Thursday, March 31, 2016

Blaming the wrong problem

For years we've struggled with poor skype quality when working with the corporate office users.  For years, the network team has tried to troubleshoot any possible contributions to the problem. Since skype works GREAT for me whenever dealing with someone not in the office, it must be a problem with the office.

Turns out, we were chasing the wrong problem the whole time.  The problem is that skype was designed for 1 to 1 communication between consumers, not a business network. So using the consumer version of Skype, the data transmitted is handled differently.  In geek terms:

Residential internet connections are typically allocated a temporary fixed public ip address. This IP gets registered to a Skype user on Skype’s servers, so when someone needs to contact that user, Skype knows where to direct the call, and can use UDP to establish a call between the participating users.
In corporate environments, where there are lots of users using the same internet connection, sharing of a a single public IP address between those users has to occur (Port Address Translation). That means that the Skype servers will have registered the same public ip address for all the users in that organisation. This means that Skype is not able to establish a direct UDP P2P connection between a user on the outside of that organisation and a user in that organisation, and has to use other means to make that connection.
The solution?  Upgrade to skype corporate which is designed for this traffic or use an alternative like GotoMeeting or other tool which is not based on a UDP P2P connection.

The lesson for you in this is that you can blame the technology all you want. However, sometimes it is doing exactly what it was designed to do.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The passport office exceeded my expectations

You often hear that the government is inefficient and late with everything.  Well, I have a story where the US Government exceeded my expectations.  It would be nice if this is a sign of things to come.

In early March, I realized my passport would expire in July.  With a trip out of the country planned in May, I thought it wise to renew before my trip but I was worried about the turn around. Online it said to expect 6 weeks for passports to be renewed.  That gave me enough time but I was very nervous that something would go wrong.

2 weeks later, my new passport arrived. When I got the envelope, I expected it to be my old passport with some problem or failure that was going to make me rush to get things done.  I could not believe my passport was renewed and in my hands 4 weeks before promised.

Then I realized my passport number had changed.  I quickly feared my global entry would have to be renewed (and this is a pain and requires in person visits).  Instead, I logged into global entry and updated my passport number. Viola.  It was done.

I'm sure there are other areas that need to be overhauled but it's great to see some government offices doing a great job.   We complain so much about our government, we should also take time to compliment the good as well.

Kudos to whomever is running the passport office.  2 week turnaround is excellent and exceeded my expectations.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The best "dock" for laptops

My lenovo yoga is awesome but it has only 3 usb ports and 1 is a type c.  It has NO external video options other than USB.  I tried a bunch of $10 and $20 cable converters and spent well over $100 and probably contributed to the problem I had with windows needing to be reinstalled.

Today I installed the DELL universal dock. $110 from Amazon

I'm not a DELL fan but I am a fan of this product.
  • Truly plug and play - It worked perfectly out of the box
  • 5 USB ports 
  • Ethernet port for wired networking reliability and speed
  • Audio jack for audio out
  • Supports 3 monitors 2 of which are HDMI
This universal dock is a great buy. I highly recommend for anyone using a laptop who wants 1 or more monitors.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Windows 10 - My reinstall story with good news

A few weeks ago, my start menu stopped working.  I could not click start.  It limited my ability to work significantly.

I tried everything to fix it without reinstalling. I even created a 2nd profile but that too had weird issues.

So it was time for a full reinstall on my 3 month old laptop.  Seems crazy, but with all the different USB devices I've tried, I suppose something got corrupt from a bad USB driver that I could not get rid of.

Now for the good news.  I used the built in recover features while keeping files functionality. Settings, recovery, reset.  About 1 hour later, I was back in business with my profile working fine and all my files still available.  I reinstalled all my applications and my machine is running as good as new.

I'm still not sure what caused the problems but I'm glad Microsoft has gotten better about making it possible to reinstall windows so easily.  Especially given I was able to keep all my files since onedrive file synchronization was one of the programs that stopped working a few weeks ago.