Cisco ezvpn and “The Cisco Way”

I’ve been working on some complex VPN configurations by using GNS3 and PEMU which is built in.  It’s nice to be able to throw together a bunch of devices and get them talking without much fuss.  However, I discovered today that PEMU is really designed to emulate a PIX 525 by default, although supposedly it can also emulate a PIX 506e.

In Cisco’s infinite wisdow it decided that no one would ever want to use something above a 506e as an ezvpn client.  So, they removed the client code and only put in the server code.

Per Cisco:  The PIX 515/515E, PIX 525, and PIX 535 act as Easy VPN Servers only because the capacity of these devices makes them appropriate VPN headends for higher traffic environments.

Umm…gee, thanks for making that decision for me.  And Cisco stopped at PIXOS 6.3 for the 506e.  Yeah.

Do they try to make it harder?

TrixBox CE and chan_sccp_b

Once again, I’ve moved the in house phone system.  I was running into problems with the virtual version I had running for the last couple of months.  It worked pretty well most of the time but the clock was continually out of sync and that caused other problems on occasion.  We had one instance of the server rebooting in the middle of a call.  Not cool.  Good thing it’s just at home.

I’m sure there’s a way to make it work with the proper VMWare tools and a good bit of tweaking but it’s just not worth my “time”!

So, I downloaded the freshest copies of TrixBox CE and chan_sccp_b.  Again, I followed the steps here and had no problem getting everything installed.  Remember to change the IP address for the server in the xml files in the tftpboot directory and also in the sccp.conf file in /etc/asterisk/ and then reboot the whole thing.  Reloading Asterisk didn’t seem to be enough.  Not sure why that is.  Restart your phones and you’re good to go.  Oh yeah, in my case I had to change the SIP related IP’s on my 1760 gateway also.

After all of the struggles in the past with the sccp channel it’s amazing to me how far it’s come.  It really is pretty easy now.  It sure would be nice if they could build a GUI module for the configuration though.  In time perhaps.

Part of my motivation to do this is to fix the clock problem, but I also plan on getting a little more complex by adding some VoIP based connections to the world.  So far I’ve only had the single Verizon analog line.  I think I’m going to start by getting an inbound number from Gizmo5.  They’ve built in integration with Gizmo5 now and it’s pretty easy to set up.  I’ve been testing the outbound calls since they give you $2.00 in free calls at 1.9 cents/minute for signing up.  The quality’s been excellent!  The only problem has been that my parents don’t answer because they don’t recognize the number.  🙂  Buying the inbound number should fix that.

What I really need is a small form factor TrixBox CE server.  Something along the lines of what Digium is offering in their Asterisk Power Appliance.  Something cheap that can handle <10 phones would be a real sweet spot.

Going Independent

It’s official, I’m going independent.  I know, I probably could have picked better market timing.  I think we’ll be getting a bump in the next month or so though and this year might turn out ok.  Time will tell.

In the meantime, I need to find some contract work!  I have a number of opportunities lined up but the process of lining up more work needs to start now.

If you haven’t guessed from reading this blog, I’m primarily a Cisco guy focused on Core, Voice and Wireless.  I’ve done projects as large as managing a team of engineers (and being the lead engineer) on a 30+ 6500 switch rollout (both hybrid and native mixed) to installing and fixing single T1 scale routers.  A fair bit of the work I’ve done in the last few years has involved either voice or wireless.  I’ve designed and assisted with the rollout of a number of multisite Cisco Voice solutions.  I’ve performed wireless site surveys and then designed wireless solutions based on the results.  Those wireless solutions have generally been LWAPP based which I also implemented.  In the course of performing these wireless implementations I’ve converted standalone APs to LWAPP, configured Guest access with the portal and installed coverage maps in WCS.

I currently hold a CCNP and CCDA and I’m pursuing a CCVP.  I have a number of partner focused certs such as:

  • Express Foundation Design Specialist
  • Unity Design Specialist
  • Rich Media Communications Specialist.

I previously held the Wireless SE and FE certs but have not renewed them due to role requirements within Cisco’s partner certification process.

So, I’m looking for interesting contract based gigs in the Metro DC area.  Baltimore is great too.

More to come as things develop!

Cisco Servers? Seriously?

I’ve been hearing this rumor for a while now that Cisco is getting into the blade server business.  I’m having a hard time with this being a smart move but I can see the reasoning.  Om posted about the latest rumors today and I think he hits on some important points.

It’s not like making servers (well, lets be honest and call it rebranding) is new to Cisco.  They’ve been selling CallManager, Unity, ACS and various other servers for years.  They started putting Pico-ITX size (I think) PC’s on NetMods for the ISR routers years ago as well.  The NM PC’s are probably the closest thing they have to blade servers.  In general these devices have done pretty well although I’d argue that Cisco hasn’t maximized their potential.  Still, going from a single NM in a router to a blade chassis with specific cooling, SAN and addressing requirements is a pretty big jump.

What’s Cisco hope to gain?  I think the question should be more like, what do they stand to lose?  Everything I’ve heard about Cisco’s entry into the data center, mostly the Nexus platform, is that it’s been slow going.  They haven’t been able to get the penetration they want.  I don’t think that’s especially surprising as that market was already somewhat mature and had several niche players leading it.  No, my guess is that they expected it to be a slow start, just not as slow as it’s been.  This is the usual problem for Cisco.  They are seen as a networking company, not an “everything to IT” company.  The server guys look at Cisco as “that networking stuff that I have to have.”  They don’t really like dealing with the network jockey.  If Cisco really does come out with a blade server it’ll be derided as Ver. 1 gear and not mature enough for production use.  And that’ll be somewhat true.

Something to remember though is that Cisco did this before.  About 10 years ago they decided to step on the voice guys toes.  It took a while and they had some real pain in the beginning but look at where things are now.  Who’s bankrupt?

Speaking of voice, is it just me or does it seem Cisco has decided on an incremental growth strategy for their voice platform?  There’s a distinct feeling of a lack of attention on the voice product.  I’m excluding the telepresence stuff from that as it’s so damn expensive.

Microsoft can’t help itself

I’ve been one of the few people that really hasn’t felt too bad about Vista.  It’s been a fine operating system for me for the last 2 years almost.  It’s nothing special but I don’t have a visceral reaction to it like others.  However, there remain some little things that Microsoft does that just demonstrates the depth of their ignorance.

For example, lets say you get some of that super cheap ram on the market and you find yourself with 4gb in your fancy new PC/laptop.  32 bit systems only recognize up to about 3.25gb.  I paid for 4gb though and I want to use it!  Better take some time to get used to how they made the 64 bit version of Vista just different enough to really screw with you.

My aggravation today revolved around changing some settings in Outlook as I was moved to a new Exchange 2007 server.  I went into the control panel looking for the Mail icon and it was nowhere to be found.  I had to look several times to make sure.  After a little Googling I discovered that Microsoft has decided to create a separate “32 bit control panel” within the regular control panel.  Of course, I wasn’t looking for that.  Why oh why does that deserve a separate control panel.

Get a clue Microsoft!

Local wealth

Reading Instapundit this morning and I came across this comment: The pattern of wealth flowing toward the capital is one that the United States avoided for nearly 200 years. Not anymore. This was in reference to 2007 demographic info posted over on Reason that suggests that the wealth growth in this area is all because of the expansion of the Federal government. While I’ll grant that it contributes to it I don’t think it’s strictly about the size of the Federal government.

My folks live in HoCo and work in the school system there. My sister lives in Montgomery and we live in Carroll, the 10th wealthiest for smaller population counties. It is kind of amazing to look at the lists and see not just dominance but really ownership (hah!) from the counties ringing the Beltway. Notable ommission from the top 10 lists, PG County. Well, maybe that’s not so notable after all! I have customers all over the counties listed as well.

So, is it really the expansion of the Federal government? No doubt that has something to do with it.  If you also consider Ft. Meade being a destination target of the BRAC (Base Relocation And Closing) it starts to add up.  But it feels like there must be more than that.  As was stated in the Reason article, you can point towards the tech corridor out Rt. 66 for the Virginia growth.  Driving out 66 and looking at the names on the building it’s a veritable who’s who of the tech industry.  A fair bit of that is large tech companies having a “Washington presence” but, for a while at least, there was a lot of raw tech development going on out that way.  I remember about 3 or 4 years ago there was talk about Reston and the surrounding area becoming the new Silicon Valley!  Har!  Too much politics.

But what about HoCo?  There’s been some tech growth in the HoCo area, especially near Ft. Meade (NSA for you non-local types).  Bio-Tech has had some good growth in the area, primarily from being squeezed between the politics of DC and the notable medical community in Baltimore (Johns Hopkins and Kennedy Krieger).  Is it possible the rest of the growth really is rooted in supporting industries?  Perhaps.

Here’s another possibility.  Politics has become glamorized over the last 20 years with the press fawning over the juiciest political story they can find.  Maybe DC has become the second “Hollywood” but for ugly people.  🙂  Just like LA continues to draw people looking for wealth and popularity, so does DC now.  As for the particular counties rise in the charts, that could probably be accounted for with the education system.  Call it a self fulfilling prophecy but HoCo is right at the top nationally for public education.  All those political “stars”, most who believe in public education, only want the best for their kids.  If they are moving to DC to find fame and fortune it doesn’t take much to discover that HoCo is the place to be.

I’d just like to know when we start to get all the other cool cultural stuff that comes with all this wealth!  This town is kind of boring!  🙂

Logo? Image?

Well, I took out the candle and briefly put in a blurry picture of me in the upper left. It’s a little too much me, me thinks. And blurry too. Nah. So, it’s blank until I can figure something else out. Yeah, I know it’s a big blank space.

Fiddling with themes

I’ve not been real happy with the old theme or the temporary new one. So, expect to see some more changes although I think I like this one that Angie found. Couple of minor things I still need to fix including the “logo” and the gravatar on the right. Might mess with the positioning a bit too. Hopefully it’ll settle into a comfortable configuration soon.

Let me know what you think of it!

Verizon DSL and OS X

We recently got Verizon DSL for my grandparents and stuck an older iBook in their house so they’d be able to see pics of the kids and such. They had been using a Ceiva frame for years and loved it but the plan was set to expire and the frame had always been kind of crappy as far as the screen went. Old dual scan LCD. Blech.

So, upgrade to a nice 14″ LCD and it’s much easier for them to see. However, that meant we needed to get some broadband in their house. Verizon DSL was running a special for the first 6 months free and then it’s only about $20/month after that. Nothing lightning fast but a lot better than dialup.

So, for Christmas day I drove them home and tried to install everything. No go. The Westell 6100f immediately tries to install some software on OS X. No problem, I download it and then try to run the install. I don’t know what version it’s designed for but it ain’t 10.5.6. I could never get past the initial install screen.

So I called Vz, was hung up on once, and then got someone that had a clue. Basically he had me turn off the automatic program download which I have to wonder but I think it might also turn off PPPoE. I don’t care, it worked. So here’s what he had me do in case someone else wants to get around the crappy software.

Go to: and login as admin:password. Click on the only button on the page, “disable”. Go back to although I don’t know that this is necessary. Then close Safari and restart it. Should let you through to the internet now.

By the way, I’m using Picasaweb to show “hidden” albums using the RSS screensaver included in 10.5. Really slick!