Sep 27

That was fast!

So, while waiting for the much anticipated end of the work week, I realized that today marks the one month anniversary of this blog. That was quick!

Ok, I know one month isn’t that long in blog terms but for me it’s been a stepping stone to something I’ve been meaning to do for years and is still very much a personal journey to discover exactly what I want to share with the world.

Honestly I really didn’t expect to have enough time to post what I was able to this first month. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if I can continue to do the same over the coming months.

With that being said, I expect things to grow outside of the bounds of my reflections and weird sense of humor. I personally hope to be able to post more of my enjoyments and things that I find interesting in addition to the educational and nostalgic.

So if you end up offended by seeing weird music videos, geeky humor, some odd article about networking, life in general, gaming, or any number of things I consider to define my personal “networds”, don’t say you weren’t warned. 🙂

-Kevin

Sep 09

The politically correct way to say no.

Often in my job I’m asked to do things that I’m just not able to say yes to. Most of the time it’s security related and sometimes is just because there’s no money available. Sometimes it’s both.

For example today I was asked if a public site which has fairly sporadic public internet access and extremely outdated hardware in both access points and router was capable of supporting a completely secure, wireless, web based, third party tax solution utilizing this public internet access. The home user answer is “Maybe.. what? taxes nooo!”. The security aspect answer is “Not secure! they’ll get hacked easily!”. The technical answer is “Yes but the internet sucks and they APs are on their last leg so we’ll get calls about it a lot so no.”  

The professional answer is that sure it can be done but the infrastructure needs to be upgraded as well as the internet connection if it’s going to meet their security requirements as well as provide some form of reliability for business purposes.

The guttural part of me just wants to shout out “You spend money yes! You no spend money… No!” 

As thats not usually acceptable by management standards we must resort to PC (politically correct) speak to sound more professional as well as to play the convenient cover our [bleep] card. What comes out is almost form letter like yet technically professional and accurate.

“Currently the internet connection at [site] is running off of service provided by [isp] and is non-secured through the facility for direct internet access to the public. The access points at this location are not considered to be enterprise class nor is the internet service connection to [isp] guaranteed by any service level agreement.

We have enterprise access points budgeted for next year for the site however a secondary router would need to be purchased in order to secure any traffic that is not considered “public” access. This hardware was not budgeted and would cost approximately [money] on top of the AP costs.

We also recommend that an internet service plan supported by a service level agreement be put in place for this location as well. The cost of this plan is [money] but is not covered under the current budget proposal. Without these three pieces in place we can not recommend utilizing this connection for any business critical application.”

Seems kinda crazy that as networking professionals we’ve had to resort to such strict forms of communication but such is life. If you read this post, please let me know what crazy scenarios you’ve had to be overly PC in replying to. 🙂

 

Sep 06

OMNE IGNOTUM PRO MAGNIFICO

“Everything unknown is taken for magnificient”

When I started doing communications (the precursor to the networking arena) over twenty years ago, a lot of everything that took place was considered offline or service based. The closest anyone had to a social experience with the computer were the paid services such as AOL, Prodigy, or Compuserv as well as the free services provided by local BBS’s (Bulletin Board Systems) . As my family did not have the income to support a paid service I found myself going the free route by heavily entrenching myself into the culture and intrigue of BBS’s.

It was amazing to me that any one person could use a computer, phone line, and a modem and provide or utilize a service so amazing that people would continue to call in and use it day after day, week after week. One person seemed to never having enough time alloted per BBS per day to play all the games, participate in the message boards, or download the latest shareware/freeware available.

Some BBS’s even had multiple computers with multiple phone lines tied together so that several users could “chat” with each other in addition to the sysop (The bulletin board’s system operator). I could have never imagined that the social experience provided by this one feature would be so integral to the society of “the future” but thats another story.

As was inevitable, at least in hindsight, I found the lure of the unknown too great and had to open up my own BBS as well. With some creative convincing on my part towards my parents that this was “going to help my education”, I was provided my own phone line and given the $15 needed to license the bulletin board software of my choosing. What occured over the next two years was nothing short of magnificent in my eyes.

If i was to go back and count the number of people I met and made friends with over that two year span, I could easily fill this blog with names and memories for the next several months. Even to this day some of my closest friends were met through my time running the “Ten Forward BBS“. My significant other Randi was even part of this close knit group. Before you ask, yes I was a huge Star Trek fan, and yes I still am to this day. I even remember the number everyone used to dial my system. It was such an integral part of my life I’m not sure I will ever forget it.

Ironically enough it was the internet that killed my BBS and opened the door to what would eventually become my current life. This new company opened about 30 miles from our city and was the first internet provider in our area. I found myself once again talking my parents into paying for a monthly subscription to this new amazing world “for my education”. Back then everything was text based. The Internet yellow pages was actually about the size of a normal city phone book. There were these really cool service names like gopher, veronica, ftp, and irc. I didn’t know what they were but I had to find out. The unknown was calling me.

I found myself online all the time and eventually the bulletin board became a “while I was sleeping or at school” service. Friends would call and complain, other BBS operators were unlinking mine because they weren’t getting nightly updates. Finally I closed the doors and gave into the inevitable. The BBS days were numbered and this new internet thing was the future.

I spent more time than I’m really willing to admit learning about how the internet worked. I read way too many books, asked more questions than I can count to the various internet message boards, and just explored everything I could. I even managed to find a way to “hack” my ISP’s password file so that I could continue online with other user accounts when my time limit was reached.

When the first graphical web browser was released things went crazy, at least to my eyes. The amount of web pages being created and people who wanted to be online was amazing and I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to be a part of it. When I heard that a few local investors were looking for someone who could help them open up a new local ISP I jumped at the chance. I was in college at this point but left because of the opportunity. I did come back and help teach a web marketing class at one point but that too is another story.

I could go on and on about everything I thought I knew but didn’t. I could talk about all the drama and business successes and failures that took place over the next three years but I won’t. I could even talk about the first friends who became enemies with the redemptions that occured years later but that’s not for this post.

Suffice it to say, life happened, and over time I found out that it’s not just about the experiences of the moment. It’s about being prepared to experience the moments of the future as well. At this “moment” I find myself happily working in the networking arena while also enjoying life in general. I do know that eventually things will change at some point and I can only hope I’ll be ready and that it goes positively.

 

Until that time comes, I will continue to grow and learn from my experiences while looking forward towards the unknown. I know it will be magnificient.

 

 

 

Aug 30

Staying busy…

Staying busy… the declaration of a frustrated individual

So today as I was going through my project list I realized that sometimes I get so caught up in busy work that I forget about the proverbial “learn something new every day” that my dad pushed me towards every day he was alive.

I sometimes feel like I’m always re-learning the same things and I’ve started to worry that everything I’ve forgotten over the years is catching up to me. I’ve even had crazy dreams that obviously relate to the sometimes insecurity that even those of us who have been doing this for 15+ years runs into seemingly all the time.

I’m sure all of the current frustration has been due to just one of my projects, a Lync 2013 deployment that has been going on for a month or two now. In lab and in class everything is always so much easier than the real world. In the real word we have issues like proxy and firewall problems mixed with certificate errors and just plain topology differences that make things hard to remember without checking through exhausting pages of notes. Even then all it takes is one minor misstep and now you have to go back and triple check what you’ve already triple checked twice. I’ve beat my head against the wall, walked away from my monitor, moved onto other projects, fought to clear my head, and came back to try again.

Realistically, I know that this is only just a project and eventually everything will line up and then be forgotten about until the next problem arises with something else. It’s just part of being a network engineer and even a computer person in general. With that being said, it reminds me of one of the first things I mentor to new hires, and one of the things it took (and still sometimes takes me) the longest to embrace even after all the years it was repeated to me by my father. It’s become my mantra and it’s so simple we forget it.

badsmiley“You are only one person and you will only be able to do what you can do in the time you’re given every day.”

I’ll get in trouble! – This will look bad if I don’t get it done! – I’ve got all these other projects that have to be done too! – Everyone is calling me and asking when this will be done! – I’m behind schedule! – I can’t handle this pressure!

Sound familiar? Yeah it does to me too. The thing is, it is up to us as individuals to communicate our limitations to those around us as well as our supervisors, managers, significant others, kids, but mostly ourselves. Sometimes we don’t even know our own limitations and it’s nice to be surprised when things go perfectly. When it comes down to it, we get frustrated because we have conditioned ourselves to always go faster, be better, do things quicker, become “that guy” that everyone depends on. When we sometimes don’t live up to that expectation of ourselves we get angry, frustrated, and beat ourselves up. I don’t think I’m the best co-worker or family member to be around when that happens… I’m sure if we’re all honest, none of us are.

Sometimes we need to take a step back and look at things in perspective. I know for myself, I’ve got experience in a LOT of areas outside of my primary network administration life. Windows server administration, AIX, *nix, project management, security, the list goes on. If you ask me if I know anyone who is better at any of those than I am, the answer is absolutely.

With that being said, no matter how much others know or even how much we know as individuals, most of us could not do our jobs if we did not have the experiences of others (and google) to fall back on when we get stuck. Luckily I’ve been in a position over the years to help others just as much as they’ve helped me. I appreciate so many people in my life, and am thankful for my dads advice over the years. He always told me to learn something new every day, and I’ve expanded that include teaching as well.

So feel free to prepend this revised project list to your daily routine.

1. Learn something new.
2. Teach something new.
3. Communicate your limitations.
4. Step back and let others help when you are stuck.
5. Realize you’re only one person and remind yourself daily that you can only do so much.

Prioritize these five things every day and how can you be frustrated when you’ve already accomplished so much?