Category: Lync 2013 Client

Lync Web App Doesn’t Like Chrome (or does Chrome Not Like Lync Web App?)

While running a test on our Lync Conferencing, I came across a curious little error.

The Meeting itself worked fine (of course!). Logging into it from Internet Explorer, no problem. Logging in on Chrome? Hmmm. Well, the computer downloaded the Lync Web App plugin. But I see no prompt saying it’s been installed.

I check the computer’s Event Viewer – Lync Web App Plugin installed successfully. Yet Chrome didn’t give me a prompt?

I switched to Firefox. Even re-downloaded & re-installed the Lync Web App plugin. It sweeps right through install and brings up the Lync Meeting.

So no issues with the Lync Web App plugin itself, right? We have some sort of issue with the Google Chrome browser.

When I commented on this to my co-worker, he mentioned a Microsoft Update made within the December 2014 Cumulative Update. Here’s the details:

“Google Chrome no longer supports Lync Web App” message when you join a Lync meeting by using Google Chrome – Microsoft Support

Evidently, after you install the December 2014 Cumulative Update, you can see this error in Chrome when you try to load Lync Web App:

Lync Web App on Chrome

Image courtesy of Support.Microsoft.com.

You can still copy the meeting URL and switch to another browser.

Microsoft also recommends installing an additional update from December 31 (direct download page) as a fix.

However, I did not see this message at all. Lync Web App would not come up in Chrome, yet I see no indication of why on the Meeting page.

Under “More Information” there’s a link to the Chromium Blog from late last year. The post linked talks about Google removing NPAPI plugin support.  The Final Countdown for NPAPI – Chromium Blog

What Does NPAPI Have to Do with Lync Web App?

Here’s the overview on NPAPI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NPAPI

It’s an old plugin architecture, used for over a decade now, and in many forms. You’ll find NPAPI plugins in use for Java, Flash, Google’s own Google Earth…and Microsoft Silverlight.

Yes, the same Silverlight you need to run Lync Web App.

The Google announcement stated that in its April 2015 Chrome release (version 42), NPAPI support in Chrome is disabled by default. It can be reactivated, but in September 2015 NPAPI support goes away permanently.

I went back & checked. Sure enough, I had Chrome 42 running. That was why I couldn’t load Lync Web App in Chrome…they don’t like each other anymore!

Would an HTML5 Lync Web App Resolve This?

Google essentially made an executive decision against NPAPI and in favor of HTML5. Now that is their right; HTML5 is a promising technology. And given that they made the original announcement in late 2013, they did give lots of notice so vendors could change their plugins.

Microsoft has at least issued a server-side fix to help. If you’re a Lync administrator, make sure you have the December 31st Update installed.

But a move from NPAPI toward HTML5 raises another question. What about Skype for Business’ web app? Would IT work in Chrome when it’s here?

What about Skype for Business Web App?

I read through some updated documentation about the Lync/Skype for Business Web App. I wanted to see if Microsoft plans an HTML5 version of its plugin.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much. One may be in the works – there’s this mention on the Skype Blog of a “Skype for Web” launched in beta November 2014. But for now the documentation only contains updates discussing the name change & the new Skype-integrated features.

I did find a list of supported platforms though: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg425820%28v=ocs.15%29.aspx

(The last modified date is April 13th. I’d have thought that meant they updated it to mention Windows Server 2012, and up-to-date version numbers on the browsers…)

Anyway, the important point: The “32-bit Version of Chrome 18.x” column says NO on Lync/Skype for Business Web App support, while the Internet Explorer 11 and “32-bit Version of Firefox 12.x” columns say YES.

Chrome Does Not Like Lync/Skype for Business Web App. Plan Accordingly.

Judging by the recent comments on the Chromium Blog post, I’m not the only one who’s not too happy with Google over this. Deprecating support for a widely-used plugin is their right, and it’s not hard to see why.

That said, this essentially means we have to tell clients not to use Chrome in the office. It doesn’t support Silverlight, Java, Flash, etc. as of last month. Anyone joining their Lync Meetings must be informed of this too – if they normally use Chrome, and try to join a Lync Meeting with Lync Web App? They’ll hit a snag.

What’s your opinion on Google deprecating support for NPAPI plugins? Please comment or email. And don’t forget to join us again next week!

P.S. – We’re making some changes on the blog to welcome in Skype for Business. I want to hear everyone’s thoughts as the changes roll out.

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How to Change the Lync 2013 Client Into Skype for Business 2015 (With One Cmdlet)

Ladies and gentlemen, Skype for Business is arriving now!

The April 14th Microsoft Update contains the Skype for Business client. You can download it here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/2889923

With this update, Microsoft gives us the choice of displaying the new Skype for Business 2015 client interface, or continuing on the Lync 2013 UI. Depends on your users – are they quick to adapt? Are they familiar with Skype? If so, you can safely switch them to the new UI.

Otherwise, it might make more sense to keep them on Lync for now.

Switching between interfaces is done through PowerShell. With a few cmdlets you control which client version your users see.

How to Change Between Lync & Skype4B Clients

2015-04-22_13-32-58
CsClientPolicy is the cmdlet we’ll work with for changing between Lync 2013 and Skype for Business 2015. Here’s how you make the magic happen.

To change All Users to Skype for Business UI:
Set-CsClientPolicy -Identity Global -EnableSkypeUI $true

To change All Users to Lync 2013 UI:
Set-CsClientPolicy -Identity Global -EnableSkypeUI $false

What if you only want to change the UI for a certain group of users?
It’ll only take 2 extra cmdlets, in the same sphere.

First you create a new client policy by which to identify this group of users. Let’s call them “SkypeTesters”.
The cmdlet will look like this:
New-CsClientPolicy -Identity SkypeTesters -EnableSkypeUI $true

Then you collect users & assign them to this new SkypeTesters policy. You can collect users via department, AD group, etc. I’ll use a Marketing Department for this example.

To collect users: Get-CsUser -LDAPFilter “Department=Marketing”
To grant them the new client policy & enable Skype for Business UI: Grant-CsClientPolicy -PolicyName SkypeTesters

(Of course you can pipe these two cmdlets together & save time. I split them up just for clarity’s sake.)

More instructions on UI switching are available on TechNet: Configure the Client Experience with Skype for Business – TechNet

NOTE:  According to this page, the Skype for Business Client even works for Lync Server 2010! I didn’t expect that, but it’s a nice surprise. Any 2010 users out there, please consider an update soon. Comment or email if you have questions about it.

What if I use Lync Online?

Not to worry! Lync Online users will still get the Skype for Business UI (though it might take a little longer). You’ll also use PowerShell to switch the interface, but the cmdlets & switches are a little different.

To enable Skype for Business UI for all users, you’d enter this in Remote PowerShell:
Grant-CsClientPolicy –PolicyName ClientPolicyEnableSkypeUI

To keep the Lync UI for all users:
Grant-CsClientPolicy –PolicyName ClientPolicyDisableSkypeUI

To enable Skype for Business UI for a single user:
Grant-CsClientPolicy –PolicyName ClientPolicyEnableSkypeUI -Identity [User’s Name]

Additional switches & details: Switching between the Skype for Business and the Lync client user interfaces – Office 365 Support

Microsoft is phasing the Skype for Business client into use over the next couple months. I didn’t find a specific schedule, but most sources say it should arrive both for Lync Server 2013 and Lync Online/Skype for Business Online users by the end of summer.

There’s one easy way to tell if you’ve received the upgrade (note: this is for Lync Server 2013 users). Do any of your users’ clients report that their taskbar icon changed to Skype’s – but the client still looks like Lync?

Voila, you have the Skype for Business update. Just need to turn on the UI.

New Skype for Business Users: Please send in your thoughts & impressions of the new client! I’d like to hear what my readers think of the changes.

Next week, we’ll talk versioning and upgrade priorities. See you then.

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Make Lync Stop Bugging You – How to Shrink its Powers of Distraction

Sometimes, Lync is annoying.

You’re working away, accomplishing something, and then…DING! Incoming IM. DING! They typed again. DING! Oh, meeting request. DING!

I’ll be the first to celebrate Lync’s benefits. But now and then, it makes me want to “DING” my computer with a hammer.

Why? Distraction.

Always-on communication is, unfortunately, always on. You can be totally focused on a report or marketing campaign…and one message disrupts your concentration. Now your mind needs to re-focus. Which takes time. Oh wait, more distraction coming in!

Fortunately for my sanity (and yours), there are ways to minimize Lync’s powers of distraction. I have documented 4 options in today’s post. You can use each one separately, or together.

They involve making changes to the Lync 2013 client software, instituting certain policies, and a combination of both. You can do this on your own, or implement office-wide. It’s up to you.

Option 1: Turn off the annoying “Ding!” sound when an IM comes in.

First thing to avoiding distraction? Turn off distracting sounds. You have three ways to do this for Lync 2013. Each one is more powerful than the previous one.

A. Turn off Alerts: Find Lync Options by clicking the arrow next to the gear in the Lync 2013 client. Go to Tools -> Options. Click “Alerts”.

lyncoptionsalerts

These options let you determine for which Lync activities you’re alerted. New conversations, invites, contact list additions. Turn these on or off as you desire. To minimize alerts*, use the options checked in the screenshot (but uncheck the box under “General Alerts” too).

B. Turn off Sounds in Lync Options: Alerts not enough? You can turn off sounds too. Still in the Tools -> Options window, go to “Ringtones and Sounds”. You’ll see these options.

lyncoptionssounds

In this screenshot, you’ll see that this box is unchecked: “Play sounds in Lync (including ringtones for incoming calls and IM alerts)”. Normally it’s checked.

If you uncheck it, the “Ding!” sound goes away.

If you don’t quite want to get rid of ALL sounds, you can leave it checked and check/uncheck the options below it. For instance, keeping sounds to a minimum when you’re set to Busy or Do Not Disturb. (More on this below.)

C. Turn off the “New Message” sound in Windows Sound Options: This is the most powerful option. Instead of unchecking boxes in Lync Options, open the Windows Control Panel and click Sound. In the “Sounds” tab, look under Program Events for Lync. It has a bunch of associated sounds. The “Ding!” when a new IM comes in is assigned to “New Message.” Click that one and select “(None)” from the dropdown.

Click OK. You have now completely removed* the “Ding!” sound from Lync Instant Messages.

There’s a great post on exactly this topic over at the Inside Lync blog: How to Stop Lync from Chiming In So Much

*NOTE: Turning off Lync IM alerts completely means you will no longer hear *anything* when an IM comes in. If you aren’t paying attention, a potentially-important message will go unnoticed. Make sure you’re okay with this – nobody wants an angry boss who’s been ignored for 2 hours!

Options 2: Designate Non-Lync Time.

Set aside a certain time each day (or week) where you will focus on your work and not respond to any communications (barring emergencies of course). Call this “Non-Lync Time.” Block it out in your calendar.

When you’ve decided on “Non-Lync Time,” advise everyone else on your team. “I will be unavailable due to working on X for this period of time. Please only contact me if there’s an emergency.” That sort of thing.

If someone disrupts your Non-Lync Time with an IM or meeting request, gently remind them that you are not taking messages. This can be done by either ignoring the window for a while, sending them a quick email, or a quick phone call. It’ll take time for the message to sink in.

Option 3: Make Use of Presence, and Detail Your Status.

Make it a habit to keep your Presence status updated. It helps tell others not only what you’re doing, but whether or not they should try to talk with you.

For instance, if you’re in Non-Lync time, post a Presence status like this: “NON-LYNC TIME, NO RESPONSES UNTIL 3:00 PM”. When you’re not in Non-Lync Time, you can say: “Available for Conversations”.

Option 4: Remember the Difference between Busy and Do Not Disturb.

The Presence options aren’t just there to change the color bar next to your photo. They also effect changes in your reachability.

If you’re set to “Busy”, hopefully your colleagues know not to bother you. But they can still send you IMs and meeting invites. And you’ll still see them.

If you’re set to “Do Not Disturb” though – you will NOT receive conversation notifications. Colleagues cannot bother you.

However, this requires your effort as well. You must remember you’re set to “Do Not Disturb”, and turn it off when your don’t-disturb-me task is complete. Otherwise you’ll be unreachable the rest of the day!

(Remember: your Lync administrator can also set custom Lync Presence statuses. Maybe ask for one for Non-Lync Time?)

Communications are Important. But so is Concentration!

Lync is disruptive by default. And there’s some value in that – after all, urgent messages need your immediate attention. But for those times when you need to concentrate? We can make Lync stop bugging you.

What do you think about Lync’s distraction-ability? Please comment or email. If you have another solution you use, please share it!

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Skype on iPad vs. Lync 2013 on iPad: Dual App Reviews

Continuing the reviews today, we move to the iPad!

Today I’m reviewing 2 client apps – Skype (latest version) and Lync 2013. I don’t use Skype much on here; I have a webcam on my main system for that. But it’s still fully capable. So is Lync.

In fact, my overall results of these tests were higher-quality than the iPhone. Let’s see.

(FYI: These tests were conducted on an iPad 2.)

Skype on iPad – The Facts & Features

Skype on the iPad does pretty much exactly what Skype on the PC does: Make Calls and Video Chats. The interface is more stripped-down than the PC version (not surprising for an iPad app).

Skype Profile Window

MAKING CALLS: I only have a few people on Skype – mostly friends, as we don’t use this for work. (Yet!) So I called two of them & explained why.

If you’ve ever used Skype, you know it has its own protocol for voice: the SILK codec. Skype for Business will take advantage of this codec too. I don’t have any exact measurement tool for sound quality – just a good headset (see my previous Device Review) and my ears.

To these tools, Skype’s audio sounds just as clear as Lync’s. Depending on the other party’s connection, even clearer.

Skype Number Pad

VIDEO CHAT: I tested video chat with a co-worker who worked from home yesterday. Now, Skype is well-known for making video chats easy. Easier than Lync 2013 in some respects.

That said, having mostly used Lync for video calls, the lag time and jitter in my Skype video chat was disappointing. Neither of us was on a VPN, or a low-bandwidth connection. Yet my co-worker’s face kept jerking & going out of sync with his own words.

USER IMPRESSIONS: Perhaps my video sync issue was isolated. When I talked with other Skype users and read reviews on the App Store, it was not among the chief issues reported.

The most frequent complaints were Dropped Calls and Lack of Three-Way Calling. The latter is partly understandable (see “Limitations” for why). Dropped calls is partially explained by the varying connection speeds in use at the consumer level. The same issue affects some of our clients’ remote Lync users. It’s annoying, and there’s only so much compensation you can do with your network bandwidth.

LIMITATIONS: Skype’s Group Video chats are not accessible on mobile devices like iPads. Three-Way Calling (audio only) is possible on mobiles, but you can’t start one from an iPad. A Skype user on a PC or Mac must start it. Hence why user frustration is understandable – you have to message someone from your iPad and ask them to start a three-way call with you!

The Question of Skype Subscriptions

I followed a link from the Skype app to their Rates page: http://www.skype.com/en/rates/

For years now, people have paid for Skype to call non-Skype numbers. It’s a cheap and good-quality way to keep in touch with everybody.

But I saw nothing on the page about the impending changes wrought by Skype for Business 2015.

Which makes me wonder – WILL there be any changes on this side? Will Microsoft dare to poke the beast that is Skype’s Worldwide Market?

We’ll find out soon.
=============

Lync 2013 on iPad – The Facts & Features

Lync 2013 on the iPad is almost identical to Lync 2013 on iPhone. Though it benefits greatly from the iPad’s larger screen. Much easier to navigate its functions and carry on conversations.

I’d argue that using Lync 2013 on an iPad is even easier than on a desktop. This is one instance where Microsoft took full advantage of a mobile device’s size.

Lync iPad Contacts

The Lync 2013 screen has 5 main windows available: Contacts, Chats, Meetings, Phone, and Profile. These correspond to the desktop client exactly.

  • Make calls & review voicemails from the Phone window (these are synced from the Lync Server)
  • View contacts’ Presence and initiate conversations from the Contacts window
  • Review Meetings scheduled in your Outlook calendar in the Meetings window
  • View Conversation History (local to iPad) under the Chats window
  • Update your own Presence and Lync options in the Profile window

CALLS AND MEETINGS: IM conversations on the iPad go smoothly, and have for months. I initiated a Lync Call to two co-workers (one the remote worker I mentioned earlier). Both calls were comparable to the Skype Call. I used the same Jabra headset.

Lync Calls

To test Meetings, I scheduled a meeting on my laptop, and joined it on my iPad. The two co-workers invited joined as well, one from their laptop, and one from their phone. We had a bit of tinny background noise for the first 2 minutes. But it cleared up. I did not notice any other jitter or lag.

USER IMPRESSIONS: There’s a notable user impression in the Lync 2013 Reviews pane I should mention. This user says that, if the device runs iOS 8, Lync 2013 becomes unstable and will crash.

Now, this iPad has NOT been updated to iOS 8 yet – it’s old enough that the update would lead to a serious performance slowdown – so I don’t see this error. (In fact, Lync didn’t give me any trouble at all.) But a stability question, possibly dependent on the OS involved, merits mentioning.

Otherwise, impressions indicate a few complaints on connection issues adding people to Meetings. I didn’t find much on poor call quality or dropped calls. Given that Lync is more often used while on a corporate network, this isn’t surprising.

LIMITATIONS: Lync 2013 has the same limitation on the iPad it does on the iPhone – Conversation History is limited to conversations using the iPad.

Lync Conversation History

I hold out hope that this will be resolved, eventually!

Verdict: Lync Slightly Ahead of Skype, Integration Should Favor Lync Usability

Microsoft’s claim for Skype for Business 2015 is that Lync Server will take on more of the Skype UI. Thus making it more appealing to a wide audience, simpler to navigate, and consistent across all devices.

In the iPad/tablet sphere, I think Microsoft should reverse this script. Here Lync is the more intuitive UI, with the more responsive controls. Building Skype look & feel into the interface, go for it. But keep as much of Lync’s app-level functionality as possible. It does the job very well.

What’s your experience using Lync 2013 and/or Skype on the iPad? Please comment or email your thoughts.

Next week I have another Device Review…and you’re definitely going to love this one. See you then!

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Device Review: Jabra Evolve 80 MS Lync Stereo Headset

In the past, we’ve reviewed a couple Jabra products here on the Lync Insider. I try to avoid all bias when reviewing hardware – the Jabra equipment just keeps delivering high quality.

This week, I received the Jabra Evolve 80 headset (MS Lync Stereo model). Well, I couldn’t pass that up for a review, now could I?

Jabra Evolve Series Page on Jabra.com

Initial Impression

The Evolve 80 MS Lync model has full over-the-ear headphones with an attached mic arm. The earpieces and headband are well-padded. The headset comes in a neoprene case. Easy to store & travel with.
jabra-case

Jabra Evolve 80 Lync Headset

The Controller

The headset comes with a detachable controller. Connect via USB to a PC, or headphone jack to a mobile device (without the controller). The controller buttons gives you these options: Answer Call/End Call, Volume Up/Down, Mute. The center ring/Busylight lights up in red as a “Busy” indicator.

Jabra Evolve 80 Controller

Charging

The headset needs to charge for full use of its functions. It will do so automatically when plugged into a PC. Or you can connect a micro-USB cable directly to the left earpiece to charge. The built-in battery powers these functions:

  • Active Noise Cancellation
  • Listen-In
  • Busylight

Noise Cancelling

The right earpiece has a switch to turn on Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). These are already quite muffling of outside sound, but with noise cancellation built-in? I made a call, and couldn’t even hear my co-worker talking less than 10 feet from me.

Making Calls

The controller reminds me of the Jabra SPEAK 410 Speakerphone. Same kind of circular design, and a light indicating calls in progress.

Call quality is superb. Better than my previous headset (the Jabra BIZ 620 from my last review!). No latency on either Lync-to-Lync or Lync-to-Cell calls noticeable.

One thing to point out: The Evolve headset intelligently took over my sound output. Calls came through the headset right away. But music didn’t. It only assigned itself as default for Lync 2013, not the whole computer. I found that valuable–this headset knows not to overextend its reach!

(Of course I switched default devices under Sound, and music played through the headset too. The test song came through nuanced and with clear balance.)

Multiple Call Handling

Now this is fancy. The Jabra Evolve 80 can manage multiple calls at once!

Here’s how it works: If you’re on a call and another call comes in, hold down the Answer/End button for 2 seconds. It puts the current call on hold and answers the incoming call.

To switch between the calls, hold down Answer/End for 2 seconds again.
You don’t want to answer the incoming call? Double-press Answer/End and it’ll stop bothering you.

Listen-In Button

If you’re using ANC, hearing something other than the call you’re on is pretty difficult. But if you press the Listen-In button on the right earpiece, it mutes music and/or calls.

Calls are NOT paused though–and your mic is still on when in Listen-In Mode. Don’t use Listen-In as a Pause button!

The One Snag I Found

One caveat to this headset. Both earpieces will fold flat. Makes it easy to lay flat on your desk. However, when they’re folded flat, the mic arm sticks out away from the headband. It cannot move flush with the headband; just doesn’t go that far.

Now this isn’t much of a big deal. But it is something to keep in mind. I can see someone catching their sleeve or a cable on the jutting-out mic arm, and sending the whole headset flying by accident.

With a headset this high-quality, that’s definitely not something you want to do!

mic-arm

Verdict: Impressive Piece of Lync Hardware!

Jabra continues to make top-tier devices. This headset is comfortable, with sharp call quality and more useful features. Finally, I don’t see any reason why this won’t work with Skype for Business 2015 as well as it does with Lync 2013.

out-of-box3

Next week we’ll be back to our software reviews. Up next: Lync 2013 and Skype on the iPad, point-by-point comparison.

What headset do you use with Lync?

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Lync on Linux: How to Access Lync Services from Linux Computers

In my post on MindLink Anywhere last week, I mentioned that one big value-add from the software was its ability to work on Linux. Options for accessing Lync services on Linux are limited. Though in the past couple years they’ve improved a lot, both in number and quality.

What else is available for “Lync on Linux”? Let’s take a look and see what’s out there.

Running Lync Server 2013 on a Linux Server? No. But you can access it from Linux computers.

Unless you install Windows Server in a VM, this isn’t happening. Lync Server 2013 is intended for Windows Servers. Which makes sense, honestly – Unified Communications hooks into Exchange and SharePoint, also Windows-platform servers. If Lync ran on Linux, it would do so in an underperforming state, users unable to take full advantage of its capabilities.

Fortunately, this does not mean Linux users are completely in the cold! There are ways to access Lync’s services on Linux desktops and mobile devices.

Linux Lync Clients

Sadly, there is no native Lync client for the Linux desktop. You must use third-party products to connect with Lync. Only a couple of them exist as yet.

Judging from my research, the most popular choice is Pidgin. Makes sense – one of the most reliable, full-featured IM platforms on Linux. Adding Lync to Pidgin? Just one more service.

Choose from any of the following blog posts to install Lync into Pidgin:

  1. Microsoft Lync on Linux – GeekySchmidt.com
  2. Configuring Pidgin to work with Lync server in Arch Linux – I Fix Therefore I Am
  3. Add a Lync/Office Communicator Account to Pidgin/Ubuntu – ITSwapShop.com
  4. Setting Pidgin Up for Lync 2013 – AskUbuntu.comWync-Logo

No matter the method, you may have to deal with limitations when using Lync through Pidgin. Commenters have claimed everything from having to manually add contacts, to voice and video chat not working.

Another third-party client usable for Lync on Linux is Wync, made by Fisil. Wync is actually designed to work with Lync, and Fisil does offer support. Most functions work – Voice, IM/Chat, Screen Sharing and File Transfer.

I was only able to test it out briefly, but Wync was stable and made clear calls. (Tested on Ubuntu 32-bit desktop.) It’s great to see an actual Lync client available on Linux systems!

Lync Web App

Works, but only for attending Lync Meetings by default. No voice, video or IM.

Important distinction here: If you’re running Lync Server 2010, you will need Silverlight to run the Lync Web App. Silverlight is Windows-only. But there is a Linux version of Silverlight, called Moonlight.

Here’s an AskUbuntu discussion to help you work out Lync 2010 Web App with Moonlight. You should find Moonlight in your repository of choice…but if it’s not there, try these direct downloads: Moonlight for Chrome & Firefox.

If you’re running Lync Server 2013, Lync Web App does not require Silverlight. However, expect a very limited experience on a Linux desktop (if it works at all).

Android

I’ve heard people say that the #1 operating system in the world is actually Android–a Linux distribution. If so, Microsoft really should spend more effort on its Lync Mobile client for Android. The reviews are full of problem reports!

That said, I’m glad the client at least exists and is supported directly by Microsoft. Android isn’t poised to go anywhere but up, and I want a good solid version of Lync available to its users.

Lync Online on Linux?

Using Lync Online? You’ll still face the same problems as above. Fortunately, the same solutions also work. If you use Lync Online in a Linux environment, I’d say try Wync first, and then Pidgin. See which one works better for your day-to-day.

Here’s a blog post on how to get Pidgin working with Lync, specifically focused on using Office 365: Configuring Pidgin Instant Messenger for Office 365 LYNC – VincentPassaro.com

What About Skype?

There is a version of Skype available for Linux, so at least our Skype brothers & sisters are OK. A little better off than Lync users…at least for now.

If anything, this could be a positive sign for future versions. Depending on the upgrade path Microsoft takes for Lync & Skype integration, we may have ourselves a Lync client (or at least a Lync-friendly client) on Linux soon.

Linux Alternatives to Lync Server

What’s that? You only use Linux on your company’s servers? Well, I’m afraid it could be a while before you can enjoy Lync Server’s capabilities (if ever). But fear not! Alternatives do exist. None are quite the same as Lync, but they can give you the necessary communications tools.

Here are 3 popular Linux/open-source alternatives:

  • Avaya: Avaya has the Aura Platform for a VoIP, chat & video offering.
  • Twilio: Twilio is a cloud-based voice and text product suite that’s quite highly reviewed. Useful on the phone side, though not as full-featured as Lync.
  • Asterisk: Asterisk is a framework for building powerful communications systems. As I understand it, several enterprises have used Asterisk to build their own custom phone systems.

Of these, if I had to recommend a Lync Server alternative to a Linux-using business, I’d recommend Asterisk. Then Avaya.e00cb7b29fc9f70724e906d87e4e4dbf-tux-penguin-clip-art

Lync is Making its Way Onto Linux

While PlanetMagpie is a Microsoft shop and supports all Microsoft servers (not just Lync Server), sometimes I like to see how Linux is doing in comparison. It’s encouraging that there’s this much development regarding Lync. More is sure to come, both within the Linux community and from official channels. (Okay, mostly from the Linux community.)

Does your office use Linux and Lync? How do you make it work for you? I’d like to hear your experiences.

Next week, more reader inquiries! Join us then.

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How Would Automatic Logout Work for Lync 2013? 2 Possible Ways

The other day, a Lync Insider reader asked a question in the comments:

“Is it possible to have Lync users auto-logout after a period of inactivity?”

He wanted to know if MSPL could be used to control an auto-logout process. If so, how would it be done?

Intrigued by this question, I did some research. And while I didn’t precisely find what our reader was looking for, I did find some helpful information.

I’ll start with MSPL itself.

What is MSPL?

MSPL stands for Microsoft SIP Processing Language. It’s a part of the Lync Server SDK. You can use MSPL for modifying Lync SIP routing behavior: intercepting calls, rerouting them, logging configuration and more.

lync account controlIt’s a pretty powerful tool. If you’d like to explore it – and don’t worry, I will in future posts – here’s some links for you.
MSPL Scripting Reference – Office DevCenter
SimpleRoute – MSPL Scripting Tool

All that said, I do not think MSPL is the way to enforcing automatic logout. Its focus is on SIP routing, not the Lync 2013 client controls.

You would use MSPL scripts to control where certain calls are sent, or through which voice routes each office goes. Local client modification is more the preserve of PowerShell and GPOs. Which is where my research went next.

I looked for a PowerShell cmdlet which may control user logins or session logouts – but there was nothing relevant. Which disappointed me a little – I thought PowerShell, with its extensive cmdlet library, would have at least one cmdlet for governing Lync 2013’s login/logout behavior.

Next I looked into GPOs. Here I did find some success. Not directly so, but close enough that I can say we have 2 possible solutions to the reader’s question.

2 Ways to Control Lync 2013 Logout

#1 – Use a Custom Group Policy Object (GPO). There isn’t a standard GPO which controls session logoff (at least not yet!). After much research, we did come across a custom GPO which comes close though. It was written by Murali Krishnan over at UnifiedMe.co.uk:
Lync 2013 Group Policy to Enforce Ringtones Centrally
Murali has graciously made the .ADM file available for download on this page. One of the functions it provides is setting users’ Idle Timeout and Session Timeout. Which accomplishes close to the same thing.

#2 – Configure Windows to auto-logout instead! When you log out of Windows, Lync automatically signs out too. And it’s very simple to log users out of Windows at the admin level. It’s a workaround, but hey, it does work!

Here’s one way to automatically log users off on Windows 7. You can also enforce logoff via Power Options in Control Panel, or through another GPO.

Or, if you’re using a Terminal Server, try this:
Open gpedit.msc (Local Group Policy) and configure the following:

User Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Terminal Services\Terminal Server\Session Time Limits

Jas, I hope this gives you something to work with. Honestly, I’d never thought about administration of Lync’s login/logout before. Since it’s normally dependent on the user’s actions – or in this case inaction – the system’s default functions were sufficient. But I can (now) easily see the need for control of such – if you’re in a large corporate environment and need to schedule updates, for instance.

Do you know of another way to automatically log users off of Lync 2013 clients? If so, please comment or email!

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11 Lync 2013 Keyboard Shortcuts You Should Know

Do you use keyboard shortcuts during the workday? Odds are most of us do. Cut & paste, switching windows, opening/closing programs…

Most Microsoft programs have plenty of keyboard shortcuts built-in. Lync 2013 is no exception. Until recently, I only knew a couple of them. But when I came across the big collection of Microsoft guides I blogged about last month, that changed fast.

Where to Download the Lync Keyboard Shortcuts Guide

One of the guides on that page is is titled “Lync 2013 Keyboard Shortcuts”. It’s a short PDF, merely listing out all the keyboard shortcuts you can use to get around Lync. I didn’t mention it in last month’s blog post for one reason–it deserved its own.
Direct Download Link.

Most of the shortcuts you’ll find in the PDF are for Lync 2013 on Windows only. (They use the Windows logo key.) For Mac users, visit this page: Keyboard Shortcuts for Lync 2011 for Mac – Microsoft Office.com
(I have no idea what the name of that Mac key is.)

Ready? Let’s see what kind of keyboard shortcuts we have!

Conversations Shortcuts

Accept a conversation invite (use anywhere) – Windows+A
Decline an invite (use anywhere) – Windows+Esc
Accept an invite (while in Conversation window) – Alt+C
“Engage Privacy Mode” – ignore any invite notifications. Alt+I

Change between conversation windows – Ctrl+Tab
Save an IM log in Conversation History – Ctrl+S (This one saved my bacon a few times)

Phone Calls Shortcuts

Accept a call* – Alt+C keyboardshortcuts
Mute your audio – Windows+F4
Place a call on Hold – Ctrl+Shift+H

*As of now, I don’t see a shortcut for initiating a call. It’s still very easy to do, by either clicking Call on a contact or typing a phone number into the Lync 2013 search window. If I were to guess the reason for no shortcut here, I would say initiating a call prompts Lync to examine its contacts database and conversation history, for auto-complete. Using a keyboard shortcut could circumvent this process, and thus cut you off from some of Lync’s functionality. Hence, no shortcut.

(Besides, you do have the Lync Browser Helper to launch click-to-call in other windows. That counts as a shortcut!)

Meetings/Presentations Shortcuts

Start a “Meet Now” meeting – Alt+M
If Presenting: start/stop sharing, fullscreen/come out of fullscreen, close the sharing stage, switch views gallery/speaker

Persistent Chat Shortcuts

You can use the same shortcuts you see above for conversations.

Save Yourself Some Time in Lync 2013 with These Keyboard Shortcuts

This isn’t all of the keyboard shortcuts, of course. The full list is in the PDF linked above. It’s also available on its own Office.com page: Keyboard Shortcuts for Lync 2013 for Windows – Microsoft Office.com

Keyboard shortcuts are there for one reason: To save us time while working. With these shortcuts, Lync’s windows and popups are less of a disruption to workflow, and more of an additional tool.

There’s one shortcut missing here: Switching your Presence status. I’d really like to have that one in Lync 2015. Microsoft, you listening?

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Lync as a Remote Access Option – The Conversation Continues

Quite a lot of responses to my last post! Thank you to everyone for the comments.

I’d intended to discuss Tom’s AutoAssist app in today’s post. But you brought up a lot of good points – let’s address all of them and see what else we can find out!

When the User Does Not Have Lync

Jay asked about remotely connecting to user PCs which do not have Lync.

When I tested out using Lync for remote access, I also tested it on a home desktop. Why? Because I knew it did not have Lync installed. I wanted to see if the remote access would fail, or show an error, or have nothing happen…

…Or auto-install Lync Attendee.

Which is exactly what it did. Attendee auto-downloaded, just like it should, and connected to the Lync Meeting. The remote login continued just like I described last week.

However, I should point out that this test was done before I installed AutoAssist.

AutoAssist: Speed Boost for Accessing Lync-Enabled Computers

Tom’s AutoAssist application does exactly what he claimed – it automates the Meeting invitation acceptance, so you get right to requesting control of the user’s PC. Essentially, it lets you skip Steps 2 & 3 in last week’s how-to.

For an IT admin or support tech who does a lot of remote support, this is an ideal timesaver. You can download AutoAssist free at http://autoassist.thoughtstuff.co.uk/.

We tested AutoAssist in the office. And it worked great! The app runs in your taskbar, ready whenever you are. It does have one limitation though – users must be Lync contacts. Which is understandable, given the app’s nature. I tried sending a $share$ invite to one of my Lync-free computers and received “Error ID 504 (source ID 239)”.

So there’s your answer Jay. AutoAssist doesn’t like to work if the remote user does not have Lync already installed. Lync however does facilitate remote access in such a situation, by using Lync Attendee. You’ll just have to follow all the steps.

Hmmm. Maybe AutoAssist could prompt for Attendee download. Might take some federation-related configuration. Tom, what do you think?

Privileged Apps: Legitimate Obstacle

Two commenters brought up the issue of remote-controlling privileged apps. This IS an obstacle for Lync, like Shaun said. Applications like LogMeIn incorporated tools for seeking administrative permissions, facilitating work with restricted apps on user PCs. Lync does not include the same tools.

Lync can still access most applications running on standard permissions. Privileged apps are an inconsistent obstacle popping up here and there. It’s something to keep in mind…and to keep a backup remote access solution around, just in case.

Unattended Access: Snarl in Lync Remote Logins

Currently, using Lync for remote access does require someone on the other PC to accept the meeting invitation & give control. If they are not there, LogMeIn could provide Unattended Access. Lync? Not so much.

Quite frankly, this is something I didn’t test initially. But it is definitely a problem. I would say this is the weakness Lync must work around when it comes to remote access. We’ll have to see if there is a way we can automate the Lync Meetings invitation. (Hey, maybe AutoAssist could do it!)

Lync Bots?

Finally, Mike mentioned a bot he’d coded. Mike, I looked at your site, but I didn’t see this bot! Could you give us a link?

I did see some interesting Lync add-ons though. Like this: Lync Custom Status 2014. It has quite the features list – creating custom status alerts, adding personal notes, adjusting call handling options…I’ll have to pick up a copy & test it out. Go check out his blog at MikeSel.info if you like programming, Lync and how-to’s.

So it seems Lync Server is not a perfect solution for remote access & control. I did say it wasn’t 100%, but all of these topics are valid and important to keep in mind. We’re fortunate at least that Lync DOES allow for so much remote control as it is.

Plus, we have capable developers working to expand it! We appreciate your work.  Please keep it up!

If you’ve created an add-on for Lync Server 2013 (remote access-related or not), please comment or email & let us know. I’d love to showcase the add-ons on the Lync Insider.

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Killing off Skype in Favor of Lync: What Would the Users Say?

While I finish up the post on Lync as a LogMeIn alternative, let me bring something to your attention. An excellent Skype/Lync piece was posted just last week…and it amounts to a warning shot across Skype’s bow.

Derrick Wlodarz, the same author who wrote the BetaNews piece on PSTN Voice in Lync Online (2 Articles You Need to Read about Lync), has posted a meticulous argument for killing Skype in favor of Lync.

The piece (also on BetaNews) is called “Skype VS. Lync: The case for killing off Skype”. It’s extremely thorough. He references an Ars Technica article making the same argument last year. His points are persuasive. It’s well worth a read.

It’s also missing something.

The BetaNews Article: Case Against Skype & For Lync

Let’s take a look at some of Derrick’s points against Skype. Largely, it consists of the fact that the two platforms overlap, and where they do? Lync comes out ahead.

For example:

  • Skype Chats are limited to 10 people. Lync’s conferencing goes up to 250 people.
  • Skype has lagged behind Lync in development, including number porting and PSTN calling capabilities.
  • Lync has e911 support; Skype does not.
  • Skype has shut down access to its API, preventing further third-party extension development. (This might be a Microsoft tactic to shrink the Skype developer base in favor of Lync…)

“It’s fair to say that there is little reason that two ecosystems need to exist for the long run.” Agreed.
“…Lync indeed does everything Skype does, and brings a lot more to the table as well.” Also agreed.

There’s nothing here with which I disagree. It’s well-argued and expansive. He even brings up a point I’ve addressed here in the past: The different codecs used in Skype and Lync.

So why DO we still have the two platforms? People have proposed numerous reasons. Comments from the referenced Ars Technica article give users’ opinions as to why Skype and Lync still operate:
Dashiffy: “While it seems to make sense to do that, there are reasons (technical, managerial, economical) for keeping the two products separate; the main argument being that consumer-driven product lines are coded, implemented, and supported in a vastly different manner than enterprise-driven products.”

Dilbert: The two products are worked on by two different groups, and the VPs in charge hate each other.

Zvadim: What bothers me about Lync is the pricing/licensing model. Why does Lync-to-Lync voice & video requires upgrading to “enterprise” CALs? Shouldn’t this functionality be part of the “standard” CAL? How am I supposed to sell this “upgrade” to management, when Skype does all of that for free?

All of these may be accurate. The question is, is any one reason stronger than the others?

Skype Is Still Hanging On By Its Users

I think there’s one big roadblock keeping Skype and Lync separate–at least right now. The author went almost the whole piece without addressing it:
The Skype user base.

“The backbone is there; the real challenge will be migrating users off Skype and into Lync, along with all the related difficulties of shifting a global user base.”Skype Out?

This, I believe, is the major reason why Microsoft is taking their integration process slow. They have to work out a technical method of evolving Skype, as well as a strategy for convincing users to accept those changes.

Try to change the technology? Difficult, but doable. Try to change a millions-strong user base? Ohhh, you’re in for a fight.

I discussed the Skype-Lync integration a few months ago. Before that, I listed out 4 possible avenues Microsoft would take when it comes to Skype and Lync:

  1. Skype replaces Lync.
  2. Lync absorbs Skype.
  3. A new Lync-Skype hybrid app replaces both platforms.
  4. Lync and Skype stay separate, but interoperate.

So far, I’d say #4 is the most prevalent. Derrick is calling for #2. And not without merit, I might add. He makes a strong case for #2…albeit with minimal consideration of user base inertia.

He does put forth the idea of expanding Lync into the consumer space. I like this idea. Building out its capabilities so that it could take Skype’s place? It would mean a viable VoIP system across all major platforms.

Plus it would serve as an improved replacement for Skype. Taking Skype away without a replacement app? Even Microsoft could not weather THAT storm!

What do you think? Is Derrick on the right track? Should Skype come to a more sudden end, in favor of an expanded Lync? Please comment or email your thoughts.

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