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Quality To Be Named Later

programming

First off, go watch this excellent video from Ken Duda of Arista at Networking Field Day 28. It’s the second time he’s knocked it out of the park when it comes to talking about code quality:

One of the things that Ken brings up in this video that I thought would be good to cover in a bit more depth is the idea of what happens to the culture of your organization, specifically code quality, when you acquire a new company. Every team goes through stages of development from formation through disagreement and finally to success and performance. One of the factors that can cause a high-performing team to regress back to a state of challenges is adding new team members to the group.

Let’s apply this lesson to your existing code infrastructure. Let’s say you’ve spent a lot of time building the best organization that has figured out and your dev teams are running like a well-oiled machine. You’re pushing out updates left and right and your users are happy. Then, you buy a company to get a new feature or add some new blood to the team. What happens when that new team comes on-board? Are they going Continue reading

Friday Thoughts on the Full Stack

It’s been a great week at Networking Field Day 28 this week with some great presentations and even better discussions outside of the room. We recorded a couple of great podcasts around some fun topics, including the Full Stack Engineer.

Some random thoughts about that here before we publish the episode of the On-Premise IT Roundtable in the coming weeks:

  • Why do you need a full stack person in IT? Isn’t the point to have people that are specialized?
  • Why does no one tell the developers they need to get IT skills? Why is it more important for the infrastructure team to learn how to code?
  • We see full stack doctors, which are general practitioners. Why are there no full stack lawyers or full stack accountants?
  • If the point of having a full stack understanding is about growing non-tech skills why not just say that instead?
  • There’s value in having someone that knows a little bit about everything but not too much. But that value is in having them in a supervisor role instead of an operations or engineering role. Do you want the full stack doctor doing brain surgery? or do you want him to refer you to a Continue reading

Ease of Use or Ease of Repair

HammerAndSaw

Have you tried to repair a mobile device recently? Like an iPad or an MacBook? The odds are good you’ve never even tried to take one apart, let alone put in replacement parts. Devices like these are notorious to try and repair because they aren’t designed to be fixed by a normal person.

I’ve recently wondered why it’s so hard to repair things like this. I can recall opening up my old Tandy Sensation computer to add a Sound Blaster card and some more RAM back in the 90s but there’s no way I could do that today, even if the devices were designed to allow that to happen. In my thinking, I realized why that might be.

Build to Rebuild

When you look at the way that car engine bays were designed in the 80s and 90s you might be surprised to see lots of wasted space. There’s room to practically crawl in beside the engine and take a nap. Why is that? Why waste all that space? Well, if you’re a mechanic that wants to get up close and personal with some part of the engine you want all the space you can find. You’d rather waste a Continue reading

In Defense of Subscriptions

It’s not hard to see the world has moved away from discrete software releases to a model that favors recurring periodic revenue. Gone are the days of a bi-yearly office suite offering or a tentpole version of an operating system that might gain some features down the road. Instead we now pay a yearly fee to use the program or application and in return we get lots of new things on a somewhat stilted cadence.

There are a lot of things to decry about software subscription models. I’m not a huge fan of the way that popular features are put behind subscription tiers that practically force you to buy the highest, most expensive one because of one or two things you need that can only be found there. It’s a callback to the way that cable companies put their most popular channels together in separate packages to raise the amount you’re paying per month.

I’m also not a fan of the way that the subscription model is a huge driver for profits for investors. If your favorite software program doesn’t have a subscription model just yet you’d better hope they never take a big investment. Because those investors are hungry Continue reading

Helpdesk Skills Fit the Bill

RedLEDKeyboard

I saw a great tweet yesterday from Swift on Security that talked about helpdesk work and how it’s nothing to be ashamed of:

I thought it was especially important to call this out for my readers. I’ve made no secret that my first “real” job in IT was on the national helpdesk for Gateway Computers through a contractor. I was there for about six months before I got a job doing more enterprise-type support work. And while my skills today are far above what I did when I started out having customers search for red floppy disks and removing helper apps in MSCONFIG, the basics that I learned there are things I still carry with me today.

Rocket Science

Most people have a negative outlook on helpdesk work. They see it as entry-level and not worth admitting to. They also don’t quite understand Continue reading

Fast Friday Thoughts on Leadership

I’m once more taking part in the BSA Wood Badge leadership course for my local council. I enjoy the opportunity to hone my skills when it comes to leading others and teaching them how to train their own leaders. A lot of my content around coaching, mentoring, and even imposter syndrome has come from the lessons I’ve learned during Wood Badge. It sounds crazy but I enjoy taking vacation time to staff something that looks like work because it feels amazing!

A few random thoughts from the week:

  • You need a sense of urgency in everything you do. You may not know exactly what’s coming or how to adjust for what needs to be done but you need to be moving with purpose to get it done. Not only does that help you with your vision to make things happen but it encourages others to do the same.
  • Team building happens when you’re not focused entirely on the goal. It doesn’t take much for your group to come together but it can only happen when they aren’t charging toward the finish line. Remember that taking a few moments here and there to reinforce the group dynamic can do a lot Continue reading

A Modest Proposal for Cisco Interface Naming

If you’re going to be configuring an interface in a switch, which one are you going to use? The interface has a name and a number based on where it is on the device. The numbering part is fairly easy to figure out. The module number comes first, followed by the slot, and finally the port. In the world of Cisco, which is the one I’m the most familiar with, that means a fixed configuration switch usually has interfaces labeled 0/24, with no module and the slot almost always being zero. With a modular switch the interface would be labeled 2/0/28 to indicate the 28th port on the second line card.

The issue arises when you factor in the first part of the interface naming convention. The nomenclature used in the Cisco world since the beginning of time has been the interface speed. If your interface is a 100Mbit Ethernet interface then the interface name is FastEthernet0/48. If you’re using a 1Gbit interface it’s GigabitEthernet0/48. If it’s a 10Gbit interface it becomes TenGigabitEthernet0/48. It’s a progression of interface speeds. Even if the port is capable of using 10/100/1000 the port is referred to at the highest speed. The 10Gbit ports Continue reading

No Is A Complete Sentence

Has someone asked you to do something recently that you know you don’t have time to do but felt like you needed to do anyway? Or has someone tried to get you to help with something and impressed upon you just how important it is? You probably told them “yes” out of guilt or obligation or some other kind of negative emotion. Sure, you could have declined but you thought about how bad you would feel if someone did the same to you.

Let me tell you clearly. “No” is a complete sentence. It requires no explanation or defense. It is the only thing you need to say when you know you won’t be able to do something no matter how much the other party tries to get you to agree.

Everything Sucking Equally

If you know anything about QoS, you know that once a given circuit reaches the limitation for bandwidth you can no long send additional information. What’s counterintuitive about this is most people would assume that if you try to squeeze one more stream or packet into the mix that only that last packet would be affected and everything else would work perfectly fine, right? Only one Continue reading

Trust Will Do You In

loc

If you’re a fan of the Gestalt IT Rundown that I do every week on the Gestalt IT YouTube channel, you have probably heard about the recent hacks of NVIDIA and Samsung. The original investigation into those hacks talked about using MDM platforms and other vectors to gain access to the information that was obtained by the hacking groups. An interesting tweet popped up on my feed yesterday that helped me reframe the attacks:

It would appear that the group behind these attacks are going after their targets the old fashioned way. With people. For illustration, see XKCD from 2009:

The Weakest Links

People are always the weakest link in any security situation. They choose to make something insecure through bad policy or by trying to evade the policy. Perhaps they are trying to do harm to the organization or even try to shine a light on Continue reading

AI is a Promotion

When I worked at IBM as an intern, part of my job was writing a deployment script to help make our lives easier when installing new ThinkPads. In order to change an MTU setting on the token ring PCMCIA cards (long story), I had to write a script that iterated through all the possible combinations of adapters in the registry to find the one I was looking for and change the value.

Now, I was 22 at the time and green behind the ears, especially when it came to programming. I finally figured out that the most efficient way to do this in the language that I was using was a very deep nested if statement. It wasn’t my best work but it operated properly. I mentioned this to my mentors on my team with a remark of how hard it was to understand the logic at first. My comment was “You know, if it’s hard to read for anyone else then I never have to worry about gettin fired.”

To which the response was, “Yes, but you can never be promoted either.”

That sage wisdom brings me to the modern world and how AI can fix that Continue reading

The Value of Old Ideas

I had a fun exchange on Twitter this week that bears some additional thinking. Emirage (@Emirage6) tweeted a fun meme about learning BGP:

I retweeted it and a few people jumped in the fun, including a couple that said it was better to configure BGP for reasons. This led to a blog post about routing protocols with even more great memes and a good dose of reality for anyone that isn’t a multi-CCIE.

Explain It Like I’m Five

I want you to call your mom and explain BGP to her. Go on and do that now because I’m curious to see how you’d open that conversation. Unless your mom is in networking already I’m willing to bet you’re going to have to start really, really basic. In fact, given the number of news organizations that don’t even know what the letters in the acronym stand for I’d guess you are going to have a hard time talking about the path selection process or leak maps or how sessions are established.

Now, try that same Continue reading

Technical Debt or Underperforming Investment?

In this week’s issue of the Packet Pushers Human Infrastructure newsletter, there was an excellent blog post from Kam Lasater about how talking about technical debt makes us sound silly. I recommend you read the whole thing because he brings up some very valid points about how the way the other departments of the organization perceive our issues can vary. It also breaks down debt in a very simple format that takes it away from a negative connotation and shows how debt can be a leverage instrument.

To that end, I want to make a modest proposal to help the organization understand the challenges that IT faces with older systems and integration challenges. Except we need some new branding. So, I propose we start referring to technical debt as “underperforming technical investments”.

I’d Buy That For A Dollar

Technical debt is just a clever way to refer to the series of layered challenges we face from decisions that were made to accomplish tasks. It’s a burden we carry negatively throughout the execution of our job because it adds extra time to the process. We express it as debt because it’s a price that must be paid every time we need Continue reading

Who Wants to Be Supported Forever?

I saw an interesting thread today on Reddit talking about using networking equipment past the End of Life. It’s a fun read that talks about why someone would want to do something like this and how you might find yourself in some trouble depending on your company policies and such. But I wanted to touch on something that I think we skip over when we get here. What does the life of the equipment really mean?

It’s a Kind of Magic

As someone that uses equipment of all kinds, the lifetime of that equipment means something different for me than it does for vendors. When I think of how long something lasts I think of it in terms of how long I can use it until it is unable to be repaired any further. A great example of this is a car. All of my life I have driven older used cars that I continue to fix over and over until they have a very high mileage or my needs change and I must buy something different.

My vehicles don’t have a warranty or any kind of support, necessarily. If I need something fixed I either fix it myself or Continue reading

Backing Up the Dump Truck

Hello Ellen,

 

I have received a number of these spam messages over the past few weeks and I had hoped they would eventually taper off. However, it doesn’t appear that is the case. So I’ll take the direct approach.

 

I’m a member of the CCIE Advisory Council. Which means I am obligated to report any and all attempts to infringe upon the integrity of the exam. As you have seen fit to continue to email me to link to your site to promote your test dumps I think you should be aware that I will be reporting you to the CCIE team.

 

Good luck in your future endeavors after they shut you down for violating their exam terms and conditions. And do not email me again.

That’s an actual email that I sent TODAY to someone (who probably isn’t really named Ellen) that has been spamming me to link to their CCIE dump site. The spam is all the same. They really enjoy reading a random page on my site, usually some index page picked up by a crawler. They want me to insure a link to their site which is a brain dump site for CCIE Continue reading

The Network Does Too Much

I’m at Networking Field Day this week and it’s good to be back in person around other brilliant engineers and companies. One of the other fun things that happens at Networking Field Day is that I get to chat with folks that help me think about things in new ways and come up with awesome ideas for networking blog posts.

One of the ones that was discussed quickly this week really got me thinking again about fragility and complexity. Thanks to Carl Fugate for reminding me about it. Essentially, networks are inherently unstable because they are doing far too much heavy lifting.

Swiss Army Design

Have you heard about the AxeSaw Reddit? It’s a page dedicated to finding silly tools that attempt to combine too many things together into one package that make the overall tool less useful. Like making a combination shovel and axe that isn’t easy to operate because you have to hold on to the shovel scoop as the handle for the axe and so on. It’s a goofy take on a trend of trying to make things too compact at the sake of usability.

Networking has this issue as well. I’ve talked about it before here Continue reading

The Demise of G-Suite

In case you missed it this week, Google is killing off the free edition of Google Apps/G-Suite/Workspace. The short version is that you need to convert to a paid plan by May 1, 2022. If you don’t you’re going to lose everything in July. The initial offering of the free tier was back in 2006 and the free plan hasn’t been available since 2012. I suppose a decade is a long time to enjoy custom email but I’m still a bit miffed at the decision.

Value Added, Value Lost

It’s pretty easy to see that the free version of Workspace was designed to encourage people to use it and then upgrade to a paid account to gain more features. As time wore on Google realized that people were taking advantage of having a full suite of 50 accounts and never moving, which is why 2012 was the original cutoff date. Now there has been some other change that has forced their hand into dropping the plan entirely.

I won’t speculate about what’s happening because I’m sure it’s complex and tied to ad revenue and privacy restrictions that people are implementing that is reducing the value of the data Google has Continue reading

Wi-Fi 6 Release 2, Or Why Naming Conventions Suck

I just noticed that the Wi-Fi Alliance announced a new spec for Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E. Long-time readers of this blog will know that I am a fan of referring to technology by the standard, not by a catch term that serves as a way to trademark something, like Pentium. Anyway, this updated new standard for wireless communications was announced on January 5th at CES and seems to be an entry in the long line of embarrassing companies that forget to think ahead when naming things.

Standards Bodies Suck

Let’s look at what’s included in the new release for Wi-Fi 6. The first and likely biggest thing to crow about is uplink multi-user MIMO. This technology is designed to enhance performance and reduce latency for things like video conferencing and uploading data. Essentially, it creates multi-user MIMO for data headed back the other direction. When the standard was first announced in 2018 who knew we would have spent two years using Zoom for everything? This adds functionality to help alleviate congestion for applications that upload lots of data.

The second new feature is power management. This one is aimed primarily at IoT devices. The combination of broadcast target wake Continue reading

Make Sure You Juggle The Right Way in IT

When my eldest son was just a baby, he had toys that looked like little baseballs. Long story short, I decided to teach myself to juggle with them. I’d always wanted to learn and thought to myself “How hard can it be?” Well, the answer was harder than I thought and it took me more time that I realized to finally get the hang of it.

One of the things that I needed to learn is that adding in one more ball to track while I’m trying to manage the ones that I had wasn’t as simple as it sounded. You would think that adding in a fourth ball should only be about 25% harder than the three you had been working with before. Or, you might even believe the statistical fallacy that you’re only going to fail about a quarter of the time and be successful the rest. The truth is that adding in one more object makes your entire performance subpar until you learn to adjust for it.

Clogging Up the Pipe

I mention this example because the most obvious application for the juggling metaphor is in Quality of Service (QoS). If you’ve ever read any of Continue reading

Double the Fun in 2022

It’s January 1 again. The last 365 days have been fascinating for sure. The road to recovery doesn’t always take the straightest path. 2021 brought some of the the normal things back to us but we’re still not quite there yet. With that in mind, I wanted to look back at some of the things I proposed last year and see how they worked out for me:

  • Bullet Journaling: This one worked really well. When I remembered to do it. Being able to chart out what I was working on and what I needed to be doing helped keep me on track. The hardest part was remembering to do it. As I’ve said before, I always think I have a great memory and then remember that I forgot I don’t. Bullet journaling helped me get a lot of my tasks prioritized and made sure that the ones that didn’t get done got carried over to be finished later. I kind of stopped completely at the end of the year when things got hectic and I think that is what led me to feeling like everything was chaotic. I’m going to start again for 2022 and make sure to add Continue reading

Holiday Networking Thoughts from 2021

It’s the Christmas break for 2021, which means lots of time spent doing very little work-related stuff. I’m currently putting together a Lego set, playing Metroid Dread and working on beating Ocarina of Time again.

As I waited for updates to download on Christmas morning I remembered how many packets must be flying across the wire to update software and operating systems for consoles. Even having done a few of the updates the night before I could see the traffic to those servers started to get a bit congested. It’s like Black Friday but for the latest patches to keep your games running. Add in the content that needs to be installed now in order to make that game disc work, or the download-only consoles for sale, and you can see that network engineers aren’t going to be a dying profession any time soon.

I’m a bit jaded because I come from a time when you didn’t need to be constantly connected to use software or need to download an update every few days. Heck, some of the bugs in Ocarina of Time have been there for over twenty years because those cartridges are not designed to be patched, Continue reading

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