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Microsoft Teams performance tips

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

Many SU staff members have experienced lost connections during a Teams meeting or sometimes have technical glitches such as poor or broken voice connections. With this short article, we provide some tips to ensure that your next Teams meeting has minimum disruptions. The tips are split into three categories:

  1. Good practices
  2. Preparing for a trouble-free meeting
  3. Steps to take if you experience a poor connection

The good practices include:

  1. Regularly shut down and restart your PC – at least once a day. The shut down and restart cleans the PC of processes taking up resources. A good habit is to shut down at the end of the workday, and start fresh in the morning.
  2. Regularly run updates, ensuring that the operating system and applications are up to date. This should happen almost automatically on University owned PCs.
  3. Regularly run virus checks.

Preparing for a trouble-free meeting – especially important if you are the host or presenter for a meeting:

  1. Close all unnecessary applications.
  2. Test if you have sufficient Internet bandwidth available. You can do this by running an Internet bandwidth test at Speedtest by Ookla – The Global Broadband Speed Test.
    For voice only and sharing images you need less than one MB/second. For sharing applications and using your webcam, you need between 1 and 2 MB/s.
    For video you preferably need 2 MB/s.
  3. Test if your PC has sufficient resources.
    For Windows 10 press Ctrl + Shift + Esc.
    For a Mac the equivalent is the Activity Monitor: Press Command+Spacebar to get the Spotlight search field. 
    Start typing “Activity Monitor.”
    The CPU usage percentage should be under 50% and memory usage below 60% before you start MS Teams.
  4. If your MS Teams app was open before a meeting, quit and start MS Teams again at least 10 minutes before your meeting.
    To do this right click the Teams icon on the task bar and Quit, then start again.

5. If you share your Internet with other users (e.g. at home), ensure that the others know and do not hog the Internet connection. (e.g. do not play video, stream content, run updates).
Turn the camera off and use audio only if  the speed test or PC resources tests did show limitations.

6. If you are the host or presenter and have doubts about your Internet connection, rather work from your office on campus where you are unlikely to run into limitations. Use Ethernet (a cable connection to your router) rather than Wi-Fi if you have Ethernet available.

7. Have a second device with Microsoft Teams as a standby, e.g. a mobile phone with an LTE data connection. Practice switching devices so that you are familiar with how it works before you host a meeting.

Steps to take if you experience a poor connection:

  1. Turn the camera off if it was on.
  2. Turn off incoming video: (last item under the three dots menu).
    You will still be able to see shared screens and comments.

3. Switch to another device as a last resort, for example MS Teams on your mobile phone or tablet.

Adjust your font size

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

Are the characters in your emails suddenly substantially smaller than a year or two ago? Not? Then you are clearly still too young. For the rest of us – you know who you are, I see you squinting at your screen – there is a solution.

We all know you can change the font of your text in Outlook, for example. The only problem is that the receiver on the other end will have to also read your email in Tahoma size 16. Ideally you should only use a font size of 11 or 12 whether you work in a Word document, in Teams or compile an email. Instead of changing the default font in your applications, there’s another way. 

  1. If you are working on a laptop or tablet with a touch-pad you can access the Text Zoom function by stretching two fingers away from each other. This will activate the zoom function and whatever you read on the screen will be enlarged.
  2. If you are not working on a laptop or don’t have a touch-pad, open a new email (or reply to one) go to Format Text on your Outlook menu bar and select the Zoom option. It will give you the option to enlarge the text up to 200%. (See below) 

        3. The same can be done if you have a mouse with a scroll wheel button to adjust text zoom level (see below)

      4. Not all apps support the Text Zoom by using the touch-pad or Ctrl + mouse wheel. Here is another method for Windows 10 if you want to change the size of text, apps & other items for all Windows apps, other than just Outlook & MS Teams.  Just right-click anywhere on your desktop. Select Display Settings and choose the % you want to enlarge it with.

If you are still struggling you are welcome to log a request for one of our technicians in the ICT Partner Portal.

FindTime add-in for meetings

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

If the responsibility of organising meetings often falls on your shoulders you will know that it could be a challenge to find a time which works for everyone. Fortunately Microsoft has found the solution with one of their Office365 ad-ins.

FindTime is an optional add-in which simplifies the process of finding the appropriate date and time for a meeting between colleagues. It’s particularly useful when there are attendees from non-SU, external companies. 

With FindTime the organiser creates a voting poll where the available dates and times are listed. The attendees can then vote for the times and dates which suit them best. 

When the poll is compiled the following functions are also available:

  • to create the meeting automatically as soon as everyone agrees on a time and date;
  • to immediately book the date in your diary;
  • to receive updates on the voting poll when someone votes; 
  • to close the voting poll so that no other times can be suggested and 
  • verification by PIN. 

The FindTime add-in can be installed in Outlook 365 (for web-based email, the Outlook client or Apple OSX). If external people are invited to the meeting it’s not necessary for them to use Outlook – everything is done through a link sent by FindTime.

You can install FindTime yourself from the Microsoft website or log a request on the ICT Partner Portal for one of our technicians. 

[ARTICLE BY ARLO KOEN]

Sending emails to large groups

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

Occasionally it is necessary to send emails to external students or other large groups of people who are not part of the sun domain. If you are currently using Outlook distribution lists we recommend that you switch to the much more user-friendly and functional Sympa mailing list management platform.

The reason for this is that Microsoft has started to limit the number of emails a sun email address can send to to 30 external email addresses per minute. Therefore, if you send to more recipients, Microsoft automatically blocks your account as their attempt to prevent spam. More detailed information on Microsoft’s policies regarding email limits, can be found on their website.

For many years the university has been using Sympa as mass mailing solution successfully. In fact, many of our staff and students use it to administer their lists. 

Sympa is a mailing list management (MLM) software and has its roots in the academic computing community in France. Its name, which is an acronym for Système de Multi-Postage Automatique (i.e. Automatic Mailing System), also means “nice” or “friendly” in French. We’re not sure exactly why the French decided to call their mailing list system “nice”, but we can confirm that it is “friendly” to use.

By using Sympa as a platform for your group emails, you will have better control over your emails and access to handy functions such as:

  • appoint one or several moderators;
  • manage subscriptions and unsubscriptions;
  • add a shared document web space at the subscribers’ disposal;
  • answer questions from subscribers and potential subscribers about the list
  • read the list archive;
  • search in the message archive;
  • review members of the list;

As you can see, Sympa offers much more functionality than your normal Outlook distribution list. Any staff member can use Sympa, simply go to https://sympa.sun.ac.za/sympa.
If you need any assistance in setting up your Sympa distribution list, please log a request for assistance on the ICT Partner Portal.

Effect of internet cable break on Stellenbosch University

Monday, January 20th, 2020

The recent internet speed problems that South Africans have been experiencing has been front page news since mid-January. How has it affected the University community?

The short answer is that in most cases, we don’t see any degradation in network performance at all. How is this possible, one may ask? The answer lies in the redundant design of our international circuits, as implemented and managed by TENET, the service provider for the tertiary education sector. When a particular network circuit is broken for some reason, like the West African cable (WACS) in the current situation, the university traffic is seamlessly re-routed via another circuit, Seacom, running along the East Africa coastline. Obviously, the risk of total network failure is enlarged by the current unavailability of WACS (and SAT3), but up to now our services remained available without a hiccup. This can be seen from the following graphs, which show constant traffic flow for the past week, 100% interface availability of the network, spare capacity available and zero network errors reported.

Other network service providers often don’t have this level of redundancy available, and may be more seriously affected. That is why ISP’s like Axxess, Afrihost and others have been struggling, and why some users might have experienced communication problems at home, or while using other networks other than the campus network. 

When will this situation normalise? The WACS cable on the coast of the Congo is currently being attended to by the cable repair ship and TENET’s estimation is repairs could be completed by 11 February.

For regular updates and information on how the repair process works, follow TENET on Twitter.

Click for larger image

TENET internet usage graphs

 

 

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