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i need a new computer - advice?

Pii Re:Alienware? (29 comments)

Actually, Parallels is so good, you can run Linux in a VM, and still have all the yumminess of OS X, though there's a danger that you'll never bother with Linux.

I've had my Macbook Pro for about a year... First Mac ever. I'm not going back.

more than 7 years ago


Pii hasn't submitted any stories.



Office Fun with Aluminum Foil

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 7 years ago

I was supposed to be doing some work at my office over the weekend, but my equipment didn't make it over from our warehouse... So instead, a couple of friends and I completely foil wrapped another friend's cubicle.

Hilarity Ensued.

Hook a brother up with a Digg...


Vacation over...

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 8 years ago

...and much sadness ensued.

My home is "The Evil Anti-Vegas."

Details can be found here, with more to be revealed over the next few days.

That is all.


Holy crap...

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 8 years ago Let me preface this with an appropriate quote:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. - Arthur C. Clarke

So I'm reading this article on IP Address management, and I run into some wannabe networking expert that is advising the origin of the Ask Slashdot topic to "Learn Subnetting," when said wannabe goes on to incorrectly give an IP subnetting example.

Of course I reply to bust his balls because, well, I can.

I get to wondering what other network related advice he's been doling out on poor unsuspecting Slashdot readers, so I start looking at some of his posting history, where I run into this thread on network design, and running a collapsed backbone.

Understand, IP Networking is my wheelhouse. I've made my living for the past 16 years as a network consultant.

So I start reading through the comments on that article, and I swear to god, had the article not already been archived, I could have spent all day and all night going through the whole discussion correcting almost every single post on the page...

This is Slashdot, right? This used to be a technically savvy community, where people that knew were supposed to offer their insights, and the people that didn't know were burned at the stake.

Never have I seen such a collection of ill-informed half-truths, partial quasi-knowledge, and downright error in a single story thread. Maybe it's rampant, and I just don't notice it because networking is my one true discipline.

I guess it's nice to know that I'll always be able to make plenty of coin doing what I do today because to most people, it is obviously a feat of wizardry.


The problem with online Poker...

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 9 years ago I've been playing Poker for about 3 years now, and I'd like to think I'm pretty good. I do very well in live games, and online.

Tonight, for the first time ever, I got quad Aces, and wouldn't you know it, I failed to get paid.

Here's the story...

I'm playing over at ESPN, trying to qualify for their big tournament, the winner of which gets a seat in the main event of the World Series this June.

I bust out three players in the first hand of this single table tourney, so I'm sitting at around $4000 in chips, and the remaining 6 players are around $1000 each.

I'm dealt "Big Chick," As Qs, in late position. It's raised twice before my turn to act, and I limp in, just calling.

Flop comes Ac 4c Ad, so I've got a set, and I'm sitting pretty. Everybody checks it around, and I check too, slow playing it, making sure not to scare anybody off.

The Turn comes: 8s. First guy bets at it, two guys fold, another guy raises it, and I call. Initial raiser calls as well.

The River: Ah.

I've got AAAAQ!

First guy makes a bet twice the size of the pot. The guy to my right raises him. I'm thinking they've each made boats. I raise it again.

First guy goes all in. Guy to my right goes all in.

I'm waiting for my action dialog to pop up on the screen so I can crush these guys with my Quads... And waiting... Waiting... The dialog never comes.

About 30 seconds later, my client reconnects with the server, and I see my hand auto-folded by the computer due to my delay, and the winner has AAA88, beating AAA44.

I totally owned those guys.

It would have been a great story.

I guess I'll forever be telling the even better poker story about the time I held 4 Aces and a Queen, and folded the hand.


October Surprise(s)

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 10 years ago Let me preface this with two brief points:

  • I am growing exceedingly weary with this election cycle.
  • This has by far been the dirtiest, most negative presidential campaign of my lifetime, and I doubt it will hold the record for more than 4 years.

Now, I realize that most of the people on Slashdot are either Kerry or Nader supporters, and have liberal leanings. I attribute this primarily to the average age of the Slashdot demographic, which in my estimation, runs from teens to young adults (15 - 26).

I have long been aware of the quote "A young person that isn't a democrat has no heart; an old person that isn't a republican has no brain." Overly generalized perhaps, but I think true for the most part.

For the record, I'm neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I'm a Libertarian, both philisophically, and politically. I voted for Harry Brown in the last election, and I may end up voting for Badnarik in this one (unless it looks like Virginia is in play).

There are a number of reasons not to like President Bush. I am not a supporter, or a fan, by any stretch of the imagination.

If your reasons come down to your personal preferences between the liberal and conservative approach and general philosophy, that's fine, and I hope you go out and vote on Tuesday the same way you always do.

If, however, you've decided to vote against Bush for any of the following reasons:

  • Uneccessary war in Iraq
  • Bush/Cheney/Powell lied about WMDs
  • Saddam Hussein posed no threat
  • Alienation of our Foreign Allies
  • Failure to adhere to the desires of the UN/World Community

If any or all of those are your reasons not to support this President, there are a couple of news stories that aren't getting a lot of press this week, which should be, and they might have an impact on your decision next Tuesday.

First, the Washington Times is reporting that the 380 tons of high explosives that are missing from an Iraqi ammo depot appear to have been removed from Iraq prior to the US forces invasion. These munitions were moved with the assistance of Russian special forces to Syria, Lebanon, and possibly Iran. In addition the the explosives, components used in the manufacture of chemical weapons may have also been convoyed out with them. In addition to relocating these munitions, Russian forces were also charged with assisting in the destruction of all documentation tying Russia to having provided these munitions to Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

The story can be read here. If it's true, was war in Iraq still the "Wrong War in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time?" Consider that carefully.

Second, ABCNews has received a video tape from an alleged al Qaeda operative. They turned it over to the CIA and the FBI a couple of days ago so that it could be authenticated, and late last night, it was authenticated. It warns that the next round of attacks will dwarf 9/11, that "the streets will run red with the blood of Americans," and that "America will mourn in silence" because they will be unable to count the many dead.

ABCNews has not reported the story, even though in the past, they've reported about these kind of tapes prior to any kind of government authentication. They claim they don't want to panic people prior to the election. It is equally possible, however, that they don't want people walking into a voting booth with "Terrorism" as the foremost issue in their minds, because if you look at any polling data, you'll see that Bush leads Kerry by a huge margin on the issue of Terrorism.

Information about this story can be found at Drudge, and specifically at this link.

I will conceed readily that the Washington Times is a conservative newspaper, but while you may take issue with their editorial bent, they have never been accused of sloppy reporting, or lying.

Drudge on the other hand is commonly viewed as a Republican shill, but terrorism is not a political issue.

I find ABCNews' actions to be highly irregular. Generally, the battle cry of the press is "the people have a right to know." ABC seems to be saying "the people have no need to know."

I hope these stories find their way into the public consciousness prior to the election, and I hope people can start to realize that the opinions they believe they have formed on their own based on "all" the information, are really the result of having been provded only with the information that can lead to a single conclusion, rather than the whole.

America has been duped.


Miracles abound...

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 10 years ago My 3 year old daughter underwent open heart surgery today to correct a number of defects that went undetected until December of last year...

Everything went great, and she was awake, alert, and talking just 40 minutes after they closed up her little chest.

You can't imagine the horror of learning that your little girl is going to have to undergo something like this. For the past 6 months, it's hung in the air of my house like a foul stench that nobody wanted to acknowledge. We snuck around the subject because facing it, and the potential outcome, was simply too awful.

We also tried to protect our son, age 10, from worrying too much, but ultimately, we had to tell him that there was a very real possibility that his sister might now be coming home from the hospital.

Thankfully, the worst is now behind us. My daughter is recovering well (the next 24 - 48 hours is still key), but if she continues to hit her recovery milestones at the current pace, we should be able to bring her home this weekend.

I'd like to commend an exceptional team of doctors working at VCU MCV (Virginia Commonwealth University, Medical College of Virginia) in Richmond, and especially Dr. Allen (her Pediatric Cardiologist), and Dr. Mehta (her Pediatric Cardiac Surgeon). In addition to being exceptional physicians, these men were supportive, approachable, and emotionally invested in seeing this through. Maybe it's because they do pediatric work, but I've never met two doctors that were less "distant" in my life.

I owe each of them a debt of gratitude that simply can't ever be repaid.


Finally, time to blow this popsicle stand...

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 10 years ago The end is near my friends...

Just got the green light from my new employer, and I'll be resigning my current position on Friday. I'd been waiting for the new place to complete my background investigation, and I got the word this morning that it's been completed.

I gaze around at the suck ass company that I've been working at for almost 3 years, and I can now tell them to pound sand.

I still can't believe I've been here that long. It's by far the worst place I've ever worked, and yet, this is the longest period of time that I've ever been in ine place. I've resigned from much better places that this, usually around the two year mark.

I knew when I got here that I wanted to leave, but the economy was so crappy for so long, I was stuck.

All of that will soon be behind me.

Careful... Smiling too much... I don't want to tip them off about what's coming... Tee Hee!


Jay Maynard will not go away...

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 10 years ago Not long ago Slashdot ran a story about Jay Maynard, and his homemade Tron costume...

As should have been expected, we all laughed, particularly at the photographs.

That was about two weeks ago...

Last week, the Don and Mike radio show called him up and did a half hour interview with him... I laughed again, and was shamed for having known about this guy beforehand.

Monday night, Jimmy Kimmel had him on his late night show, and I was simply dumbfounded.

Maynard is a good sport for letting all of these people make fun of him, but I can't believe how much attention he's gotten.

He's become the William Hung of the geek world!


Slashdot problems?

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 10 years ago Over the last few days, I've been having issues getting to Slashdot. Server timeouts, graphics failing to load, etc...

Anyone else noticing these kind of issues?

I can't help but wonder if maybe /. has been the target of a DDoS.


Incorporation: Scam of the Century?

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 10 years ago How many of you are self-employed, and or have incorporated?

So many scams... So many write-offs.

Why didn't I do this years ago?

Seriously, I'm looking for feedback. I'm about to incorporate, and I see a lot of upside potential. What might I be overlooking, both advantages and disadvantages?


I hate my company...

Pii Pii writes  |  about 11 years ago Just got my W-2 for last year...

It read just as I'd expected it would, some $30k short of what I'd earned the previous year. That's a first for me... I've never had a year where I went down in annual income.

I'm back to my 2002 level now, but it still leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth.

The owner of my company, in an effort to "inspire" me, had reduced my salary dramatically back in January last year. It returned to the previous level in September, but by that point, I was already out the $30k.

My loyalty to this company was precarious prior to that reduction, but along the way, there has been a steady diet of catalyzing events that manage to erode it further.

The most recent is the institution of a new dress code for "Professional Services" staff. I'm a network consulting engineer. There are primarily two facets to my job:

  • Pre-sales support
  • Post-sales support

During Pre-sales, obviously, there's not much chance of getting dirty. It consists of meetings with the customer to get a handle on their requirements, and to study their existing network environment.

Post-sales is another beast entirely. It consists of unpacking a lot of equipment, staging it, configuring it, and repacking it. Then it has to get from our facility to the customer's facility. Then it has to be unpacked again, mounted, and integrated. There's usually a lot of squeezing into tight, dirty spaces with sharp edges, and crawling through ceilings and raised floors.

I don't have a problem with business casual for the pre-sales role.

I definately have a problem with business casual in the post-sales role. I can't count the number of khakis I've ruined doing installation work.

The new policy does not respect the difference between the two roles, and requires business casual regardless of the type of work I happen to be engaged in on a given day.

I am almost looking forward to submitting that first expense report for my next pair of torn khakis. I'm sure it'll occur very shortly. I'm not even expecting them to pay, but I will relish the look on their faces when I hand it in, and listen to them explain how it's my fault.


If anyone in the Northern Virginia / Washington DC area is looking for a CCIE with over 10 years of network consulting experience (At the likes of AT&T, Sprint, and IBM), please let me know.


Post-Christmas Wrap Up...

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 11 years ago It's now the 29th, so let me be the last to say 'Merry Christmas' to all of you. Here's to a New Year that doesn't totally suck...

Christmas was delightfully peaceful and tranquil at my house this year... It was just my immediate family (My Wife, two Kids, and Myself). A Christmas without the strain of visiting parents (or worse, in-laws) shouldn't be stressful, and mine fully lived up to it's low-key billing.

My wife actually utterred the words: "This is the most relaxing Christmas I can ever remember."

There was plenty of stuff to open... I got pretty much everything I put on the list I had prepared (I balked on the XM Radio for now, telling my wife to hold off on that... As much as I'm sure I'll enjoy it, for the most part, I just listen to Howard Stern and Don & Mike anyway... What am I going to do with 100 channels?).

I'd done most of my shopping for my wife while we were in Vegas earlier in the month. I got her a Dooney & Bourke purse that caught her eye, and a lovely Movado bracelet that she totally wasn't expecting. I should get a lot of milage out of that one.

The kids, typically, made out like bandits. In addition to all of the stuff we got for them (Which was, in my opinion, too much stuff to begin with), they got a bunch of additional loot from family and friends scattered around the country.

We're going to leave all of our decorations up for a while, probably through mid-January. One of the advantages of an artificial tree, I suppose, is that there's no rush to dispose of the tree before one of two things occurs:

  • It drops all of it's sappy needles onto your carpet
  • It catches fire and burns down your house

The wife was horrified last year when I told her that I wanted to get an artificial tree, but she's a true believer now.

We got a 7-foot pre-lighted tree. It comes out of the box, and you assemble the three sections, and viola, the hard work is behind you! You just have to hang the ornaments, and start drinking heavily skiped egg-nog, or Peppermint Shnaps Milkshakes. What could be better? You can put it up in early December, and take it down 6 weeks later, no watering. Try that with a real tree.

I was also fairly pleased with the lights I'd put outside this year... I covered all of our shrubs with white net lighting, and I lined our sidewalk and driveway with small staked lights with gold ornamented toppers. It was really easy to do, and it looked really nice (And classy... In my neighborhood, we vocally mock multi-colored lights, and goofy free standing caricatures.). The lighted walkway effect was enchanting, so much so that I'm going to install some permanent lighting this spring. I think I'll go with the solar light stakes, so that I don't have to mess with any electrical stuff.

At any rate, I hope you all had as nice a holiday as I did, and that your next credit card statement won't cause a cardiac arrest. :)


Viva Las Vegas!

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 11 years ago Sadly, I have returned from the glamorous life, and I sit here typing this from work. The mundane is so... mundane.

Last night, at about 1:00am, my wife rolls toward me in bed and whispers, "Hey, if we were still in Vegas, we could do downstairs right now and play some craps..." Normally, at 1:00am, she's been asleep for 2 or 3 hours, but we've got two things working against us:

  • We're still on West Coast time.
  • Worse than that, we're still on Vegas West Coast time, which is like being on Hawaii time, because you stay up till 3 or 4 in the morning in Vegas, only going to sleep because you know that you should, not because you need to.

The trip was fantastic. It was my second visit, but it was her first time out there, and even though I'd done everything I could to prepare her for how much fun it was going to be, it continued to exceed her expectations at every turn. (There's not many things in this world that live up to the hype, and even fewer that surpass it.)

As I mentioned in my last journal, we stayed at the Mandalay Bay. Our room was on the 32nd floor, which makes for an ear-popping elevator ride, and a spectacular view. December is the slow season in Las Vegas, so the table limits in the Casino were pretty low... That was an unexpected surprise. I didn't expect to find $10 minimums on table games on a Friday and Saturday night at one of the nicer resorts, but there were a lot of them, so your gambling dollars stretched pretty far. Bonus.

My wife was initially intimidated by the table games. She wanted to play slots and video poker, and that's what she did the first couple of days. Two things changed that:

  • She caught up with me at a craps table, and watched me turn $100 into about $400 in precisely 6 minutes.
  • I convinced here to fill the 4th seat at the Caribbean Stud table while I was there with the other couple we were travelling with, and on her second hand, she was dealt a straight (But unfortunately, the dealer failed to qualify, or she'd have gotten a pretty good payout).

After that, she was finally ready to try Blackjack. She sat between my buddy Ryan and I, so we could give her advice, and she did pretty good. She also played "Let it Ride," and even won there.

On the last full day we were there, Sunday, she probably only put about $40 into machines, and spent the rest of the time playing the table games.

She has already decided that the next time we go out there (Next time! Score!), she's going to play table games almost exclusively, because they are so much more fun.

So that's the gambling report. We also availed ourselves of many of Vegas' other diversions:

On Firday night, shortly after our travel companions arrrived, we went over the New York, New York, for the Rita Rudner show. Her act was pretty good, and we had 2nd row seating. My only complaint was that the seats were hard as rocks, and our butts were uncomfortable in the time between when we were seated, and when the show started. Even though I liked the act, I couldn't wait for it to end so I could get out of those god awful chairs. (Rita, when you read this ('Cause I know you read my Slashdot journal all the time.), please make them get you some proper seating in your Theater...)

The following night, we went to the Venetian for Lord of the Dance. (I can almost hear the laughter now.) When at home, sometimes you have to make a concession to your wife, and go to a chick-flick at the movies. Nobody goes to the movies in Vegas. Instead, sometimes the concession has to be a chick-show. Lord of the Dance was just such a concession. I appreciated the technical merit of the dancers... They were quite good. My wife, on the other hand, loved the show, and she'd been wanting to see it live for several years, ever since she saw it on PBS way back when. We also scored 2nd row seats for that one, so as you can imagine, my stock closed at an all-time high on the WGHM (Wife General Happiness Market).

So those were the shows. On to food...

Morning fare was Buffets. We mostly ate breakfasts there at the Mandalay, which was pretty good. We did however make it a point to hit the breakfast buffet at the Rio on Saturday, because their buffet is simply the best in town. I was dismayed to learn, after our arrival, that they had half of the buffet closed for renovations. That said, the Rio at half strength is still a match for any other buffet in town, so it was still good, even though it fell short of it's usual standard. Only Ryan and I noticed the shortcoming, because he and I stayed at the Rio over the summer. The girls were quite pleased with it.

For dinners, we hit some great places, which number in the hundreds. Topping the list, in my opinion, is the Luxor Steakhouse. It was my second visit to this place, and damn, it doesn't disappoint. Over the summer, Ryan and I wandered in there just to grab a bite before seeing the Blue Man Group (which plays at the Luxor). It totally blew us away. This time, we went there on purpose. My wife's review: "That was the finest meal I have ever eaten." My review: "That was just as good as the last time, which was the 'other' best meal I've ever had."

We dined in a number of other places, and for the most part, you can get a really good meal anywhere in that town.

Lastly, as though Las Vegas hadn't devised enough clever methods of parting people from their money in the Casinos, Shows, or Eating establishments, they've also become a force in upscale shopping. Manadlay Place, The Furom Shops at Caesar's, the new Complex at the Alladin, and don't count out the store at Bellagio. Park Avenue and Rodeo Drive have nothing on Las Vegas. If you're ever looking to blow some money, you can easily do it shopping in Vegas. I must have dropped two grand on Purses, Shoes, and Jewelry.

I was glad to do it, because this was the Honeymoon that my wife and I never took, and I expect to ride the wave of good karma from this trip for quite a while. I surprised her with a bracelet from Movado that she absolutely loves.

All told, it was a pretty expensive trip, but it was worth every penny. My wife and I had the best time we've ever had together, and we can't wait until we have the chance to do it again.


By this time tomorrow...

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 11 years ago ...I'll be sitting at the gate with my wife, waiting to board my flight to Las Vegas. No kids. 4 Nights of quality grown-up time, in a town that allows grown-ups to act like grown-ups (even if it kills them)...


We're staying at the new tower at Mandalay for 4 nights.

Last time I was in Vegas, I vowed that I'd never stay at another Hotel/Casino that didn't have it's own Poker Room. You just never know when you're going to need to find a Hold 'Em game at 3:24am, and by taxi, you're always $12 from everywhere else in Vegas.

Mandalay has it's own Poker room, so I'm hooked up.

This is my wife's first trip to Vegas. Last weekend, while in Ashville, NC, for Thanksgiving with my family, I took her to the Harrah's at the Cherokee Indian Reservation. It was the first Casino she had ever set foot in, other than what you find on a Cruise Ship. I didn't want her to be totally caught off guard when we went out West this weekend, although Harrah's at Cherokee is diminutive casino compared to anything on the Strip.

I had her playing Video Poker, and she even won a little. I convinced her that it was time to play Blackjack, so she followed me over to the table, where I proceeded to lose 4 consecutive hands at the $25 table (Not due to bad play, simply due to bad cards). I explained to her that sometimes that's just the way it goes, and that if she let it affect her too much, that we wouldn't have a very good time when we were out doing the real thing.

She tried to come to terms with that, and we ended up playing more Video Poker for another 90 minutes.

When she was ready to leave, I said "I know you're kind of shell shocked about the last trip to the Blackjack tables, but I have to go play it again before we head out." She was cool with that.

This time, there was an open seat at one of the $15 tables. I took $30 in chips, and ripped off 6 consecutive wins, including 2 Blackjacks. I got up and handed her my stack of chips, and said:

"Here's your $100 back."

She's replied "That was much more fun than the first time you played."

The difference between gambling and most other forms of entertainment is that while you put your money down on the gaming table, there's a chance you'll have it or maybe even more, when you get up. With everything else, once you lay it down, it's gone for good.

I played poker at Binion's last summer for 9 straight hours, and it only cost me $10. That's pretty cheap entertainment, a about $1/hr. I played for another 3 hours at the Luxor, and left up over $200. I should have sat longer. I was making $66/hr.

Go out there with some strict daily loss limits, and you can lose every day, and still have it cost no more than any other good vacation destination.

At any rate, I can't wait.


What should go on my Christmas list?

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 11 years ago It's that time of year... My wife has formally requested my Christmas list, and I'm having trouble with it.

So far, I've got:

That's it... Looking over it, it looks mighty damn boring to me.

What should I be adding? What are the single biggest items that everyone else is looking for?


Anyone else feel the Economy Turning?

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 11 years ago Just a quick feeler... Please comment, yea or nay.

In the last 6 weeks, I've had about 12-15 different headhunters call me out of the blue, looking to get certain networking positions staffed.

My phone hasn't been ringing like this since over 2 years ago.

Is anyone else tracking increased headhunter activity?

(Greenspan be damned; I've got my own "Leading Economic Indicators.")


Well, well... The end of a long journey.

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 11 years ago I made what turns out to be my final pilgrimage to Cisco's Research Triangle Park campus on Monday to do battle one last time with the dreaded CCIE Lab exam.

The last two times, I had blazed through the exam, finishing very early, and then using some of the balance of my time to review my solutions. You can only review your work so much before going crazy, so I'd left fairly early in each of those attempts.

When you finish as early as I did, that gives the lab proctors time to grade your exam the same day, and each time, my score reprt had been posted by the time I'd finished my 3 hour drive much.

In both of those attempts, I'd driven home feeling very confident, alomst certain that I'd made it. In both of those attempts, I'd come up short. That'll shake your confidence.

I've been doing Cisco networking for 9 years; I'm not some rookie with a study guide. I took each of those failures very personally, and it really was having an adverse affect on my life.

This time, I took a different approach. I made a deliberate effort to complete this exam as slowly as possible, but not so slow as to prevent me from finishing it.

You have 8 hours... In the past, I'd finished in 5 hours, and 5.5 hours. This time, I took 7 hours.

In the past, I'd reviewed my solutions over and over again for and hour and a half, or two hours.

This time, I reviewed everything just one time, in about 30 minutes. I caught two errors, and corrected them, and when I was done going through it all, I got up and left with only 15 or 20 minutes left until "time" was called.

This time, my score report was not waiting for me when I got home. I got to go through the night of the exam thinking "Well, at this point, I still haven't failed it."

I fully expected to have my results by 10:30am the next day... It had never taken longer than that.

I kept checking... No email. 12:30pm. Nothing. 1:30pm. I logged into the website, and my results were not yet posted. 3:30pm. No change.

The waiting was killing me, but all through it, I was able to keep saying to myself "Well, at this point, I still haven't failed it."

On into the evening... 8:30pm... 9:30pm... 11:00pm... No results. I went to bed a full day after having taken the exam, and still I hadn't failed it. I was anxious, but willing to continue waiting, so long as the wait was worthwhile.

This morning, I check my mail at 7:00am, before leaving for work. Nothing.

On the drive, I called my boss, and we commiserated about how crazy it was that I hadn't yet heard. My Mom hadn't called, fearing the worst, and knowing that I'd be in no mood to talk about it had I failed.

When I arrived at work, at about 9:20am (Goddamn DC area traffic...), I set up my laptop, VPN'd home, and started downloading all my email. My buddy came over to my cube, and we were bullshitting. When a break in the conversation came, I glanced back at the mail client.

There it was... I message received at 8:30am from the CCIE program. It came while I was driving. I didn't open the message, logging directly into Cisco's website to go right to the results page. I quickly navigated through the site to the certification section, and began logging into my results page. It occurs to me now that I'd been holding my breath since I saw the email message...

There it was:

Status: Certified #XXXXX

I clicked on the link to the actual score report, which on failures, gives you percentages in broad categories... You got 45% in Exterior Routing Protocols... 87% in Quality of Service... Etc.

Instead of a real score report, it read:

Candidate ID: XXX-XX-XXXX
Test Date: SEP 22 2003
Test result: PASS

Wow... I've wanted this for 8 years, and I started getting serious about it some 3 years ago. I never abandoned my life, studying for 8-10 hours a day like some many people do. I simply plugged away, a few hours here, a few hours there. Take a class. Buy some equipment for "the home lab" (See my last journal entry for details). Read a book.

Most of my studying had been based on my failures in prior lab attempts. "Crap, QoS killed me... I need to study that when I get a chance." "Damn, I know I lost 7 points on those Multicasting tasks." "Egads, I can't believe I couldn't figure out how to do ISDN callback."

If you take the test enough times, eventually you'll study everything you need to. :)

I am reminded of some unforgettable words:

"Follow your dreams, you can reach your goals...
I'm living proof. Beefcake! BEEFCAKE!" -- Eric Cartman

Well said Eric... Well said.


Lazy Saturday Afternoon... Not.

Pii Pii writes  |  more than 11 years ago Here I sit, in my basement, watching Fight Club again... It's one of those movies that I watch every time I stumble across it on the Satellite, but this time, I put the DVD on.

I'm sure you've got movies like that... Movies you just can't help but watch whenever they come on. I've got a few like that.

Patton is one of them. Doesn't matter what I'm doing, if I stumble across Patton while channel surfing, I can put down the remote control. Magnificent bastard.

Two of the three Die Hard movies have the same result. The first movie, Die Hard, is a classic. Sometimes, during the annual Christmas movie viewing routine, I like to sneak Die Hard into the DVD player, hoping nobody will notice. It's so festive. I'm also hooked on Die Hard with a Vengence. Gotta love Samuel L. Jackson's character in Die Hard 3.

Speaking of SLJ, I'm going to have to add Pulp Fiction to the list. Caught that one the other night and couldn't help but watch it. (It kind of sucked, because I was about to go to bed... It was almost midnight on Wednesday, and I was tired... I mistakenly went through the channel guide one last time before turning off the TV, and there it was... No sleep for me.) Didn't like Pulp Fiction the first time I saw it, but it kind of grows on you. Now, I look back and wonder why I didn't like it at first.

In the same vein, I guess you'd have to put Reservoir Dogs on the list too. Great movie.

I also can't seem to get enough of Harry Potter. It's not like I watch it every time it's on, but it's definately my favorite thing to have on in the background while I'm in the middle of doing something else. Doesn't hurt that HBO's got it on twice a day lately, it seems.

LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring is similar. I like having it on in the background while busy with something, but there's a subtle difference. Generally, this movie ends up stealing my attention from the other task, and I end up concentrating on the movie. Not bad, I guess, but dangerous when time is short, because it's a long movie. I have to make an effort not to put this on when I've got something important to do.

Of course, this all started because I was working on something here in my basement. It's barely a basement any more... It's a dedicated home theater. 65" Mitsubishi HD set, 7.1 surround, deep burgundy walls, and heavy velvet curtains to obscure all light from the outside.

Toward the back, I have my desk set up, facing the screen. Right now, piled on top of the desk, in addition to my main desktop computer, are:

  • My Laptop (Dell 5000e)
  • One Cisco 4500 Router (Acting as a Frame switch)
  • Two Cisco 2610 Routers
  • Two Cisco 2501 Routers
  • Two Cisco 1751-V Routers
  • Two analog phones (connected to each of the 1751s)
  • One Cisco Catalyst 3550 Switch (Layer-3 (EMI Image))
  • Numerous Books and Study Materials

I'm down here gearing up for the CCIE lab again. I've been to it a few times, each time doing a little better than the last, but not quite good enough to put it behind me.

I have to be honest. I haven't passed yet because my study ethic has blown chunks. In addition to being generally lazy when it comes to study, I also don't have much of a financial stake in passing. I'm a veteran, and I'm using my GI Bill benefits to cover the hefty cost of the exam. Since I don't plan on attending college any time soon (ever), I'm going to lose my benefits if I don't spend them on something. May as well be this. Each attempt costs $1250, which I pay out of pocket initially, but I get it reimbursed the following month.

As a result, I haven't studied as long or hard as I should have. This time, however, I have put more effort into it, mostly because I'm tired of driving back and forth to Raleigh every few months. That said, I still haven't logged as many quality study hours as I would have liked. Generally, I've been at it 12 to 16 hours each weekend for the past 6 weeks. I haven't spent much time at all weeknights. I'm just too tired when I get home in the evening.

Well, break is over. Back to the stack. Wednesday is my next showdown.

I hope I've done enough.


Same shit, Different day...

Pii Pii writes  |  about 12 years ago I should not have been surprised, when two days ago, my company's primary Internet connection, through PSInet , dropped unexpectedly. It had happened before, and will likely happen again in the future.

What did surprise me was that they are in the midst of a catastrophic network failure affecting not only the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, but also taking down San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta, and a number of other good-sized, but geographically dispersed, markets.

(My buddy and I, both serious network guys with over 30 years experience between us, including a lot of time in the carrier space, can only come to the conclusion that PSInet was not paying it's bills. No single equipment failure, or loss of a POP, could possibly result in the carnage of this magnitude.)

Wow, sucks to be them, and by extension, sucks to be us. Fortunately for me, the last time we experienced an outage, my company's owner sought my guidance in getting some Internet redundancy in here. I had been lobbying for this for quite a while. Like most companies today, our fortunes are won and lost on the delivery of email. An Internet outage represents the loss of opportunity, and revenue, and in these trying economic times, nobody can afford to squander opportunities.

Understand that we are network integrators. We design, sell, and install network services for our customers, from infrastrucure components like circuits, routers, and switches, through server building and maintenance. When our customers are looking to ensure their connectivity to the Internet, we propose multiple providers, terminating to seperate edge routers, and guide them through the process of obtaining portable IP address space, and an Autonomous System Number, so that they can run BGP upstream ensuring their reachability in the event of a single provider outage.

" Great!, " thought I.

What did we end up with? It fell a little short of what we like to install for our customers. We got a second Internet connection in the form of a 768k/128k ADSL link. Terminated to the same edge router, no less. No BGP for us. The barest minimum.

The most redundancy I could get out of this was for email, using an additional MX record, and some fancy port forwarding on the edge router.

At least email would continue to flow in the event of an outage, and for a time, is functioned perfectly.

That is, until PSInet's secondary nameservers, slaves to our own Master here at the office, expired the cache, and now refuse to respond to queries for records for our domain. This is, of course, because some moronic MCSE was left to handle our DNS configuration, and like a tool, he set the SOA expire time to 1 day.

Like clockwork, after 24 hours of circuit outage, PSInet's DNS servers decided (because our MSCE told them to) that it could no longer trust the information in it's cache, and expired all of the information for our zone. Two lessons to take from this are:

  • Never send an MSCE to do anything important.
  • Never assume that because a person is capable of setting up a critical network service (Because, Hey!, It's all point and click.), that they should be tasked with doing so.

So yesterday, even with our Primary circuit down, we were able to receive email with almost no loss of performance. All was right in the world. Then, as the 24 clock ran out, all of the sudden our inbound email ceased to exist.

The topper was this morning, when one of our directors said to me:

"Hey, I don't want you to take this personally, but seriously, how do you guys (the engineering staff) sleep at night? I've got a $60,000 order out there, but I can't receive the email. Just trying to keep the lights on in this place."

My response (and I am not embellishing):

I got right in his face, pointed my finger in the general direction of his office, and said "You can take that shit somewhere else."

If this company had listened, just once, to the recommendations that I had made, they never would have known we had an interruption. Not only would we have abandoned the sinking ship that is PSInet over 1 year ago, but we'd have had two legitimate Internet connections to two seperate Tier-1 providers, and we'd have been announcing our own routes via BGP. In addition, our "Mission Critical" applications (Email is mission critical, but they would probably think it was a good idea that our completely worthless and devoid of content website was also always available) would have backup servers co-located in the facilities of a 3rd major provider.

I mean, you have to make a decision. Is email mission critical, or isn't it? There are no half measures; there's no middle ground. If the absence of email is more costly than the price of ensuring its availability, then you implement the bulletproof solution. Every goddamn time. Period.

But what else is new... The cobbler's kid needs new shoes. We sell technology solutions. We don't use them.

I hope the problem doesn't get solved.


Fear and Loathing in the Post-crash Economy

Pii Pii writes  |  about 12 years ago Back on New Years Eve, a few of us got off on a tangent about poor employers (My own in particular), the absence of good benefits, and the overall state of affairs in the tech sector.

I went on to describe that in addition to my company not paying for some training, not paying my expenses while at training, and forcing me to use my vacation time (which is far from plentiful to begin with) while attending training. To add insult to injury, I didn't have enough vacation time on the books, so they also docked me a days pay.

I did go on to say that I had a great salary, and that the salary was the single biggest factor in my decision to put up with their shennanigans.

It appears I spoke too soon.

Last Friday, my company asked me to take a pay cut. I know what many of you must be thinking... "Well, a lot of companies have had to cut people's pay in order to avoid layoffs... How much? 10%? 15%?"


I just took a 33% pay cut. That's right, 1/3rd off the top. "Everyone took a 33% pay cut?" No, just me. I repeat... *I* took a 33% pay cut.

Needless to say, I'm not very pleased about this, and while I agreed (As my reduced compensation amount is still far more attractive than what I can expect from the unemployment line), I'm actively looking for employment elsewhere.

I think back to the heady days of the late 1990s when knowledge and experience were king, when there was a shortage of veteran technical talent, and seasoned professionals could afford to resign there position on Friday, and land a new gig cold the following Monday by lunchtime, with a 15% to 20% jump in pay, and a lovely signing bonus. I remember all of the start-ups, flush with venture capital, and the stock options that were worth a gold mine because nobody could imagine a technology based IPO that wouldn't shoot through the stratosphere.

I remember *turning down* a kick-ass job at eBay (I still have the offer letter, circa Summer '99) because my own company at the time made a delicious counter-offer for me to stay, and then a few months later, another company trumped them by a long shot.

Those were the days... In addition to competing on salary, companies had to offer all manner of additional compensation just to stay competitive. Signing Bonuses. Ridiculous amounts of Vacation. Mandatory annual Training. Stock Options. 401ks with 100% matching. Free Lunches. Free caffine of every sort. Recreational facilities (Video games, Nerf toys, Foosball). Quarterly and Annual bonuses.

How I miss them...

Today, the classified listings in the newspaper are few and far between. Monster.com gives me a couple of relevant postings a week (None of them in my region), whereas before, I honestly didn't have enough time to read through all of the results of my personalized search agent. No employment website has more than a couple of valid returns. The old results used to resemble a Google search on the word "and." Your search returned 64 trillion documents, items 1 through 25 displayed below. Jobs were so plentiful, Job listing websites were an industry unto themselves!

Fortunately, things are starting (just barely) to improve. My wife scoured several of the employment websites on my behalf, and managed to find 20 or 30 good jobs in the DC Metro area. If my Security Clearance were still active today, there would have been a couple of hundred worthy of my interest.

It will take me a while, but I have no doubt that I'll get another good job within the next couple of months. In the interim, I'll simply have to keep looking, all the while making a deliberate effort not to dwell on "the gool ol' days."

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