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


February 20, 2010  7:10 PM

Not Another Screen Capturing Service



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Jing, sceen capture, Screentoaster, Video Capture

I know the last article was about screen capturing, and I really need to move onto another topic. But, shortly after posting, I stumbled across another capturing service that I just have to tell you about. It is slightly different from Jing as it focuses on capturing video while Jing will do both screen shots and video.
So, what is this service and what makes it different? It’s called Screentoaster.com.  What sets it apart is that it does not require you to install any software. It allows you to create video captures no matter where you are or what PC you are using (you will, of course, need an Internet connection). The service is free, but it does require you to create an account.

Once you are logged in, all you have to do is click the “Start Recording” button. A java applet will load and you are presented with a simple control panel. From this panel you select whether you want to record the whole screen or just a portion of it. You can also select to record audio using the microphone or have it capture the PC’s audio.  But it doesn’t stop there – you can even embed video from your web cam. If enabled, it places the video from the web cam in the lower right hand corner. This is useful if you want to include video of yourself narrating the action on the screen. While Jing also offers this feature, it is not included with a free account.

You would think that would be it for a free service. But, there is a little option you can select from the control panel that is titled, “Enable geek setting.”  When this is selected, you have the option of changing the playback speed and recording from a VNC server. This is the feature that I think is the coolest. You enter the IP address of a VNC server and it records the video of that server. I can think of a number of uses for this feature. Since VNC allows multiple connections, you could VNC into a server using VNC Veiwer and record everything you are doing using ScreenToaster. And, you can do this without installing any software on the VNC sever or your PC.

Once the recording is done, you can save it locally as a MOV or SWF file. You can also choose to have it sent directly to YouTube or host it on the ScreenToaster site. When you save it to ScreenToaster.com., you can set it as public, which allows anyone to view it, or you can set it as private, which only allows access if the person knows the URL.

I have to say, the more I play with this service, the more I like it. Take a few minutes and check it out. I think you will be impressed with what it has to offer.

February 18, 2010  9:17 PM

Screen Sharing/Capturing Services



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Jing, Screen Capturing, Screen Shareing, Skype, WebEx

In the last article we took a look at a screen capturing program that lets you upload the capture directly to an FTP site so that you can easily share this information with others.  This solution requires that you have an FTP site that at your disposal. There are services that allow you to accomplish the same thing and even offer a place to post the screen captures so others may view them.

Jing is one of these services. There is a paid and a free version of this service. The free one is adequate for most personal  needs. Jing not only let’s you capture screen shots, but you can record a video of your screen and even include narration.

Jing is pretty intuitive. When you run it, a small yellow dome appears at the top of the screen (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1

When you mouse over this dome, it expands to show three options (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2

The one furthest to the left is the one you will use the most. This allows you to start capturing. When you click it, cross-hairs appear on your screen which you use to select the portion of the screen you wish to capture. Once you select the area to capture, a tool bar appears (Figure 3) which allows you to choose whether you want to capture a screen shot or video.

Figure 3

Figure 3

Once the capture is complete, you can do minor editing and then choose to save it locally or “Share via Screencast.com” (Figure 4). If you choose to share it via Screencast, a URL will be place in the clipboard and you can paste it to any application such as an email or IM client.

Figure 4

Figure 4

So, what could be better than being able to capture a screenshot or video of an application in order to show someone how to do something? How about being able to share you screen in real time? I am sure you have heard of at least one product that does this, such as WebEx or GoToMeeting. These are great, but they aren’t free. If you are willing to forgo some of the bells and whistles, there are some free products that offer this service. The one I am going to mention today may already be installed on your PC. Have you ever heard of Skype? That’s right. Skype allows you to share your screen with another Skype user.  I guess if there is any catch that would be it; both parties need to have it installed. Beyond that, it pretty much just works. Once you have setup the Skype call, just click the Call menu and select “Share Your Screen” (Figure 5).

Figure 5

Figure 5

So there you have it, a few more tools that may come in handy next time you are trying to help someone  remotely.


February 13, 2010  5:39 PM

Remote Tech Support Tool – Screen Sharing



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Desktop capture, PicPick, Remote support, Screen Capture

Earlier this week I was trying to help a co-worker configure some settings on his computer. We were chatting over an instant massaging service, which is not the best way to try to do tech support. But, this is the tool we had at the time so we were making the best of it. It was obvious that what I was saying and what he was reading were two different things. I so wanted to remotely log into his system and show him what he needed to do. I find remote control (VNC or Logmein.com) is about the best way to offer this type of tech support. Unfortunately, this was not an option for us.

What I really needed was for him to be able to see my desktop so I could show him what steps were required to complete the configuration. I guess I could have gone through the process of getting him to setup VNC on his PC, configure his router so that it would allow for the proper port translation, and then pray that it worked. However, by the time we had done this, I could have driven to his house and showed him. OK, maybe not since he lives about 400 miles away, but you get the idea. All I wanted was for him to see was what was on my desktop. Which bring us to a neat little tool.

PicPick is a screen capturing tool that does what any number of screen capturing tools allow you to do: capture any portion of your screen and save it as a file. But PicPick goes beyond that. It not only offers many capture options (Figure 1) but, once captured, you can edit and automatically post the capture file to an FTP site.

Figure 1

Figure 1

PicPick also places the address of the FTP site, folder, and file name into the PC clipboard so that you can paste this information into any program. In my case, I captured the screen and used the box tool to place a red box around the area that I wanted the other person to look at. The file was then posted to my FTP site, and I simply pasted the address into the IM window. When it comes to tech support, the Missourians have it right: “Show Me.”

Some might say that I did it the hard way and that there are services out there that will allow you to do this without the need of you own FTP site. They are right. So, why do I choose this way? I guess I am a little paranoid. I like to try to keep everything “in-house.” However, for those of you that are interested in using one of these services, we will take a look at them in my next post.


February 11, 2010  5:59 PM

Click to Call – Make Your Cisco Phone Dial from Outlook



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Cisco, Cisco Widget, Click to Call, Outlook, Webdial

Cisco has a neat little feature called the Cisco Personal Address Book. It allows you to create a directory that can be accessed from your Cisco IP phone. To create the directory, use the Communications Manager User web pages. This interface allows you to enter your contact’s name, email address, and up to three phone numbers. Once configured, you can access the address book from the phone. While this is handy, it is a feature that is not used as much as you might think due to two facts. The first is that you need to enter all the names and numbers. The second is that the phone interface is not that quick to use. If you have ever used the Personal Address Book, you know that the navigation can be somewhat cumbersome. This is no fault of Cisco.

The problem is that you are trying to spell a name using the phone’s dial pad. For instance, just to enter SMITH you have to press the keys 11 times. I guarantee you in the amount of time it takes to look up one name, you could have found three from within your Outlook contacts.

Apparently, someone at Cisco figured this out as well as there is a feature that allows you to dial from within most Microsoft Office applications, as well as, Firefox and Internet Explorer. The application that allows you to do this is called, Click to Call Widget. This software can be downloaded from Cisco’s website or you can contact your Cisco reseller about it. The installation is fairly simple and, once loaded, you can right click on a contact within Outlook and select Call (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1

Click to Call can be configured to automatically insert digits that may be required to make outside calls (such as a 9) and, as well as, international prefixes. If you select Call with Edit, the number you selected will appear in a window (Figure 2) so that you may edit it before dialing. Once you select the call option, the call is automatically placed and your speaker phone activates.

Figure 2

Figure 2

So, the next time you open Outlook, look up a number, take your phone off the hook, dial the number and  think to yourself, “Self, there must be an easier way.” Remember… there is.


February 5, 2010  7:34 PM

Unity 8.0 is Here



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Cisco, Unified Messaging, Unity, Unity 8.0

As I was perusing Cisco.com today, I noticed that documentation for Unity 8.0 has been posted. I am sure that a lot of people are saying, “Wait a minute -  I thought Unity was going away and Unity Connection would be the Cisco voice mail solution for larger companies?” Well, it appears that the rumors of Unity’s demise have been exaggerated. Just how exaggerated is yet to be seen. Will this be the last version of Unity we see? I really don’t know… not really sure if anyone knows. It is no secret that Unity Connection is getting a lot more attention nowadays. But if there is one thing I have learned in the 20 odd years in the IT world, is that no one knows what the future will really look like.

Guessing the future isn’t what this article is about anyway. It is about what is new in Unity 8.0. Well, I guess I should say it’s about what is new or gone in Unity 8.0. One of the first things that caught my attention was the lack of documentation for Unity with Domino. The reason for this is that as of Unity 8.0, Domino is no longer supported. The only supported message stores are Exchange 2003 and Exchange 2007. You can still have users homed on an Exchange 2000 server, but the Unity partner server must be 2003 or 2007.

Which brings us to the OS. Windows 2000 is no longer supported. While windows 2003 has been the preferred OS, you could keep 2000 if you were upgrading. Not anymore, you need 2003. And that brings us to SQL. Unity 8.0 ships with SQL 2005. However, if you are upgrading, you can continue to use SQL 2000 but you will be to load the new SQL 2000 that comes in the upgrade kit as the directory structure has changed.

What about end user feature changes? There doesn’t seem to be a lot, but often you have to play with the software before you really see what changed. I did notice two things, however. The first is that if a user speeds up the playback of a message, the playback speed will not be saved for future sessions. In 7.0, if you increased the speed, it stayed that way the next time you logged in. The other is that the Unity prompts used during first time enrollment, password reset, and private list management have been made more concise. I am sure this will make more than one end user happy as in the past Unity was known to be quite chatty.

The last thing I will touch on is that the install process has changed. At first it looks like a major change as they got rid of the Cisco Unity System Preparation Assistant (CUSPA) and the Cisco Unity Installation and Configuration Assistant (CUICA). In reality what they did was combined these two tools into a single tool called Cisco Unity System Setup Assistant. This single interface gives you access to essentially the same functions that the older two programs did.

But hey, why sit here and listen to me tell you when you can go and see for yourself? Come on, you know you can’t wait to go read the new and exciting Unity 8.0 documentation.


February 3, 2010  5:34 PM

What Were They Thinking? – Online Blunders



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Facebook, Safe Posting, Smart Surfing, Social Networks

The world has changed! No one can debate that. I remember that when I was growing up you actually had to go to your friend’s house if you wanted to play a game or have a conversation. Not now – just fire up your PC and you are good to go. It is pretty awesome. It has opened up new ways to collaborate and interact with friends. Not just friends down the street, but friends all over the world. It has opened new ways to express yourself and let your thoughts and ideas be heard by people everywhere -  even when that wasn’t your intent.

I am sure that by now you have heard and read about how careful you need to be when posting anything online. Then, can you tell me why people just don’t get it? Why am I reading everyday about how so and so lost their job because they posted a comment that was seen by the wrong person (or maybe right person depending on your point of view.) Today I read an article about students that got detention because they became fans of a certain Facebook page. The page was apparently making fun of a teacher. It’s hard to say whether detention is the appropriate response, but that isn’t the real question. This real question is why haven’t kids (and some adults) figured out that the Internet is not Las Vegas. What happens on one site does NOT stay on one site.

I can site story after story about people saying and doing things on the Internet that they would most likely never do if they thought the wrong person might see it. It seems that the Internet makes things seem less real or permanent when, in fact, it is the exact opposite. Once you post something online you should consider it a matter of permanent record. It’s kind of like mailing a letter -  once you drop it at the post office it is out of your control and all the hoping and wishing isn’t going to change that.

I started this article yesterday when I saw the story about the students getting detention for the Facebook page. This morning I fired up my PC to see even more evidence that people sometimes just don’t think.  A man that works at a bank was visiting inappropriate web sites at his desk. He works in a large open area and many others are walking by and might see what he was doing. But that isn’t what happened. What happened was a TV crew was doing the morning financial report in the same room and everything he was doing was broadcast live. There was even a point in the report where he turned around and looked straight into the camera. There is no doubt about this man’s identity now.

I just don’t get it. What are people thinking? Do they disengage their brain when they go online? Do yourself a favor and, from now on, anytime you are online pretend you are that banker (or perhaps ex-banker by now) and there is a camera recording everything you are doing, because in a way… there is.


January 30, 2010  6:45 PM

Restore Points – Are They Really That Useful?



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Malware, Restore Points, System Restore, Windows

A few weeks ago I talked about the importance of backup and how often we tend to think only to do them when it is already too late. There is really no replacement for backups. But, this week a friend of mine reminded me of another little recovery tool that most people don’t give much thought to.

He was pretty much minding his own business, just surfing the web. He was using a search engine and clicked on a link that took him to a site that started to load some malware. No problem – he is a pretty smart guy and knew to block such software. Well, this one got through. It claimed to be Vista anti virus software. The short story is that it was malware, and the only way you could remove it was to purchase the full product. This caused him some frustration and the solutions he had in mind were not going to be very productive.

After spending some time investigating the software and trying to determine how to remove it for him, I found three sites that provided step by step instructions on how to remove it. Great! But none of them worked. That’s when I thought, “Hey, how about trying to restore to an earlier restore point?”

Windows automatically creates restore points on your system. These are created when new software and updates are loaded. This is done in the background and quite often you don’t even realize it is happening. Fortunately, one was done that morning. I used that restore point and it solved the problem.

You can access the Windows System Restore utility by navigating to Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools> System Restore. It is important to understand what Window’s System Restore will and will not do. First, and most importantly, it is not a complete backup solution. It does not back up programs or user files. You can not use it to recover a file you’ve deleted. This utility deals mainly with system configuration and registry files. The main purpose of this is to allow a way to restore the system configuration back to an earlier time in the event a registry change or new driver causes problems. While this utility can come in handy, a complete system backup solution should still be implemented.

So to answer the title of this article – Are restore points really that useful? Yes.  Well, at least my friend thinks so!


January 28, 2010  7:03 PM

Penny For Your Thoughts or 250K – It’s a Real Good Thought



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Billion dollar idea, Cisco, contest, I-Prize

So, when was the last time you had a million dollar idea? Got one right now, but you just don’t have the resources to turn it into a reality? Well, I’m sorry but I can’t help you. However, if you have a billion dollar idea I know this guy… well it’s not a guy as much as it is Cisco.

Cisco is offering a bounty for the next billion dollar idea. How much you ask? Remember the saying, “Let me put my two cents in?” I think that is where they got the idea for the reward. But, being the generous company they are, they upped it to two and a half cents – on the dollar that is. Do the math and you know that they are offering 250K for the next billion dollar idea.

At first you might think, “Hey wait, you get a billion dollar idea, and I get less than three percent? Well, just exactly how much is the billion dollar idea making you right now?

So how does this whole thing work? The program is called I-Prize (BTW am I the only one that has had it up to here with the I-this and the I-that? Never mind -  that is a rant for another time). The process is broken down into three parts. The first part is three months long and it is a time to brainstorm with others and really refine your idea. The next part is only for semi-finalists and is a month long in which time you build your business and technology plan. The final phase is when the finalists present their plan to a panel of industry experts.  Cisco plans on leveraging some of its new products and technologies too during this program. You are encouraged to use video to help share your idea, which plays perfectly into their new push into the social networking arena. Also, the finalists will present their idea via  Cisco TelePresence.

Not sure if your idea is worth a billion dollars? Well, you are never going to know if you don’t try. Besides even if you don’t win the grand prize, they are going to be giving some Flip cameras away for a few lucky participants.

And, if you are lucky enough to win the grand prize, don’t forget who told you about it. Good Luck!


January 23, 2010  1:51 PM

Understanding Cisco Unified Communications Wildcards



Posted by: Dave Bateman
CME, Commnications Manager, Dial-peers, Patterns, Routepatterns, Unity, Wildcards

I had a customer call me the other day saying they had configured a pattern on the Communications Manager and it wasn’t working as they expected. They were trying to configure a pattern that would match any dialed number that began with 75. I asked what pattern they had created and they said 75*. I told them that the asterisk is not a wildcard in Communications Manager. They said “Yes it is. I just used it yesterday.” After some investigation, I determine that they had indeed used it the day before but not in Communications Manager. They were configuring restriction tables in Unity. They didn’t understand why it would work in Unity but not in Communications Manager. “After all, they are all Cisco products so they should all use the same wildcards” they said. In an perfect world they should, but as we all know this isn’t a perfect world.

Unity and Communications Manager do use different wildcard characters and, if that isn’t confusing enough, when you configure dial-peers and such in IOS, the wildcards are again different. You are probably asking yourself, “why is it like this?” The short answer is that each product was created by a different company so they each did what made the most sense to them. To be honest, at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter why it is the way it is. It only matters that you know how it all works.

The table below shows the two most common wildcards for each system.

Communications Manager

Unity

IOS

Matches any single digit

X

?

.

Matches any number of digits

!

*

T

Note: The definition for the T in the IOS is actually “router pauses to collect digits” but,for our discussion, you can just think of it as being similar to the ! or * in Communications Manager and Unity.

Another area that is sometimes confusing it the range wildcards. In Communications Manager you can enter a range wildcard. For instance, the wildcard [2-7] will match any single digit 2 through 7. However, you can also enter a wildcard that looks like [25-7]. People often think that this will match digits 25 through 27 but it doesn’t. The range wildcard will only match a single digit. This wildcard matches the digits 2, 5, 6 or 7. However, when you configure this same wildcard in IOS, you need to use a comma to separate the digits. The wildcard would look like [2,5-7] in IOS.

As you can see, if you don’t keep this straight, you could end up in some confusing situations. Hopefully this discussion can help you better understand what is happening next time you have to use these useful, but sometimes confusing, things we call wildcards,


January 20, 2010  9:34 PM

VNC to VMware



Posted by: Dave Bateman
VMware, VNC

If you haven’t heard of VMware yet, it is software that allows you to run multiple OS images on a PC. Each image acts like a separate PC. The buzz word for this type of technology is “Vituralization.” There are many reasons people choose this type of deployment. For instance, I use it in a lab environment where I need multiple servers running. The number of virtual servers you can run at once is based on the hardware you have and the resources that each virtual server will require.

The other day I had three virtual servers running, and I wanted to display the desktop of all three servers at the same time, but VMware only displayed one desktop at a time. The current version of VMware has a feature called, “Remote Display.” When enabled, you can VNC directly into that virtual server. So, I configured this on each server and created a VNC connection to each one. This allowed me to see all three desktops at the same time.

The setup is pretty easy, but I did make one or two false assumptions so I thought I’d document how to configure this to help you avoid the issues I ran into.

1. Select the VM image from within VMware console and go to Settings.

Figure 1

Figure 1

2. Select the Options tab and click Remote Display.

Figure 2

Figure 2

3. Check the Enable remote display check box and enter a port number in the Port field. The port number  must be unique for each image.

Figure 3

Figure 3

4. Click OK and start the image.

Once the image starts, you can VNC to it using the VNCviewer software. Once you launch VNCviewer, you need to specify the IP address of the host machine (not the IP address of the image you are trying to access) and the port number of the image. For insance, in Figure 4, 10.1.14 is the IP address of the host machine and 5903 is the port number I assigned in the remote display setting.

Figure 4

Figure 4

You can also use this feature to VNC to an image from a remote system. This is useful if the VM server is not local and you want access directly to the image.


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