The evolution that will start the revolution


I like Sam’s take on something I demanded early on in the 11ac arc. Have a read, see if you don’t agree.

Originally posted on SC-WiFi:

You’ve heard it all before, evolutionary technology versus revolutionary technology. Everyone wants their newest technology to be revolutionary – expecting it to be life changing and a wide-sweeping, compelling reason to spend tons of money. This is rarely the case and more often than not marketing fluff to try and get you onto the next big thing. Occasionally we get such an unassuming technology announcement that fits squarely in the ‘no big deal’ from a speeds and feeds perspective that it’s easy to overlook. This is clearly the case with the recent multigigabit announcements from Cisco during Cisco Live, Milan. Multigigabit is a technology that allows your existing cabling to support speeds in excess of 1G, without having to make the jump all the way to significantly more costly 10G. Since we already have technology that address speeds and feeds above what we’re talking about here (how many 10G…

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Ugh- More Misinformation on 802.11ac

There’s enough bad writing out there already when it comes to wireless networking. We see article authors taking gadgets for a ride on their home networks, falling in love with them, and declaring whatever it is to be THE NEXT BIG THING FOR THE BOARDROOM! -With no regard for the fact that boardrooms are usually in corporate settings where business wireless networks are in use that have vastly different operational characteristics than the home networks where they tested said gadget…

Then there’s the crazy, fun, imaginative, truth-stretching WLAN marketing that usually takes a white paper to explain how the claims were arrived at, with methodology that would impress even a dodgy congressmen on the witness stand to the point of blushing.

I guess these aspects of the greater wireless networking paradigm have always been there to different degrees. With 802.11ac, we compound the Fog of Wireless War with Wave 1 and Wave 2 and big numbers in the standard that may or may not ever be realized. So be it… but every now and then something makes it to print that just feels… damaging.  

People read this stuff, and form expectations and plans. Even a cursory look at Wikipedia would have set this right:


I’m not trying to bash the writer personally, as I don’t know him or her. But as a writer, I really have to wince when I see something this off base and I picture the misconceptions it can propagate, and the ripple effects those misconceptions can have when the information presented is taken as factual. 802.11ac is already confusing enough, this sort of thing really doesn’t help.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun With Your Technology!

I count myself among the lucky folks who absolutely love their day jobs. It helps to have a great chain of command, a solid organizational technology foundation to operate from, and some really great (and intelligent) coworkers. But all of those trappings are just bonuses- the real, deep satisfaction comes from geeking out, designing and building networks, researching and recommending solutions, solving problems, learning something every day, etc.

Being immersed in technology brings fulfillment that you either understand, or you don’t. Most of you reading this likely get it.

But when you’re an addict, you always gotta have more. For me, networking is wonderful business- but I also need to do amateur radio and listen to scanners and strain my ears and receivers to hear far-off, arcane aeronautical beacons (nothing whatsoever to do with iBeacons, though some could argue they have a lot in common to the imaginative mind). I have a need to blog, to talk about the good and bad of technology as I see it with anyone willing to engage. Some of my best fun came when I wrote the bi-weekly hobby radio column for the local paper for around five years. Lately, I’ve added another dimension to my technology mania, and it’s proving to be as enjoyable as I hoped it would be.

I’m doing a technology series for my local community, covering these topics:

  • The dangers of public and unknown Wi-Fi
  • Alternatives to Cable TV
  • How to set up your own home network for optimal performance and security
  • The many things you can do with mobile/portable devices beyond Internet and email

Being a long-time professional instructor, I’m having a great time putting the 2-hour sessions together. I have them chock full of demonstrations, and the conversations and reactions to the topics are wonderful. I’m guessing at least 2 hours goes into prep time for each session, and my wife is giving me “that look” as I scurry around the house with a maniacal grin, popping up different test demos before I call each session “ready”.

Here’s a bit more on each topic, as I’m doing them:

  • Dangers of Public/Unknown Wi-Fi: Talking about Social Wi-Fi, how “Engagement” is a double-edged sword. Using the Pineapple in live disussions to show Karma, Randomroll, and Occupineapple as examples of how easy it is to distort perceptions of reality, then SSL Strip to harvest credentials.
  • Cut the Cord! Showing the finer points of OTA reception, with emphasis on the importance of the antenna- using both a TV and a USB TV-tuner stick with Windows Media Center. Then showing all the stuff you can get over the Internet for free (Crackle, YouTube) and the paid offerings like Netflix/Amazon Prime with Chromecast and Firestick Dongles, in live demonstrations.
  • Setting your network up the right way: Setting up a SOHO router with best practices like changing defaults, disabling unused services, finding the best non-overlapping channel, etc. Talk about router placement, how to overcome weak signals in big houses, etc. Discuss interference sources, and the yin and yang of letting visitors onto your home Wi-Fi.
  • Fun stuff to do with your devices: From scanner apps (both kinds- listening to Emergency Comms and scanning documents to PDF) to Geocaching to tracking aircraft live with a $20 dongle to Internet radio, we cover a lot of ground here. I’ve found that many people simply don’t know how multi-dimensional (both online and offline) their devices can be until someone shows them a taste.

For the folks attending, they get a cheap, interesting night out. I have no doubt they are learning a little something along the way. For me, I get to conceive the “curriculum”, put the demos together, challenge myself under the spotlight of dozens of live demos, and basically lug around a bunch of gadgets to play with and talk with people about.

This was a bit of an experiment when I dreamed it up, and now that I’m into it, I’m glad I took the chance in getting buy-in from the local community council. It’s thoroughly fun, and it’s a different way to enjoy a lot of the technology I’m that enamored with. And… I get to hang out with local residents that are at least curious, if not as into it as I am.

I highly recommend doing something like this at least once- give back a little of what you know, and have fun doing it.

Reconnecting With Earl, the Back-Country Tablet That May Or May Not Happen

Back in 2013, I did a pre-review of one of the neatest gadgets I’d gotten wind of in quite a while. If the initiative could get funding (it did), and if the makers could jam a bunch of potentially interfering radios under it’s very small hood (not happened yet), a tablet like no other would be introduced. If you’re an outdoors person or radio hobbyist (or both), the idea of Earl will tickle your fancy.

You can see what’s on the mind of Earl Nation in the forums, as they follow the tablet’s development.

And you can also see the development trail here. In the latest post, the future of Earl starts to sound a little murky.

Since the initial notion, there have been a couple of affordable waterproof tablets released (Samsung and Sony) that might reduce people’s interest in Earl, though those units certainly lack the suite of radio technologies that Earl promises.

Will we ever see Earl, or something similar in a tablet? I still standby my initial skepticism on the ability to put the likes of FRS radio technology in a tablet (and have it work effectively), but at the same time I find the ambition behind Earl utterly fascinating.

This is one to watch, just because it’s an odd duck with a lot of passion behind it.

A Six-Pack Of WLAN Industry Developments

Things are always shaking in Wi-Fi Land. New stuff, company goings on, regulatory drama… it’s never boring. Here’s a quick bundle of interesting hits to consider.

  1. Meraki Founders Quit CiscoI’m not only a Meraki user, I’ve been following the company for years under the brim of my analyst’s hat. I delighted when Meraki came out with their MX line, and later when switches joined the lineup. There’s a lot of power in the Meraki magic, so I can’t say I was totally surprised when Cisco bought them for north of a billion dollars. At the same time, I had my concerns. Far be it for anyone not in the loop to speculate on why Meraki’s Founding Three have opted to split, but it does fuel all sorts of speculation depending on your frame of reference.

  2. Xirrus Has Announced a Cloud-Managed 11ac Wallplate AP. This is an industry first (as far as I know) and I hope other vendors follow soon (are you listening, Meraki?)

  3. Meru also has new product offering: Xpress CloudWith 2×2 11ac APs managed via cloud subscription, aimed at SMBs. (Meru ain’t dead, folks.)

  4. Fluke Networks’ Air Magnet Enterprise gets an upgrade.  Quoting my brief: “The new version of AirMagnet Enterprise includes several major security enhancements, new 802.11ac functionality, the industry¹s first “No Wireless or Cellular Zone” capability, new PCI 3.0 compliance features,  and more. Enterprise is already unique with its Automated Health Check and Dynamic Threat Update capabilities, but these new features make it even more powerful, and a crucial solution for organizations that can¹t afford to have wireless security loopholes.” Alas- it’s still an overlay…

  5. Ruckus Ups Their Smart Wi-Fi Game. A laundry list of beefy feature goodness is aimed at improved Wi-FI calling, among other enhancements.

  6. Eero. Interesting promise and premise. We’ll have to see how this one plays out- but promising people that you can solve dead spots in the home without running wires will get attention.

I don’t typically favor scraping press releases into a digest blog, but this mix of topics struck me as a bit profound in showing just how dynamic the Wi-Fi world is at many tiers. Exciting, thought-provoking stuff that can be hard to keep up on.  Don’t blink, things change quick around here!


Reviewing the CompTIA Mobility+ Certification

I was recently questing for a good foundational certification that might be appropriate to recommend for network technicians that are either new, or have yet to really go through the rigors of getting a certification. Given that our busy, complex environment spans LAN, WLAN, WAN, and the greater mobile environment, I locked on to CompTIA’s Mobility+ as a potential fit. Here’s the objectives:


Interesting mix, no? This seemed to have a bit more width than CompTIA’s Network+, but not to be so deep in one direction as CWNA or CCNA for staff who just weren’t at those levels yet. Combine the objectives with the “accomplishability” of most CompTIA certs, and I was ready to take it for a spin.

For me, I’ve done a fair amount of tech courses through the years. I was an early CWNA and CWSP (2002 and 2004), but those are both now expired (you might say I’ve been a wee bit busy living life). I’ve got lots of “wallpaper”, but it’s been a few years since I forced myself to go through the process of doing the work required for achieving a certification, so I was also looking forward to that part of running through the Mobility+ course as well.

What to Study

To get the journey under way, I had this bundle purchased- linked to off of CompTIA website:mob+

I’ll spare you the details- but I absolutely cannot recommend this path, or LogicalCHOICE as source for this sort of course material. I ended up going with the low-cost alternative from Amazon. The book is very good, and the free practice test questions help (although it would be nice if there were than just the 200 questions that come with the book. Word on the street is that Pluralsight may be another place to look for courseware for Mobility+.

It’s CompTIA… How Hard Can It Be?

This is certainly no CCNA or CWNA when it comes to difficulty. But it’s not a gimme by any stretch. I put in legitimate effort, and did have to spend extra time in the material that dealt with the cellular-related networking specifics that were new to me. Some of the cellular stuff was as fact-riddled as WLAN can be, and you have to train your mind to accept the course’s versions of incident response and troubleshooting. The LAN and Wi-Fi content is shallow, but not without worth. When I was done studying and ready to test, I did feel like I had both gotten a worthwhile refresher in many basic network topics, but also did gain enough new knowledge beyond what I do every day for a living and what I’ve learned in past network courses to feel that it was a worthy time expenditure.

The test itself was bit wonky. I swear that at least a few questions had two legitimate answers. A few others were worded so poorly I couldn’t say with certainty I understood the scenario they were trying to describe. Then there were the couple of “Select the best answer” exercises that would have more aptly been called “select the least shitty answer because they all suck”. Yet despite the criticism that I’ll say applied to 10% of the test or less, I felt challenged at times. I had to think, and I had the butterflies in my stomach that people get when a test isn’t easy. I had little doubt that I’d pass, but it didn’t feel “automatic” by any stretch.

Continuing Education? Pffft. Shame on You, CompTIA.

Now that I have my Mobility+ for whatever that’s worth, I’m in disbelief that CompTIA has the gall to think their certs are meaty enough to expire in 3 years unless you do “continuing education“. I can only channel the immortal Bender Rodriguez here and say “bite my ass.” This CE thing is laughable at this level, and an obvious $$ maker.

Seizing the Moment (well, hopefully)

It was good to make myself work towards a goal again. In this regard, any cert is a good cert, and though Mobility+ won’t really do much for my career as a practicing LAN and WLAN architect (again, wasn’t why I took it), the exercise did create a spark of interest to get me going again after neglecting the certs that I really should care about. It’s a bummer that some of my proudest ones have expired, but i had fun doing Mobility+ and it got me back in the groove. That’s as good as the cert itself.:)