Microsoft Unified Communications Launch

Want to see Bill Gates and Jeff Raikes live on stage? Do you want to be at the kickoff for the worldwide Unified Communications Launch 2007 in San Francisco?

Do you want to be there when history is made?

if you answered “yes” to any (or all) of these questions then you need to Click Here to register and use the following registration code: UCLTBL18.

It is a free day long event with technical sessions, demos and a free Unified Communications Starter Kit that includes:

  • FREE copy of the full version or Office Communications Server Standard Edition.
  • Office Communicator 2007
  • Exchange Server 2007 SP1 evaluation
  • 60 day trial of Office Live Meeting.

Check out what Kevin Engman, UC Community Manager has to say about this.

Thanks Kevin for the additional information!

The GotSpeech Activity Library Project

When ActicveX  first started becoming popular back in the ’90s an aftermarket sprung up of companies and developers creating custom ActiveX controls that you could use in your applications.  I think they went a long way towards making Visual Basic popular.


Spring ahead to OCS 2007 Speech Server and Voice Response Activity Libraries. I think that we will start seeing a market grow around custom Activity Libraries as more developers start using Speech Server and Workflow. With that in mind I’ve been thinking a lot lately about creating a library of Speech Server activities. 


I have a few ideas for tasks that could be turned into custom activities. My plan has been that when I finish with these activities I’m going  to donate it to the community. After thinking some more on this I realized that other developers may have some custom library activities that they could donate as well.


So I’m announcing the GotSpeech Activity Library Project and looking for contributors. The library will be freely distributed on GotSpeech.Net so that other developers can take advantage of it. If you would like to contribute please shoot me an email so that we can coordinate library activities, namespaces and such. Anything you contribute will be become public domain so if you are considering selling activities then this project is not for you.


If you can’t contribute but have ideas for activities that would be useful then please submit your ideas.


Once I have developers lined up we can hash out the details on how the project will proceed. Think of this as sort of an Open Source project. You get to improve your coding skills while giving something back to the Speech Server community.


So, let me know if you want to be involved.

OCS 2007 Speech Server MMC Bug

While at a client site recently we encountered a bug in the Management Console for OCS 2007 Speech Server. You could call it a quirk but it is really a bug. However, there is an easy work around and if you are using best practices for deploying your applications then you won’t encounter the bug anyway.


The client wanted us to install Speech Server and set it up to  run one of their VXML applications. All went well until we tried to create the application in the MMC. As you can see below the Start Page  defaults to the name of the application in a virtual directory named the same as the application. In our case the application was just a test page and it was located in the root of the web site (i.e. //localhost/HelloWord.vxml).


OCS MMC 


We tried changing the start page and several other things but we could not get around this error -


erro


It seems that the MMC won’t allow you to create an application that resides in the root. It has to reside in a virtual directory below the root. The work around is to deploy the application to a virtual and this just makes good since as you should not deploy applications to the root of the web anyway. I don’t think the client usually follows this approach but since it was just a test app they simply dropped it in the root.


Microsoft has said that this is not a Speech Server bug as it can handle the page being located in the root but it is a problem with the MMC that won’t allow you to create the application that way. I suppose that if you really wanted to deploy your application in the root then you could create the application then just edit the registry to have the correct URL but messing with the registry can be dangerous.


 


 

Virtualizing OCS 2007 Speech Server

After talking with my good friend AC and reading a recent post he wrote on making the switch to VMWare I decided to experiment with setting up some virtual  environments. You have to realize that I have never been a fan of virtual environments. I come from the old school (where we only had 640K of memory) and I don’t like giving up any CPU cycles unless I have to. Also in my previous job we just stood up  more servers when ever I needed a new environment for something.

I write a lot of experimental Speech Server applications just to test something or learn some new aspect of the tools. These tend to clutter up my hard drive mixing these experimental apps in with the real apps.

I’ve been toying lately with the idea of standing up a production environment using a virtual so after reading Andrew’s post I decided to just do it. I respect Andrew’s opinions very much (even though he is a SharePoint guy) so I downloaded and installed VMware Workstation.

Installation went very well and was fairly straight forward. The interface is very clean and easy to use. I had no problems creating a virtual machine – just some mouse clicks and then set back and wait.

Once you have a virtual machine you have to install an OS and there is where I ran into a problem. The normal procedure is to put a bootable OS CD in the drive and then start the virtual. My MSDN CDs are not bootable so the virtual wouldn’t recognize it. What to do? A quick trip to the VMware web site and a few searches there I learned that you can point the virtual’s CD drive to an ISO image on your hard drive and it would install the OS from that. A quick copy of the OS ISO image fro the MSDN CD and I was off and running. After finishing I simply pointed the drive back to the proper place.

I now had a base Windows 2003 Server image that I wanted to preserve so the next step was to clone that image which again was just a few mouse clicks and set back to wait.

I now had a base 2003 image and a clone which I called “OCS 2007 Speech Server Base”. This is the virtual that i installed Speech Server on. After that was done and the install was tested I cloned this virtual also so that I would have a working production environment. I did this so that I can quickly and easily clone as many OCS Speech Server environments as I need.

So how does it work? Well, after a little tweaking it works very well. Using a soft phone on another machine I placed a call to the virtual and the WelcomeToOcs application answered but the sound quality really sucked. It was broken up and very choppy sounding. This was a disappointment and at first made me wonder if this concept was going to work. But rather than give up I started do some digging and found that the default memory allocation for a new virtual appears to be 384 MB. I quickly changed the memory to 1 GB and tested again. It sounded sweet. But this was to be expected as Speech Server loves memory.

All of this only took about 3 hours from downloading VMware Workstation to having a working Speech Server environment. I’m very happy and plan on pursuing this some more. As I do I’ll blog and keep you updated.

Points to remember:

  1. OCS 2007 Speech Server works well in VMWare
  2. You need to allocate at least 1 GB of memory
  3. You should create both a base OS install as well as a base Speech Server install.
  4. Always clone the base installs and work off of the clones not the base installs

 

I would love to hear about your experiences with virtual machines – especially if you are using Speech Server.