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Monthly Archives: September 2016

September 26, 2016

How To Get CCNA Certified And Boost Your Earnings

How To Get CCNA CertifiedThere is no doubt that obtaining CCNA certification is an important first step for anyone aspiring to create a career in IP networking.  In this post I describe how to get CCNA certified and boost your earnings as you climb the ladder.

All it takes is a little planning and commitment.  Commitment is the motivation to keep going after the initial rush of enthusiasm wears off.

When I first passed the CCNA exam in 1999 it was a test that proved a basic understanding of IP networks, subnet addressing, the OSI Reference Model and several other core subjects.  In the years since the CCNA has evolved to reflect the rapid changes in technology and there are now nine different types of CCNA.

Unless you are already certain of your path you will probably choose the CCNA Routing and Switching exam. This is the original CCNA updated for modern times.

Cisco CCNP Study Bundle SWITCH blue

Why get CCNA certified?

Passing the CCNA exam takes effort, time, and expense, so why bother?

The CCNA certification is an industry recognised benchmark.  It demonstrates an appreciation of the fundamentals of IP networking and proves to any prospective employer that you have the necessary knowledge in this area.

Not everyone who passes the CCNA becomes a Network Engineer who configures and troubleshoots Cisco devices on a daily basis.  It is also the certification that opens doors for Network Administrators, Customer Managers, and many other roles.

Obtaining this certification is an assurance to the employer, the company’s customers, and yourself that you have reached a level of understanding that will enable you to do your job.

It gives you an advantage if you’re competing with others for a position.  It is also leverage for a pay rise if you’re already employed.

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How to get CCNA certified

Let’s assume you’ve elected to go down the Routing and Switching route.  There are no prerequisites and you can take the exam whenever you feel ready.

  • Take the 200-125 CCNA exam -Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices: Accelerated (CCNAX)

Alternatively you can take two entry level exams which combine to give you the certification.

How to prepare for the CCNA exams

When I first started studying for the CCNA exam in 1999 there were very few resources available.  Today there are too many to list.  Of course it’s a big advantage to have so many options online but in order to make your exam preparation efficient you should choose one or two resources and stick with them.  Jumping from one to another will only distract you and waste time.

Cisco themselves offer several e-learning options.  There is free content to get you started but to view the full courses and all the videos you will need to pay one-off fees or subscriptions.  It’s high quality training material straight from the people who provide the certification path so you know you’ll be getting the best tuition.

Independent online training is available from companies like INE.com. They have online courses for most Cisco certifications right up to CCIE.  However, I see that another long standing provider has gone out of business.  IP Expert is now offline.

Global Knowledge provide classroom courses all over the UK and in many other countries.

Personally, I find there is nothing better than the tried and trusted method of having a book in my hands.  Let’s assume I was about to take the CCNA Routing and Switching exam again (I last did so in January 2014).

  • Buy the latest CCNA Routing and Switching 200-125 Official Cert Guide Library by Wendell Odom (CCIE #1624) or a similar selection of CiscoPress.com guides. Make sure you’ve chosen the latest edition as they are revised and reprinted as the exam changes.
  • Review the contents and work out a study program
  • Set aside study time each day or at least 2-3 sessions per week
  • Stick to the schedule and establish the routine
  • Review the previous material before going on to the next
  • Repeat until all the material has been covered
  • Answer all the practice test questions
  • Whether your answers are right or wrong make sure you understand the answers before moving on
  • Other Ciscopress books are available.  The Portable Command Guide is worthy supplement to the main study guides.

The above method works if you are renewing your certification or if you already have plenty of experience on Cisco IOS devices but you might be approaching the CCNA exam for the first time with little experience.  In that case you will probably benefit from some training.  I’ve listed a few options above.

You can self-sponsor or you might be able to persuade your employer to pay for a course, either external or online. External courses are the most expensive option.  As well as the course fee there may be accommodation and travel costs as well.  However, there are advantage to classroom study that cannot be obtained from e-learning. Being able to put questions to an instructor and have things explained until you fully understand them is invaluable.

Sitting the CCNA exam

Everybody loves taking an exam, right?  OK, maybe not but there are some ways in which you can reduce the stress levels.

  • Choose a time for your exam that suits you.  I’m a morning person so I always choose exam times that are mid morning or thereabouts.
  • Make sure you know how to find the testing centre and where to park. I once went to a testing centre in an unfamiliar town and spent anxious minutes driving around looking for somewhere to park only to find each car park was full.
  • Allow enough time for your journey, parking, and going through the reception area.  You may have to check in at the front desk, walk across a campus to another building and check in again in the testing centre on another floor.
  • Don’t forget your ID.  To prevent exam fraud you have to prove your identity with some photo ID like a passport or driving licence.
  • Relax.  Practice some deep, abdominal breathing.  You’ve put the hours of study in so you will be able to answer most of the questions.
  • Read the question slowly and read it twice.  I say again, read the question twice.  Like many others I have been caught out by questions that read differently on the second pass.
  • Remember, these are questions about Cisco products and IOS.  There can sometimes be a conflict between what you understand to be the answer and that which Cisco expects you to mark as correct.

How to deal with exam failure

How to deal with exam failure

Exam failure is not the end of the world

I know the feeling. Been there, done that, got several t-shirts.  Over the past 17 years or I’ve taken many Cisco exams.  I don’t like to count how many I’ve failed.  The important thing is that eventually I’ve gone back and taking the exam again and passed it.

That’s true of most of them.  There are a few that I didn’t re-take due to changes in funding, position, and other circumstances.

Failure is disappointing. There is no way of sugar-coating it but as the old saying goes, it’s not how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get up again that counts.

If you fail your Cisco exam take break from the studies and do something you enjoy.  Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t give up, but take time to relax and have some fun.  Forget about studies for a little while but don’t leave it too long.  Take a short break but not so long that you lose momentum.

When you’re ready, pick up the score sheet and go over the feedback you received.  It will give you some idea of where your knowledge was weak and you will probably know yourself which questions and what subjects you found difficult.

Work on those areas while checking that you are still comfortable with all the other subjects.  Eventually you will feel ready for another attempt at the exam.

Conclusion

Passing the CCNA exam could be the first step in an IT career that lasts decades.  With the evolution of networking technology there’s never been a better time to achieve this goal.

Please share this post with anyone you think might benefit from it and leave your experiences, feedback, and study tips in the comments section below.

Good luck with your exams!

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September 24, 2016

Dakota Access Pipeline – Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

If you’ve read anything about the history of the American West you’ll know that it’s a long and sad tale of human suffering. Dee Brown’s classic Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West is a compelling account that summarises the history from the arrival of Columbus to the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890.

You may be aware that wars were fought and lost. Treaties were signed and broken. Friends were made and betrayed. The accounts of the massacres will make your blood run cold. The injustices and maltreatment of survivors will make your blood boil.

Perhaps you’ve read nothing but you’ve seen films that give you some idea of the tragedy and betrayal. Dances With Wolves is one such film. For once the cinema had managed to capture something of what we had read in the history books.

We reservations about our reservations

American Indian Teenage Boy PortraitSo you might think that with the Indian Wars receding into history and Native Americans taking their place in American society, politics, business, and culture all is well.

Except it isn’t. In fact, the brutal treatment didn’t end with Wounded Knee.

Once the tribes were defeated militarily they were confined to reservations on what was then regarded as worthless land. The intention was to to provide them with the means to survive but suppliers and middle men ripped them off.

Their remaining children were forced through a schooling system designed to turn them into Americans. They were beaten for speaking their own languages. Their culture, stories, and prayers were forbidden.

Despite all of this the tribes and their cultures endured and survived, though not without many casualties along the way. Alcoholism and suicide on reservations is all too common.

Dakota Access Pipeline

Crow Agency - United States, May 21, 2012: Two headstones mark the location where two Cheyenne warriors were killed on June 25, 1876 while defending their way of life. General George Armstrong Custer and 267 of his men were killed and 55 were injured when attacked by Lakota and Cheyenne warriors.

Headstones mark the location where two Cheyenne warriors were killed on June 25, 1876 while defending their way of life at the Battle of the Little Bighorn

Once again American politics and business is riding roughshod over the Native Americans. The Dakota Access Pipeline is being driven like a lance through the heart of the land.  With comes a high risk of pollution through leaks and spills into the water supply.

They are driving bulldozers through ancient and sacred tribal burial grounds. Can you imagine the outcry if they did that through Arlington Cemetery?

Those who protest are being treated like criminals and private security firms are setting their dogs on them.

However, this outrage has had an unexpected effect. it has united the tribes of the USA in a way that hasn’t been seen for centuries. They are coming from all over the USA and beyond to show their support.

Social media has spread the message far and wide, and the world is watching.  Video footage of the protest and the reaction of those paid to guard the construction sites is there for all to see.

Supporters of the pipeline are well funded.  They are exploiting social media to spread their message too.  They have pointed out that the intended route of the pipeline doesn’t actually traverse any Indian reservations.  Thus they demonstrate their failure to understand how all things are connected.

From an ecological point of view what is over there is connected to what is here. Fences and lines on a map don’t mean a thing.

Leader of the Free World

Native American WomanOn the one hand this this may seem like yet another example of the US government looking the other way while the Indians are abused by a powerful corporation.

But it’s much more than that and it has rallied tribal people and others from all over the USA and beyond.  There is no political agenda.  All people want to do is safeguard their access to clean water.

When I hear the President of the United States referred to as the ‘Leader of the free world’ I can’t help but wonder, “Free from what?  Free for whom?”

Would it be too much to ask that the USA sets an example to the rest of the world?

Give the tribes a break.  Demonstrate to the watching world that you can live up to the principles and ideals that you boast are your bedrock.

September 24, 2016

Let’s draw a veil over the debate. Stop wearing a veil

In a 2016 episode of Britain’s Secrets Anne Robinson featured interviews with two couples at opposite ends of the clothing spectrum.  It included a few points that illustrated why I believe it would be healthier if niqab wearing women chose to stop wearing a veil.

On the one had there was a naturist couple who went about their everyday lives completely starkers.  Then on the other hand there was a Muslim couple who spend their lives covered in cloth from head to toe.

Well, that’s not strictly true of course.  It’s the wife who has to cover her head and her face.  Hubbie doesn’t have to cover from the neck up.  He just has to refrain from shaving.

Stop wearing a veil and let’s talk

Face to face communication is one of the most basic, oldest, and deepest forms of human contact. It’s a universally recognised way of expressing intent and communicating messages through facial expressions. You can’t have clear communication with someone who keeps their face covered. Niqabs and burkas hinder integration and contribute to segregation.

Even if you don’t share a common language you can exchange so much just using facial expressions.  Minute muscular movements reveal the message in ways that we recognise consciously and subconsciously.

An uncovered face in the street or in a photograph can tell us so much.  A veiled face tells us very little.

A veiled face says, ‘Do not look upon me.  You are not worthy of looking at me.  I do not want to be seen‘.

Freedom.  A woman’s right to choose

Those who suggest that women should be allowed to wear a veil wherever and whenever they want often use the argument that it’s a basic freedom of choice.

By that same logic anyone could walk around stark naked.  Neither of these choices fit within the norms of British, European, and Western societies.

Multiculturalism and xenophobia

People are often reluctant to criticize the traditions of other cultures for fear of being labelled as racist and xenophobic.  There is no greater crime these days, it seems.

Is it xenophobic to say that you find the veil an affront to open and honest communication?

Isn’t the whole idea that we’re all supposed to get along in a multicultural utopia?  How can we do that if some signal their refusal to participate by putting up a physical and psychological barrier?

Those who wear a face covering feel it’s acceptable to look up on the uncovered faces of others but not for those same people to see their faces.  Why?

Some niqab wearing women complain that they feel dehumanised, ignored, patronised, or overlooked.

Misogynists and xenophobes will still exist whatever you wear or don’t wear.

I suggest that women who wear the veil would receive the same respect as every other woman if they removed their face coverings and met the gazes of those within the same societies.

All it takes is a glance and a smile and all kinds of assumptions melt away.  Stop wearing the veil and start speaking with your facial expressions.

Notes

The Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford (Meco) openly campaigns for a ban on the niqab and burqa in the UK

September 21, 2016

Spitfire Flights – Would you like to fly in a Spitfire?

For many pilots and aviation enthusiasts the idea of being able to fly in a Spitfire is probably on their bucket list if not at the top of it.  With the restoration of these thoroughbred warbirds at an all time high Spitfire flights are more easily obtained than at any other time since World War II.

Spitfire Flights – What are the options?

Spitfire Flights - Fly as pupil or passenger

Spitfire Flights – fly as pupil or passenger

There are three main ways in which you can enjoy this ultimate aviation experience:

  1. Flying lesson in a Spitfire.  You are the pilot under training and you log the time as PU/T in your logbook.
  2. Pleasure flight in a Spitfire.  You enjoy a flight as a passenger with all that it involves.
  3. Fly alongside a Spitfire.  You are in another aircraft and you and the other passengers get to film and photograph the Spitfire as it flies in formation.

Learning to fly a Spitfire

goodwood-revival-12th-september-2015-76

Boultbee will teach you to fly a Spitfire

This is now possible thanks to training schemes offered by the Boultbee Academy who are based at Goodwood Airfield in West Sussex.

Boultbee offer all kinds of instruction; starting with the appreciation of flying other vintage aircraft like the Chipmunk, Tiger Moth, and Harvard. Then going moving on to lessons to in Spitfire and conversion courses for experienced pilots.

The prerequisites are that you already have a current SEP PPL and at least 1,000 hours of time logged.

They also teach formation and display flying.  Prices are what you would expect for being taught by talented instructors in rare and expensive vintage aircraft.  If you want to know the price then you probably can’t afford it but if money is plentiful then pop along and have a chat with them.

Pleasure Flights in a Spitfire

Go solo in Spitfire

Reach for the sky

If you’re not looking to be taught how to fly the aircraft and simply want to enjoy the experience then there are two main options.

The aforementioned Boultbee Academy offer several Spitfire flights packages; 30 minute or longer flights and flights for two people during which the aircraft fly in formation with each other.  Flights are available from Goodwood and from Exeter and start at £2,750 for 30 minutes.

Another option is the two seat Spitfire ML407 which is based at Sywell Aerodrome in Northamptonshire. Email the owners for details.  You may have a long wait but the sooner you get on the waiting list the sooner your name will reach the top.

If you’re based in London or the south east you could visit the historic airfield Biggin Hill in Kent.  ‘Biggin on the Bump’ (because it’s on a hill) has a long history that dates back to the dawn of aviation.  It was a strategically important and very busy fighter base during the Battle of Britain.

The Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar provides all kinds of experiences including Spitfire pleasure flights.  Other options are in the list at the end of this post.

Fly alongside a Spitfire

There are plenty more opportunities for those who would like to fly alongside a Spitfire in another aircraft.  There is a higher demand and therefore several companies offer this service.  It is a very popular gift idea for special birthdays and other anniversaries, or just a treat for no other reason that it’s on your bucket list.

One of the more affordable options is to buy a seat on another aircraft.  The Spitfire then flies alongside and in formation with your aircraft so that you can film and photography to your heart’s content.

This is an excellent opportunity to see a Spitfire in close formation and the footage and images you capture are unforgettable.  They will form a lasting memory of an event that will delight you and friends for years to come.

Sit in a Spitfire

Sit in a Spitfire

Ways in which you can experience the Spitfire

  • Sit in a Spitfire.  Meet the team and be guided around the Heritage Hangar at Biggin Hill airfield, Kent – £69.00
  • VIP Spitfire tour around the hangar.  Get up close and personal – £79.00
  • Fly alongside a Spitfire while you sit aboard a vintage Dragon Rapide.  Duxford – £399.00
  • Fly in a Spitfire and enjoy the full tour of the hangar. Fulfill the dream and pilot the aircraft – £2,750.00
  • Spitfire Pilot Training Day.  A full package of vintage flying that includes other aircraft types and ends on a Spitfire –  £5,495.00

So you see there’s an option for every budget.  Make that dream come true and book the experience today!

September 14, 2016

Essential Tips For Enjoying the Goodwood Revival

tips for enjoying the Goodwood Revival

Richmond Trophy, Madgwick Corner

The Goodwood Revival never disappoints and there are always lots of reasons why I return each year but to make the most of it takes some planning. Whether your main interest is motor sport, classic cars or bikes, vintage fashion, or historic aircraft then there’s plenty to see.  Here are my essential tips for enjoying the Goodwood Revival and taking away happy memories that will linger right through winter until the following year.

What is the Goodwood Revival?

It’s a revival of the motor racing that used to take place on the circuit around the airfield but it’s so much more than that too. It’s a celebration of many of the best in motor cars, aircraft, motor bikes, fashion, design, music, and dance of the 1940s, 1950s, and the 1960s.

Spitfire at Goodwood Airfield

Who can resist waving & cheering a Spitfire?

The airfield was called RAF Westhampnett during World War II and it was the home of several squadrons. From here Douglas Bader took off and made his last flight before being shot down and going into captivity. Near the Goodwood Aero Club you will see a bronze statue of Sir Douglas Bader in a likeness contemporary with the months he spent there.

After the War the perimeter track was converted into a motor racing circuit and racing continued there until 1966 when the track was closed. Racing returned in 1998 when the first Goodwood Revival was held and it’s been repeated every year since.

When and where is the Goodwood Revival?

The Revival is held on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on the first or second weekend in September every year.  It takes place at the Goodwood motor racing circuit and aerodrome just north of Chichester, West Sussex, England.  You can arrive by road (A27) or rail (Chichester Station), or you can simply fly into the airfield (with prior permission from the organisers).

Essential Tips For Enjoying the Goodwood Revival

Due to wide range of things to see and do at the event there will inevitably be some suggestions that are of no relevance to some.  These tips are offered for the newcomers, the first-timers who may be a little bewildered by the spectacle.

As Fred Pontin used to say, “Book Early!”

Vintage Fashion at Goodwood Revival

Well dressed ladies queuing at Betty’s Salon

The Revival is very popular and tends to sell out each year.  You’ll need at least an entrance ticket and are all kinds of supplements; grandstand seats, weekend tickets, camping, hospitality packages etc, so plan ahead.

Decide whether you’re going to be staying anywhere nearby or going home at the end of the day and make arrangements accordingly months in advance.

Watch the weather and keep watching

You’re about to to an outdoor event on an airfield near the south coast of England in September.  When the sun shines and winds are light it can be glorious but if a weather front passes through you can get drenched and cold.

The 2016 Revival was a reminder of how different things can be.  On the Saturday the rain blew in from the west and it drizzled for most of the day.  The cloud base was so low that all flying (displays and pleasure flights) had to be cancelled.  That meant that the afternoon motor races were brought forward and the main events finished early.

The next day, on the Sunday, the weather could not have been better.  Warm sun, light winds and very little cloud.  A dry track and picnics aplenty.  I expect the people who bought Saturday only tickets were cursing their luck.

Knock-on effects of wet weather

1960s listening booths

1960s listening booths

Most people will have to park in a grass field a good walk away from the site.  If there’s been a lot of rain the combined of effects of long grass and vehicles will have the inevitable effects.  Suddenly those 1950s high-heels you bought on eBay don’t seem like such a good idea as you gingerly make your way through the mud.

The airfield itself is an exposed place but the grandstands are even more so because they are elevated and you feel the full force of any wind and rain. If you bought your seat months previously and you’re only there for the day then it can be a big disappointment to find yourself getting wet and cold in your grandstand seat.

So put some umbrellas, macs, and wellies in the boot of your vehicle, just in case.

Arrive early and reduce queuing time

The car parks usually open at 7am and the gates open at 7.30am. If you can get there early you’ll avoid the worst of the traffic queues later in the morning.

However, unless you live or you’re staying near by then obviously that may not be practical, but if you can arrange it you’ll have the added benefit of your vehicle being nearer the entrance.  This makes popping back to it for a change of clothes or recharging batteries (phone, camera, or just your own) an easier option.

Leave late and see more

Racing usually goes on until about 6pm.  The area known as ‘Over The Rroad’ continues to be a mini retro festival with a small fun fair, market, live music and dancing until about 10pm.

If the weather’s bad then people tend to leave earlier but whatever the weather the car parks empty gradually throughout the afternoon.  Most people leave after the last race so stay a while longer and enjoy the other attractions – it beats waiting in a traffic queue.

Get to know the site

Glam Cabs Carry on Cabby

Glam Cabs are Revival regulars

With so much to see and do it can be difficult to know where to start.  There’ll be things on your ‘must see’ list and others will be on the ‘if there’s time’ section.  You might want to plan it accordingly or just leave things to chance.

The main area just inside the entrances and along the length of the startline is the busiest and can get quite crowded.   There’s more space as you cross the track (using the underpass) and continue into areas inside the airfield.

Similarly, start walking clockwise or anti-clockwise on the perimeter path and things start to open out.  If you’re early enough you might find a space by the trackside fence but there’s good viewing from the embankments behind too.

Use Google Maps or Earth to examine the airfield and you’ll see that the perimeter path is about 2.5 miles in total.  There are several grandstands around the track each with food, bars, and toilets.  There’s even a viewing screen on the furthest grandstand at Lavant Corner on the opposite side of the airfield to the terminal buildings.

Find some peace and rest your feet

The Freddie March Spirit of Aviation Exhibtion

The Freddie March Spirit of Aviation Exhibtion

For a little respite from the noise of the track and the crowds near the startline you will find a gentler pace in the Freddie March Spirit of Aviation where all the vintage aircraft are on display.  These tend to be widely dispersed and there are some quiet spots to be found here.

Alternatively you could hop onto the tractor towed trailers that travel around the perimeter and find somewhere to sit in the sun on one of the embankments.  Noisy while the races are on perhaps but in between you can lie back and bask in the sun with picnic to hand.

I tend to go to the event on my own and do a lot of walking.  During the course of the Saturday and Sunday in 2016 I walked a total of 14 miles but then I like to keep moving from one event on the timetable to another.

For more information and tickets…

Visit the official Goodwood Revival website.  There are hours of clips to be seen there and on social media.

Share your tips

Entire books have been written about the Revival and this post is just a few basic tips.  What are yours?  Share them in the comments section below.