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.

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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.

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:

My_Lab1.png

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.