CCIE Pursuit Blog

December 2, 2008

Status Update: Back From The Dead

Where I’m at? Two turntables and a micro….damn you Beck!

It’s been a bit since I last updated the blog.  I’ve been busy as hell the last few weeks.  We’re approaching an end-of-the-year “change freeze” at work.  For a little over a month, no changes can be made without [insert favorite deity here]‘s direct approval.  That’s great except that during the weeks right before the change goes into affect we get slammed because everyone is trying to install everything that they can before the change freeze begins.  We’ve also lost some staff and they have not been replaced so we’re taking on their work.  Our stock is in the crapper and the US is in a recession (since December of last year it seems).  Needless to say, work has not been fun.

On the home front, I’ve been catching up on projects that were on hold during the summer due to my studies.  Winter is now here and that means a bunch of home projects.  School is in full effect, so I have to make sure my son spends more time studying than watching Cartoon Network and playing Lego Star Wars (not an easy task).  There are also my kids’ sports and other extracurricular activities that I need to support/attend.  Throw some holidays into the mix and you’ve got an even bigger time-suck.

Did I mention that winter is here?  I fucking hate winter.  I love Minnesota, but only for 9 months a year.  I had thought that by now that I would be used to winter, but that’s not happening.  It’s a cold, dead, miserable season and it bums me out to no end.

I haven’t really been able to get good traction on my studies.  For the last few weeks I simply haven’t had the time to do much studying.  I’m still setting aside weekends for my studies, but even good chunks of those have been eaten up by on-call and other issues.  I’m losing my knowledge in some technologies.  I have done two complete labs since my failed lab attempt.  I have been working on technology-based labs, but my CLI sessions have been few and far between.

I’ve also been pulled in a number of different directions with my studies.  My boss is really stressing “convergence”.  Which, to him, means that we need to learn voice technologies.  Not how to troubleshoot existing voice implementations in our network, but rather learning generalized, low-level voice technologies.  To placate the boss man, I have been studying for the CVOICE exam.  I plan to take either that exam or the CCNA-Voice exam sometime before the end of the year.

The good news is that the worst is over.  The freeze change starts next Monday so work will quiet down.  I’m (mostly) caught up on my home projects.  I should have time available once again to jump into my studies.  I have to sit down and create a study plan and stick to it.

I recently installed Dynamips (via GNS3) on a laptop running Ubuntu.  It’s duo-core 1.5Mhz (I think) CPU with 2 gigs of RAM.  I was able to get the full IE topology running.  I now have the Dynamips Workbooks from IE as well.  Everything was rocking until I got to the BGP section of the lab.  My CPU(s) maxed out and I was seeing EIGRP neighbors randomly dropping.  I mucked about with different idlepc settings, but I couldn’t get the CPU load to drop.  I was disappointed because I really want to use Dynamips so that I have a virtual rack available at any time.  So I bought myself a Christmas gift: 

Combo w/ Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (2.4GHz – 1066FSB – 8MB Cache)
  Asus P5N73-AM
  Basic Fan / Heatsink
  White Thermal Compound – 1 Use Packet
  4GB – PC2-6400 (DDR2-800)
  (Dual Channel Memory Kit)
  Okia 600 Watt Power Supply (Dual Core Certified)

It cost just over $300 and should arrive this Thursday.  Of course right after I ordered this I found a tutorial on how to run Dynamips across multiple boxes.  Oh well, I need/deserve a new box anyways.  :-)

This will give me a box to run a full IE Dynamips topology on so that I can lab during any free time I get at home.  I’ll still be using my rack at work during weekends as well as occasionally renting rack time, but this should help me maximize my free moments.

Anyhoo…I’m back on the CCIE train and I will be blogging more frequently going forward.

October 9, 2008

Aftermath

Filed under: Cisco,Cisco Certification,Lab Tips,Personal — cciepursuit @ 8:43 pm
Tags: , , ,

Well, it’s been exactly a week since I took the lab exam.  I’ve gone through a number of emotional states since that time.  During my lowest point (about 5 hours into the lab) I was convinced that I had wasted countless hours of studying for something that I just was not cut out for.  I initially thought that I failed the lab by quite a bit, but looking closer at the score report I can see that I was closer than I though (although it’s very difficult to calculate an exact score).  As I’ve stated, I was well prepared for the lab and it was very much something that I could have passed.  The reason for failure lies completely on my shoulders.  Fortunately I have plenty of experience with failure.  :-) 

I won’t be able to take the lab again until 2009.  I need to build up more vacation time (I accrue PTO (personal time off) at a rate of one day every two weeks) as well as catch up on a pile of work – not to mention end-of-the-year changes. 

I’m in the midst of putting together a training plan.  I had initially decided to take two weeks off but I’m going to start studying again tonight.  Initially I won’t be doing a lot of full-scale labs.  I’m going to do a LOT of reading and plan to work though all of the new IE Volume I labs.  In the past I had concentrated most of my study time on weekends because that was when I could set aside blocks of 8 – 12 hours for labs.  I’ll eventually get back to doing full-scale labs on the weekend, but since a lot more of my time will be spent reading the Cisco documentation, I am going to commit to at least an hour of study each weeknight as well.  I’ll also be reading as much documentation during the lulls at work.  I would like to personally thank the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, and Timberwolves for making sure that I am not tempted to waste any time on sports during this time.

Things I need to work on:

1) Documentation, documentation, documentation.  I need to read as much of the Cisco documentation as is possible so that I can recognize keywords and descriptions that Cisco uses for each technology.  I also need to familiarize myself better with the documentation for technologies that I know well.  I was very aware of where everything is for technologies like multicast, but I never really familiarized myself with the OSFP or QoS (that cost me 3 points!) because I felt very comfortable with those technologies.

2) No weaknesses.  I went into my first attmept very prepared, but there were some technologies that I felt that I was not 100% on and I will use the next 3 months to close the gaps on those.

3) Time management.  I need to cut down on my time creating initial diagrams and reading the lab.  I also need to be able to quickly implement a workaround and move on if I find that I am spending more than 15 minutes on a single task.  I would estimate that the average task value on my lab was around 2.75 points.  I am setting a target of finishing the lab within 6 hours with an initial read-through and diagram creation period of 40 minutes (hopefully less).  (360-40)/(100/2.75) is about 9 minutes per task.  If I have two hours left in the lab I can even make changes to the core (hopefully I don’t need to) if needed and have time to identify and fix any other tasks that may be affected by those changes.

4) Utilize the proctor.  Anytime I hit a task that I am not sure how to configure or that I need more clarification, I am going to stop and create a list of questions to ask the proctor.  I’ll try to formulate questions that can be answered simply (hopefully with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’) that also will not look like fishing expeditions.

5) No last minute review/cramming.  Nuff said.

6) Emulate the testing environment on all practice exams.  I plan to buy a bunch of plastic sleeves and binders.  I’ll print out the labs and put them in the sleeves in the binders.  During the lab I will not allow myself to write on the lab at all (a bad habit that I only tried to break one week before the lab).

Things that I though would be an issue but turned out not to be:

1) Telnet client.  I thought that this would be a bigger issue than it turned out to be.  I downloaded a copy of SecureCRT and did my last few practice labs using it.  As long as highlighting text automatically copies it to the clipboard and right-clicking pastes it, I’m fine.  I didn’t bother changing any of the defaults other than the colors during the lab.

2) Sleep.  I had very little problem sleeping soundly before the lab.  I was in the Navy and learned to sleep anywhere at anytime (my rack used to be 20 feet under the point that fighter jets landed on a carrier so I can sleep through anything).  I made the mistake of waking up to review, but I had plenty of rest before the lab and was very alert.

3) Vacation on either side of the lab.  This was the thing that I figured would lead to divorce.  :-)  I managed to push the lab out of my mind before my date.  I did get a little nervous the day before and asked my wife to get back to the hotel and study the night before.  After my failure I was still in good enough spirits that I enjoyed the rest of the vacation.  I figured that I would be nervous and grumpy before the lab and despondent and grumpy after failing.  I will note that I did put in the better part of 3 straight weeks of hardcore studying before embarking on this adventure so that may have contributed to my state of mind.

4) Noise in the lab.  I forgot to include this in my lab review, but noise was not an issue for me.  I brought in a pair of earplugs but never used them.  In San Jose, the Voice candidates are located away from the other candidates.  I remember hearing phones ringing, but there was not a lot of this and the sound was easy to ignore.  The dull hum of equipment covered any keyboard or other noise from the other candidates.  I was so locked into my own experience that I didn’t even notice anybody else.  I did talk to myself at one point and hopefully I didn’t throw off any other candidates with my insane muttering.  :-)

5) Mean proctors.  The proctor was very cool and approachable.  I sensed that he was helping me as much as he could.  I tried to phrase my inquiries as “yes or no” questions and started out each question by reading the part of the task that confused me followed by my interpretation of the task and THEN the question.  As stated before, I am going to work on this process during my review.

Besides the obvious benifits of passing the exam on your first trip is this one: not being haunted by the questions that you missed.  I’ve been obsessing about the three question run that sank me on the lab.  This is worse than any damned ghost or demon.  I don’t remember the details of most of the test but I can remember those three questions nearly word for word.

Well, enough typing.  Time to get back to studying.  After all of this I am still very confident that I can get my digits on my next attempt.  I would like to once again thank all of you for your words of encouragement and well wishes.  I would also like to thank IE for all of their support.  Josh at IE was extremely helpful and I really appreciate all that they’ve done for me.  Both Brians have reached out to me at different points and offered guidance.  Now if I could just talk one of them into taking the lab for me.  :-)  I would also like to say how much respect and admiration I have for anyone with digits after their names.  Until you actually sit the lab it’s hard to understand how mentally and psychologically difficult the test is.  Hopefully I’ll be joining their ranks in January.

September 23, 2008

Status Update: 9 Days Left – Going Dark

My iGooglepage has a countdown widget on it and it tells me that I’m down to single digits.  Yesterday was my last day in the office (might have to pop in on the weekend) and the remainder of my week is dedicated to labbing.  I’ve booked a ton of lab time this week and a couple of mock labs.  I’ll be spending over 50 hours on the CLI this week.  This weekend I may try to wire up my work lab to work on the CCIE Routing and Switching Practice Labs.  At the very least I’m going to read through them.

I’m a whole lot more relaxed now than I was a couple of weeks ago.  I am working on my many and varied weaknesses.  I’ve accepted that I’m not going to go into the lab as an expert on all of the technologies, but I do have a good grasp of the core stuff and some of the none-core stuff.  There are some technologies that still give me trouble if the task goes too deep, but hopefully I’ll be able to use the DOCCD to get those points.

I fly out Monday and will be spending the first two nights in San Francisco.  Those will be interesting days as I will be doing the tourist thing with my wife.  This will either be a much needed respite before the lab or it will be a complete disaster as I will piss my wife off because I’ll be too obsessed with the lab to enjoy the city.

The good thing about San Francisco is that you can walk between a lot of the attractions.  I’m planning on doing as much walking as possible so that I will be physically tired and (hopefully) more likely to sleep the night before the lab.  Even as I type this I know that I’ll probably be too nervous to get much sleep. 

Anyhoo…this will be my last blog update until after the lab.  My next post will either be my digits or my three month plan for my second attempt.

September 11, 2008

Status Update: 21 Days Left

21 days until the lab.  I’ve been labbing my ass off over the last two weeks.  I’m at the point where I dream about IOS and find myself typing “cntrl+shift+6″ then “x” when trying to change between applications.  I’ve misspelled “conf t” so many times that I’m not sure how to type it anymore.  I’ve printed hundreds of pages of labs and configuration guides.  I’ve drank gallons of Diet Mt. Dew.  I actually look forward to hitting the gym because it’s less torturous than labbing.

About 3 days into this run I was ready to quit.  I took the first of two CCIE Assessor labs and failed it magnificently.  Question interpretation and time management slayed me.  I was utterly disgusted with myself.  I’ve put in so much time and effort preparing for the lab and getting crushed on a lab this late in the game really stung.

I continued to lab away.  Yesterday I did the second CCIE Assessor lab.  I had a better strategy this time, but hit a rathole on one question.  The worst part was that I knew what I needed to accomplish (somewhat – there was one very confusing task) but I could not get it to work.  I couldn’t even implement an ugly workaround because the part I couldn’t get to work would have been required.  Finally I was able to track down the problem.  Of course it was my fault.  I swear that I configured the appropriate line on the router, but it was not there when I finally started troubleshooting from the ground up.  I spent an hour on a 4-hour lab doing that one task.  It was a core task and needed to be completed or I would have lost a ton of related points later in the lab.

I ended up doing redistribution and then just grabbing as many easy points as I could.  I finished my last task with less than a minute remaining in the lab.

My final score was a 60%.  That’s kind of a Pyrrhic victory.  I scored very well on the tasks that I completed (missing only two tasks) but I did not attempt multicast or 80% of BGP.  The sad thing is that the BGP tasks were easy.  With another 30 minutes I could have passed the lab.

My depression has now been replaced a “Que Sera, Sera” attitude (English translation: “Fuck it”).  I’ve let this damned thing affect me too much lately.  I need to get my life back one way or the other.  I’m going to do my best and face the beast.  If the stars line up, then I’ll get my digits.  If not, then I’ll spend a Minnesota winter prepping for another run. 

I have a number of mock labs coming up over the next week.  I hope to be getting scores in the 70+ range.  I’ve gone through all of the IE Volume III labs (two times for the first 5 labs) and will continue to chug through the Volume II labs.  The ones that I don’t complete I will definitely read through before taking the exam.

Anyhoo…back to work and then more labs.

September 3, 2008

Status Update: 30 Days Left

The final push towards my date with the lab exam has begun.  I have 30 days left.  I’ve scheduled every bit of my vacation allotment over the next month.  I don’t want to have any regrets (“If I had taken a couple more days to study”) after the lab.  By draining my vacation days I’ve pretty much ensured that I either nail this sucker on the first attempt or I won’t get to it again until next year. 

My cell phone is powered down and I’m only checking email once in the morning and once at night.  Too often a “quick call” from work results in hours of lost time.  I won’t be VPN’ing in or checking my work email.  The days that I have to work will probably be absolutely fruitless as they’ll be spent battling my inbox, but I couldn’t convince my employer to grant me a leave of absence.

No podcasts.  No sports (I’ll miss the Vikings’ opener – against the hated Packers no less – for the first time in a decade).  TV ist verboten.  Pas d’alcool.  I’ll still hit the gym, but only for a quick workout prior to sitting on my ass all day doing labs.  I do plan to do a little bit of fishing to clear my mind, but I’ll be listening to CCIE lectures on my iPod whilst I battle bass.

My wife, [insert preferred deity here] bless her is onboard and is making sacrifices of her own in order to ensure that I can dedicate as much time as possible towards my studies.  I’ve been an absolute (even more than normal – which is hard to do) asshole the last couple of weeks due to stressing over this damned lab.  My family has been very supportive and I love them to death for that.

I’ve mapped out my last month of training.  I’ll be on a rack every day that I can.  I’ve booked four IPexpert labs, two Cisco Assessor labs, one Internetwork Expert proctored lab exam, and I plan to mix in a couple more IE Mock labs if I have time.  I’m making my push through all of the IE labs (Volume II and III).  If I have time I plan to do the two labs in the recent Cisco Press Routing and Switching practice labs.  At the very least I plan to read through those two labs.

I’ll pop up when I can but blogging will be light to nonexistent over the next 30 days.  I will be posting a ton of links to other CCIE blogs over this time.  It’s been a long time since I’ve done this and there are a ton of new blogs out there.

Anyhoo…back to my studies.

August 7, 2008

“Reload in x” is your friend…except when it isn’t

Filed under: Cisco,IOS,Personal — cciepursuit @ 11:18 am
Tags: ,

I am going to blame my brainlessness today on exercise.  I did squats yesterday (my least favorite exercise) and followed that up with a run on a deceptively hot day.  The end result of that genius workout regime is that my legs are burning today.  This has also afforded my co-workers the opportunity to punch me in the legs knowing that it will not only hurt like hell, but that I can’t hobble fast enough to catch them.

Anyhoo…we have a small overseas site that was having a ton of bounces today.  The WAN circuit was taking errors and eventually dropping the BGP peering.  At that point the backup WAN router would bring up the DSL/Cable/ISDN (I don’t remember what they are running) and traffic would reroute.  Then the peering on the primary would reestablish and traffic would route that way.  This kept repeating.

We don’t have a lot of these types of sites.  Generally we have connections to two different carriers and load balance.  This one was a problem because we don’t have a dial-in modem for the primary (another deviation from norm) so we only have connectivity via the WAN.  We needed to get into the primary and shut down the BGP peering so that the carrier could test the circuit and traffic would flow over the secondary.

The problem was that the bouncing peering meant that if you connected via the primary you ran the risk of getting kicked out of your session in the middle of your configuration.  If you waited until the secondary came up you could get in, but your connection might drop or your TACACS+ authentication would fail if the primary came back up.

I typed up all of the commands in notepad and jumped into the router and quickly pasted the commands to shutdown the BGP peering.  Success!  I walked around the corner to discuss the game plan for this circuit and to show one of the new guys what I did and why.  It was during that explanation that I realized that I had included “reload in 5″ in my configuration (in case I got locked out in the middle of my configuration) but I had not issued a “reload cancel” afterwards.  I hobbled as quickly as I could back to my desk in time to see the reload start.  ARGGGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!

The router reloaded and I got to repeat the process plus explain why the router rebooted.  :-)

July 28, 2008

The Value Of Redoing Labs

I completed IE’s Volume II lab 3 for the second time yesterday.  I’ve started redoing all of the labs in order (I hope to make it through all 20 before my lab date).  As I’ve stated before, I was surprised that I don’t memorize labs.  It looks like I last did this lab back in December (where has the time gone?) so it shouldn’t be too big of a surprise.

This was a difficulty level 6 lab, so it was pretty straight forward.  I did hit a couple of snags, but I was able to get through them because I finally have my head around some of the technologies.  As Brian Dennis says, “You never stop making mistakes, you just get better at spotting them.” 

The first time through this lab I was nowhere near as strong in BGP and multicast (I’m still not “lab ready” in either technology, but I’m way better than I was).  In this lab there were two AS 100.  I was having a heck of a time because I could not get the backbone prefixes advertised into one AS 100 to propagate to the other AS 100 (there was a transit AS between them).  So I stepped back and thought about it.  I could see the prefixes in the peer’s BGP table and I could see that they were being advertised (‘show ip bgp neighbor x.x.x.x adv’) from the peer but not received by my router (“show ip bgp neighbor x.x.x.x route’).  My router was installing 3 other prefixes that were originated from a different backbone router. WTF?  So I started mentally running through the reasons why my router would not accept those routes.  What was it that was different about those 3 prefixes that were installed and the 10 that were not being installed.  Voila!  Those 10 prefixes were being advertised to the other AS 100 then to the transit AS and then dropping when hitting this AS 100.  DOH!  A BGP router will not install prefixes that already contain its own AS number.  That was the problem.  Now I could concentrate on solving this issue rather than wasting time on troubleshooting.

Now you’re probably thinking “big deal” and/or “how does this guy expect to pass the lab?”, but my point is that I was able to solve this issue by knowing the technology.  I’m pretty sure that the first time through this lab I did not even notice this issue (you eventually filter those routes, so it becomes a non-issue) nor would I have successfully found the reason.  Doing a lab for a second (or third…or forth…) time can help catch problems that you did not see the first time through.

I hit another snag when I got to multicast.  Try as I might I could not get one of my routers to recognize the RP.  The interface was configured correctly and I was seeing the PIM neighbor.  By doing a simple traceroute I was able to see that traffic was routing over a PTP link instead of the Frame Relay link.  But I took care of that earlier in the lab by setting the OSPF cost to a high value, right?.  Unfortunately, after that task I set the OSPF auto-cost so that all of the other links now had a higher cost.  My PTP link was now preferred over my Frame Relay link.  I had used a high cost value (6000) but it was not high enough once the other costs were adjusted  :-(  Again, I was able to (relatively) quickly find the issue and I understood how and why it was happening (as well as how to fix it).  My multicast configuration was correct.  The first time through I most likely did not catch this issue because I probably did not verify everything with the degree of anal-retentiveness that I do now.  I could have easily overlooked this issue if I did not verify the RP mapping on that router.  The problem would not show up in my ping scripts.  I would have lost points for at least two sections.

Anyhoo…my point is that you should definitely do labs more than once, especially if it’s been a while since you last did the lab.

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 10, 2008

Full Disclosure – or – How I Became A Corporate Shill (Not Really)

I recently read a glowing review of a vendor’s boot camp. In some of the follow up postings it became clear that the reviewer had been given a free seat at the camp by the vendor.  This was not mentioned anywhere in the review.  While this may not have changed a single word of the review, it also did not allow readers to “adjust for possible bias.”  Finding out afterwards that the reviewed (expensive) product was given to the reviewer free of charge by the vendor led me to discount most of the glowing review.  I thought to myself, “He was paid off.”  After thinking that I started thinking about talking black pots and motes and eyeballs.  :-)

Most of you have probably noticed the Internetwork Expert banner ad on my blog.  You may also have noticed that I been using Internetwork Expert products exclusively (with the exception of some EIGRP labs from CCBootcamp) on my (way too long) quest for my digits.  Perhaps this led you to believe that I am a shrill for Internetwork Expert.  Well, you’re partially correct.

I am not a blogger for Internetwork Expert.  I started my blog in April of 2007.  I spent a lot of time researching vendors and – specifically – their workbooks.  After logging many hours reading through various forums I decided to use Internetwork Expert’s workbooks.  I started out by just purchasing the Volume I labs.  After working my way through most of those labs, I got the good news that my employer would pay for the IE Advanced Technologies COD and Volume II workbook bundle

Shortly after I placed that order I received an email from IE Marketing (they reverse-engineered my contact information from the order) asking me if I would put an IE banner ad on my blog in exchange for some training materials.  I happily agreed to this with the caveat that that I would be free to comment about IE and its products – good or bad.  That’s when I placed the banner ad on my site.  My payoff?  The IE ATC and Volume II Workbook – which I had just bought! :-)  They also threw in the Volume III workbook ($249) as well as the COD of their 5-day boot camp ($995).  Nice!

As my blog grew in popularity – and presumably clicks for Internetwork Expert – IE threw in the Volume II Lab Breakdowns (labs 2 – 7 – $354).  Basically, they ended up giving me access to all of their Class-On-Demand products for Routing and Switching.  I ended up with $1,600 worth of ‘freebies’ for hosting an ad for a company that I had already decided to do business with.  A win-win situation, right?  Well, for me and IE at least.

This is from my original reply to IE:

I would definitely welcome any sponsorship/advertising in return for access to training materials as long as I could inform readers of any free products I may receive from Internetwork Expert.  I would also continue to freely express my opinions about Internetwork Expert and its products – good or bad.  Basically, I would just like to disclose any “freebies” to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest while also being able to comment on Internetwork Expert and its products without a sense of obligation.

IE agreed to this:

First of all, thank you for positive consideration of Internetwork Expert offer. I greatly appreciate this. I think it is absolutely vital for you, your blog and your readers to post/have/read objective and “untainted” opinions . Also, please do not hesitate disclosing the “freebies” and freely, without any obligation comment on our products.

Unfortunately, I never did post about my relationship with IE…until today.  I don’t think that I purposely ‘hid’ this from my readers, but I absolutely should have disclosed this from the beginning.  I’ve been guilty of self-justification along the way, “All the bloggers do this”, “It’s not biasing my reviews”, “The readers see the ad and know the score”.  So you see, it was the height of hypocrisy for me to be disgusted with the reviewer mentioned at the beginning of this post for not disclosing his relationship with the vendor whose product he was reviewing, while I was doing EXACTLY the same thing.

Just to clarify a bit: I made the decision to use IE products before – and – regardless of any advertising on my blog.  I’ve spent over $5,000 of my own money on IE products (most of it reimbursed by my employer, but IE still gets the cash).  I try very hard to be objective in my reviews.  I am under no obligation to pimp out IE or their products.  I try to post about CCIE products and promotions that excite me regardless of vendor.  I am on all of the (major) vendors emailing lists.  When I post about new products or promotions I am (self) selecting that information from the vendors mailings.

That said, I have failed my readers (I’m sure you’re used to this by now :-) ) by not disclosing my relationship with IE.  Although I don’t believe that I would have typed a single different character, I did rob my readers of the ability to take into account that I may be biased based on my relationship with IE.

I apologize for not disclosing this earlier.  I can assure you that I am not a corporate shrill, but that is your decision to make and that is the way it should be.  I never should have obscurred (intentionaly or not) my relationship with any vendors whom I blog about.

—Follow up—

DON’T assume that all bloggers with an IE (or other vendor) ad on their site are hosting the ad because a vendor is giving them free product.

My apologies to my corporate overlords IE if my disclosure of my freebies leads to other bloggers hitting you up for free product.

July 8, 2008

BGP Path Manipulation + Goofy Mnemonic

Filed under: BGP,Cisco,Cisco Certification,Personal — cciepursuit @ 12:12 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

When altering BGP path selection, it is a good idea to have the following table committed to memory:

Method Direction Applied Direction Affected Best Metric
Weight Inbound Outbound Highest
Local Preference Inbound Outbound Highest
AS Path Outbound Inbound Shortest
MED (metric) Outbound Inbound Lowest

This table shows the four most common BGP path manipulation attributes in order of preference (here’s a mnemonic to memorize all of the BGP attributes).  Whenever I am tasked with BGP path manipulation in the lab I quickly recreate the above table with the following mnemonic:

“When applying in London in April, make love.”

W = Weight
A = applied (April reminds me of showers which reminds me of London, so this helps recreate the mnemonic as well)
I = inbound
L = Local Preference
I = inbound
A = AS Path
M = MED (London makes me think of sex for reasons I’ll keep to myself :-) )
L = lowest

You’re probably thinking “Nice. But that doesn’t look like the entire table to me is represented in that stupid phrase.” And you’re right.  :-)

I write out the table first with the headers only:

Method Direction Applied Direction Affected Best Metric
       
       
       
       

Then I write ‘Weight’.  The “applying” bit just reminds me that the second header should be “Direction Applied” and not “Direction Affected“.  If you mix up those two headers, then you are in for a very bad experience.  :-)

Method Direction Applied Direction Affected Best Metric
Weight      
       
       
       

“In” means inbound (under Direction Applied).  With just this bit of information I can fill in the rest of the “Direction” fields because I know that the first two attributes are applied inbound.  That means the that the last two attributes are applied outbound.  Since the “Direction Affected” is the opposite of the “Direction Applied”, it’s a snap to fill in that information as well.

Method Direction Applied Direction Affected Best Metric
Weight Inbound Outbound  
  Inbound Outbound  
  Outbound Inbound  
  Outbound Inbound  

So we’re left with ‘London in April, make love’.  ‘London’ = local preference.  ‘in’ is another reminder that Local_Pref is applied inbound (and it makes the goofy sentence flow better).  ‘April’ = AS Path and ‘make’ = MED.

Method Direction Applied Direction Affected Best Metric
Weight Inbound Outbound  
Local Preference Inbound Outbound  
AS Path Outbound Inbound  
MED Outbound Inbound  

Now all we need is to fill in the ‘Best Metric’ column.  I assume that the highest metric is always the best metric except in the case of the last two attributes.  In this case, ‘love’ = lowest (for MED).  I know that the shortest AS Path is the best (no need to memorize that as it’s pretty logical). 

So now I have the whole table:

Method Direction Applied Direction Affected Best Metric
Weight Inbound Outbound Highest
Local Preference Inbound Outbound Highest
AS Path Outbound Inbound Shortest
MED Outbound Inbound Lowest

So thanks for crawling into my mind.  Pretty empty huh? The exit is through my ears.  :-)

You can create your own mnemonic (I’m sure that mine is not the best) and add more or less detail as needed.  After you are able to recreate this table a couple of times, you’ll find that you won’t need to use the mnemonic, but it’s nice to have it in case you need it.

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