate for you. Next, you will be given the option to choose someone to play against or to play single player mode. You won’t always be able to find someone to play against, but if you can and you are the competitive type, it makes the game a little more interesting.

Game Play

The game play is similar to the way restaurant trivia games work. As soon as the question appears on the screen, the points counter starts ticking down. As soon as you think you know the answer, press the space bar and the points counter will stop. A list of four possible answers will appear and you have 10 seconds to choose the correct answer. If you get it correct, you get the points, if you you get it wrong, you lose 100 points.

If you are studying for your CCNA, check out this game. It may help you learn what areas you need to spend more time on. And, even if you already have your CCNA, head on over give it a try. What have you got to lose other than a little bit of your ego?


June 3, 2010  6:36 PM

How to get Free Commerical Software – Website of the Week



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Free Programs, Free Software, giveawayoftheday

You know the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is?” Normally, there is no place that is truer than when talking about “free” software. The Internet is flooded with sites that offer the ability to “download” the software for free. Sure you can download it for free, but if you want to use it, that’s a whole other story.

There is, however, one site that I know of that offers free commercial software. So, what’s the catch you say? Well, I’d like to say there is no catch, but that would be a lie. The catch is that only one program is offered each day and you must download and install the program by the end of the day. It’s not too bad of a catch, but it is a catch. The site is called, giveawayoftheday.

You will find all sorts of software being offered ranging from some high-end web publishing tools to some software I wouldn’t recommend to my dog (however, my dog does have some pretty high standads when it comes to software).

The easiest way to stay up to date on what they are offering is to sign up for their daily email that will let you know what’s on the menu that day. Signing up for the list has not caused me to receive any additional  spam, which is always a concern when you sign up for any type of list.

They also have a simple comment/review section. I have found the comments to help me decide one way or another when I was on the fence about some of the programs. I have even found recommendations for competitive open source products, which I have found to be nicer than what was being offered on the site.

So, how much of the software is really good? I find that I end up downloading a couple of the programs each month and of those I find a gem or two every couple of months. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so results may vary.

Go check it out and let me know what you think.


May 31, 2010  5:35 PM

Tabnapping – A New Security Concern



Posted by: Dave Bateman
malicious script, Malware, tabnapping

It seems like as soon as one computer vulnerability is corrected, another one pops up. I just heard of one that is pretty clever. It is totally unbiased  – it can target just about anyone that uses a web browser.

One very popular feature of web browsers nowadays is the ability to have multiple tabs open. This way, you don’t need to close one website to visit another, you simply open a new tab. After a long session of surfing, you may find yourself with several open tabs. One concern is that if you have a number of tabs open, you may forget what tabs are active and walk away from your desk while logged in to, for example, Gmail or Facebook. Because of this, many websites automatically log you out of their site after a certain amount of time in which no activity is detected. When you return to the tab, you are asked to log back in. I am sure this has happened to most of you reading this article. This is the very situation that this new threat depends on.

This new threat is called tabnapping. It works by a malicious script running and opens a tab in the background. The tab is labeled so that it looks like a website you may visit often, such as Facebook or Gmail. When you click on the tab, you see a web page that looks like the login page for that service, but is actually a malicious page that records your username and password.

Normally, browser vulnerabilities are specific to a certain brand of browser, but currently most browsers seem susceptible to this vulnerability. So, until there is a fix for this, it is best that whenever you end up at a login page that you don’t remember opening, close the site and manually enter that site’s address.


May 29, 2010  8:03 PM

Orderly Unity Configuration



Posted by: Dave Bateman
proper order, Unity

In the last post we discussed the proper configuration order of various components for Communications Manager. In this post we take a look at the order in which Unity components should be configured. Once a Unity system is installed, a number of system settings should be configured before subscribers are added. The following is a list of system settings and the order in which they should be configured:

1. Configurations >Settings (A number of important values are set here such as default schedules, phone menu timeouts, and substitute settings).
2. Schedules
3. Holidays

There are other system settings that you may wish to configure, but these are the minimum that I recommend you take the time to review and adjust as desired.

Next, subscriber settings should be configured. It is interesting to note that the order in which you configure subscriber settings is nearly the exact opposite order in which they are listed in the administrative interface (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1

1. Account Policies
2. Class of Service (COS)
3. Public Distribution Lists
4. Subscriber Templates

Once these settings are configured, you can start adding subscribers. While this is not necessarily the required configuration order, it is the order that will work for most environments.


May 25, 2010  12:32 PM

Orderly Communications Manager Configuration



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Cisco, communications manager

Today I was browsing a support forum for Communications Manger. Someone had asked in what order the various Communications Manager components should be created. I was somewhat surprised, but very pleased, to see someone suggest the book I wrote back in 2005 (Configuring CallManager and Unity) as a good guide for that. While I would love for everyone to run out and buy a copy, I thought a quick ordered list might make a good blog. In this post we will look at the order in which components should be configured before you add a phone. Since the things you need to configure are listed under different menus, we explore each menu heading separately, starting with the System menu.

System

1.    Communications Manager group
2.    Date/Time group
3.    Region
4.    Locations (if used)
5.    SRTS Reference (if used)

Once these have been configured, you need to create a Device Pool and assign the components you just created.

Call Routing

1.    Partitions
2.    Search Space
3.    Call Pickup Groups

Device

1.    Phone Button Template (or use default)
2.    Softkey Template (or use default)
3.    Common Phone Profile (or use default)
4.    Common Device Configuration (optional)

There are other settings that can be set up before adding phones, but these are the most commonly required/used settings. This is in no way the only order in which things can be configured, but I have found this order works for most environments. In the next post, we will take a look at the order in which Unity components should be configured.


May 22, 2010  10:50 PM

Cisco Phones – As Seen on TV



Posted by: Dave Bateman
9971, Cisco, NCIS, Video Conferencing

When I started teaching Cisco voice around 10 years ago, I would often tell my students that Cisco’s goal was to have a Cisco phone on every desk and in every home. I said this more to spark conversation than because I really thought it. But, it looks like they have accomplished at least half the goal. They have Cisco phones is nearly every house, well, kind of.

If you have watched TV shows like 24, NCIS, or The Office, a Cisco phone has most likely been “placed” in your home or at least in the show you watched. When theses appearances first started, they were pretty low key, and you really had to look for a quick shot of the phone while the camera panned the desk.  Not anymore, in an episode of NCIS that broadcast May 18th, the new Cisco 9971 was the focal point of a nearly two minute segment of the show. If you missed the show, you can see this segment and many others that contain Cisco products at this link.

But hey, what about people that don’t watch TV or those that don’t watch much?  I would put myself in the later category. While I don’t watch a lot of TV, I do play a lot of video games. Just to make sure I don’t miss out on all this product placement, the Cisco logo and product can be found spattered through the new Tom Clancy game, Splinter Cell.

Before we pass judgment on any of this, we need to remember that Cisco is not the only company to be doing this sort of thing. Just before the Apple IPAD was launched, ABC’s show called Modern Family did an entire show based on one of the main characters wanting an IPAD for his birthday.

So, does product placement belong in TV shows and video games? I guess my feeling is why not? We, the consumer, are somewhat to blame for this. How many of you reading this have DVRs? How many shows do you watch live and view the commercials? I know in my house it is very rare that we watch any of our favorite shows live. We DVR them and fly pass the commercials. The Networks need to make money so they can make the shows that we want to watch. If they throw a little product placement in and still make it entertaining, I’m good with that. It’s not like I ran out and bought an IPAD after I watched Modern Family – I waited a whole two weeks before doing so.


May 21, 2010  4:46 PM

Communications Manager 8.0 Learns to Share



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Cisco, Commnications Manager, Dial Plan, SAF

Anyone that has ever managed more than one Cisco Communications Manager cluster knows that managing multiple dial plans can sometimes be a daunting task. With Communications Manager 8.0, this task may be coming a little more manageable.

Cisco recently announced a new communications framework based on Cisco IOS. It is called Service Advertisement Framework (SAF). The goal of SAF is to share service information between various devices on the network. The first place we will see this deployed is within the Communications Manager arena.


The way it works is each Communications Manager (this includes Communications Manager, Communications Manger Express, and Survivable Remote Telephony Service devices) will act as SAF clients and advertise that they are called agents. They will advertise their IP and  E.164 (phone number) addresses. Other SAF call agents (Communication Managers) will receive these advertisements and add a route to their dial plan.

In the future, SAF may be expanded to include other services such as directory services. We will have to wait and see about that, but for now it sounds like it holds some promise.

T0 learn more about SAF check out this link.


May 14, 2010  8:33 PM

Must Have iPad Apps for the Road Warrior – Part 3



Posted by: Dave Bateman
ABC, iPad, Netflix, ooTunes

In the last two articles, I discussed iPad apps that I feel are essential for the road warrior that wants to leave the laptop at home and travel with just the iPad. Since any road warrior knows that much of the time on the road is just waiting – for a plane,  a meeting, or sitting in the hotel room waiting for the next day, I thought I would share the apps that help me kill time during all of that waiting.

Netflix

If you have heard anything about the iPad, you have probably heard that there is a Netflix app for it. As a Netflix customer and someone that has streamed Netflix movies on a PC, PS3, XBOX 360, and the Wii, I was was very interested to see what the iPad app was like. It did not disappoint. Over all it is my favorite Netflix interface. The picture quality is outstanding. The slowest link I have used it on so far is a 1.5 Mbs DSL link, and I was amazed at the picture quality.

I should also mention that ABC has a nice app that allows you to stream most of their programing. At this point, CBS does not have an app, but you can watch Survivor using the iPad web browser directly from CBS.com. CBS is promising to make more shows available for viewing on  the iPad later this fall.

Audio Content

The iPad will function just like an iPod and allow you to store thousands and thousands of songs, podcasts, and audio books. Making sure you have a good stock of this type of content comes in handy when you are without an Internet connection. I prefer podcasts and audio books over music, but whatever your favorite kind of audio content is, make sure you have plenty of it before hitting the road.

However, when you do have an Internet connection, there are thousands of sites the you can stream music and talk radio from. I started my trip with about 10 apps that allowed me to stream audio. When I got home, I only had one still installed. It is called ooTunes. It is not the cheapest audio streaming app in the iTunes store, but for just $4.99 it is the nicest one in my book.

Games

When I am home, I like to relax at night by playing on one of my consoles. For traveling, I used to have a DS and PSP. Once I got an iPhone, I started using that for games when traveling, not because it is a better gaming platform, but simply because it allowed me to carry one device. This, of course, meant that I had a few games for the iPhone, which I was able to load on the iPad. I found that a number of games are actually more fun on the iPad. Currently, my favorite games on the iPad are NOVA, Pinball HD, and 10 Pin Shuffle. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of other good games out there. However, there is a lot of garbage as well.

That about raps it up for this article. If you have a favorite iPad or iPhone app that you think others would be interested in, please leave a comment and let us know about it.


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