Some time spent in Vegas with AWS

Another year and another AWS re:Invent conference. This time with more people and longer lines. The down side, the re:Play after party was insane. A good time, however this year had multiple issues with long 15-20 minutes of waiting, only to find out “we’re out of food”. Wow. Not just one area, but multiple areas out of food. I think a serious logistic issue occurred. The past years I never experienced any issue with waiting longer than a couple minutes for drinks or even hardly waiting for food. I’ll say it was a communication issue this time, hopefully next year(2019) will be a smoother process to get food out quickly.

On the plus side, I did have access to the Certification Lounge. That made getting drinks, snacks and coffee a very quick experience. However, most of the time, all the nice seating was occupied. I think they had roughly 50 nice seats and a few small benches. Needs to be a bigger area for sure!

For the most part, overall was a very good conference, I heard around 55K+ people attended. Of course the lines for sessions are always packed, a good thing they’re recorded. This year they added little pins to track down either by word-of-mouth or doing certain sessions/activities and you’re awarded one of 60 pins. Lots of vendors did the same thing, lots of pins to collect, even doing different pins for different days.

A nice AWS swag item they added was a little water bottle, similar to what the Salesforce conference was doing. This made dealing with the Las Vegas heat nicer! Other than walking 10+ miles daily, the conference is awesome! Hope to see everyone again next year.

Hey, Gen 2 is cooler!

Looks like Gen 2 is out … uhm, wait? What’s a Gen 2? Ah…. Yeah lets talk a little about it.

Ubiquiti Networks released for Early Access, Generation Two of their Cloud Key controller. This time in two flavors, Normal and Plus. Lets talk about the Plus first. The CK Plus model is small, light and comes enclosed in an aluminum shell. The CK Plus is roughly 1.5 inches in height, just under 1U, and roughly 5 x 5 inches. Cool. And, has a nice little display that shows information about cameras and how many clients are currently connected.

Hold on a second, you said cameras, yes – I did! The Plus model also acts as an update to their Network Video Recorder. Which has been updated and is now called UniFi Protect.

(Currently UniFi Protect only runs on the CK Plus — I think that has changed?? Check the UBNT Forums)

And — both models are PoE powered. “Powered by 802.3af PoE or QC 2.0 USB-C”

Note — both the Normal and Plus models have a built-in battery for automatic safe shutdown. Nice!!!

The Video Recorder, oops, the CK Plus, comes with a 1 TB 2.5 Inch Hard Drive, which can be “user” upgraded to 5 TB.

So now you have your Cloud Key and NVR in one nice little package that’s PoE powered!

Now, the other version is what I would call the Normal Cloud Key. If you do not need an NVR, this is what you would use. It is smaller, has the same feel and look. Even, has the little display with “at-a-glance system details” along with being PoE powered.  But, does not come with any option to add a hard drive(if you later want to use UniFi Protect). It does have a micro-SD card slot(just like the 1st gen) to store logs, etc…

Would you upgrade to Gen 2 Plus?

Well, if you’re constantly looking at your NVR footage–because you’re bored, sure. However, you will be running the UniFi Protect version and not the older Video 3 applications(server/mobile). Currently, Protect is not 100% feature rich or in-line(yet) with what everything Video 3 had and did do. I hear that’s coming!

If you don’t mind spending a few hours reading all the forum posts about UniFi Protect and are OK with a few things not available yet. Go for it. It’s a nice speed boost, smaller and PoE powered. You will like.

A Steamy Cisco Live….and fun

Cisco Live 2018 in Orlando, Florida just finished up …. and once again .. I went to one session. HA. This time was my fourth year, which allowed me to become a NetVet, aka the Red Lanyard. Being a NetVet allows you access to a lounge area with drinks, snacks and quick access to lunch. This lounge area also has a good amount of chairs and tables to relax at. Also, they had some retro arcade games setup to fool around with. Good times.

So why only one session? I typically schedule a few sessions, mostly on Wireless topics. Sometimes I manage to join in, sometimes I do not. Let me explain why.

I find the “networking” aspect of Cisco Live more fun than anything. Just the random encounters and walking up to people that I know or recognize, or sometimes don’t even know at all, and just saying “Hi”, is the best part. The little stories you hear and people talking about what they do and why they do it. That’s the best part.

I find the randomness of chatting with people more of a value than sitting in a session(plus most of the sessions are recorded anyways). Now, sometimes sitting for an hour long sessions is great, because, Cisco Live is huge, the first day alone you will walk at least 10 or more miles.

Another part of the community I find fun is the Cisco Champion group. Being part of this group allows access to some private activities and sessions. This is a yearly “application” that you do and if you’re in, it truly is worth it.

Also, last but not least is Cisco DevNet/Create. The DevNet group of people are truly a fun time to hang around with. They have little sessions, usually around 10-20 people on different topics, from IoT automation, to face tracking with cameras. Lots of cool stuff going on there.

If you are new to Cisco Live, I will leave you with these important rules: wear good walking shoes and drink lots of water.

See you again next year!

“I am responsible for this case, I am here to help”

Cisco Meraki should do more “enterprise” testing, or maybe just testing in general.  Let me explain why I said this.  Over the last five years I have opened on average 20 cases a year. Some regarding cosmetic issues, some regarding small “issues”. Some cases last over a year, because somehow I’m the only person in the world who can recreate the issue? But nothing causing actual downtime that could not quickly be addressed in another manner.

That is, until the MC product line, this is the Meraki Phone.

From time to time I randomly visit the Meraki Dashboard, mostly to disable the “auto-upgrade” that pushes “Stable Release Candidate” line of code to my devices. I really do like the option of auto-upgrading, but why are you pushing a “release candidate” to my production network? More on that later, but lets get back to the phone issue.

For the most part over the last year and a half(actually when the phone was first available I bought one) the Meraki Phone has done “okay”. I wouldn’t call it the best featured phone from Cisco especially for the price, however it does look nice.

Now during my dashboard visit, I randomly browse around looking for new things that are turned on, or how they have made things more visible.  Cool.

This time I look at my Phone Directory(this lists users that should be assigned to a phone). I notice that my User is not assigned a phone, hmm, odd.  Now lets do a Delorean mode and go back to maybe December(?). This is when I noticed a new option under Directory Sync, “Azure Active Directory”. Oh nice, we use that(Office 365 E5 + AAD-P2).  Cool, so I set this up.

months .. pass … no …. issues ….. UNTIL ……

Like I said, I noticed my user does not have a phone assigned. So I look at the Phone list(this shows the physical phones in your network). I select my phone and I see it doesn’t show an assigned user. OK, I select the correct user click Save, done. Cool.

Oh … wait .. what happened to the assigned public phone numbers that I did have? Those numbers are shown right below the assigned user section.

They’re gone.

Hmm, so I remove the assigned user thinking they would come back. Nope. The option to assign phone numbers does not exist anymore. Odd.

OK, so lets assign the user again, that works–the user is assigned to the phone. Oh, I see an option to assign phone numbers, cool, NOPE, none of my phone numbers are available. Odd. So I start looking around, I go into the Phone Numbers(this shows public phone numbers assigned to your account). I see my phone numbers are still listed in the system. Cool.

So I look around and to see if they have somehow been assigned to another phone, nope. Hmm. Odd.

Now the first thing you might be thinking is wait, what about the AD/LDAP mappings  that would need to be done. You know from the golden age of  CUCM LDAP User search base mapping. Nahhh, no options for that.

So where are we at with this?

A support case with Meraki was opened instantly, as you see, or actually should be hearing a phone ring along with being able to make calls(yeah a little bad humor). My phone does not show as being assigned a phone number.  Nor, can I assign my numbers to another phone. When you do call any of the numbers that I did have, they instantly are greeted with my voicemail message.

So here I sit, at the hands of poor QA done by Cisco Meraki.

The next day comes, I let time pass and call Support around noon(my local time). I have an issue of 100% downtime with my phone, Support tells me nothing can be done, nor can they do anything other than tell me what “engineering has told them to do”. I can’t talk to any person on the MC product line, i.e. a Product Manager.  The only people I can talk to regarding this are Support. And, even that was painful.

I had to ask three times to speak to a Support Manger, why did I have to ask three times?  I asked for a way to contact the Support Manger directly that I did talk with, I was told to just call support, as a way to contact that person was not available?  I instantly had the feeling of Cisco Meraki did not care about this issue, even though I was told “we care“.  Why would a support manager not want to take responsibility for this case, why would they not want to be directly contacted regarding this issue? Why would the PM of the product line not want to know about this? Do they even know? How are updates done to let people know? Once, again this is an issue of 100% downtime.

My phone can not place or receive calls using the phone numbers that I currently pay a provider for along with the support I pay to Cisco Meraki.

I wonder if Cisco Meraki uses the “Cisco Severity and Escalation Guidelines“. Do they even have one? How do they determine importance of an issue?  I going to lean towards with “us/me” being a small setup—why bother with us, who cares?

Around, 2007 maybe 2006, not sure exactly. I called Cisco TAC. I had an issue with not being able to enable PBR on a Sup 6E.  I opened the case online(which if I remember right, would be a Sev-3—meaning hey no big deal), maybe within 10 minutes I got a call from a CCIE. He told me his name along with the following:

“I am responsible for this case, I am here to help”

Now, this was not a service interrupting issue, this was me trying to enable PBR to send traffic to an IronPort Web Security Appliance.  Actually, I didn’t mind if it worked or not as I had other methods to accomplish the same results. No big deal. However, the pure fact that someone said they are responsible for getting results to help me on this simple, little, tiny issue, is what did matter. Someone who I could call directly(or even email) that would make sure things work, is what did matter. And, of all things was done on a Saturday morning.

I wrote the above blog post around 2PM Central time, but was holding off on clicking Publish, I’m adding more detail to this as I think it needs to be mentioned. I found out who my Account Manager is from the Meraki Dashboard. I emailed that person asking them to look at a support case. After a quick exchange of how I can be contacted, I received a call(obviously on my cell phone). I don’t recall ever talking to this person. However, I did get a sense of importance to this issue and a willingness to get the “higher up” folks involved in a faster manner and the appearance of ownership to my issue. (And, I use the word “appearance” in a light manner, well you know, c’mon, sales folks). Smiley face/wink.

Shortly after I did receive a call from Support, explaining they were told the phone numbers(but not my phone extension) should be available again. Yes, other than my phone extension with my voicemail greeting and maybe some messages still attached to “something in the cloud”. I can receive and place calls now. This is the not the first time I have had to redo my voicemail greeting. But why?

This has opened lots of questions all leading to “what if” scenarios? The major one being this is a phone, what if the reason this phone was bought because it fit the need to at least try and provide access to an emergency service? And, besides emergency services, what about actual business needs, people in an office do not use cell phones, they have office phones(at least for us we do).

I know people are going to say: “Hey, it’s the cloud, don’t trust it” or “dude it’s Meraki, c’mon, you should know better”.  Also, I looked around my dashboard I didn’t see anything that said “Beta” that was inline with what I was doing. Maybe those words need to be applied all over?

A good friend mentioned to me “Heck, if you worked someplace else, you would have been fired over this”. Meaning you recommend the product, it breaks, causes business down-time, you and the product are removed. Which brings up even more “what if” questions.

Maybe another option when opening a case is being able to place more details, other than “Low, Medium, High”, which sound like settings on a barbecue grill.

Maybe things like this actually need to happen. I understand things break, things break all the time. Maybe a culture change will take place? Reminds me of that AWS re:Invent Netflix session(I can’t find the video link), a guy was talking about when people push code and it breaks, you are expected to instantly fix it. Doesn’t matter if it breaks then, or a couple days later, or even if you’re on vacation, you own it, you fix it.

Or maybe, just maybe, I’ve watched too much Mad Max and have drank the kool-aid.

“They say people don’t believe in heroes anymore. Well, damn them! You and me, Max, we’re gonna give ’em back their heroes!”

Good weather and some DevNetCreate

The 2nd Cisco DevNetCreate conference was recently held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.  Pretty cool place to see the history of technology we use on a daily basis.

This picture reminded me of a scene from the movie Sneakers.

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Lots of sessions and really good food. They brought in local food trucks so we had a good variety of choices over the two day conference. The only down side, lots of really good sessions but not enough time(i.e. some ran at the same time as others).  Maybe somehow they could be recorded?? Overall, I would give this conference a 95%, hmmm, why not 100? Well, that reason is, just not enough time to see everything.  Not sure if adding another day would make this better.  I think the two days are perfect, however the recording of sessions would add that little 5% for sure.

Normally, I don’t stick around for keynotes at ANY conference. Usually I get distracted and wonder off.  BUT, this time I tried it out.  Being part of the Cisco Champions group added some fun to it, front row, center seating.

This one was pretty cool, Guy Kawasaki was invited to talk. He tells a great story! If you get a chance to see him at a conference, do not pass it up.

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As for sessions, Cisco Meraki had several workshops/sessions talking about their API.  Lots of focus on Node-RED and how to make that “magic” of programming an easier process.

Michael Chenetz did a great job of doing an intro to using Node-RED and showing how things can connect with ease using the Meraki API.

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Now, the next one is a bummer, it was about designing your own PCB along with using Upverter and Hackster.io.  I was actually really excited for this one. BUT, I quickly realized I don’t have the patience for it. The little circuits and what-not, nah, that’s not for me. Which was a good experience that I was able to see what someone had created and quickly found out I would really not like to do it. So in the end it worked out well, PCB design is not for me.

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Now comes the very fun “Create” part of the conference, it was a bonfire and create your own S’mores. If you don’t know what a S’more is, well, you’re missing out … stop reading right now and make some, they go great with some beer(or wine).

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Thanks to the entire DevNetCreate Team for once again, having a great conference and fun time! I hope to see you all again next year!

As you wish, Captain. This way.

Hey, I’m still around. So here’s a little update for 2018. More conferences! Yeah!!!

First on the list is DevFestKC, it’s local so easy to hit.

Then right off to the awesome WLPC, if you do anything with wi-fi, you have to go!

Also, thinking about hitting up HPE Aruba Atmopshere, always a good one, just might not have time–we’ll see.

Then Cisco DevNetCreate — If you love APIs, IoT and Developer stuff, it’s a great time!

Hoping to visit InteropITX again, loved it last year. A diverse group, awesome to see and learn new things

and.. then RSA Conference in SFO.

Many more on the list… but we’ll leave that for another blog post later on.

The trick … is not minding that it hurts

I feel this desire to use my laptop, almost daily. For the past 20+ years, a laptop or desktop computer has been used. Now, the trick has changed. The Apple iPad Pro 10.5 w/ Smart Keyboard is the change. I find that I’m able to focus more directly on what is being done vs. jumping around between apps that I had been doing on the laptop. Maybe this is because of how the “multi-tasking” works on the iPad, not sure, that will change with iOS 11, more apps could be shown on the screen, four apps from what I’ve seen(people playing around with the beta showing off things). The whole touching the screen thing has become a little odd, I guess it’s no different than using the trackpad to move the pointer? When using the laptop, I had eight desktops doing different things(I used a MacBook Pro, I’m all Apple). This feel of wanting of things to be doing stuff has changed a little. I feel it’s more a hunt and peck style, vs. a total consumption. I was pretty iPhone app heavy anyways. However, I never thought I would change to a device other than my laptop. When the first iPad came out, I had a little HP NetBook, I spent six months figuring out what I actually did on the NetBook, meaning this.
I documented the steps I did, i.e. Click here, then click here. Etc… to determine if using an iPad was useable. At that time, the NetBook was just used for email and watching Netflix. So that change was easy. The apps that existed then, well, frankly not many did. No VPN, no banking or communication apps, i.e. FaceTime, Slack, Spark, you name it. And, even back then lots of website still had “mobile browsers” issues. Not all, but the ones I used did. So that made the laptop still a daily thing. Now that most apps are “cloud” connected or cross-platform in some fashion switching around between devices is easy. I still find myself wanting to switch to a laptop/desktop/mouse, well, because that feel, that need to do something that has been done for days and years is changing and that habit is hard to break. When I feel that “want” to use the laptop, I stop, I think out what I would actually do on the laptop, the process, how would I interact with it. And, I stop, I think about it, I find that using the iPad can do the trick. And, if you can get over the hurt of the trick, the breaking down of the process, I think more people would enjoy using an iPad.

So I’ll leave you with this little thought:
“but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”