About Me

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TsooRad is a blog for John Weber. John is a Skype for Business MVP (2015-2016) - before that, a Lync Server MVP (2010-2014). My day job is titled "Technical Lead, MS UC" - I work with an awesome group of people at CDW, LLC. I’ve been at this gig in one fashion or another since 1988 - starting with desktops (remember Z-248’s?) and now I am in Portland, Oregon. I focus on collaboration and infrastructure. This means Exchange of all flavors, Skype, LCS/OCS/Lync, Windows, business process, and learning new stuff. I have a variety of interests - some of which may rear their ugly head in this forum. I have a variety of certifications dating back to Novell CNE and working up through the Microsoft MCP stack to MCITP multiple times. FWIW, I am on my third career - ex-USMC, retired US Army. I have a fancy MBA. One of these days, I intend to start teaching. The opinions expressed on this blog are mine and mine alone.

2015/03/18

Altia Systems PanaCast

Are you tired of paying a small fortune to setup a small conference room with a video system for Lync (SfB)?  Have you looked at installing the equivalent of an old Microsoft Roundtable and been put off by the expense?  Has the Lync Room System route started to look like a more expensive solution than you want to consider?

Some of the smaller solutions are made to sit on one end of the room, and then you have to cluster your attendees at the other end like sheep  And then you have a bit higher end. Those solutions are more like a higher-end solution but still, you end up clustering your attendees at one end of the room.  Both of these examples are nice pieces of equipment, but still…not what you are looking for?  You want that panorama thing, where you sit all the way around a larger table, and yet can still see everyone, natural-like?

Be still my beating heart, here comes PanaCast.  Altia Systems has a product that might just be the answer you are looking for.  Compatible with a wide range of devices, PC, mobiles, and yes, Office 365, PanaCast offers you a human-eyeball-compatible view of the conference room.  According to the PanaCast experts that I interviewed, this equates to somewhere between 160-200 degrees of vision.

Of course, we must be a bit skeptical about the manufactures claims, but this thing comes pretty close.  Here is official blurb noting the two different deployment methods.  You can take a deeper look at this solution here.

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The Setup

I unboxed the unit and spent about 30 seconds in the assembly phase.  Power, and network.  Done.  For informational purposes, I have this plugged into a switch, so this is truly a stand-alone video unit.  I had to do a firmware update, and that took me another five minutes.  After that, PanaCast was up and ready.

There is some software to download and install, and once that is done, the entire thing is drag and drop. Get the required software here.

Take a look at the datasheet here.

Here is what it looks like for me, setup in my lab:

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The PanaCast is sitting in the corner of my palatial office space, and is covering a 90 degree view.  Note that the camera, like almost all cameras, is sensitive to lighting levels.  The ethereal glow on my face is literally the screen lighting from two flat panels.  This next view is the same camera, but now I have moved it to right in from of me.

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Note the increased field-of-view - easily 180 degrees as you can see the contents of both corners.  Again, notice the light sensitivity – I like my windows open and the sun coming in – but this causes issues for collaboration cameras.

Skype for Business Connection

What is important to know is the PanaCast camera is essentially a Lync -errrr- SfB endpoint.  Meaning that you can drag and drop this puppy into your meeting like you would any other user.  To quote Jackie Gleason: “…how sweet it is!” OK, enough entertainment value.

Inside the PanaCast view, you can, as an individual user, zoom and pan, just like a real human sitting in the real conference room. I can adjust my view to focus on a specific spot in the overall view, like the whiteboard, and YOU can focus on something else – like the clock on the wall and wish the meeting was over. Not that any of us do that. Any user in the meeting has full control of their own view.  What I do with mine does not affect where you focus. And you can have more than one of them in a meeting. 

The PanaCast system will work with Office 365, it is really just another SfB user.  Interestingly, for my lab setup, Altia shipped me a unit, and we initially hooked it up to one of their Office 365 demo accounts.  Seamless.  Then I asked for hooking it up to my lab environment – I was worried that I had a non-standard SSL certificate on my Edge.  No worries – the PanaCast zoomies took my user info, my domain data, and poof!  PanaCast is logging in as my domain user. 

The PanaCast sits on your network, uses your power, your IP, your piece of Category 6e cable, yet it talks to an Altia server out in cloud-land.  By device, Altia knows who the individual camera is supposed to be, and handles it from there.  Altia is selling this as a service also.  So if you have a pure O365 Lync deployment, the PanaCast will just work as it did for me in my lab and as it did for their demo account. So nice.

Let’s Wrap it Up

I think you should consider contacting Altia for a demo and see if this system impresses you as much as it impressed me, and if it might have a spot in your solution set.

YMMV.

2015/03/13

SSRS into existing default instance

Are you trying to install SQL Server Reporting Services onto an already built default or named instance of SQL?  Does it error out telling you that the instance already exists and you need to choose another, and you don’t wanna choose another?

Then you might want to read this.  Yes, it is for a really old version of SQL, but hey, it works.  I just tested this on SQL 2014.

Run the below command at the Windows command prompt to start SQL Server setup on the active node.  Make sure to run this command after changing the root directory of the command prompt to the location where you have placed the SQL Server setup files.

Setup.exe /SkipRules=StandaloneInstall_HasClusteredOrPreparedInstanceCheck /Action=Install
This bypasses the SQL install logic checks.  A downside is that the setup routine skips the auto-magic SSRS Native mode configuration. You will need to do a manual configuration of the SSRS using the Reporting Services Configuration Manager.
This is no way implies that if you do a SQL Availability Group, and put SSRS on both (or all) nodes, that the SSRS is now in a DR state.  In fact, some really useful reading for doing the DR process with SSRS in this posture can be found here: 

https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh882437.aspx

YMMV

2015/03/09

Plantronics Voyager Edge UC

Optimized for Lync does not always mean optimized for your usage patterns, the size of your ear canal, or even how the buttons work with your fickle fingers.

You may need to try out quite a few to find what works for you.  Or, you can just trust me to guide you through the Bluetooth earpiece minefield.  After all, how I use my Bluetooth device is how everyone should be using it, yes?  And my ears and fingers are clearly the reference standard for all 6+ billion consumers on this planet. 

Well, they should be.  My momma says I am special.  My SO says my momma meant it the other way ‘round, but I am ever hopeful.

Into my life comes this Plantronics Voyager Edge UC, Optimized for Lync, and either a replacement for, or perhaps a new twist on my favorite, go to Bluetooth device, the Voyager Legend UC.

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Last week I had something else plugged into my ear and into my work laptop (and Lync).  For the coming week I will be using the Voyager Edge UC.

Here is the official market-speak and feature set.

There is also some software that purports to be Lync/Skype compatible…

Software-enabled functionality

With Plantronics Hub, get the added value of:

  • Call control across multiple softphones
  • Battery meter conveniently displays headset battery life remaining in PC icon tray
  • Headset control panel allows for customization of settings, including call notification and related options
  • UC presence automatically updated when on a call; not only on PC calls, but also when on mobile calls (Microsoft Lync and Skype only)

Well, it does all that true enough.  I won’t ever use that stuff, but it might be the deciding factor for you.

SfB Link previously known as the Lync Link.

Inserting the USB dongle into my USB hub resulted in near-instantaneous connection.  There was some momentary confusion because my Calisto 620 also has a BT-300C-M dongle. 

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But, the sharp-eyed reader will note the icons are subtly different – not to mention they have different name designations.  And you have to know that being SfB (Lync) kinda guy, I sat there in a call flipping back and forth between devices just to prove I could (and SfB could) do it.  After that period of insanity, things were copacetic and worked as expected.

Pairing

You can pair this earpiece to your computer and the phone at the same time.  Slick Willy never had it so good.

Battery Life

Only 6 hours.  Hmmmph.  If you talk for 6 straight hours, I suggest that you start looking for work as a talk show host. Me?  Being a tad more normal, I am more concerned with standby time, and getting a few conference calls worked into the day – and this unit seems to last well enough for that.  In a nod to the product team, there is only so much you can do to fit a battery into a device of this size.

Audio Quality

Audio Quality is standard Plantronics; that means it was well above acceptable if not setting the standard.

Controls

I think I am seeing a trend in the “ear-device” marketplace where everyone is trying to cram as much functionality as possible into a smaller package.  If it was up to me, I would  stick with a bit bigger size, and a bit bigger controls.  Having said that, all the controls worked as advertised.  I like the mute feature – nothing like getting yourself muted and the other end is none the wiser.  Makes getting coffee much easier.

Downloadable Software

Once paired with my iPhone, the AppStore offered me the Plantronics Hub software.  Handy.  And it sort of works.  I am not too much on fiddling with the settings – most times the defaults work just fine for me.  However, I can see where some of these changes could be for the better if that is your bent.  Should you really want to get fancy, you can download the Plantronics Hub software from here for your workstation/laptop.  2 of my other testers liked the options offered by the download.

Conclusions

I have to say that I will not be using this device in the future.  I found the controls difficult, and the fit in my ear was not the greatest.  However, in fairness, I passed this device to three other testers, and they all liked it.  So, it must be me, as usual, swimming upstream.

YMMV

2015/03/06

Jabra Stealth UC MS

Jabra sent me a relatively new toy – a smallish Bluetooth earpiece that is Lync Optimized.

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You can read up on the official Jabra-speak here.

I wanted to try this little gem because of the (lack of) size, but it still touted up to six hours of talk time. And it is S-M-A-L-L.

Here is the official feature list:

  • Smartphone voice control button for remote activation of Siri / Google Now
  • Noise-Blackout dual microphone technology reduces background noise
  • HD Voice for high definition sound quality
  • NFC for easy pairing
  • Stream music, podcasts or GPS directions
  • Incredibly lightweight; only 7.9g (0.28oz)
  • Small, sleek design; L2.57 x W 0.61 x H 0.95 in
  • MicroPOWER technology provides up to 6 hours talk time

Pairing with my phone was dirt simple.  Pairing with my laptop so as to use the Stealth with Lync was even easier.  Plug in the provided USB dongle, and turn on the Stealth.  Done. 

Being Lync Optimized means that you have full call control synchronization.  About the only thing I don’t like about this little earpiece is the beep-beep when muted.  

Out of the box, there is a little dinky 5 minute guide; if you are interested in a bit deeper technical content, you can get the datasheet here.

Overall, this is a good solid earpiece, and it just might be perfect for you.  I wore it for several hours with no issues, and there was plenty of battery left – the handy voice announcement is telling me I have three hours left.

You can get one right here.

YMMV

Plantronics BackBeat Pro

What do we have here?  Another toy!  How lucky am I?

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BackBeat Pro by Plantronics  Officially, here is the feature list:

 

Pairing

Paired with laptop – but could not get it to give me audio.  Don’t know why.  I stopped trying after a bit;  I don’t like using BT on my laptop – BT drivers tend to screw with parts of the Office Suite so for several years now I simply disable BT on the laptop.  So, for me, nothing lost.

Paired with my iPhone first time out, and worked nicely.  It was a little disarming to not have a microphone boom in front of me, but the audio quality for the voice sending portion of this headset was good-excellent.

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Audio Quality

Pandora music quality was excellent.  Volume was more than acceptable; there was more dB available than I find comfortable blasting into my gourd.  Frequency response, while I am not a human KHz meter, seemed to reproduce music well. The BackBeat Pro won’t ever replace my Infinity Studio Monitors in terms of pushing air, but hey, this thing is feeding straight into your ears.  And hugely impactful bass requires some size in the drivers with the ability to push air around.  Adele Rolling in the Deep has a thumpy bass line along with a solid drum beat – a good test of the music quality for bass response.  Even Garth Brooks sounded great. Overall, Music quality on the TsooRaD Goodness scale is at least a 9.

Controls

Holy Controllability Batman!  This thing has more controls than the space shuttle.  Well, maybe that is a tad exaggerated.  When paired with my iPhone, the BackBeat Pro rocked.  Full control of my play lists, and switching between music and using the phone was seamless.  Very well done. 

There is software for added functions, updating firmware, and for creating an entire Zen user experience. 

The Lync Link

Seeing as how I could not achieve BT nirvana with my laptop, what I did was leave the BackBeat paired to my phone and fired up my Lync Mobile client.  Nifty.  You have to love Lync Mobile.

Conclusions

A very nice piece of kit. Overall comfort level is excellent, audio quality is excellent.  Functionality with my iPhone was standard Plantronics goodness.  All of this and you get the Plantronics build quality also.

You can get your very own BackBeat Pro right here.

YMMV

2015/03/04

Plantronics Blackwire C725-M

Do you work in a noisy office environment?  Does that noise get in the way of your concentration? Do you tend to put up some music on to mask that noise? 

Plantronics might have an answer for you.  The Blackwire series of Optimized for Lync headsets has another winner.  the C725-M.  Noise cancelling, stereo, and a set of features that might well make this your go-to headset.  Here is the official market-speak.  It even comes with a nice soft carry case.

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The short list of goodies incudes:

From the top down we have:  YES, sweet!, maybe, handy, Pandora John approved, I don’t care.

You want more detail?  OK, fine.  The ANC works really well; I would prefer over-the-ear rather than on-the-ear.  Could be just me, but what is the point to ANC when the noise can just go around? 

Smart Sensor?  This puppy answers the call just by putting the headset on.  This might be a little odd to some, but this auto-answer feature is also on my Voyager so I am used to it.  Once you try it, you may never go back. 

Professional audio quality?  I think this will depend your definition of what “good” is. 

Inline controls?  See below.  But they work well.

Music? Personally, based on my testing, and knowing that the stream on Pandora is different from 3g to Wi-Fi. my tired ears could tell the difference.  And sounds pretty nice on both. 

As to the case, I don’t care, I don’t use them.  You, however, might think that the case is the best thing since the corner gas-station.

Errata

The microphone boom can go on both sides.  It all folds flat.  The ANC is really nice.  It answers the call for me. The inline module volume control has different tones for up and down.  The ANC is really nice.  There, now I have said it three times.

The line cord is a bit stiffer than some I have seen.  Which I like.  Less tangle coming out of Mr. Backpack.  Plantronics also has a comprehensive download and support site.  There is even specific software to enhance your Lync user experience.  Nice.

Comfort is a solid 9.5+ on the Tsoorad Goodness scale.  Not too much weight, and I did not feel like I had my head in a vise.

Lync Link

Of course, this blog would not be appropriate if I did not tie this device into Lync in some fashion.  Plantronics says the C725-M is Optimized for Lync.  How did that portion of the testing go?  Easy-peasy.  Plug n Play.  I had zero issues – all I did was plug into a USB port and I was up and running. The Inline module works as expected. Audio voice quality is excellent.

Summary

A winner.  No need to say more.

You can get one right here.

YMMV.

2015/03/02

Asus Mobo & Server 2012 R2

Did you need to update your lab server?  Do you run a high-end gaming or media platform and need a boatload of RAM so you obtained an Asus mobo so you can have 32 or 64 GB of RAM?  Did you decide to go with a Windows Server 2012 R2 as a workstation host for the goodies you get with that?

If so, then I will make the guess that you discovered that the Asus-supplied driver disk claims that your operating system is not supported.  Horse pucky says you – with Windows 7/Server 2008 and Windows 8 (and 8.1)/Server 2012 (and R2) the core of the operating system is much the same and drivers will work on both, right?  Very frustrating to know something should work and be turned away by a mechanism to save the consumer from themselves.

This is now the second time I have run into this little gotcha; and for the second time, I worked around the issue the same way.  I suppose you could go find all the drivers and try to load them individually; however, one of the problems is that the LAN driver is a toughie.  Downloading the drivers and suite software direct from Asus runs you into the same issue – “your operating system is not supported” and you start questioning your sanity and direction in life.  My first experience with this was with Server 2008 R2 and an Asus P8z68 board.  This weekend I ran into this issue using a Asus Sabertooth X79 board and Server 2012 R2.  Specifically, I am using this mobo here.

What is the issue?

The *.ini files don’t include a proper operating system identifier that tells the driver/utility disk that it is OK to install for Server 2012 R2.  Very frustrating knowing that the drivers and whatnot will work just fine – well, there is an issue with the on-board Ethernet controller (and Intel 82579v) that the Server 2012 R2 doesn’t like – but I have a fix for that as well. 

A little error comes up with the audio drivers, but in my case, this is a headless VM host, and I am not too worried about that aspect of installing.  As it turns out, the audio driver install routine pitches and error, but then continues to install and works just fine.

The Fix

OK, so what do you need to do?  First, copy the CD to somewhere on a writeable drive.  Then find EVERY *.ini file in the resulting file structure.  You should end up with something like this:

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and here is the end of the list…

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Yes, that one line reads “264 File(s)”  that is a lot of them!  But, we do want to be successful, yes?  Note also that the very FIRST file listed is not “AsusSetup.ini” or “AsusSetup64.ini” – this is important. 

Let’s Dive In!

Cannonball, Can Opener, perhaps a graceful Swan dive or something you would see off the 10 meter board in a formal diving competition, pick your poison.  What you need to do is modify every last one of those ini files with the name “asussetup.ini” or “AsusSetup64.ini” – not the worlds best task for a Friday night, but you do want this to work, yes?

FWIW, I used this tool here.

Start by looking at the file \bin\Ascdinst.ini in your favorite editor, and find this piece:

WNT_6.3H_64 = Win81_64  --- Without getting too deep into the weeds, this line reads “Windows 8.1 Home Edition”

What you need to do is realize that this:   WNT_6.3I_64 = Win81_64 represents Server 2012 R2.

If you are trying to do this little routine with Server 2012 (why?) or Server 2008 (or R2) (why?) you can use these lines:

Server 2012 R2: WNT_6.3I_64 = Win81_64

Server 2012: WNT_6.2I_64 = Win8_64

Server 2008 R2: WNT_6.1I_64 = Win7_64

Server 2008: WNT_6.0I_64 = Win7_64

For those of us who are font-challenged, or maybe just a bit dim or blind, the “I” in those strings is a capital i.

What is going to happen here is that the installer is going to read the installed operating system as WNT_6.3I_64 and equate that to win81_64, which is supported for install.

At any rate, in your favorite editor, you want the appropriate section in the ascdinst.ini file to read thusly:

WNT_6.3P_32 = Win81_32
WNT_6.3P_64 = Win81_64
WNT_6.3P_32_MCE = Win81_32
WNT_6.3P_64_MCE = Win81_64
WNT_6.3H_32_MCE = Win81_32
WNT_6.3H_64_MCE = Win81_64
WNT_6.3H_32 = Win81_32
WNT_6.3H_64 = Win81_64
WNT_6.3I_64 = Win81_64

Once you get that first one done, the asussetup will be happy.  The other 263 files need to be done also to enable the individual components to install properly.  Happy grepping!  or, Happy notepad ++’ing, or however else you choose to do it. Yes, I know I said that some of the files don’t need to be done, but you never can tell which.  Actually you can, if the WNT_6.3H_64 line is not present, you don’t need to worry about that ini file.  But, do you really want to mess around with looking at each file?  No, I did not think so.  Pick a tool and use it.

As a nit-picky technical note, for your purposes, you really don’t need the WNT_6..3H_64 line at all, so you can just grep every ini file on the disk, and if it finds the WNT_6..3H_64 line in the file, replace it with WNT_6.3I_64 = Win81_64. Which *I* did not do, because there is always the chance that I might, for some reason known only to Microsoft, need to install the Windows 8.1 Home Edition on my 64GB Lab server.  You never can tell.  I might come down with a severe case of stupid one day.

LAN Driver

In a twist of technicality that I have no desire to attempt unraveling, Intel does not produce a driver for the 82579V GB Ethernet Controller that supports Server 2012 R2.  Don’t ask me to elucidate, I said I don’t know.  But, what remains is that even when you work your way through 264 different ini files doing the above routine, the LAN driver on the disk is going to barf on you because it doesn’t like Server 2012 R2.  Again, I don’t know why.

What I do know is that you can do the Device Manager thing, and tell Windows itself to install the 82579LM driver, which works splendidly.

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If you go here: https://downloadcenter.intel.com/download/23073 and actually read the fine print, you will find this:

NOTE: The following devices do not have driver or software support for Windows Server 2012 R2:
- Intel® Ethernet Connection I217-V
- Intel® Ethernet Connection I218-V
- Intel® 82579V Gigabit Ethernet PHY

So, it would appear that the 82579LM driver is going to have to suffice. As you can see, I have plenty of traffic on the network, but as a fraction of the speed provided by the NIC, it doesn’t even make a pimple on the radar screen…

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When we do a little file transfer to get a feel for actual speed, it certainly looks like we are getting GB speed.

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Summary

At this point, remember that the first file you do is different from the rest in the terms of naming convention.  All the rest you need to worry about will say asussetup*.ini.  There is a bunch of language ini files; I don’t think you need to worry about those, unless of course you know something about language files being bit-specific that I don’t know.

Oh, BTW, this Asus board rocks.  Although I am not sure I will ever need all 30 USB ports.

YMMV

Technical Consulting

Something went through both of my brain cells today. And to keep a long story short, it centers on your approach to the question – whatever ...