Tag Archives: Skype

Yes, Analog Is Still a Big Deal, Enter the AudioCodes MediaPack 1288

It’s a new world, it’s a new model, SIP is king and Unified Communications has supplanted standalone telephony.  We are always connected, we have endless choice for effective communication,  we can start large video conferences from a disposable device in our pockets, we live in the future.  So why am I so excited about this new high density analog gateway from AudioCodes?

In a perfect world, analog would be dead, but we live in the real world with legacy processes EmergencyLight
and systems that need to be brought forward.  Large enterprises, higher education, healthcare, and other organizations still have analog needs that need to be filled in a UC world.  Imagine a university campus filled with emergency blue light call boxes, press a button and you’re on the line with police.  That’s analog. Imagine rooms upon rooms filled with hospitality phones that are extremely costly to replace or have no good SIP equivalent.  More analog.  Until now, the high density analog options for Skype for Business or Lync were rough.  The biggest supported gateway had a mere 24 ports.  Sure, you could maintain many gateways but the complexity multiplies.  It sadly came up that maintaining a trunk to a legacy TDM system was often a reasonable answer.

But finally we have a new option, the AudioCodes MediaPack 1288.  This 3U device can start with 144 analog FXS ports and scale to 216 or 288 depending on the number of line-cards (up to 4) added.  Each of those line cards has three 50-pin champ connectors which can connect to a punch down block or an RJ11 adaptor.  For those emergency phones, it supports long haul connections over 4 and a half miles (your ethernet cable won’t make it).   When you’re used to stacking gateways and maintaining multiple routes, this unit means the world.

For fun, here’s a sneak peek at the unit below with a single line-card. I have to make this clear, this picture is unofficial and the look may change by GA, meaning yours might look a bit different.

20150917_193427_resized

If you’re looking for more info, AudioCodes’ site has the specs: http://www.audiocodes.com/products/mediapack-1288

Adding a Blind Transfer Button on a Polycom VVX for Lync or Skype

Note: Included in this blog post is a macro created by myself for VVX phones.  It is not supported by Polycom or myself and no warranty is given.  Like any code found on the Internet, use as your own risk.

I’m a big fan of the Polycom VVX line.  They’re high quality, feature rich, and very configurable. That said, like any phone, some of the default options can leave users confused early in the deployment.  On a recent Enterprise Voice rollout of Lync 2013, we were receiving early reports that “transfers don’t work” on the VVX phones.  Our Q\A and followup tests had shown no issues.

The issue wasn’t a problem with the functionality, but with user training.  Despite handouts and training sessions, not everyone got the message that the default transfer type was consultative.  Consultative transfer means that when you attempt to transfer a call, the phone expects that you to chat with the party you’re transferring to and ensure they’re available to take the call.  Most users at this client had only ever had a blind transfer option.  This kind of transfer is more simple, enter the number and the call is on it’s way regardless if the other end wants it or can accept it.

The method for performing a blind transfer traditionally can be found in the Using Polycom® VVX Phones in a Microsoft Lync™ Environment Quick User Guide document.  The basic usage is Answer a Call -> Transfer -> More -> Blind -> Enter the number and hit Green phone button.  I’ve taken some screenshots below on a VVX 500 running UCS 5.2 for reference.

Answer and Hit Transfer

Rtrasnfer1

Click the More button

Rtrasnfer2

Click Blind

Rtransfer3

The text changes to “Blind transfer to”.  Enter the number and click the green phone icon.

Rtransfer4

 

The complaint was that Lync is supposed to be easy and this all seemed harder.   The go-to of course is to get everyone used to using the Better Together experience with the BToE software supplied by Polycom for the best possible and easiest experience.  Still, during a transition, user experience is king so I set out to create a button to make transfers easier.  The plan was to have a button up front that was easy to use and eliminated steps.  I’ve decided to share this code with you.

<efk>
<version efk.version=”2″ />
<efklist
efk.efklist.1.mname=”btransfer1″
efk.efklist.1.label=”Blind Transfer”
efk.efklist.1.status=”1″
efk.efklist.1.action.string=”$P1N11$$Trefer$”
/>
<efkprompt
efk.efkprompt.1.status=”1″
efk.efkprompt.1.label=”Number: ”
efk.efkprompt.1.userfeedback=”visible”
efk.efkprompt.1.type=”numeric”
/>
</efk>
<softkey
softkey.1.label=”Blind”
softkey.1.action=”!btransfer1″
softkey.1.enable=”1″
softkey.1.precede=”1″
softkey.1.use.idle=”0″
softkey.1.use.active=”1″
softkey.1.use.alerting=””
softkey.1.use.dialtone=””
softkey.1.use.proceeding=””
softkey.1.use.setup=””
softkey.1.use.hold=”1″
softkey.feature.newcall=”1″
softkey.feature.endcall=”1″
softkey.feature.split=”1″
softkey.feature.join=”1″
softkey.feature.forward=”1″
softkey.feature.directories=””
softkey.feature.callers=””
softkey.feature.mystatus=”1″
softkey.feature.buddies=”1″
softkey.feature.basicCallManagement.redundant=”1″
/>

<feature>
<feature.enhancedFeatureKeys feature.enhancedFeatureKeys.enabled=”1″/>
</feature>

For now, just save that block of code above into a file called blind.cfg, we’ll discuss how to upload it in a bit.  I won’t itemize everything this macro is doing or explain how to create your own buttons or “Enhanced Feature Keys”, we’ll leave that up to the Polycom documentation.  I do however want to walk through a few of the important settings.

This first and most important line I’d like to call out in the above macro is this:

<feature.enhancedFeatureKeys feature.enhancedFeatureKeys.enabled=”1″/>

That line simply enables Enhanced Feature Keys or EFK.  EFKs are a method of creating softkeys on Polycom phones and assigning macros to them.  Without this line, these keys aren’t enabled and you won’t see the newly added button.

Our prompt block is defined below:

efk.efkprompt.1.status=”1″
efk.efkprompt.1.label=”Number: ”
efk.efkprompt.1.userfeedback=”visible”
efk.efkprompt.1.type=”numeric”

Here were creating a prompt numbered “1”, making it visible, accepting only numbers to avoid confusion, and creating a text prompt that simply says “Number: “.

Our macro block is defined below:

efk.efklist.1.mname=”btransfer1″
efk.efklist.1.label=”Blind Transfer”
efk.efklist.1.status=”1″
efk.efklist.1.action.string=”$P1N11$$Trefer$”

We’re basically creating a macro called “btransfer1”, setting the status to “1” to make it available and assigning it an action of $P1$N11$Trefer$”.  P1 displays prompt number 1 which is defined above, N11 means that we’re expecting up to 11 digits (you may want to change this to suit your needs) and Trefer tells the call to transfer upon receving the input.

Additional softkey lines setting it up:

softkey.1.label=”BTransfer”
softkey.1.action=”!btransfer1″
softkey.1.enable=”1″

For our softkey number 1, we’re labeling the button “BTransfer”.  You can call it Blind, or whatever you like.  The action we’re calling is our btransfer1 macro and we’re setting enabled to 1 so we can use it.

Again, I’ll show you how to upload this to a single phone later in the article, but for now let’s look at the new transfer experience.

A call comes in, user hits “BTransfer” which is on the far left.

btransfer1

 The user enters the number and hits Enter.  btransfer2

You’re done!

Notice the “Number:” prompt, the name “BTransfer” we defined in the macro, and the clarity of the process compared to the original.  Also note that though the 500 is shown, this works just as well in VVX 300, 400, and 600 phones.  Shown below is a VVX 300, note the truncated button name:

btransfer300

To upload, navigate to your phone’s web page, go to Utilities -> Import & Export Configuration and click “Choose File” to locate the blind.cfg file you created earlier.  Click the Import button and wait for the phone to reboot.  If you’d like to deploy this to all phones or a larger subset, check out Jeff Schertz’ and Greig’s blog as found in the references sections.  Actually, just check out their blogs anyway, they’re jammed full of helpful information.

Upload

Thank you for reading, I hope you found it helpful!

References: