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

December 26, 2010  9:58 PM

Turn an iPad Into a Laptop

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

I have owned an iPad for a while now and the more I use it the more I like it. When I take short business trips, I can get away without having to take my laptop with me. However, if the trip is more than a day or two or I know I am going to have to do work that will require a real PC, I still have to pack the laptop. That’s why I am always on the look out for anything that will allow me to leave the laptop at home and get away with taking just the iPad. So I was pretty please to find what Santa had left under the tree yesterday morning.

My wife got me a new iPad case that has an integrated bluetooth keyboard. The virtual keyboard on the iPad has always been one thing that has kept me from typing anything longer than a short email on the device. As a matter of fact, this is the first time I am using it to write a blog since the second week of owning it. I have used the case/keyboard for a few hours over the last couple of days and over all I am pretty pleased with it. It’s not perfect, but it certainly makes certain tasks more enjoyable.

The keyboard is the soft silicone type that may turn some people off right away. At first I wasn’t sure about it, but I warmed up to it especially when I realized the screen of the iPad lays on it. Since the keys are soft, the chances of the screen getting scratched are pretty low. It is also spill resistant, not that I want to spill anything near the iPad.

The case also adds some bulk to the iPad, which is completely contrary to what the iPad is all about. I guess that is just the cost of having a real keyboard. Even with the added bulk it is still a pretty lightwieght unit.

A few other people that have the device complained about the limited angles you can place the iPad at while it is in this case. While the options are limited, it seems to work for me. That being said, it is better to use it on a table than your lap.

While this device doesn’t really turn the iPad into a laptop, it does make it a lot easier to type longer documents. I don’t plan to write the next War and Peace using this device, but I am pretty sure I will be writing more blogs using the iPad than I did before I had it.

You can find the case at for about a $100 or search around the web like my wife did and find it for closer to $60.

December 24, 2010  7:21 PM

When You Can’t Be Home For the Holidays

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

It’s Christmas Eve, and I am looking forward to spending time with the family tomorrow. As with most families, everyone we’d like to have there won’t be able to make it. This time of year the distance between family members that live out of state seems further than any other time of the year. However, thanks to technology that distance may be shortened, if only virtually.

There are many products out on the market that promise to bring families that are spread across the world into each other’s living room. These products range from the simple and free to the rather extravagant and somewhat costly. This article looks at three such products that are designed for home use and available today. If you hurry, maybe you can have one ready for the big party tomorrow.

Let’s start with the product that offers the highest quality experience. It’s the Cisco umi. It is a device that hooks up to your HD TV and provides up to 1080p video. The quality is quite nice, but it comes with a price. First off, the device is going to set you back about $600.00. That’s just for your end. Whoever you plan on talking with is also going to have to shell out $600.00 for their unit. There is also a monthly fee of $25.00. So after the first year, the cost for two units and the service is going to be just under two grand. For that kind of money you had better plan on using it more than Thanksgiving and Christmas. Oh, and one more thing, those family members of yours that live out in the country most likely won’t be able to use this product since it requires 1.5 Mbps both ways. Speaking from personal experience, that isn’t something many of us out in the country can get.

If the umi is a little more than you are looking for, you might want to consider the Logitech TV Cam. It sits on your TV and allows you to make video calls to other TV Cams or anyone that has PC and web cam. It can deliver up to 720p video, this quality requires 1 Mbps so it still might be beyond the reach of some DSL users. It only costs $149.00 and there is no monthly fee, but there is a catch. You have to have the Logitech Revue unit as well. The Revue is Logitech’s Google TV device. This will cost you another $299.00 so you are looking at about $450.00 dollars for the complete setup. I have seen bundle packages for around $400.00

That brings us to the product that has been used by millions for a number of years – Skype.  It doesn’t promise 1080p video and it doesn’t hook up to your TV (well not easily anyway). But if you have a PC, webcam, and pretty much any broadband internet service, it will set you back a grand total of zero dollars. The best part is that you don’t have to go to the store to buy it. You just go to and download the software.

So there you have it. Three ways to be together for the holidays when you can’t be together. If you are spending the holidays with family or friends or this year has found you by yourself, I’d like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2010  9:38 PM

Enable Unity/Connection Call Screening

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Has this ever happened to you – your phone rings and you take the time to look at the caller ID and as soon as you hear the caller on the other end you wish you had let it go to voice mail? Or sometimes when you do see the caller ID is turns out to be someone other than you were expecting. Times like that the Omega 13 would come in handy. For those of you that have never seen the movie Galaxy Quest, Omega 13 is a time machine that takes you back in time 13 seconds.

While Unity and Unity Connection don’t have an Omega 13 feature, (they should add that to the road map) they do have a nice feature that offers the ability to screen incoming calls. If this feature is enabled, the caller is asked to speak their name before the call is connected. When the called party answers the phone, they hear who is calling and are able to select to accept the call or send it to voice mail.

The setup is fairly easy. All you have to do is go to the administration page for the user you want to enable this feature for and apply the following Call Transfer settings:

  • Set to ring user’s extension.
  • Select Supervise Transfer with a ring value less than that set in Communications Manager.
  • In Unity, under the Gather Caller Information heading, check Introduce and Confirm. In Unity Connection, select Tell Me Who the Call Is For and Ask Me If I Want to Take the Call under the Call Screening section.

While this is a nice feature, it does not come without a price. While the call is being transferred and until the call is answered by the called party, a port will be in use. If you have a sufficient number of ports, then this is not a problem. However, if your ports often run close to capacity, you may not want to implement this feature or implement it only for a small group of users.

December 19, 2010  10:25 PM

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, Nope it’s Just a Cisco Router.

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

The next time you look up in sky and see something that you just can’t figure out what it is, you might be looking at a Cisco router. OK, it’s highly unlikely that you will actually be able to see a Cisco router in the sky, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one there. As a matter of fact, there is. It’s up there in the Intelsat 14 communications satellite that has been in space for about a year now.

It is called the IRIS (Internet Routing in Space) router and is reportedly the first such device in space. So, aside from the fact that it is a router and it’s in space, which is pretty cool, what is its purpose? Cisco has been conducting a number of tests and the one I find most interesting is a feature called “Dial Tone From Space.” It sounds like they had Communication Manager Express (CME) running on the router and placed a call using it. I guess I could take issue with the fact that the dial tone wasn’t really coming from space since CME does not send dial tone, but rather tells the phone to play dial tone. But why throw stones at something so cool?

So, why should we terrestrial beings really care about what Cisco is doing in space? Here’s why. During any kind of natural or man made disaster one of the most important things that need to be restored as soon as possible is communications. It takes time to run cable or put up cell towers. But what if there was a phone system ready for use spinning around up in the air completely undisturbed? It is possible that communications could be restored in a matter of hours instead of days or weeks. This is just one example of the type of impact the IRIS program could have. Who knows, maybe someday this blog will be hosted on some satellite. It could happen.

December 17, 2010  2:56 PM

On the Fly Translation Like You’ve NEVER Seen Before

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

I’ll admit it, not many things really impress me anymore. I guess living in this day and age I pretty much expect technology to advance so fast that when some thing new comes out, I just take it in stride. But every now and then something comes along that just knocks me off my feet. Well, today I found something that did that to me.

Imagine you are walking along the street in Mexico and you come across a sign written in Spanish. If you are like me, you can’t read Spanish so you are at a loss as to what it says. No problem. Just whip out your iPhone and look at the sign through the camera. Magically, the sign appears on the phone just like it does in front of you except the words are in English. It seems like something you would see in a sci-fi movie, but it is an app called World Lens and you can buy for the iPhone right now.

Check out the video below to see it in action:

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

December 15, 2010  11:24 PM

Before You Throw Out That Old PC

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

With Christmas just around the corner some of you may have asked Santa for a new PC. If he happens to make your wishes come true, you will need to decide what to do with your old PC. You have quite a few options, anything from using it as a backup PC, donating it to a worthy cause, or just using it as a boat anchor. If you choose to do anything other than keep it, you need to make sure that when you give it away you only give the PC away and not your personal information.This means you need to make sure you wipe the hard drive clean.

Many people will simply reformat the drive or do a factory restore. While this makes it looks like all of your data is gone, most of it still remains and it wouldn’t even take an experienced hacker to recover it. There are a ton of open source software programs that allow the average (or maybe slightly above average) computer user to retrieve information from a reformatted drive. The good news is that there are a number of good pieces of software that can really delete the data on your drive and prevent anyone from recovering it.

When you reformat a drive, the File Allocation Table (FAT) is deleted. This is kind of like the index of a book. Once the FAT is deleted, the OS can’t find any of the files. That doesn’t mean the files aren’t there. Just like if you removed the index from a book, the rest of the information in the book is still there. What you really want to do is erase all of the files on the drive. The only way to really delete the data from a drive is to overwrite it with new information. Here are a few programs that will do this for you:

Darik’s Boot and Nuke – This is an ISO that you burn to a CD and boot from the CD. It allows you to completely destroy all the data on your drive.

Eraser (Windows) – This allows you to securely delete specific files instead of the entire drive.

Permanent Eraser (MAC) – This program allows you to delete specific files and overwrites the data 35 times.

November 30, 2010  10:03 PM

iPhone Instant Messaging

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Over the past couple of years something happened to the way I manage projects. In the past, the main form of communication was email. While email still plays an important part, I find instant messaging playing a larger role each day. While it can never replace email, it succeeds where email fails. For example, I was on a call with a customer the other day and they asked a question that only the lead on the project could answer. I was able to shoot a quick instant message to the lead and have the answer for the customer while we were still on the call. Another great use is when you are on a conference call and want to tell a co-worker something that you don’t want all of the participants to hear.

All this is great and most likely not news to anyone reading this blog. Instant messaging has become a great tool for me. However, lately I have found myself away from my office a lot which has meant I wasn’t able to use instant messaging as much as I would like to. Due to the type of server I use for instant messaging, I need to use a secure messaging client. I had tried a few iPhone apps, but none of them were able to connect to my server. Then I discovered Meebo.

Meebo is a web based service that lets you access all of your IM accounts from one interface. It’s been around for a while, but I never really had a use for it. But when I found out they had an iPhone app, I decided to check it out again. Once I created a Meebo account and configured IM accounts within it, I was ready to try the iPhone app. It worked right out of the gate and has been a very reliable app. It includes push notification and runs in the background so you are notified when you get an IM no matter what you are doing on the phone.

I have come to find this app very useful and the price is right up my alley – free. If you have been looking for a low cost, reliable IM client for the iPhone, check out this one.

November 28, 2010  11:59 PM

Taking WebEx to the Next Level

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

If you are anything like me, you have been on your share of WebEx conferences. During more than one of those conferences, I have been asked to stream the video from my web cam. Personally, I don’t feel that a one to two inch square of a talking head adds much to the call. It does keep people from drifting off too much because they know they are being watched, but that is about it. I find myself squinting  just to see whose lips are moving so I know who is talking.

All that is about to change. Cisco has started offering a higher quality video for Webex. The video that is streamed is a much higher quality than the standard offering and the speaker displays in a larger video window than the other participants. Your video is shown as a picture-in-picture within the speakers window. When someone new starts talking, their video fills the larger video window. Other participants are seen in smaller windows below the presenter. Documents can still be seen as they normally are as the video streams are displayed on the right side of the screen.

But the real beauty of the new system is when you enter what is called “full screen.” This fills the majority of your screen with the video of the speaker and the other participants show up below. When the presenter starts to share something, it takes up the whole screen and the video stream of the speaker floats in a smaller box on top of whatever is being presented.

Cisco has a nice video overview of this product here. While you won’t see every WebEx system switch over to this high quality format over night, when you finally do use a system like this, you will never want to go back to the standard product.

November 26, 2010  5:42 PM

Simplifiy Partitions and Search Spaces

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

While I was finishing doing the author review on my latest book, I came across a suggestion from the technical editor suggesting that I use a certain analogy when explaining partitions and calling search spaces. It was the very same analogy that I have been using for over 10 years. I can’t say with certainty that I was the first to use the analogy, but I can tell you that I had never heard it before I thought of it. I figure if it made its way back to me 10 years later, it was worth continuing to share.

Partitions are assigned to dialable objects such as directory numbers, route patterns, meet-me and park numbers, etc. A calling search space is an ordered list of partitions and are assigned to devices and lines. In order for a device to dial a number, they must have a calling search space that includes the partitions that the number is assigned to.

In the analogy, the partition is thought of as a lock and the calling search space as a key chain. The key on the key chain determines what locks you can access. If you don’t have the key, you can’t open the lock so you can’t access the number. That is really how it works. When I teach it this way, people normally tell me that there has to be more to it. Well, there really isn’t. They are very simple components, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t powerful. Because they are so simple, they can be applied in ways that result in some pretty complex solutions. This is most likely the reason people think they are more complicated than they are but when you break it down to the basics, they are really pretty simple and straight forward.

Let’s see how well you understand this. If a directory number is in the Employee partition, which search space could access it?

CCS-1 contains the following partitions:

  • Local
  • LD
  • International

CCS-2 contains the following partitions:

  • Employ
  • LD
  • International

CCS-3 contains the following partitions:

  • Local
  • LD
  • Employee

The answer is CSS-3 because it is the only calling search space that contains the Employee partition.

I am often asked, “what happens if you don’t assign a partition to a directory number?” I turn the question around and ask, “what happens if you don’t have locks on doors?” Any one that wants can enter them. The same is true with partitions. If you don’t assign a partition to a directory number (or any dialable entity), anyone can reach that number. That is why it is recommended that all numbers should be assigned to a partition.

November 24, 2010  8:50 AM

Intelligent Answers to Stupid Questions

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

Have you ever wondered what the average depth of the Pacific Ocean is in leagues, or what the weather was like in Rome on the day you were born, or what six letter word begins with A and has a TR in the middle? If you have, then you are in luck. The answers to these and many not so silly questions can be found quickly using WolframAlpha.

I’ll be honest, I heard about this site a while back and wrote it off as another search engine without ever visiting it. Man, was I wrong. It is no more a search engine than a computer is a calculator. It  is called a computational knowledge engine. What this means is that is figures out the answer to an expression. For example, if one were to enter 30 year mortgage 5% $100000 it would figure out the details for a 30 year mortgage with the a principle of $100000 at an interest rate of 5%. If you enter this same information in to Google, you will get search results that range from where to find a mortgage on how to buy a house with no credit check.

The uses for this tool are pretty much endless. As a writer I have already thought of many times it would have helped to create comparisons or add a little flavor to a story by mentioning a neat little fact like the distance from New York to LA is equal to 43324 football fields.

Whether you are a student, writer, crossword puzzle enthusiast, or just someone that likes to  run weird computations, I think you may find WolframAlpha a very interesting place to visit.

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