Ready For Takeoff

During a recent trip to Sacramento to check on my Grandma I found myself with 12 hours total time in a plane. This is an IT blog, so what did I do with my time to inspire blog-worthiness? I worked on my IT skills. Well, most of the time.

ATL to PHX: 4 Hours 36 Minutes
This is perfect amount of time to get into a lab simulator. A long flight helps learn to focus on that lab the way you would have to for a tough midnight maintenance or for the long labs in higher level certification. Cherry on top: the constant whine of engine noise sounds just like the hum of your server room! I opened up packet tracer, set up 6 routers, 12 switches (3 multi-layer), and a packet tracer server. Now, this wasn’t flying blind (haha…bad pun). I wrote out the bullet points of my topography and setup before leaving Atlanta; no notes, just what I planned to accomplish. Per my “work order” I stood up single-area OSPF, served DHCP and DNS, and all the run-o-the-mill stuff with VLANs, CDP, VTP, etc. For added difficulty, the trip added turbulence, two glasses of wine, and a Jack and Coke. I didn’t get on the WiFi, so I was stuck with a my memory and a the [?] key. I did forget a key to VTP setup that is WAY to embarrassing to mention, but I don’t plan on setting up VTP from anywhere I can’t at least use a rudimentary smoke signal connection. Bits per minutes anyone?

So what is there plan here? Plan, that’s the plan!

  • Write out everything you want to accomplish. If you feel like you need tips and notes, write those in too.
  • Sketch out a rough topo of the network. Sales here, HQ there, productions over there.
  • If this is a greenfield sim, get an idea for where you want you VLANs and how you want to topology to balance them. Draw out your OSPF areas. Decide on your VTP server.
  • In general, make the best of your time in the air by making as few in-flight decisions as possible.

Layover 20 Minutes: Well, 5 minutes…and they already gave me a replacement ticket. Oh well guess I better wait two hours for the next flight…or walk over to the plane I was supposed to get on. What’s to lose? So I run over from the last gate in terminal D to the last gate on the other side of terminal D and…The Plane Is Still Here! I excuse my shortness of breath from running, check in, and head on board. I actually passed the ground crew on the way to lock up the plane. Seriously, only made it by thirty seconds.

PHX to SAC: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Reading! A short flight is the perfect amount of time to read something technical without ending up so bored that you would rather try out the parachutes than turn another page. I reread a few chapters of “31 Days till CCENT…”. Good use of time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I highly recommend this book. Bring something that doesn’t weight five pounds and bulk up your carry on. I have 3 “..Days Till..” books, all of which are under inch thick. Dummies has quite a few thin books focusing on hot IT topics as well. Don’t forget about eBooks either. You sacrifice no space using a phone, laptop, or tablet that you would have carried anyways. Open a PDF copy, whitepaper, kindle ebook, or pull something out of your Sarafibooksonline.com queue. Just make sure you have your reading material downloaded before you get on the plane, or you may be paying 6 bucks for half an hour of wifi.

I spent a few days with grandma, who is now moved to Georgia with my parents and doing better, and headed back to SAC. Just for the record, Sacramento has a really nice airport. I only passed through twice, but it was easy to navigate, uncrowded, and I managed to buy a charging cable for under 20 bucks. Flight time!

SAC to PHX: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
This is just enough time to confound me. I’m trying to alter enough lines of another programmer’s JavaScript to make his pseudo ping bounce off my servers, switches, and firewall’s. Bad news is I don’t know script well enough to make it work very well. I was only able to get it to bounce off the server, which I could watch in Wireshark, but it still wouldn’t flip the result I want: a very un-simple if-then trigger on the page to show “SUCCESS.” I have since been pointed to an interesting bit of Angular library, so here’s to hoping!

By the way, if you know some crafty way to do this, Please Tell Me! I’m trying to get a ping-like function out of a webpage while keeping the code as light as possible.

PHX to ATL: too long
I tried to work and study, I really did. But, I didn’t want to. I’m in the air and feeling quite uninspired. I’ve spent each evening of the trip labbing (is that even a word?) to get ready for ICND1; I don’t want to see another command line! Best of all, I’m in the window seat and the middle seat is empty. I cannot resist the urge to relax. So I read. I tore through half of the 2nd book of The Expanse, “Caliban’s War.” Good read. Flights may be  some of the best times to study or work without coworkers and broken watchamacallits distracting you, but everyone needs a little down time.

What are your ideas for how to build IT skills while you travel. Leave a comment below!

*Edited because I didn’t spell check…like a scrub.

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