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VOIP Upgrading…Doesn’t suck as I bad as I thought…

I used to not like the TV show; The Office. I could appear more cultured and say something like, “Oh the US version was not as good as the British version…” but who I’m I kidding! I grow up in a trailer park in the beautiful hills of Tennessee. So truthfully, I thought they both blew. That is…until I started working for a Micheal Scott-like manager…then I got it big time! I ordered the blue ray boxed set to serve as an in-service training video. (I don’t work for that goober anymore…maybe the Futhark rune I purchased online actually worked! Plus it wasn’t at Cisco…every Manager here is super mega awesome and works for; “The Greater Good…The Greater Good”…”

Major upgrades of anything just flat out friggen major league suck. I’m not talking patches or minor mod maintenance updates…while those can be a pain, they are critical to keeping our network stable and secure. No I’m talking about those UPGRADES that add more features and change functionality. Those suck and will always suck. We are adding a larger more complex code base on older hardware. There’s gonna be problems, end of story.

I learned this in my dumb years (insert your joke here) by putting a 427 Chevy motor in a Camaro built for a 350 was not a good idea. While it, “worked” it put too much stress on the supporting parts and stuff like shocks, coil spring, tie rods, drive shift, cooling system…etc. Then one day driving home late at night the tie rods said; “Dude…I just can’t take any more…” I would have heard that but with .38 Special jamming thru my Craig 8-track with Audiovox Tri-axial speakers then filtering thru plush and lush mullet of glory, I just felt the car spin out of control when a mail box, parked F150 with no tail gate, a gun rack and hood antlers then finally a fence introduced themselves to my insurance agent, that looked nothing like Flo.

In the end, an upgrade is really only as good as the support for behind it. I’m not gonna say; “Wow! I agree! Cisco Voice Team, you convinced me! Everyone upgrade to 9.1!!” That would be a fake and phony as an infomercial for spray on hair for baldness.  Here’s the thing, the fact that the Cisco Voice folks went back and took a serious look at their internal processes then owned up to the fact that they were cumbersome, complex and just flat out prohibitive on customers takes a lot of moxie in my opinion.

For example, actually funding Level III engineers to be on standby and bypassing normal TAC processes exclusively for 9.1 upgrades: Awesome! On the licensing team they switched from an automated process to a manual process. Now that sounds backwards right? Here’s the thing though, licensing is so important and can be a real pain in the butt, they want to ensure folks get the right license and don’t over buy or under buy, heck we all got kids in college. Very cool!!! The Voice team really planned for this so much, that other than going on site and doing the upgrade for you physically, I honestly do not know what more they could do to help make this as seamless as possible. This is like Cray Research level support on a XC30. White glove daddy-o!

Now to be honest I was not too pleased with the video story. Adding more hardware is not a good thing to solve a problem to me, so I’m gonna dig my heels in a little bit. Mo’ hardware…Mo’ problems… After thinking about it, I like it and here’s why. It plays into my design philosophy of NOT being tied to a vendor. I know I work for Cisco and honestly we make some good stuff for “The Greater Good” (anyone else pumped to see Pegg-Frost team up again for World’s End?).  I’m an Engineer first and foremost. I recommend the best solutions per customer need. If we added some “video tunneling” feature thingy to an ASA then we would lock customers into a firewall position (or having to upgrade a firewall ALSO to take advantage of the 9.1 upgrade…) AND add more workload on an already busy bottleneck in the network. Having two Expressway products gives the Network Engineer more design options, the customer more flexibility and balances the load out to be more localized to specialized hardware. It also avoids involving the security team to manage video sessions, stats and troubleshooting. Hey security teams are great but speaking as a Sec-Team member, we can be like dealing with a group of Lawyers over a bill. Avoid if possible.

My hat’s off to the Voice folks. They really should be proud of their planning and processes they have accomplished. They really did a fantastic job getting ready to get the world to upgrade their CUCM’s to 9.1. Trust me; I do not endorse products lightly. I know that one day; I could be the engineer out supporting that product. Based on everything I tested, witnessed and the commitments from this team, I would absolutely recommend that CUCM folks take advantage of these resources and strongly consider an upgrade if it fits in your planning and budget.

Although, Laura’s goal about making me a “Voice Dude”…yeah that didn’t happen. One thing that did happen was I really developed a huge amount of respect for this team. Check out the TechWiseTV episode 132; “Unified Communications; I’m I Missing Something?” To see some good stuff on CUCM 9.1. Gotta run folks, Robb is calling my event in Flonggerton….

Jimmy Ray Purser

Trivia File Transfer Protocol

Jen Taylor, who has voiced Princess Peach and Toad in several Mario games is also Halo’s female lead, Cortana.

Working Around IT Departments

Since you’re reading this chances are that you are either in IT, wanna be in IT or you think this is some motivation “You Can Do It!” kinda post. Weird starting a blog out about telling folks how to work around our incredibility well thought out information technology policies. This is certainly not a Eric Snowden type of outing but really more of how we as the IT Crowd have to work with other IT departments that, hey let’s face it man; are just not as good as us right?! Can I get a witness up in here!!!

We’ve all made silly IT policies that at the time really seemed like a great idea…you know like password types so complicated that they had to be wrote down?? Heck at my first crack at LAN Administration way back in the Johnson Administration, I required; Unknown letter combo, numbers, mixed case, special character, map to hidden Amber Room and you best possible guess to the Riemann Hypothesis. Oh it was secure for sure…of course it was over a proprietary protocol network type called ScaNET…so that was a resume generating event.

Anyway…

How many times as an IT geek do you just get fire ant angry when a company blocks PINGs!!??! Or turning off rights inheritance; heck I’m still seeing a therapist over that event. Well, that and troubleshooting a system trust issue with over 10K user accounts…thru NAT…internal NAT!!…Yeah I know right!! oh the horror!!! Eli Roth’s next movie…

Here’s a few tricks I’ve picked up along the way to help…solve problems…

Workaround 00x01: No PING!!! Turning off antivirus and violating RFC’s 792 and 4443 should be punished by having to play the video game Desert Bus until you get high score. When I need to test a connection with ICMP blocked, I just use HPing3  http://wiki.hping.org/ It’s small  lightweight (wrote in TCL) and works great! For example;

techwisetvNIX#hping3 –S <target IP address> -p80 –c 4

This will send SYN packets (-S flag)  to port 80 (-p80 flag) four time (-c flag) instead of ICMP to test connections or even run a speed test to determine bandwidth. HPing3 has a TON of options. I use it to test firewalls too…but I’ll save that for another blog…

Workaround 00x02: “We disabled robots so hackers can’t GoogleDork us!” Aw! That’s so cute! However, if you’ve been around networking awhile you know the answer to all questions is not 42 but; “it depends” Certainly GoogleDorking is fun and an OK way to scare the crap out of analyst who think an IP address is where they go to the bathroom. Practically speaking, when I need that kinda vuln info; I’mheadin’ on over to Shodan.  http://www.shodanhq.com/  and letting my fingers do the walking. It’s a search engine that searches on metadata about machines. So the idea isn’t to search about content that’s available on the Internet like GoogleDorking can be.  For example; let say I’m looking for a vuln in IOS 15.1, well, I just type ‘er in the search bar and KA-ZOW! Global results! SHODAN uses a variety of techniques to actually determine the version. These may be through SNMP, fingerprinting, SSH, telnet, etc… But either way, it returns what it found as far as devices that are running that version of code. Very cool tool…and oh by the way…there’s a Shodan iPhone app for the; “geek on the go” I use as another tool for security auditing to tell folks to update  your code goobers…especially the SCADA folks… Why do I need to us this? It’s another great way to find info and see our network as the world sees it, other then thru Google lens… Honorable mention: Duck Duck Go.

Workaround 00x03: Internet access is filtered! There could be many reasons IT departments block access to certain sites. It could be security issues, it could be State/Government issues, maybe someone doesn’t like you looking at cats walking in socks wearing trucker hats. Heck man, I have no idea. I do know this, when I was in the United States Navy before we pulled into a port, the Skipper would tell everyone were not to go and places to avoid. Those were the first places we hit! It served as a tour map for some rockin’ great stories later on!  Folks are gonna find a way…

TOR (The Onion Router https://www.torproject.org/)  Is the true Magsaysay Blvd of the Internet. Tor is basically an anonymizer. Many apps will over over TOR too. Rule of thumb, if it runs on TCP it’ll work.  TOR bounces your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world. This multi-branch routing prevents folks from snooping your Internet activity. Why would you want to do that? Well, if you’re traveling or a citizen of a country and you have get out info in a crisis but are being blocked; TOR is your exit.  I’ve been to 36 different countries and tested in all countries and it worked great! Oh it’s slow for sure. But if you came from; “Pshhhkkkkkkrrrrkakingkakingkakingtshchchchchchchchcch*ding*ding*ding” welcome to flashback city home slice.

As side note…man alive TOR can be the Terentatek of the Internet. Be careful messing ‘round with .onion URL extensions in this universe.

What did I miss? Share some of your IT workarounds with the TechWise Guyz community here. Hey it’s kinda like hitting a virtual off limits bar online! Kick back crank up some Daft Punk and twist the top off your fav hack! PROST!!!

Jimmy Ray Purser

Trivia File Transfer Protocol

The phone keys One and Zero do not have numbers because they are “flag” numbers and kept for special uses like emergencies or operator services.

 

VOIP….meh….

I really do not why I don’t care much for Voice Over IP. It’s certainly technical. Heck man, if you’re stuck on QoS, go ask a voice geek. Resellers are begging for more voice engineers, so it’s a great career path. You can really do some very cool things with it that your end users just will love you for. Heck, if there’s a more visible direct impact to a business other than voice, I’d like to know what it is.

But still; when funding comes thru for a voice show I’m always thinking…”meh”… Which is funny because without a doubt our best and most award winning shows have been on voice! You’d think I’d love it right? Hey ya what? when was younger growing up in the hills of Tennessee (hereby referred to as God’s One True Love from henceforth) my first experience with hacking was on our telephone system with rapid hook switch tapping to become a tandem or punching thru busy signals was a real hoot. Of course the Capt’n introduced us to blue boxing and a splendid time was guaranteed for all…

Next week is a TechWiseTV taping week for us. Right now, this show has two things going against it; first off, it’s a voice show and second (and most important) it’s also an upgrade show. Yep folks, that’s right a push to get you to upgrade your CUCM.

Now look, we all have bills to pay so there always some level of butt kissing and boot licking that has to go on any show. Video is expensive. For me, I never ever ever promote ANYTHING on TechWiseTV that I would not be happy to stand by or even support in the future. I’m grateful TechWiseTV can do that. We turn down shows because we just do not believe it’s the best for the network.  Like my Grandmother taught me all those years ago…”If ya ain’t got nuthin’ nice to say, then shut the friggen crap up goober…” Ah she was quite the wordsmith for sure.

I don’t know about y’all, but I am not a big upgrade person at all. Upgrading sucks worst then a going camping with your mother in law on Indy 500 race weekend and forgetting the beer. From and engineering view point; why fix something that isn’t broke? Upgrading means my hardware is going to be slower (if it’s compatible), my licensing is going to be really messed up, tech support is going to be worthless, major downtime, oh yeah…and this is voice? Namely Cisco voice, wholly friggen shnikasourus rex man! You need a PhD in  CUCM licensing to figure that one out, plus my dial plan, migrating my DB…and you know what…that camping trip is looking better all the time now….

Robb and I designed this show to have the voice team prove us that we need to upgrade. To be honest, they better bring their “A” game. ‘Cause I ain’t buying it yet. TechWiseTV is unscripted and we do not see the content that our guests bring on the show beforehand. We like to keep it real and spontaneous. We just ask that slides have minimal words, no marketing or vision statement crap, any quote from any analysis puts you in Aldrich Ames status and removed from the set and have the slides in 16x9 format. 

I’m bringing all of these doubts onto the set on Tuesday morning to see if they can address them. It’s still early, so if there is something you want to make sure we cover, toss in your comments before 16Jul13 and we’ll cover ‘um…then tune it see…upgrade or not?? In the meantime, anyone got a tent I can borrow?

Jimmy Ray Purser

Trivia File Transfer Protocol

A pound of feathers weighs more than a pound of gold. This is because feathers are measured in avoirdupois weight which is 16 ounces per pound and gold is weighed in troy weight which is 12 ounces per pound.

  

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Where do you do your best work?

May 21, 2013 at 9:07 am PST

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Most of us have the ability to work in different places these days. I am personally very mobile. I love all my little tools -- I carry my Air, iPad and iPhone plus a few other bits whereever I go. Now, just because I can work anywhere does not mean that I always like to. Depends on what I need to get done. My home office space is my ideal working environment. This is the one spot I have invested the most time in making comfortable for me and as such, this is where I do my best work. For you, it may be your office at work.

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Why?

I had never given much thought to why I like this space the most..it seems obvious…but one item that makes this spot ideal: my desk phone.

My desk phone is large, reliable and comfortable. It has an easy interface, great speakerphone and a good headset always attached. This communication device, sitting right next to my iMac, makes communication rich and easy. When I sit here -- I can get anything done. Anything.

So as silly as it seemed when I first heard it, the idea that Cisco was investing in the deskphone, now makes sense. Mobile phones, tablets..these are all obvious, well worn markets with lots of people fighting for a toe-hold. The desk phone? How delightfully contrarian. Cisco is really good in the business space..selling to consumers…not so much. But the enteprise…at all levels…have very unique needs.

Cisco’s move with the DX650 is brave, and based on what I have seen…really smart.

Read More »

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WebRTC: This will change Visual Collaboration

May 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm PST

When you start pulling back the covers and realize how much is going on behind the scenes…It is both amazing and scary. Its a connected world. No doubt about that. Whether you are connecting through apps or a browser..or you don’t know, don’t care…there is a lot happening on our behalf.

I first struggled to understand exactly what problem we were solving here. At the risk of oversimplifying, the number one benefit to this communication standard: No More Plug-Ins. Those pesky little programs we have to update and run, just to get what is increasinlgy normal things done, when online. These plugins can be useful but they vary widely and are each proprietary to the vendor who developed them.

WebRTC, as part of HTML 5 is very close to getting us past this (and many other) hurdles. In development for years now, but making its presence known in 2013. Its worth understanding.

This is a standard that, instead of coming from the video codec and resolution world, is coming from the web world. The definition is being drafted by the World Wide Web Consortium and the IETF…two big and important standards bodies that have a lot to get right here, together. Its not a standard yet -- but this has not stopped it from being implemented already in several browsers.

WebRTC: Cullen Jennings talks with TechWiseTV

WebRTC: Demo from Paul O’Dwyer

WebRTC: Jimmy Ray Whiteboards the Meat and Taters

Watch this Space

This is a foundational change with big, positive disruption that will re-shape a lot of interactions we have today. WebRTC is a way of turning every browser, every app, into a HD quality video endpoint. This may first be evident in the browser, but don’t limit your thinking. Most of the quick app development we have seen these days is due to web-based back ends that are simply hidden from our view.

If you want to dive deeper. Here are some of the resources I found most useful when prepping for these shows we did.

Cullen Jennings explains WebRTC in a long but fantastically good and complete manner. I wish the audio were a bit cleaner here (Happy to help re-record for you in our studio Cullen!) but the value of the content over-rides these issues.

El Reg does a nice job laying out a high level explanation of WebRTC and explaining why this will be a market disruptor.

I like how Alan Quayle has broken this down in no jitter as it gives us a view from the communications perspective. There are respectiable hurdles here and this will round out your understanding.

A couple of other sites had great detail and may be good for some ongoing coverage if interested. Check out

BONUS AUDIO MATERIAL on SIP….

From anExperts in Residence: Podcast from the early days I interviewed Cullen Jennings on the subject of SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). We actually could not get the timing to work…so we had the team record him…then I went back and laid in my questions…so it sounds very stiff (on my part) as I listen back to it.

Hope you enjoyed and learned a few things. I know I have.

Robb


Twitter: @TechWiseTV, @robbboyd, @jimmyray_purser

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