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Phones are complicated

I’ve been focused recently on telephone solutions.

We’ve been migrating our data systems to hosted, cloud based solutions because it no longer made sense for a small organization to maintain servers, failover servers, backup systems, etc. just to provide standard business functions like storage, messaging, directories, CRM, and so on. So wouldn’t the same make sense for phones?

To maintain our current phone system we’re managing a VMWare server, two server instances in the VMWare (PBX and voice mail), and complicated router and firewall settings. The integration with mobile phones, CRM, personal directories, calendar, etc. is pretty poor. It needs vendor-specific wizards on contract to manage it. And it really no longer serves the needs of a workforce that’s rarely in the office.

As on the data side there are many providers who assure us they can provide a hosted solution to address all these issues. And for the most part they can. But here the devil is most certainly in the details:

  • How do the desk phone, mobile phone and soft phone interact for call handoff, voice mail, directory integration?
  • How does the mobile client interact with the native phone features?
  • What PBX features are lost? What new features are gained?
  • Is conferencing included? Voice, screen share, video?
  • How is the whole thing priced and supported?

I think that just scratches the surface but you get the idea. Then add on the issues of swapping out a system that every key employee touches every day, and that can cause the company to grind to a halt if the switchover fails in any way.

I’ll be busy for a while yet I think.

Photo is from a previous long-ago phone migration that actually went fairly well.

Year End, And Looking Forward

2015 has been a year of transition and preparation, or so it feels.
At the “day job” we completed a migration from IBM Notes/Domino/ Traveler/Sametime/Quickr and iExtensions CRM to Google Apps for Work and Zoho CRM in the second half of 2014. So 2015 involved learning how to manage and support the new ecosystem. And to struggle with the questions of what we needed to keep on premises, and how to get off the stuff we are done with.
At that job and in my outside practice I was dealing with transition in how technology is used every day. Cloud services and advances in operating systems have pretty much killed the need for small office/home office technical support. The mobile world is moving more and more towards Apple iOS with some Android in the mix. The push for robust, device agnostic MDM has moved to the enterprise level, with most smaller organizations left to rely on what management the mail provider and device manufacturer offer. I’ve taken on a lot more marketing oriented tasks as social media has come to the fore in corporate communications.
But what is the future role for folks who came up as system administrators? Helping organizations select, implement, learn and benefit from technologies is perhaps more important than it has ever been. But with the disconnect from physical systems the role can seem somewhat adrift. What does a system administrator do after the systems are gone?
On the personal side, we undertook upgrades to the house that had been neglected for many years: roof, siding, windows, floors, interior paint, driveway paving. And then we had to upholster/refinish furniture to match. We didn’t do the work ourselves but we (mostly my wife) did the design, hiring and supervision. The results were spectacular but it did sap our attention for much of the summer and fall.
Also on the non-tech side, after several years of politely stepping aside in favor of others there were no more others and I stepped up to be president of Temple Sholom in New Milford, CT.
So I’m looking forward to a 2016 full of new opportunities and new learning. I wish you all the best and happiest of New Years.

Windows 10 — First impressions

I’ve started testing/playing with Windows 10. So far I have installed Windows 10 as an upgrade on two machines, both Windows 7 desktops, one 32 bit, one 64 bit. No real problems with either one. I also tried several times to upgrade my wife’s Lenovo Yoga from Windows 8.1. The upgrade just wouldn’t run. The Windows 10 icon on that machine is now reporting that the upgrade isn’t available yet. I don’t know if that’s a Windows 8.1 issue, a Lenovo issue, or what. If the upgrade suddenly becomes available then I guess we’ll know.

I’ve been pretty happy with the upgrades from Windows 7. The desktops and start menus were carried over pretty cleanly. Haven’t found any apps that just won’t work.

On the 64 bit machine the video driver (NVIDIA) got lost. But Windows still recognized the card and I was able to update the driver from Device Manager with a few clicks. I was amused to see that it did require a restart to apply the driver! After rebooting I had access to all the resolutions the card was capable of and had an NVIDIA Settings icon in the tools at the right side of the taskbar.

On the 64 bit machine I wanted to test a few things in use in our production environment. I used a clean install of Windows 7, but before I upgraded to Windows 10 I installed a printer driver (Xerox), Chrome, Google Apps and Drive and the Novell Client. Our Novell servers are being phased out but we still have the client on all our Windows machines so I wanted to see if I needed to uninstall.

Everything still worked after the upgrade, even the Novell login process, although I haven’t succeeded in logging into Windows and eDirectory together on the initial login.

After I had Windows 10 installed I also tried a legacy MS Office installer (Office 2007) and Open Office and both installed and ran as they would under Windows 7.

So far I’m encouraged, but still not ready to rush the production machines to Windows 10. Still waiting for the dust to settle.

If you’re tired of waiting for Microsoft to get around to your machine for upgrade, here’s the bypass. Visit Then in the Reserve section you’ll see a link for “If you’d like to create a USB drive or DVD to download once and upgrade multiple PCs”. You can indeed create install media as it says, but you can also use the downloaded file to launch an upgrade immediately.

Start is back


I just did the first test of upgrading a Windows 7 Pro machine to Windows 10. This was a modest, utility machine (Dell Optiplex 580) without a lot of software installed. But the upgrade went smoothly, if slowly, and in limited playing I’ve not found any problems.

And — the Start menu is there. It’s got a few Metro-style tiles but if you click on “All Apps” it’s recognizably the same Start menu we’ve had since Windows 95.

More to follow I’m sure.

Too Many New Ways To Work?

Is anybody else drowning in options for collaboration and organization?

Whether it’s a new way to organize your email, store your documents in the cloud, organize your photos and videos, or collaborate and be social there are multiple competing solutions. Most of them don’t interact, or have only minimal compatibility.

Is this helpful? How can we balance a “let 1,000 flowers bloom” approach* with getting to a point where these systems are generally useful without creating silos based on who uses which product?

Many years ago software publishers found it in their interest to develop and, to a greater or lesser degree, comply with, standards for things like SMTP email and rendering of HTML. This was later extended, not quite as successfully, to calendar standards, so that I can now accept an invitation from pretty much any source and send back some sort of acknowledgement. File encoding reached the point where we can share files between Windows, Mac and Linux/Unix fairly transparently.

But I can’t use my public or enterprise microblogging platform to share posts to all my contacts on their preferred platform. I can send a link to download a file from my cloud platform to anyone. But if I want to grant editing rights, or collaboratively edit, or make content easy to find, then we generally need to have credentials on the same system, and there will usually be some software downloading and installing involved. I don’t have a single place to share photos and videos; some will see them if I post on Facebook, others on Instagram, others on Google. The best most publishers have managed is to let you post content to multiple places at once.

My best theory as to why the earlier focus on standards and interoperability has not been applied to newer needs is that we’re now talking about service providers rather than software publishers. They have a much stronger incentive to lock users into their systems. But they’re fighting against Metcalfe’s Law**. Ever more segmentation of the user universe decreases the value of these systems for everyone. The end result will be lowest common denominator communications. Today that’s SMS and email. And the whole incentive for all the new whizbang social and collaboration platforms is that old-school store-and-forward technologies are not good ways to collaborate.

Any hopeful signs out there? I don’t see them.


*Mao actually said “Let a hundred flowers blossom,” and those who did generally got executed if Mao didn’t like the result, but I use the common misquotation and I’m not stressing the execution aspect.

**Metcalfe’s law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2).

Mobile First becoming Mobile Primary?


Does anyone else have concerns about services that require a mobile app before letting you use them in a browser?

Examples include Instagram and Inbox by Gmail. I’m sure there are many others.

Mobile devices are great, and I’m fine with folks building web sites with mobile access as a primary design concern. But, at least at one time, web sites and html were intended to provide device neutral access to data and services. That neutrality enabled multiple browsers and devices to be introduced as needs changed and new capabilities expanded. And that flexibility encouraged innovation.

Mobile apps developed for specific devices, browsers or operating systems change that equation dramatically. As things now stand the availability of apps can have significant impact on the success of new or alternative devices or browsers. How much of Blackberry’s struggles in the handset marketplace are related to major players like Instagram and Google not providing apps? Of course that can be a chicken-and-egg problem where the publishers can legitimately claim a market is too small to develop for. But that was never a concern in the age of pure html. [One can argue that world went away with the introduction of Internet Explorer 6, but that’s a different rant.]

As a related aside: The browser on Blackberry 10 behaves as expected when presenting a text-based web page, with word wrapping and text sizing based on the size of the screen. On iOS the browser attempts to render the page as it would appear on a desktop browser, even if that makes it too small to read without zooming and scrolling. And that’s how Google assesses mobile compatibility.

I’m not sure if this is just the rant of an old guy or if this is a legitimate concern for future flexibility and innovation in tech. Your thoughts?


Chip cards – US banks don’t get it

Chase recently gave us new credit cards with chips but no PIN. My wife is in the Netherlands this week; we’ll see if the chip-only makes the US cards easier or harder to use than previously when there was no chip in US cards.

Thank you for contacting Chase about about a Chip and PIN

Currently Chase does not offer Chip and PIN cards. At
this time, Chase is issuing Chip and Signature cards,
which only require your signature to complete a

Here’s what you need to know about our chip cards:
* Chase chip cards require a signature to verify purchases
made at a merchant card reader.
* Some chip-enabled cards require a PIN code to verify the
* The difference in the method of verification depends on
the microchip itself and what verification method the
merchant’s card reader is set up to accept.

In certain situations, your Chip and Signature card may
not be accepted:
* Card readers at unattended kiosks may not require a
signature, but some will require Chip and PIN
* It’s a good idea to be prepared with alternative payment
methods, such as local currency.
We hope this information is helpful and we thank you for
your business and your trust. If you have additional
questions, please call us using the number on the back of
your card or visit We’re always
available to assist you.