Storytime, part two

I find it amusing when I go to my local grocery store and see people on their stupid smartphones (oxymoron pun not really intended) acting as if they are so important. Why do people think it’s OK to make a call or just talk in public places with depending on the locale the latency factor? Even before digital mobile services, static would at least drive people nuts. In big cities like Boston, people would by default have a “cell phone voice” by speaking very loudly in places like the commuter rails.

People are not engaging with the people around them, and I was taught to pay attention and engage in the “community”.

I didn’t have a cell number till I was nineteen. My house number, and several type of analogs were in my bedroom through an analog bridge. I didn’t start implementing my own PBX till I moved over six years ago. For half of that time, I had a functioning system, VOIP can be frustrating to manage. But I digress.

The whole move to mobility in the office sense is also very irritating. I thought places like Starbucks was  a place to borrow some WiFi for I dunno text based services like HTTP? Oh wait, you’re telling me that VoIP can be now be carried through like Web traffic? No wonder why people are talking on ether their mobile devices or a VOIP session.

Of course, I was also taught to not go there and just use their internet connection. Hell, my local library will turn the WiFi when the library closes so people don’t loiter in their parking lots off hours to use their Internet connection. And I know in the Starbucks circles people also take a lot of advantage of their IP services.  I’ve heard the excuses people will go to a chain restaurant’s restroom and leave because they got so much stuff for so many years; but running water is the thing of the past. The need to conserve IP services is much more important, and people should be paying and not loiter.

I personally find it unprofessional if people are deliberately ditching hard wired services in the need of being “mobile”. IBM did the logical step of forcing people back in offices. I am sorry, as a consumer, I find it HIGHLY UNPROFESSIONAL if a professional worker is going to use low latency to conduct “professional” matters. “Handoffs” from high to low latency (like WiFi to carrier) and vice versa is something that no people should EVER be supporting if we want to protect the reputation of the professional class. Sorry, I’m no Sir Brandson fan, he can shove one of my ties in his you know where.

But I can blame Moore’s Law for the decrease of integrated circuits that also “democratized” computing “for the masses” (i.e. the wannabees that freedoms of a somebody.) And that’s painful to witness especially companies like the soon to be defunct Avaya, and Polycom and even Commscope is pushing this mentally deranged idea on their Instagram feed.

I guess I must be old to be ranting on the latest trend towards anti social technologies.

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POTD: Local Papa Gino’s

Sadly, where I live, Avaya or Nortel isn’t “alive and well” unlike another site I follow. Nortel has disappeared in my state in public and private entities in lieu of Cisco years ago and Avaya Red has slowly disappeared too.

On a Christmas Eve tradition before I was born, my family would order pizza out at the local Papa Ginos, that is local chain with more than one hundred stores around the Greater Boston region, basically in four of the six New England states. It’s reputation is fresh quality pizza of with quality ingredients. Over the years Papa’s has had exclusive marketing deals with the local Boston teams such as the Red Sox and currently the Patriots.

The chain has used AT&T products going back to the days of Western Electric. This location I had frequented growing up had used one of those 10 line 1A2 wall mount Key telephones till a cutover around 2001 to a Partner ACS system. The only ComKey I’ve ever seen in production was another store nearby, and that had cutover to a Partner circa 2001 or 02.

I’ve been to mostly the New Hampshire stores, and D’Angelo the sub shop, is a sister brand to Papa Ginos. I don’t recall them using any phone systems, the one nearby me, that I took a few years back with an Avaya van uses POTS phones.

But today, just the next block away from that same D’Angelo, I noticed  this phone. Nope, its not a 9600 Avaya IP or 9500 DCP set. No, worse a Polycom VVX 310 set. (I haven’t been here for a while, some days I normally walk here because it’s not that far away from my home.)

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Review: Polycom VVX 310 IP Phone

Happy Thanksgiving! I’m recovering from my dinner, and thought some updates were in order. Today I’m doing a review of these free to me Polycom VVX IP sets.

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I found them at a local business that apparently moved. They were outside for “Free” so hey, why not?

These phones are an improvement from the SoundPoint IP sets that I still loathe to this day. Such improvements: you can adjust the set using a plastic thing on the back to three levels; second there is a tuck in space for the handset or headset cable. And BLFs most likely use the AUX jack and doesn’t do that infrared thing that I had doubted the reliability for a long time. Also in this range features wideband calling or high dynamic (HD) voice quality; and a backlit display (seen here) and a single LED with multi colors to show lamp status (or should I say in IT-speak “presence”?) and supports nearly 24 unique lines (or should I say “SIP sessions”?) It has cute screensavers too. If you want to see it, I have posted on my friends-only Instagram feed from mid October.

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My Collection: Polycom SoundStation

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Hey Polycom from 2012, I’ve been looking all over my network for you! How have you been? 

This supposed to be the original photo for my SoundStation but decided to take a picture of late. This one taken in 2012 was more picture-esque and now I found it, I can move it over to the static page of my collection. This model was a private label for Lucent and is an analog set that can be used in POTS or analog lines in a PBX or Key setups.

My Collection: Polycom SoundStation Analog Telephone

I’m surprised I have yet to post this picture. I thought I took it after I got it around 2012. Maybe I lost it and that’s why its not on here till now. Anyways, this is a private brand for Lucent, made sometime between 1997 to 2000. In fact Polycom existed in the last couple of years when AT&T marketed their phone systems.

Anyways, you might want to wonder how does an analog Polycom work? Why was it a flying success in the mid 1990s to now?

All analog telephones (or the ones with a speakerphone) are “half-duplex.” This also extends to even ISDN technologies. Half-duplex means only one person at a time can speak, and any ambient noise (in the background) can cut off a conversation resulting in missed words.

Because of regulations of private equipment by the FCC, there are limits to how much power a analog line can provide. In order to do “full-duplex” (basically to allow ambient noise and cutting off someone without breaking up words) the phone is powered locally. This is done by using local power to provide the microphone a full circuit and speaker, to have independent circuits to allow this to work. The only thing the SoundStations need is just the basic telephone circuit (and some power to an outlet.)

 

 

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Polycoms are typically installed in environments with Centrex, PBX, VOIP, by running behind those services or a conference calling system, which in some cases could run independently.

Versions include a basic set with no display, with a display and the EX modules would enable users to put at least 2 microphones, in environments where there is 20 people or more. You can also add an audio amplifier equipped with speakers and even a subwoofer to stimulate board members!

Private label versions not only were analog, Polycom made digital equivalents for Avaya Red and Avaya Blue using their proprietary protocols. Cisco, Avaya Red and Avaya Blue also got private label proprietary IP sets as well.

While this relic still works, newer generations allowed Soundstations to be wireless, to run off a Bluetooth cell phone, and run IP (though the telephone equivalent is crap, to speak bluntly.)

I’d take an analog Polycom anyday.

PBX Knock-off Guide

This post is for you Jason, you know who you are!

Prior to 2010, having a phone system in the house would be cost prohibitive. With hardware and the needed software cards, it could’ve been up to $300.  VOIP or not didn’t matter (in fact you probably would’ve paid more on VOIP sets than the system itself. And ROI would be out of the window, because at home users would not see cost savings as opposed to a business.)

But if you are in a situation where you can’t afford a system, but want something that resembles it, here is a matrix of wireline phones that look like they could run off a PBX but it doesn’t need to. And they’re analog

Avaya

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Any model number with the second digit of 1 in the Avaya model range like a 7102 indicates it’s an analog telephone that can work in a POTS setup. Avaya will scare the pants out of the customers and claim that you may damage the telephone lines if you plug these sets – especially the ones with the MWI, but that was probably the days when there was ground start and loop start lines, mixed around.

7101 (Think of the Merlin sets and a trimline, and you get this set. Very rare, if you find one, don’t be surprised to pay top dollar.)

7102 (basically a shell of a Merlin BIS or 7400 BIS, but just a single button for flash)

8101 – Supposed to resemble the 8400 series, but it looks more like the 900 series sold to consumers. The difference? Similar quality to the 8400s!

8110 – has up to 10 number speed dial functions

6210 – Resembles the 6400 series or 4400 series in the Magix world, a basic model

6220 – Has multiple buttons for speed dial and a built in modem port for dialup or faxing

Polycom

Soundstation are the conference room sets, perfect for the dining room. The first generations are the most solid, but are prone to blemishes and scratches. the SoundStation 2 are more plasticy, but aren’t prone to blemishes or scratches, but are prone to cracking.

The SoundPoint analog telephones have been on the market for years, and you can still find them new, or new old stock, like this one from my mother’s work taken years ago.

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If you’re up for crummy IP, the SoundPoint IP would be the next option. The requirements would ether be a SIP service or a SIP PBX. Polycoms are considered the poor man’s Cisco to me,  but they also have the resemblance of a Nortel with the removable “Button caps” Polycoms also lack the neatness of having line or handset cables tucked in, they sit loose. I’d just pass on it.

Aastra

Aastra was spin off of Nortel’s analog telephone offerings. Unlike Lucent, Nortel sold sets intentionally to consumers, and some of their popular consumer-styled sets are found on Etsy and eBay. For enterprise wannabees, Aastra licensed the Meridan name even after the spinoff. There are several models (please forgive me if I don’t have the model numbers right.)

  • M8314
  • M9116 (resembles the T7200 Norstar sets)
  • 9316CW
  • M9216
  • 9417

Another least known feature from Nortel/Aastra was a KSU-less phone system called Venture. Similar to the ComKey, and the modern ones found at Staples, the Venture could run a mini phone system of up to 8 Venture phones. Typically one phone would be the “slave” and the other sets working as “masters”, the latter would be the most expensive. The systems would talk to each other on the same circuit. Unlike offerings from “AT&T” at the time, the Venture was more flexible, such as creating your own extension numbers, and some of these sets also supported voice mail.

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An analog Aastra found at the NYS Capital, Albany NY, 2011

The Venture extended through VOIP with an IP offering since VOIP phones typically connect to a PBX or a “cloud” service and only rarely do VOIP phones dial out to analog trunks, that really this concept is unneeded.

Meanwhile, if you wanted a Meridian-like set (like the 3900 series), look at the Vista series. Some resemble the boxy sets from the 90s, but later models have the more curvy look. It’s large screen can be supported if your phone company has support for ADSI (forgot what that stood for – to lazy to search.)

ADSI which gives bits of data to the phone to check stock quotes, directory services, book a plane, etc… it may be outdated for 2015, but it was the dream around 2000. The people at Asterisk must’ve seen something to this as they supports this specifically for sets like the Vista. Some phone providers use Asterisk, so just check your provider. If your provider doesn’t support it, it does retain a 100 number call directory, speed dial, etc.

A Picture of a Nortel Vista 390 phone

This is an Aastra 390 that is used as the “house phone” for my mother and grandmother that is not tied to the phone systems. The cool thing is depending in your provider, it may push out the time when a call comes through. (makes it easier when a power outage occurs or when you go out of daylight/standard time zones during late winter, fall times of the year.) This feature probably requires a CLID service from your telco.

The Vista supports message waiting notification, so you’ll get the red light blinking if you have voice mail waiting. Even from the phone company!

Downside is the Vista’s backlit display is always on. There is no on or off features.

There is an IP version of this set, that supports up to 4 line appearances

Other vendors

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I still can’t drool over this Telematrix telephone taken at the Boston Harbor Hotel when I was having my complex jaw surgery in 2010. This was actually a solid terminal. Great plastics, heavy base, so it won’t move off base and seemed to be reliable. On their own website, they would tout this for centrex users or for the government (and hospitality markets obviously.)

I hope this buyer’s guide helps you out finding your short term fix of a long term issue – wanting your own PBX or key system.

Conference Calling

I thought I’d take a minute to explain what “Conference Calls” really mean. I don’t have the history of it (but that will be good for another post in the future.)

People often mistake conference calling (or con calls) as a loudspeaker, group conversation on one end and talking to another party or group on the other end.

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My old Avaya 6424 had six call appearances programmed, and if I wanted to do a three way calling, I’d put a call on hold. Then I’d hit the next appearance button, make a call, put that call on hold. Then the third or the forth time and repeat said steps. Once I am ready to go forward, I hit Conference and all the LED lamps consolidate as a single call appearance as I am now connected into a Conference extension, separate of my desk number.

 

 

There is also a difference between 3 way calling. Some telephone systems have an integrated (or feature assigned) conference key. Most phone systems, that’s if you aren’t using a POTS telephone can handle up to 6 calls at once. When this type of conference occurs, it will redirect calls to a Conference group (lets say you extension is 301 and you did a 3 or more way call then you go into a directory number of say 4001. This type of extension can allow other people to join in. However this isn’t the true con calls.

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This 8417 Nortel analog phone from the NH Telephone Museum (the picture of their phone is more decent looking than my newly black one that I posted recently.) This type of conferencing basically bridges the two separate lines this phone can do. This is the most basic of conference calling.

 

When you hear quarterly calls of say a publicly traded company; the analysts will call into a number, enter a PIN and be directed by an operator. The operator has a special console, whether its PC driven, terminal driven or telset driven, and the operator facilities the calls. The operator will switch between the subject (like the executive team) and the guest (like analysts.) The operator has the final say of who gets on and for how long. Typically these con calls are not allowed for direct conversation.

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This handset based SoundStation (I’ve lost pictures I’ve taken of my triangular one) is typically used in meeting or conference rooms. In a big concall environment, they will likely dial into a conference call number and be placed through an operator. In these setups, the people in the conference rooms are on basically a $500+ basic telephone that is designed to support handsfree conversations to many people in a single room

 

The corporate grade con calls are often not part of the PBX or Centrex service, often it’s own appliance and/or applications separate to the system. Such systems allow the ability to record calls per to regulations such as the Securities and Exchange Commission’s rules on archiving the quarterly calls.

I hope you learned something today about how true “conference calls” work. Maybe next time I’ll post the history of this subject.