Category Archives: Uncategorized

Something Fairly Significant Coming to the SMB Network Space

April 17 (2018) is the day. Something that has been missing from this end of the market, and from a certain vendor’s product offerings is coming.

I’m not on their payroll, but I know that I like what I see in my eval testing so I don’t mind building the suspense.

Don’t ask what it is, because I ain’t telling. Not until the 17th. And I won’t crack, because I’ve dealt with tougher people than you. Heck, I’ve gotten my ass kicked all over the globe… I didn’t spill the beans then, and I ain’t talking now either, Chump.

You’re dealing with a professional.

But meet me back here on April 17, and I’ll hand over the goods.

Until then… Shhhh.

Code Bugs Do Have Real World Consequences

I’m not sure if my expectations are just too high for today’s world. When I buy a new vehicle, I don’t want to see surface rust forming two weeks after it leaves the lot. I don’t like the current presidential election and the horrible choice that voters have to make. And I actually expect that network vendors will put out decent code, or at least be very up front and open when significant faults are found. 

You see, those significant faults have real-world consequences. They bring operations to a screeching halt, and diminish organizational credibility. And ill-conceived “work arounds” and cavalier vendor attitudes to the customer’s bug-induced plight just make matters worse.

Here’s a real-world example.

I had a carefully worked-out maintenance window to upgrade both ends of a site-to-site VPN topology that spans Syracuse to London, using my favorite cloud-managed vendor’s gear. I’ve done this procedure at least a half dozen times, and have installed at least 30 of this particular security appliance. My Syracuse work was coordinated with a gent on the other end, and we’d do one end at a time. But… we never got past my end.

I configured the new appliance with what few settings it needed: IP address, gateway, subnet mask, and DNS servers. I saved them, then I waited for the indications that the box had made contact with the cloud and pulled down it’s updates. But those indications never came.

Like many a networker would do, I went to verify that the settings that I entered were correct. Curiously, there were NO settings saved. OK- maybe I forgot to save… The second try yielded the exact same result as the first. It was time to open a support case- as my maintenance window ticked away and my partner in London waited patiently.

I opened the case, then immediately called the support line (for the sake of expedience). I was told that this particular appliance has a firmware bug straight from the factory and that I’d need to find a DHCP-served network to use because it won’t actually save anything you enter with out-of-box firmware. When I asked if this was documented anywhere, I was told very matter-of-factly “we don’t share that information with customers” and that it shouldn’t be a big deal to just use DHCP.

Grrrrr.

Most places I’ve installed these appliances don’t have DHCP services readily available, because ultimately the appliances use a static IP and eventually ARE the DHCP servers for inside clients. And, I don’t tend to lug around an extra SOHO router just on the off-chance I’ll have to jam something in that can act like a DHCP server to get around a code bug that my vendor doesn’t feel customers need to know about before they actually try to use the product.

Let’s skip to the end:

  • I got to use some of my best “military” language after I realized the gravity of the situation
  • The maintenance window was busted, and the scheduled change didn’t happen
  • I probably lost credibility with my London partner as I was the Guy in Charge for this
  • My vendor has absolutely lost my confidence given the bug, and the “you should just be okay with this” attitude. I’m just not sure I can trust them at this point
  • This vendor had my respect and trust for years, and those have pretty much been undone with this one incident

So… I dragged the appliance off to where I could hook it up to a DHCP server and it could get a firmware upgrade. We’ll have to do the same on the London end, and then reschedule the outage and maintenance.

Sadly, the examples don’t end here. Same vendor- different hardware set. Also dealing with a long-running problem with a feature set that absolutely adds to the appliance’s stratospheric price tag. The work around? Don’t use the feature. The feature that I bought- to use. It’s insanity, and it’s way too frequent.

And I can just deal with that, because code bugs are pretty much a way of life anymore with certain vendors.

 

Interviewing for A Networking Job? Keep It About The Real YOU, And Develop A Bigger View

What I’m about to say is aimed at those looking for IT work, but has applicability to many fields. In the past few years, I’ve interviewed network engineer and technician candidates,  DPW workers, and police officers (I wear a lot of hats), and am always taken aback by these common mistakes.

Customize the Cover Letter and Resume For The Specific Position

“I look forward to bringing my skills to your company”. It’s easy to print off a stack of cover letters and resumes to send out as needed, but you have to put yourself in the role of the person reading your materials. If I’m hiring, I want to know that you’re ambitious and interested enough to personalize your documents to match the specific job you are applying for, and that you didn’t just send me what amounts to a form letter.

Name “your company” by name. Mention specific facets of the job description in your cover letter that jazz you, and tweak the resume for the specific desired position. If you’re looking for years of good employment, spending an extra hour honing your documents before you apply is just a good investment in time.

Lose the “We”- This Discussion Is All About You

If I ask “can you describe what your current role is in doing _________ on a daily basis?” do not start your answer with “We do blah blah blah”. I don’t care what the entire organization does at your current job or what they did at your last one, if you’re between jobs. Long dissertations on what solutions are used in another work setting are of limited value. Drop the “we”, and tell me about YOU.

Back to the question- can you describe what your current role is in doing ______ on a daily basis? 

Bad answer: We have Cisco switches and Avaya Voice over IP.
Better answer: I’m part of a group that keeps up the LAN and VoiP environments, and I personally do routine switch configurations that include everything from basic settings to QoS, ACLs, VLANing and TFTP backups.

You’re selling yourself, not you and everyone you currently work with. The nuance is significant and takes self-discipline to get across.

At the Same Time, Remember That IT Is Usually a Team Sport

None of us are an island.  Saying “I really like working alone” can be quite off-putting. The relationships and interactions that we have with others at work are themselves assets to be nurtured, and talked about at the appropriate time during the interview. Yes, you want to focus on your own strengths, skills, and experience, but as you weave a conversational tapestry, make sure that there are plenty of examples of how you work well with others and value your current team and others that you work with.

Embellishing Is Risky- Don’t Claim Competencies That You Don’t Have

Here’s a flash- taking a C++ class in college three years ago does not make you proficient in C++.

If you dump every technical thing you were ever exposed to into a bulleted list of “skills” to try give your resume weight, it’s guaranteed to come back and bite you. References to things you saw somewhere along the line might get you in the door for an interview, but when you sheepishly admit “well, I did a project on that in school and don’t really remember the specifics” as your only experience with the “skill”, the interview team will automatically wonder what else you’re overstating and likely be wondering about your honesty.

Stand behind your legitimate skills and experience. Other things that you’ve been exposed to are fair game for conversational fodder. For example:  “I did some of that in a class in school and did well with it, but haven’t had the opportunity yet to get more experience. But I’m certainly capable of building on my limited exposure to it.” Instead of being trapped in stretched-truth, paint an honest picture and confidently state your belief in yourself to learn what you don’t yet know.

EVERYONE IN THE WORLD HAS A CCNA Book- Finish the Damn Thing!

If you’re going after a network position, you need to be aware of the danger of anything that sounds like “I’m working on my CCNA”. Everyone looking for a job in networking is “working”on their CCNA. My Amish cousin Eunice and her poodly dog are working on their CCNAs.  The interviewers have heard it all, ad nauseum.

If you haven’t set a date to take the exam, you really want to tread lightly on this one. About as far as I might go, if I truly was working on my CCENT or a CCNA and hadn’t yet set a date for the exam, is something like this: “I have about 75 hours in on CCNA prep (and say which discipline). I’m confident in these areas____________, but need to finish _______ and hope to test by such and such a date.” Just having an old study guide that you never read doesn’t earn you the right to truthfully say “I’m working on it”, and it will come out that way during the interview to the detriment of your employment prospects.

Give Yourself a Gift- Develop a Forward-Looking World View

Things in the connected world are changing fast these days, yet if you’ve worked in the same place for a number of years you likely have been isolated from many of those changes. But this doesn’t mean you have to, or should, accept that you’re out of touch with where networking is going from the 10,000 foot view. Even if your current employer hasn’t bought new hardware in 10 years and you’re still running RIP everywhere, to sound “fresh” in an interview, you have to have a conversational sense of:

  • How mobility is upending Ethernet for access medium of choice in a growing number of spaces
  • What cloud-enabled networking and services are all about, from a “Cloud 101” level, at least
  • What the promise of SDN amounts to, and how it differs from legacy networking
  • What the current wired and wireless standards and technologies are
  • How anything and everything is moving to the network, and what the Internet of Things is expected to be about
  • Contemporary network security concerns

Put another way: even if your current IT environment is technologically stagnant, you can’t allow yourself to be. You WILL be asked about things that are current but not relevant to your current job situation, and are expected to still have a clue.

Find some good journals and blogs, and at least broaden your own world view as best as you can. When you interview, you’ll at least be able to keep up with questions that are bound to be asked- and you’ll gain an education along the way.

In closing- keep it real, but remember that you can improve your own reality. Keep it about YOU, while stressing that you work well with and value others. Embellish at your own risk, and know that it WILL come back to bite you. And never stop growing and refining your bigger world view.

 

 

MythBusters WiFi: Xirrus

Great article on Xirrus- well done, Sam.

SC-WiFi

I’ll be the first to admit that when I see something ‘out of the norm’ I shudder and have a knee-jerk reaction that is not always positive. There is so much success around the tried and true enterprise approach to wireless of using omni directional antennas that when you see someone intentionally deviate from it, it can be jarring to say the least! I’ve had the pleasure to be present at the Xirrus Wireless Field Day sessions for WFD5 and WFD6 and I can honestly say that they did a superb job of taking a contentious topic and addressing it head on. For those that are unfamiliar with the Xirrus product, their unique approach to wireless is to stack multiple Access Point radios into a single housing and use highly directional antennas to create an ‘Umbrella Corporation logo’ of coverage:

Image likely copyrighted by Capcom

(it should be noted that I do not believe that…

View original post 914 more words

The #WLPC Ballad of Rock Kickass

(Sing in your head as if it were a semi-spirited Charlie Daniels’ tune cross-bread with Shawn’ Mullin’s “Rockabye”.)

He went on down to Austin to hang with the Wi-Fi stars
But took ill on the way, had to pass on the meals and the bars
By day he filled his head with wireless wonder
But at night as he shook with pain, wondered if it was a fatal blunder
And in the distance, a dark shape formed on the waterfall

He saw Trent man-handle an AirMagnet file
And was happy to see Buckey and Charlie’s big smiles
But when the talkin’ was done, the pain played it’s part
And he wondered’ bout the shape of Death’s own Smith chart
And the dark form got clearer on the waterfall

(Chorus)
Rock Kickass was out for a good Wi-Fi time, but it don’t always come true
Faced death a long way from home despite having his drivers up to date
Ain’t much could helped the man, not even 802.11u

It’s a crazy old world, despite good WLAN tools
And the Reaper don’t suffer the best of Wi-Fi fools
So even while Jussie laid down some Ekahau
Rock felt like he could go down any damn minute now
And he saw the cloak and scythe on his own waterfall

But Rock wasn’t going out easy, not in some Texas hotel
He switched to wide channels, and told Death to go to hell
He swallowed two 11ac USBs and his nostrils started to glow
It’s just a shame there was no else in the room to see the show
He breathed Heaven’s own RF as the spooky waterfall began to slow

(Repeat Chorus)

But Rock was still week, and so he cut and ran
He made an escape while Death was makin’ a new channel plan
Kickass slipped on North home, happy to have seen the stars
And at the next go round, he’ll make the meals and the bars
And Death’s waterfall faded into the Texas night

Yeah Death’s waterfall faded into the cold Texas night.

Those “Other” Wireless Tools: Access Agility, Wolf WiFi, and Rat River Technologies

In the realm of Wireless Tools, there’s a bit of a bulls-eye effect. We all have our own versions of that bulls-eye, and my own has Fluke Networks/AirMagnet, Ekahau, and Metageek in the dead center. These are the tools I use most often for various functions, and I see my own value in each of them. I’ve also bought them.

My next ring features the likes of TamoSoft and ColaSoft, These are also nice tools, but they haven’t made it to my own inner ring. I use them and appreciate them when free copies come my way, and perhaps if my own Big 3 wasn’t already payed for, I’d invest in these other tools. 

Now, at the inaugural Wireless LAN Pro Summit I find myself contemplating another ring in my bulls-eye. I have just requested my eval copies of tools from Access Agility and Rat River Technologies, and am soon to try Wolf WiFi Pro. Because I’m just getting started with these, I can’t vouch for their values to me. But what I can say is that this trio is interesting because they largely run on mobile devices- the very devices that are exploding and becoming a huge part (and frequently the most resource constrained) part of our client bases. To see the WLAN world through their eyes will certainly be interesting, and I look forward to using them.

As I give each the once over, I have to say that for me, the RF Toolbox app from Rat River jumps out as the most immediately interesting. I only have a around a dozen point-to-point bridges in my wireless world, but I also do enough with Amateur Radio and other hobby-oriented RF that I can see enjoying this utility in a number of directions.

How about you, the reader of this post? Do you use or have you tried any of this group of tools? What’s your opinion?

 

 

Can You Imagine If North Korea Had Wi-Fi Products To Market?

Ah, rhetoric. It’s all around us, from blowhard politicians (we must do this- for the children!) to WLAN product marketing (10x better!). But nobody does it better than North Korea. From the linked news report:

In 2013, the North warned the top American commander in South Korea of “miserable destruction” if the U.S. military pressed ahead…

The North said the announcement of the this year’s drills “is little short of the declaration of a total nuclear stand-off,” 

the exercises will cause the North-South ties to plunge into an “unimaginable holocaust and that disaster will follow should they go ahead with the nuclear war drills and make military provocation, defying our warning,” 

Dennis Rodman’s “friend for life” certainly has some impressive mongers in his Rhetoric Staff Pool, but I wonder what would happen if these same folks had a wireless product line to market? I mean, WLAN marketing can already be adventurous at times- add the North Korean flare to it, and there’s no telling how far it could go…

Maybe we’d get the likes of these gems:

The People’s Spectrum Avengers will drive interference writhing in pain into the RF abyss

With channels made wide by bravery and honor, our bandwidth will crush the competition to total pulp

Powerful packet streams will obliterate the aggressive savage jitter of our enemy in a Wi-Fi Holy War

Our deadly antennas are mounted on titanium masts and positioned to reign down a sea of fire on legacy clients

High-gain warrior arrays can reach any competitors’ controllers with precision flaming arrows of BYOD

Our sentinels routinely mitigate the enemy’s airborne packetizers on divine planes of battle with merciless offensives

We sternly warn interfering clients from the nest of evil to cease their crafty ploy or face certain defeat by our secret spectrum of nuclear modulation tool

We use 40 MHz in 2.4 GHz as fiery shield of strategy. To challenge is a suicidal daydream

Internet of Things is despicable trickster thrice-cursed of trickery, and our new HTML 5 dashboard can tame it to prevent overthrow of the state

OK, so maybe these are a little raw. But man, if North Korea ever gets a tech industry, I might switch to marketing. You could really get a lot of aggression out during the course of the work day.