Category Archives: WLPC

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

 

 

 

Code, Heal Thyself: Mist Systems Brings Something Badly Needed to WLAN Market

If you do any profession long enough, you’ll experience all sorts off good and bad along the way. For me, “good” has been the honor of providing reliable Wi-Fi to hundreds of thousands of client devices through the years, and “bad” has been fending off downtime and damage to organizational reputation when code bugs hit. Why focus on code bugs? To me, they are the one huge factor in WLAN system operation that we as wireless professionals can’t control. We can get everything else right from RF environmental design to RADIUS server capacity to onboarding clients, but we can’t defend against what evil lurks in the lines of code that runs the system hardware. Nor should we have to- that’s where we expect vendors to hold up their end of the deal on hardware and software that ain’t getting any cheaper.

Oh, how I have bitched and whined and complained about code bugs through the years. There was “The Horrible Bags We Hold For WLAN Vendors“. And “Code Suck Regulation: Should We Sue Vendors For Major Code Bugs?” I got a bunch of them… and it’s not just me. One of my favorite people, Jake Snyder, laid down a really good video lament on the topic. No one can forget my own video from the Wireless LAN Professional Conference in 2017 where I detailed real-world impact of code bugs. It’s a real thing, ya’ll.

I titled one post on the topic “Will Reliability Be Prioritized Before Wi-Fi’s Whiz-bang Future Gets Here?” (a house built on suck cannot stand).  This one jumped to mind yesterday as I sat in a Juniper Networks conference room in San Jose and heard Mist Systems talk about reliability. What I heard was refreshing.

Mist CTO Bob Friday and his crew presenting at Mobility Field Day 4 detailed how the company’s AI does all kinds of things- but among the most important is finding it’s own system anomalies. The gravity of the point is fairly significant, as one vendor after another wants to put a dashboard in front of you that calls out anything and everything as a wireless problem for you to chase after, but none that I know of will raise their hand and admit “OK- I’m actually the problem here… me, the system. I screwed up… I’ll fix me so we can all move on. Beg your pardon…” But now Mist is promising that, and it’s huge.

CTO Friday not only called out this capability, but was kind enough to give me a shout out for my years of crying like a school girl about code bugs, which was thoughtful.

IMG_3558.jpg

Well done, Mist Systems! There was a hell of a lot more to the presentation- and in the couple of hours I listened, I was impressed that Mist has managed to boil the hype off the concept of AI and actually did a decent job of explaining real-world, practical applications and benefits. There are several videos from the session, and they are worth watching.

More about Mobility Field Day 4 here.

 

Move Wi-Fi Explorer From Old Mac to New

The Mac laptop that hosts my excellent Wi-Fi Explorer Pro application has seen better days. It’s time to put this awesome WLAN support tool from Adrian Granados on a newer Mac, but I was a bit stymied when I first tried to figure out how. I envisioned some sort of license key transfer, but just wasn’t seeing it… I queried my best WLAN community homies, and dropped a line to Adrian himself. Before a meaningful response came back, I figured it out, and so thought I’d share.

It’s easy-peasy, once you see it.

1. De-Activate Wi-Fi Explorer Pro on Old Machine, under “Help”

Deactivate WFE

2. Download, install trial version of Wi-Fi Explorer Pro on new machine

3. Fire up the program, find these options:

Activate WFE

4. Dig out your license file- search on “Paddle license” in your email:

WFE License

5. Enter the license key and activate the program. 

Like I said… easy.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE DISCOUNTS ADRIAN GRANADOS HAS OFFERED FOR NEW PURCHASES OF WiFi Explorer PRODUCTS!

  • Educational customers get 50% off. Details are here.
  • Everyone who attended WLPC Conference in February ’19 was given a card for a 30% discount on WiFi Explorer Pro. You need the code from the card, and the discount is available until 3/31/19.

Now you now.

Contemplating APIs and the WLAN State of Things

Having just attended the 2019 Wireless LAN Professionals Conference (WLPC), I got a few days full of really interesting perspective from other WLAN doers. I saw and heard predictions, hopes, and fears for what comes next as we roll toward 802.11ax, the coming of 6 GHz spectrum to Wi-Fi, and more widespread use of WPA3. There was a lot of good chatter, because there simply is no conference like WLPC (I recommend it to anyone who is in WLAN practice/management, or over those who who are).

One thing I heard A LOT about was APIs. And using Python to get more out of our WLAN hardware and management systems. And… how “you should all learn to do coding!” I have no issues with any of these, but I also tend to be a 10,000 foot thinker and so couldn’t help but ponder the real-world implications of all that when it comes to how wireless systems are actually run day-to-day. I also found that I wasn’t alone in my contemplation in talking with others at the event.

Let me get right to my points- I have great appreciation for the flexibility and capabilities that using APIs can bring to a WLAN system. But… that is balanced by a number of concerns:

  • If a vendor has historically put out crappy code that is developer-driven versus engineer-driven, how do we trust the developers to get it right when it comes to what data awaits engineers at the end of the APIs?
  • I fear that “and we have an API!” can become a cop-out for NOT putting out a complete enough NMS system for the high costs that you’ll still pay for these NMS systems. As in… “oh THAT feature is leveraged by the API”, and not in the expensive management GUI that maybe now is missing common-sense basic functionality.
  • In some ways APIs-to-the-rescue is a huge step forward, in other ways it’s an admission that vendors sometimes can’t build an NMS that doesn’t suck (because if they could, maybe we wouldn’t need APIs?) Maybe…
  • Not all WLAN staff teams will want to be in the programming business. Time will tell if they will be able to work effectively as they avoid the API and try to stick with the NMS and non-API tools.

None of this is necessarily my own strict opinion as I digest everything I’ve seen and heard at this year’s WLPC, but I heard enough from other people to know that the community is not in lockstep embrace of “API all the things”. Some teams are just stretched thin already, and pay a good buck for vendor tools so they don’t have to become programmers to keep their WLANs on the rails. Then there’s the always-relevant “evolve or watch your career die” school of thought that can’t be ignored either.

Fascinating times. Much change is in the air.

Now onto one of the most interesting things of all that I heard at WLPC: more on Open Config. Mike Albano from the Enterprise side at Google planted some fascinating seeds back in 2017 with a presentation he did at that year’s conference:

Introduction to OpenConfig; What Is It, What Does It Mean To Wi-Fi | Mike Albano | WLPC 2017 Phoenix from Wireless LAN Professionals on Vimeo.

Mike was on the stage again this year doing a little follow up on progress made with Open Config. He also participated in a Whiskey and Wireless Podcast with a couple of nicely-hatted lunatics and shared even more with an eager audience. I suggest you keep an eye out for both his recorded WLPC presentation and the podcast to come live (I’ll add the links here as well), because Open Config is the API concept on steroids. As mentioned in the 2017 video, but expanded on this year, Open Config seeks to make the software side of many vendors’ wireless offerings largely irrelevant. You gotta hear it.

Given that we’re in an era where WLAN vendors have declared themselves “software companies” who happen to put out some pretty crappy software and then charge through the nose for it, Open Config is interesting for reasons far beyond it’s API-ness.

Like I said, these are fascinating times.