ICND1 Tomorrow

It has been kind of a rough week. I got little done over the Memorial day weekend in regards to study and ended up having to do a 17 hour drive/work/drive last Tuesday. Wednesday I was fairly exhausted and had to make a big decision regarding my upcoming ICND1 exam. I still had several chapters to go in the Odom book as well as a lot of labs in Network Simulator and time was running out. I seriously debated rescheduling the exam date and pushing it out 5-10 days. In the end, I decided to keep the date and really hit the book today. I started early this morning and finished chapter 14, jumped to chapter 19, and completed the reading all the way to the end of chapter 24. I had intended to go back and read the sub-netting chapters but there simply is not enough time at this point and I feel good on sub-netting. I tore through a lot of the remaining NetSim labs and started a Pearson practice exam that was included with the book. This was the second practice exam I took. I took one on the 28th and failed with a score of 667. Tonight I passed with a score of 880, reviewed the questions I missed, and felt pretty good about the whole thing. I missed 5 questions and at least 2 of those were due to question wording. At this point my nerves are shot and I am definitely wanting to get to the exam and get it over. I have not been feeling well today and I am hoping that whatever is ailing me is gone tomorrow.

I will definitely be taking a break for a week to ten days after the exam tomorrow just to recharge my batteries. Hopefully, I will be starting ICND2 studies at that time and not prepping to re-take the ICND1 exam.


Studying with Network Simulator

I am almost finished with chapter 11 in Odom’s ICND1 book and thus will finish Part 2 of the text. I feel very comfortable with subnetting so I am going to save Part 3 (chapters 12-18) for last. Next, I will jump ahead to chapter 19 and complete Parts 4-6 (chapters 19-24) and return to Part 3 at the very end for a quick read through the subnetting chapters. I’ve been doing lab exercises using the CCNA 640-802 Network Simulator (2nd Edition) and recently wrote a review on Amazon about the product. If you have read my recent posts you may be asking why I am using the Network Simulator when I have an almost fully built CCNP lab at this point? The main reason is that it is a great companion to the reading and provides great structured labs/tasks that are pertinent to the material I just read. I downloaded the Lab Study Plan (PDF file) and have followed it along with the book. For example, I read chapter 9 and then I do the labs in Network Simulator for that chapter. I also have access to Packet Tracer and while there are many labs available for Packet Tracer, I have not seen any that closely follow the reading like Network Simulator. Also, you are not forced to choose only one option when deciding how to get hands on practice. In my case I am using 3 options (PT, NetSim, and real gear) and others might add GNS so it really is up to you. If you find benefit from something then by all means use the resource. I feel as if I am benefitting using multiple methods. Bottom line is that you needs hands-on practice for the Cisco test and that can be achieved several different ways. Choose one or more that best meet your needs.

Lab is Growing

An hour ago I made an offer on a Digi CM 32 console server that was posted on EBay and the seller accepted my offer. My lab will be growing by one more unit and this item will allow me to connect a cable from every router and switch and access them all via the Digi box. I’m still looking to pick up one more router and the lab will be complete for CCNP and CCNA studies. I’ve invested another $199 over the past couple of weeks by bidding and buying items on EBay. The current lab now consists of the following:

Cisco 2610XM 128/32 router
Cisco 2610XM 128/32 router
Cisco 2610XM 128/32 router
Cisco 3640 64/16 router (Frame Relay Switch)
Cisco 3550 48-port switch
Cisco 3550 48-port switch
Cisco 2950 24-port switch
Cisco 2950 24-port switch
Digi CM 32 Console Server (on the way)

Total investment so far is $428. With the purchase of the last router (in the future) it should wrap up to be around $500. This is quite a bit less than those CCNP kits that a lot of vendors try to sell you. Moreover, the devices are better than what you would get in a “pre-built” lab. I suspect this lab would go for around $900 or so from one of those vendors. I’ve also learned a lot about Cisco hardware in the process. Granted, I am buying older gear so I haven’t learned as much about the more modern equipment, but a lot of it is applicable.

Here’s 5 tips I learned about buying Cisco lab parts from EBay:

1. Do your research and learn what items sold for in the past. You can do this easily by searching for an item you want and then filtering by “Completed Listings” on the left hand side of the page.

2. Determine the max you want to pay for an item you are interested in and bid that amount as your max bid. If you do not get it, then forget about it and keep looking. Do not get caught up in trying to win auctions at the last minute. Sniping is basically a thing of the past. People think that they are sniping by waiting until the last minute to bid, but in reality, if your max price exceeds their max price then you will win. Do not win by paying too much or going over your budget.

3. If a seller has an auction with “Make an Offer” then make an offer below the buyout price. You have nothing to lose by trying to get it for less. I consider the “Make an Offer” option on an item a signal that the seller will accept less for the item. Otherwise, they would not have enabled that option.

4. Look for bargains on items sold for parts/repair. Some sellers have absolutely no clue how to even console into a device and will undersell their items because they do not know enough about them to test properly. If the price is low enough, take the risk on getting a bricked/broken device.

5. Be prepared to make a decision. If something was just listed and is a great price, do your research fast, and get it. I missed a chance to get a 2651XM for $55 shipped because I emailed the seller to find out how much memory it had. At that price (it was Buy It Now deal) I should have just bought when it appeared. No worries though as there will always be new listings so do not get emotional about missed opportunities.

Busy Times – Put Myself on the Clock for June 1, 2012

I’ve been fairly busy the last 10 days researching and putting together my Cisco Lab. I’ll have more on that later. I’ve also picked up some new toys which I will cover in a future post. I’m currently half way through chapter 9 in the Wendell Odom ICND1 book and today I realized that I am not burning through my studies as efficiently as I did in the past. One big reason is that I talked about a goal date to take the ICND1 test but had never really formalized it. This has led to some lackluster time management on my part and I am realizing that I need to have that deadline sitting out there in order to push myself. Therefore. I just finished scheduling my CCENT / ICND1 exam for June 1st, 2012. This means I have a lot of work to get done in the next two weeks. I feel as if I will be more motivated to push away family distraction with this deadline looming.

Finished Part I (Chapters 1-6) of Odom’s ICND Book

A couple of hours ago I finished chapter 6 of Wendell Odom’s ICND1 640-822 Official Cert Guide which comprises Part I of the text. I am essentially 25% of the way through the 24 chapters even though I feels some of the upcoming chapters are going to require more time than the first 6 did. Part I was an exploration of the first 4 layers of the OSI model with some security topics thrown in at then end. Using this book has been a bit different than the other certification books I have used in the past. My previous method was to read a chapter, sleep on it, and then do the end of chapter review questions the next day. However, the Odom book does not have end of chapter questions. Instead you are faced with a “Do I Know This Already” (DIKTA) quiz at the beginning of the chapter. I’ve committed to reading the entire text so I take those quizzes and read the chapter regardless of how I do. I’ve done fairly well on the DIKTA questions and have only missed 1 question per chapter on average.

The Odom ICND1 book has been called dry and I can see where people get that impression. It has not been than dry for me, but I honestly feel that if I did not have some knowledge of this material already that I would be a little bit lost at this point. For example, I thought Lammle did a lot better job of explaining basic network concepts in his Network+ book than was presented here. It is not that it bad, but rather than it just is not as good in my opinion. Some of this may be preference, but I feel that those totally new to the topics would definitely be best served by not using the Odom books as their sole reading material. However, I have definitely picked up a few things in Odom’s book that I had not seen or learned elsewhere. For those with some networking experience, Part I is more of a review than anything else. I have a gut feeling that Odom is going to get a lot more thorough in the upcoming chapters in the book.

So next up is chapter 7 which represents the deepest I have ever read into any Cisco Press book thus far. It feels pretty good.

My Little Lab

Last Sunday I loaded my Craigslist search application (for Mac) which has a couple of searches programmed for Cisco lab equipment. I found someone selling (3) Cisco 2610XM routers and (2) Cisco 3550 switches for $200 which seemed like a very good deal to me. After some research I contacted the seller and made arrangements to purchase the gear. One of the routers had less memory than advertised so I ended up leaving with all the equipment for $180. Earlier this week I ordered a small rack from Amazon.com for $32 with shipping. If money were no object I probably would have picked up this rack. (which I still want to do in the future) I also picked up a couple of 128MB sticks of memory from an EBay seller for $17 total. So for an investment of $229 I now have the following:


I want to be able to use this lab for CCENT/CCNA and not have to buy a ton more to do CCNP in the future. In the short term, I want to add one more router and two more switches. Four routers will allow me to configure one as a frame-relay switch. More switches will allow me to explore STP, VLANs, and VLAN Trunking more fully. I’ll also need some more interface cards in order to accomplish this but I think this is a good start for $229.

Gulp! On to the Cisco Certifications – First Up: CCENT

I’ve been wanting to post some blog entries all week but never got it done so I am posting multiple entries today. I actually learned about the lack of A+ voucher discounts 4 days ago and not wanting to pause, I started on Wendell Odom’s ICND1 book. Thus far I have read the Introduction and chapters 1-2 so I have 22 more chapters left. Monday night I took the final exam in my Cisco II course (part of Cisco Networking Academy) and made 100%. I was pretty happy and after two Cisco classes I feel pretty confident about the the ICND1 test. I probably could take it right now and pass. However, there are a couple of reasons I am waiting to take the exam and studying more.

First, here is the elephant in the room that I have yet to mention until now:


As is clearly illustrated in the graphic, I have actually taken the CCNA composite exam twice and failed both times. This was in 2004 (8 years ago) when I was working full time as a Network Engineer. It was very frustrating because I was doing CCNP level work on a daily basis but was lacking a lot of theoretical background. The first time I failed, I had not read a single book and did zero studying. Prometric and Cisco tell me there is no way to obtain my old scores but I remember that I wasn’t even close on the first attempt. For the second attempt, I had downloaded a 15-20 PDF off the internet and studied that for a couple days. I do not remember the exact score but I was fairly close to passing on the second attempt. As I recall I had purchased the Cisco books and was going to read those before a 3rd attempt but never managed to do it. So the bottom line is that I am scared of Cisco exams based on past experience.

Second, I have never read the Wendell Odom books. I still have both the 640-507 and 640-801 CCNA Exam Preparation Library sitting on my book shelves after all these years and I still have not read either one of them. I purchased the 640-507 set on March 7th, 2002 from Amazon and it cost me $126.19. I do not recall reading more than 1 or 2 chapters of the first book of that set. I picked up the 640-801 set at Borders in 2004 and remember paying in the neighborhood of $90 for that set. I also remember starting the first book of the 640-801 set but I never got past chapter 1. Earlier this year I bought the premium e-book versions of the ICND1 and ICND2 books from Cisco Press. So basically I have purchased the Cisco Press book sets 3 times over the years. However, this time is different and I am definitely going to finish the books. At chapter 3, I’ve already read more in the last couple of days than I did with the old sets. I feel as if every Cisco network person really has an obligation to read the Odom CCNA books. It is sort of rite of passage to being a Cisco guy.

Bottom line is that I think I could pass the ICND1 exam today, but I am not taking the exam until I have completely read the ICND1 book. I am hoping to get this done in the next 3 weeks as last Monday was the last day of school for the semester and I now have even more time to devote to certification studies.

A+ Indefinite Hold

I recently finished my IT Hardware Essentials class at my local community college and was anxiously awaiting for a voucher discount link to appear on my Cisco Network Academy student page. After several days of waiting, I finally called Cisco Network Academy support to find out what was going on. I was surprised to learn that the program by which Cisco provided discount coupons for the CompTIA A+ exams had been discontinued over a year ago and that the Cisco document I had read on this was outdated. Bottom line is that I am not getting any voucher discounts. As I stated in my previous post, at $338 I would skip the A+ and focus on other certifications. At $144, it was a good deal but I just cannot justify the regular price as a network guy. I had hoped to take the exams in the next 7 days or so. However, A+ studies have been terminated and sitting for those exams is on indefinite hold for me. If I am able to get vouchers in the future that are at least 50% off the regular price, I may pick them up and take the exams. Otherwise, I’l forgo getting the A+ certification. The only reason it was ever on the radar was because of the class and the discounts.