Skype For Business

Poly Elara 60 Series Review

Poly offered to send me their Poly Elara 60 Series device to review. As I’m stuck on On-Premises Skype for Business with Enterprise Voice for the time being, but also use Microsoft Teams a lot, it was a product I was interested to try and accepted the opportunity; so here’s the review.

Poly Elara 60 Series, still with it’s protective plastic on.

Poly (who was formally known as Polycom, bought out by Plantronics, then rebranded to the ‘Poly’ name) has only been around for a short time in it’s new name, but those two companies have high regards in the general community on the quality of hardware they make. Both companies who’s devices with their previous names are on my desk, (namely a Polycom CX600 Lync Desk Phone and a Plantronics Savi 440 headset) are there because they’re products we piloted, tested, and have used for several years. We keep buying them because they do just work, and fit our use case really well.

This isn’t to discount other brands of course, but sticking with these products since deploying Lync 2010 back in 2012 says a lot. If they didn’t work well, we’d be using something different.

Back to the device this review’s acually about, the Poly Elara 60 Series. It’s a different use case to the above products I mentioned, and was an interesting process to use. I’m still using it right now as the earphones are perched on my head. I like the device, but it took me a bit to see what it was capable of and make it work for what I wanted.

The Poly Elara 60 Series is advertised as a “Mobile phone station that enhances smartphone collaboration”. The standard way you’d use this device is by first optionally placing your phone on the rubber stand on the right hand side that doubles as a wireless charging plate. I tested this with a Google Pixel XL 4 and a iPhone 8, both wirelessly charged.

The wireless charging mobile stand has 4 angles it can sit on, and just as a pure ‘when I’m working I put my phone here’ stand I’m quite happy with it. I can see what’s happening on my mobile, and I’m also charging the rather average Google Pixel 4 XL battery during the day.

If you don’t have a wireless charging mobile, there’s a gap in the plastic to allow a charging cable to be plugged into the bottom of the phone, while still lying flat against the charging pad.

Mobile phone holder aside, the Elara 60 Series can be paired to the mobile using Bluetooth. Standard stuff here to set up, but there’s also the Poly Elara 60 Series app for Android and iOS. This is how firmware updates are delivered to the Elara, but also adds the Microsoft Teams control functions from the Elara to the mobile phone.

Seperately, the Elara can be used as a media player. Whatever’s ready to go on your phone can be controlled from the Elara screen, and come out either from the downward facing speaker on the Poly, or the headset once it detects that it’s on your head.

And yes, the Elara has a dedicated Microsoft Teams button on it. It’ll flash if there’s a Teams notification to tell you about, and pressing it will… not launch Teams. At least from my testing it doesn’t. Maybe it’s an Android 10 thing, but I couldn’t get it to work properly, until I realised it just doesn’t work when on the home screen. From having any other app open it’s fine. Regardless this didn’t really fuss me, I’m find with using the phone to get to Teams when I want it than having a hot button, and I’m sure they’ll fine tune this in future updates to to the product. (Update – Poly have confirmed they’re waiting for a fix, but the workaround is to change the Teams App permissions under Phone Settings > Apps > Teams > Permissions – and make sure all are allowed)

The other buttons work as expected; mute, speaker volume. If my mobile rang through the carrier or a Teams call, I could put on the headphones to answer the call. I wouldn’t even have to press a button, it’d detect when the headset was on and then pick up the call (rather than when the headphones are undocked). When docked, the headset would charge. Docking and undocking the headset was easy, it just slid on and was a nice motion to do – no getting stuck or putting the headset in at the wrong angle.

The headset itself that came with my unit, was the Voyager Focus. You can purchase the Poly Elara 60 Series with or without a headset, which is great if you’ve already bought a compatible headset and don’t need another. Blackwire headsets are also supported.

The Voyager Focus I found to be very comfortable. It’s light, has several nice-to-have’s such as ANC, music playback control buttons and a mute button – but most importantly, it was comfortable to wear. I usually don’t like an on the ear style headset, but this is soft enough that it’s not squeezing into my ear. The design of the rubber and padded band that goes over your head also has a very light feel. The ANC worked well too – handy for someone who has noisy people around, or just wants to dull out background noise to focus on the task they’re doing.

So, this device acts as an extension to your mobile phone for it’s phone call functions, media player, and Microsoft Teams. Great if you’re doing it all off your mobile, but what about a computer?

I usually work off a desktop which has no Bluetooth, so the first thing I did was buy a USB dongle and plug it in. Then, I paired the Poly Elara 60 Series to my desktop running Windows 10. No extra apps required. The device shows up like any other audio device, a headest for both speakers and Microphone.

That’s great, I can use the headphones and mic from my PC. On my PC though, I’m using Skype for Business and I want to use the Elara 60 Series as my device. It doesn’t show up in Skype for Business as a device, but that’s OK. It still works fine when I use the ‘PC Mic and Speakers’ option to use whatever my Windows defaults are.

Once selected, it then knows about the device that Windows is using and lets you set volume levels if required.

I’ve been using it for a few weeks now on Skype for Business, and it works fine. Haven’t had an issue with audio quality or people hearing me. I do lose the ability to answer my mobile calls via the headset with this method – I could just run Skype for Business on my mobile, but what I’ve ended up doing is using the Poly as my mobile phone holder/charger, and the headset as my Skype for Business and PC microphone/speakers.

The Poly Elara 60 series remembers 8 different devices, but you can only be connected to one at a time. Switching between devices is fairly quick – I wouldn’t want to do it when trying to answer a call, but from the main screen it’s less than 5 seconds to press Devices > down arrow to the device I want > Connect, and be on the device I want.

I’m quite happy with this device overall, and I’ll continue to use it over the Plantronics Savi 440 (which shows as the D100-M in the above screenshots). I’m probably not using it the way it was initially designed, but that’s a credit to it that it’s flexible enough to be used in different ways.

For those who run Teams off their desktop or laptop and want a device to talk to the Teams client on their PC with extra controls; this may not be the solution you want. Dial controls don’t work on this device when plugged into a PC, it’s purely an audio device. But it does function in several ways that could still tick the boxes you’re after – a speaker phone, headset, phone charger and holder in a device that takes up a fairly small footprint on the desk.

If you were moving away from desk phones and had a soft phone client, with plans to move to Microsoft Teams later for a more mobile workforce, it also fits quite well. Your users need to be comfortable enough with phone pairing (which isn’t a big ask!) to set it up themselves. You might also have users who do just want a mobile phone controlling device – you don’t need to use Teams to use this, as it’ll use the keypad to make normal mobile calls once paired.

However, for someone who does live off their mobile, it’s a solid solution that would provide a professional desk setup.

It took me a while to get my head around the possible use cases and where the Poly Elara 60 Series works and doesn’t work – hopefully this helps others decide what they want. Feel free to ask any questions below!

Managing Unified Messaging Users in Exchange Online

error
The phone number you entered has already been registered by someone else.

This is the standard error you’ll see in the Exchange admin center when trying to enable Unified Messaging on an extension that already has it enabled.

When a user departs you’d expect that when you change the user mailbox to a shared mailbox and drop the licensing, Unified Messaging should go. However, in Exchange Online the mailbox will still be Unified Messaging (UM) enabled, and hang onto the extension it had.

You probably won’t even notice this until you go to enable UM on another mailbox using that same extension, which leads to the error at the top of this article.

The first challenge is to find the Shared Mailbox that is holding onto the extension. After connecting to Exchange Online in PowerShell, you can run this command:

get-ummailbox | select name, phonenumber | out-gridview

This will show a nice gridview of all your mailboxes and what UM extension they have. You can search/filter this view to find the cuplrit.

If you want to see which of your mailboxes are Shared and have UM enabled, run this command:

Get-Mailbox -RecipientTypeDetails SharedMailbox -ResultSize:Unlimited -filter {umenabled -eq "true"}

Knowing this mailbox, you’d expect it should be easy to turn off UM. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if you could just disable UM like you can on a normal mailbox, but in Exchange admin center this isn’t an option at all when it’s a shared mailbox.

Trying to disable UM via PowerShell with the ‘Disable-UMMailbox’ command also won’t work, as you’ll get a license error:

License validation error: the action 'Disable-UMMailbox', 'Identity', can't be performed on the user 'Test User'
 with license 'BPOS_S_Standard'.
     + CategoryInfo          : NotSpecified: (:) [Disable-UMMailbox], RuleValidationException
     + FullyQualifiedErrorId : [Server=SYXPR01MB1901,RequestId=dfc62192-8270-4a65-b582-c7f327d6e7e2,TimeStamp=15/10/201
    9 6:24:33 AM] [FailureCategory=Cmdlet-RuleValidationException] DDB44050,Microsoft.Exchange.Management.Tasks.UM.Dis
   ableUMMailbox
     + PSComputerName        : outlook.office365.com

To fix this, you could use the Exchange admin center GUI along with the Microsoft 365 Portal, but it’s easier to run all the steps required via PowerShell:

First apply a license to the shared mailbox account that includes Exchange Online. You can see what licenses are available to you with this PowerShell command used by the MsolService cmdlet:

 Get-MsolAccountSku

Then, apply a license with this command against the shared mailbox and the AccountSkuID from the previous command:

Set-MsolUserLicense -UserPrincipalName "UPN OF SHARED MAILBOX" -AddLicenses "tenant:licensename"

Once applied, you’ll then need to change the mailbox to a Regular mailbox rather than Shared:

Set-Mailbox "UPN OF SHARED MAILBOX" -Type Regular

After a while, Unified Messaging may drop off by itself if you allocated a license that doesn’t support it (such as Exchange Online Plan 1 or Exchange Online Kiosk, or you can force it off with this command:

Disable-UMMailbox -Identity  "UPN OF SHARED MAILBOX"

Finally you can now enable UM on that other mailbox that was getting the error on the extension being in use. Easily done via the Exchange admin center GUI.

Two last steps are then to reverse what you did – take the license away from the shared mailbox, and make it a shared mailbox again:

Set-MsolUserLicense -UserPrincipalName "UPN OF SHARED MAILBOX" -RemoveLicenses "tenant:licensename"

Set-Mailbox "UPN OF SHARED MAILBOX" -Type Shared

Disable Internet Explorer Add-ons via Group Policy

Problem:

I’ve discovered an issue with the Skype for Business add-ons to Internet Explorer which causes pages with large amounts of text to freeze briefly when scrolling.

As part of a Skype for Business install, two add-ins get loaded. They use the same Class ID and DLL File, and provide options such as click to call links on phone numbers on a page:

With these addons loaded though, some sites lag and freeze that have large amounts of text; here’s a good example. Scrolling through the page for several seconds either through mousewheel or sidebar should result in a brief freeze lasting a second or two. Other browsers are fine (such as Chrome or Edge), and Internet Explorer is fine without the above add-ons.

I had a few people confirm this experience, including @CliffordKennedy (Thank you!)

Solution:

This seems to be a problem that was around a while ago, and possibly only occurs in less common circumstances. If you can live without the IE addin, the solution is to disable it. However for me, I couldn’t do this as the option was greyed out – plus that solution doesn’t work at scale.

Other solutions like disabling via the registry didn’t seem to work for this add-in either, it came back. Even removing the OCHelper.DLL file didn’t stop it loading! Uninstalling Skype for Business altogether worked, but that’s a bit too drastic.

There is a Group Policy however, called ‘Add-on List’ located under Computer Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Internet Explorer\Security Features\Add-on Management. Here, you can add the Class ID and set the value to 0 for disabled, 1 for enabled, and 2 for enabled but users can disable/enable. More instructions from Microsoft here.

For this one I’ve chosen to disable, but the ‘enable and let users disable’ option is quite nice – it’d be even better if there was a ‘disable but let users enable’!

This worked for me, and the add-in is now disabled, and the scrolling issue is gone. In the meantime, I have a case open with Microsoft and can hopefully have the root cause resolved too.

 

Update 21st September 2019

Microsoft Support have told me there is no fix planned for this issue. With that in mind, if you need to use IE I’d recommend disabling the addins:

Skype for Business add-ins for Internet Explorer 11 Disabled

PowerShell – ‘While’ Loop Statement

There’s a lot of different ways to loop commands in PowerShell, and here’s one I just learnt (thanks Nathan Kewley for spending the time talking me through this!):

Scenario: You create a brand new user in Active Directory, but need to wait for things to sync before you make a change to the user. If you want to automate these steps, you want to check that the user exists before running more commands against it.

Answer: The ‘While‘ statement. This lets you loop a command ‘while’ something is a certain value. For example, you may want a script to loop for two minutes, or until a certain value is true or false.

With my script below, it will check if the value $running is nothing (null), which it is because we just made it up. Because it’s true, it’ll then continue on to do whatever is in the curly brackets. Here, I’m running a command the enable a user in Skype for Business, but also setting the result of that as the variable $running.

If the command works, $running now has a value of the created user, so as it loops again to see if $running is null, it won’t be, and the ‘while’ statement is done.

If the command fails however, and shows the dangerous red warning around the user not existing, nothing gets set to the $running variable. That means, when it loops again, $running will still be null so it’ll try again and again and again.

while($running -eq $null){
 $running = Enable-CsUser -Identity testuser -SipAddress testuser@contoso.com
}

That’s rather dangerous of course, what if it’s forever $null? It’ll run forever, so we’d better put in some failsafes.

while($running -eq $null){
 if($CheckUser -le '10'){
  $CheckUser++
  start-sleep -s 10
  $running = Enable-CsUser -Identity testuser -SipAddress testuser@contoso.com
}
}

OK, this time we’re doing a couple more things. We’ve got two curly bracketed things to run now, the first is an ‘If’. If $CheckUser is less or equal to 10, then do the next curly bracket thing. The first time this runs that value again doesn’t exist because we just made it up, and nothing is less or equal to 10. The If statement is true, so it moves onto the next segment.

The $CheckUser++ command just adds ‘1’ to the value of $CheckUser – starting off at null or 0, so will turn into 1. As the statement loops, that number will increment all the way up to 11. Once it’s 11, the If statement is no longer true, so bombs out.

We’ve also added the start-sleep command, which is just a 10 second wait before doing anything. If we didn’t have that there, the 11 loops before it fails would be over incredibly quickly.

The last thing we can add is an event to occur once the ‘If’ statement is no longer true:

while($running -eq $null){
 if($CheckUser -le '10'){
  $CheckUser++
  start-sleep -s 10
  $running = Enable-CsUser -Identity testuser -SipAddress testuser@contoso.com
}else{
Throw "Unable to create SfB User"
}
}

All we’ve done here is added the ‘Else’ section, which only runs when the ‘If’ isn’t true. Once the $CheckUser variable hits 11, the ‘Else’ command runs and throws up an error, with the aptly named ‘Throw’ command.

Hopefully this is enough to explain the basics of the ‘While’ command.

 


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Skype For Business 2016 – Flashing Active Call Window

After rolling out Skype for Business 2016 with Enterprise Voice as part of the Office 2016 suite, we discovered a weird UI issue. This is nothing but a display problem, but can still be a little distracting and annoying!

On a certain call type – incoming PSTN calls – the little active call window would flash. This took some testing to realise, as logically there shouldn’t be a corellation with how a call got to your Skype for Business client, and a display issue with a call window; but it was repeatable time and time again, on multiple PCs with different logins.

I then found a Technet thread on the issue, but this was for the older Skype for Business 2015 client, which is pretty much a reskinned Lync 2013 client. That patch wasn’t applicable to Skype for Business 2016.

I then decided to log a Microsoft Premier case, which was rather quick and after showing them the problem and waiting a few days, they came back to say the problem was planned to be fixed in the Skype for Business 2016  – December 2016 patch.

We’ll see what happens in December and I’ll update this post, but in case others discover this issue, it’s not you and you’ll need to wait a few months :)