Category Archives: Wireless Networking

Enough Already on the Licensing Overkill

Licensing

The product or service that you’d like to use requires mandatory Astute Licensing. If you’re not sure what Astute Licensing is or need more information, please purchase a mandatory Explanation License prior to having it spelled out for you in all of its bewildering detail. This provides ease of use for Gratuitous Complexity and Cost (GCC) license management, consumption, and tracking. It includes vastly simplified perpetual (as defined and redefined by us as we see fit) profiteering network licenses (both Hostage and Extortion) and term-based software subscription licenses (Exploitation Essentials, Hubris, and Ransom). The Exploitation software subscription licenses, in addition to native capabilities, also unlock additional haughtiness in Exploitation Center, enabling revenue extraction synergies that ensure our confidence in draining wealth for services that you may or may not use or want. In the spirit of innovation, we require you to ongoingly pay for a nebulous bean pot full of marketspeak, which shows our commitment to taking a bigger slice of your IT budget.

In order to connect anything to any other thing, Exploitation software subscription licenses are required for each 90-degree angle found both on and inside of individual product packaging. Anyone (defined as any noun) working on, using, reading about, or physically located within a stone’s throw (as defined by our Chief Exploitation Officer) of the product or service that you’d like to use must have an Exploitation license. Subscription licenses are purchased when a customer so much as accidentally finds our click-bait when looking at the online news. In most cases, this is not only a mandatory attach, but you are privileged to be part of our licensing empire and are expected to tip your License Concierge.

The product or service that you’d like to use supports several operational permutations. The specifics of each are irrelevant as you’ll be paying for all of them under our Exploitation framework. Under the terms of Gratuitous Complexity and Cost, eventually each customer will advance to the Stockholm Syndrome tier where all of this not only makes sense, but you will sadly embrace it. Upon expiration of the Exploitation software subscription license, we will redefine “perpetual” and come up with new strategies to market solutions in search of problems that customers will pay for because we leave little practical choice, but not need or want.

Note that it is not required to deploy Exploitation Center (EC), but licenses for EC are still mandatory under our “Only Buy What You Don’t Need or Use And What You Actually Do” strategy.

Managing licenses with Gratuitous Cost and Complexity Accounts

Creating Astute Accounts by using the Astute Manager enables us to be all up in your business in exciting new ways. It’s like having a virtual license Nazi in-house who radios his superiors about your license usage 24/7 on his own little clandestine shortwave radio while pretending to maybe be your mechanic or drinking buddy. Astute Manager requires it’s own licensing framework, which can’t be shared without purchase of Explanation License.

Welcome to the new reality.

Respect Your Physical Layer

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I have a confession to make. I freakin’ love the physical layer of networking. I learned it well over 20 years ago, and I learned it from the best (thankfully I still work with those gents, though a couple of us have changed roles). The tools are elegant, the test equipment is fascinating, and you have to be daft to not appreciate the importance of a high-performing network foundation. I see each UTP and fiber run as it’s own network component, and I have the utmost respect for the men and women who make a living getting this stuff right for the rest of us. Here in my neck of the woods, we have some challenging old buildings, and the physical layer gets a lot more difficult than lifting tiles in a drop ceiling and heaving a coil across the grid.

cable2

Get your cabling right, lest it bite you in the afterior.

I don’t run a lot of cable anymore, as my networking career has taken me into the engineering and architect realms in my day job. But “on the side”, I have a small company and the occasional need to revisit my physical layer skills.

 

Murphy’s Law

Last week at a customer site, I ran some new UTP. We got an ISP upgrade from coax service to fiber and despite explicit instructions, good old Spectrum dropped the new fiber service in the wrong room. Thankfully there was pathway between the wrong room and our network area upstairs, but the seemingly simple task  of connecting the two would prove to be challenging for a number of reasons.

I formulated a plan to run the cable and cut over the network to the new ISP connection on a weeknight evening. The business closed at 8 PM, and I figured I’d run the cable at 7 PM and be cutover and out of there by 8:30… easy-peasy lemon squeezy. Ah, silly me. The first of a handful of issues hit when I was gathering my tools. It would seem that my vintage 200′ fish tape had decided it was tired of my abuse on rural plumbing projects and being put away wet as it was broken in ways I’ve never seen from a fish tape, just sitting there on the shelf. Hmmm- I also have a 50-footer, a cheap plastic thing. It’s a short run! This should work. You know where this is going, but stay with me.

It turns out the 3/4″ plastic pathway I had to work with was, well, let’s just say shit. It must have had 42 bends in it, and after getting maybe 20′ of my Plan B fish tape in the Pipe From Hell, I’m pretty sure they both would have broke if I pushed any further. Fine, whatever. I’m resourceful. I found another unused cable that was in a parallel pathway that was extremely hard to see given the odd layout of the room. Sweet! It turned out I had already terminated the other end years ago, when the building was new and the electrician roughed in the UTP. This was one that I could not find back then…

Throw a jack on the end, tone it out, put it in a single-gang box connect it all up and off we go, right? Yeah, if only… I mentioned getting into this at 7 PM- I had gotten up at 5:30 AM that day and was tired. Things were already not going according to plan, so now I’m scrambling to hurry. My good tester got left at home, so I went the lazy route and checked the new cable with my venerable Siemens STM-8. It’s a wonderful tool for wire-mapping, toning copper runs out, etc- but it’s hardly qualified to properly test a cable’s capabilities. But it’s what I had on hand. The cable “tested” good (wink wink) and it was time to take on the ISP thing. The fiber service was changed to copper in a funky little transceiver box, and I connected my laptop to it in test, via the new cable I just assembled (it was 61′, BTW- my cheap fish wouldn’t have got me there anyways).

The new ISP worked great on my laptop. Then failed miserably on the actual network equipment- a Meraki MX84.

What Gives? The Physical Layer Can Screw With Your Mind

It’s now after 9 PM. I rechecked the cable, end to end- it pinned out fine. I verified my laptop could use the new service. I verified the networking gear could not. DAMMIT IT MUST BE A SPECTRUM ISSUE. Those idiots must have some sort of Advanced Security screwing up my Meraki MX connection to the cloud. Call the vendor!

Nope.

DAMMIT IT MUST BE A MERAKI ISSUE, THE STUPID SECOND WAN PORT ON THIS MX IS BAD. Call the vendor!

Nope. Ruled that out.

It’s 10:30 PM. Customer is tired. I’m tired. I leave them on the old service, we both cuss our way to our vehicles and go home. As I drift off to sleepy goodnights, my mind is on that cable. (I also assumed my laptop was negotiating some oddball speed/duplex combo that the MX84 could not do).

Next day I get to the customer site very early, before opening. I know what I have to do. For sanity’s sake, I use yet a different simple pair mapper to show that yes, I have 8 pins going end to end. Then I throw on The Big Tester. It laughs at me. It tells me that not only will this 61′ cable NOT do Gigabit, it also won’t do 100 Mbps. Oh yeah- it mentions something is wrong with the pin 3 wire. Wowsers. Bad jack? I’m desperate. Let’s re-terminate the patch-panel end and put a new jack on. But start with the field end, hoping to not have to disturb the patch-panel.

I took apart the just-installed jack, and everything LOOKED good. Crappy circuit board in the jack? Gotta be, no pins are bent. And then… I found Mr. White/Green was hanging on by the threadiest of copper threads under it’s plastic coating about half an inch from the end of the wire. Visually it was fine, and the plastic coating was undisturbed, but the copper inside had somehow broke but not so bad that it couldn’t fool the cheap testers. Cut it back a couple of inches, start over… viola!

Ten minutes later, the physical layer was good, PROPERLY TESTED, and the new ISP connection was put into service.

Common Impacts of Poor or Damaged Cabling

My outing was a little trippy, and only reaffirmed my faith in good tools and techniques. (I also questioned the wisdom of getting into this 14 hours into the day.)

Know that cabling also gets weird long after it’s installed, even when it’s installed right. Wiremold covers gets manipulated, new cables can disturb old ones, other trades can ruin life for the data folks and countless other things happen. I didn’t have to look very hard across the environments I support to find the three graphics I used for this blog- two wireless access points and a CCTV camera that ought to be running at Gig, but that are currently operating on a lesser connection because of unknown cabling issues (I know that each of these was Gig once upon a time).

cable1cable3

Respect that physical layer, ya’ll. It’s easy to take for granted, but it can also turn on you.

 

The Powerful Fourth Gate

I just read a blog by my friend Jennifer Huber, The Three Gates of Speech. There is a lot to her blog, and if you are not familiar with The Picture and resulting controversy, let me take you right to the end advice.

Jen says:

___
To sum it up: Yes, you have opinions. Opinions are not hard truths. They may be true to you because you believe them to be true. This does not mean that you have the right or duty to beat others over the head with your “truth”.
Use the Three Gates to check your words for truenecessary and kind. This world needs more kindness and less opinions wielded as bludgeons.
__
This is good guidance. I will concede that I’m all for true, generally. I freely admit that I stumble on necessary and kind at times. I know as I cross those lines that it would be better for everyone if I didn’t- yet I let my own foolish momentum carry me across a goal line that I shouldn’t be in a hurry to get to.
Lately however, I’ve discovered a fourth gate. And it’s pretty powerful.
At the risk of sounding childish, I’ll just get it out there: I write out my nasty reply, and then pause. I marvel at my wit, and the sheer awesomeness of the slam I’m about to lay down on the target of my disagreement. I smile in appreciation of my own  powers of reason and persuasion… then I hit DELETE. I do not GIVE my words to the other person. I DENY them.
This is where you’re thinking “so what? That is exactly what Jen is recommending with The Three Gates”.  Nah- there’s more going on here for me.
The Fourth Gate: after I have typed it all out, after I custom-created an awesome, scathing response specifically tailored for one person, I rob them the privilege of my words. I judge them unworthy of my time and my verbal output. I deny them ME.
You’ll get nothing and like it.
So the virtuous results of The Three Gates are achieved, but NOT for virtuous reasons. I made you something, and it was awesome. And then I destroyed it before you could see it.
One example- I have exercised The Fourth Gate on every political candidate out there lately, and you cannot imagine how truly incredible my unsent remarks and rants have been. Sailors would blush, and my mother would be ashamed. Yet I saw it all, and it felt damn good to stare at it for a little bit before committing it to the Great Recycle Bin in the Mystical Ether. Those asshats didn’t deserve my words. My words are too good for them.
I would rather destroy my words than share those words with THEM, yet I needed the words to come out. It would seem that simply typing out what I need to say sometimes is actually more important than sending it. It’s cathartic, even if it’s a little strange.
Jen is right that we can do with more civility. The Fourth Gate is my suggestion for my fellow failed souls that can’t master The Three Gates.

Of Luchadores and Wi-Fi: WLPC 2020 Thoughts

luchadorIt’s been a week since I left the Wireless LAN Professionals Conference for this year behind, and my mind has been a bit of a jumble over it. There were aspects of it that were fantastic, and other parts that gurgled up some tension in my brainpan… things I can’t quite square within myself. Let’s get some of it out there, and see where it goes.

The Event Itself

If you have never been to the Wireless LAN Professionals Conference (WLPC) and are in the business of wireless, I can only recommend that you try to get there in 2021. I have been fortunate enough to attend every single WLPC. I have presented in short and long sessions, and have instructed on Deep Dives of my own creation. I’ve frequently been in the crowd, and have been a student in different instructional sessions. I’ve seen the event evolve and mature, and hands-down it is the most bang-for-buck legit conference I have ever been to. Read more on the event itself here and start saving pennies for next year.

Some of what I particularly liked as an attendee this year beyond the always good Wi-Fi content:

  • New faces in the crowd, more presenters that had never spoken at the event in the past.
  • Content like CBRS making it’s way in- wireless does go beyond Wi-Fi. I’d like to see more of this. Point-to-point bridging needs occasional representation, says I!
  • Drew Lentz was having a blast with his Wi-Fi Stand scavenger hunt and the sponsoring of the Whiskey and Wi-Fi podcast. Both were a very nice add to the conference experience.
  • Seeing the runners, the religious, and the yoga types getting together for their own time together outside of conference hours.
  • The generosity of folks with the giving of hats, stickers, booze, or hugs to old and new friends.
  • I am soooo glad this event is anywhere but Vegas.

My Fellow Man- The Good

I have been around. As a blogger/writer/community member/frequent Tech Field Day delegate/WLPC goer/man of the world, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people through the years. For me, events like WLPC are almost like a family re-union of sorts. Having dinner in The Hall of Great Luchadores with wonderful company is the kind of time spent that is long remembered, and that brings a smile every time the mind wanders to it. Conversations by the food trucks, a passing fist-bump on the way to coffee break, hanging with the elusive Bender for a bit… all great stuff. There’s so much that is good and warm and positive and fun at this event I really can’t put it all into words. I’ll end this section by saying I am thankful that there are other men and women out there that are not ashamed that they are still little kids on the inside… we all tend to find each other and can talk lofty technical and life topics like polished professionals, and then suddenly fall into the most silly of banters without skipping a beat. That’s priceless.

My Fellow Man- The Sadder Part

People are the worst part of… well, people. We drive each other nuts. We do stupid stuff. We say stupid stuff. We can’t yield a point to end a contentious interaction. We hold grudges. We hurt others and then can’t believe that someone would have the gall to hurt us. We fall in and out of favor with certain groups of people for various reasons. When we’re “in”, it’s awesome. When we’re “out” it sucks. We don’t know how to simply move on. WLPC is people, and people are freakin’ messy. As a long-timer, sometimes the community dramas feel like my beloved extended family members squabbling (although I know that to those involved, each contentious issue has substance- I don’t mean to minimize anything here).  All I can say is that none of us is getting any younger. Give each other and yourselves a break. It doesn’t really matter who is right and wrong. One of the the greatest gifts we can give each other (and ourselves) is a second chance. <End of preaching.>

cactus

The Wi-Fi Awards- Some Opinions

Conceptually, I like what the program is trying to achieve. At the same time, a few things about the Wi-Fi Awards have been bugging me. Here’s one man’s take.

The categories and finalists for 2020, the inaugural year for the awards, is here. You’ll note that I was nominated (not by me, mind you) for Content Contribution, along with some fantastic gents. But beyond this blog, I write professionally for IT Toolbox, Search Networking, Network Computing, and whoever else wants to pay me for work. I think that this category should be narrowed down to those who are not getting paid for their content, or at least not getting paid by outside companies (is OK to pay yourself kinda thing). I’m a Cisco Champion, and I don’t do the associated blog contest there either because I’m a professional writer. In short- this category needs to refine itself, or split into amateur/professional, or something.

In both Innovation and Product categories, I’d like to see tools have their own category and to not compete against infrastructure products. It just feels weird.

Also, it feels really strange that small self-made companies like MetaGeek and Tech Field Day are up against behemoths like Cisco and Aruba. From a vote-getting perspective, The Bigs have bigger fan (and employee) bases and are naturally going to squeeze out the little guys on votes- at least in my mind that’s how it works. Maybe somehow recognize small innovation companies versus large?

I don’t see eduroam as a “product” in any way, shape, or form- that one threw me. Also, many of the products/things being recognized were not new in 2019- should that be a criteria? Not just a cool product, but a cool product that came out in the previous year?

Not throwing dirt- this program is a very nice add to a great community and industry. I just wonder if the criteria needs scrutiny.  I’d be curious if anyone agrees or disagrees with my perspectives.

Whew. I did it. I feel better now. Hope to see you all in Phoenix next year.

Ryan's Jeep

 

 

 

It’s Time for YOU to Get Wise About CBRS

CBRS search

It stands for Citizens Broadband Radio Service, and has nothing to do with CB radio despite the similarities in the acronym. It’s time for my fellow Wi-Fi types to start paying attention to CBRS for real, and I’ll explain why in a bit.

A Quick Look Back to 2105

The CBRS thing been simmering for at least a half-dozen years. Let me quickly take you back to 2015, where I sat in on a related session at Wireless Network Field Day 8, by Dave Wright. Back then, Dave worked for Ruckus Wireless, now he’s the Director of Regulatory Affairs & Network Standards at CommScope, and President of the CBRS Alliance. Dave’s a fantastic gent, if you ever get the chance to talk with him. But even though that 2015 presentation could not have been delivered by anyone better, it still felt kinda faraway and foreign to the ears of a room full of Wi-Fi folks.

Almost There- 2019

But 2015 gave way to the future, and Dave’s vision very much would come to fruition. Sticking with Field Day, I was fortunate enough to go to Mobility Field Day 4 in 2019. This time the presenting vendor on the topic was startup Celona (new company, but staffed with some deep wireless experience and familiar names to us in the WLAN industry). At the time Celona presented, CBRS had long since advanced from being a twinkle in the eye of folks like Dave Wright, but still wasn’t quite ready for market as a production option for Private LTE and other applications. (What other applications? There’s a good paragraph on that in this Network World article.)

Early 2020- The FCC Opens the Floodgates for CBRS

Just a few weeks ago (it’s mid-February as I write this), the FCC delivered the news that everyone with a stake in CBRS, Private LTE, and in-building cellular was waiting for: the 3.5 GHz spectrum was officially available for sharing for these applications. Here’s a good article on that, along with the FCC’s own reference pages on 3.5 GHz.

Now things are moving… and we get to why we as Wi-Fi folks need to start paying attention.

Our Turf is Soon to Be Trampled On

I find the marketing blather that has 5G making Wi-Fi extinct, or that has Wi-Fi 6 making cellular irrelevant, to be pretty asinine. But then again…marketers. Whatever. It’s pretty clear that several trains have left the station, and they all will impact our environments and possibly/hopefully our employment, skills, and project opportunities.

Wi-Fi 6 is a given- it’s what comes next for us WLAN doers. 5G has new relevance given that a small cell will need to bolted up to every street light, cactus, bus stop and homeless person to get the coverage and performance that the mobile industry is promising out of Millimeter-wave 5G systems. Bringing 5G (or even 4G) inside of modern RF-unfriendly buildings gets us back to discussions of CBRS and private LTE. And so does the notion of industrial settings where maybe LTE-style wireless makes more sense than Wi-Fi for wireless connectivity, for a number of reasons.

We need to not only understand the changing wireless landscape, but also to embrace it and try to stake our claims in it.

Get Educated

There are no shortage of general-information articles out there for CBRS, private-LTE, etc. here’s a great one from Corning (I just spoke with them on this topic, but that will be it’s own blog). And there is certainly a lot of marketing floofypoo to be stepped around.

But if you want more formalized learning, check out this offering from CommScope. I have not taken it yet, but have heard good things from esteemed colleagues who have. Coursera also has a CBRS offering, and I have every reason to believe that CBRS will eventually manifest itself through CWNP’s excellent training materials in some form or fashion.

So… why care about CBRS? It’s here, for real, for starters. It’s being deployed. Someone needs to design it’s coverage, and tools like iBwave are already being used by many of us to do Wi-Fi. Why not get a piece of the new pie? If we don’t, someone else will. People are gonna luuuuuuv their Wi-Fi 6, yet are still going to demand rock-sold in-building cellular after spending fat coin on those $1K+ mobile devices and as more devices become “wireless” in every possible definition of the word.

This is the new world, my friends. Digital transformation, blah blah blah. There’s no escaping it.

Confessions of a Test Wilot

Never has it been more exciting to be a test wilot. No- I didn’t say pilot, I said wilot dagnab itUs test wilots say what we mean and we mean what we say. What’s that? What’s a test wilot? I suppose that’s a fair question for you civilians, and I’ll try to keep it simple: a test wilot flies cutting-edge wireless networking systems, and the “wi” comes from Wi-Fi. Unlike test PILOTS, we generally don’t get hazard pay and our patches are usually a hell of a lot nerdier.

But that’s not the point. The point here is that times are high for us test wilots. Business has never been better, and the stakes have never been higher. Before we get into that, let me introduce myself… I’m Conrad Coolbreeze, and what I’m about to tell you can’t leave this room. I’m only sharing it with you because I’m into my sixth gin & tonic… I had a pretty rough day doing test wilot stuff.

Where to start? Well, first of all, let me share THIS GUY with you. What the hell is he thinking? If he had his way, us test wilots would have normal, boring lives of simply keeping expensive wireless network systems running…

stable phil

Network Phil can just just the hell up! Don’t be ruining my good thing… Let me tell you about the general state of wireless networking- like about what really has me all fired up.

One market-leading vendor just issued a big-ass recall of a whole bunch of access points that got botched in manufacturing. This same vendor has a track record of glorious instability in their wireless products that keep me flying high, I tellya. Then another vendor can’t get their 802.11ax-related code straight, and if you follow one big discussion forum, a lot of people are frustrated. Screw that, I hope they keep pumping out crap that isn’t fully baked. The examples are many, and if you blink you might miss the next one.

The bonus in all of this is that none of these systems are getting any cheaper. And the complicated licensing required to run these Houses of Cards just adds insult to injury. It’s fantastic! Check this out… a while back this Gonzo-writing dude dared to ask the question Will Reliability Be Prioritized Before Wi-Fi’s Whizzbang Future Gets Here?  Well thankfully reliability WASN’T prioritized… it’s the same old shitshow it’s always been, and my intent is that it never get better. Because I’m a test wilot. I fly craptastic, unpolished, systems that have been rushed out the door in the name of one-upping the competition, I tellya. (Chest thump)

But it gets better, Even the smaller players are trying to compete with the big guns. There’s this other vendor with a feature called “auto optimization”… from what I can tell, 2/3 of their users have no clue what it does, and the general first step in any sort of troubleshooting is to disable it. That’s the stuff! Glad to see even the down-market systems getting in on the instability and confusion. Don’t even get me started on how dicked up client devices can be… that’s just the icing on the cake.

What? What about the standards? Ah, you sweet naive kid… Not only are wireless standards a Book of Lies and Missed Opportunities, we can’t even agree on what constitutes the bleeding edge.

Things are looking good for us test wilots… and now that I’m a little more in the bag, I gotta secret to tell you. But again, it can’t leave this room…

As dicked up as the general WLAN climate is, we’re ALL test wilots whether we realize it or not… vendors don’t HAVE to fully bake their stuff, because the marketing departments convince us all we need what ain’t quite ready… we’ve been beaten into submission. We expect the suck, and mark my words, the suck will continue. Except now you’ll need Python to fully experience the suck. After you buy all eight suck licenses needed to enable the suck.

I got more to tell, but I think I gotta go outside and yak first.

 

Hey Everyone- Matt McDarby Is Now Head of Sales!

Let’s give it up for Matt McDarby… (round of applause!)

Wait- you don’t KNOW Matt McDarby? Have you been living under a rock? He’s Matt Freakin’ McDarby, you idiots. He’s only the goddam Head of Sales for Fidelus.

OK… what’s Fidelus? Yeah… I don’t know either. But I do know that they GO THE EXTRA MILE because this email tells me so:

extra mile

They went the EXTRA MILE to put spam in my inbox… I have no previous relationship or contact with the Fidelus company, but GOING THE EXTRA MILE must mean sending out shitloads of unwanted email when someone like Matt Freakin’ McDarby becomes Head of Sales. Thanks for keeping me in the loop, Fidelus. Thanks for GOING THE EXTRA MILE.

I’m guessing that Matt himself is unaware that the company that he is Head of Sales for happens to be sending out spam email in his name. He looks like a nice fellow, and he wrote a book.

Matt McDarby

Cheers, Matt- congrats on the new gig.

But for all you HR/Marketers/Social Media types out there, I hate to break two truths to you…but:

  • The rest of the working world has absolute zero interest in who is your Head of Sales, or any other exec. Sorry…
  • Spraying us with Ego-Stroking spam may or may not endear you to Matt McDarby, but it just pisses us off. You really aren’t going THE EXTRA MILE. These actions make you no better than spam callers trying to extend the warranty on my vehicle.

Yes,  I can UPDATE MY SUBSCRIPTION-

fidelus

Except I never subscribed to begin with. Piss off, Fidelus Spam Team.

And good luck to you. Matt McDarby.