A Week with the Skype for Business Client

Skype for Business

It has now been 1 week since I installed the Skype for Business Technical Preview client. Here’s what I learned.

Services Tested

I’m using a Lenovo Ultrabook Helix. Prior to installing Skype for Business I used Lync 2013 on this machine. The upgrade went through with no errors and a single reboot.

In the past week I’ve conducted:

  • 9 IM conversations
  • 4 Enterprise Voice calls
  • 1 Lync Meeting/Skype Meeting
  • 2 Persistent Chat sessions
  • 2 file transfers
  • 1 Video chat/call (as a test)

Overall, I’m surprised at just how similar to Lync 2013 this client is. Aside from the UI change, this operates so closely to Lync that I’m tempted to call it just a cosmetic update.

But that’s not entirely the case. True, we’ve talked more about backend changes than client-based on the blog (and I look forward to examining those in detail later on!). But the Skype for Business client has a few changes of its own.

Improvements over Lync, & What’s the Same

The following is a list of observations recorded throughout the week. Every time Skype4B 2015 did something different from Lync, or I caught myself performing a task exactly as I did in Lync, I made a note.

  1. IM windows are saving their sizes & screen positions now! This always bugged me with Lync; it kept forgetting my window sizes.
  2. The main client window stretched to a full-screen vertical column on load. I prefer a smaller “floating” window, but this isn’t much of an irritation. Adjustable anytime.
  3. Moving the Presence indicator to a circle at bottom-right is growing on me. I liked the left-side vertical bar, but the circle provides a slightly-faster recognition of Presence status.
  4. The custom Presence statuses I set back when I did this post: Lync Add-Ons: Lync Custom Status Tool
    were preserved in the update! I still have “Wrestling a Wolverine” and “Assisting a Customer” (those ARE two separate things, I assure you…) among my Presence choices.
  5. There is a brief hesitation between clicking the Skype taskbar icon and the window popping up. Lync did the same thing. (I think it’s system-related.) No change in behavior here.
  6. File transfers to Lync 2013 users will break sometimes. It’s not consistent, and likely caused by the Technical Preview interfacing with a previous version (Lync 2013), but I’m noting it here.
  7. I like how quick in-window file transfers are to initiate.
  8. Options menus are almost exactly the same. (Seriously, I’m not finding any differences aside from the name “Skype for Business” where “Lync” was.)

Skype for Business Client

Crashes/Hangs/”Not Responding”

I only experienced two instances of crashes, hangs or the dreaded “Not Responding” error.

  1. In Options, when clicking from “Video Devices” menu to “Audio Devices” menu (this temporarily enabled my webcam until closing Options).
  2. When adding video to my test video chat/call. The call froze and I had to reconnect. Once I did, it worked fine.

This suggests that the video portion of Skype for Business still has a few bugs.

Frankly, I expected MORE bugs in a Technical Preview. The fact that I only had these 2 issues was both perplexing and encouraging. My thought process went like this: “Okay, there’s one issue. Same issue from another angle too. Wait, is that it? Everything else is working fine. It’s a beta, there has to be…nope, that works too!”

DELAYS: Occasionally I did notice a slight delay in conversations. They only occurred when adding services (e.g. file transfers, video) to an existing IM conversation. Most likely a result of network hiccups, possibly sprinkled with a bit of inter-version communications. It was not significant enough to frustrate me or cause me to note them as a bug.

Final Impression: Can I Keep Skype for Business?

I’m impressed by how smooth the Skype for Business client has been. The Technical Preview is scheduled to end April 30 (Skype for Business 2015 is slated for release sometime in April). I will be sad if I have to switch back to Lync 2013, even if it’s only temporary.

In fact, let me make a recommendation. If you do use Lync Server 2013 now, and you plan to upgrade to Skype for Business? Transition the clients first. This client app will work with Lync Server, and it gives you time to familiarize users to the new UI.

Have you tested the Skype for Business Technical Preview yet? What were your observations? Please comment or email.

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Skype for Business 2015 Client Technical Preview Released: Why I’m Celebrating AND Concerned

Skype for Business

On Monday, Microsoft announced a Technical Preview for the Skype for Business client! Yay!

This means 2 things: One, we have 1 month to go until Skype for Business Server is here. Two, I can test out the Skype for Business interface.
The client is installing now. I’ll do a proper review next time, after I’ve had a few days to really explore its ins and outs. For now, let me give you a few first impressions:

  • Look & feel doesn’t appear much different. This might be intentional – I don’t use Skype too often, but Skype for Business is easy to recognize anyway. Microsoft WAS smart in that their UI functionality appears to emphasize clicks more than touch. I do have a touchscreen laptop, but I still prefer my mouse.
  • I don’t like the ‘bubbles’ in IMs. I know it’s a Skype feature and millions of people will recognize it…I just don’t like how they look.
  • File transfer IS a bit faster, at least from my perspective.
  • Options menus don’t appear to have many changes (if any). Good for Lync users; they’ll have some extra familiarity.

Skype for Business IM Window

If you want to try the Skype for Business Client Technical Preview, here are some links to help:
Evaluate Skype for Business Client – TechNet Evaluation Center
Skype for Business client on Lync Server resources: Awareness and readiness planning- Office Support

Check back next week for a more thorough review.

Office 365 Skype for Business Users Will Get Enterprise Voice

VentureBeat also has a post with timely #Skype4B details: Skype for Business will offer phone numbers to Office 365 users, available in preview this summer – VentureBeat

From the article:

“Skype for Business will offer Enterprise Voice in Office 365 with PSTN calling and conferencing. The functionality will first become available as a technical preview in the U.S. this summer.”

Honestly, I’m of two minds about this. Of course, adding PSTN calling to an Office 365 service is extremely helpful for Office 365 users. That part is great!

I commented in the past about Lync Online being “near-crippled” without PSTN calling. It appears Microsoft does intend to fulfill its PSTN promise…by introducing it in the next version.

This is where I become a little paranoid. It makes me think that Skype for Business 2015 may be the last version available for on-premise installs.

Will Skype for Business & SharePoint Move to Cloud-Only Soon?

Where does that come from? I’ll explain. See, Office 365 getting PSTN calling is one part of my concern. The other is the rumor I’ve heard that SharePoint is going cloud-only.

We do know that the next version of Visual Studio is moving to the cloud. Some developers are frustrated by this decision. I can’t blame them. I don’t work with Visual Studio myself, but I know people who do. Not having a local environment to work & test within means fundamental changes to their work style.

Will SharePoint take the same road? I’ve seen chatter indicating as such, though Googling doesn’t give me a specific yes/no announcement. Yet.

SharePoint Online does already exist. Just like Lync Online. Which will soon become Skype for Business Online, with pretty much every feature its on-premise sibling has by the end of the year…

See why I’m concerned?

We’ll have to wait and see. If you’ve heard information for or against this idea, please share it with us.

In the meantime, excuse me…I have a new Skype for Business Preview to play with.

Are you trying out the Skype for Business Technical Preview? What are your impressions so far? Please comment or email! I’d love to hear others’ experiences.

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Call Monitor Pro and Lync Monitoring Reports Decoder: Dual Tool Reviews

Third-Party Lync Products

Two new Lync tools! But my birthday’s not until August.

Both of these new tools popped up on my radar today. You know I love doing reviews…couldn’t pass up the opportunity! So for this week’s Lync Insider post, I have a Dual Tool Review. A new mini-app for calls through Lync and Skype for Business, and a handy “cheat sheet” for navigating the information-flood we call Lync Monitoring Reports.

Call Monitor Pro

Matt Landis gives us another Lync tool! This one is called “Call Monitor Pro”.

It’s an always-on-top window which lets you hold/mute calls, switch between 2 calls, and locate an active conversation window.

Call Monitor Pro for Skype for Business & Lync – TechNet Downloads

Call Monitor Pro

I’m testing out the free version now. My thoughts:

  • The app only deals with calls through Lync. Narrow focus often translates to good-quality apps. This one is no exception.
  • Zero configuration required. Download, install and run. Call Monitor Pro even auto-recognized my Jabra Motion Office headset.
  • You can configure your own shortcut keys!
  • It is always on top, which sometimes bugs me. But you can minimize it.  (EDIT: Matt says you can in fact turn off Always on Top.  It’s a checkbox in Settings > General.)
  • No call quality degradation at all.

An Enterprise version is also available for sale:  Enterprise Inquiry Page – Call Monitor Pro. It has more features, such as 1-click Call Park and an advanced Extensibility Platform for Lync 2013 & Skype for Business 2015.

If you have to frequently switch between incoming calls, this is a nice snappy little tool. Try it out!

Might have to spring for the Enterprise version myself, so I can do a full review. But before that, let’s review Tool #2.

Lync Monitoring Reports Decoder

I’m doing research on Lync’s Quality of Experience (QoE) for upcoming posts. While searching, I came across this recent post from The UC Geek:  Lync Monitoring Reports Decoder – UC Geek

In it, you’ll find a download link for the Decoder spreadsheet in Excel format. At first I thought it contained a bunch of scripting to process QoE data. Some custom version of a Monitoring Report.

I was way off—but in a good way!

What the spreadsheet does is give a detailed explanation of each element you’d find in a Monitoring Report – e.g., the Peer-to-Peer Session Detail Report.

Monitoring Reports Decoder

I like that Andrew called it a ‘decoder’ – makes me think of a Decoder Ring. That’s exactly what it’s meant for too. Not sure what a “Device howling event count” is? Check the Decoder. Trying to find out what’s causing Low SNR? The Decoder will tell you.

Right now the Decoder covers two reports:

  1. Peer-to-Peer Session Detail Report, and
  2. Client Visual Feedback Triggers.

(I’ll bet more reports are forthcoming shortly.)

There’s also a Reference sheet with a stack of relevant links. Hmmm, wonder if I could get a Lync Insider URL added…

Conclusion: Both Call Monitor Pro and Lync Monitoring Reports Decoder tackle one aspect of Lync Server, and add a little extra convenience. Which I think is a great strategy. These are both going in the “Lync Apps” toolbox.

Do you use third-party apps to improve your Lync Server experience? Share them! Please comment or email.

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Make Lync Stop Bugging You – How to Shrink its Powers of Distraction

Instant Messaging (IM), Lync 2013 Client

Sometimes, Lync is annoying.

You’re working away, accomplishing something, and then…DING! Incoming IM. DING! They typed again. DING! Oh, meeting request. DING!

I’ll be the first to celebrate Lync’s benefits. But now and then, it makes me want to “DING” my computer with a hammer.

Why? Distraction.

Always-on communication is, unfortunately, always on. You can be totally focused on a report or marketing campaign…and one message disrupts your concentration. Now your mind needs to re-focus. Which takes time. Oh wait, more distraction coming in!

Fortunately for my sanity (and yours), there are ways to minimize Lync’s powers of distraction. I have documented 4 options in today’s post. You can use each one separately, or together.

They involve making changes to the Lync 2013 client software, instituting certain policies, and a combination of both. You can do this on your own, or implement office-wide. It’s up to you.

Option 1: Turn off the annoying “Ding!” sound when an IM comes in.

First thing to avoiding distraction? Turn off distracting sounds. You have three ways to do this for Lync 2013. Each one is more powerful than the previous one.

A. Turn off Alerts: Find Lync Options by clicking the arrow next to the gear in the Lync 2013 client. Go to Tools -> Options. Click “Alerts”.

lyncoptionsalerts

These options let you determine for which Lync activities you’re alerted. New conversations, invites, contact list additions. Turn these on or off as you desire. To minimize alerts*, use the options checked in the screenshot (but uncheck the box under “General Alerts” too).

B. Turn off Sounds in Lync Options: Alerts not enough? You can turn off sounds too. Still in the Tools -> Options window, go to “Ringtones and Sounds”. You’ll see these options.

lyncoptionssounds

In this screenshot, you’ll see that this box is unchecked: “Play sounds in Lync (including ringtones for incoming calls and IM alerts)”. Normally it’s checked.

If you uncheck it, the “Ding!” sound goes away.

If you don’t quite want to get rid of ALL sounds, you can leave it checked and check/uncheck the options below it. For instance, keeping sounds to a minimum when you’re set to Busy or Do Not Disturb. (More on this below.)

C. Turn off the “New Message” sound in Windows Sound Options: This is the most powerful option. Instead of unchecking boxes in Lync Options, open the Windows Control Panel and click Sound. In the “Sounds” tab, look under Program Events for Lync. It has a bunch of associated sounds. The “Ding!” when a new IM comes in is assigned to “New Message.” Click that one and select “(None)” from the dropdown.

Click OK. You have now completely removed* the “Ding!” sound from Lync Instant Messages.

There’s a great post on exactly this topic over at the Inside Lync blog: How to Stop Lync from Chiming In So Much

*NOTE: Turning off Lync IM alerts completely means you will no longer hear *anything* when an IM comes in. If you aren’t paying attention, a potentially-important message will go unnoticed. Make sure you’re okay with this – nobody wants an angry boss who’s been ignored for 2 hours!

Options 2: Designate Non-Lync Time.

Set aside a certain time each day (or week) where you will focus on your work and not respond to any communications (barring emergencies of course). Call this “Non-Lync Time.” Block it out in your calendar.

When you’ve decided on “Non-Lync Time,” advise everyone else on your team. “I will be unavailable due to working on X for this period of time. Please only contact me if there’s an emergency.” That sort of thing.

If someone disrupts your Non-Lync Time with an IM or meeting request, gently remind them that you are not taking messages. This can be done by either ignoring the window for a while, sending them a quick email, or a quick phone call. It’ll take time for the message to sink in.

Option 3: Make Use of Presence, and Detail Your Status.

Make it a habit to keep your Presence status updated. It helps tell others not only what you’re doing, but whether or not they should try to talk with you.

For instance, if you’re in Non-Lync time, post a Presence status like this: “NON-LYNC TIME, NO RESPONSES UNTIL 3:00 PM”. When you’re not in Non-Lync Time, you can say: “Available for Conversations”.

Option 4: Remember the Difference between Busy and Do Not Disturb.

The Presence options aren’t just there to change the color bar next to your photo. They also effect changes in your reachability.

If you’re set to “Busy”, hopefully your colleagues know not to bother you. But they can still send you IMs and meeting invites. And you’ll still see them.

If you’re set to “Do Not Disturb” though – you will NOT receive conversation notifications. Colleagues cannot bother you.

However, this requires your effort as well. You must remember you’re set to “Do Not Disturb”, and turn it off when your don’t-disturb-me task is complete. Otherwise you’ll be unreachable the rest of the day!

(Remember: your Lync administrator can also set custom Lync Presence statuses. Maybe ask for one for Non-Lync Time?)

Communications are Important. But so is Concentration!

Lync is disruptive by default. And there’s some value in that – after all, urgent messages need your immediate attention. But for those times when you need to concentrate? We can make Lync stop bugging you.

What do you think about Lync’s distraction-ability? Please comment or email. If you have another solution you use, please share it!

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Encountering a Persistent Chat Error? How to Resolve the “500 Internal Server Error” After December 2014 CU

Persistent Chat

This past week we encountered a Lync Server error internally. We found a solution online, thanks to a fellow Lync blogger. I’m blogging about it today to document how we handled the troubleshooting process, and to showcase the blogger, a Mr. Graham Cropley, for his helpful content!

The Situation: Adding a Cumulative Update

We run Lync Server 2013 Standard Edition, with Persistent Chat and a SIP Trunk. This past week our engineers had the time to implement the December 2014 CU (I know, I know…).

persistentchatdeniedHowever, once the update was in place, two employees noticed something right away. They couldn’t create a new Chat Room. Persistent Chat wouldn’t work.

The Error: Persistent Chat Fails

To quote the following blog post, Persistent Chat – December 2014 CU – 500 Internal Server Error at the Lync Exchange – UC Blog:

“After applying the latest December 2014 v2 Cumulative Update, the Persistent Chat webpage didn’t work externally, it just returned ‘500 – Internal Server Error’.”

One additional thing which isn’t mentioned in the post – not only does the Persistent Chat webpage fail, but so do existing chat rooms. Essentially all of Persistent Chat is unresponsive.

(Not to take away from Mr. Cropley’s good work here. Just adding our own observations for a more complete picture.)

According to his research/experimentation/glaring at the server, he determined this:

The culprit is in the web.config file from the later [December 2014] CU in %ProgramFiles%\Microsoft Lync Server 2013\Web Components\PersistentChat\Ext, which includes these extra lines inside the element:

<system.webServer> <modules> <remove name=”PreAuthModule” /> <add name=”PreAuthModule” type=”Microsoft.Rtc.Internal.PreAuthModule.PreAuthModule,Microsoft.Rtc.Server.WebInfrastructure, Version=5.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35″/> </modules> </system.webServer>
1 <system.webServer>
2     <modules>
3         <remove name=”PreAuthModule” />
4         <add name=”PreAuthModule” type=”Microsoft.Rtc.Internal.PreAuthModule.PreAuthModule,Microsoft.Rtc.Server.WebInfrastructure, Version=5.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35″/>
5     </modules>
6 </system.webServer>
This would seem to ensure that anything called PreAuthModule that may be there already is removed, and the Microsoft.Rtc.Internal.PreAuthModule was registered instead. Also by removing it first, this won’t cause an error from that module already being added.

How to Fix the Error: 3 Potential Fixes, We Chose to Convert the Persistent Chat Directory to an Application

At first we went through some of our own troubleshooting steps. Server restart, internal/external tests, etc. No change at all. Persistent Chat remained down, even though all other Lync Server Roles worked perfectly.

Next up, looking at the last change made. The December 2014 Cumulative Update. Did that break Persistent Chat? A few searches, and voila – it did indeed. Mr. Cropley’s post came right up in results. Clear and directly addressing our issue.

We opted for “Fix 1″ of the 3 listed. For the same reasons he did – it has the least impact.

And it worked perfectly. The image above shows my Chat Rooms webpage (I added the red X), taken this morning. All Chat Rooms are working again, as is the Persistent Chat webpage on the server.

Thank You to Our Fellow Lync Blogger!

A big thank you to Mr. Cropley for his post! His work saved us a lot of troubleshooting time. The post is what I love to see in the blogosphere – solid, clear how-to documentation from people working with the technology.

Here’s the link again, if you too are faced with Persistent Chat failing after the December 2014 CU:
Persistent Chat – December 2014 CU – 500 Internal Server Error [Lync Exchange – UC Blog]

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Prepare to Support Skype for Business with a New Lync/Skype Troubleshooting Guide

Skype for Business

Okay! Back to talking about Skype for Business 2015.

I attended a Lync Users Group Meetup 2 weeks ago, where we discussed Skype for Business Server 2015. I’m not able to share specifics yet, but I can talk about the Meetup itself. It was very well-attended–Lync partners, third-party vendors like Sonus, and UC industry experts.

The preparatory process for Skype for Business has clearly begun.

It was in this same vein – preparing for Skype for Business’ arrival – that I wrote today’s post. Last month Thomas Poett, a Microsoft Lync MVP, released a troubleshooting guide (free download). Both for Lync Server 2013…and for Skype for Business 2015!

Troubleshooting Guide, Skype for Business and Lync – Thomas.Poett@UC

Who’s the Guide For?

ThSupporting Lync Servere guide is meant for systems administrators, Lync Server administrators and Exchange Server administrators. It isn’t spelled out exactly, but the subject matter clearly delineates admins for its target audience.

As you’d expect from the title, Thomas’ guide covers troubleshooting methods for resolving issues within Lync Server 2013 and Skype for Business 2015. It addresses topics like the following.

  • Support tools to use, such as Snooper and OCSLogger
  • Testing configurations for IM, Voice/VoIP, Conferencing
  • Analyzing calls for session problems
  • SIP troubleshooting
  • And much more

Things to Consider

–This guide is focused on troubleshooting, NOT on setup. Please read it with that in mind.
For instance: 21 pages are devoted to analyzing SIP data from one Lync call!

–This is a low-level technical guide. Expect to see Snooper logs, PowerShell cmdlets and session diagrams. If you are not already familiar with the Lync Server infrastructure, I suggest saving this for later. (May I suggest previous posts on this blog instead?)

–More attention is paid to Lync than Skype. No surprise here – Thomas does have access to the TAP, but there are strict privacy controls on Skype for Business information right now. And will be for a few more months.

Thomas was clever; he wrote a “universal” Troubleshooting Approach on pages 7-8 which can be applied to Lync, Skype for Business, Exchange Server, and even Office 365. I do not want to take away from his guide, so I will only quote a small part of the Troubleshooting Approach:

4 Major Quality Issue Areas:

  1. Network
  2. Core Performance
  3. Gateway
  4. Devices

Configuration/Environment Setup Regions to Check When Troubleshooting (in order):

  • Voice Setup (Dial Plans, Normalization, Routes)
  • Gateway Configuration
  • Exchange Unified Messaging Integration

Speaking from our Lync experience, this approach holds up. Network issues affect Lync more often than its own Server Roles hitting a snag. Which happens more often than a gateway failing to communicate. Which happens more than a device outright failing (only had that happen a couple times).

Why You Should Read the Troubleshooting Guide

I’m reading this for one reason: Identifying similarities between Lync Server 2013 and Skype for Business Server 2015’s support processes.

Thomas has done some good work here. He’s provided details for troubleshooting a software platform, before it’s commercially available, using its currently-running predecessor. It’s a document intended to help you transition from one to the other.

I’m sure in time we’ll have more documentation, both for setup and for support. But right now, we have a Skype for Business 2015 resource available. Avail yourselves of it – after all, it’s free!

Here’s the direct PDF download link at TechNet.

What steps are you taking to prepare for Skype for Business 2015? Please comment or email your thoughts. And join us back here next week for more!

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Device Review: Jabra Motion Office Headset

Third-Party Lync Products, Voice over IP

Today we have another Jabra headset to review. Not an over-the-ears devices like the Evolve 80 though – no, this is one of their Bluetooth headsets. The Jabra Motion Office unit.

Device Page: JABRA MOTION OFFICE – Jabra.com

I admit to a little reservation when starting the review. Bluetooth headsets and me don’t tend to get along.

Well, until now.

Initial Impressions

The Motion Office is more than just the headset. There’s also a charging/connectivity stand with a small touchscreen. And a headset case. And cables. And a Bluetooth adapter.

Jabra Motion Office Unit

This isn’t just a headset. It’s an extension to your Lync client. Irrespective of the platform on which you use Lync.

Seting Up the Unit

After the unboxing, you connect the headset to the base & plug it in. The touchscreen says the earpiece needs to charge for 20 minutes. And while you wait, why don’t you run through Setup?

motionofficesetup

The touchscreen provides instructions from then on. First it asks if you want to connect this headset to your desk phone. I did, connecting a given cable to the Polycom. It asked me to call a Jabra support number to complete the phone connection.

motionofficeinstructions

After that, it asked if I wanted to connect to a Softphone (PC)? Sure, why not? I plugged it into my laptop’s USB hub. The touchscreen suggested downloading the Jabra PC Suite for additional capabilities, at www.jabra.com/pcsuite. I did so.

PC Suite contains “Softphone Integration Modules” – these enable call control for third-party softphones. It’s a thorough list too – Skype, Cisco, NEC, Lync, ShoreTel and a couple more. I disabled a few that I know I’ll never use.

After the PC Suite installed, the touchscreen asked me, “Connect to mobile phone?” I said No to this one, for now. Didn’t need it, and I was curious when I’d see an option to connect it later.

Next up, Personal Preferences. Screen brightness, dimmer timeout, ringtones, volume controls. The touchscreen then kindly refers you back to the Quick Start Guide for Headset Use 101.

motionofficecalloptions

Making Calls

The headset/earpiece, when fully charged, has an 8-hour talk time. Enough for a full workday.

As I did with the last Jabra headset, I tested this one out by making some calls.
Test calls came:

  • From Lync
  • From cellphones
  • To Lync
  • To cellphones

Call quality was as clear as the Jabra Evolve 80 – which is impressive on its own, considering that had two wrap-around earpieces and the Motion Office only has one in-ear piece.

The calls are so sharp that, when I called a co-worker in the same workspace, the earpiece could pick up his voice through the phone AND spoken! (Which caused a funny echo effect in my ear. Moving away made it disappear.)

motionofficeheadset

Touchscreen

We’ve had touchscreens on our Polycom desk phones for a while now. The Motion Office’s touchscreen is smaller, and has one disadvantage: No ability to dial via touchscreen. However, that isn’t a requirement. Dialing through Lync or your phone works perfectly.

The touchscreen also lets you switch quickly between devices. Remember how I didn’t connect Motion Office to my cellphone at first? When I did (via the Call Options button on top-right), I could switch between it, my desk phone and my computer with a touch. They’re all represented by icons.

Which means I can choose from which location I take my call, within Lync. Forward calls to cell? Pick up with the earpiece. Simultaneous Ring? All devices will give the call to the earpiece.

Voice Commands

Using voice commands with a Lync headset…about time! To find out which voice commands are available, tap the Voice/Mute Mic button when you’re not on a call. When you hear “Say a Command,” say “What can I say?”

The headset will give you a list of voice commands. The ones I received were:

  1. Pair New Device
  2. Battery
  3. Cancel

Speak up; it needs clear instruction.  I had a few funny looks while I walked around shouting, “What can I say?  What can I say??”

The Bluetooth Adapter

The Motion Office headset will work without the base too. All you need is the Bluetooth adapter. Plug this little guy into your computer and poof, it pairs up. I took it and the headset out of the office for a test.

motionofficebluetooth

However, when I did, I encountered an issue.

Snags/Issues

ISSUE 1: When I plugged in the LINK 360 Bluetooth adapter, my computer saw the adapter just fine. But I couldn’t use the headset. I tried pairing, connecting to the headset, switching USB ports…nothing worked.

I tried using the Bluetooth adapter on another computer though, and it worked right away. There is a warning in the Jabra Get Started Guide – “The Jabra Link 360 and the base should not be plugged in at the same time.”

They weren’t plugged in, but I did install the base before I tried the Bluetooth adapter. I suspect this is what caused the issue.

ISSUE 2: Also, I did encounter a pause when the Motion Office base first connected to my laptop. It lasted long enough to make me think the installation had failed, and I eventually closed the window.

But a moment later the “Motion Office” icon showed up in my taskbar. All was well.

This was likely just my system taking its time on install. But I document it here in case others encounter it.

Final Thoughts

I’ve tried Bluetooth headsets in the past. None of them lasted. Either they were too flimsy & kept falling off my ear, or they had spotty call quality.

The Jabra Motion Office headset is much better on both counts. It takes me a second to get the thing on my ear, but once I do, it’s not going anywhere!

And neither is this headset. I really liked the comfort of the Evolve 80. (So did a co-worker, because he asked for it after reading my review!)

But the Motion Office? I’m keeping this one.

Next week we’ll return to Skype for Business 2015. But what will we cover? You’ll have to come back & find out.

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Skype on iPad vs. Lync 2013 on iPad: Dual App Reviews

Lync 2013 Client, Skype for Business, Voice over IP

Continuing the reviews today, we move to the iPad!

Today I’m reviewing 2 client apps – Skype (latest version) and Lync 2013. I don’t use Skype much on here; I have a webcam on my main system for that. But it’s still fully capable. So is Lync.

In fact, my overall results of these tests were higher-quality than the iPhone. Let’s see.

(FYI: These tests were conducted on an iPad 2.)

Skype on iPad – The Facts & Features

Skype on the iPad does pretty much exactly what Skype on the PC does: Make Calls and Video Chats. The interface is more stripped-down than the PC version (not surprising for an iPad app).

Skype Profile Window

MAKING CALLS: I only have a few people on Skype – mostly friends, as we don’t use this for work. (Yet!) So I called two of them & explained why.

If you’ve ever used Skype, you know it has its own protocol for voice: the SILK codec. Skype for Business will take advantage of this codec too. I don’t have any exact measurement tool for sound quality – just a good headset (see my previous Device Review) and my ears.

To these tools, Skype’s audio sounds just as clear as Lync’s. Depending on the other party’s connection, even clearer.

Skype Number Pad

VIDEO CHAT: I tested video chat with a co-worker who worked from home yesterday. Now, Skype is well-known for making video chats easy. Easier than Lync 2013 in some respects.

That said, having mostly used Lync for video calls, the lag time and jitter in my Skype video chat was disappointing. Neither of us was on a VPN, or a low-bandwidth connection. Yet my co-worker’s face kept jerking & going out of sync with his own words.

USER IMPRESSIONS: Perhaps my video sync issue was isolated. When I talked with other Skype users and read reviews on the App Store, it was not among the chief issues reported.

The most frequent complaints were Dropped Calls and Lack of Three-Way Calling. The latter is partly understandable (see “Limitations” for why). Dropped calls is partially explained by the varying connection speeds in use at the consumer level. The same issue affects some of our clients’ remote Lync users. It’s annoying, and there’s only so much compensation you can do with your network bandwidth.

LIMITATIONS: Skype’s Group Video chats are not accessible on mobile devices like iPads. Three-Way Calling (audio only) is possible on mobiles, but you can’t start one from an iPad. A Skype user on a PC or Mac must start it. Hence why user frustration is understandable – you have to message someone from your iPad and ask them to start a three-way call with you!

The Question of Skype Subscriptions

I followed a link from the Skype app to their Rates page: http://www.skype.com/en/rates/

For years now, people have paid for Skype to call non-Skype numbers. It’s a cheap and good-quality way to keep in touch with everybody.

But I saw nothing on the page about the impending changes wrought by Skype for Business 2015.

Which makes me wonder – WILL there be any changes on this side? Will Microsoft dare to poke the beast that is Skype’s Worldwide Market?

We’ll find out soon.
=============

Lync 2013 on iPad – The Facts & Features

Lync 2013 on the iPad is almost identical to Lync 2013 on iPhone. Though it benefits greatly from the iPad’s larger screen. Much easier to navigate its functions and carry on conversations.

I’d argue that using Lync 2013 on an iPad is even easier than on a desktop. This is one instance where Microsoft took full advantage of a mobile device’s size.

Lync iPad Contacts

The Lync 2013 screen has 5 main windows available: Contacts, Chats, Meetings, Phone, and Profile. These correspond to the desktop client exactly.

  • Make calls & review voicemails from the Phone window (these are synced from the Lync Server)
  • View contacts’ Presence and initiate conversations from the Contacts window
  • Review Meetings scheduled in your Outlook calendar in the Meetings window
  • View Conversation History (local to iPad) under the Chats window
  • Update your own Presence and Lync options in the Profile window

CALLS AND MEETINGS: IM conversations on the iPad go smoothly, and have for months. I initiated a Lync Call to two co-workers (one the remote worker I mentioned earlier). Both calls were comparable to the Skype Call. I used the same Jabra headset.

Lync Calls

To test Meetings, I scheduled a meeting on my laptop, and joined it on my iPad. The two co-workers invited joined as well, one from their laptop, and one from their phone. We had a bit of tinny background noise for the first 2 minutes. But it cleared up. I did not notice any other jitter or lag.

USER IMPRESSIONS: There’s a notable user impression in the Lync 2013 Reviews pane I should mention. This user says that, if the device runs iOS 8, Lync 2013 becomes unstable and will crash.

Now, this iPad has NOT been updated to iOS 8 yet – it’s old enough that the update would lead to a serious performance slowdown – so I don’t see this error. (In fact, Lync didn’t give me any trouble at all.) But a stability question, possibly dependent on the OS involved, merits mentioning.

Otherwise, impressions indicate a few complaints on connection issues adding people to Meetings. I didn’t find much on poor call quality or dropped calls. Given that Lync is more often used while on a corporate network, this isn’t surprising.

LIMITATIONS: Lync 2013 has the same limitation on the iPad it does on the iPhone – Conversation History is limited to conversations using the iPad.

Lync Conversation History

I hold out hope that this will be resolved, eventually!

Verdict: Lync Slightly Ahead of Skype, Integration Should Favor Lync Usability

Microsoft’s claim for Skype for Business 2015 is that Lync Server will take on more of the Skype UI. Thus making it more appealing to a wide audience, simpler to navigate, and consistent across all devices.

In the iPad/tablet sphere, I think Microsoft should reverse this script. Here Lync is the more intuitive UI, with the more responsive controls. Building Skype look & feel into the interface, go for it. But keep as much of Lync’s app-level functionality as possible. It does the job very well.

What’s your experience using Lync 2013 and/or Skype on the iPad? Please comment or email your thoughts.

Next week I have another Device Review…and you’re definitely going to love this one. See you then!

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Device Review: Jabra Evolve 80 MS Lync Stereo Headset

Lync 2013 Client, Lync Server 2013, Skype for Business, Voice over IP

In the past, we’ve reviewed a couple Jabra products here on the Lync Insider. I try to avoid all bias when reviewing hardware – the Jabra equipment just keeps delivering high quality.

This week, I received the Jabra Evolve 80 headset (MS Lync Stereo model). Well, I couldn’t pass that up for a review, now could I?

Jabra Evolve Series Page on Jabra.com

Initial Impression

The Evolve 80 MS Lync model has full over-the-ear headphones with an attached mic arm. The earpieces and headband are well-padded. The headset comes in a neoprene case. Easy to store & travel with.
jabra-case

Jabra Evolve 80 Lync Headset

The Controller

The headset comes with a detachable controller. Connect via USB to a PC, or headphone jack to a mobile device (without the controller). The controller buttons gives you these options: Answer Call/End Call, Volume Up/Down, Mute. The center ring/Busylight lights up in red as a “Busy” indicator.

Jabra Evolve 80 Controller

Charging

The headset needs to charge for full use of its functions. It will do so automatically when plugged into a PC. Or you can connect a micro-USB cable directly to the left earpiece to charge. The built-in battery powers these functions:

  • Active Noise Cancellation
  • Listen-In
  • Busylight

Noise Cancelling

The right earpiece has a switch to turn on Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). These are already quite muffling of outside sound, but with noise cancellation built-in? I made a call, and couldn’t even hear my co-worker talking less than 10 feet from me.

Making Calls

The controller reminds me of the Jabra SPEAK 410 Speakerphone. Same kind of circular design, and a light indicating calls in progress.

Call quality is superb. Better than my previous headset (the Jabra BIZ 620 from my last review!). No latency on either Lync-to-Lync or Lync-to-Cell calls noticeable.

One thing to point out: The Evolve headset intelligently took over my sound output. Calls came through the headset right away. But music didn’t. It only assigned itself as default for Lync 2013, not the whole computer. I found that valuable–this headset knows not to overextend its reach!

(Of course I switched default devices under Sound, and music played through the headset too. The test song came through nuanced and with clear balance.)

Multiple Call Handling

Now this is fancy. The Jabra Evolve 80 can manage multiple calls at once!

Here’s how it works: If you’re on a call and another call comes in, hold down the Answer/End button for 2 seconds. It puts the current call on hold and answers the incoming call.

To switch between the calls, hold down Answer/End for 2 seconds again.
You don’t want to answer the incoming call? Double-press Answer/End and it’ll stop bothering you.

Listen-In Button

If you’re using ANC, hearing something other than the call you’re on is pretty difficult. But if you press the Listen-In button on the right earpiece, it mutes music and/or calls.

Calls are NOT paused though–and your mic is still on when in Listen-In Mode. Don’t use Listen-In as a Pause button!

The One Snag I Found

One caveat to this headset. Both earpieces will fold flat. Makes it easy to lay flat on your desk. However, when they’re folded flat, the mic arm sticks out away from the headband. It cannot move flush with the headband; just doesn’t go that far.

Now this isn’t much of a big deal. But it is something to keep in mind. I can see someone catching their sleeve or a cable on the jutting-out mic arm, and sending the whole headset flying by accident.

With a headset this high-quality, that’s definitely not something you want to do!

mic-arm

Verdict: Impressive Piece of Lync Hardware!

Jabra continues to make top-tier devices. This headset is comfortable, with sharp call quality and more useful features. Finally, I don’t see any reason why this won’t work with Skype for Business 2015 as well as it does with Lync 2013.

out-of-box3

Next week we’ll be back to our software reviews. Up next: Lync 2013 and Skype on the iPad, point-by-point comparison.

What headset do you use with Lync?

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A Refreshing Walk Through Lync 2013 for iPhone

Lync Mobile

Last week I said I’d do some reviews for Lync and Skype on mobile devices. Good way to know which features are available – and which we need in Skype for Business’ mobile apps.

I’ll start out with Lync 2013 for iPhone.

Now, full disclosure: I don’t use the Lync 2013 client on my iPhone often. I have my laptop for day-to-day work conversations. (It’s a Lenovo Ultrabook–instant Windows 8 tablet with a button-press.) Lync forwards after-hours calls to my phone. Worked so far.

So, this is a bit of a refresher for me too. Haven’t used Lync 2013 on an iPhone before? Join me in exploration!

Logging In

Important Note! This client is used for Lync Online and for Lync 2013 users. Since I’m the latter, I had to enter my username in the proper domain format. You’ll see a reminder of this in the client.
lyncphone-login

As always, your login username/password conventions may differ slightly.

Reviews on this Lync client vary widely. The App Store has plenty of good and bad in the Reviews section. While I go through the features, I’ll mention frequent complaints I found therein.

What Works

Ostensibly, Lync 2013 for iPhone can do everything the desktop version can do, with a few exceptions:

  • Managing contact groups
  • Share Desktop/Program
  • Use of meeting tools (the whiteboard, controlling PowerPoint, etc.)
  • Manage team calls & call Response Groups

(Full Mobile Client Comparison tables are here: Mobile Client Comparison Tables for Lync 2013)

But the main functions – calls, IM, meetings – are front and center. I tested them all and had no problems.

lyncphone-phone1

Lync calls went out, and were received, just fine. So does IM (in fact I may have annoyed a couple co-workers today). My Outlook calendar appointments also come up under the Meetings tab, nice and clear.

What’s Not Right

App Store reviews mention that cell calls will interrupt Lync calls. I asked a co-worker to call my cell from his while I spoke with another co-worker via Lync. It didn’t interrupt; the cell call went to voicemail. Could be our configuration, but I wanted to note that I didn’t duplicate the interruption reviewers mentioned.

However, other mentioned errors did turn up. A review from November mentioned that chats “randomly disappear” and “so do missed conversations.”

I found this to be true on my phone. Here’s my Chats screen:
lyncphone-chats1
Only one conversation, right? Wrong. I had another IM chat via this phone, less than 2 weeks ago. Where is it? Nowhere – not on my phone, not in my Conversation History in Outlook.

Two Conversation Histories – Laptop and Phone?

Then a curious thing happened. While logged into Lync on my phone, I received an IM. The client buzzed at me…but the IM window opened on my laptop. Where I was also logged into Lync 2013.

Why? Well, I was typing on my laptop at the time. Not in Lync, but on the same machine. Lync interpreted me as being active “here” and sent the IM to the respective client.

I wrote about this behavior 2 years ago: Doubling Up: Does Lync Allow Multiple Logins?
(Please do note Peter J.’s comment and my own response for all the details.)

This isn’t so much “not right” as “open for improvement”. Nothing wrong with funneling a conversation to the Lync client with the most-recently-active system!

However, this made me think of a would-be-nice for the Skype for Business iPhone client…access to full Conversation History within the client. I don’t know how many times I’ve consulted Conversation History for dates, numbers, etc. If I could do that on my phone & find conversations from my laptop? Major timesaver.

This is already noted as missing in Microsoft’s documentation:

“The conversation history on Lync for iPhone is not synced with Microsoft Exchange. This means that conversations that occur on your Lync mobile device will only be displayed on that device’s conversation history and nowhere else. Also, when you delete a conversation on your mobile device, that conversation is permanently deleted.”

Limitations Aside, Lync 2013 is Good to Have on the iPhone

Are there issues with Lync 2013 for iPhone? It appears so. I did not experience an app crash, as several reviewers reported, but I don’t doubt they did have Lync crash on them.

That said, having a Lync 2013 app is an overall benefit to users. As I review other mobile clients, I’ll see how they stack up to Lync 2013 for iPhone.

Hmmm, maybe I should “borrow” my co-worker’s Android phone next…

What do you think? Would full Conversation History access on your phone help your work? Please comment or email your thoughts. And check back next week for more reviews!

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    The Lync Insider is a blog about the technology we use to communicate in business today. Here we talk about Microsoft Lync Server 2013, Skype for Business Server 2015, Unified Communications, Voice over IP and related technologies like Exchange Server. Written by Chris W., MCSE in Communication and PlanetMagpie IT Consulting's Tech Writer.
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