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September 2007

Posts from August 2007

UC Strategies podcasts with Mitel executives about unified communications, Microsoft, Sun, HP and more...

Back at our Mitel Forum event in late June, analyst Blair Pleasant from Unified Communications Strategies recorded a couple of podcasts[1] with Mitel executives and I've been meaning to write about them here. (Full Disclosure: While Mitel has no direct connection to this blog, I do work for Mitel.)

image First up, Blair interviewed Mitel CEO Don Smith.  They discussed Mitel's view of unified communications, business process improvement, the use of SIP and XML interfaces and much more. Don discussed the importance of presence and availability, the need for "in the moment" communication and the importance of "presence everywhere". He also offers his view of the greatest challenges facing Mitel and the industry in the time ahead and his view of where Mitel is heading.

image Second, Blair interviewed Stephen Beamish, Mitel VP of Business Development and Strategic Alliances about the partnerships Mitel has with Microsoft, HP and Sun. Given the announcement before Mitel Forum of the partnership with Sun, this interview gives one of the first views into the Mitel-Sun relationship.  Blair and Stephen also, of course, discuss Mitel's relationship with Microsoft, especially in light of the Microsoft-Nortel relationship as well as Microsoft's other partners.  Stephen also talks about the HP relationship and Mitel's participation in HP Procurve's upcoming "Taking It To The Edge" Seminar Series. Finally, he discusses some of the environmental benefits of using Mitel products in terms of power savings.

For those interested in where Mitel is heading and Mitel's views of unified communications, both podcasts are highly recommended. Each podcast runs around 16 minutes.

[1] And yes, as a podcaster I had serious geek envy of the Sony PCM-D1 recorder that Blair was using  courtesy of her colleague Jim Burton.  Very nice piece of hardware! (And also just a wee bit outside of my personal price range!)

Blogging... disrupted....

My blogging here (and across my other blogs) has been a wee bit light of late, largely because I began having technical issues with my laptop last week that ultimately culminated in its complete failure on Thursday. It had to be sent back to Ottawa for what I understand was a complete system board replacement. In theory I should get it back tomorrow and start being able to get back into my normal work flow.  Fun, fun, fun... (well, not really!)

Heading out to VoiceCon, Aug 20-23 in San Francisco. Will you be there?

image If any of you reading this will be attending VoiceCon out in San Francisco, August 20-23, please do drop me a note. I'll be there from August 20-22 and am looking forward to connecting with a range of people from around the industry.

FYI, if you are a Facebook user and are attending, there is a Facebook event for VoiceCon to which you can add yourself to facilitate networking with other FB users at the show.

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Mashable: "Instant Messaging Toolbox: 90+ IM Tools"

image Okay, so how many IM clients are you now running? Looking down at my laptop, I see 5 at the moment: MSN/WLM, Skype, GoogleTalk, Psi(Jabber) plus Mitel's own product.  I also sometimes have Gizmo and FWD running and use Miranda from time to time as well.  I do have Yahoo!Messenger and AIM accounts, although I don't honestly use them all that often. On my Blackberry I have IM+ and iSkoot...  let's call it 11or 12 of the consumer products that I normally have available.  Per the list of 90+ IM tools out from Mashable yesterday, that still leaves me with around 80 or so to try. :-)

What's your count?

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Skype Journal: "Security, Skype and the Blackberry"

 Since I have written here about the new Skype clients for the Blackberry, such as iSkoot and IM+, and questioned the security of those clients, I feel compelled to note that Jim Courtney over at Skype Journal, who also writes a good bit about Blackberries as well as Skype, has posted his response to the issue on Friday:  "Security, Skype and the Blackberry".

I still suffer a lingering uncertainty, but I'll admit that Jim's digging does seem rather persuasive.

CRN: "The Coming VoIP War" (between Microsoft and Cisco)

imageIs "the coming VoIP war" to be fought out between Microsoft and Cisco?  So asks a column "The Coming VoIP War" by Larry Hooper in today's issue of CRN.  On one level, the debate isn't as interesting to me as the venue... "CRN" is "Computer Reseller News" and has been around the industry for many years.[1]  At various times I've personally had a subscription to the print version or at least had it around the office to read.[2] Supported by advertising and theoretically sent to a targeted profile of subscribers, I've always seen it as one of the more "established' newsmagazines of the information technology space... and one obviously targeted at resellers of such technology. So to me it is interesting that the question is being discussed within CRN's print and web pages.

As to the larger question of whether "the coming VoIP war" will be between Microsoft and Cisco, one can't ignore that these two companies are giants in the overall IT industry with extremely significant resources and yes, the point is valid that as the interests of the two companies have converged in this merger of communication that many call "unified communications", they are now definitely going to be competing head-to-head.  All I can say is that the time ahead in this industry shall very definitely be quite an interesting one!

P.S. In full disclosure, my employer, Mitel, has had a partnership with Microsoft for several years now. A lot of Mitel equipment also gets deployed on a Cisco infrastructure and I communicate with a number of Cisco folks on standards issues.

[1] I would love to find out when CRN started, but the site seems to have no info about its history and there's no Wikipedia article on it yet.
[2] At the current time, I do have a subscription to CRN.  Sometimes my subscription has lapsed when I've forgotten to annually fill out their subscription form.

Tom Keating loves Asterisk...

image Being a long-time fan of Tom Keating's great "VoIP and Gadget Blog", I had to smile when my day started off this morning scanning feeds and encountering Tom's post on Friday "Top 10 Reasons Why I love Asterisk".  Tom first takes us (by way of a link) back down memory lane a bit with a piece he wrote in November 2001 called "In Search of a Linux-based PBX" that outlines many of the folks involved then with "open source telephony" and makes for interesting reading (his picture also looks a wee bit younger! ;-).  His piece on Friday revisits that list a bit and talks about Asterisk and how it has risen to be clearly the leader of open source telephony solutions.

It also clearly shows Tom's passion, and that is to me one of the fun and wonderful things about this thing we call the blogosphere.... writers do show more of their passion and we very often do get to learn more about the people behind the names.... and that makes it a whole lot more interesting than just dry and blase "factual" articles.

So kudos to Tom for telling us why he loves Asterisk...

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The other story about the recording of the Telecom Junkies podcast: Interview with a VoIP Hacker - a.k.a. why my voice levels are so different

imageWhy does my voice change in audio quality about half-way through the new Telecom Junkies podcast?  Here's the story.

A few minutes ago I posted to both the Voice of VoIPSA weblog and also the Blue Box podcast site a note about the new Telecom Junkies podcast that features an interview with Robert Moore, one of the two people involved with the large VoIP fraud cast last year.  About mid-way through my connection dies and you hear Jason saying "Oh, we lost Dan!" and then I'm back, but with a much softer voice.

Since it says something about telephony - and since I'm also interested in relaying lessons for podcasting - here's what happened.

In the hotel I was staying at in Florida, I was getting pretty poor connections using my AT&T GSM phone (the replacement Blackberry had not yet arrived).  I'd noticed that when calling people from my room, even if I went out onto the balcony, calls would still drop out sometimes - even when I was sitting still.  Now I don't know if this was because I was on the 20th floor (room 2048, what a great geek number!) or because I was at just a particular angle for the GSM towers or what.  The phone seemed to indicate that I had great connection strength.  All I knew was that connections were dropping. 

Needless to say, I was a bit concerned going into the Telecom Junkies podcast recording.  Jason Huffman records his shows by having everyone call into a hosted conference service.  When the recording is done, he gets an email with a WAV file, slaps on the musical intro/outro, potentially does some minimal editing and posts the show to their website.  As Blue Box listeners know, I'm always looking to get the best audio quality possible so I was a bit concerned.

Given that cell phone coverage was problematic, I decided to try using a softphone over the hotel Internet.  Unfortunately, I am on a trial system for Mitel's softphone (using the latest development versions) and I had received the notice that I need to upgrade to a new trial load to keep using it - and hadn't yet downloaded the new version.  So I thought I'd use Skype instead.  However, I also had the dilemma (for either softphone) that because of space considerations I had left my nice new USB headset at home.  Given that I've had reasonable success with Skype's new 3.5 and no headset, I figured I would give it a try anyway.

So I actually first called into the conf bridge using Skype/SkypeOut and spoke with Jason briefly to ask about the sound quality.  He said I sounded a bit quiet and rough (keep in mind that I'm talking to the mic on my Dell laptop), so I called back in on my cell phone.  However, I didn't disconnect the Skype connection, but instead muted the microphone and plugged in a set of headphones so I didn't hear it.

Mid-way through the call, my cell-phone connection did die.  What I did next was put the PC headphones on and un-mute the Skype microphone... ta da... I was back in the conf call, albeit at a lower volume level.  So when you listen to the recording, the first part is via cell phone (and includes an audio cut-out or two) and the second part is via Skype without a headset microphone.

I thought there were a couple of interesting points here:

  1. I have got to find a really small headset that I can carry with me when traveling.
  2. VoIP can beat cell phones in availability (not that any of us in North America will even remotely dispute this!)
  3. It's good to have backups when doing interviews remotely.
  4. It never even occurred to me to use the hotel landline!

Let's think about that last point for a minute.  I had, sitting right there on my desk next to my computer, a perfectly functional phone tied into the hotel's PBX.  And yet, it never even remotely occurred to me to use it!  In fact, outside of calling within a hotel I can't think of the last time that I've actually ever used a hotel phone for an external call.  It's been probably... years!  I guess I've gotten too used to the typically-extortionist rates charged by hotels for phone usage that I just don't even consider it.  (Well, and every other time my cell phone has worked well!)

In any event... that's the story behind the story...  :-)

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Blackberry 8830's GSM - it only works *outside* of North America!

Replying to my last post about the new Blackberry 8830, Jim Courtney of Skype Journal left a comment clueing me into one minor little detail about the 8830's GSM support - it only works outside of North America!

Indeed, the GSM side of the 8830 operates at 900 and 1800 MHz which are used for GSM throughout the rest of the world, but it does not work at 850 and 1900 MHz, which are the frequencies used by GSM in North America.  The disappointment for me is that when I drive to Ottawa, there are patches of road in Ontario where there just isn't all that great CDMA... and it would be great if the 8830 would flip over to GSM to get the stronger signal.  However, that doesn't look like it will happen.

One wonders why not.  When RIM was creating the 8830, why didn't they include support for all 4 bands?  Is it perhaps because Verizon and other North American CDMA carriers want to keep people on CDMA in North America?  (You could see the case where in a particular NA city the GSM signal might be stronger in an area.  If the phone switches to that stronger GSM signal instead of staying on the weaker CDMA signal, the CDMA carrier would need to pay the GSM carrier.)

As a customer, I would really like the phone to switch to the strongest signal, regardless of whose network that is.

Jim Courtney offered his own view back in April: "Shouldn't Blackberry's Pure GSM Phones be the Real 'World Edition'?" interviews me: "Security and Disaster Recovery for IP Telephony Systems"

Just out yesterday, TMC.Net published an interview with me titled, "Security and Disaster Recovery for IP Telephony Systems", by Mae Kowalke, where I talk about general VoIP security issues and then get into specifics about Mitel solutions.  Given that the author nicely gave me the chance to review the text and offer feedback before she published it, I have to say I'm pleased with how it came out. :-)

(And yes, I normally blog about VoIP security over on the Voice of VOIPSA weblog, but I just field weird about posting something like this over on that site.)