Tip o’ the Week #51 – Five Golden Rules for OCS & Lync


A tip this week concerning best practices for using Enterprise Voice in OCS or Lync for making and receiving voice calls…

Participating in OCS/Lync Calls:

  • Use a wired* connection when you are on OCS/Lync calls. (Performance over WIFI will not be as good)
  • Ensure you use an approved OCS/Lync headset (available from the service desk in TVP and CP).

Hosting a OCS/Lync Meeting:

There is also some best practice for hosting a OCS/Lync meeting – the 5 golden rules. In summary:

If you are hosting the meeting, always set-up 5-10 minutes in advance, to upload presentation(s) and to complete the following steps..

  1. Connect network cable to presenter PC first, then start the meeting
  2. Switch off wireless networking on presenter PC.
  3. Always run “Audio Video“ wizard to make sure that your speakers, micro and webcam work correctly after all audio/video devices are connected.
  4. Avoid noise in the meeting room when microphones are not on mute**
    • typing (e.g. email or instant messaging)
    • rustling papers
    • tapping solid objects
    • be aware of fans (e.g. projector) which are close to PC
    • side talk
    • breathing into your own microphone …
  1. Do not start multiple Live Meetings in the same room – use projector to save bandwidth!

             **Also remember to Mute yourself if you are not speaking

*the reason for using a wired connection is partly due to a behaviour that Windows Vista and Windows 7 introduced – where a PC has both a wired and wireless connection, the PC assumes you are using a laptop and needs to be prepared to be disconnected, so it uses the wireless in preference to wired network.

clip_image006You you can set your PC to always favour the wired network, if one is available…

  • Go to Control Panel / Network and Internet / Network Sharing Center / Change Adapter Settings (or just go WindowsKey-R and run ncpa.cpl)
  • Press ALT if you don’t see a menu, then go into Advanced and select Advanced settings (stay with me)
  • Change the binding order so that Local Area is higher than Wireless…

The downside of doing this is that if you do unplug your laptop from the wired network, it might disconnect you from OCS/Lync and any file copying etc might get dropped.

If you want to check what your network is doing, and in particular, which connection is being used, check the Network tab in Task Manager (start it quickly by pressing CTRL-SHIFT-ESC).

Tip o’ the Week #48: Stop! Think! Bing!


As well as serving us up a daily delight by way of its home page image, Bing continues to add and innovate other interesting and useful ways to help us find information. There are many examples of where a 10-second Bing search could save time or provide a little more information that could alter the way we do something.

imagePut in the flight number, for example, and you’ll get real time tracking or departure/arrival information. Enter a post code and you’ll get a map.

Search for a product name and maybe you’ll get price estimates, links to reviews, even specifications lists.
Put in currency (like £ and $) and you’ll get current exchange rates, all without needing to go into another site.

clip_image003Visual Search
If you haven’t seen or used Bing Visual Search before, give it a go – it really is very good when you’re doing comparison searching – eg top Windows Phone 7 applications. Using Bing to search and filter for Windows Phone 7 apps is (surprisingly) miles better, quicker and more controllable than using either the desktop Zune software or the App Marketplace on the phone itself.

Bing before you email
A good bit of advice would be to quickly search before sending an email asking a question (it might take you much longer to write the email than it would to type in a search) and you’d get to enquire of the mass knowledge & ignorance on the internet. An example from the other day was an email warning of a scam – a parcel company was supposedly dropping a “sorry we missed you” card through the door, but the number you’d call back to get more information was a premium rate one. A quick search on Bing revealed that this was an urban myth based on some real events that happened 5 years ago. And still, the email is doing the rounds

clip_image005Search History
Did you know that Bing keeps a record of your search history? Look to the left after you’ve done a search for anything and it will show you recent searches you’ve done. You can go further back in time (28 days) by looking on the Search History page (accessible via “More” from the top left of the page), and you can remove individual entries if you find yourself searching off piste. Apparently. The truly paranoid can switch the whole thing off and clear their history.

Tip o’ the Week #46 – Reduce your influx of Corporate Spam

clip_image001[4]We’ve all had unwanted emails from external sources – so-called “Spam”, after the famous Python sketch that featured a café with Spam in every dish on the menu.

A further menace is “Corporate Spam”, or stuff that you don’t want, but which originates from within the corporate network. Usually, C-Spam is simply being cc’ed on a long email that you really won’t ever read, but Distribution Groups provide many other opportunities to send large volumes of email to people who don’t want it.

There are, however, several weapons in Outlook 2010 to help the C-Spam burden be reduced, eg…

Ignore Conversation – find yourself on an email trail with lots of people saying “me too”, “+1”, “please stop hitting reply-all” etc? Simply right-click on any message in that thread, and choose “Ignore…” and the whole lot will be moved to the Deleted Items folder. Any future message in the same thread will be automatically deleted too. See a Demo.

This feature was semi-inspired by a legendary incident that occurred within Microsoft some years ago, known simply as “Bedlam DL3”. Someone in Microsoft IT had been testing automatic creation of very large distribution lists and adding people – alphabetically – to the DL. There were a whole series of Bedlam DLs, but one person spotted they were a member of DL3 one day, by looking at their own entry in the GAL, in the “Member of” tab.They emailed Bedlam DL3 asking “why am I on this DL, please take me off”. The other 20,000+ people on the DL received that message,many of who also said “me too”, followed by many “STOP SENDING EMAILS TO THIS LIST” type messages.

In the 24 hours after the Bedlam DL3 touch-paper was lit, the Microsoft internal email system sent more messages than was normal for a whole year. Needless to say, the quality of service was less than optimal.

Do Not Reply All – Information Rights Management (something we’ll cover in a future ToW) gives us lots of control over what can happen to an email, but it’s a little heavy handed if all you want to do is stop people replying. IRM is now supported on some mobile devices and within Outlook Web Access, clip_image001but it’s not quite ubiquitous, and can be a little intrusive for the recipient.

Well, Gavin Smyth of MS Research sent in details of a great Outlook addin he’s written, which exposes a little-known tweak that will stop Outlook from the “Reply-All” syndrome – the root of the Bedlam DL3 problem.

Simply click on the appropriate Ribbon icon, and when you send an email, you can prevent internal recipients from passing it on. The No Reply All and No Forward functions aren’t rigidly enforced like in IRM, and they only work within the organisation – but they’re quick and easy to use, and have no negative impact for the recipients – it just looks like a normal email, but in Outlook, the “Reply All” or “Forward” buttons are grayed out. Simple.

More details are here.
Download the ZIP file for the NoReplyAll addin’s setup here.

Tip o’ the Week #44 – Making Outlook show only email from external senders

clip_image001This tip came about after one reader asked if there was any way to highlight email, in Outlook, that came from a set of external addresses [in short, it kind-of is, but it’s not so straightforward]. There’s a more universally useful tip lurking beneath, though – how can I hide all the internal stuff/organisational spam that I get sent via email, and show just the mail that came from customers, partners or others from the outside world?clip_image002

This is a long tip but very worthwhile…  One solution here is to use Outlook Search Folders.

These are special folders that can be created in Outlook, which show results of a query across multiple folders – like “show all flagged messages” (anywhere in the mailbox). Super-useful and a topic to return to in a later ToW…

This process will take a few minutes to set up, but it will live forever in your Exchange mailbox (ie you don’t have to repeat all this if you move to another machine).

Step 1 – Let Outlook figure out which emails originated from the outside world

If you’re using Exchange Server, then (generally) any email which comes from the outside world passes through an anti-spam layer which looks for how likely that message is to be “spam”, by analysing not only its content but where it came from – and the message is stamped with a Spam Confidence Level, or SCL. A message with a very high SCL (like 7) is probably going to be dropped on the floor by the filtering process, but emails with an SCL of 4 or 5 might look a bit spammy but could in fact be genuine. So chances are, they’ll get let through but might be dropped into your Junk Items folder. We can use the SCL value to figure out if an email came from the outside or not – internal emails just won’t have an SCL or it will be value of -1, but all external emails will have an SCL of 0 or higher.

So the first thing we need to do is “expose” the SCL to Outlook – you could add it to a standard view if you like, so you could view external emails’ date, sender, size etc, and their likelihood to be spam. This process can be a tad involved but if you follow the steps exactly, it should be fine – you might want to print this message out since it involves fiddling about in various parts of Outlook that will make it less easy to refer to the tip.

OK, here goes…

  • Save this SCL.CFG file to your PC –it needs to be dropped into a particular folder where a load of other .CFG and .ICO files already exist: it’s the definition for a custom Outlook form that we’ll use to define what the SCL value is. Save it to your desktop or somewhere else you can find it easily, for now.
  • Now, open up the correct destination for the CFG file – the default locations are …
    (open using Windows Explorer, or click below to try to open)
  • Move the CFG file from your desktop into the appropriate folder you’ve opened up by docking the newly opened window to the side (press WindowsKey ÿ– Right) and drag/drop it – you’ll need to confirm that you want to provide administrative privileges for this.
  • Back in Outlook 2010, go to File | Options | Advanced | Custom Forms (button, about 2/3 of the way down the page) | Manage Forms | Install (phew)
  • Navigate within the dialog to the CFG file you saved in step 1 above, and Open it.
  • Press OK on the form properties dialog – you should now see the SCL Extension Form listed in the right hand side – now hit Close | OK | OK to return to the main Outlook view.

OK, you could now add SCL to your default view if you really want … otherwise skip to step 2…

  • In the View tab on the Ribbon, select View Settings then click on the Columns button. In the “Select available columns from…” drop-down box, look right at the bottom, select Forms… then point to Personal Forms in the drop-down list, and you should be able to select SCL Extension Form and add it to the right.
  • Now, SCL will be available as a column if you select “SCL Extension Form” again, from the “Select available columns…” drop-down; add SCL to the right. If you now return to the standard Outlook view and hover over an external message, you should see something like…


(this example was in Junk Items, incidentally)

Step 2 – Set up a Search Folder to filter out anything that isn’t external

clip_image005Now that Outlook can see the SCL value, it’s relatively straightforward to set up a suitable Search Folder. To begin, navigate to your Search Folders in the folder tree within Outlook, , right-click and choose New Search Folder (or press CTRL-SHIFT-P).

  • In the Search Folder dialog that appears, scroll to the very bottom and select “Create a custom Search Folder” then click the Choose button to select the criteria.
  • Give it a meaningful name (like External Mail since yesterday), then hop to the Advanced tab to set the criteria…
  • Now you can add multiple sets of criteria if you like, but the main one is to select the SCL Extension Form in the Field drop down, then choose the SCL value and set the condition to be at least 0: this would show all external mail.
  • You might want to add another one like set the Received field to be on or after “8am yesterday” (if you set that, literally, as the condition, Outlook will figure it out). I’ve also excluded some folders by name in this example – any folder that has Junk or Deleted in its name, won’t show in the list. You’ll find “Received” and “In Folder” fields in the “All Mail Fields” group.
  • DONE! Now you should see the new search folder, it can be added to your Favourites collection if you like (right click on it, choose Show in Favorites) and if you want to go back in to tweak it further, then simply right-click on it and Customize.clip_image007

Tip o’ the Week #40 – monitoring your PC’s innards

clip_image002Everyone can see their PC slow down inexplicably, but getting to the bottom of why can be tricky. It could be an occasional task that’s running (like an update being applied to Anti-Virus software), or perhaps something more sinister is going on – a badly constructed web page causing IE to use up system resources, even a virus doing its dirty work. Or maybe it’s just Outlook deciding that it needs to do some lengthy maintenance to large data files.

There are plenty of tools built into Windows 7 that will help tell you what is happening – such as the “CPU Meter” desktop Gadget (right-click on desktop, choose Gadgets, and drag it onto the desktop to see a realtime view of how your computer’s processor – CPU-  is performing, and how much memory is currently in use).

If you want to get deeper under the hood, there’s always Performance Monitor or its new friend, Resource Monitor (just go to start menu, type “Resource” and you’ll find it).

A quick and relatively simple way of checking what’s hogging your PC’s performance, is the Task clip_image003Manager tool – you can start it by pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL and choosing Start Task Manager from the list, or right-click on the taskbar and see the same option, or (the quickest and easiest way), simply press CTRL+SHIFT+ESC.

Task Manager gives you the ability to see which applications or processes are using the main resources on the machine, and if necessary, gives you the ability to close them down. It’s possible to add other columns to the list, so you could see how much disk I/O each process is generating (so if your laptop’s hard disk is thrashing the whole time, you might see which app is causing it). Resource Monitor adds another layer of detail, and can be started from within Task Manager’s “Performance” tab.

The Über-Monitor
If you’re feeling like all these namby-pamby built-in monitoring tools are too high level, you need ProcessExplorer. This tool came from a company (called Winternals) which Microsoft bought a few years ago, ostensibly to bring on board some nice free tools (and some that now sit in MDOP) and to get the brain of its chief technologist, one Mark Russinovich, who is now a “Technical Fellow” in Microsoft. A Jolly Technical Fellow, no less.

“Technical Fellow” is the highest technical level in Microsoft, equivalent to Corporate VP, and is bestowed on a few legendary folk.  The guy who invented Vax/VMS and designed Windows NT? Check. The guys who developed (with a few friends) the graphical UI, distributed computing, ethernet, the laser printer and the mouse? Take a bow, Butler, Chuck.

clip_image005If you ever get to see Mark give a talk at TechEd, you’ll realise just how deep his knowledge goes. Here are recordings of some of his talks – there’s also a TechEd introduction to some of the tools, here.

Process Explorer lets you see not only what services/processes are hogging the machine, but what is causing them to do it – as with any such tools, you could do a great deal of harm by killing off the wrong thing… but if you fire it up and simply have a look, it’s quite interesting…

For the true die-hards, it’s possible (through the Options menu) to “Replace Task Manager” so that ProcExp is fired up by the same means (CTRL-SHIFT-ESC etc) that Task Manager was.

This could be the new measure of the true geek – only Process Explorer users would qualify.