If the world doesn't explode tomorrow..I'm gonna go for my Network+ Certification

It's finally here! School's on winter break. Freedom from academics, for a whole month. What am I gonna do with all this free time I now have? Watch TV, play video games, study Mayan calendars?  I know! I'll study even more for my CompTIA Network+ Exam next month.

 After my Business and Social Media class ended last Thursday I purchased a Network+ exam voucher from my instructor +Anthony Stanislawski . He offers them to current and former students who have taken his ITnet 101 Network+ course, and I made sure I picked one up. Broke and student, are a synonymous status for me right now, and whilst the $125 price tag hurts my already deflated pockets, not getting the discounted voucher and forking out $253 to take the test eventually would not be the smartest of fiscal decisions. That's when I realized, I have a whole month off, and there's no better time to try to get certified than now. All the material is fresh from class and I have time to memorize all the detailed stuff. After signing up at Pearson Vue I checked their available dates and it turned out there was only one available next month in January! That's out of 5 testing sites too, so I lucked out there.

As a side note the correct test to take for those with vouchers is JK0-019. The JK0-019 is the same as the N10-055. The CompTIA Network+ will be the first major certification step towards my IT career. So, assuming the world doesn't explode tomorrow, I'll be here brushing over my CBTnuggets and TestOut material.


Taking the TestOut Network Pro Exam and Certification

I recently took the TestOut Network Pro Exam for my Network+ class at MATC and I decided to post a quick video about the experience. The TestOut Network Pro exam actually leads to getting the Network Pro Certification as well.

**UPDATE 4/2/2013**
As of this date there is a compatibility problem with the Chrome browser and TestOut. I highly recommend NOT using Chrome when taking the test. That was the reason for the crashes.

Information about the exam and certification can also be found HERE.


Internet... in Outer Space. A DTN story.

One technology that has peaked my interest lately is a form of "intergalactic" internet protocol called Disruption Tolerant Networking. I've had a chance to do some research on it and for the life of me I cannot understand why it fascinates me....but it does. Disruption/Delay Tolerant Networking, or DTN for short, is an answer to the shortcomings of using TCP/IP in space.

In short, TCP/IP protocols do not function well in the vastness of an interplanetary network. Why? Because TCP/IP works well on a terrestrial based network where the distances are relativity short (if one can imagine a packet from the US to China as being short) and destinations between nodes are typically at a fixed position. Packets travel down a wire (or through the air and eventually down a wire) to their destination. Acknowledgments are are made, connections open, and data transfers. It's this session connection that makes the world go round. So what does this have to do with DTN? Well in outer space destinations are not at a fixed locations. Satellites travel around moons or planets which in turn revolve around the sun. There are plenty of time where these devices cannot be reached due to planetary blackouts. Trying to establish a 3 way handshake when all devices are moving throughout space is very difficult and prone to disruption and delay. Because of the vastness of space, such connections would be impossible to maintain. Travel time alone to mars would require that satellites be aligned at a specific moment to communicate. This is just not practical when dealing with the distances we have to work with in space. That's where DTN routing protocols operate at a "store and forward  method. Meaning meaning data can be sent to an interplanetary satellite. That satellite would send a confirmation back to it's source notifying of message received  Then it would store the data until it could transmit the data to the next "hop". When the next hop received the data, it too would send confirmation back to its sender and it would store and forward the data on when the next available hop along the path to it's destination was available. This process would continue until the data eventually reached it's destination. This method of delivery is extremely fault tolerant to the extreme time that transmission takes in outer space, and the ever changing position of these transmission satellites.

I won't (and probably couldn't) get into all of the details that DTN has to offer, but that is a brief summary of how it works and why it works better in outer space? Does this mean we will be buying gifts from amazon from Mars anytime soon? Probably not, but it does open up a lot more possibilities about data transfer in space. The internet doesn't have to stay on planet Earth. It can stretch as far as we are able to go, and with the use of Disruption/Delay Tolerant Networking we may be able to take it farther than that.

If you'd like to know more (or still have no clue about what kind of Star Trek tech I'm talking about) check out this video on how it works. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWtRTzXJvtI


Calculating...A Networking Student, Three Months In

Thanksgiving was yesterday, and I am finally afforded a small reprieve to ponder on how school is going so far. We are nearing the end of the semester here at Milwaukee Area Technical College and I have to say I've been really feeling the pressure of taking 5 classes while trying to work at the same time! With only one general education class (English 201) in my current courses, the other four classes are all involved with the Networking Specialist Program. As a first semester student most of what we have been learning is fundamentals. How the internet functions, OSI Model Layers, LAN and WAN technologies, subnetting; things like that. Mind blowing stuff really. I think I'm going to need some hands on soon or else there is no way my brain can possibly maintain this many details. I decided on an IT degree because I thought I already knew a lot about computers and internet related stuff. Turns out that was like 2% of what there is to learn out there!

One thing I'm very glad about, was taking the advice of my counselor about spreading out all of my general educations classes to one per semester. (and one each summer) I think I would go insane if I had mixed a few tech classes with a few of my gen ed! Nothing against general education classes, but what really keeps my interest is IT related stuff. So while I learn some cool new program in IT, I want to come home and tinker but those pesky English papers keep getting in my way. I understand it though; have to be a well rounded person. So stretching them out to one per semester keeps my bandwidth open for my technical related stuff. Which makes for a happier me.

The school gives us some pretty amazing resources to learn from. Number one on my list is CBT Nuggets. It's a collection of online training videos from just about anything you want to know in the industry. Some of the video instructors are fantastic as well! Jeremy Cioara does a large portion of the Cisco training videos and he has saved my sanity on numerous occasions. I've taken to watching these videos over watching TV because I find them to be that engaging and interesting. They really do a fantastic job of breaking things down for you! My advice for anyone struggling in any particular area of IT. Log on to CBT Nuggets and watch a few videos on it. The TestOut Labsims have also been pretty cool (specifically the CompTIA Network+) They at least give you  virtualized hands on experience to apply the seemingly hundreds of hours of details they give you. However, there's always two sides to a coin and one particular tool that has been a complete disaster for me; the Windows 7 Testout Labsim. The guy that instructs the training on this labsim is the most droning, monotone, and lifeless person on the planet. It really is torturous to sit through hour upon hour of his videos. Luckily my actual Windows 7 instructor has made up for it though. He talks a lot about how much of Windows is actually applied into the enterprise environment.  I cannot stress however how terrible that Win7 labsim is. Another great tool we are given is access to VMware and all the Operating Systems you could ever want. I'm like a kid in a candy store here. I didn't even know about VMware until I started school and now I'm addicted to learning it. Especially at the behest of multiple instructors of mine. Virtualization is gonna be the future of IT for sure and it's been a blast so far being exposed to this technology.

Right about this point in school, though, I could really start using more hands on experience. At home I get to try out VM's, read protocols on Wireshark, and even sim a network on PacketTracer but at 15 credits I don't get a whole lot of time to tinker. There's always some homework assignment that needs to be done. I know I need to be patient because there's gonna be a lot more hands on coming up, but I guess it's just hard to not getting  time to apply all the crazy stuff we are learning.

One bit of advice I would give to anyone interested in going back to school for IT, is do not buy any of your books until you've talked to all your instructors in class. Don't make the mistake I did. I bought all of my books nice and early. Eagerly awaiting my return to school. Well it turned out, in the end, that I needed maybe 2 of the 8 books that I bought. At an average of $60 a pop I'll let you do the math. I think I probably wasted $300 on books that it turned out were either offered online for free or were simply not mandatory. Take the money you save and buy an external hard drive instead. You'll be needing it. Plus, you really should have one anyways! Also, if anyone has to tell you that you absolutely should have a computer  (which I will assume you do since you are reading this) IT may not be for you. Get a computer and make sure its up to date!

Overall though, I've never been happier. My family can see it too. I get wide eyed with excitement when I try to explain to them a 3 way handshake, or how DNS works. I know IT is not for everyone, but 3 months in I still can't believe how much I never get tired of learning new stuff in this field.


Stop Cleaning Your Room....and Go Play Your Video Games!

This is a TEDtalks Review of  - Gabe Zicherman: How Games Make Kids Smarter

Video gaming is a very integral part of children's lives these days. Adapting this fascination with education is nothing new and has been around since the mid 1980's. If you are old enough, you may remember games like Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego and Oregon Trail. These were the earlier examples of Educational Games that attempted to combine what a child should be learning with a media that a child "wants" to learn. In this TED Talks Gabe Zicherman attempts to explain that through his work and studies, he has learned that games are actually making our future generations smarter. A very strong argument made here is that learning through video games actually greatly increases our fluid intelligence vs. our crystallized intelligence.

Fluid intelligence is our ability to problem solve or learn on the fly. This is as apposed to crystallized intelligence which is a more structured learning where one simply solves problems through knowledge that has been memorized. His case actually suggests that games have helped children problem solve faster and faster. The level of multitasking in today's video games require players to do an astronomic amount of functions compared to the early days of games. This type of environments increases motor skills and "on the fly" thinking that previous generations where never exposed to. Zicherman suggests that maybe what we perceive as a sort of A.D.D. (that children can't seem to focus in today's world) is actual just a product of our world now being far too slow for today's children. I am inclined to completely agree.    He states that the rate of fluid intelligence has been rapidly increasing since the 1990's.  He then asks "Coincidence?" This Brings up an intriguing point. Video games started becoming very complex and wide spread around that time and I personally think it is no coincidence that this shift towards fluid intelligence has started becoming apparent starting with generations from that era.

The pacing of this TED talks was great. He covers a multitude of examples to convince us that games can in fact be used to educate our future generations. This is also known as Gamification, or the combining of learning with video games. Personally I have seen attempts at Gamification come and go, but I have always felt that it is a very under utilized resource that we could be using in education.  What I believe Zicherman does a great job of is convincing parents that it's okay to allow your children to play video games. This is something I believe many parents have been fighting for years. This aversion to children playing games I think stems from a misunderstanding of what video games really do to a child's brain. Zicherman does an excellent job of pointing out, through the use of slides and story examples, the positive effects that "Gamification" has on all of our brains. In the end the path that I think Gabe is trying to direct us is that we should embrace the power of what games can do for our education and get involved in them with future generations rather than fight against it. I am completely inspired by this, being a gamer since childhood myself. Today education seems to be at a struggle with being in sync with our children and how they want to learn. Why not combine something that they already love to do with things that will help them as they grow? The answer to solving some of today's educational struggles? Gamification! Let's bring the world up to speed. In Gabe's own words (in reference to today's generation) , "The world that we live in right now, the world of Sunday afternoons, drinking a cup of herbal tea, reading some old book, chilling out by the window....is over." Let's not fight the games that children love so much, but embrace the things that engage them.

If you are interested in learning more about Gabe Zicherman's ideas on gamification visit The Gamification Corportaion



Government Social Networking: Adding a Little More Panic to Your Life

Social networking is now recognized as a powerful tool for keeping followers, friends, fans and customers engaged in everything from information to products. But one of the more unknown uses for social networking is government organizations. As social networking becomes more and more powerful its clear to see that it can be used as another means of keeping the public informed of government issues and services. Along with TV and radio, the internet is now among the top sources of information people use to stay connected. While not as prominent as some of your typical social network users, government has at least made an attempt to get on board with this internet phenomenon. So get ready to head to the grocery store to horde water and stockpile supplies because here's a few government bodies that use social networking you may not have been aware of.

One such example in the use of government social networking is the CDC or Center for Disease Control. (@CDCGov ) As if in today's world there wasn't already cause for unnecessary wide spread panic, one can now follow the CDC for all their global pandemic needs. The CDC Twitter and Facebook post daily on health related topics as well as link to health information on many disease outbreaks and possible health concerns. For those concerned about health related issues local and nationwide it is an informative place to either make you want to sterilize your entire house, or to separate fact from fiction on health related issues. One interesting thing the CDC does is putting a face on the people who run the show. @CDCgov retweets many tweets that it's own doctors post. This gives a name and a face to the organization, which helps the public feel more comfortable when interacting with the CDC. If you are at all concerned with the general health of the nation, or just want to be informed when the zombie outbreak finally happens, you really can't go wrong following the CDC. With over 250 thousand likes on Facebook and close to 120 thousand followers on Twitter the CDC actually does a fairly good job of keeping their posts up to date and frequent. Like any good disease control agency the CDC rarely responds to comments on Facebook or Twitter, preferring instead to let its followers panic alone.  Engaging the public from topics ranging from Meningitis outbreaks to preventing teen violence its safe to say their target audience can span from people concerned with quality of life, to people just looking to keep tabs on current diseases outbreaks.

Another example of a more localized use of social networking would be Los Angeles Fire Department. Since fire departments everywhere are usually a full service life saving agency, they are called out to almost every emergency imaginable. Do you hear those sirens going on in the distance? Why not follow the LAFD  and they will inform you exactly what it is. And I mean exactly! @LAFD tweets almost every car accident, fire response  and rescue you could ever want to know about. It's safe to say their social networks are targeted towards that special curiosity that all humans seem to possess. Now instead of gathering around the scene of an accident we can gawk from our keyboards at the ensuing chaos. While the LAFD mainly uses twitter as a means to detail all incidents it responds to, (enough to make even the most stalwart statistician cringe, its use of Facebook mixes in a bit more personable taste to the social network community. It showcases a few prominent members that are important to the department as well as mixing in a few disasters here and there just to keep you on your toes. The LAFD Facebook does actually respond to comments to it's citizens which works well to keep the public engaged.

I know I jest about the panic some of these social networking tools provide when in the hands of certain government organizations. But just the mere fact that these organizations are using social networking tell us something. No longer is TV and Radio the predominant source for staying informed. With the ability to follow and be notified when these departments post, we can all happily subscribe and watch from our computers screens or mobile devices as madness descends all around us.

Center for Disease Control
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CDC
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CDCgov

Los Angeles Fire Department
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LosAngelesFireDepartment
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LAFD


How to avoid Time Warner Cable's rental fee: Buy your own modem.

Recently Time Warner Cable announced that as of 10/15/12 it would start charging its customers a "modem rental fee" at the price of $3.95 a month. You may have read about it online, seen it on the back of your paper cable bill or you may or may not have been aware about this new charge at all. However, TWC has allowed its customers to purchase their own modems (from a list of approved modems) and allow a waiver of the rental fee. So the choice is simple, you can go purchase your own modem or you can do nothing and pay the $4 a month.

 Either way it is important to think about your decision to act or not to act. First lets do some math. The modems for purchase in question, are going to run you anywhere from $50-$60 depending on where you find it. Once you purchase your modem that's all the money you are going to spend for it. If you do not purchase it however you will pay $4 a month for....how many months do you think you will continue having broadband cable internet; 2 years, 5 years? Or if you are like me, you never plan to see yourself without broadband internet. Then we are talking costs much higher than simply buying a modem.

After about a year's worth of the fee (12 months X $4) you will have paid $48 dollars. That's pretty close to the cost of just buying a modem. So the modem will have paid itself off after a year. After 5 years (5 X $48) you will have paid $240 dollars, for a $50 modem. And for most of us, the modem that we go buy ourselves is the exact same model that TWC provided us. So deciding not to go out and buy your own modem and waive the rental fee is going to cost you more money in the long run.  Which brings me to my last point.

Some of you may read this and still be thinking "What!? Modems? I don't know anything about that, that sounds complex" Well I'm here to tell you it really isn't. Below are the simple steps to owning and setting up your own cable modem.

Step 1:
Go to Time Warner Cable's website and consult their Approved Modem List, and find your approved modems. Most of us are going to be under Approved DOCSIS 2.0 Modems. (DOCSIS 2.0 just means you have standard internet package. If you were DOCSIS 3.0 'turbo' you would probably know it) But if you are unsure you can always call Time Warner cable and ask. Here is the link for their approval list.

Step 2:
Buy one of the modems from the list. TWC even provides a list of good places to purchase your new modem. I would recommend Amazon.com, Walmart, or Newegg.com.

Step 3:
Call Time Warner Cable and tell them you want to set up your own modem so you can get the rental fee waived. The Customer Service Rep will have you read the HFC MAC ID number that is located on the bottom of your new modem. (when reading the letters and numbers to them be very articulate. For example, N as in Nancy, B as in Bravo, etc) This number is what TWC sees to allow you to use their internet service). They will then tell you to hook up the new modem.

Step 4:
Hook up the new modem. First unplug your Ethernet cable, then your coaxial cable, then unplug the power cable from the back of the TWC modem. Now just take your new modem and screw in the coaxial cable, plug in your Ethernet cable, and finally plug in the power cable. The modem will automatically turn on. Give it a few moments and then the phone person will tell you that they see your modem and have you test to make sure you have internet. Open a browser and go to a website and confirm that you are connected to the internet.

Step 5:
When you've got some time, return the old TWC modem back to Time Warner Cable with that smug look of satisfaction you most certainly will have now. (plus you have to return it to have that rental fee waived)

It's as simple as that! Now you can rejoice in all that money you have saved yourself (after a year of course). Give yourself a pat on the back, you are now the proud owner of your very own cable  modem! Now you can brag to all of your friends about the massive hardware upgrade you preformed.


How to: Change which Google account is linked to your Youtube account.

Sooner or later we may be faced with admitting that we have to grow up. Yes, I know, terrible right? But it's going to happen and some of us may realize that screen names we created back in the care-free years are no longer appropriate. So sorry all you SexyPrincess4u's and you PunkRebel666's, but a time may come when you'd rather not have your boss or coworkers see what your  handle was when you were 15. So if you are on board, here's a method to detached your old Google account name from YouTube  and attach it to the new....sophisticated you:

It should be noted that once you migrate to a new Google account you will NOT have the option to migrate again. And this option is only available if you have a YouTube account created with an old user name and log in. 

 At the top right of the screen click the down arrow to open the drop down menu. Click on settings. In the Overview  find your old name and click the Advanced link underneath it.

Next click on Change Google Account. 

Now you will need to unlink your YouTube account from your the current Google account attached to it. First verify that you are human in Section A. Then click Unlink My Account button. Afterward you will need to reattach it to your new Google account or create a new account for it to be linked to.

Now that your YouTube account is unlinked. You'll need to link it to a new Google account. Assuming that you already have another Google account ready, click Link to an existing Google Account.

On this screen sign in to your new account by entering the password. If this isn't the account you want to link to click Sign in as a different user. When you are ready click the Link accounts button.

Lastly, confirm that you are linking your YouTube account to the new, more mature, Google account. From here you will go through a series of 'house cleaning' options to delete videos or comments from you account. Don't ignore this part, you'd be surprised some of the stuff that came out of your mouth.

And that's it! Your YouTube account is now linked to your new Google account. You're all set to put on that suit and tie, get out in the real world, and make something of yourself.


Accessing Our 'Other' Brain

Never memorize what you can look up in a book" - Albert Einstein

This quote by the brilliant physicist, Albert Einstein was in response to being asked if he knew what the speed of sound was off the top of his head. Einstein did not know the answer. You might not either, but i bet you could look it up in less than 5 seconds. What Einstein was referring to was the simple act of memorizing facts, versus training your brain to think outside the box. Although this quote was spoken in the 1920's, it has never been more applicable than in today's world. Clearly I am not implying that this should be taken literally. Facts that are pertinent are almost always retained, especially when they interest their target. If Einstein were alive today I think his revised quote would have sounded something more like "Why even have books at school, when I just have Google in my pocket". With information so easily accessible through the internet at the touch of a finger, people are memorizing less, and searching the internet to find facts.  

Even our mundane activities have been taken over by the Information Age. Think back to before you owned a cell phone. How many phone numbers did you have memorized? How many do you know off the top of your head today? Some people may even say they don't know their best friend's phone number anymore. What about when you are out with your friends, and a debate about a certain fact arises. The first thing most of us do now is hop on a computer, or grab our phones and look up the answer on the internet. Now GPS, Wikipedia, Google, Youtube and many more, give us all the information we need, whenever we want it. 

To compare our brains with that of a computer, it is almost as if we have shifted more from the role of a hard drive, to that of RAM (Random Access Memory for the non geeks). We store less data permanently these days, but we have access to far more information at any given time than ever before.  Being the age that I am I have lived half of my life pre-internet so I feel I have experienced first hand this shift in the way we handle our information on a day to day basis. From personal experience I can say with certainty that this 'ease of access' to information has hampered my ability to concentrate on one subject. I am constantly flipping through news articles, skimming facts, and learning about things from one subject to another. It's all out there! I could be on youtube watching how to tune up a race car and then be learning about the mating habbits of giraffes ten minutes later! But is the new direction we are heading for the better or for the worse? 

I am inclined to believe that with the benefits of having information when and where we want it, along with an improved ability to solve problems without having previous knowledge on the subject, that this direction is mostly for the good. If one person knows how to do a complicated math problem using a formula from memory, but another person can solve the same problem using a calculator, what is the difference between them? What if one person has 'the facts' memorized on a subject, and another person can look up the same information in seconds, are they any different? Both now have the acquired knowledge. We are starting to rely less on our own knowledge and more on the collective knowledge amassed through individuals who specialize in particular areas. The accessibility of information has eroded the practicality of simply memorizing facts, just to show proof of memorization.  It is not so much the regurgitating of information that is as important in today's world, but more the knowledge of how to access it and quickly.  


Calculating...Why Computers Told Me to Choose MATC.

I am a student at Milwaukee Area Technical College, enrolled in the Information Technology Networking Specialist program. For me, choosing where to get a degree from is based on two factors, money and my general lack of it. The reason I chose the IT program was simple, computers rule, literally! They have permeated every facet of life  as we know it, and I for one, humbly embrace our artificial overlords with open arms.

The decision to attend MATC was made very simple for me, its affordable. For the price, the education I'm getting is well worth it. I chose to put myself through college by paying for tuition and books out of pocket to avoid debt. This just wouldn't be possible with some other schools in my area. At the same time, the school that I attend would need to have a strong program that could improve my chances of getting a career. In my opinion, MATC offers a great value for the education. Which just left this user to choose a degree.

Ever since Al Gore invented the internet, I have been a fan of computers. It's always been the one thing in my life that I haven't been afraid to tinker with.  I can even remember, as a child, my first DOS based 286. Sitting down completely clueless as to how the thing worked. I would start typing in the prompt "What do I do, computer?", as if it would answer me "Shall we play a game?". Not too long after that the internet exploded! Years later, I would be building my own machines from the ground up. I have always enjoyed computers, and marvel at what they are capable of. So to me, it was a no-brainer. Do what you are good at. Why Networking? Because a computer without a network, in my opinion, is just a oversized calculator. And somebody has to get Skynet up and running. Why not me?