Podcast – Conf t with your SE

A few of my friends and fellow SE’s have started a podcast that I’ve already found to be informative and easy to listen to. Give it a listen and subscribe if you like the direction or leave a comment below and I’ll make sure the feedback gets to them.

I listen to podcasts using the native iPhone podcast app, here’s the link below:

They do have this published to other podcast feeds if apple isn’t your thing


Home Automation – Part 1, Lights

I’ve been playing around slowly with some home automation. I didn’t dive straight into this when things started coming out because there wasn’t a good eco-system for connecting the different systems together. Now that there seems to be 3 clear choices, Amazon, Google and Apple, I’ve made the dive in.

I started the journey into this back on Amazon Prime Day where there was a deal on an Echo Dot and the Philips Hue starter kit. I started with the Philip Hues lights because it looked to the the easiest place to start and Philips works with the Alexa (Amazon) and Siri (Apple).

What drove me towards choosing Philips Hues over some of its competitors because of it closed wireless ecosystem. I didn’t want to deal with the headache of everytime I needed to add a new lightbulb into the house that I’d have to join it to my home wireless network.

The setup the Philips Hue was very easy. I unboxed the wireless bridge, connected it to my wired network and powered it on. Downloaded the app to my phone and went through the easy setup. I then went down a rabit hole of creating every room in the house within the app before adding light bulbs. Adding the light bulbs was easy, take out the old light bulb, put in the philips hue bulb and power the light back on. The bulb connects back to the bridge and then shows up in the app on the phone. Place the bulb into a room and you can now turn on or off the bulb from your phone.

Setting up the bulbs to be controlled is cool, but to make it even better I integrated it with the Apple Homekit and Amazon Echo. I created routines in the homekit to turn on and off lights at certain times of the day and utilize Alexa to turn on/off or dim/bright lights with my voice.

As I expanded the lights within the house, staying only on the first floor I’ve found a few issues.

  1. If a room does not have Alexa and my Apple Watch isn’t fast enough it’s slow to turn on the lights. My office was an example of this. My resolution to it until I purchase another Alexa device is the use the dimmer switch and place it near the light switch
  2. Need to know which light switches need to stay on. I could buy the tab to keep to protect against this, but haven’t gotten around to it yet
  3. Not all areas make sense for the lights yet. Hallways and bathrooms as example. I believe I will change these rooms into philips hue bulbs, but not sure how I want them controlled for turning on and off. Something I’ve been thinking about is using the motion sensors for this
  4. The bulbs are not supported outdoors. I’m still looking for options on how to automate my outside lights
  5. Price… I only have bought the normal white lights because the cost of the full color lights cannot be justified
  6. Bulb choices. Some of my lights need a smaller bulb

I plan on expanding the bulbs to every room slowly over time, bedrooms will be interesting. After a storm came through the area and I lost power for 3 days, when the power comes back on, every light will turn on, and stay on. The bridge does not remember the last state of the light before the power loss, which makes sense, how would the bridge know it was a power outage vs someone hitting the switch. My hesitation with the bedrooms is, if we lose power at night, I don’t need to lights turning on in the middle of the night when the power comes back on.

If anyone has suggestions around automating lights in their home I’d like to hear about it.

Home Lab Server

One of my friends at work was able to get his hands on a few servers and was generous enough to give me one for my home lab. It’s a Cisco UCS C22 server that I am running ESXi 6.5.0 on. My plan is to eventually add more memory to thus, unless I can get my hands on a C220 server.

I’m not familiar with VMware at all, so this was a learning experience for me to get up an running. I was able to create a bootable USB drive off my mac with the ESXi hypervisor on it and was able to install that as the hypervisor. I installed VMware because it was free on their site and has the most support around for running different virtual instances.

I don’t have any screenshots of video of the install because it was done before I thought about creating a blog

I have a few servers setup that I go through. The ones in most use are VIRL, CUCM and CUC. I turn on/off the servers as I need them for various lab purposes, either personal or for work. 

I currently use onboard storage and do raid 0 if I remember correctly. If they fail they fail 🙂 

For networking it’s a simple flat network. I’ll eventually get into a more sophisticated setup, but for my use now, ease if the name of the game.


If you’d like to see more or get some more details. Drop a comment below

Home lab

Here’s my home lab down in the basement. I’m to cheap to buy a rack for the gear so it’ll sit on a folding table.

Some of the devices don’t work and most are not on.

Starting at the left and working my way right

  • 7945 Phone that I bought when I worked at Atrion
  • (2) 3750 POE 24 port, not powered on. Will use for CCIE R/S Studies
  • (1) 3850 SFP 24 port, not powered on. Looking for some SFP’s I can utilize
  • Old Dell monitor that’s plugged into the C22 server below the table
  • 2851 router, acting as my CME and CUE lab device for CCNA Collab studies
  • 2851 router, powered off, console port is busted, can’t connect in. More work than I’m willing to put in the figure out how to use. Will most likely return
  • 2821 route, pulled cards out of it for the CME router
  • ASA5505, bought when I was at Atrion, need to get back into this. Will prob replace with a firepower enabled device
  • 1812 router, acting as my jack knife right now, DNS, DHCP, whatever else I need as a service in the lab
  • 2811 router, going to make into a terminal server with parts from the 2611 below it
  • 2611 mentioned above
  • 3800 series router, taking parts from it for the CME router
  • Under the table, UCS C22 server running ESXi
    • I have CUCM, CUC, CU-IMP, VIRL installed, not all running at the same time
    • Working on getting APIC-EM, ISE and vWLC setup for the DNA lab

Study Strategy & Habits

I have spent a lot of time reading and watching videos on study tips and how to better retain what I have been studying. There is a general consensus of what works, but it mostly comes down to what works best for you.

Here is what I have come up with as my studying habits

  • Build a learning schedule
    • I wake up early (around 5am) and start doing some reading and take some notes.
    • Around 8pm after the little man goes to bed I’ll get back to studying, either reading and writing notes or doing a lab.
    • Any other time I can find I’ll take advantage of as well. Example: I’ll listen to audio while driving or mowing the lawn
  • Read pressbook(s)
    • Highlight as reading
    • Currently reading in digital formats, either on Kindle or iPad using the Safari Queue App (more on this below)
    • I like to read the book fully and then go back through it once more after watching videos of the subjects to help clear up anything I may not have fully understood
  • Go back through chapters again and handwritten notes
    • I have been hand writing the notes on my iPad using the native Apple Notes app. I switched from old school paper and pencil because when I’m on the road, I may forget to pack the notebook, but I always have my iPad with me.
    • The Notes app also syncs across all my devices seamlessly (I’m fully bought into the Apple ecosystem)
  • New – type up notes and post into blog for everyone to enjoy and learn from
    • I start by typing my notes into Pages (another Apple app which saves to iCloud) and transfer into a blog post. I’m still figuring out the differences of format between the 2 since photos don’t copy over.
    • I used to use onenote for this, however with what I have seen coming out in iOS11, I wanted to start building the habit of using the apple notes app.
  • Watch videos and actively take notes
    • Active engagement is important. If I don’t actively engage I find that my mind will wonder and I’ll miss what was being discussed.
    • Watching videos also has the amazing advantage of being able to pause, rewind, speed up and slow down the recording. Allows for time to take notes or follow along doing a lab
  • Always be Labbing (ABL)
    • I have build a Collab lab in my basement, it’s a work in progress. I’ll make another post dedicated to going through what I have setup

I have a Safari Online Books subscription which makes it much easier for me to consume books and have quick access. I was first introduced to this in college when a professor didn’t want us to get the physical book. Now that I’m at Cisco, there is a subscription I can take advantage of. What I like about this service is the ability to easily access any technical book. I have a queue built of about 30 books that I can easily move between and access from any device (laptop, phone, iPad) and have the highlights follow. There are also videos that can be added to the queue to give more options for different learning styles. I would highly suggest this site for anyone who is studying any subject.

I hope this is helpful for anyone who is studying and looking for other ideas on how to study and remember what you’ve studied.

Latest video that I’ve watched and looking to incorporate some of these tips

Current Studying Status

As much as I would like to achieve my CCIE Routing & Switching, I need to take a break from it. Without going into too much detail in this post, I needed a change of pace. I haven’t earned a new certification in some time and would like to change that and get back into the groove of studying new material.

Currently I’m studying for the CCNA Collab – CICD 210-060. I’ve working with Cisco Collaboration at my past job and know enough to be very dangerous, but never learned the correct terminology in some cases. I’d like to take a step back and work on improving my collaboration knowledge and fill in some of the gaps.

A lot of my gap is with the legacy voice / analog systems that I’ve never had exposure to. I’ve worked with CUCM for phones and telepresence, but never had to go into any depth with CME, CUC or CU-IMP.

In future blog posts I’ll be typing up my handwritten notes to share with the world and would welcome any feedback where I may have misunderstood a topic.