Sunday, June 22, 2008

A very cool fact about internet "research".

Who knew that the internet is so important for research. Remember... "trust but verify". (According to wikipedia: Trust, but Verify was a signature phrase of Ronald Reagan. He used it in public, although he was not the first person known to use it. When Reagan used this phrase, he was usually discussing relations with the Soviet Union and he almost always presented it as a translation of the Russian proverb "doveryai, no proveryai" (Russian: Доверяй, но проверяй) - Trust, but Verify. )

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the number one way that voters use the Internet for political action is to search for information on candidates. In 2004, 34 million Americans used the Internet for this purpose. In 2008, that number will increase significantly, possibly to 50 million or more, with tens of millions looking for information on John McCain. As these voters are looking for information on John McCain, our actions will direct them toward nine articles in particular. Voters are looking for information on John McCain, and we are giving it to them.

And here's something that must be true... I read it on the internet: McCain in NH: Would Be "Fine" To Keep Troops in Iraq for "A Hundred Years" McCain's "100 years" statement ha damaged him already, and this article has already been significantly optimized on Google. While Mother Jones is not an ideal news source, it is the top article for this quote, and appears in the top thirty searches for John McCain already.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

OneCommunications: world's slowest phone company


I don’t know what is broken in OneCommunication’s sales and ordering process, but something is badly broken. We’ve been having problems with our OneCommunications dynamic bandwidth service and the interface to a PBX. Between the PBX vendor and OneCommunications technicians we decided that switching to a traditional T1 would be a good solution.

As a priority solution I placed an order on Feb. 7 to switch from your dynamic product to a traditional T1. I hounded our very pleasant OneComm rep Kim Skowran nearly daily as getting this circuit installed was a priority. Finally in late March we got to the head of the queue for service installs (nearly 6 weeks to get through your order system). In March, it was discovered that the order was placed for the wrong service—a error on OneCommunications part as we discussed the specific needs with a sales technician. We placed another order on April 4 to get the right product installed. In spite of nearly daily emails to our sales rep, I’ve heard nothing other than “I’m talking with my manager” and “I’ll get you a status tomorrow.”

It’s been over 9 weeks to install a simple PowerNet T1 and we don’t even have a status. Could you please light a fire under your order department and get the damn circuit installed.

Another Avaya IP Office problem

Our Avaya IP Office 500 system went down again. A slightly different error for inside callers and of course clients trying to call us got an error message. It’s been only 14 days since our last reboot, I have to say that our system is never going to pass any acceptance criteria if it can barely stay up for 2 weeks. And of course, after the system reboots the software is not reloaded into the phones leading to a public safety issue and significant loss of functionality.

T1 connectivity is hardly “revolutionary” or “advanced” technology as you’ve claimed. T1s have been around since 1960 and interfacing to T1 circuits is basic phone system functionality.

The three alternatives that have been presented are unacceptable:
1) Go to a private build that is several releases old; there have been significant security, functionality and reliability enhancements since the old release; retrograding to an old, “private” release seems like a risky solution, especially as there is no guarantee for support in future builds locking us into an obsolete version of the phone system
2) Upgrade to the latest release, although ABCNA has reported that this release does not fix the problems
3) Live with a phone system that is unreliable; phone system reliability should be measured in years—random crashes every 2 weeks are not acceptable

I have to say that I’m shocked that Avaya and ABCNA feels that this situation is acceptable. As a “leading Avaya dealer” in the Northeast, ABCNA should have enough influence with Avaya to get this problem fixed in a current version of the operating system.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sony charges $50 to remove laptop bloatware

"Sony (along with other vendors) has offered the option of not getting bloatware for an additional $50. In some ways, Sony is at least being (partially) honest in that they explicitly price the removal. Other vendors hide the cost by wrapping bloatware free versions into specific models (for example, Dell's Vostos and Optiplex) don't have much bloatware, but are not exactly identical to an equivalent model.

They're not be completely honest by implying that they "remove" the bloatware. I'm sure they have a bloatware-free image that they apply before shipping.

Does anyone know how much the vendors actually get for installing various trial versions? Also, there is some danger of one man's bloatware being another's convenience. For example is pre-installing Adobe Acrobat and Flash bloatware or value? How about Google toolbar? And on down the line... IE? iTunes?

And, Macs aren't exactly bloatware free. Quicktime is a trial version with a nag screen to upgrade. Macs come with trial versions of Office (how much does Microsoft pay for that) and Omni outliner.

For more details see: Sony charges $50 to remove laptop bloatware"

Monday, February 4, 2008


Ordering a product shouldn't be this hard...

Based on my reading of how dynamic bandwidth circuits work (and our internet usage), I’ve decided that we would be better off with a traditional PRI rather than the Maximizer product. I’m trying to get the following quotes and installation timeframes. My hope is that the existing T1 circuit between your facilities and EMI can be reused to expedite the installation.

Option 1:
-- Traditional PRI; 23 B channels all voice

Option 2:
-- Traditional PRI; 19 B channels; 4 internet channels (256K data)

Option 3:
-- Traditional PRI; 23 B channels
-- Full T1 internet

Option 4:
-- Traditional PRI; 23 B channels
-- DSL data product 4 to 7 mbs down / 1 to 3 up

In addition, I want to make sure that our copper voice circuit has been canceled.

Please call me with any questions. I’ll be in the office all day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Avaya IP Office: Unable to make calls

For some reason we couldn't make any outgoing call yesterday for about 15 minutes. When I called into our PBX vendor...surprise they blamed the carrier.

Anyway here is the email I sent to support:

At 4:27 1/14/08 for approximately 10 to 15 minutes we were unable to make any outgoing calls. When dialing we would just get dead air. I checked with our network vendor and they did not show any problems with the T1 line. The problem either cleared itself or one of your technicians cleared it without talking to me.

I called Avaya Business Partner technical support at about 4:30; no technicians were available but receptionist indicated one was going to be paged and would call me back on my cell phone. As of 4:50 no one had called.

I logged a trouble ticket (ME-00000-000000) at 4:31.

I’m beginning to suspect that the IP office unit might have hardware problems as we have been experiencing a number of unusual behaviors (reboots, unable to make calls, voice quality problems, paging issues);

Here's the note I sent this morning when the "techs" were here to fix it...

We’ve had the T1 installed for more than 2 years with perhaps 1 failure in that time. A T1 failure every 14 days (which is about what we’ve been seeing) seems unlikely. The failure was not detected by the vendor on their network (I called an spoke with them yesterday). Although possible, it’s unlikely that the connection from the IAD to the network suddenly became flakey. This makes me suspect that there is a problem between the IAD and the PBX or on the PBX. Tech1 was looking at the log last night; what did he find around 4:30 when the switch failed? I’ve forwarded to Tech1/Tech2 the vendor contact; have they spoken with the network vendor tech?

IP Office: Trying to fix the voice quality issue

Well two "techs" from our Avaya SMB Expert Business partner showed up today to try to fix the lousy voice quality on our IP Office system. (The voice quality on IP Office, using IP office phones internally is roughly cell phone quality.) They attached a Fluke network monitor trying to identify the issues. At my suggestion, they did reground the system.

They haven't found anything yet, but are running around resetting phones to make sure that all the phones are using G711 coding. You would have thought that they would have set up the system correctly at the beginning.

Stay tuned for more updates on the voice quality.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Avaya IP Office: Phone Manager -- What were they thinking?

I have to say that I've met a new low in bad applications from big companies--the Avaya Phone Manager Pro (works--using the term loosely--with IP Office). Let's see what wrong with it:

  • Doesn't work with Vista: vista has been out for more than a year and is the choice of lots of business users. It can't be that hard to make the program work with vista! (Actually, the application barely works with Visa, the softphone doesn't work at all.)
  • Completely unique skins: the program doesn't pick up any of the windows colors or themes. For some reason the kid that programmed it decided that he liked brushed metal--which doesn't look anything like windows in general or the phones. If it was to mimic the phones the application should use dark gray type on a light gray background. (The Avaya phones have almost no contrast on the screens.)
  • It's a PC application; you'd think you could record voice menus using the PC. No! (Remember, we're Avaya we think like Western Electric.)
  • You can sort of control your voice mail from the application; however you can't forward your messages to email, save them on your computer or even forward them to another extension from the PC application.
  • You can't control how voice mail to email works using Phone Manager. This option is only available via an obscure setting on the phone.
  • Number displays can't be formatted. Phone numbers display 99085551234; the probably could have tossed the programmer a couple of more bones and had it displayed as 9 908-555-1234 (for extra credit, they could of allowed a formatting string).
  • The caller ID information isn't displayed with the voicemail tab (but is displayed in the other call listings).
  • There is a check for update under the help menu, but it's not yet implemented (yo...we are on release 4.20 now!)
  • How many different speed dial lists can we have: the speed dial on phone manager are stored locally on your computer and are completely separate from the user speed dials stored on the phone.
  • Speed dials for the internal have to be added one at a time (did the programmer ever hear of shift-click?).
  • The profile is stored on the local machine and in a non-standard location; re-installing the application trashes the profile.
  • Someone else pointed out that the application doesn't work with Citrix servers (can't confirm this as we don't use one).

If you are considering an IP Office system, look pretty hard at the flaws in Phone Manager. They are indicative of the quality of IP Office.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Office Phone Systems

I'm a technology manager for a small professional services firm with about 50 employees and we're currently going through the process of upgrading our phone system. The process sucks--phone system manufacturers are still in the dark ages, haven't a clue how to design software and the local dealers are still pining for the deals of dealing with the big-haired "telephone lady".

My company is located in the Eastern Massachusetts area, with a mix of technology sophisticated users and clueless ones. Mostly everyone is on a PC but we support about 10 Macs for creative users. Presenting a professional appearance is critical to us--we have 2 receptionists and senior executives phones must be personally answered at all times. Overall, we don't ask for a lot from a phone system. Ring, answer, cover, page, voice mail. You'd think that a phone system would exist that does this.

In this blog, I've changed some of the names. I hate to single out our local Avaya dealer as being particularly incompetent. I suspect that they all are equally clueless. If you'd like more details on the specifics, contact me privately.

Tomorrow's posting will be on our old phone system.