Why I Review Customer’s Site Surveys With Them

Jealousy is an ugly trait

I don’t do site surveys anymore. My back thanks me for it. My airline status doesn’t.  As a manufacturer SE though, I see them every day. Why?  I ask for them!  I don’t step and click and click and step anymore.  Been there, done that (do people still say that?).  It’s just not part of my job anymore.  That said, I miss the hell out of them and try to see as many as possible.

Best in the biz

My employer’s partner community is top notch.  Best of the best.  They have engineers I would hire in a New York minute if I was an IT Director again.  They have the tools (I’m coveting your Ekahau SideKick….you know who you are).  They have the services teams.  They have the person-hours to justifiably bill a customer to do a thorough survey.  In my patch especially, I have some absolutely rock solid partner engineers to work with.  I trust that they are going to be extremely high-quality and thorough surveys.

My customers are all enterprise level WiFi commandos.  They have teams that breathe wireless, drink L2, and see radio waves.  They can tell when a warp core is misaligned by the hum of the nacelles.  They have the certs, the experience, and the feel for their environment to be able to provide enterprise service levels.

you get it, they rock, SO why do I review surveys?

Surveying is a skill and muscle that you need to work in order to keep strong.  Building and walking through reports is as well.  It’s a constantly changing science and a subjective art.  If you gave three WiFi surveyors a CAD, you could get seven designs.  There is not (as yet) an industry standard survey methodology.  There are best practices, there are individual methodologies and there are amazing training opportunities from CWNP, the survey software creators, and even the manufacturers.  There is no A-Z survey standard that a governing body prescribes though.  So the variety is incredible. Seeing as many surveys as possible, done by as many people as possible, just keeps filling my bag of tricks with more ideas.  I didn’t walk and click, but I get to see those walks and clicks.

it’s all about the community

Those are the selfish reasons.  Now let’s talk about the business reasons and how the selfish reasons help everyone.

If you take all of the above and you whip it together you get cream of the crop surveys.  I get a fantastic view into the minds of my betters.  I then get to add that cream to my customer’s and partner’s coffee.  With such a wide view, I get to share all those lessons and philosophies and be a clearinghouse of data.  I get to say “you know my buddy at XYZ partner found that there is a new lead lined sheetrock product on the market that eats signal” or “this is great, but my customer at the Widget Factory found that those same handhelds have crap antennas and super low power, so we want to scrunch the APs in a bit tighter than we  may have thought”.

So, we sit down and go through them together.  The customer, the partner, and me.  In the end, it helps the products I hawk work better.  It helps my customers achieve their business objectives.  It helps me hone skills.  Most importantly though, it allows me to spread knowledge that may not otherwise have a conduit, helping to better everyone’s designs.

Why I Use A Macbook – An Ode To DOS Snobs

I am writing this on my new(ish) BabyDoll.  I sold my Surface 4 and bought this MacBook Pro 13″ Touch Bar.  There were a lot of reason to re-evaluate the Surface, not least of which was that it didn’t actually work on my lap.  Despite what MS says in their “it’s lappable” dogma, it is not.  That dogma don’t hunt.  I have a work Macbook Pro, but I want my own box without a bunch of corporate software on it and that I can do personal junk on without feeling guilty.  I use my personal box full time for work for the above reasons as well.  So off I went to Best Buy.  I had an open mind and was initially looking at another DOS box.  As I over-analyzed though, I went with another Mac.

An OS is a tool to get a job done.  I used to spin up VM a lot, but the main reason, Office, is usable on Mac at this point. To that point, I can load Windows on my Mac, but I can’t – at least ethically – load MacOS on other hardware.  So, why is MacOS my goto?  Chicks dig it.  Also, it has much better native tools for what I do and I can customize it more than a DOS box.

I love going to customer sites and getting crap from my Windows elitist buddies for using a Mac.  My usual response is “I understand that Unix can be intimidating, I get why you’d stay with DOS”.  Usually sometimes gets a begrudged laugh.  It’s true though.  I’m not an *nix snob.  I don’t want to compile the kernel to use a new mouse, but I want a bash shell damn it! Yeah, I get the Linux Services for Win10 thing, but it is bloaty and gross.  There are tools for Linux boxes that I can’t /easily/ use on my Mac as well though, so there is always a tradeoff.   MacOS gives me the happy medium.  I plug crap in and it works.  I get lots of native WiFi tools and several good suites not available on Windows or Linux (WiFi Explorer Pro being the one that comes to mind most readily).  I can capture packets natively and now I can even use Ekahau without spinning up a VM or BootCamping into Windows!

I love the customizability of the terminal on MacOS.  I use iTerm and a highly aliased .bash_profile to give me shortcuts and visuals I like, I love having nano, cat’ing a file so I don’t screw it up, and all that fun junk.  See my profile below.  It is a mashup of stuff my coworkers have found useful, stuff I’ve dug up around the web and a few things I came up with.

I also use my the ⌘+Space to open Spotlight and type in the app name almost exclusively for launching apps.  I hate mice,  as the more I can do to not move to it, the better.  It’s just so damned inefficient.  To that end, I actually prefer a laptop keyboard as the trackpad is closer than taking my hand off of the keyboard to dink with a mouse then moving it back over.  Most can agree that the trackpad on a Mac with its multitouch stuff is top of class.

I love virtual desktops that I can switch between easily with a 3 finger swipe on the trackpad.  I keep a Jump Desktop based RDP session open to my AD server, Jump Desktop VNC to my Ubuntu Box and sometimes one to my lab NUC running Windows 10 as a jump box.  Swipe Swipe done.

So in the end, I pretty much keep all OSs running in one form or another.  BabyDoll is the easiest way to do it.  It’s efficient, it’s extensible and it’s got the tools I need. I never open my iPad unless I am reading comics or reading Scootering magazine.  I use a Pixel 2 XL. I’m not an Apple fanboy, but my Mac is the best tool in the box for what I do in a day.  Also, chick digs it  (the only one I care about does anyway).


My .bash_profile, it’s all about the aliases baby.

alias ..='cd ../' #back that thing up
alias reload='source ~/.bash_profile' #since I constantly dink with this, I like to easily reload it
alias f='open -a Finder ./' # I avoid the trackpad when I can, one less movement and click to open finder at /
alias inet='curl ifconfig.me' # easier than opening the browser to whatsmyip.com so I can throw an nmap at the outside of the router
alias ip='ipconfig getifaddr en0' #cleaner than ifconfig if I just need my ip
alias speed='curl -o /dev/null http://speedtest.wdc01.softlayer.com/downloads/test10.zip' #decent but not perfect quick and dirty speedtest
alias tw='open -a /Applications/TextWrangler.app' #I use nano mostly, but if I need something more rich this makes it easy to open the file in TextWrangler (MUST HAVE for Mac nerds)
alias master='sshpass -p mypassword ssh rocky@aruba-master' #This is my lab, I don't mind cleartext passwords, this makes it easier to jump into my boxes
alias s3500='sshpass -p mypassword ssh rocky@s3500' #see above
alias s1500='sshpass -p mypassword ssh rocky@s1500' #see above above
alias dl380vm1='sshpass -p mypassword ssh rocky@dl380vm1' #see above above above
alias pi='sshpass -p mypassword ssh pi@192.168.0.96' #c'mon, you get the pictures
alias c='clear' #since I copy a lot of my ssh sessions for code snips for my customers, I clear a lot, that way I can do a ⌘A to snip it
alias weather="curl -s 'http://rss.accuweather.com/rss/liveweather_rss.asp?metric=2&locCode=en|us|portland-or|97209' | sed -n '/Currently:/ s/.*: \(.*\): \([0-9]*\)\([CF]\).*/\2°\3, \1/p'" #stupid terminal trick I found somewhere
alias ss="/System/Library/CoreServices/ScreenSaverEngine.app/Contents/MacOS/ScreenSaverEngine" #launch screensaver and lock screend
alias ls='ls -GFh' #We all have our ls fave, this is mine.
alias iscan=' nmap -p 1-65535 -T4 -A -v' # I forget command arguments because I am old this is for an intense can
alias osmap='nmap -A' # See above, this is a quick scan with OS
alias pscan='nmap -sn' #Quick ping scan

#borrowed from this post that has a LOT of great stuff https://natelandau.com/my-mac-osx-bash_profile/
# cleanupDS: Recursively delete .DS_Store files
# -------------------------------------------------------------------
alias cleanupDS="find . -type f -name '*.DS_Store' -ls -delete"

# finderShowHidden: Show hidden files in Finder
# finderHideHidden: Hide hidden files in Finder
# -------------------------------------------------------------------



Why I Buy Tools Out Of Pocket

Mechanics buy their own tools, plumbers do too, a lot of trades do. Most of us in technology are given a fair set of tools to do the job not long after signing the offer letter, and most of us take it for granted.

My employer is gracious enough to provide the current tech we have on offer.  They supply a lab server.  They provide a pretty beefy and regularly updated laptop.  I’ve got APs out the wazoo.  They even supply a car and the occasional polo shirt.  They provide the basics for me to get my job done.  They provide what I honestly think is a fair toolbox.  Could it be updated more often?  Sure, I’m a gearhound, who doesn’t want new and shiny stuff?

What they don’t provide is the incredible selection of fun wireless hardware that can help me to better understand my craft and ply my trade.  I didn’t get issued a WiFi Pineapple, but I wanted to see how well its Captive Portal could pass for an Aruba or Cisco one.  I wanted to be able to show my customers and to be able to talk about the threats these cute little devices can pose.  I wasn’t shipped a Hacker Arsenal WiMonitor and Winx and but I wanted to show my customers an inexpensive tool that can get some packets quick in a hurry.  I didn’t receive a WLAN Pi when it came out, but I wanted to be able to demonstrate to my customers that having a quick a solution for ePerf/iPerf, grabbing packets, and pulling speed tests is important and doesn’t have to mean buying expensive tools, requisitioning a MacBook or standing up a VM.

I got a desktop machine to use as a server when I started five years ago.  I got a Shuttle a few years later.  I wanted to be able to run multiple versions of all of our software, plus sundry stuff a customer may have in their environment.  Those boxes were out of gas as more and more of my company’s solutions are virtualized.  So I dug around on Craigslist and found a couple DL360s.  I wanted to be able to bounce gear out in the lab in my shop from my office in the house, so I went on eBay and picked up some IP PDUs.  I lock myself out, so I got an AirConsole.

Can I do my job without the kit above?  Yes.  Can I do it more easily with the above?  Hells yes.  When I mentor folks coming up in the trade I tell them that I’m willing to empower them, but that I don’t invest without return.  They have to put as much time into themselves as I do – and as much as I put into myself when my mentors helped me.  I expect them to fill their toolbox, and I expect to help them fill it.

So what’s the meat of this philosophical sandwich?  Easy: How can I expect someone to invest in me if I don’t invest in myself?

Also, I need the tax write-offs.

 

So You Want To Be A CISSP

Four years verified security experience. An intimidating test. A waiting period that made me lose more hair. This was my CISSP experience. When I took the CISSP it was bubble sheet/Scan Tron. Eight hours for 500 questions from 10 domains ranging from Physical Security to arcane Data Classification used by the military around the time War Games came out. It is, to use an oft used descriptor, a mile wide and an inch deep.

cisspjoke2-300x171

I sat for the test in March of 2006. I self studied. It was, to say the least, intense. Did I make it more intense than I needed to? Probably. I tend to over engineer about anything I can. Usually you can judge your level of study and adequacy of your methods by your test score. Trouble is, you don’t see that in the CISSP.  To the person, everyone I have talked to has the same comment “When I walked out, I had no idea if I had passed or bombed it!” When I took it, I had no computerized option, bubble sheet and #2 pencils only.  It took 3 weeks to find out if I passed the test.  At least that was via email.  Then started the background validation.  That was another 3 weeks.  How did they tell me I passed?  I got an envelope with Rocky Gregory, CISSP on it.  Saw it for the first time.  This was a cert I had wanted since the day I heard about it.  Something I sacrificed for, prepped for and lost a lot of sleep to.  Needless to say, I wept like I was watching Rudy.

One of the questions I get asked most often is what materials I used to study.  It’s important to stop here and note my study process.  Like everything I do, there is a process.

The Resources:

As a rule, I have 3 forms of all of the study materials on any exam.  I have a primary book –  This is the one I read from, mark up, etc.  I use it for the entire study session.  I have a second source – typically the “next best” version.  I do this as people have different writing styles.  They use different analogies.  They use a different tone and assume different levels of skill and background.  If I am baffled by a concept in book 1, I go to book 2 and read it there.  I also tend to take the chapter and content tests out of the second book, rather than the first.  More on that later.  Third –  I have an Exam Cram type book.  One of those skinny, packed with questions, pump and dump type texts.  NOT a brain dump, those are crap and they degrade our industry. I mean the Exam Cram book series. I certify to build my knowledge, renew my understandings, validate I am still mostly sane, and then the letters after my name.  Considering the price of most exams, and the fact that a lot of employers only pay for your first attempt, the test is ultimately fairly important.  Below are the modern versions of the books I used.  I have suggested them for the last 7 years, as well as my study methods and am proud to say the folks I have coached have passed the first time through!

The Books:

FirTheBiblest and foremost, the Shon Harris All-In-One Guide is a must.  This is the Golden Book.  I have known some folks that have used only this resource and passed.

 

Never Go Wrong with SybexNext is good old Sybex. Sybex have been around a dogs age and I have used them since my NT4 MCSE prep.  They are consistently mediocre, but always a good secondary text.  They employ good writers, have a very clean look and feel, and it’s another “voice” to read the text.

 

Cram It!Finally, a good Exam Cram guide for cramming, after chapter testing, and the bare bones answers.

 

 

The Method:

I’m fortunate enough to be a moderate test taker.  I’m extremely fortunate enough to have had a class on another topic taught by my friend and true instructor, ‘‘KC” Keith Charles.  KC taught me study tips that I use to this day, and share with anyone studying for a cert.  I’ve developed a project style preparation system as well.  I tend to put together a project plan for everything I do.  A friend once joked that I can’t refill my water bottle without a plan, process and system.  So, here it goes:

  • From KC, the power and virtue of NERVOUS NOTES.  The nervous notes concept changed my testing life.  The concept is simple.  You are nervous when you sit for a test.  Doesn’t matter who you are, you’ve got a bit of agita.  These notes affirm what you know, give you crib notes for what you don’t.  You write them over and over until it is muscle memory.  It gives you a second applied sense from which to learn, adds some kinesthesia and drives it home in general.  Details on how I use nervous notes:
  • Have a plan for what you will study each session.  “I will finish this malarky about the Orange Books tonight”.  “I will finally be able to explain Elliptical Curve Cryptography to my bulldog by the end of this session”.
  • Read the exam objectives.  Highlight the areas that are going to be troublesome.  Print those, have them somewhere you can see while you study.  Review and check off what you are comfortable with.
  • I really like to read a chapter or concept in one book, then test on it from the end of the chapter in another book.  I do this method until I am hitting in the 80% range, recursively study until I hit that number.  I then test in the primary source and the tertiary.  Once it’s solid, it’s solid.  It goes in the memory bank until the final week or two before the test.  Then I do the whole mugilla, chapter by chapter test.  I will sometimes challenge myself to go back x chapters at the end of a session on an entirely different topic.  With such a theoretical test as the CISSP, this can be a great game to play on yourself.
  • Set study times.  You’re busy.  I’m busy.  Congress is busy.  Get over it, set a specific time.  Lock yourself in a room.  If you dig music and can have it without being distracted, rock that.
  • Set a date and work back.  If you are paper and penciling it, this is pretty easy.  If you are computer basing it, set the date and build your study plan backwards from that date.

Nervous Notes:

  1. Take out an 8.5×11 sheet of paper at the beginning of your study session.
  2. Start making tables, charts, squiggles and notes on the stuff that you are having a hard time with.  For me a good example was EAP types for my CWSP.  Nice little table of type, security level, definition, etc.
  3. After your first session, take out the sheet and refine it, copy it by hand.
  4. Wash, rinse repeat.
  5. As test time gets closer, finish up the notes sheet.  Make a gold image.  Copy it before and after each session, at least once, if not a few times.  Get to where you are NOT thinking as you write it out.  You want to affirm what you know, give crib for what you struggle with and give yourself some time to breath before you hit the begin button or rip open the test book.
  6. Get an 8.5×11 sheet of paper at the test center.  The proctor will give you one and a pencil if you demand it, and as long as you give them the paper back after.  That was my experience any way.  Write out your nervous notes before you tear open the book or hit the start button.  This should relax you, enforce you know what you know and give you that quick reference.

So, that’s what I did.  Again, this may have been, and in fact probably was,  overkill preparation.  All I know is that it worked for me and I got those 5 letters I had wanted for so long.

Jukin’

I’m a digital guy. I grew up in front of computers. I have to have the newest and greatest gadgets as soon as possible.  I work in technology and spend a lot of my off time dicking around with the latest gizmo.

I like to keep a hand on the analog though.  I love the tactile experience of putting a record on the turntable. I love the hisses and pops and imperfections of music carved into a hunk of vinyl. I have an Echo Dot connected to the stereo in my shop where my lab lives and I do use it a lot, but I also like to spin up the turntable and drop the needle on classics not yet digitized, listen, and bask in the warmth.

My grandpa Orville had a float house on the Columbia river where he parked his boat when I was a lad. It was a magical place. A hang out space, a proto-mancave. There was a hardwood bar with bar stools, a pool table, a kegerator, a slot machine, and a 1947 AMI Model C jukebox. When Gramps passed,  the only thing I asked for was the jukebox. It was in very rough shape when I got it. The records were gone, parts were missing and it didn’t work. I’ve messed with it over the years and had it temporarily playing, but I’m not good enough with old electronics to have ever gotten it working stably.  This is a link to my youth, to the analog, and to good music only available on 78s.

I found a guy in Clackamas (about 10mi away)  who does restorations and just completed one of the exact same model! I’m going to look at his work, hopefully this weekend, and just sent him pictures of mine and the stacks of spare parts I’ve accumulated over the 10 years I’ve been working on it. It’s my most prized possession. I’m REALLY hoping his work is good and that he’ll take the job of doing mine!  It will go into my burgeoning hang out space in my shop, next to the popcorn maker, kegerator and stand up arcade machine.  Now if I can just talk my mom out if the slot machine.

Wish me luck! Here’s what it should look like when finished.

 

Why Today Is Important

Alan Turing is credited with creating what we today know as the programmable computer. He had the idea before WWII, but work in earnest started in order to crack the “unbreakable” German Enigma machine’s encryption. They were used on U-boats which were destroying allied ships en-masse. Cracking their code would give locations to avoid and other vital information.

He worked in secret and never got credit for his work in his lifetime because it was still a state secret, though it saved thousands of lives. Many believe it to have been a big part of the reason the Germans surrendered.

He was discovered to be gay, a crime then, and penalized with chemical castration. He took his own life. He was posthumously pardoned in 2013 by the Queen. He is one of my biggest heroes and today is his birthday. Read a book on him or at least watch The Imitation Game. It’s pretty close to factual and you wouldn’t be reading this message if it weren’t for Turing.

Why I’m Finally Taking A Coding Class

Like most people my age, I’m 43. Unlike most people my age in my profession, I’ve never taken an actual programming class. Writing Color Basic programs on my TRS-80 is what got me into my beloved trade. Tirelessly copying programs line by line from Hot Coco magazine and tweaking them while working my way through the books that came with the computer until I could write my own programs was all I could think of as a lad. When Batman wasn’t on. I can hack together a little python, munge some perl, and used to write the hell out of DOS scripts, but it’s all self taught, as opposed to hundreds of hours of classes I’ve taken for networking, servers, wireless and security.

To be honest, I loathe it now.  I don’t know the precise moment when I lost the taste. Probably the first time I heard the siren song of a modem squeal. I’ve spent a career avoiding programming and dba work.  Software engineering takes a such a focused linear mindset.  Don’t get me wrong, you do have to be methodical as a bit jockey, you have to have processes, and I do know some amazing linear thinking network folk, but that linearity is at a whole different level for programming. I admire it as a quality. That’s not me though. I am thinking about every component of a system all at once. It fits my scatter brain.  I’ll be honest as well that I just find it tedious. I’m methodical and all about process and procedure, I’m a single tasker, but my mind is working on flipping bits all the way from the antenna to the cat video all at once.

So, why the change of heart? A couple reasons, in reverse order of importance (see, I need more linearity):

A) I don’t want to jump up the stack and become a code poet and I know enough to cobble together a script, but the lines between software and networking are blurring. My friend George Stefanick (go see his blog if you have ANYTHING to do with WiFi), during a vendor presentation on SDN at Wireless Field Day asked “at what point am I no longer a network guy and become a software guy” or words to that effect. As usual, he made a very valid point.  It’s time to invest in some career future proofing.  I’m wrapping up on the certs I’ve been after for many many years and I’d go nuts if I wasn’t learning. It’s time to codify my understanding in an instructed rather than ad-hoc fashion.  It’s also a challenge and a step away from my comfort zone.

2) The best part is that one of my best friends, who also happens to be my son, is taking the class with me (I’m the lucky dad who is close friends with all three if his adult children)!  We did Lego Mindstorms when he was a kid, played with Arduino a few years ago, and he has a knack and the mind for it. He sees the routines in his head and they appear on the screen. We got to talking and decided it would be fun to do it together. We can be competitive, and this is a way to be with fewer welts than our paintball outings. He just got out of high school and a little instructor-led online 12-week class is a good way to explore it as a career possibility or just take it up as a hobby. Or he could drop it flat, whatever, he’s at the age where it’s good to try things on and see if they fit.  We can drop the whole experience off at Goodwill if it’s not his size.

So, Python 3 via Portland Community College, (who are also one of my clients) it is! If/then we like it, we keep going, else, it will have been a bonding experience, and I dig the hell out of those.