CCIE Pursuit Blog

July 31, 2008

Internetwork Expert: $1,995 Mock Lab Workshop and Goodbye LockLizard

Scott Morris will be teaching some of the upcoming Mock Lab Workshops.  Not only that, but IE is knocking $1,500 off the cost:

Join Scott Morris for an upcoming CCIE Routing and Switching Mock Lab Workshop. Workshops are currently scheduled in central locations such as San Jose CA, Dallas TX, and RTP, NC. Each CCIE Mock Lab Workshop offers the student the chance to be led through Internetwork Expert’s exclusive Mock Labs with personalized feedback from a world renowned instructor.

Dates and locations:

September 22 – 26 – Dallas, TX
October 6 – 10 – San Jose, CA
October 27 – 31 – San Jose, CA
November 17 – 21 – RTP, NC
December 8 – 12 – Dallas, TX

This is the class that I attended in June and I really loved it.  At $3,500 I think that it was probably too expensive for self-financed candidates (my employer reimbursed my costs) but I definitely recommend the class.  The $1,995 price point is a great move.  This makes it one of the lowest cost live training classes and brings it into competition with Narbik’s boot camp.  Hell, for only $500 more than I paid for the workshop, you could do both.  :-)

I would suggest that if you are planning on attending the Mock Lab Workshop to attend it at least 28 days out from your lab (28 days from the end of the workshop).  The workshop will give you a good feel for how prepared you are for the lab.  If you’re not quite ready, then you can easily change your lab date.  If you get the thumbs up from Scott, then you can just as easily move your lab date up quickly as there are generally a number of slots open within 28 days of booking.

If you’ve completed any of the IE Graded Mock Labs, then I would check with IE before booking the class to see which ones (if any – they may have new labs now) of these labs that they will be using for the workshop.  I don’t know how long they will continue with the $1,995 price, so you may want to talk to IE about their reseat policy.  In my class there were a couple of guys who attended but did not do the labs because they were still early in their studies.  They planned to reseat the class at a later time.  That might be an option if you want to lock in the lower price.

In other IE related news, IE has decided to nix LockLizard.  LockLizard is PDF security software.  IE started using it with the beta releases of the new Volume I v5 workbook.  In order to open a PDF you needed to have LockLizard installed on your machine (Windows only – no Linux/Mac) and have a license from the publisher.  I used it briefly with the betas and it did make reading the PDFs a little sluggish.  I think that there were issues with needing to renew the license every couple of weeks and printing/number of computers used as well.  LockLizard was implemented to reduce piracy, but the end user experience was bad enough that IE is yanking it:

After reviewing the customer issues with our secure PDF application LockLizard we have decided to switch back to standard PDFs.   You will find in the next coming days that the existing products secured using LockLizard available through your members’ site account in standard PDF format.

The idea behind us using LockLizard was to cut down on the amount of piracy our support team has to deal with on a daily basis.  BUT if our measures to fight piracy cause our paying customer’s headaches then it’s not a good solution.

We have implemented a few new solutions to deal with piracy and one of them uses steganography to ensure that each user’s PDF is unique in addition to the standard watermarks (email address, IP address, etc).  This means that even if a user removes the watermark and reprints or converts the PDF into a new PDF it will still be identifiable by our support team as to who’s account it came from.  We had to add some bigger servers for this since the PDFs are generated on the fly.  We additionally had a crawler written that goes out and looks for pirated material and then automatically gets the files removed.

Lastly anyone want to buy a $10,000+ secure PDF application. ;-)

Brian McGahan discussed this a bit further in the comments section:

From the beginning Brian and I have always struggled with the tradeoff between convenience to the user and protection of our intellectual property. When downloading free software or training or whatever from the Internet it’s easy to just write it off as being from some huge nameless corporation, and let’s be honest, none of it is that hard to find if you look for it. What is also easy to forget though is the amount of time and effort it took the author to produce it. Brian and I have invested literally thousands and thousands of hours of our own lives into developing these products, maintaining them, supporting them, and ensuring that they are the highest quality out there, so sometimes we do take it personally when we see them floating around.

Unfortunately for everybody any type of DRM is always a constant struggle between the numbers of legitimate customers who should be able to access their material that they purchased at their leisure in the most convenient fashion, and those out there that have to ruin it for the rest of us.

Hopefully this new steganographic solution will work out better, because from what we’re seeing of it now it’s very unobtrusive to the user, while nearly impossible to defeat. Unless of course you have memorized the exact output that every single “show” command in IOS is supposed to return

July 22, 2008

Internetwork Expert Mock Lab Workshop Review – Part II

Note: This is part 2 (actually part 3) of my long, rambling review of the Internetwork Expert Mock Lab Workshop in Reno.  See here and here for the other posts.

I ventured down to the training room around 7:30 am and found a handful of people seated there.  I asked if this was the Mock Lab Workshop and was told that it was.  It turns out that Internetwork Expert was running a 12-day boot camp which is a the 5-day boot camp plus weekend sessions plus the Mock Lab Workshop.  That explained the “Routing and Switching Boot Camp” sign in the hall.

I got settled in and tested the wireless connection.  I had installed Ubuntu on my laptop during a layover on my outbound flight (my XP CD was too scratched to work) and had not been able to verify the wireless.  I’m happy to say that the Hardy Heron worked fine sans wires.  It’s a good thing too, because my backup laptop had an old B radio card in it.  I don’t think that anyone would appreciate me dropping the connection to 11Mbps.  :-)

The room was catered with fruit, juice, coffee, and pastries each morning.  After lunch the breakfast items were removed and a selection of sodas were made available.  For those who need their energy drink fix, there is a gift shop on the main floor of the hotel which stocks Red Bull and Rockstar (yuck).

Soon enough Brian Dennis and Petr Lapukhov joined us and the class was underway.  One of my classmates pointed them out and said “There’s Brian Dennis.”  I had heard his voice (over and over again) on the IECODs so it was interesting to put a face to that voice.  I was very surprised at how young he was.  Then I figured out that I was looking at Petr and not Brian.  :-)

There were about 20 people in the class.  All but a handful of them (like myself) had been there for the previous seven days.  As I stated earlier, we had a virtual United Nations going in the class.  There were students from many different countries.  We did brief introductions (name, experience, and lab date).  Most of the students had scheduled the lab within the next 1.5 months with about 5 of them going within a week.

The format of the workshop is lecture in the morning (starting around 8 am and ending around 11 am) followed by a mock lab each day except for Friday.  Monday’s lecture was about the class structure and (mostly) about lab strategies.  If you’ve completed the IECOD or viewed the free COD on lab strategies, then you will have already seen a lot of what was presented.  To my surprise there was a lot of new (to me) information presented.  Here are a few of the things mentioned (these may or may not be verbatim):

What you can take into the lab is generally up to the proctor’s dicretion.  Officially you cannot bring in anything.

The lab is in a binder with about 15 – 20 pages with plastic covers on each page.  You can pull the pages out of the binder.  Do that.  Put them back at the end of the day.  Do NOT take the pages out of the plastic cover.

The old version of the lab was on red paper with black ink (difficult to copy).

Most redistribution will take 30 minutes.  Do a workaround and come back to it.

The Brussels lab location is incorrect on Google maps.  Don’t stay at the Cisco recommended hotel in Brussels as you cannot walk to the lab center and driving there is difficult.

Make sure to put a slash on the end of univercd (/) or the web filter will filter.

The telnet client is SecureCRT running version 4 (or something close to it).  No menus.  No tabs.  You can change the colors.  You can change the keyboard mapping.  Brian mapped the ~ key to perform copy and paste.  Set your scrollback buffer to max (9999 lines).  You can use access server or open a unique window to each device.  IE recommends to practice labs with the lab restrictions for the last two weeks so you are used to them when you get to the real lab.

Draw your own diagram.  IE says that you will get a routing protocol diagram in the lab.

The goal is to try to finish 2 hours early and then use the remaining 2 hours for verification.

There is quite a bit of grading by script in the Routing and Switching lab.

BGP is usually mentioned at the end of the discussions by Cisco, so it’s likely at the end of the test.

You don’t need to build scripts if you are running short on time.  Just ping some sample routes.

When you’re done with “full reachability” you should have around 40 points.

Save your configurations after each task.

You want to score 95% of the Frame Relay, IGP, and Ethernet sections in order to pass the lab.

As I mentioned earlier, you will receive $40 worth of meal vouchers for each day of your training.  These vouchers are good anything (booze included) at a number of restaurants in the resort.  There is a buffet, bistro, sport bar, hamburger joint, sandwich shop, and others in the resort. IE also had a Starbucks gift card available for anyone to use to get free coffee at Starbucks (also in the hotel).  You’re not going to go hungry.  :-)  Do keep in mind that the vouchers do not include gratuity, so bring some cash to tip the waitstaff.

After lunch, we started the first mock lab.  I had done this lab months ago and scored an 89 on it.  It was a difficulty level 6 lab and did not have a lot of interlocking questions – or so I thought.  I was given the opportunity to substitute a different lab for this one since I had already taken it.  I decided to do the lab because of the breakdown lecture and because I was coming into the workshop with very little time on the CLI in the prior month.  My moral was at a low point and I needed an “easy victory” to get my spirits up again.

One thing that I’ve learned that surprises me is that I am not memorizing labs.  My experience with practice exams is that I quickly memorize the question (and answer) so repeated attempts really don’t do me much good because I tend to remember the answer.  This has NOT been the case with practice labs.  I was initially worried that repeating labs would be fruitless because I would remember the answers.  Not so.  Maybe it’s due to the length of the labs or the fact that when I do repeat a lab it’s usually been weeks or months since my previous attempt.  I did Mock Lab 1 back in March and have not looked at it since.  Keen readers will sense that I’m setting the scene for a poor showing on this lab.  :-)

For the first time, I followed the advice of completing the core task first and then going back to complete the non-core tasks later.  This worked out really well.  Brian stated in his lecture that there are certain people who have a hard time skipping tasks.  I am in that camp.  I can skip (most of the time) non-core tasks that I have no clue how to solve, BUT if I think that I know the answer then I will wrestle that sucker until I complete it.  This has thrown me off on a couple of timed labs.  I eventually finish the task, but lose so much time and momentum that I screw myself over on the rest of the lab.  By sticking to core tasks only, I was able to get full reachability in around 3 hours.  Of course I would lose that advantage later when I spent about an hour trying to mine the documentation for a 3 point task instead of verifying my configuration.  :-(

I finished all of the tasks that I knew how to do with about 1.5 hours left.  My false sense of confidence – “this is an easy lab and I’ve seen it once before” – plus my mental exhaustion lead me to skip the verification stage and try to mine points on the tasks that I was unsure on.  I’m still hitting the wall about 6 hours into a lab.  At that point I had zero fucking interest in going through each task line by line.  I do verification after I complete each task so I should be golden right?  I think we all know the answer to that question.

The start times of the labs were slightly staggered so once you were done with your lab most people went back to their rooms or went to dinner.  Most would reconvene in the conference room later to take advantage of the rack rentals or just the free wifi.  The labs were all graded by the start of the next morning’s session.  Brian mentioned that the labs are hand-graded by a CCIE in India.  That guy really earned his pay during the week.  He had to grade up to 20 (there were a couple of students who did not do the mock labs) mock labs a night.  Many times my grade report was done by the time I got back from dinner.

I was unable to download a (free) telnet client that worked with Ubuntu.  I DID get Putty installed and working, but could not figure out how to cut and paste.  I eventually just used the terminal program in Ubuntu.  While using this lead to bouts of anger because of the difference in the copy and paste function (I use Tera Term in “real life”) it was good practice as it made me adjust to a different environment.

One other surprising thing: I was not affected by the noise around me.  I had brought ear plugs just in case, but I was able to focus on my lab and not get thrown off by the surrounding noise.  I will still bring ear plugs to the lab (VoIP phones ringing will most like throw me off) and it should be noted that there was not a lot of noise in the workshop outside of the occasional groan and the constant clicking of keys.

Anyhoo…I’ve droned on long enough.  I’ll try to get this review completed by the end of this week.  If you’ve been reading these reviews so far, you know that it’s pretty unlikely that I will be able to hold to that schedule.  :-)

July 12, 2008

Internetwork Expert: New Forum/Internet Community Launched

Internetwork Expert recently brought up their new forum/Internet community site:

In order to provide the best possible service to our customers, and to the CCIE community as a whole, we have implemented a new combination web forum / mailing list server as a free service. Internetwork Expert’s Online Community officially replaces our previous Discussion Forum as a place where you can discuss both general CCIE topics for all tracks as well as Internetwork Expert specific products.

—Read The Rest Here—

It looks pretty and shiny.  I like the ability to subscribe to forums. 

I did have a moment of dread when I went to IE’s site and saw that the ‘Forum’ link was gone from the top of their page.  Noooooo!!!!!  There’s a ton of really good information in that forum!

Fear not, it’s still around (from Brian McGahan’s comments):

We’re looking into the possibility of importing the old content into the new server. However this may or may not be relevant as there are major updates coming to the R&S, Security, and Service Provider self-paced products. In either case forum.internetworkexpert.com will remain up indefinitely in order for users to search its archives.

You can hit it at forum.internetworkexpert.com or go to the ‘Resources’ link on IE’s site and hit it from that page.

July 2, 2008

Internetwork Expert Mock Lab Workshop Review – Part II

Part II of a rambling review of IE’s Mock Lab Workshop.  Part I is here.

The first day of class we started out with a basic overview of the technologies on the Routing and Switching lab.  We didn’t dive into any of the technologies.  You are expected to have completed the IEATC class-on-demand (at least once) and to have completed the first five labs of IE Workbook II.  If you are thinking about attending this class and expecting to be taught technologies from the ground up then you’re in for an unpleasant five days.  In the case of my class, about 3/4 of the students were coming off of 7 days of boot camp so if they needed review in any technologies they most likely received in prior to the start of the Mock Lab Workshop.

Next we went through lab strategy.  It was at that point that Brian Dennis earned my $3500. :-)  I have a terrible time with route redistribution.  Many times in mock labs and just timed labs, I am flying along until I hit route redistribution.  At that point it takes me anywhere from 30 minutes to over 2 hours to get route redistribution working per the requirements of the task.  Here’s what Brian Dennis has to say about route redistribution (I’m paraphrasing here):

“Route redistribution?  Screw it.  Redistribute on the minimum number of devices in the minimum number of directions to get full reachability.”

He went on to say that most candidates take about 30 minutes for route redistribution (this made me feel a little better).  The task is generally going to be worth 3 points.  “If you were offered a lab exam where you had to score 80 out of 97 points (about 83%) BUT did not include route redistribution – OR – you were offered a lab exam where you had to score 80 out of 100 points (80%) WITH route redistribution; which would you choose?”  Of course, you’re going to pick the lab sans route redistribution.  If you’re given a redistribution task with redistribution between two protocols with multiple points of redistribution – only do the redistribution on one router.  Lose the points, but gain full reachability.  In most cases the extra time you gain from “faking the funk” on a route redistribution task will yield you additional points from mining the DOC CD or catching stupid mistakes during your review.

I’m sure that this has probably been stated somewhere else, but this single tip lifted a HUGE weight off of my shoulders.  On one of my mock labs (prior to the workshop), I spent about 1.5 hours on a redistribution task.  Even after I completed the task, I was resigned to the fact that I had failed the lab and phoned it in on the rest of the tasks.  ALWAYS have a workaround for your core tasks.  If you need to use a static route to get end-to-end reachability – do it.  You NEED to get your core working if you hope to pass the lab.

One quick note: you can always go back later and try to correct the workarounds that you put in place.  I would NOT suggest doing this with route redistribution.  You don’t want to try to go back later and get those 3 points and risk messing up your entire network in the process.  Just walk away.  :-)

Brian also mentioned that some candidates have a hard time skipping tasks.  I am definitely one of them.  I don’t have a hard time skipping something that I have no idea how to do, but if I think I know the answer I will continue to work on a task until I either pull all of my hair out or get it to work.  You need to be able to identify core tasks and complete them.  Any non-core tasks should be skipped. Even if you know how to do them. Period.  Full stop!!!  Come back to them AFTER you complete your core tasks and get full reachability.  I started to do this in my lab and it felt odd to pass up tasks (sometimes nearly half of the points in sections like switching and IGP).  But the feeling that you get once you have full reachability in under 2 hours is awesome.  At that point you have 6 hours to get the rest of your points.

After the lab strategy lecture, it was time for our first mock lab.  This is the only point in the training where I had a problem.  Prior to booking the Mock Lab Workshop I had emailed IE to ask about whether or not the mock labs in the workshop were the same mock labs that they offered online as Graded Mock Labs.

IE emailed me back and assured me that the labs were different:

The Mock Lab Exams used in the Mock Lab Workshops are unique and not available elsewhere in our study materials, so you shouldn’t have to worry about overlapping any exams. I have double-checked this info with the Brians and they did confirm this.

Based on this information I booked the workshop and also booked 4 mock labs which I completed prior to the workshop.  It turns out that the labs in the workshop are NOT unique and are – in fact – the same mock labs available online.  You will do four mock labs in the workshop (1, 5, 6, and 7).  I had already done labs 1,2,3, and 5.  So I had already done half of the labs that we were going to take in the workshop.

I talked to Brian about this and he told me that I could take any lab that I wanted (there were only 3 labs that I hadn’t taken at that point).  The only problem with this was that the lab review would be worthless to me as they would be reviewing a different lab than the one I had taken.  In the end I decided to do the same labs as the class.  I was told that I could get credits for any repeat labs.  I took this path because I had not been able to do much labbing prior to attending the workshop and wanted to “ease” into the labs.  I also wanted to benefit from the lab breakdowns.

My employer covered all of my costs for this training.  With travel, meals, and tuition, the total was about $4,500.  If I had paid for this class out of my own pocket, then I would most likely have demanded a refund.  As it turned out, it wasn’t much of an advantage (for me at least) to have completed two of the labs already (more on that later).  Just a warning to anyone who is considering booking the Mock Lab Workshop: the labs (at this point in time at least) are the SAME labs as are offered as Graded Mock labs.  You may want to reach out to IE to get a list of the labs that they plan to go use in the workshop before you book any additional Graded Mock labs.

Anyhoo…that was the only bad experience with the workshop and it turned out to be a non-issue for me.  I’ll try to get another chapter in this epic review up tomorrow.  :-)

June 27, 2008

Internetwork Expert: New Class On Demand and Revised Workbooks Coming Soon

Brian Dennis talked about this a bit during the workshop last week, but now that it’s on their blog it’s “official”.  :-) There’s a new version of the ATCOD coming in the next couple of months.  Brian promised that this version would include a button to skip the corny jokes.  This prompted a response of “So the COD will be about 15 minutes long then?”

This format is a lead-in to our new CCIE Routing & Switching Advanced Technologies Class-on-Demand Version 5.0, that will be nearly THREE FULL WEEKS OF CONTENT. While the current 4.1 content is exceptional, there are certain topics that were cut short to fit into the two week format. We envision a 100% complete release of Volume I Version 5.0 and the CoD Version 5.0 within the next six weeks, and optimistically a large portion of the new Volume II Version 5.0 and Volume III Version 5.0 content. Beta testing will begin for all of this material shortly.

From the comments (via Brian M):

Class-on-Demand version 5 is not an update to version 4, it is a major forklift upgrade. It will be delivered both online and in DVD format. The release will start with online first and then the DVDs will become available a few weeks after.

Absolutely it does [Investment Protection gives current members access to the new COD and workbooks]. The only thing not free is new printed copies of workbooks or new DVD copies of the Class-on-Demand. There is a minimal production and shipping charge for these items.

Brian had mentioned that they may reorder their workbooks as well.  Volume I will still be the technology-focused labs (they have beta currently up for switching, Frame Relay, and RIP).  Volume II will most likely be the current Volume III core labs.  Volume II (full-scale labs) will become Volume III.  There may be a new Volume IV which will be comprised of mock labs.

June 25, 2008

IPexpert: Twitter Giveaways and Reponse To Scott Morris’ Departure

IPExpert is tweating (I think that’s what the kids are calling it today :-) ) from Networkers at http://twitter.com/ipexpert.  They have been giving away everything from rack rentals to end-to-end training packages to followers who are the Nth person to email them once a tweat goes up.  I don’t know how much more stuff they’re giving away, but they did just have a winner about 2 hours ago so this looks to still be live so it might be worth watching the feed for the chance to nab some free product.

I got an email from IPexpert with their response to Scott Morris joining Internetwork Expert.  I don’t have a link to the IPexpert announcement so I’ll post it in it’s entirety here:

Wayne Lawson’s Statement on the Departure of Scott Morris from IPexpert

Over the past five years, since Scott Morris joined IPexpert, we have worked together towards a common goal of making IPexpert the world’s best CCIE training organization. In this time, the company has faced many successes and challenges in our journey to stay at the top of our game.

Growing from a team of just three, a short time ago, to our staff of near 20 today illustrates the continued evolution of our business model. One effect of adding new employees to a team is that their contributions and effort draw comparisons to those already on board. As we have continued to add new faces to our group of instructors, the individual roles have evolved for each of them, based on various criteria.

In order to ensure that IPexpert’s business goals, product objectives and growth strategies continue to be realized, I felt that it was time for IPexpert and Scott to move in different directions. In our early years, it was easy to roll with issues that may arise during the course of business. Today, I bear the responsibility of ensuring the success of IPexpert for the benefit of a full staff and their families. My decisions, however difficult, must be governed by this broader interest and that of the customers we serve.

To be clear, I sincerely appreciate the contributions Scott has made with our company and, in the bigger picture, the CCIE community. We are all better for it, without question. I am confident that, as one of the most recognized network engineers around, Scott will find great success along the next path in his career.

Moving forward, I can guarantee that the IPexpert team will continue to develop, innovate and deliver the best possible products and courses in the CCIE training space. We are more excited than ever about the new product line recently announced for the R&S, Voice, Security and Service Provider tracks.

If you have any questions, concerns or comments about this announcement, I welcome you to contact me directly. We appreciate your business and the opportunity to be a part of your success!

- Wayne Lawson II – Founder & President, IPexpert, Inc.

I expect that GroupStudy will be pretty active today.  :-)

Internetwork Expert: IE Welcomes Scott Morris

Okay, I guess that this is the big announcement (thank you to Alissa and Adam):

Brian Dennis and I are proud to welcome Scott Morris, four-time CCIE #4713, to the Internetwork Expert team as a new CCIE instructor. Scott Morris has been in the Cisco networking industry for over 12 years and belongs to an elite group of engineers worldwide holding four CCIE certifications. Scott was one of the first individuals to pass the Cisco Design Specialist certification in 1998, and soon after passed the CCIE Lab Exam in Routing and Switching. He then went on to obtain CCIE certifications in ISP-Dial, Security, and Service Provider. Scott is currently preparing for the Voice CCIE, and the newly announced Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE).

Prior to joining Internetwork Expert, Scott was Vice President of Technical Training and an Instructor at IPExpert. While working at IPExpert, Scott developed and delivered CCIE classroom training, as well as initiated new product development. Scott is currently a regular columnist for the TCPMag Journal.

You can read more about this here.

I won’t even pretend to know anything about the CCIE training market, but it’s a bit strange to see Scott Morris hosting a beer and wings party for IPExpert on Monday and then joining the IE team on Wednesday.  If this was the price he had to pay to get into the Networkers’ CCIE party, then the price of admission was too high Scott.  :-)

I’ve never had the chance to see any of Scott’s training, but if he is as good at teaching as he is at writing witty posts in GroupStudy, then IE picked up a great instructor.  Plus, I don’t think that he’s slept in the last four years.  :-)

June 24, 2008

Internetwork Expert Mock Lab Workshop Review – Part I

Note: This is probably going to be a rambling description of my recent Internetwork Expert Mock Lab Workshop in Reno.  I’ll try to keep it semi-linear and throw in some tech content, but you’ve been warned.  :-)

After catching up on my sleep the night prior I wandered down to the training room at 7 am sharp.  There was a sign near the door that showed 7 am as the starting time for the training.  There was no one there at that time.  At this point I was starting to freak out a bit.  Maybe the Mock Lab Workshop was being held somewhere else.  When I signed up for the training it was being held at IE’s training headquarters.  I had actually booked a car and hotel for that area before receiving a pdf stating that the training was at the Grand Sierra.  The IE website showed the Grand Sierra as the location as well.  The sign outside the training room was for the CCIE Bootcamp.  I went back to my room and reviewed my emails.  I decided to pop back down around 8 am and if there was still no one there then I would call IE.

At 8 am there were about 5 people in the room.  I asked if this was the Mock Lab Workshop and was told ‘yes’.  I knew that IE was running a 12 day bootcamp at the same time as my class.  It turns out that the 12 day bootcamp is a traditional 5 day bootcamp followed by an extra weekend of training and then the Mock Lab Workshop.  So all but a handful of folks (like myself) had already been training for 7 days.

I got settled in.  As the IE flyer stated, you’ll need your own laptop with a wireless card.  As I stated earlier, I couldn’t load XP on my box (scratched media) so I loaded Ubuntu.  I was unable to get the wireless to work in the airport so it was now crunch time.  I did bring an older ThinkPad with me in case this failed, but the PCMCIA card in that sucker was B only.  I didn’t want to cut everyone’s access speed in half if I didn’t need to.  No worries as the Hardy Heron was up to the task.

There were about 20 students in the class.  There was a strong international representation as there were students from Germany, France, Switzerland, Columbia, Mexico, UAE, and Russia (I’m probably forgetting some).  There were quite a few ISPs represented as well as large enterprise firms and contractors.  From what I could gather, most of the students had not attempted the lab yet.  We did a brief introduction where we stated our name, experience, and lab date.  Most of the lab dates were in June or July.  There were a couple of students who were taking the lab shortly after the completion of this course.  Most of the students were very sharp, except for Tony.  Fuck Tony.  :-)

The class started around 9 am each day.  From 9 until 11(ish) we would go over the previous day’s mock lab.  Then around 11 (this time had to be flexible as the lab discussion ususally went long) we would take lunch and then come back and do an 8 hour mock lab.  A lot of the students took dinner after the mock lab completed and then came back to the training room to study some more or to shoot the shit and utilize the free wireless connection.  I quickly fell into a pattern of staying up late, then waking up in time to get to class (sometimes hitting the breakfast buffet before class).  I made it to the gym only one time (the first day).  You end up spending a good 16 hours in training (with breaks for lunch and dinner).

There was fresh fruit, coffee, juice, and pastries in the training room every morning.  Around noon they would add a bunch of soda.  Each student was given vouchers to use at the various shops and restaurants within the hotel.  You got $40 worth of vouchers per day ($15 for lunch and $25 for dinner, although you could combine them anyway you wanted).  The hotel had a decent cafe, a buffet (only made it there once, for breakfast), a “Johnny Rockets” hamburger bar, and a deli.  There were probably other places as well, but those are the ones that I remember.  The food is good, especially since I did not expect to be eating for free.  During the week a number of students left early for various reasons.  They generally gave away their unused vouchers.  This meant that even if you tried to burn up you vouchers on surf and turf every day, at the end of the week there was still a pile of vouchers left for the “survivors”.  I had actually planned to go with another guy to get sushi on the last night, but we still had about $300 worth of vouchers between a group of four, so we had surf and turf (two of the guys added extra lobster tails) with appetizers and deserts.  I was actually happy to get home and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich after a week of the “high life”.  Although I wasn’t eating bad (pizza, donuts, etc.) as my desk-mate (Cisco SE from Iowa – he was much cooler that that description sounds :-) ) commented, “We’re burning about 3 calories per day.”  You were pretty much sitting, eating, or sleeping the entire time.  I did not leave the hotel during the entire five days.  Some of the bootcamp attendees did not leave the hotel for 12 days!

It’s a bad idea to post about arriving in Reno and your experience the night before if you want to maintain anonymity.  About 5 minutes into the class, someone asked me “I wonder who the blogger is?”.  I replied, “I don’t know, but I hear that guy is a douche.”  He quickly fingered me and in doing so agreed that I was a douche (which is true, but it usually takes more than a few seconds for someone to call me that).  The whole “Ethan Banks vs CertGuard” drama was in full effect at that time.  Everyone agreed that Ethan was getting shafted.  It was very cool that by the 2nd or 3rd day the issue was over and Ethan was back online.  I caught crap from Brian and others about the blog.  My favorite came from Mr. Cisco SE: “You write CCIEPursuit?  Wow.  I used to think that guy was some type of authority, but after meeting you I know better.”  Ouch.  True, but damn!

The class was taught by Brian Dennis (fresh off of getting his Voice CCIE) and Petr Lapukhov, whom you may know from his posts on the IE blog.  Brian McGahan was in Amsterdam (so we know which Brian chose the short straw).  Petr’s story is interesting.  He worked at a university in Moscow.  He’s an ABD (all but dissertation) PhD in Mathematics.  While studying for the CCIE, he emailed Brian Dennis and offered to fact-check the Volume II labs.  Petr is the one who put in all of the verification commands and output in those labs.  Brian realized that Petr was very smart so he called him in Moscow and offered him a job with IE.  Petr passed all 4 of his CCIEs in an 18 month time-frame!  The guy is brilliant, although he has some strange fixation with soup.  :-)

If you’ve listened to the ATCOD then you pretty much know Brian Dennis’ personality.  He’s pretty laid back and funny.  He’s also pretty devious when it comes to labs and practical jokes.  During the week that I was there Brian did most of the speaking.

Well, I have to get back to tacking the couple of hundred unread emails in my inbox.  I’ll post the rest of this over the week.

June 16, 2008

In Reno for Mock Lab Workshop

Filed under: CCIE Training,Cisco,Cisco Certification — cciepursuit @ 12:45 am
Tags: , , ,

I’m in Reno for the Internetwork Expert Mock Lab Workshop which begins tomorrow.  Actually, it could have begun today if my personal losing streak had come to an end.  A couple of weeks ago IE contacted me and advised that they were offering a free day of training to those who could make it to Reno by 9 am on Sunday.  My flight was scheduled to arrive in Reno at 11:30.  I couldn’t get any earlier flights.  Michael at IE said that was not a problem.  The training would break for lunch until 12:30 so just try to get there by then and you can sit the second half of the training.

The training is in the Grand Sierra Resort.  This hotel is located about 5 minutes from the airport.  There are free shuttles leaving from just outside of the baggage claim area at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour.  My flight was about 15 minutes late and I had to wait for my luggage.  Still, I walked through the front door of the hotel right at 12:30.  I was told that I could not check in yet, and I told the man that was okay but is there an area where I can leave my bag.  He went to check and then came back and told me that he could check me into my room.  That’s not really what I wanted to do, but it would save me some time later.  After checking in, I asked where the IE training was.  He told me that it was in the Cascade Room.  He told me that it was on the 10th floor and that I should look for the letter M on the elevator.  WTF?  I was already late so I jumped on the elevator.  I dropped off my suitcase in my room on the 8th floor and then jumped back into the elevator to get to floor 10…or ‘M’.  There was no letter M (although there was a C) so I went to the 10th floor.  I walked every inch of this floor and did not see any meeting rooms.  I asked a hotel worker where the Cascade room was and he told me that it was on the Mezzanine level.  That explained the ‘M’.  He also told me that certain elevators did not stop at this floor.  That explained why I did not see the letter M in the elevator.  That still did not mean that the 10th floor was the same floor as the Mezzanine.

I got on the correct elevator and saw a sign proclaiming “CCIE Bootcamp” (IE is running a 10 day bootcamp this week as well) outside of a room.  I popped in and saw a handful of students but no instructors.  It was just after 1 pm at this point.  I waited outside the room a bit and walked the hallway.  I popped back in again but no instructors.  I decided to head back to my room.

I was starving so I ordered some room service.  I decided to just unwind and get some studying done.  I was working on 3 hours of sleep and was travel weary.

The rooms at the Grand Sierra (and the whole hotel) have seen better days.  They are spacious and comfortable, but look like they really miss the 70s.  The view isn’t exactly breathtaking.  :-)  The rooms are a good value for the price (about $70/night).  There are a couple of downsides though.  Internet access is offered, but only via a wired connection and for $12.95 for 24 hours.  My company is footing the bill, but it’s pretty lame that they don’t offer free and/or wireless Internet access.  The other downside is that although they have a decent gym on site, it’s not free.  You can pay $10/day or $30/7 days to use it.  Oh well, at least I saved money by not needing to rent a car.

The good news is that the food is good.  At least the room service food I ordered was.  Of course I was so hungry that they could have fed me anything and I would have eaten it.

So I was tired and full.  Can you guess what happened next?  Yup, I made up for the 3 hours of sleep and took a nap.  I woke up in time to catch the last quarter of the Lakers-Celtics game.  I then went on a quick caffeine run (there’s a 24 hour gift shop in the casino area that has convience items).  I’m typing this up and then hitting a multicast COD.

One potential pitfall for tomorrow is my ability to use wireless which I will need for the training.  I have been using my wife’s laptop at home since my hard drive melted a few weeks ago.  Before I left I installed a new hard drive and tried to install Windows XP.  My Windows disc is pretty old and scratched so my install kept failing.  Before I went to sleep (for 3 whole hours) I downloaded and burned the Ubuntu ISO.  During the layover in Salt Lake CIty I installed Ubuntu on my laptop.  While in the terminal I was unable to get the wireless to work.  No worries, I packed my old ThinkPad so I have a backup machine.  Unfortunately, I pulled my Cisco wireless card (rocking the B radio!) from the laptop before I left home.  I thought that I threw it in my bag but I cannot find it now.  I think that I have figured out the wireless on Ubuntu, but I don’t have any WLANs to test it on.

I will definitely blog my experience, but I’m not sure if I will be able to get daily blogs up as I will be trying to get as much training in as possible over the next five days.

April 11, 2008

IPexpert: Free IPexpert vLectures In May and June

IPexpert have a slew of free CCIE vLecture Seminars scheduled for May and June in a number of different CCIE tracks:

CCIE vLecture Seminar Series

Our vLecture Seminar Series offers focused online discussions led by the renowned CCIE-certified instructors at IPexpert. Each seminar will concentrate on a specific topic related to CCIE preparation, including individual protocols and technologies listed on the lab blueprint, as well as test-taking strategies!

You may now register for any of the following vLectures:

May 01 4:00 PM EST  
Topic: VPN Troubleshooting
Track: Security

May 10 11:00 AM EST  
Topic: IPMA
Track: Voice

May 27 5:00 PM EST  
Topic: WAN QoS
Track: Voice

May 29 6:00 PM EST  
Topic: ATM Operations and Configuration
Track: Service Provider

Jun 03 3:00 PM EST  
Topic: Troubleshooting on the CCIE Lab
Track: R&S

Jun 17 3:00 PM EST  
Topic: Multicast – Anycast RP
Track: R&S

Jun 24 8:00 PM EST  
Topic: Digit Manipulation on CallManager 4.1(3) & CME 3.3
Track: Voice

Jun 30 8:00 PM EST  
Topic: PPPoE Operations
Track: Service Provider

Click here to register for any of the available vLectures.
If you have any questions, contact a Training Advisor for assistance.
 

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