Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thank goodness for the kindness of neighbors

And to think that on Tuesday morning we had no snow on the ground.  The pictures below are from our house at the end of storm after we had cleared the driveway.

When we first moved back to Wisconsin from Florida in '98, I bought a shovel to handle snow removal.  The snow falls were actually pretty mild, nothing like I remembered as a kid, and the shovel was fine.  A few years ago we moved further north in Wisconsin, and with a larger driveway, I decided to purchase a small snow blower. 

Ha!  The past three years have shown me the folly of my ways with record snow falls in 2007 - 8.  This year I thought we might be back to light snows.  Essentially, we had no snow stay on the ground this year... until this week.  Tuesday the snow and ice began.  I cleared my driveway Tuesday night in the middle of the storm thinking this way my tiny snow blower could handle it.  Wednesday, school was canceled for my kids.  My girls came out with me to "help" clear the snow (which is code for play in the snow while dad clears the driveway).  I opened the garage door, and my 4 year old just giggled.  She raised here hand level with her nose to indicate the height of the snow, and could only manage to mutter 'Daddy' between her giggles.

Well, the snow was so high, it was well above the height of my small snow blower.  Several minutes in I had managed to clear the smallest of sections.  Fortunately for me, my neighbor took pity on me, and came over with his large Ariens snow blower.  He cleared out well over half of my driveway, and my wife and I managed to clear out the rest.  We were finally done... 2.5 hours after I had started! 

I was visiting a customer today describing my tiny snow blower, and he joked, "you deserved to be out there a long time!"  I guess large snow falls are back!  Now I know what to put on my wish list for Santa. ;-)


Friday, December 4, 2009

Microsoft on Plug-ins from Cisco

Interesting comments from Microsoft on the plug-in developed by Cisco for OCS. 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Charles Woodson -- NFL Defensive Player of the Year

If you haven't guessed, the 'Cheese' in my blog title alludes to me proudly being a Cheesehead--the (affectionate?) term for us Wisconsonites who are fans of the Green Bay Packers.  I grew up in a time when a Packer victory was few and far between, and you cheered for the Pack regardless.  In fact, my mother always warned my siblings not to bring their kids over during a game because she wouldn't be responsible for the language they learned while we all shouted at the TV!

If you've watched any Packer football games this year, you just have to be amazed at the play of Charles Woodson.  It's amazing to see someone with such great speed and ball-hawking ability--and at 33!

In yesterday's game, albeit against the hapless Detroit Lions, his incredible skills had my jaw on the floor again, particularly with his two interceptions.  On the first, he lunged forward and made a diving interception right in front of Bryant Johnson and with a finger-tip grab just above the turf.  I cannot blame the Detroit quarterback, Stafford, for this interception.  How on earth Woodson is able to get that spring is beyond me.  The interception was reminiscent of a similar one he had at the goal line against Dallas two weeks ago.

His second interception he made to seal the Packers victory with just a few minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.  What stunned me on this one was his speed.  He was behind the receiver who turned towards the quarterback to provide a clear passing lane for Stafford, and Woodson literally looped around the receiver to make the pic.  It seemed like Woodson was able to stop time and get in front of the receiver as if he had enlisted the help of Hiro from the TV series Heroes.

I want to include a photo here, but am not sure of copyright laws and whether I could just provide credit for the photo.  So instead, I'll point you to an article from the Green Bay Press-Gazette where you can get more specifics and see a photo.

Charles, thanks for the entertainment!

Desk Phone Control for Cisco Phones from Lotus Notes or Sametime

Happy Thanksgiving!  In my last entry, I gave an overview of the Unified Messaging plug-in from Cisco.  Another free telephony plug-in available from Cisco is their Phone Control and Presence (PCAP) plug-in.  There is a lot of functionality packed into this plug-in, including:
  • Desk phone control
  • Click-to-call
  • Click-to-conference
  • and Phone presence.
Each of these features has different back-end Cisco requirements, and can be implemented independently if you do not meet the requirements for all capabilities.  Given this, I'm going to cover the capabilities of the PCAP plug-in over separate blog postings.  In this post, I'll cover the desk phone control capabilities.

Once you've installed the PCAP plug-in, you'll have a new option in the Sametime preferences for 'Cisco' > 'Phone'.  Here you can indicate whether you want the plug-in to control your desk phone or IP Communicator (Cisco's soft phone). 

With your credentials entered, you can click the 'Search for Phones' icon to have it locate your desk phone on the network.  The device will be listed in the 'Select Phone to Control' box.  You select your phone and apply the changes.  Now the plug-in is set to control your desk phone. (Note: if you set the plug-in to control IP Communicator, then the functions below do not apply since call control is handled by the IP Communicator interface.)

Now when you get an in-coming call to your desk phone, you will get a pop-up on your PC screen indicating who is calling you.

If the number is a recognized number and you have Sametime setup to use photos in business cards, the name and the photo of the caller will be displayed.  If not, just the phone number and the silhouette will be displayed.  From the pop-up, you can send the call to voicemail if you're currently busy. Or you can click the 'Answer' button which will pick-up the call on your desk phone and either place the call on speakerphone or put it live in your headset if you are using a head set with your phone.

When I first read about this capability, I honestly didn't see the value of it.  Why would I use the dialog box rather than picking up the call from my phone when I'm at my desk?  Well, once I had the plug-in installed, I understood.  When you're at your desk, your focus is on your PC where you are working.  When you get an in-coming call, the pop up occurs where your focus is already.  It's simply more convenient to respond to the pop-up screen in the context of your current work.

When you answer a call, the window changes to display details of the call status and to provide new controls to manage the call.

From here you can:
  • Put the call on hold
  • Surface a dial pad to input numbers (for example, to respond to phone prompts)
  • Hang up the call
  • Or conference the call with another call (I'll say more about this in a minute).
If you receive another call while you're still on the line with the first, you'll see another pop-up window indicating the in-coming call.

If you choose to answer the second in-coming call, the first call will automatically be put on hold while you speak to the new caller. 

Now here's where things get really get slick.  If you want to conference the two callers together into one single conference call, all you have to do is to click the 'Merge Call' button.  This replaces the two call windows with a single conference call window and merges the calls into a conference call. 

On my desk phone, I still don't know how to accomplish this.  But the plug-in makes it easier for end-users to take advantage of the investment you've already made in your Cisco phones and the capabilities they have.

In order to use the capabilities above, you'll need Cisco Call Manager 4.1.3 or higher, and Sametime Standard 7.5 or higher.  If you meet these requirements and have not deployed the PCAP plug-in, I'd be interested in feedback as to why you haven't.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cisco Unified Messaging Plug-in (Unity Voicemail) for Lotus Sametime

If your users want access to their voice mail from their Lotus Notes client, and you use Cisco Unity or Unity Connection voice mail, then you should check out the free Unified Messaging plug-in from Cisco.

You can deploy the UM plug-in to either the stand-alone Sametime Connect client, or to the sidebar in your Lotus Notes client.  The plug-in pulls your voice mail from your Unity server, and displays a list of the voice mail in the plug-in.  Keeping the voice mail in the Notes client means that users conveniently have access to all messages, email or voice mail.  Keeping the voice mail separate from the in box means that users don't lose voice mail amidst hundreds of emails.

If the voice mail was left by a recognized caller, the message is listed by caller name, along with the date and time the message was left.  If the message was from an unknown caller, it is listed by the phone number that called.  Unheard messages have an unopened envelope icon displayed in front of them, and are listed with bold text.  An indicator is also placed in the Windows notification area in case you don't have your client open when the voice mail is received.

Double-clicking on the voice mail entry will launch a player to play back the voice mail through your PC.

 You can control the playback of the voice mail, and delete it when you're done listening as well.  Listening to the voice mail will change the indicators in the plug-in to show that the message has been heard.  It will also cause the lamp on your desk phone to turn off since this is synced with the Unity server.

Right-clicking on a voice mail listing provides you with a range of options for working with the it, including the option to forward the voice mail as wav file attachment to an email.

If this plug-in is deployed along with the Phone Control and Presence plug-in from Cisco, it inherits additional capabilities from that plug-in.  These include:
  • Displaying the phone presence information for any recognized user that had left a voice mail.  (So if you want to call this person back, you know whether she is currently on the phone or not.)
  • Providing you the ability to click-to-call to the number that had left the voice mail.  (Sparing you the need key in the phone number when you do call her back.)
 You can find the system requirements for the plug-in on Cisco's web site.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What are the minimum number of users needed for LotusLive?

I've encountered a few instances recently where people were under the impression that all LotusLive offerings have a high minimum user requirement that makes them prohibitive for smaller businesses.  This is not the case.  There are several different services offerings available from LotusLive:
  • Meetings (previously Sametime Unyte)
  • Events
  • Connections
  • Engage
  • iNotes
  • Notes
Of the above offerings, only LotusLive Notes has a minimum user requirement, and this is because this service provides a dedicated hosting Domino environment for the customer.

All of the other services can be subscribed to in whatever number of seats a customer chooses.  For a small company, you can get a rich email and collaboration environment for $18 a user/month (iNotes + Engage), with practically no operational or IT costs, and an immediate ability to deploy.  You can learn more about these offerings or sign up for a trial at:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Poor Man's Click-to-call with Cisco and Lotus Notes 8.x

In my last post I said you need at least Sametime Standard to add unified communications to your Lotus Notes environment.  That's true, if you are looking to leverage the telephony integration solutions provided by the telephony vendors and even if you want to use Sametime Unified Telephony.

It's not necessarily the case if you'd like to "homebrew" your own unified communications capability.

I had been planning to blog next about the UC plug-ins available from Cisco, but a colleague recently asked me for a refresher on how we created our own click-to-call widget, so seemed like a good time to blog about it.  Cisco includes a web dialer application that is part of its Call Manager product which allows you to initiate an outbound phone call from your desk phone by entering a phone number into a web-based form (I've been told all the major telephony providers include similar functionality with their PBX products, but I haven't verified this with any).  With the widget capability in Notes 8, it is relatively simple to create your own widget to wire a live text recognizer in Lotus Notes to the Cisco WebDialer.  The net effect is that every instance of a phone number that Lotus Notes recognizes (in an email, contact, calendar entry, customer app, etc), becomes a hot link that you can simply click to initiate a phone call.  Just received an email from someone outside your company and want to call them?  Just click on the phone number in their email signature.  In your Notes contacts looking at a personal contact?  Just click the phone number you want to call them at.  You get the idea...

It's pretty cool, so why do I refer to it as a "Poor Man's" solution.  A few reasons:
  1. You don't need a Sametime license since your not tapping into the telephony integration hooks from Sametime to make this work.
  2. It's home-grown, and like any custom solution, you're going to have to support it yourself. 
  3. When you create the widget (at least following the instructions below), you cannot simply share it with another user like other Notes widgets and have it work.  Each user has to create the widget manually.  Now, I'm sure someone smarter than I or who has more time to research this could come up with a way to create a generic widget that could be pushed out to all users.  If you're that person, please share. :-D
 Creating the Poor Man's Click-to-call Widget
1. First, find out the URL for your Cisco Call Manager server.
2. Next, open your Notes client, and click on the "Getting Started with Widgets..." button.

     3. Select "Web Page" from the set of options.  The widget will be using the form on the WebDialer web page.

    4.  Choose "Web page by URL:" and enter the URL of your Cisco WebDialer.  It should resemble the URL format in the image.

    5.  Choose "From a form on this web page..."  There is an option for "Authentication Required".  Now, the Cisco WebDialer form does require authentication, but I haven't found a way to use this option and correctly setup the widget.  Again, I welcome thoughts from others!

    6. If your Cisco WebDialer page is protected by a self-signed SSL certificate, you will see a warning like the one pictured below.  This can be a pain in the butt.  In my case, I had to make sure I had the IP address of the Call Manager in my hosts file, and also imported the certificate into my browser.  Otherwise you'll get this notification every time you use the widget.

      7.  Next enter your ID and password into the Cisco WebDialer and click the 'Submit' button on the web page.  The web page displayed in the wizard will change and show the WebDialer application.

      8.  Now choose "Form 1".  Make sure the calling device specified is the phone you'll be calling from.  Then click 'Next'.

      9. The widget name will be the action that will appear in the Live Text menu.  Click on the 'Wire as an action' button and make sure 'destination' appears as the value in the drop down.

      10.  Click on the Advanced tab.  Check the box next to "permDeviceSelect".  The first time I made this widget, I don't recall having to do this.  But without doing this, I found that it would randomly select a dialing device--not exactly what you want!  Click the 'Next' button.

      11.  On this dialog box, choose 'Recognized content' and then select 'Phone Number' from the drop down.  You'll also want to choose 'New Window' for where users will see the results.  Don't choose 'Floating Window'--I've found that will cause the widget to launch and disappear without initiating the phone call.  Click 'Next' to proceed, and then 'Finish' to complete the widget.

      That's it!  As long as you have your Live Text recognizers turned on, you'll now be able to click-to-call from Notes.


      Friday, November 6, 2009

      What version of Sametime is needed for Lotus Unified Communications?

      With IBM's introduction of Lotus Sametime Unified Telephony (SUT) earlier this year, whenever Lotus speaks about unified communications they are doing so in terms of this new product.  Understandably so, IBM has invested a lot of time, effort and money into bringing an excellent product to market in SUT.  And when it comes to the limited money and air time it has to speak about unifiied communications, I understand why they focus almost exclusively on this product.  After all, SUT is an opportunity to sell new Lotus licenses, hardware and IBM services.

      SUT is an excellent solution for unified communications, but it is not the only option for unified communications for a Lotus Notes shop.  Most of the major telephony vendors have created their own plug-ins that leverage the open Eclipse architecture of Sametime Standard to integrate their telephony features. 

      Although each telephony provider integrates its capabilities in its own ways, at a high-level there are broad similarities in the features each has implemented.  This typically includes:
      • Voice mail integration
      • Phone control (desk phones & soft phones)
      • Click-to-call
      • Click-to-conference
      • Phone presence
      • Audio conference integration with Sametime web conferencing
      In the upcoming weeks, I'll do a deep dive into the specific options available from telephony vendors.

      Monday, November 2, 2009

      A New Batch and a New Blog

      There is always a good reason for starting a new batch of hard apple cider, but why on earth another blog in the blogosphere?  For some time I've wished that there was more information shared about the range of options available for unified communications with Lotus software.  I've thought of starting a blog for some time, but have always decided against it because of demands on my time from work, home and my apple orchard.

      At a recent Lotus user group event, I asked Gregg Eldred how he managed to find time to blog.  He said he always just found it important enough to make time to do so.  Well, here's hoping I can keep that same sense of priority and keep the information here fresh, timely, and hopefully helpful to those out there with similar interests.

      So soon to come, I'll be sharing more information on the range of options for unified communications with Lotus software.  And from time to time, I suspect I'll comment on other aspects of Lotus software, the meaning of life, and the status of my current batch of hard cider.

      Of course, the views and comments presented here are solely my own, and are not in any way a reflection of the views of my employer, my Senator, my Congressman, nor any other organization or person other than myself. :-D