Friday, 23 May 2014

Lync Contacts Problems on O365

It's been bugging me for a couple of months, when I left my previous employer I bought an Office 365 subscription to keep in touch with my colleagues with Lync. This should have been straightforward as I had put Lync in and enabled 4228 Enterprise Voice users and it was. I was able to call and message my former colleagues and with the benefit of presence not bug them when they were busy.

Then they turned off federation with Office 365!

Oh well, no biggie, they weren't that nice anyway and the decent guys I had mobile numbers for anyway. So I went to clean up my Lync contacts and I couldn't, right click remove from contacts and nothing happened. I thought it might be a glitch and tried again a few weeks later but no, same thing remove from contacts - no joy still there, mocking me with 'presence unknown'.

Tried again a month later, nope, still there. So bit the bullet and logged a service request with Office 365. I got an email almost straight back from MS introducing the engineer asking me to let him know when I was ready to work on it. I must admit to dreading this, never having used MS support on Office 365 I had no idea what to expect. I sent a reply saying I could work on it now and within 5 minutes I had a call.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised, nice chap who while obviously in Hyderabad spoke great english and started a 'logmein viewing session, together we stepped through a few of the obvious things, clearing the local cache from app data, deleting a couple of registry keys but despite that and a few restarts of the Lync client no joy. The damm contacts refused to be deleted.

This bamboozled my illustrious technical support friend as well and I was put on hold for a few minutes while he consulted.

Once he came back we tried a few other things, deleting / adding a new Lync Contact, him, and deleting it, no probs. Deleting the contacts from OWA using the remove from 'Lync Contacts' no joy, they were still hanging in there. More consultation.

Eventually we got to looking at the contact in OWA -

The clue here is that it is a 'linked' contact that comes from more than one source i.e. outlook, linked in, Facebook etc.

Step 2 click on manage -

 and we see there are actually 4 Stephen Jessiman contacts.

Next -

we select the first one and then click the 'unlink'

after that you MUST click 'OK' up at the top 

then step through each of the contacts making sure each is 'unlinked'

now when we go to 'Lync Contacts' in OWA we can see there are three Stephen Jessiman, note we still want to have Stephen as a contact in Outlook so make sure its 'Lync Contacts' that the next step is in.

right click and 'remove from Lync Contacts'

Next step is to sign out of Lync and then sign back in, the contacts will be loaded in from OWA and voila Stephen should be missing.

Unfortunately I have to go through all that for each contact that is linked. I suspect the linking happened on my Windows Phone when rationalising contacts.

Good one to know if you ever come across this and my thanks to MS Office365 support.

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Missing Lync - adventures in time travelling

Over the last three years I have spent my time putting in the biggest and sometimes quoted as best ( Microsoft) Lync deployment in the UK. A full enterprise voice deployment using Survivable Branch Appliances allowing 4228 users to break out onto the PSTN across 4 BT code areas from around 100 sites in the West of Scotland.

Having moved on from this project into another organisation I thought it might be good to detail my experience here over the last few weeks with regard to telephony.

Eating, breathing and living Lync for the last few years has made me blasé about how the majority of the workforce still conducts its business in the real world. The ability to call people when they are available, conduct ad-hoc voice and video conferences with no regard to booking rooms, gathering people etc. and even seeing if people are in their office before going to talk to them face to face becomes second nature and part of your workflow without you realising it. So, what is it like to step back in time to what feels like 1996?

First impressions are not good, there is a big and dark grey slab of plastic with a sickly green screen that you can actually count the pixels on with the naked eye. I keep expecting space invaders to appear from the side. Oh I should mention this is an IP telephone so my expectation were yay, it must integrate with the PC, eh ! No !

Oh well moving on, lets see what all these buttons do, that’s a point there are 30 buttons on this phone, let me say that again there are 30 buttons on this phone! And that’s the version with the least amount of buttons some have 44! As far as I can tell other than the dail pad and a couple of other usefull ones there are at tleast 14 redundant buttons with no discernible use.

It rings, flashback to ‘24’ the series, I feel like Jack Bauer is going to burst in any moment. No caller id just external number. At leas the call quality should be ok it’s IP on a modern network, good grief, whats on the other end? tin cans and string? It is dire, I’m used to looking round to check the person I’m talking to isn’t standing behind me when using Lync, the call quality is that good, this is worse than BT, this is like going back to the days of analogue mobile, I have to stick my finger in my free ear to isolate and concentrate hard to understand the caller.

Making a call, no click to call here, not even copy and paste, it is a whole procedure, find the number from the address book, forget about presence its going to be pot luck, dial the number on the phone, eh? No connection. Hang up start again try 9 this time, no connection, hang up, you plonker your dialing fingers have atrophied and become as useful as sausages. Do some finger limbering exercise dial the number, oops forgot it, read it, dial again, put the 9 in at the start, dial again it rings, eh sorry forgot what I was calling about. Ok I may be milking it a bit but honestly this is a major step back in usefulness and productivity.

Conferencing, oh my giddy aunt, I had a 2 page document emailed to me explaing how to set a conference call, my dial in and pin numbers and how to integrate a web element. Setup a call, dialled in as the moderator, put in my Pin and nothing, some joins signified by a single beep, and so on. It’s hard to manage, people just talk and then talk louder to get their point across, you don’t have any visual indicators of who is speaking, and the call quality is beyond abysmal. It is a mess and they get paid to host this?

I miss Lync, I miss my status lights, presence, really cool buttonless phones and headsets. I miss Lync on my mobile, I miss getting my voicemail delivered in my email. I miss the connected feeling when you look at peoples status and see where and what they’re up to. I miss having only one phone number, here I have 3! I miss the ability to connect with colleagues and federated partners with no notice, to share documents, slides, desktops while still talking and seeing each other in HD (voice and video).

I really miss Lync.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Win8 Don't get hung up about touch

With the launch of Surface and the raise in profile that this has given to Windows 8 (RT) I feel compelled to expand beyond my customary 140 characters or less and write a blog post.

There are a lot of people, some who should know better, banging on about how great Windows 8 is now that they have touch screens to use it on, how it transforms the interface and this is the only way that Windows 8 will be any use to anyone and the only way that it is likely to be embraced in home and enterprise. Crap.

On Friday (16th Nov 2012) I made a presentation to our management and IT on why we were going to move to Windows 8 and how long it will take. For info, we have 6000 PCs. They bought it. We won't be rushing out and buying touchcreens and we won't be buying Surface RT, maybe some Win8 Pro Surface in the future, we'll see.

Windows 8 is GA, it runs on the same hardware as Win7, and 99% of the apps that run on Win7 will run on 8. We are still on XP, like many enterprises, so we are looking at a sensible roadmap that has Windows 8 ready for deployment to the business by the end of June 2013 and finished by April 2014. This should give us a desktop that will take us through 2020. If we deployed Win 7 then we would have a 5 year old desktop o/s !

IT will have Win8 by January 2013, business users will be in beta by April and everything done by the following April 2014. Most of our users will have had some exposure to Windows 8 before then, either at home, college or in test. It won't be a new and strangely different o/s, certainly not the wrench that was Office 2003 to Office2007 , and to be honest while users may have initially moaned it didn't take them long to adapt.

As to the user interface: look at it closely, it's not that different in real terms, a bunch of icons (tiles) that link to programs (apps) that run either full screen or drop to desktop, with me so far?
No start button, gasp, shock, horror, but hey, move your pointer to where the start button used to be and you see the start screen thumbnail, which you remember is just a bunch of icons that link to programs. Power users right click and get shortcuts to the advanced features. So far so good. The bottom right corner where all the other stuff like time, running apps also has a menu (charms) that, you fairly quickly suss out, let you change either app or PC settings and shutdown, restart etc. The top left corner lets you see and close apps that are running full screen. Every action is easily controlled with a standard mouse and combo's of left and right clicks, finding apps is fantastic, just type their name or the first few letters and choose, in fact it works better with keyboard and mouse than with having to keep raising your arm to prod at the screen.

So to cut to the chase, give it a try without a touchscreen and you'll find it not hard at all and actually a joy to use. Those that are writing about how rubbish it is without touch, you haven't actually used it, have you? I for one will not be rushing out to buy a touchscreen monitor, I can't think of anything worse than having a 24" screen covered in greasy fingerprints, have you seen what some of the business users eat at their desks?

Windows 8, it's not that different, it doesn't need a touchscreen and once you start using it you'll find that you don't want to go back.

P.S. Three compelling reasons for the Enterprise to adopt Win 8

  • Bitlocker
  • Windows to go
  • Direct Access on IPV4

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Microsoft Lync for Emergency Response

As a local authority we have a duty of care to our citizens and unfortunately sometimes that involves co-ordinating the civil authorities, Police, Fire, Health, Social Work etc, to deal with serious events both planned and unplanned and on a happier note organising and ensuring the smooth running of major public events and festivals.

We had a suite of rooms in the basement of our Headquarters that was designated as the emergency planning and response centre, it all looked impressive, big maps on the wall, whiteboards, 12 desks with PC's and bright red telephones. Seperate conference room and other offices for brainstorming during emergencies. It was used on average once every 2 years.

As you can imagine that is not a great use of building space, equipment and resources. Now that we have Lync we don't need it at all anymore.

With the ability to quickly see who is available using presence, pull them into adhoc meetings and video conferences from their own office and even include outside agencies with federation or just by sending them an online meeting request, they are able to join in despite not having Lync, our emergency response has completely changed.

With a large rural area to cover we can setup and have running a fully connected control room in any of our council offices or schools within a few hours. Computer suites in classrooms are ideally suited to this purpose allowing us to be close to the event if required but still fully connected through Lync to our teams and other agencies.

We have moved away from the concept of dedicated numbers and helplines, anybody phoning in to our contact centre can be quickly routed through to any of our locations or people at the click of a mouse. Our use of SBA's across the region with 2 in our major towns gives us a good degree of resilience and we have successfully used 3G mi-fi to video conference and share data using Lync. The ability of senior officers to be effectively there despite still being in the home 30 miles away has increased our level of response beyond expectation.

This was a control room for the Olympic torch procession that ran through South Ayrshire in June. IT received the request to set up some kind of room where Senior staff could monitor the route yet still be in touch at 1400hrs on Thursday, the room wasn't available until 1700hrs. I left the building at 1745hrs after two of us had setup 5 workstations ( laptops ) connect to Lync and Plantronics P540 phones, a 42"  LCD displaying the live feed from the BBC. A Polycom CX3000 conference phone and a dual monitor station for the Head of communications with twitter.

All the staff had to do in the morning was login and their desktop, phone and email was all there ready for them despite them normally working in different buildings.

Lync also allows us a flexibility that was not thought possible a few years ago. Officers in charge of gritting operations in the winter don't have to battle through storms and snowdrifts to get to the office to co-ordinate operations, they are able to work safely and effectively from their home using broadband and still be in full control as if they were sitting at their desks. 

Lync truly has removed the concept of work being a location now it is an activity regardless of where you are.

Oh and I got a small medal for the Olympic Control room setup. Shhh don't tell them how easy it was.