If you are anything like me, then one PC and monitor just isn’t enough. My current setup is two PCs, each with dual monitors. Doing a lot of development like I do, I find that there is no such thing as too much screen real estate. The problem with two PCs is that you need two keyboards and mice or you need to hook up a hardware device that allows you to connect one keyboard and mouse to both PCs. This normally requires that you press a button to switch control between the PCs. While this works, it isn’t the smoothest solution.
Quite a while ago I came across a piece of software that allows you to simply move your mouse off of one screen and onto another and the keyboard and mouse now control that PC. I used it for a while but then moved onto some other solutions with more bells and whistles. After upgrading operating systems, I started having trouble with the other solutions and found myself going back to what I used over 10 years ago. The software is called Win2VNC , and it is freeware. I think the thing that makes this software so nice is it’s simplicity. All you do is load it on the PC that the keyboard and mouse are hooked up to and load VNC server on the other PC. I use UltraVNC on the other PC.
Here is a brief overview of how to set it up. Once the software is loaded, a gray square icon appears in the system tray. Right click on the icon and select New Connection . The window shown in Figure 1 appears.
Enter the IP address of the other PC and then select Options. The options window appears as seen in Figure 2.
Select the direction that points to the other monitor. For instance, my monitor is to the left so I select West.
Click OK to be returned to the connections detail window and then click OK again. You will be prompted for a password. One is configured on the VNC server. Once the connection is established, you should be all set. Simply move your mouse between the screen to control each PC.
In the last article we discussed what Local Route Groups are and how they can help simplify a dial plan. In this article we are going to look at how they are created. This article assumes that you understand what route groups are and how to create them.
Let’s use the example we started with in the last article. The example environment has a location in Detroit, Chicago, and San Jose. All three locations are part of a single cluster. All three locations use 11 digit dialing and use a 9 for an outside line. You need to configure a pattern that looks like 9.1[2-9]XX[2-9]XXXXXX. The goal is to create one pattern that all 11 digit dialed numbers will match and be routed out the local gateway. This means that if someone from Detroit and someone from San Jose dial an 11 digit number, they will both match the same pattern, but the call will go out their local gateway.
The first thing you must do is create your gateways and Route Groups. You should have three Route Groups, one for each of the three locations. Let’s assume you named them DTW_PTSN (Detroit) ORD_PSTN (CHICAGO) and SJC_PSTN (San Jose). Once the Route Groups are created, you need to assign them to device pools as seen in Figure 1.
Next you need to configure a Route List that points to the Local Route Group as seen in Figure 2.
Now, point the pattern to the Route Group as seen in Figure 3.
So, there are the basics when it comes to configuring Local Route Groups. There are other things you may want to add like additional route groups in the Route List in case a particular Local Route Group is not accessible. As always, when it comes to dial plans, take the time to plan and test properly.
Often the features of a product can cause headaches for those responsible for maintaining the product. It seems the more advanced the features, the more complex the configurations. This is especially true with products that offer the administrator greater flexibility and control. Cisco Communication Manger is not free of this issue. It is a very powerful system that offers great flexibility.
One of the issues that administrators run into as their environment grows is within the dial plan. If you administer a Communications Manager system, you already know that the dial plan is one of the most important and unforgiving components of the system. If you configure it correctly, things will run smoothly and users will be happy. If not, you will be sure to hear about it and your life will not be a peaceful one until the issue is corrected.
One thing that tends to make dial plans become complicated is a multi-site deployment. For example, let’s take an environment that has a location in Detroit, Chicago, and San Jose. All three locations are part of a single cluster. All three locations use 11 digit dialing and use a 9 for an outside line. This means that you need to configure a pattern that looks like 9.1[2-9]XX[2-9]XXXXXX. Since users from all three locations will need to use this pattern, you need to make sure all have access to it. The problem is that when people in Chicago dial the number, you want the call to go out the Chicago PSTN gateway, but when users in Detroit dial the number, you want it to go out the Detroit PSTN gateway. The way this is normally accomplished is to configure a pattern for each location and place it in a partition that only users of the desired location have access to. In this example, this triples the amount of patterns you need for 11 digit dialing. Imagine if you had ten or twenty locations.
Well, there is good news. As of Communications Manager 7.0, a new component called, “Local Route Groups” has been added. The concept is quite simple. A Route Group can be assigned to device pool. Devices pools can be associated with a physical location (this is done by associating them with a subnet). You can then configure a pattern to point to a Route List that points to what is referred to as “Standard Local Route Group.” When configured this way, the call will be routed to the Local Route Group in the Device Pool of the device that the call originated from.
This allows you to configure one pattern for all users, and the call will be routed based on the device pool the device is associated with. In the next article I will illustrate how this works with the example above as well as how to configure it.
There are simply too may TLAs nowadays. What’s a TLA you ask? Three Letter Acronym, of course! Get it? It’s kind of funny because TLA is a three letter acronym. OK, never mind the nerd humor. The point is that in the tech world acronyms are tossed around like confetti on New Years Eve. Sometimes just for fun I will count the number of acronyms I hear during a meeting. People seem to think if they know what an acronym means then everyone else does. And now with texting and Instant Messaging (IM) it has only gotten worse. It seems like the text lingo is slipping into everyday conversations. Next time you are talking to your friend, you know the one that texts so much their cell provider has asked them to switch companies, listen closely and odds are you will hear one or two “BTW” or “JK.”
So how is anyone expected to keep all of these acronyms straight? Well, I cheat. I use a website called Acronymfinder. It maintains a searchable database of millions of acronyms. Since an acronym can often have many different definitions, (check out TLA and you will see what I mean) this web site ranks and categorizes them, which makes finding the correct definition a lot easier.
For text/IM lingo, I use a site called Netlingo. It contains a searchable database of pretty much any acronym you will run across in a text or IM. It’s actually kind of fun to make up an acronym and see if it comes back with anything. Just today I found out that PAL stands for Parents Are Listening.
With all of these terms and jargon filling up our days, I sure could go for an AFZ – that stands for Acronym Free Zone, if you didn’t know. TTYL!
I don’t know about you, but I stopped using Adobe’s PDF reader a few years ago. I started looking for an alternative because AdobeReader was taking a long time to load, and I needed to be able to edit a PDF file. I didn’t need extensive edit capabilities, just needed to add a few comments. I ended up installing Foxit and have been very happy with it. However, a few weeks ago I came across a program called PDF-XChange Viewer. The more I use this reader, the more I like it. In addition to being able to view PDF files, it has some cool editing features.
There are two versions of PDF-XChange Viewer: free and paid. The features of the free version are all I need, but if you need advanced features such as being able to attach file links within the PDF file, the paid version may be the answer for you.
Some of the features you will find in the free version are:
Draw lines and arrows
Cut and Paste (Image and Text)
Export as graphic file
Save as PDF
All of these feature are accessible from a toolbar (Figure 1) or drop-down menus.
The nice thing about the free version is that you can use the feature found in the paid version, but the file will be marked with an icon (Figure 2) on both top corners that is a link to the paid version website. If you plan on using this for any professional use, you will want to purchase the paid version to remove this icon.
There are a number of readers available. Many are free, but typically you have to pay if you want editing capability. Next time you find yourself in need of a program that will let you do basic PDF editing or you desire a new PDF reader, give PDF-XChange Viewer a try.
I can remember the first time I had to write a course for end users on how to use the features on Cisco phones. It was a painful process. Things that I felt were fairly intuitive had to be broken down into the most basic tasks. For instance, I had to create a PowerPoint slide that said, “to answer the phone, pick up the handset.” While I thought it couldn’t get much worst, it did. I then had to teach this course. All the while I was thinking that there has to be a better way. I had heard at one point that there was a CD that users could install on their PC that would teach them how to use the phone. My first thought was, “if the users are having trouble understanding the features of the phone, do we really want to ask them to install a software program that will teach them how to use the phone? I could just see this going bad very fast.
Well, since that time things have change and technology has improved. Cisco now has online tutorials for end user phone usage. These are done quite nicely and with people more use to navigating the web nowadays, they seem like they could be very effective. The one problem is that whenever you offer training you want to make sure you only teach the user the features you support in your environment. The tutorials that are on Cisco’s site includes all of the features. However, Cisco has provided a tool that lets you add and remove the features that are taught in a tutorial, but to do this you will need to host the tutorials on your own server.
To host custom tutorials, go to the Cisco Unified IP Phone Tutorials website and download the customizable version of the desired tutorial. Once it is downloaded, open the zip file and run the Cisco IP Phone XML Customization Tool.exe. A window similar to the one in Figure 1 appears.
All you have to do is uncheck the features you don’t want included in the tutorial, click save and then close. Now make the .swf file available to your users.
I had an interesting phone call with a customer the other day. He was concerned about a certification track he had chosen. The short story behind his concern was that, with things changing so fast, how can he be sure the track won’t change midway through and he would have to start over? He had a valid concern, especially since the track he had chosen was one that has a high probability of changing.
This caused me to wonder: is there a best time to start a certification track? The more I thought about it, the more I decided that there was no decisive answer to that question. But, there are a few things you should consider before you jump onto any certification track.
First off, how long do you expect to take to complete the certification? If the certification you are seeking only requires that you pass one or two tests, then the timing isn’t as important. Typically, companies will announce a phase out period when new tests are announced. This allows you time to finish up the track you are on. However, this is not as helpful if the certification requires you pass six tests and they announce new tests a week after you take your first one.
When it comes to the certifications that are multiple tests and you expect to take longer than six months to complete, you should make sure you do your homework before you jump on the track. No one knows for sure when the requirements for a certification will change other than the sponsoring company. There are a few signs that could point to the update of a certification such as, it has been several years since it was last updated, new release of the technology that it is based on, or even the sale or merger of the sponsoring company. Keep in mind that these are indicators that a certification might be updated. Nothing is for certain, but if you see any of these indicators before you start your certification, you may want to proceed with a little caution.
OK, so let’s say you read this article after you started a certification track, and you fear the track may change before you are able to complete it. First off, stop and calm down, it may not be that bad. Typically, when a certification changes, the change is not so wide sweeping that the knowledge you have already gained won’t be applicable. Chances are there may be a few new things you will have to learn, but the bulk of the knowledge you gained will still be relevant.
All this being said, I think it is important to remember that, while the certificate may look nice on a wall, it is the knowledge that you gained while in pursuit of the certification that really matters. A certification can’t do the work – you have to.
It seems more and more these days I am downloading software that is in an ISO format. The idea is that once you download it, you can burn it to a CD or DVD and install it. Since you will often only use the CD/DVD once, it seems like a waste of time to burn to physical media (not to mention a waste of the disk itself) to simply toss it in some pile of disks never to be seen again. A better idea would be to be able to install the software directly from the ISO image.
A piece of software called MagicDisc allows you to do just that. MagicDisc is made by MagicISO. They also make a product called MagicISO, which allows you to do tasks such as create CDs or DVDs and backup your hard disk to CD/DVDs. As a matter of fact, the website is mainly dedicated to the MagicISO product. But, if you dig around a little and end up on the tutorials page, you stumble upon this gem. While there are other products that allow you to mount an ISO as a virtual drive, there a couple things I really like about this one. The first is that it is freeware. The other is because it is small, simple, and just plain works!
Once installed, it sits in your system tray. To use it, simply right click on the icon and a list of options (Figure 1) come up.
If you want to mount a single ISO, select Virtual CD/DVD-ROM from this menu. It will display a drive letter with the words “No Media” next to it. Click on the drive letter and select Mount from the menu that appears (Figure 2). Select the ISO you wish to mount.
That’s it. The drive is mounted, and you can access it as you do any drive. The program allows you to mount multiple ISO images at once. It looks like you can configured up to 15, but I have never done more than three. While this isn’t a tool I use every day, when I do use it, it saves me time and offers flexibility that you normally don’t have when dealing with ISO images.
Cisco has started to release information about Communications Manger 8.0 on the public side of its website. When I saw this, I thought that this must mean it is available. I quickly called my colleague who handles this type of stuff and he checked. To my disappointment, he said that as far as he could tell it still isn’t available to be ordered. Oh well, at least the fact that Cisco is publishing information about it should be a good sign that it should be available soon.
In the meantime, let me share a few thing that I was able to gleam from the limited information that is out there. I found a fairly informative VoD at Cisco’s web site that gives a high level overview of some of the changes and new features. I would recommenced you check it out. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Support for ISAC
- Intercompany Media Engine – allows for the conversion of PSTN calls to SIP so calls can be routed over the Internet
- Service Advertisement Framework – discovers numbers registered to other clusters and automatically builds routes.
- Enhanced RSVP – end to end support for intracluster calls.
- Hunt Lists support CTI ports
- HTTPS support to the phone
And the two big ones, in my opinion, are:
- Cross cluster Extension Mobility
- Template based phone provisioning
I am sure there is a lot more than this to learn about 8.0, but this, at least, is a peek into what we will see when we can finally order it. I do have to add a word of warning. Often in this wonderful world of technology what is promised collides with reality. What we end up with is not what we expected. I say this because I am already hearing that at least one of the features promised in this VoD may not be available until a future release of 8.x. So, while the future looks bright remember, the clouds can always end up rolling in. Once 8.0 is officially available to the masses, I’ll let you know how many of these features are truly included with the initial release. Here’s hoping it’s all of them!
I decided to start something new this week. I don’t know about you, but often while I am searching the Internet for one thing I find something else that is either very cool, very useful or maybe both. The organized part of me takes these nuggets and files them away for future use. The only problem is that I really don’t have an organized part so I end up distracted from my original quest. Sometimes by the time I get back to my quest I forget what it was. I would like to tell you I have found a cure for these distractions – but I haven’t. While these “finds” often distract me, they more often than not help me in the future. Even when they don’t help me they often end up helping someone else. More times than I can remember I will be talking with a colleague that is telling me about a problem or a need. I will tell them about a website or a little known app that can help them. It has gotten to the point that I will get calls asking me if I know a way to blah, blah, blah. If I have an answer, they say, “How do you even find this stuff?” This leads me to believe that maybe everyone doesn’t wander off into the weeds of the Internet as much as I do. Since I am afflicted with this trait, (some call it an illness) I decided to exploit this and share at least one of these “finds” each week.
I think the most appropriate “find” to share with you this week is a website that is often the cause of my wandering. The site is called Stumbleupon.com. Basically, it is a site that takes you to somewhat random sites and allows you to stumble across the web. The reason I say that they are somewhat random is that when you create an account, you can define what your personal interests are and the sites you “stumble to” will fall within those categories. The way I prefer to use Stumbleupon is by using the Stumble toolbar within Firefox (Figure 1). This, of course, is a Firefox add-on that you have to install.
While you are stumbling about, you are able to give a thumbs up to site you like or a thumbs down to ones that don’t quite cut it for you. If you find something you really like, you can add it to you Stumbleupon favorites or just bookmark it. The nice thing about using the Stumbleupon favorites is that they are accessible from any computer you chose to log into. That way, the next time you are at your friends and you want to tell them about that cool website you stumbled upon but just can’t remember the website address, you can log into your Stumbleupon account and find it sitting in your favorites just waiting for you.
The site also has a social aspect to it and a few other features that I am going to let you discover for yourself. Hop on over to Stumbleupon.com next time you have a few minutes. Just remember, this site can be hazardous to your time management.