Thursday, June 18, 2015

NetBrain Blew My Mind! #TFDx #CLUS

Many moons ago I was a Network Administrator who managed static IP addresses by consulting the critical IP Networks Excel Spreadsheet. I had to find a free Windows based app which would show me a diff view of two switch configurations during the 15 day trial window. I had to create network diagrams in Visio which never included the information I needed when I was troubleshooting an issue with the very same network which I had previously drawn. I remember the Senior Network Administrator being very leery of software monitoring solutions which monitored by polling the network devices. At the time, I imagined that any additional load on our network devices would cause the whole network to suffer under the load of  any additional monitoring traffic.

This brings me to the software demonstration I witnessed last week. The CEO and founder of NetBrain described the very same way of working which I had lived (albeit thirteen years ago). He then went onto have Ben Abbot (Pre-Sales Engineer) perform a demonstration of their current software product: NetBrain Enterprise Edition.

With my very own eyes, I saw things that I did not know were possible. I saw network diagrams created on demand to show the information necessary to troubleshoot any given network issue. I saw network documentation automated and annotated by multiple network administrators. I saw Qapps written to solve immediate troubleshooting issues by someone who was not a programmer and did not have a programming/scripting/coding background.

I kept my amazement to myself. It had been so long since I had been in charge of a network, surely all of these things were now possible with any number of software solutions. The room stayed quiet. I could not tell if others were as impressed as I, or if they were thinking "Yep, business as usual."

As it turns out, everyone in the room was just as impressed as I was. Maybe they were all shocked into silence in the same way that I was. After all, the NetBrain application they showed us has been 10 years in the making and has 5 million lines of C++ code to make performing complicated tasks seem that simple.

At CiscoLive 2015, NetBrain released their first free DevOps Edition of the NetBrain software. The limit to the free software is that it can only map up to 10 devices. 

As it stands now, Network Engineers are being forced to learn REST API scripting (among others) to do SDN troubleshooting. This free version of software is designed to ease the transition for the Network Administrator to manage the network here and now.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Aruba, HP, MobileIron, PaloAlto, Arista Networks, what do they all have in common?

As you probably know by now, HP and Aruba have announced their intent to merge into a single corporation. Call it an acquisition, call it a sale, call it a merger, call it whatever you like. This week at Aruba Atmosphere 2015, the keynote presentations made it clear that Aruba and HP are all about partnering with other companies to bring the customer the best-of-breed solution set.

The keynote presentation by Dominic Orr gave us the clear message that things were not going to change. Meg Whitman spoke to us live from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona with a full six second delay between Dominic speaking and Meg reacting. The jury is out on whether or not this was actually a live feed, but the comedic effect of the delay was milked for all it was worth.

I found it very interesting to see Bob Tinker, CEO of MobileIron come on stage after Meg Whitman. I'm wondering if we might see another acquisition by HP, simply based on the focus Aruba is putting on strategic partnerships with companies who help Aruba/HP bring differentiated offerings to market. The lack of a built in MDM solution has been a glaring hole in the Cisco product portfolio for a very long time. Sure, Cisco has partnered with at least 6 different MDM vendors, but since they're only parters - your mile will vary greatly when you're seeing support to implement any give solution.

Chad Kinzelberg, Senior VP Palo Alto Networks went on to describe how the Palo Alto firewalls were much more nimble because they don't rely on the port based communication firewall sets like legacy firewalls do (read: Cisco).

Jayshree Ullal, CEO of Arista Networks rounded out the speaker list. She is by far the best public speaker I've heard present in a very long time. It was clear she had given this messaging about Arista many, many times - but she still managed to sound human doing it.

It will be interesting to see how the merger between HP and Aruba plays out over time, especially when there are so many companies relying on Aruba hardware to have a mobility offering in the first place.

Also, the opening act before Dominic took the stage was really cool! The iLuminate dance team from America's Got Talent kicked off the Atmosphere conference in a unique, geeky, Tron-esque fashion! Whoever booked them for this event deserves a pat on the back! Good work!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Hilton Worldwide Holdings supports Marriott's blocking personal Wi-Fi hotspots

In the latest update to the debacle surrounding Marriott being fined $600k for blocking personal Wi-Fi devices on its properties, Ars Technica reports Google and Microsoft are fighting Marriott's Wi-Fi blocking request.

What I found most interesting in the Ars Technica article is this paragraph:
The American Hotel & Lodging Association, Marriott International, Inc., and Ryman Hospitality Properties submitted a public comment on Marriott’s behalf on Friday, saying that the hotel was merely exercising "reasonable network management practices.”
I find it interesting that the document linked from the article was submitted by Hilton Worldwide Holdings in support of Marriott. I have not seen other headlines indicating other hotel chains are siding with Marriott. I have only seen headlines that Google and Microsoft are fighting Marriott's Wi-Fi blocking requestI then tried to find out which hotels are members of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, but I came up empty handed. I was hoping to see which hotel chains I could switch to if Hilton and Marriott are successful in their petition to block the use of personal Wi-Fi devices in their properties.

In the original Marriott case, the Wi-Fi blocking was being done at Marriott properties in the conference areas to force exhibitors to pay Marriott to have an access point installed for the duration of their conference. This practice is similar to that of hotels forbidding outside food or drink in conference areas which have been booked for events. All food and drink must be purchased from the hotel, along with the room for the event.

A friend of mine told me a story of the last time he stayed at a Marriott in O'ahu. He was using Marriott points to stay there for free and didn't want to pay the $14/day Marriott was charging for Wi-Fi. In the list of broadcast wireless networks was an SSID called "Screw Marriott". Naturally, he was curious and joined the Wi-Fi network. He was presented with a captive portal which said they would provide Wi-Fi at a reduced rate of $4 a day, which would allow him to stick it to the Marriott (as indicated by the SSID). He called the phone number shown, made payment via PayPal to an email address and happily used the "Screw Marriott" network for the week he was there!

If you read the Hilton filing closely, it states that hotels should have the ability to block your personal Wi-Fi to keep their Wi-Fi operational. What it does not say is how they would be blocking personal Wi-Fi devices. I wonder if they were blocking by SSID keyword (jetpack, ClearSpot, MiFi etc) or by spoofing the MAC address of the personal Wi-Fi device once it is detected. If the hotel is blocking by SSID keyword, this list would have to be curated by someone on the Marriott IT team to include the thousands of SSIDs detected by the Marriott wireless infrastructure. If the Marriott IT team is doing an active containment by using their access points to pretend to be the "rogue" access point and tell any associated clients to de-associate. Keyword SSID containment would be an arduous task, and personal hotspot users might escape detection during short hotel stays. Active containment would be a much quicker and invasive method for blocking personal hotspot use.

Either way, I will be monitoring my Mi-Fi connectivity during my upcoming hotel stays. I am currently a member of the Hilton loyalty program and I'll be watching to see if Hilton joins Marriott in blocking Mi-Fi usage. If major hotel chains are successful in the FCC petition to block personal Wi-Fi devices, I will make the switch to staying at a B&B or to a hotel chain which does not engage in this practice.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Ultimate Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

Crisp Gingerbread Cookies
makes 16 large cookies

6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 12 teaspoons ground cloves
1 12 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
2 large eggs

1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup unsulfured molasses

Recipe requires the following tools/supplies: parchment paper, plastic wrap, wax paper, icing tips and parchment paper icing bags, sprinkles or other cookie decorations (as desired) and paste food coloring.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy.

Mix in spices, salt, pepper, eggs and then molasses.

Add in half the flour mixture on low speed, then slowly add in the remaining portion.

Divide dough into thirds, tear off several sections of plastic wrap the size of the cookie sheet used to bake the cookies. Place section of dough on plastic wrap, place second layer of plastic wrap on top of cookie dough.

Flatten dough first using your hands, then use rolling pin to roll out dough to an even thickness of 18 or 14 inch depending on desired thickness of cookies.

Chill dough by placing sheet of cookie dough onto cookie sheet and place in freezer until dough is firm.

Repeat the creation of cookie dough sheets until all the cookie dough is rolled out and prepared for chilling. Stack layers of cookie dough sheets on cookie pan to ensure the dough is lying flat while chilling.

Chill dough until firm. Dough should not deform or bend when removed from freezer. This will make it easier to work with and make well formed cookies.

Cut several sheets of parchment paper sized to cover the cookie sheet used for baking. Set parchment paper sheets aside. 

Begin pre-heating oven to 350℉. 

Remove sheet of cookie dough from freezer. Remove one side of plastic wrap and then re-apply plastic wrap. The goal is to have the under side of the cookie dough sheet on the plastic wrap, but not stuck to the plastic wrap as tight as it was upon removing from freezer. Lay cookie dough down on work surface with the less 'stuck' side of the plastic wrap down. Remove top layer of plastic wrap.

Using lightly floured cookie cutters, cut out cookie shapes and transfer to parchment paper on top of cookie sheet. If cookie dough has chilled long enough, the cookies will remove cleanly from the plastic wrap. If cookies do not remove easily from the plastic wrap, place plastic wrap back over cookie dough sheet and put cookie dough back in freezer to chill longer.

Leave room between cookies on the parchment paper for dough spread during baking.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes at 350℉, or until cookies are crisp but not darkened around the edges. Baking times will vary depending on thickness of cookie or size of cookie.

Repeat process of working with chilled dough and place cookies to be baked on parchment paper sheet while current batch of cookies are baking. When cookies have finished baking, remove cookie sheet from oven and slide parchment paper with baked cookies on it to the counter top. Slide parchment paper with cookies not yet baked onto the hot cookie pan and place in oven to bake. Remove baked cookies from parchment paper with a metal spatula and transfer to wire racks to cool.

Once cookies have cooled to the touch, they can be organized by shape and size in preparation for decorating.

Royal Icing (makes 2 12 cups)
2 large egg whites, or 5 tablespoons meringue powder mixed with scant 12 cup of water
1 pound confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice (lemon juice used to add contrasting flavor to gingerbread cookie. If desired, plain water can be substituted)

In bowl of electric mixer, beat egg whites, sugar and the 2 teaspoons of lemon juice on low speed for 10 minutes. If icing is too thick, add additional teaspoon of lemon juice. If too thin, beat 2 to 3 minutes more. Separate into 34 cup portions, add food coloring paste to achieve desired colors.

Using parchment icing bags, fill each bag with colored icing, apply decorating tips as shown in steps 6, 7 & 8. Place filled icing bags in small containers with a damp paper towel at the base of each small container or drinking glass. The damp paper towel will keep the icing from drying and clogging the frosting tip. 

Using a #2 tip for piping, outline the cookies with a slow steady bead of icing. For floodwork on cookies use a #5 tip or carefully add frosting with a small icing spatula. Here is an excellent photo tutorial on floodwork icing cookies.


This recipe was originally published in Martha Stewart Living magazine 1997 December #55, but the original recipe left a lot of crucial steps out if you actually wanted to make cookies. There was no mention of the layering of plastic wrap on the dough and chilling the dough to the point of stiffness, nor was there any mention of using parchment paper under the cookies.

The original recipe suggest using Silpat mats. Silpat mats retail for around $30 today, heaven knows what they cost in 1997 - I sure couldn't afford it. The magazine also offered a set of oversized Christmas ornament cookies for around $45. Again, that was a massive amount of money for my 1997 budget.

Necessity is the mother of invention: I went down to my local surplus store Skycraft Surplus and found 12 inch strips of stainless steel. I used a pair of pliers to bend the steel into the ornament shapes shown in the magazine and secured them with a bolt and locking nut. Yay for DIY!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Time Machine, Spotlight, Stalled Backups and a SanDisk MicroSD card

Recently I was having issues with Spotlight hanging when trying to index the HD on my 2012 15" Macbook Retina laptop. Spotlight never finished and in conjunction I noticed that I hadn't had a successful backup in over a month. When I kicked off a backup manually (Backup Now), the backup would get to the 1.62GB or 2GB point and just *stop*.

I took it to the Apple store, the tech did a permissions repair and disk repair on my SSD, no issues were found. I did the same system checks on the external drive I use for backups. No problems found with the external drive either. The tech recommended reinstalling OSX, but I couldn't do that until I had a good backup. I took the laptop home and in a fit of desperation, I formatted the external drive in hopes whatever offending file was stopping the backups from completing would be erased. Along with that I also deleted every backup of my laptop that I'd ever made.

This put me in the spot of not having a backup and not being able to complete a backup because Spotlight couldn't complete indexing. I removed every unnecessary directory from the backup list, and pared down the list of things Spotlight should index. Still no dice.

I happend to be in the office and a co-worker loaned me his external SSD drive to try as an alternate backup destination to see if it was a problem with my external drive. The backup still hung at the 2GB point.

My console reported zillions of mdworker: (Warning) Import: bad path: entries. Internet searches weren't shedding much light on what the issue might be. Several blog posts said people had issues with old iPods being connected to their laptops & the exFAT format of the iPod was making Spotlight hang. I also came across a post from Stephen Foskett about exFAT causing problems. This got me to thinking. The only other thing connected to my laptop was a SanDisk Ultra 64GB MicroSD card in a Nifty drive adapter. I don't remember formatting it as exFAT and it's been in my laptop for over a year. I ejected the Nifty card and immediately noticed that Spotlight had a *real* estimate of completion time and that the backup I manually started quickly surpassed the 2GB point where it had previously been choking.

The problem I have with this being the fix is this: the Nifty/SanDisk card was present in the list of items to exclude from backing up. Even if Spotlight had problems with the exFAT format of the SanDisk card, it shouldn't have caused the backup to hang. In short, Macs running Mavericks do not play nice with drives formatted in exFAT. Once the SD card was formatted as anything other than exFAT, my incremental backups are completing with no issues.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Four Year Universities, CS Degrees, Social Classes, Misogyny and Me.

I am a woman in IT. I don't have a four year degree. I have never been enrolled in a CS program. I had a blue-collar upbringing. I've had to fight for fairness and equal pay in the workplace.

The reason I got into IT was partially because of the IT guy who serviced the computers at the walk-in clinic where I worked in 1999. He was one of those IT guys who acts like he has this expanse of knowledge that you couldn't possibly understand, so he wouldn't deign to explain to me what he was doing to the PCs or why. His condescending nature really irritated me, so I did some research to see what he really had to know to get a job like that. Turns out, the only prerequisite for his job was an A+ or CNA certification.

The local vocational school had night class program for the A+, Net+ and Cisco Networking Academy. After wondering if I'd maybe bitten off more than I could chew, I went to a meet the teacher event at OCPS to see what the school offered. Mr. Vanderpool was exactly what I needed to get started. He has a very calm demeanor, explains the subjects thoroughly and has an extreme amount of patience with all of his students. Whenever I'm back in Orlando, I make a point of stopping in to say hello! He was instrumental in setting me off on the right foot. At the time, I had a Windows 98 home grown PC (built for me by a dear friend). Its power supply was going bad and I was running the PC with the case off to keep it from overheating. After a few weeks of night school, I was confident enough to swap out the power supply without fear that I might break something else in the process. It was my only computer and I didn't want to destroy it by hooking up something incorrectly.

My parents left a lot to be desired when it comes to educational/life guidance, exposure to new ideas or financial assistance. Recently, Keith Parsons posted a link on FB to an Economist article titled "Parenting in America: Choose your parents wisely". The article got me to thinking about my own upbringing and how I've turned out. My dad ran the machine press at Western Electric, making the Model 500DD plastic telephone parts. My mother was a hairdresser at a nearby retirement home. Neither of them had a High School diploma, let alone a graduate degree. Going by the data in the article, the one thing my mother did right was reading to me at a very young age.

I've read dozens of articles lamenting the lack of women in CS degree programs at four year universities. The problem with the statistics in these articles is they're only looking at four year universities. There are many paths that can lead into a career in IT. Enrollment in a four year university CS program is only one way. Those statistics are misleading because so many other viable paths to an IT career are not considered in the studies. At least one manager at Microsoft is trying to set the story straight.

I have negotiated for pay raises and stood up for myself when blame was being tossed around the workplace, but I have never been subjected to the sexism that would appear to be rampant throughout the coder, hacker, gamer and tech startup communities. Perhaps the crowd at Cisco Live is a bit older, perhaps the desire to avoid career limiting moves or maybe I've not been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In conclusion: Don't let people tell you what you can or can't be based upon how you grew up or which social class you come from. A four year CS degree is not an absolute must. If you love what you do and continue to grow your professional skill set, it can lead to good things. The biggest thing keeping you from being the best you can be is you telling yourself that they're right, or that you'll start that career change tomorrow. There are dozens of people (probably quite a few that you haven't met yet) who want to see you succeed. Believe in yourself and hit the books. Statistics be damned!

Related to this post, I was interviewed by Josh O'Brien for his WhoIs series. I touched on some of these subjects in that interview, but felt it was finally time to put my thoughts into writing.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Excited to hear Avaya present at Wireless Field Day 7!

There's a great lineup of presenters at the upcoming Wireless Field Day 7! Mark your calendars for August 6th - 8th. As always, the presentations will be streamed and recorded so you won't miss anything even if you have to miss it during the first airing.

You can tap into the live stream at once we're on the air.

I'm excited to hear about what is going on at Avaya around their wireless offering. A little birdie recently told me about how many ex-Cisco/ex-Juniper employees are now a part of the Mobility team over at Avaya. If people who have been in the Wi-Fi business for over a decade (or more!) are moving over to Avaya's Mobility team, you know something terribly exciting is going on.

The full list of sponsors has filled out quite nicely:

Cisco Mobility
Extreme Networks
Fluke Networks

I'm glad to be invited once again, and I'm looking forward to meeting the one new WFD delegate who I haven't already met! I'm talking about you, Glenn Cate!  
It'll also be nice to spend some time catching up with all the familiar faces who've been invited back.

Related Posts from other WFD7 delegates:
Know something Wi-Fi... know everything Wi-Fi
Preparing for Wireless Field Day #7