Author: ccie14023

What are we getting ourselves into?

It seems to be rank heresy for someone working in the valley to say it, but let me say it anyways.  I don’t agree with the axiom of the technology industry which states that all technological progress is always good.  Many in our society instinctively realize this, which is why they oppose genetic engineering and plastics.  Still, the technology industry is so persistently in love with itself, and so optimistic about its potential to solve every human problem, that when anyone points out the consequences of technological progress, we quickly respond with AI’s potential to solve the problems it’s bound to create.  (Sorry for the long sentence, but I’m going to quote Plato in this essay, and by Platonic standards that last sentence is short.)  AI is the solution to everything.  AI will unlock the mysteries of human existence.  AI will allow human beings to live forever.  AI will cure cancer.  AI will solve the dangers of, well, genetic engineering and plastics. An example of this is the extraordinarily concerning essay in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago by computer scientist and 60’s icon Jerry Kaplan.  Dr. Kaplan reviews the recent accomplishments of functional brain imaging technologies, which are starting to become more precise in identifying how people are feeling, and even which words they are thinking.  “With improved imaging technology, it may become possible to ‘eavesdrop’ on a person’s...

Read More

Blog Updates

A lot of the blog posts I write begin with “I’m just too busy to blog these days!”  Luckily, I have dozens of drafts so often blogging is just a question of cleaning up something I wrote a long time ago.  However, I’d like to keep things up here even as life becomes more hectic here at Cisco.  (I don’t know how things can get more hectic but they seem to each day!) I don’t have many comments on this blog.  I think this is largely due to the fact that most of my readers are spambots.  However, I know there are a few out there who actually read and enjoy some of the posts.  For years I’ve required users to enter a name and email address to post a comment, and while many users just fill out fake information there, I’ve always thought it kept spam down.  This policy probably keeps genuine comments low too.  So, I’ve flipped the setting to allow anonymous comments.  I’ll test it for a few days, and if the spam is out of control I’ll flip it back.  My spam filtering software gets the vast majority of spam comments, so I hope it will continue to do its job with anonymous commenting. The performance on this blog is also slow.  I’m looking at moving to a more fully managed offering from my hosting provider...

Read More

Interviewing #1: How I got my first networking job

I’ve wanted to kick off a series for a while now on technical interviewing. Let me begin with a story. My first job interview for a full network engineering role was at the San Francisco Chronicle in 2000. I had been working for five years in IT, mostly doing desktop and end-user support. I then decided to get a master’s degree in telecommunications management, which didn’t help at all, followed by a CCNA certification, which got me the interview. My first interview was with the man who would be my boss. Henry was a manager who had almost no technical knowledge about networking, but I didn’t know that at the time. “Do you know Foundry switches at all?” Henry asked. “No.” I was already worried. “I doubted you would. That’s ok because we want to replace them all with Cisco and you know Cisco.” He pulled out a network diagram and handed it to me. “If you look at this, do you see a problem?” he asked. I had never worked on a network larger than a couple switches, and now I was staring at a convoluted diagram depicting the network of the largest newspaper in Northern California. I was looking at subnet masks, link speeds, and hostnames, trying to find something wrong. “I’m not sure,” I had to reply meekly. He pointed at the main core switch for...

Read More

Moving carpets for $2000

I worked for two years at a Cisco Gold Partner.  The first year was great.  We were trying to start up a Cisco practice in San Francisco (they were primarily a Citrix partner before), so my buddy and I wined and dined Cisco channel account managers trying to impress them with our CCIE’s and get them to steer business our way.  Eventually, the 2009 financial crisis hit and business started to dry up.  The jobs became fewer and less interesting.  I had two CCIE’s and at one point, I drove out to Mare Island near San Francisco to install a single switch for a customer whose entire network consisted of–a single switch.  I always recommend people not to stay in jobs like this too long, as it hurts your prospects for future employment. Potential Employer:  “So what kind of jobs have you done lately?” You:  “Uh, I installed one switch at a customer.” Anyhow, we had one other customer that managed to keep me surprisingly busy, considering their network was quite small as well.  They were a local builder, and with three small offices connected together with ASAs and VPN tunnels.  The owner was filthy rich and also paranoid about security, which meant I was out there a lot changing passwords, tightening up ACLs, and cleaning up the mess the last network engineer had left. The owner had a...

Read More

I am not a coder!

I recently replied to a comment that I think warrants a full blog post. I’ve been here at Cisco working on programmability for a few years.  Brian Turner wrote in to say, essentially:  Hang on!  I became a network engineer precisely because I don’t want to be a coder!  I tried programming and hated it!  Now you’re telling me to become a programmer! As I said in my reply, I have a lot of sympathy for him.  It reminds me of a story. Back when I was at Juniper, I met with the IT department’s head of automation to discuss using some of his tools for network automation.  Jeremy was an expert in all things Puppet and Ansible, and a rather enthusiastic promoter of these tools on the server/app side of the house.  He had also managed to get Puppet running on a Junos device.  I was meeting with him because, frankly, the wind seemed to be blowing in his direction.  That said, I did not share his enthusiasm.  He told me about a server guy he had worked with, Stephane.  When Jeremy proposed to Stephane that he should use automation tools to make his life easier, Stephane vehemently rejected the idea, and the meeting ended with Stephane banging his fists on the table and shouting “I am not a coder!” Flash forward a couple years and Stephane ended...

Read More