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Thinking of switching to SP

Posted by Jo on July 31, 2009

As regular visitors will know, I have been preparing for the written exam for over the past month or so. I have been making decent enough progress going through the CCBootcamp Voice Written Study Guide and also trawling through the Voice SRND’s and information on the Cisco documentation site. I was aiming to take the exam in a few weeks time, but am now having second thoughts about it.

While I have been studying for the written I started off putting in 2-3 hours a night of reading, this has now dropped off to 2-3 hours one or twice a week as I feel I have learned as much as I can. I am also finding myself getting bored of the content, maybe this is a sign that I am ready to take the exam. I am also thinking about the practical side of things, and while I do have a stack of Proctor Labs vRack vouchers, I just dont have the time to schedule in full 8 hour sessions after work and at the weekends to go through the workbooks. I also miss the CLI – I know that voice has a great deal of CLI configuration involved, but thats a way off down the line for where I am in my prep.

So, what does all this mean? Well, I may put the voice studies on hold for a while (I still want to do it), and look at SP instead. Since I passed the R&S I feel that I have zoned out a little on the more complex technologies and routing protocols that I dont work with on a day to day basis, such as BGP and VRF’s etc. Of course SP will have its own challenges, but I think that I am more suited to it at present and should be able to make good progress. I will also be able to do a lot of the workbooks on Dynamips, which appeals greatly to me – I will be able to do shorter sessions of 2-4 hours and then longer ones when required – plus I get to go deeper and build on my R&S knowledge.

Jared wrote a good post on the IPexpert blog about doing SP after R&S which makes sense to me. Im hoping that there isnt a major change in the next 6 months or so, but something tells me there may be seeing as Cisco are making changes to all the other tracks, so I will see how I get on.

I have not yet decided on the workbooks to use, but Rick recommends the INE Volume I and II, and also the IPexpert Volume II labs. I will decide on this once I get done with the written exam.

Posted in CCIE LAB, CCIE Materials, SP, written | 2 Comments »

CCIE-V: Short Answer Questions

Posted by Jo on June 17, 2009

Cisco have announced that the short answer questions will be coming to the Voice lab on July 16th 2009, and I expect they will be added to all tracks which can only be a good thing. I know that some people dont like these, but anything that adds an extra dimension to the certification is OK by me. I think that Cisco is on the right track with all of the recent changes announced to the lab exam blueprints for R&S, Security and Voice.

https://cisco.hosted.jivesoftware.com/community/certifications/ccie_voice/lab_exam?view=overview

CCIE Voice Lab Exam Adding Short Answer Questions:

Also effective July 16, 2009, the Cisco CCIE Voice Lab Exam will feature a new type of question format in a section called Core Knowledge.  In this new section, candidates will be asked a series of four open-ended questions that require a short, typewritten response (typically several words).  The questions will be randomly drawn from a pool of questions on topics currently eligible for testing on the CCIE Voice Lab Exam.  No new topics are being added.  Candidates will have up to 30 minutes to complete the Core Knowledge section of the exam, and may not return to the questions later.  First introduced to the CCIE Routing and Switching lab exam in February 2009, Core Knowledge questions will eventually be added to all CCIE tracks.  The changes allow Cisco to maintain strong exam security, and they help ensure that only qualified candidates are awarded CCIE certification.

Mark at IPexpert has announced on OSL that they will be releasing a version of their flash based question simulation engine, so I am looking forward to checking it out. Im assuming they will follow the same pricing model for the R&S version on this – FREE!

I am currently making steady progress through the ccbootcamp study guide for the written, and will be following up soon with a breakdown of my progress so far. Im still on track to attempt the written exam in August.

Posted in ccbootcamp, CCIE LAB, CCIE Materials, CCIE Prep, ip expert, ipexpert, voice, written | Leave a Comment »

Hello World!

Posted by Jo on May 6, 2009

Hi there, Im still around here and there.

Ive been totally snowed under with work recently. Ive now been in Doha for 3 months and its flown by really fast  – I did manage a quick break back in the UK last week which was nice (and also brought the love of my life back with me). The DC project Im working on is still rumbling (slowly) on , its a big migration weekend coming up so I dont expect to get much sleep. Its all fun in the end though and I am enjoying it.

So it looks like the guys at Cisco are changing the CCIE R&S blueprint to version 4.0. I have to say I like the look of the new format, the idea of a separate troubleshooting section is a great idea. I almost want to take the lab again to check it out (OK maybe not!). Check out the Mike’s Blog for more details from IPexpert and some great offers. Even though I passed the R&S Im hoping to get access to the new updated materials to check them out. Ive still got some vRack vouchers knocking around so will see what IPexpert send my way in the members section when the time comes. Its always good to keep up with the different technologies that they are adding.

As for my studies, Im hoping that after next weekend the major projects I am working on will be less intensive so I will have time to do some more study. Another hurdle in my way is the lack of VPN access from my ‘shared’ internet connection in the apartment block Im living in. They apparently cannot open up the required ports – which sucks a little. I will be looking for a new place to live sometime in the very near future, so once I have my ‘blisteringly fast’ 2Mb ADSL connection I will be good to go on the study front.

Posted in CCIE Blog, CCIE LAB, ip expert, Life | Leave a Comment »

Voice starts now…

Posted by Jo on October 28, 2008

I bought the IPexpert BLS Voice package yesterday, with a view to make a start on my CCIE Voice studies. I brought my schedule forward a little as IPexpert have an offer running until the end of October where they give a 50% discount on the full purchase price – which considering the poor £/$ exchange rate at the moment I wanted to buy it while they had the discount in place.

I am waiting for the HD to arrive in the next week or so, but have access to the eBooks from the site and I have also downloaded the Audio files of the VoD and had a listen to the first couple on the train this morning. Its going to be a bit of a learning curve for me, as I dont really have years of voice experience, but have dabbled with some CME/CUE installs in the past, so at least have a little bit of knowledge.

I do not have a schedule for attempting the lab as yet, but I would think that it will be between 6 – 12 months away from now. Of course there may be an announcement of some changes to the Lab in the new year, which could throw a spanner in the works, but hopefully new material will be added to the BLS by Mark and Vik in plenty of time.

I will be taking it easy working through the Volume I labs initially over the next couple of months to get a feel of the Proctor Labs environment. I also have a couple of other resources that go over the CCVP level topics, which is realistically where I will need to be once I get into the Volume II and Volume III labs.

Posted in CCIE Blog, CCIE LAB, CCIE Materials, ip expert, voice | 2 Comments »

My Lab Experience – Part II

Posted by Jo on October 8, 2008

The wait

Once I was done with the lab all the remaining candidates went their separate ways and I headed back to the hotel to await my fate. Its a shame I had to go back there actually, as usual there was nothing watchable on the TV, my iPhone battery was dead (with no charger) so there was no music to listen to and I didnt bring my laptop as I wanted to travel light. I decided to head out and go for a walk to find somewhere good to eat. I ended up walking for about 30 minutes along a fairly busy road. The part of Diegem where Cisco and my hotel were located has to be one of the most dull and boring places I have ever stayed in in my life – just hotels and business parks. Anyway – I ended up finding a small Pizzeria and grabbed a bite to eat. I chose to take an alternative route back to the hotel, which meant I got lost in the suburbs of Brussels somewhere – luckily my intuition told me to take a right turn down a random road and I ended up on the other side of a field from my hotel. Thankfully for me there was a footpath down the side of it and I made it to the ‘comfort’ of the hotel again.

I must have been walking for over an hour, so thought I would be tired by the time I got back to the room, but no, I ended up awake until 1am again still replaying things in my head about the exam. This has to be one of the hardest parts of this certification – waiting for the result its a killer.

The next morning I woke up at 8.30, ate and got the train back to Brussels. I ended up going into a net cafe in the station to check my results online. I couldnt remember my gmail password, so logged into the Cisco CCIE site, and saw the magic words of ‘PASS’ – at first I thought it was for my written, then I looked more closely and saw it was for the lab. What a feeling – the relief was so immense. I immediately called my wife and told her the news. I must admit I got a bit emotional – all those months of study finally paid off and this made it all worth it.

Thank You

I would like to say thanks firstly to my wife for putting up with me for the past year or so as I was studying. We only got married last summer so sometimes its been tough. I fully intend to make up every hour of the time I spent studying in special ways – Just dont tell her I will be doing voice in 2009 😉

Also I would like to thank all the vendors who’s materials I used (IPexpert, IE and Narbik Kocharians) – these all played their part in my success in various ways.

Finally Id like to say thanks to all the other CCIE candidates (and bloggers) out there – some have passed and others have not yet, but its great to have this little community all pulling together towards the same goal. To all those that have not yet done it – do not give up and work hard and you will get your rewards.

Posted in CCIE LAB, CCIE Prep, ip expert | 2 Comments »

My Lab Experience – Part I

Posted by Jo on October 8, 2008

So things have calmed down a little bit for me since yesterday. Firstly I would like to say thanks for all the comments on the site and via email – its great to hear from so many people! Id like to write a little bit about my lab experience in Brussels – it wont go into too much detail about the contents of the lab, but more general covering the complete experience.

Getting there and the night before

I planned to be in Brussels for just one night, but due to a general strike starting on Sunday night for 24 hours I was notified by Eurostar that my return journey on Monday evening had been canceled, so I had to rebook for the next morning. Not a big deal, but it meant I had to take an extra day off from work and pay for another night in the hotel – but at least I would get to Brussels in time, which was the main thing.

The journey was painless from London to Brussels on the train, once I got to the station I had to make my way to Diegem, the suburb where Cisco is located, and had about an hours wait for the connecting train. Once there I headed to my hotel. I booked in at the Formule 1 Hotel, mainly because it was €43 per night and I was on a budget (do yourself a favour – if you are spending $1400+ on the lab exam, spend however much it costs to stay at a decent hotel, like the NH or Holiday Inn, the night before). If I had the choice I wouldnt go back to this hotel, it was pretty basic with no bathroom in the room itself, but out in the hall way cubicle style and shared with all other guests. The TV only had 2 English TV channels (Eurosport and MTV – which was mostly in German). I brought some notes with me and a few solutions guides from IE and IPexpert, and made a start reading through them. I wouldnt recommend doing any last minute cramming, just more of a general read through of some of the basics.

When I got bored with reading (it didnt take long) I got some rest before heading out to check out the Cisco campus and make sure I knew where to go the next day. The weather on Sunday evening was terrible, lashing down with rain and blowing a storm – good job I brought my umbrella. Once at Cisco I had a wander around the deserted campus. The first building I went to I banged on the door and spoke to the security guard who directed me to another building where the lab would be the next morning. I made my way back to the hotel which was a 10 minute walk away – and my umbrella broke under the force of the wind half way there, so I spent the next 5 minutes getting soaked through going back to the hotel. Now that I was umbrella-less I booked a cab for 7.20 the next morning so I wouldnt turn up to the lab looking like a Titanic survivor if the weather was the same.

That night I didnt do any more reviewing of my notes – if I didnt know it by now it was too late – I put the TV on and watched Southpark and Family Guy in German (and didnt understand any of it). I managed to get to sleep somewhere between 12-1am as my mind was racing a little, but thankfully I woke up at 6.30 to get ready for the big day.

Lab day

In the morning I got up, showered went down to have breakfast. The weather was better than the day before but I still had a cab booked which turned up at 7.15 so in I jumped. I was at Cisco by 7.20 and headed into the building. There were three guys there already so we all said hello, but conversation wasnt flowing for obvious reasons. One guy was there to do his R&S lab like me and it was his second attempt, the other two were in to do SP and Voice. Over the next 20 minutes the reception filled up with around 10 of us in total, some people were chatting others were concentrating on the day ahead. We were due to be collected by the proctor at 7.45, but by 7.50 there was still no sign of anyone, which added to the anticipation and nervousness! We all kind of got our hopes up each time someone entered the foyer hoping it was the proctor. Bruno the Brussels proctor finally turned up at about 8.15 and apologised for being late but he was stuck in traffic due to the strike – but we didnt need to worry as the lab is 8 hours based on the start time. We all headed up to the lab, showed our ID and sat at our stations. We were given a briefing by Bruno to check the configs on our racks to see if they tie up with the workbooks. Then the exam started.

I did what all vendors tell you to do and read through the exam – twice. My first impressions were kind of OK – there is a lot of information to digest. Reading the exam twice took about 15 minutes, I wasnt studying it just seeing if I could handle the contents. Once I finished reading I checked over the rack. Initially I was a little confused, there may be troubleshooting tasks in the lab, so I was expecting some errors in the initial config. One thing I wasnt sure about was the level of any preconfiguration that may or may not be applied to the rack. What I was seeing was a fully configured lab in front of me, with totally different IP address schemes. I was thinking to myself I know this is the CCIE lab but this amount of troubleshooting is ridiculous! I jumped up and spoke to the proctor to verify and he said that I still had the config from last Fridays candidate! It turned out that 4 other guys also had the same issue and Bruno may have to grade these labs before clearing the config and giving us our labs. I think its a good job I didnt change anything, and I hope the guy before me passed his lab!

This meant we had to go to the break room for 45 minutes while this took place – we all had a laugh about it, and it gave us a chance to introduce ourselves to each other properly. There was a good mix of people there, a guy from Australia who now lives in Denmark doing his Security exam, a fellow Londoner (via India) who was on his second attempt at R&S, a guy from Norway and a guy from Nigeria (working in Sweden) who were both on their first attempts at R&S. A couple of these guys were flying back to Denmark at 18:45 so were worrying about what time the lab would now end for them, and if they would make check-in for the flight. Luckily for me I was now going home the following day, so no such worry for me.

Once we got the call to come back in to the lab 45 minutes later, we were told that our end time was 45 minutes after everyone else. I made a start on the lab properly. I wont go into any detail about the contents of the lab itself, but it was a solid exam with parts of it that make you think about the solutions. There were a few tasks that I wasnt sure on, but the great thing about this exam is that the answers are all the in the documentation somewhere – its up to you to find it, digest it and apply it appropriately. I know for sure that I used the docs to answer some questions that I didnt know the answer to, but was lucky enough to track down.

I was actually done with the exam (including my first check through) by 15:30, and was due to finish now at 17:43, so I had plenty of time to double check things again. I wasnt 100% confident on all of the solutions, but I had to trust my instinct a little. I was actually really terrified of changing too much, but I answered every question in the lab. My usual weak areas of Multicast and QoS I was sure I had nailed – which was a great confidence booster. I know I missed some points in the core IGP sections, as I had workarounds in place, so I concentrated on these, but didnt change them in the end due to paranoia of breaking other things that I knew were working!

On leaving the exam, I thought I had a good chance of passing. A lot of it is down to interpretation, but I checked a few things with the proctor, who was helpful if you asked him nicely and didnt fish for the answer. He basically would say – ‘what is the question you are asking’ if he felt you were probing too much. The other guys all finished up at 17:43 and we headed out. All of them were sure they would be back for another attempt, and I was feeling quietly confident inside, but never sure. It would be a long wait until I got the result…

Posted in CCIE Blog, CCIE LAB, Lab Schedule, Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

CCIE #22262

Posted by Jo on October 7, 2008

Check back for an update later…it was eventful

Posted in CCIE Blog, CCIE LAB | 16 Comments »

Weekend Update

Posted by Jo on September 7, 2008

After the mock that I did yesterday morning, I have just been taking it easy today. Browsing through day 1 of the IP Expert Video on Demands, there is some good stuff on there . A lot of it was mainly refreshing things in my mind, but there were also a couple of topics that I didnt come across in the IE CoD. The hands on videos where Scott Morris goes through the configurations has given me a few extra ideas about things. I will be checking out the Multicast and QoS sections over the next few days, as these are the areas that I am still making errors on by not fully understanding the technology maybe?

I also finished off IEWB Lab 13 from the IE Dynamips workbook, after I got distracted on Friday. This is rated as a 9 difficulty, and although Ive done it before a while back, Im using these labs to build my speed. I find that while I can remember these labs, there are still things in there to make me think, and if there is something I dont know straight off the bat, I know how to find it on the documentation pages.

This next week should be quite busy, hopefully I will have some good study time in the evenings. I am thinking to do the IP Expert Multicast and QoS Volume I labs, as well as checking out the VoD on these subjects too. Next weekend I will do another graded mock lab from Volume III. If I am consistently getting around the 70-75% mark (for mocks 3, 4 and 5) I will be feeling alot more confident than I was last week – but I will need to start getting 80+ in the not too distant future.

Posted in CCIE Blog, CCIE LAB, CCIE Prep, Dynamips, ip expert, Mock Lab | Leave a Comment »

IP Expert BLS and IE Mock Lab 5

Posted by Jo on September 1, 2008

Over the weekend I got access to the IP Expert workbooks volume I, II and III, which are part of the BLS package. I am still waiting on delivery of the hard drive with the VoD and stuff on it – hopefully this arrives in the next week or so…

I spent a rack session on Saturday getting familiar with the a few of the labs from Volume I, which are technology focussed labs. I like the style of these, the lab I did on L2 tunneling seemed quite straight forward at first but led you down into a rabbit hole of issues, which are explained very nicely in the proctor guide. I also had a quick look at some of the volume II multi protocol labs, and am hoping to do a few of those as well. Its good to do labs that look and feel totally different to the IE ones, as I think I was getting a little too familiar with them and the topology they use – so good to mix it up a little. One thing I notice about the IP Expert labs is they have longer questions, usually a 4 or 5 point question with lot of requirements and mentions of RFC’s (come on, be honest, who reads and remembers RFC’s). 🙂

I also did IE mock lab 5 on Sunday, which went OK, but I missed out on around 30 marks (I think) but will probably get even less when the grading comes through in a few days – as I didnt spend any time working through at the end, even though I had a good 2 hours to spare! I need to keep my concentration for the full 8 hours if I want to pass this exam, which I think will be my main issue to be honest.

My study plan for the next couple of weeks will be to do some of the IP Expert multi protocol labs from volume II of the BLS during weekday rack sessions, followed by IP Expert mock labs from volume III at the weekends. I will also throw in some IE Dynamips labs to the mix as well – I will probably do mock lab 3 and 5 again at home on Dynamips (all except the switching tasks), to see if I can learn from my previous mistakes on these.

Posted in CCIE Blog, CCIE LAB, CCIE Materials, CCIE Prep, ip expert | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Labbing…

Posted by Jo on April 22, 2008

Posted in CCIE LAB | 6 Comments »