Category Archives: Training

What I Took Away From the Wireless Adjuster Course

This course comes from Divergent Dynamics, taught by none other than Devin Akin. I have been following the story line of Wireless Adjuster since before it was unleashed, and here is some background if you have any interest:

Now that I have actually sat through the two-day course myself, let me share my impressions.

Wireless Adjuster Fills a Need

There is vendor training out there for wireless networking, and there is the excellent Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) program (reminder that I am CWNE #200 and current member of the CWNE advisory board). But I have yet to see a really good, practical, hands-on training course that looks to equip a broad cross-section of wireless troubleshooters with the mindset and experience to use tools that almost anyone can afford to find perhaps 90% of likely WLAN-side problems.

Wireless Adjuster Complements Other Courses

Regardless of your past training and proficiency with wireless analysis (like CWAP), survey tools (like Ekahau) and basic foundational knowledge (vendor training, CWNA), Wireless Adjuster re-enforces and introduces some pretty key best-practice (and exceptions to best practices) philosophy for a range of WLAN situations. Combine what you get out of Wireless Adjuster with what you already think you know, and you’ll be living larger as an analysis professional, I promise.

Wireless Adjuster Shows Just How Powerful WiFi Explorer Pro Really Is

WiFi Explorer Pro is already widely appreciated among WLAN professionals as an easy-to-use, huge-bang-for-the-buck WLAN analysis tool. It doesn’t NEED to be the main tool used in Wireless Adjuster to gain recognition, but the way it is used in the course will make you appreciate WiFi Explorer Pro even more. Devin does a nice job introducing aspects of the tool you may not be aware of, and uses it as a bona fide troubleshooting suite that competes with any tool out there. When you consider the integrations supported with MetaGeek’s dBx adapters, WLANPi, and other external devices, it’s fairly mind blowing that WiFi Explorer Pro can be had for under $100. To me, this is the best value out there among WLAN support tools.

Wireless Adjuster Exposes Just How Defective the WLAN Standards Are in Spots

I would love for anyone involved with developing 802.11 standards and the entire Wi-Fi Alliance staff to sit through Wireless Adjuster. Throughout the class, you’ll see example after example of how optional parts of the various standards cause a lot of performance problems in various WLAN settings. You see real-world examples of the cost of the IEEE 802.11 groups being hung up on backwards compatibility. You learn why many of the sexy, hyper-marketed aspects of 802.11, .ac. and .ax sound great in promotional material, but flat-out suck in the real world. Devin finds fault with none of it, and is far more of a gentleman about it than I am. He methodically and objectively guides you through this odd reality through real live examples that you analyze for yourself.

Having taken Wireless Adjuster, I’m now even more taken aback than I have ever been  about how out of sync with reality the IEEE 802.11 folks, the Wi-Fi Alliance, and many WLAN vendors are with real-world WLAN performance. It’s pretty freakin’ unreal, says I. Don’t agree? I’ll fight you, and I’ll fight dirty.

Wireless Adjuster Is Fairly Captivating

I will freely admit that I am a far better instructor than I am a student. I have a recognized track record of being good at teaching, dating back to my time in the US Air Force instructor school. But put me on the other side of the equation and I get bored easy as a student. I daydream. I doodle. I multitask, and do a fairly poor job of it. But for the almost twenty hours of Wireless Adjuster time, I was pretty much riveted. The discussion was fantastic, the examples are relatable, and even though I’m a certified “expert” I learned once again that I don’t know it all. Wireless Adjuster commanded my attention (despite taking the course remotely), and I finished the training with a todo list of things to go examine on my own networks.

Final Word: Time Well Spent

When it comes to technical training, I want VALUE. I don’t want to spend a day getting a half-hour’s worth of actionable information. Wireless Adjuster hits that sweet spot where newer wireless folks and vets like myself can both benefit greatly from the materials, the exercises, and especially the discussion throughout the course. I’m glad I took the class, and I highly recommend it.

 

 

Catching Up With Devin Akin- and the Wireless Adjuster Training Course

Late last year, I got wind of a new WLAN training option being developed. The course name was curious- Wireless Adjuster. It was the brainchild of long-time wireless pro Devin Akin, and it got a lot of people curious early on. I wrote about it then when it was still a twinkle in Devin’s eye. Now that the course has been running, several people who have attended it have spoken highly of their experiences with Wireless Adjuster.

Being gonzo, I wanted to find out how Devin himself thinks Wireless Adjuster has been going. After all, the last several months have rocked our collective world in a number of ways, and his baby was just getting started when the pandemic and all of it’s ripple effects hit.

Follow along for Devin’s answers to my questions.

 Hey brother, how’s the new course going? How’s the demand?

The interest is extremely high, but attendance is only modest. Many folks tell me that they want to attend but cannot due to lack of funds – whether personal funds or company funds. I can certainly understand that. Most employees rely on their employers for training funds, and when companies are furloughing and laying employees off, it’s hard to justify training funds. The monetary situation doesn’t make the training any less needed, but cuts have to be made somewhere, right? Most of the folks who take the class take the exam, and I’ve had unbelievably good feedback on the difficulty level and accuracy of the exam. Positive feedback on an exam is reassuring. It took many weeks to write the exam pools, so I’m glad to see that it’s being well-received.

It looks like you’ve really hit on something with Wireless Adjuster. Tell me, has COVID19 rocked your world too badly for the course?

Yes, without a doubt. I taught in-person classes until the middle of March, and within three days of the international travel restrictions, three months’ of classes had vanished. I quickly pivoted the courseware to online, and online classes have been a big hit. Every student (globally) who had paid for the in-person class has (or is about to) attend the online class. For those who paid for an in-person class, I am allowing them to sit both the online and in-person classes for the one payment. That has been extremely popular. Once we’re allowed to travel and host in-person classes again, I expect demand to be strong, and I look forward to seeing all of those who have taken online classes.

Let’s hope we all find some normalcy again soon. In general, what skill levels are you seeing across those taking Wireless Adjuster?

While the target audience is post-CWNA (whether holding the certification or not) level attendees, I’ve found that about 25% of my students are CWNEs. I have been very surprised by this. Additionally, the CWNE feedback shows that along the path to the CWNE certification, much best practice assessment, remediation, optimization, and troubleshooting knowledge has been missed. That proves that my understanding of knowledge gaps in the industry were not misguided, which I’m exceedingly happy about. About 50% of attendees are the target market of post-CWNA, and the feedback there is usually very similar: that the Wireless Adjuster training program is hitting it’s intended mark as a hands-on preparatory step toward CWAP and CWSP certifications. What I find quite amusing is that post-CWNA students often do better on the exam than CWNEs. I currently attribute this to post-CWNA’s not overthinking the exam questions. The remaining 25% are a hodgepodge consisting of folks who are certification-averse, mom-and-pop shop WiFi engineers who need to understand practical troubleshooting and optimization better, and folks who were simply curious as to what the program is all about.

That’s pretty interesting. How you found that your original vision for Wireless Adjuster has needed to be tweaked at all?

Original vision, no. Content delivery, yes. The two beta classes were extremely valuable in honing the course material to achieve its goals. The original (and current) vision for the Wireless Adjuster program is to teach and certify engineers on WiFi best practice assessment, remediation, optimization, and troubleshooting. It was designed to sit directly between CWNA and the professional levels CWSP and CWAP. The primary goal, as it relates to the CWNP Program is to assist post-CWNA students prepare for the depth of theory of professional level exams by giving them hands-on experience with inexpensive tools in modest complexity level WiFi environments. Student feedback tells me that it is achieving these goals.

It’s always nice to get that feedback. What do you think the biggest value is shaping up to be for those taking Wireless Adjuster?

I can only go by what I’m told by students who have completed the class, and so far, the biggest ROIs on taking the classes are: 1) Moving dysfunctional networks to functional (without the need for surveys or redesign), and 2) immediate optimization of modest-performance networks (given several dozen best practices). For administrators, it’s their own network, but for consultants (e.g. systems integrators) it may be many customer networks.

Let me put you on the spot. You’ve been in this business a long time, but I’m guessing that you’ve also learned a thing or two on the Wireless Adjuster journey. Tell me about that.

That’s an insightful question. There is one primary lesson that I have learned along the Wireless Adjuster journey, and everything else is a distance second place.

When I go to a customer site, and they tell me “my network sucks,” I don’t start with a site survey or a redesign. I start with a $100 WiFi scanner and assess best practice adherence via a standardized triage process. If the customer is using max output power, 80MHz channels everywhere, not using any DFS channels, have misconfigured Beacon Interval or DTIM periods, have QoS or security misconfigurations, have high channel utilization utilization all of the time, or any of 50+ other items, I don’t need a survey to tell me that their network sucks – I can already see that. A best practices assessment takes minutes, not days. Once best practices are dealt with, THEN the customer MAY need a survey or redesign, but in many cases they do not. Many of my customers simply want their terrible WiFi network to be functional at a modest level with minimal time and cost. You can achieve that in 95% of cases with just a scanner. The trick is knowing how to use the scanner really well. It like to say that a good scanner is like the world’s best WiFi Swiss Army knife. It has hundreds of blades, and you need to know what each does and how/when to use it. You can’t saw a tree down with a Swiss Army knife, but you can cut down the twigs that are in your way. You can’t build a house with a Swiss Army knife, but you could build a tent with it. It’s surprising how many networks can reach an acceptable level of optimization only using a WiFi scanner and knowledge of the 802.11 protocol.

WiFi scanners can assess algorithms like load balancing, band steering, DFS event response, Auto RF, protection ripple, and even Smart PoE. It’s not always about what the scanner can see, but also about what you can infer from what the scanner sees. It’s a learning process, and that’s what the class is all about. Starting with a $5,000 tool and taking 5 days to do what you can do with a $100 tool in 15 minutes seems silly to me. Certainly the WiFi design and survey tools on the market are very important and have their place, but they should not be the initial go-to tool for best practice assessment, remediation, optimization, and troubleshooting. The Wireless Adjuster course focuses on the 802.11 protocol and use of advanced WiFi scanners to achieve remarkable results quickly and inexpensively.

I agree with you on the “lesser” tools absolutely having their place. Let’s finish with this:  What do you want people in the market for wireless training to know first and foremost about Wireless Adjuster?

If you have a base level of WiFi knowledge, and you want to dig into the protocol and best practice assessment, remediation, optimization, and troubleshooting, you will get a concentrated dose of it over the two days of this class. The first day is understanding a large list of WiFi best practices and deep familiarization with a leading WiFi scanner through a half day of lab time. The second day is 100% lab time, where ten real-world labs of increasing complexity and differing types are presented to the student. After each lab, there is a group discussion of findings and solutions, e.g. what misconfiguration may have resulted in which symptoms. By the end of the second day, students are diagnosing layers of misconfigurations and explaining why the symptoms exist. The Wireless Adjuster course is the most real-world best practices assessment and WiFi network optimization class on the market today.


A big thank you to Devin for his time and thoughts. I gotta see for myself, now. I’ll be doing Wireless Adjuster soon myself, and will do a follow-up blog afterwards.

Have you attended Wireless Adjuster training? Please share your thoughts here, and thanks for reading.

New Wireless Certification Coming From a Familiar Name

If you have been in the business of wireless networking for any amount of time, you’ve likely heard of Devin Akin. Perhaps you’ve bumped into him at any one of several leading wireless network vendors where he has worked through the years.  Maybe you sat in one of the many courses he teaches- if you did, you certainly came away smarter. Or maybe you’ve debated him on religion or politics on Twitter… Devin is a passionate guy, and he is as outgoing as they come. I personally have not agreed with him on everything we’ve ever talked about, but that  falls under the heading of The Spice of Life in my opinion.

When it come to sheer depth of wireless knowledge, Devin is a Titan.

I mentioned Devin in the context of training. He’s certainly done a lot of training through the years, and he’s been teasing out something new for those in the market for wireless training that’s coming in early 2020.

NewLogo

Intriguing, no?

I’ve been chatting with Devin on the side a bit, and will be covering his new course more in-depth when he’s ready to turn it loose (I may even contribute a bit to it, if I can remember to send him my input), but in the meantime I wanted to share what he is saying about it publicly so far:

adjuster2

Interesting- a practical lab-based approach built on excellent but inexpensive tools. As for “no lecture”… You get Devin talking about wireless and there is guaranteed to be in-depth discussion along the way. Let’s say that I expect “informal lecture” of a high quality!

Anyhow, now you know what I know, and I’ll share more as it comes out. Course frequency, cost, duration and locations are going to be questions on everyone’s minds, along with a deeper understanding of course goals and objectives.

Standby by for more, and best of luck to Devin as he gets Wireless Adjuster off the ground.

Training Tips

Master 1I was recently approached by an esteemed wireless colleague who was tasked with putting together a day-long training seminar for non-wireless installers. We talked about shared opinions on what Wi-Fi specific topics would be right for this particular group, as well as general procedural steps that he might take to keep it all on track. After all, a “day” really isn’t very long when you factor in breaks, lunch, questions, distractions, and Murphy’s Law. As we chatted back and forth, he made the comment to me “you really out to write some of this down for others”. And so here we are.

Before I dig in- let me address the “what makes you qualified to give this sort of advice?” question that some of you might be thinking.  Here’s the quick and dirty: in my 10+ years in the Air Force, I spent the second half of my career as a Technical Training Instructor. More re less, I was dragged into it – and was a bit angry about the turn of events in the beginning. After all, I was an Electronic Warfare “field guy”, and liked what I was doing on aircraft like the F-4 and A-10. Once I got over myself somewhere around the third week of Instructor school, I came to realize the tremendous value in being able to confidently deliver complex materials and keep a group heading towards a series of objectives- both for me and the folks in the seats in front of me. I eventually achieved the Master Instructor rating, was certified as an Occupational Instructor, and amassed thousands of hours in the classroom and developing curriculum that others would use as well. After the Air Force, I taught basic electronics, CWNA, CWSP, undergraduate classes, and (still do) graduate networking classes. I’ve also done hundreds of hours of informal training and presentations for my employers and at a number of IT conferences. I don’t know it all or claim to be the best, but I do have a lot of experience and have valued both the high ratings and criticism I’ve received along the way.

Now, back to topic. Here’s a quick primer for anyone that has to do training/presentations, but nay not be particuilarly comfortable in that role.

Before the Session:

  • Research the audience. What level(s) of expertise will you be dealing with? Don’t assume anything without asking whoever requested the training.
  • You may have to adjust your favorite “canned” presentation a bit for each audience.
  • Develop a lesson plan/presentation AND a time budget for each topic
  • Don’t be a mile wide and an inch deep- ever- on any topic. Cramming a week’s worth of content into a single day rips everyone off.
  • Accept the fact that YOU will determine the success of the training, and are driving the boat. Your management of the topic and the clock are nobody else’s responsibility.
  • Understand well what you will be talking about. Thin credibility will absolutely shine through.
  • Ask that whoever is in charge of those you are training ensures that the group is expected to be attentive and present. No running in and out taking calls, etc.
  • Make sure you have your material prioritized- should the session go wrong and fall apart, make sure the most important topics are identified so you can focus on them.
  • Test the audio-visual equipment well before the start of the session, and have a Plan B in case something goes wrong.

During the Session:

  • Share your time budget with those you’re training or presenting to. Hopefully everyone will help it to stay on track.
  • Embrace the notion of Intro/Content/Summary. Or “Tell ’em what you’re GONNA tell ’em/Tell ’em what you HAVE to tell ’em/Tell ’em what you TOLD ’em” – for each section, each major part of the day, and for the entire session.
  • Take questions that are easily answered along the way.
  • Save long-winded, complicated discussions for the end of the section, break, or lunch. Don’t bust your time budget by being led astray.
  • Occasionally, something WILL go horribly wrong during the session. Roll with it, make the best of it, and make sure the priority material gets conveyed.
  • Watch for signs that you’re losing the audience, and pop an easy question to draw them back in. Example: “So, who has ever done ___?” Then when a hand is raised, let someone respond so another voice breaks up the monotony of your own.

Closing/After:

  • If appropriate, leave your contact information for further discussion if anyone is interested.
  • Figure out some way to ascertain whether your session had value. It may be an email to whoever set up the session the following day, or a survey you leave behind. You want to know if you’re hitting the mark and what might need to change.
  • Don’t convince yourself that you can use the same presentation every time- as mentioned during “Before”, you may have to adjust for the next session to be effective.

Training or presenting to even a small group of people is a skill. Public speaking can cause people great anxiety, but having a simple checklist like the points above can help take the nervous edge off. Even those of us with lots of podium experience get jittery, but get through it by being prepared for both what WE WANT to happen and for  WHAT MIGHT happen.

Best of luck to you as you train or present.

Do you have any training pointers to share? Please contribute to the discussion.

 

 

Fantastic WLAN Conference on the Near Horizon

As we close out 2015, many of us that consider ourselves wireless professionals are planning our training and conference agendas for next year. (Soapbox moment: wireless changes fast. Methods, solutions, culture, industry trends. If you don’t HAVE a training agenda for next year, make one now. Even if you don’t have travel budget, there is a lot you can do from your own corner of the world- minimally make a list of things you want to learn or get sharper on, and then figure out some way, any way to meet those goals.) If you are conference or training shopping, I suggest that you consider the 2016 Wireless LAN Pro Conference.

I wouldn’t recommend WLPC if I’d never been there. The 2016 event in February will be my third outing, and it has become my favorite of any conference. I’ve done CiscoLive!, Interop, and a number of others regularly, but here’s why I find WLPC to be the one to go to, if you can only go to one:

  • It’s all WLAN-oriented
  • It’s laid out well with excellent sessions
  • For the money, you get a lot, both in SWAG and in content.
  • The people. From the organizers, to the presenters, to the fellow attendees, this is a wireless-minded crowd. Every waking minute can have value if you’re receptive to that.
  • There are no vendor sessions, no sales pitches.
  • It’s a good mix of perspectives in play- you’ll find industry veterans, individuals that work for VARs or run their own companies, end users, newbies, and every other niche.

I don’t agree with everything I’ve ever heard at WLPC, as a WLAN vet “of a certain age” myself. At the same time, I need my own beliefs and philosophies challenged, and I continue to learn why others think as they do on the endless specific topics that make up our fascinating trade. From implementation approaches to policy thought to end-user experience and “how things ought to be”, this a thought arena where all opinions are valued and the Know It All Factor is minimal. That I like.

But wait- there’s more!

So it’s a great conference, yes- but there is also another draw to WLPC. For those interested in the highly-respected CWNP certification training, there are also in depth training sessions conducted by industry experts.

As I write this, I’m told these are the open sessions: 

  • CWAP – all 15 are sold (may be another session if enough demand)
  • CWNA – 10 available
  • CWSP – 5 available
  • CWDP – 6 available

And the excellent instructors:

  • CWAP – Peter Mackenzie
  • CWDP – Tom Carpenter
  • CWSP – Ronald van Kleunen
  • CWNA – Devin Akin

As per the organizers “We will open a waiting list for the CWAP – if we get enough we will hold a second CWAP class concurrently. ”

If you can make it, I hope to see you there.