CCNP Certified!

Today I achieved the CCNP Certfication! It has been 3 years since I started this journey and I still remember the days when I thought just having my CCNA would be all that I would ever want. Nope! The truth is, if you aspire to CCNA once you finally get there I think the first thing you'll think is, "Hmmm, why don't I just keep going and get that CCNP." Well that's exactly what I did.
The following is the exact exam path I took:

  • 642-813 SWITCH - Failed Taken 1 week before the v2 exams take over
  • 300-101 ROUTE - Failed 2 months later, failed by 4 points!
  • 300-101 ROUTE - Passed 1 week later
  • 300-135 TSHOOT - Passed 3 weeks later
  • 300-115 SWITCH - Passed 2 weeks later
You'll notice that I ended up taking and passing SWITCH last. In fact, many of my friends thought I had gotten my CCNP when I announced that  I passed TSHOOT! (it being the usual final test) Well I took the old SWITCH exam rushed. It was going end of life soon and I was studying for that exam! So, unfortunately, I needed to take it rush and it showed. I bombed that test pretty hard. By then I needed to move on. A lot of stuff I was studying for at work was related to more of the ROUTE path so I had to leave SWITCH behind. The test had changed over to version 2 and I just didn't have the time to learn the new topics. I would have to come back for it. I really do not recommend doing this. The choice to abandon SWITCH and move on to the other two tests just means you will forget much of the intricate material. The best way to do things if you fail is to just sign up again a few weeks later and bust your tail to learn the topics you were weak in. 

ROUTE I actually found to be not too bad. Yes I failed it the first time around, but I failed it by one question. It was a simple matter of rescheduling right away and shoring up any holes I had in my knowledge base. 

TSHOOT was by far the funnest of the three tests. It was just fun figuring out why something didn't work and looking through the configs for a culprit. A huge bit of advice that my colleagues told me was to make sure you familiarize yourself with the TSHOOT topology. I cannot overstate how important this is! Learn how the topology is connected and make sure you are comfortable with it. You will waste tons of time if you are seeing the TSHOOT topology for the first time when you sit down to take the exam. Get comfortable with the environment and no matter what they throw at you you'll be able to handle it. 

SWITCH, for me at least, is a beast and I found this to be the hardest of the 3. A fitting end I suppose. I found the HSRP and Spanning-Tree sims to be fairly straight forward, but a lot of the layer 2 and security questions are very intricate and designed to make you second guess yourself. What was that errdisable recovery interval again?!

Well, it's the weekend, and I feel like celebrating. For now I will just be happy that I've finally achieved CCNP certification. Soon though, I will need to start asking myself. "OK, what's next?"


How to: Erase Cisco Flash Partition

Did your old 2600 series router come with a partitioned flash?! Want it gone? It's easy as Pi!

erase flash


erase flash:1:

erase flash:2:


config t

no partition flash


How to Force Windows to Use the Correct Default Gateway

Many of us will end up using our home PCs to not only connect out to the internet, but also to connect to our home labs. You may be using an Ethernet connection out to the internet and a wireless connection to your home lab, or vice versa. The following diagram is an example of such a set up.

The issue here is that if you are trying to connect to the home lab via telnet,ssh or remote into a server your connection will most likely fail. You may notice that you can connect to the lab's wireless access point and it's gateway at but beyond that you get nothing. Some simple commands and a little exploring can shed some light on this issue. First let's open up an elevated command prompt. (Right click Command Prompt and click Run As Administrator)

Notice Ping failure and wrong default gateway on tracert.
Here we see that we cannot reach the AAA server when we ping Next we run a tracert command. Notice that the PC has chosen to send to the wrong default gateway of (or out towards the internet). Since your home internet router is likely unaware of how to reach the network this will result in a connection failure.

Ping to wireless gateway is successful
Next let's try a ping which is the default gateway of the lab wireless access point we are connected to. Notice that this time it is successful. This is because the IP that we are pinging is on the same network as the wireless adapter on our PC. Anything beyond this network and the PC will always use the wired gateway (, causing a failure. So how do we get around this problem?

Add a route to Windows
Simple. We need to tell windows where to send traffic destined for a specific network by adding to the static route to the Route Table. Type command route add -p mask in the command prompt. This command tells our computer that anything destined for the network, send it to the wireless gateway of (which we know our PC can reach).  Next we verify the route.

Verify the added route.
Now just type route PRINT -4 into the command prompt. This tells the PC to show the current IPv4 routes it has in its table. The -p in the command allows the route to be a Persistaent Route meaning it will still be there after the computer is rebooted. Most likely you will want this. With -p the route will be stored in the registry key at:


If for any reason you need to remove this route just use the command route remove -p mask

There we have it! We can now successfully connect to the AAA server in our home lab. As an added bonus, because we added the route to our PC's route table, now we can reach any IP in the lab that begins with 10.x.x.x! Hope this helps!


SecureCRT Keyword Highlight Color

A fantastic new feature has arrived with the latest update to SecureCRT 7.3. One of the top terminal emulators on the market now offers 'Keyword Highlighting'. Properly used this new feature can enhance your networking productivity. This is especially true when mass configuring networking devices. The ability to highlight any keyword you want allows you to spot configuration errors much easier and faster than when all of the text is the same color. This new feature even allows you to highlight different keywords into different colors, allowing you to organize what you want to see in the configuration in an easy to spot color scheme. For example, highlighting errors in red and VLANS in yellow.

To upgrade to the latest version of SecureCRT (at least version 7.3) go here

Why is this useful? With properly modified line entry times in your SecureCRT options, you can safely add an entire configuration to a device. This previously wasn't recommended because of glitches and errors occurring that might be missed as the configuration is being applied. 

For example without using keyword highlighting a configuration containing an error would look like the following: 

You can see by looking closely that the error, a typo, occurred on FastEthernet 1/11. Previously before keyword highlighting you would either have to have a keen eye to see this error pop up as you pasted an entire config script, or you would need to put  the configuration in in small chunks. 

With keyword highlighting enabled, and set to a few keywords and symbols, you can easily spot when the error occurs. For example with the same configuration we have chosen to highlight any occurrence of the word invalid and the symbols % and ^ in red blocks. 

It may seem like a small thing but a splash of color on monochromatic text really pops out at you. This allows you to put entire configuration scripts in at once and just hit CNTRL+C to stop the script in case you see an error. Not only does it make spotting errors easier but it can save you time by allowing you to put entire configurations in at once. Also, this allows you to enter a script and then quickly just scroll up through the applied configuration and see what errors you may have missed. This is especially handy for jobs were you are putting scripts on a large number of access switches. I recently had to do a job were I configured 200+ switches and copying and pasting small chunks of script wasn't a viable option due to the time it would take. I could apply the configuration and begin working altering the next configuration on a separate monitor. Any time there was an error I could clearly see the color contrast out of the corner of my eye and stop the script. This would not be possible if all of the text was the same color, you simply just wouldn't see it.

To enable keyword highlighting on SecureCRT 7.3 or greater perform the following steps:

1.  Go to Options > Global Options and then click the Edit Default Settings Button

2. Go to Appearance category. At the button in the Highlight keyword section use the drop down menu and select "New"

3.) In the Keyword List Properties enter a name for your keyword list. Next add a few keywords that you want to be highlighted.  Once you have added your words click OK. 

4. Next, in the Highlight Keywords section, be sure to select the Bold and Color boxes. Default color will be red, which for me contrasts perfectly against the green text. So if you would like to change your color be sure to click Edit and change your keyword colors.

5. Click Ok when you are finished. In order to see your highlighted text you will need to exit out of your current terminal connect and start a new one. Now just enter a typo into your device configuration and verify that the new text is highlighting properly. 

I hope this is helpful for you, as I know I am using it more and more now. It is a great way to provide extra error detection and increase productivity. 


CCNA. Check!

I woke up early in the morning with one goal on my mind, 'Pass the CCNA Today'. It had been a long time coming since it was updated Cisco, switching to the new CCNA 200-120 exam. By the time I was in the middle of my last semester of Cisco classes the exam had official changed on me. This means there was more to learn before I could attempt a successful run at the exam. Not to make excuses but with my final semester in school at 18 credits plus getting hired a few months before graduation, fitting in time to study for a separate exam just wasn't something I wanted to do. I figured once I graduated I could dedicate time to studying for the exam.

That brings us to today, I've been watching CBTnugget videos, studying official study guides and taking a few practice exams simulations. While I was studying I made flashcards (the old fashion kind) to just make sure I could remember all the little facts; STP, OSPF, EIGRP Hello/Max Age Timers anyone?

One thing I highly recommend for anyone planning on taking the exam, is to really work on troubleshooting problems. It's one thing to simply memorize facts that need to be memorized, but with the amount of time they give you for the ICND2 (75 minutes) what really slows you down is the simlets and troubleshooting problems. You need to be able to go through your show commands very quickly and figure out why Router A cannot talk to Router B even quicker! Also using a subnet reference key will save you precious minutes, and trust me you're going to need them. I finished with 45 seconds left on the test! Also another thing that stood out to me was the amount of RSTP questions asked, so be sure to really know your rapid spanning tree in and out.

Overall I just followed the topic outline on Cisco's site. I took a few practice exams that let me know what area I was weak in. It helped me discover that I was slow in troubleshooting as well as scoring low in that area because I was trying to rush. This let me focus on the areas that I felt I was weaker in. I highly recommend taking practice exams!

Although I have many more certs to get, if you've read some of my earlier blogs, you know that a major goal of mine was to obtain my CCNA. I finally made that goal happen and it feels great!


Calculating...A Networking Student: Graduation.

Graduation! The time has finally arrived. I get to walk across the stage with my fellow peers and receive my degree. It feels like these last two years have flown by! It's amazing to me to think back to when I first started, learning about MAC addressing and subnets, to now fully completing the Associate Degree in  IT Network Specialist  at MATC. I truly had an amazing experience, and I am proud to have gone through an IT program at MATC. I know a lot of people will say that hard work comes from within, and it does, but honestly it's been a pleasure learning from all of my IT instructors at the school. They are all enthusiastic about what they do, and they recognize that same enthusiasm in their students as well. 

I truly had an amazing experience, and I am proud to have gone through an IT program at MATC.

The final pages of this chapter of my life have been rampant with all manner of milestones. A month ago I was hired as a network engineer, and combining final exams and projects due with my daily work schedule at a new job has been crazy. One of the more important decisions I made throughout my time as a student was the decision to wait on accepting a job until I had my degree. I only caved a little when a really great job presented itself and I only had a month to go. I decided to stick it out and it worked out for the best. If I had taken a job in the middle of the program, however, I most likely would have never finished school. At least, not in the two years that I did it in. It really feels great to complete my program! 

I can say this wholeheartedly, if you choose to go this course (becoming an IT student), find out which instructors are passionate about what they do, and take what they teach and or preach to heart! I really payed attention to everything they said and or recommended and it has paid off ten fold! From being sent to Cisco Live, to just learning new techniques and best practices. All of these things came back to benefit me in the end. It's not just the direct information you learn, it's the little things. Little hints that your instructor might tell you to look into.  Everyday at work, I run across these little things that I keep telling myself  "Oh yeah, I remember Brian telling me about this!", and it makes me glad that I paid attention. Little things like this help you when you start applying what they've trained us to do towards your day to day activities!

One of the more important decisions I made throughout my time as a student was the decision to wait on accepting a job until I had my degree.

There's a lot of things to talk about to really get the most out of your IT program, but that may have to wait for the next blog. Right now, it just feels great to get my degree and start looking towards the future with my career. We never really stop being IT students so by no means am I finished educating myself in the dark arts of technology. There's always more to learn and more to do out there. I even look forward to taking a class or two in the future with one of my old instructors. 

Which brings me to the thing I valued most out of the experience. I would like to personally thank +Brian Kirsch , +Layne Davis , +Anthony Stanislawski , and +Patrick Feder for being the best damn instructors I could ever ask for! They provided mentoring and guidance for me through the entire two years of my program, spurring me on and giving advice for every situation I went through. I really wanna say from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for your support! I have a degree now, a great career, I even got a new car, and hope to get a house one day. My future outlook has completely changed for the better, and I want you guys to know that you played a direct role in it. Once again, thank you! 


Calculating...A Networking Student: T minus 48 days

I've rounded third and I'm heading home! I'm so close to graduating now I can taste it! This semester has gone fairly smoothly so far. As far as my technology courses go, first up,  I'm enrolled in CompTIA Security+ course. I've been taking this one online (my only program related course that I've had to take online) because it's not offered at the Downtown Milwaukee campus here at MATC. The course is going well, with interesting things to learn about overall security. Unfortunately, we are again using TestOut. At this point in my student 'career' I can honestly say I've 100% had it with using TestOut. It drags on and on and most of the time its extremely boring. In this particular course, completing the entire Security+ TestOut accounts for just 5% of my total grade. To give you an idea of what that 5% takes I will just tell you I've put maybe 20 hours so far into it and I'm not even halfway through with completing it. The amount of time it takes to complete this doesn't seem to fit the grade worth to me. Needless to say, it's very frustrating. I'd much rather just watch CBTnugget videos.

Next up is our Emerging Technologies VMware VCP course. It's going great actually. I cannot state this enough but,  it is a MASSIVE amount of information to learn. We get a good mix of lectures with some great best practice lessons. Mix this in with our daily lab work and reading assignments and there's more than enough information to require a storage upgrade in your head. The required book we have is brutal as far as things to remember but honestly there's so much you can do with VMware I really don't see any other way of reading about it. Overall, I've been having fun in the course. I mix in a little practice time at home with a simple home lab for practice. What's also interesting, is it seems this course has the highest concentration of enterprise professionals in it, so our class has an interesting mix of people in the industry and students.

Lastly, our program is finished off by our Capstone Project course. This class is a final project that aggregates and culminates everything we've learned up until this point. It mixes in our MS Server and Client, Cisco, and VMware skills that we have been developing over the entire program. Staying on top of everything throughout the year really helps out in this class and I think it goes very smoothly if you retained a lot of what you had learned. What's equally nice is in case you didn't retain everything, this course is great for brushing up on topics via the lectures at the beginning of the day. Every class covers a topic on best practices of AD, Server, and Diagramming etc etc.

So, just under 7 weeks to go and I will officially have my degree!  If you are still with me at this point, I think it will be interesting to see the transition that will be made from student to IT professional.


The Other Kind of Networking

The following events took place within about 4 minutes.

I awoke suddenly, early this morning to the sounds of birds chirping merrily out on the...never mind, wait that's my phone! Tweet received, 

[Call Me]. Done. 

Long story short, a guy I know, knows a gal, that knew a guy, that has a guy...that needs help with a network. Phone calls proceeded (in that order).  "What seems to be the problem?". Four words come up; the network and blew up. 

"Can you come in to help troubleshoot", and, absolutely I can. 

"OK the address is..." 

Where's my pen?! I'll head out right away.. actually wait, he needs to call me right back. They may have figured out the problem.  If a cell phone made an audible click while hanging up, here's where it would... *click* 

Where are my pants?! *ring ring* "Sorry, they figured it out."

Not a problem, glad it's working again. He says, "So tell me about yourself." I explain, IT Networking student about to graduate... here's my email. 

"We'll be in touch," he says. *click* ...

*You've got mail*  [Nice to meet you Ike, send me your info, are you looking for work?] 

I go to my LinkedIn profile copy URL,paste, and send. We're now connected. 

I Tweet 'the guy' that started this all, [Wow thanks for the referral!.]


Why did I even bother to write down the events of this fine morning? To be reminded that the importance of staying connected cannot be overstated here.  This kind of networking has real value, especially as an IT student that's about to graduate and enter the job market. Maintaining connections and keeping your professional profiles up to date is so important. In the span of minutes, I traversed through 2 social networks, 4 phone calls, and emails that, in the end introduced all of my professional information to the president of an IT company.

Treat the networks that surround you as seriously as the networks you work on.

Treat the networks that surround you as seriously as the networks you work on. You never know when there's opportunity for you to make a connection.


Spanning Tree Protocol CCNA Practice: Challenge 1

Want to brush up on those CCNA skills? I've oddly found it fun to figure out spanning tree diagrams. Here's a STP challenge for you. Try to determine the root bridge, designated ports, root ports, and blocked ports. Good Luck! [Click here to check your answers.]


VMware does the time go?

After a year and a half and the time has finally arrived! In this, my program's final semester, I have embarked on the epic journey that is our Emerging Technologies VMware course! We have been slowly training to use VMware technology throughout our classes. We learn to use Workstation quite a bit up until now, as virtualized labs makes things a lot more practical. This, combined with taking the VMware Certified Associate exam has done a great job in familiarizing me with the concepts of virtualization so that I'm not running blindly into the course. Which, as my instructor has bluntly stated "is going to be one of the hardest subjects in our program".  After all the time I've spent in the last few days learning new things, and realizing there's still tons more to know, I don't doubt it.

Workstation combined with taking the VCA exam has done a great job in familiarizing me with the concepts of virtualization...
This weekend however, I decided to really get down to it and start playing with vSphere in a small virtual lab at home. I combined part of our previous school lab and then started veering off from there.  Immediately, I was grateful for the previous exposure to Workstation as well as our extensive server classes. Where as previously Workstation was typically used to create extra servers and clients,  I now see how using a type 1 hypervisor requires much more comfortable levels of binding everything we've ever learned together.

I started off simple. Just creating a couple of hosts and a vSphere client on a Windows 2008 server. Then from there I just kept bouncing to the next thing that peaked my curiosity. Can I clone a VM without the use of vCenter? Can I get these VMs to talk on a different network than the management network? How do I create a virtual switch? I decided I would just explore all these questions and stumble around until I figured them out. Since the class is just starting I'll leave the "best practices" to the course and for now just familiarize myself with anything that seems interesting so far. I gotta say, this is very exciting! I'm going on about 15 hours straight here in this lab I'm really excited about just what these virtualized environments are capable of! I can't wait to see what's next.