Author: Adam Fowler

Microsoft Teams Phones Considerations

Microsoft Mechanics just released a video about how to set up Microsoft Teams Phones which as always, is a good high level technical overview of something Microsoft is doing. Here’s the video:

Personally, I’ve been living with using Microsoft Teams as the phone system for PSTN calls for about 6 months now, after coming from Skype for Business On-premises. There are some aspects that do ‘just work’, but there’s also limitations to be aware of. For reference, I’m using it via Telstra’s TCO365 service, which may give a bit of a different experience to others not using it this way. For example, I can’t get PSTN call logs via Teams itself:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/teams-analytics-and-reports/pstn-usage-report

Pros:

I don’t have to worry about any gateways

With Skype for Business On-Premises, we had multiple gateways to convert the SIP calls into SfB. It’s now all happening in the cloud, I just have a range of numbers provided by the telco that turn up in Teams and can allocate them, along with the user requiring the right Micrsoft license, and the TCO365 license. There’s no specialist knowledge required to maintain any gateways, and reduces complexity of the environment. The gateways were mostly set and forget – but still needed work do to manual updates. If one had a fault, it’d be a pain to resolve.

Microsoft Teams Client

This will also appear as a con later, but everyone already uses the Microsoft Teams client for meetings – so the learning curve isn’t as bad compared to using another platform. It very much leads into the notion that beyond email, Teams is trying to be the single pain of glass for immediate interactions and communications. The client receives constant updates which can bring quality of life improvements.

Teams Admin Portal

The admin portal is generally a lot nicer to use than the old Skype for Business portal, which ran on Silverlight. It is constantly changing and being updated, and has grown in stability since I started using it 6 months ago. There’s a lot more that can be done in there around usage and reporting, and client health. There’s still plenty of improvements that can be made, but for the most part it does work.

Feature Updates

Not having to patch Skype for Business servers is great – a standard benefit of on-premises vs SaaS. The less things we have to manage for no real benefit, the better. When those updates come through, they’re regular, and bring new options to the platform. The client updates of course bring many more features too – but be weary of release dates. When something gets released in June 2021, it probably means that Microsoft are starting to roll it out then, and may take a few months to get to your tenant.

Calling Queues and Auto Attendants

The range of options around these is a lot greater in Teams – you can have a lot of scenarios covered and more complicated rulesets on how to handle calls. Members of a calling queue can also optionally have the toggle in their client if they want to be a part of it or not, which is handy to give end users the ability to jump in and out.

Cons:

Microsoft Teams Client

A double edged sword – it is nowhere near as slick and well designed as Skype for Business was for purely making phone calls. The interface is huge, becuase it’s designed to do so much; but the phone aspect still feels like an afterthought that constantly changes. Doing something simple like clicking in the field to dial a number, typing it and pressing enter does not call the number. You have to press enter twice – but not straight away, that won’t work, you have to wait for it to pop up a dialog showing it’s got the number ready to dial, then press enter again. Or, you can then go to the mouse and click call, which to me isn’t as good since I just used the keyboard to type a number in. Clicking all the digits of a phone number isn’t fun.

The Teams client is still memory hungry, has a lot of weird bugs (at one stage, the Calls icon just wouldn’t show which makes it very hard to make calls!). A whole re-write of the Teams client will come out at some stage, so hopefully that runs a lot better.

Desk Phones

This is another aspect that feels like it doesn’t get enough attention and effort. The Teams app that runs on Android will power any desk phone, and it’s not instantly quick to respond. It’s good enough, but not great. Many phones still don’t support being automatically updated via Teams, but will support a manual update. Part of the desk phone experience comes down to which third party vendor you pick, but features like being able to swap a PSTN call between desk phone and PC are still coming – these should have been there from day 1.

Unassigned Number

On Skype for Business, there was a great feature that would redirect calls of unallocated numbers in number ranges to another number – so if someone left, their calls would go to reception. This isn’t available in Teams at all, if you want to recreate the feature, you’ll have to pay license and phone company fees for every single number you’d like to do this to. A real pain.

Calling Queues and Auto Attendants

Although another positive, the internal Teams support for this is poor. If you try to look up the name of a calling queue in Teams, it won’t come up. So, if you create a Helpdesk group and expect internal staff to be able to type ‘Helpdesk’ in to find and call them, you can’t. I’m really disappointed on this one. The workaround is to fully license an account called Helpdesk, and set that to divert all it’s calls to the calling queue number.

There’s a bunch more points to consider, if you want to see a comparison on features for Skype for Business vs Teams in it’s multiple iterations of phone support (Teams Calling Plan, Teams Direct Routing, Teams Operator Connect) check out Luca Vitali’s constantly updated feature comparison table

I am looking forward to seeing how Teams Phones progresses and becomes a stronger product; in it’s current state be aware of the existing limitations and if it meets your requirements. It’s also worth seeing what’s on the roadmap for Teams and Phones to know what’s coming.

Expensive Graphics Cards and Mining Cryptocurrency

If you’ve wondered why graphics cards are so expensive – new or used, you might have wondered why. You might have also been told that it’s due to people using these graphics cards for mining, and then been annoyed that you have to pay a lot of money to get a better graphics card. Or maybe that’s all just me… but I’ve been looking into this, and playing with mining cryptocurrency; here’s what I learnt.

I bought a new PC for home with the following specifications:

The key component here is the NVIDIA RTX 3080 graphics card, and you’re lucky to get one at the time of writing for $2000AU. When NVIDIA first launched the 3080 amongst other cards in late 2020, their RRP was $1139AU. A huge price increase – so why does mining cryptocurrency affect the pricing?

To actually use your GPU to mine can be incredibly easy. Platforms such as Nicehash let you set up within a few minutes, and just run a piece of software that sorts it all out for you. The barrier to entry is very low with methods like this, and Nicehash act as a service to allow people’s GPUs to mine cryptocurrency, take a cut of the money made, and pay the people doing the work in bitcoin (and to clarify, Nicehash aren’t getting their users to mine bitcoin itself, but several other options are available – and the market constantly changes, so there’s not one particularly good ‘coin’ to mine).

There are other options such as mining Ethereum, or using HiveOS – and I’m not recommending Nicehash in particular, but it’s the one I’ve tried and makes explaining things easier.

Coming back to my above computer – if I chose to run Nicehash, they have a calculator to show how much you could make:

Ignoring electricity costs (I’ll get to that later), running the Nicehash software based on the time of writing’s Bitcoin to AUD rate, I would get paid $5.38AU of bitcoin each day.

If my RTX 3080 cost $2000AU to buy, and I left Nicehash running on it, it would take 371 days to pay for itself – if the value of Bitcoin didn’t change. At 371 days, I also still have the RTX 3080. You can probably see the problem here already, and why so many people are now mining cryptocurrency.

Historically, the value of graphics cards drops as new models come out. However, due to crypto, value has gone up. Supply can’t meet demand, and older cards have increased in value because they can pay for themselves, then start making profit with enough time and power. The NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti which came out in 2017 at a RRP of ~$900AU. They’re still worth about that on the second hand market, because:

Buying one for $900 would take 281 days to pay for itself. That’s better value than my new 3080.

Nicehash have a list of cards, recommended general overclocking settings, and the expected performance on one particular type of coin. the MH/s is a million hashes per second measurement, which is the actual work your card needs to do to make money:

Also note that some of the newer cards are ‘Lite Hash Rate Limited’ or LHR. This is due to NVIDIA trying to make the new cards less lucrative to miners, which is what my card is. The market for newer, non-LHR cards is of course stronger with the market paying much higher amounts for these cards, being twice as efficient. Spending $3000AU on a non-LHR RTX 3080 could make more financial sense than $2000 on a LHR RTX 3080.

Of course power isn’t free – unless you have solar during the day, and enough batteries at night, so there’s running costs to consider, and the other hardware required to run the GPU. There are mining rigs that can be built fairly cheaply, running many cards at once back to a motherboard/CPU/GPUs to provide more MH/s and therefore profit:

In these rigs, devices called ‘PCIe Risers’ are used to connect the GPU back to the motherboard. The GPUs would normally need a 16x PCIe slot, but these adapters can connect to a 1x PCIe slot – so a motherboard with lots of PCIe slots is what people look for in a mining rig. Plain USB can also be used, like this Asus motherboard with 20x USB ports on the motherboard itself:


None of the above is definite – things that happen in the world affect the value of cryptocurrency – including events like China banning cryptocurrency altogether which can throw values up or down. While there’s enough money in cryptocurrency though, this will continue; unless there’s an absolutely huge market crash (which could happen just like in anything lucrative). NVIDIA could work out how to build newer cards that are worse at mining, while still being better at gaming graphics – but new NVIDIA cards aren’t due out until late 2022. AMD has a similar problem as NVIDIA, with similar profits being possible.

How to Update Your iPhone or iPad without Wi-Fi (over Cellular)

A new exploit has been patched by Apple for iOS devices – the iOS 14.8 update fixes the vulnerability that the ‘Pegusus‘ spyware uses.

Updating your iOS device is easy if you have Wi-Fi, but if you only have cellular, you’ll see a message saying ‘This update requires a Wi-Fi network connection to download’.

If you have access to another device, you can hotspot your iOS device to that and run the update. If you don’t, there’s another trick you can do to allow downloading the update over cellular:

How to update iOS over cellular

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Go to General
  3. Go to Software Update
  4. The screen should say you need to be connected to Wi-Fi and the ‘Download and Install’ option greyed o
  5. Go back to General
  6. Go to Date & Time
  7. Turn off Automatic Time
  8. Set Month three months ahead (right now that would be from October to December)
  9. Go back to General
  10. Go to Software Update
  11. Press ‘Download and Install’
  12. While that runs, Go to General
  13. Go to Date & Time
  14. Turn on Automatic Time

Applies To: iOS

It’s worth noting that I tested going a year ahead, and the update wouldn’t download, but 3 months ahead did work.

I believe this is design by Apple to avoid people downloading large amounts of data over their mobile plan, but the updates get to an age where Apple deem them critical, and it’s then better to get the update over cellular than not at all.

I hope Apple address this properly and have a toggle on the screen to just choose to download the update over cellular, with a warning about high data usage (iOS 14.8 is almost 1GB).

EA Play Chat Support

Had to share this one. I had finished setting up my new gaming PC and wanted to try a game – so thought Battlefield V would do the trick, which is ‘free’ under my Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, which gives access to EA Play. Except, it doesn’t work, and doesn’t say why:

Anyway, I decided to use EA’s online chat support. Unsurprisingly, it’s not a fun experience – because online chat support rarely is. I’d already spoken to them once where their suggestion was to uninstall and reinstall the EA Desktop app, and I was coming back the next day on the same case to tell them it hadn’t worked. Read on…

Mamta (9/9/2021, 8:58:55 PM): Thank you for contacting EA HELP, my name is Mamta, may I start with your first name please?
Adam (9/9/2021, 8:59:11 PM): Adam
Mamta (9/9/2021, 8:59:48 PM): Hello Adam, nice to meet you! Hope you’re doing fine.
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:00:10 PM): Thanks you too
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:00:27 PM): So, how may I help you today Adam?
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:01:07 PM): Case #89886608
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:01:16 PM): returning back after doing what I was told, hasn’t changed anything
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:01:27 PM): There also seems to be other seeing the same issue as me https://answers.ea.com/t5/EA-General-Questions/not-currently-playable/m-p/10710162#M373028
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:01:57 PM): Okay! Let me see the case first and I’ll try to help you in the best way possible.
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:03:45 PM): So as per the details provided by you, you’re unable to launch any game using X box game pass.
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:04:35 PM): yes
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:04:44 PM): my ea play account shows ‘play’ next to my name
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:05:13 PM): and logging onto my ea account it says EA Play with Xbox Game Pass
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:06:19 PM): I am sorry you have had to deal with this, Let me just go through the account first and pull out certain details.
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:07:51 PM): ok
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:08:25 PM): So, before moving a head could you please help me with your resisted email account with EA?
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:09:19 PM): xyz@xyzc.com
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:09:34 PM): Thank you! I am sending you a six-digit verification code to the email linked to your account so that I can verify your account from my end.
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:10:44 PM): 701367
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:12:07 PM): Thank you for the verification Adam! Now could you please explain what type of error are you getting while starting the game.
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:13:10 PM): i cant start the game – the error is what I logged for this case “Not currently playable Unavailable This item can’t be purchased or played at this tim‎e”
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:14:37 PM): I can see why you would be upset, Please allow some moments to work on your issue.
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:14:41 PM): all play games I havent played before seem to be like this
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:15:30 PM): Okay! Let me see what I can do from my end.
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:18:48 PM): So Adam what all troubleshooting steps you have attempted till now? This information would help us to not repeat any troubleshooting step.
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:19:07 PM): uninstalled and reinstalled the client
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:22:08 PM): Okay, thanks for the information. Now we’ll move further. Allow me few moments.
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:23:07 PM): also tried on another computer and I see the same problem
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:23:16 PM): Adam which Xbox are you using to play the game?
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:23:34 PM): its on PC not Xbox
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:24:32 PM): I apologize for that, let me go through the details of your account.
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:26:42 PM): Adam could you please confirm whether the network you’re using is a wired or wireless connection.
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:27:04 PM): wired
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:27:55 PM): Thank you for confirming that! Going ahead with your issue, please stay connected.
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:29:23 PM): Adam could you confirm the EA Desktop or Origin you’re using is up to date.
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:30:01 PM): yes it is
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:30:24 PM): That’s great! Hold on a moment Adam.
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:34:00 PM): Also Adam, I hope you’re running your game as an Administrator please confirm.
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:35:32 PM): yes i am
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:36:31 PM): Great! Still working on the issue, stay connected!
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:42:04 PM): Adam it’s taking a bit long then usual. Please stay connectd.
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:46:02 PM): its been 45 minutes so far and we haven’t really done anything
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:48:51 PM): Adam could you please help me with your Gamer Tag.
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:49:59 PM): gamertag
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:50:49 PM): Thanks for the information, I’m checking the details. Please allow me few moments.
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:55:20 PM): Thank you Adam for being connected, as I can see here your you haven’t linked your game pass with your EA account I would request to please kindly contact for the same.
Adam (9/9/2021, 9:56:44 PM): how do I do that, my profile says I already have
Mamta (9/9/2021, 9:59:49 PM): Let me see, if I could help you in this.\
Mamta (9/9/2021, 10:02:11 PM): I apologies there was some technical glitch, as I’m able to see your Game Pass now. However I wouldn’t able to assist you in this matter and request you to contact Twitch for more information.
Adam (9/9/2021, 10:02:34 PM): What has Twitch got to do with this?
Mamta (9/9/2021, 10:04:09 PM): I’m sorry I mean to say “Microsoft”.
Adam (9/9/2021, 10:04:40 PM): I logged this with them first and they said it was an EA problem?
Mamta (9/9/2021, 10:09:41 PM): I really apologize for such a long wait Adam.
Mamta (9/9/2021, 10:11:45 PM): As I have double checked this is a known issue from our end, we have seen that more players are encountering the same issue our team is working to fir this.
Adam (9/9/2021, 10:12:44 PM): so if it’s a problem your end why did you tell me to talk to Microsoft?
Adam (9/9/2021, 10:14:14 PM): How will I find out when this is resolved?
Mamta (9/9/2021, 10:15:14 PM): I really apologize for the miss-information, however when I have checked your account and error provided by you I saw that this is a known issue and many players are facing the same.
Mamta (9/9/2021, 10:16:56 PM): Sadly. As of now we don’t have any update regarding this but we’re still working on this issue.
Adam (9/9/2021, 10:18:31 PM): So will I get contacted when it’s resolved?
Mamta (9/9/2021, 10:21:14 PM): Let me check it for you. Please allow me few moments.
Mamta (9/9/2021, 10:26:05 PM): Thanks for waiting patiently for this issue you can check our official forums whether this issue is resolved or not and yes you will connected when this issue gets resolved.

It was at that stage, almost 1 and a half hours into it, that I closed the browser.

Microsoft Viva replaced MyAnalytics emails

Today I noticed for the first time, that the MyAnalytics emails that were coming through weekly, showing where your time was being spent, emails you may need to respond to etc had been replaced by Microsoft Viva. There’s also a post in TechCommunity covering this in detail.

The previous MyAnalytics emails would come in weekly, and be broken up into different editions – Wellbeing, Focus, Collaboration or Network edition. This new monthly digest indicates Microsoft Viva is the way forward. Note that this still works the same way as MyAnalytics where the contents of the email are private to you, and do not come as a normal email that would be trackable (more details in my MyAnalytics article)

The new emails still (for now) link back to the https://myanalytics.microsoft.com/ domain which again for now, shows the message that it’s becoming Microsoft Viva:

That ‘Learn more’ link takes you here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-au/microsoft-viva/insights/?s=mya with some details around Microsoft Viva. One of the main links there takes you to Viva Insights on Teams, which is the Insights addin option that’ll show up on the left menu and take you to the Viva Insights Home page.

The Stay Connected tab is worth checking out, as it will highlight email conversations it thinks are things you need to do, or highlight people (team members for me) that you don’t have a 1 on 1 meeting scheduled for the next twk weeks.

Going back to the web page for Microsoft Viva, there’s a lot more content then when I looked when it first launched. One section I thought was notable was under Network, you can see your Top Collaborators and their read percent and response time of emails.

My point on all this, is that there’s a lot going on here. People may find it and have questions around it, especially when these emails are generated to all staff by default. Someone may have stumbled across the ‘Delay Delivery enabled’ option and turned it on, then forgotten about it later, complaining about emails being slow to get to customers or clients:

What we’re seeing above with Microsoft Viva and MyAnalytics (now Viva Insights) is only a part of the full Microsoft Viva solution too – there’s also Viva Connections, Viva Topics and Viva Learning:

Viva Connections and Viva Insights are generally covered under an existing license, but Viva Topics and Viva Learning are at an extra cost.