Saturday, 25 April 2009

To Bootcamp or Not to Boot Camp

Okay so the opportunity for me to go on a CCIE boot camp has come up. I was having a look on the Micronics website following some posts I saw on the CCIE Candidate blog and I saw that there was a boot camp running from the 18th of May in London. (The location is not really London, it is outside London but that is better for me because the Big Smoke is ridiculously expensive for those of us who do not get paid Big Smoke salaries.)

Anyhow I would not normally consider myself ready for a boot camp as you have probably seen my preparation so far has been a bit lacking to say the least. However I saw some interesting comments once again on the CCIE Candidate website where some people had gone on the boot camp without having done any full scale labs because of Narbik's free re-take policy (however there might not be any more classes in the UK that I can attend so it might become very expensive should I want to re-take). So that made me wonder whether I should contemplate the boot camp to kick start my studying again.

Obviously only I can make the final decision on whether to go for it but I thought I would get the opinions of the one of two people who still read this blog to help me solidify my decision. So I thought I would be honest about my situation and see what the rest of the CCIE community think.

My main issue at the moment is time, as I have previously mentioned in other posts I have two very young children and it would be unfair to leave their mother to care for them both all day every day. (Much as I would love it if she did agree to do this and returned them to me when they could go to the toilet themselves :-) ) This lack of time during the day would not be so bad because my wife has agreed that I can do some work in the evenings when one of them has gone to bed, but the problem is I also have a very demanding job at the moment. I work a lot of overtime in the evenings because I need to and I need the money at the moment. It looks like work will get even more hectic in the future months as I am in the middle of a very large project.

I was going to let things meander a long and try get some studying in when I could, with the hope I could now be ready for a November lab date. However the rumors about the lab changes that have appeared in recent days have got me scared. I could do without learning new stuff and since I do not work in an ISP environment (which I believe is the best possible place to learn about networking) I am not keen on having to do MPLS. So if I want to get anywhere near a lab attempt before any changes come into force I need to get cracking. I was thinking that maybe the boot camp would be an ideal way to propel me forward in my studies.

Money is a bit tight at the moment but I have some money from an inheritance that I could use to pay for the course as it would all have to be self funded. So it would be a quite an investment when I would still have to pay for the lab exam and the flights to get to the lab exam.

On the money front I have previously invested in quite a lot of training materials. I have the IPExpert Blended Learning Solution, as well as the Internetwork Expert CoD and Boot Camp CoD. In workbook terms I have electronic copies of the IPExpert stuff and the Internetwork Expert workbooks as well as hard copies of Narbik's Advanced Technologies workbook. So maybe I have enough material and should really focus on making best use of what I already have. I must admit I do find my concentration wanders quite a lot in the CoD's and getting through them seems to take a bit longer then you would think. So maybe a boot camp would be a better option for me.

So what I would like to hear is the opinions of people as to what they think. There are plenty of people who have passed with out going on a boot camp and I certainly seem to have enough material. However there are plenty of people who rave about the boot camps and especially Narbik's one. The other question is how do the CoD's compare to the real thing? So let me know what you think to help me make up my mind.

Friday, 17 April 2009

There has to be an easier way

Well I am still alive although as the title of this post suggests things are not going all that smoothly at the moment. So when I say there has to be an easier way I do not mean of bringing up two young children (I thought one was bad, one is a picnic compared to two :-) ) or studying for a CCIE (although I wish there was). What I really mean is there has to be an easier way of managing a PIX/ASA/FWSM whatever you want to call them.

I am not really much of a firewall person but my job at the moment involves a lot of firewall stuff and mainly on the FWSM modules. I have had a bit of Checkpoint experience before and I know Etherealmind had a post about ditching Checkpoint since their support was so rubbish. However although their support may be rubbish (I am lucky I have never had to experience it) their product in my opinion is superior to what you get from Cisco. How on earth have Cisco not got anything that compares to SmartView Tracker when trying to figure out what is happening on your firewall. Unless I am missing something you can try and look through Syslogs or the logging output on screen. I cannot find a way to filter as easily as in Checkpoint and I even have trouble finding stuff at the moment. I use Kiwi Syslog Viewer so if anyone has any better suggestions they would be most welcome. Also when you have multiple interfaces and multiple firewall contexts the rule base can get very confusing for me at least so if anyone has any suggestions for good tools to use to edit PIX/ASA/FWSM ACL's I would appreciate it.

Apart from struggling with Cisco firewalls not much has been happening in my life. As you can probably see from the neglected state of this blog CCIE study has been none exist in the last couple of months due to work and family commitments. I have no spare time in my life at the moment as if I am not working a horrendous amount of overtime I am looking after the kids to compensate for me not being arround due to the overtime. Cacth 22 although I am grateful I do have the work at the moment when so many people do not.

Hopefully once all my projects are out of the way and both kids at least sleep through the night then I will be able to get back on track with my CCIE. In the meantime hopefully I will get a chance to maybe post about the FWSM (if I ever figure it out) and the new version of the CCIE Comamnd Memorizer that I have not had much time to play with yet, or if that fails I may get a chance to produce some more whinging posts :-)