Category Archives: work-related

Certifications … They Only Test that You Can Take a Test

In Tech Support, the big thing is to gain as many certifications as you can … Oh boy.  I’ve been at this for 20 years, and just because you have this fancy CCIE or JNCIE, all that means is you know how to take a test.  It does not mean that you know anything.

I remember a few cases, where someone had a network down, and I could see his email signature showed he has a CCIE.  What was the solution?  Proxy ARP.  That is so simple, probably a CCNA could have solved it.

So when I see a certification on a resume, I look at it like a driver’s license.  It just means you studied, but do you know anything about network security, or network basics?  Not necessarily.  So that’s the main reason why I never went for any certifications … it doesn’t mean you know anything, and it’s a big waste of time.

However, I’ve been forced to take it now.  Damn bureaucracy … What I hate about these certification tests is that they don’t tell you what they want you to answer.  All the questions are damn riddles.  I know the product left and right, and still, I just barely pass … but I guess all that matters is the passing grade, not that you get 100%.  Oh well.  I guess I still have a job, at least.

Juniper Networks Certified Specialist, Security (JNCIS-SEC)

Ok, I guess they encourage me to brag about this, so here it is (after all the kicking and screaming).  Maybe now I can continue what’s more important … cycling!

One Long Day

This was one of those long days, and not one that will never end.  No, this was one busy day.

It started out bad … Two of our guys in the East coast were going to be out, so being the responsible one, I said I can come in a little earlier.  That means a 5 am commute … Yeehaa.  My back tire has a slow leak, and I didn’t feel like switching bikes, or God forbid that I would drive in.  So I just pump it up all the way.

Then, I find out I have to be in a Maintenance Window for troubleshooting for a customer (and I have no history behind this case at all).  Oh, I also had a handover case, as well as a big customer from a case that I own that I needed follow up on.  All this happening from 6-11 am.  

Team Meeting is at 11 am, so I went right into that, after finishing up my Maintenance Window call.

Then, lunch … Well, I ate lunch while working another call.

Then, IT is really cracking down on disk quota abusers, and I’m one of them.  I find out I’m using 65 GB out of a 5 GB disk quota.  After much searching, I finally find out I had an archive folder that was 60 GB in length.  Maybe that will resolve my login access problems, but no …. Remember, this is the long day.

Then, I finally write a handover of my case for follow up after my shift is over.  I do the write up, pack everything up, then suddenly realize I didn’t update the bug.  Turns out no big was filed, so I had to go create that.  Finally, get to leave and by this time it’s 4 pm.
I go retrieve my bike, and remember how I had that slow leak?  Well it’s flat now.  Ok, now to change the tube, and my tire iron breaks.  Oh I just want to be home now.

Luckily I found the culprit that caused the leak … A tiny piece of wire that got lodged in the wheel.

I was not in the mood for an extended after work ride, so just took the quickest way back home.

That was one long day!!!

The Problems of Working From Home

Due to some office re-configuration of office space, I’ve been working from home for the past 3 weeks.  Now when you think about that, you’d think that’s great, but there are some changes in lifestyle pattern which make this a little undesirable.

First, I don’t get to commute to work.  Well, you’d then say just get up early and do a hort loop before you start work?  Well for whatever reason, I can’t get motivated to do that.  Part of it could be it’s been raining, or its been very cold, and doesn’t really gives me motivation to do that.  I guess I just got really lazy.

Second, no free coffee at home.  First few days, I went to Starbucks in the morning before starting my shift at home … Plus it breaks my normal routine of going down to the cafe, getting my free Peets coffee, and my favorites from the grill.  Lately I’m just brewing my own pot of Peets, and making some scrambled eggs.  Just not the same.

Third, there’s the leaf blower.  I’m just glad I’m not on a really intense call while they are going off.  It does get pretty annoying.

Fourth, there is the lack of office camaraderie.  I like the live social interaction, and being cooped up at home is torture.

Probably the only good thing is that I get to do things around the house that I normally wouldn’t have been able to do (because I’m on the road commuting back home).

I don’t see how everyone does it, but I don’t like working from home.  For those that do, more power to you.  I finally get to go back on the office tomorrow, so that will be cool … And then re-acquaint myself with my new office space, yet again.

But I Don’t Want a Cable Modem Router

Current trend these days, is when you have an ISP broadband connection, like cable modem (e.g.  Comcast or AT&T), they require the connection be terminated at their router, and you have no control over it.  I really hate this, as I have no idea what is allowed through that router.  And now, with the security vulnerability of cheap routers (that the ISP is providing you), it leaves you with a feeling of hopelessness.

If you want an example, go and see http://www.networkworld.com/article/2862390/security0/misfortune-cookie-vulnerability-affects-12-million-routers.html

I have no idea if the router they placed at my termination point has up to date firmware, and even if the router is vulnerable.  To secure myself, I have a secure firewall behind the router, so that even if some worm compromises my router, then at least I can provide some type of protection.

Before Comcast required me to change from the old cable modem bridge, to this new cable modem router, I used to be able to remotely log into my firewall, and monitor scrupulous activity.  Now, I don’t have that ability, with that NAT router.  Maybe this is the reason to get a business class Internet connection?  But I’m not sure if I want to pay the extra amount for that.

My point???  If your ISP provides you with a NAT router, get another NAT Router or Firewall, that you can control.

Another Office Move and Changes to Commute Routine

So they’ve decided to move Customer Services into the new campus, and no longer treat us like an isolated island.  There is hope after all, but along with this comes done significant change.  One of those changes involved my commute.

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The first big change is they don’t allow any bikes inside the building.  That’s a huge change.  They have bike racks outside, but that’s a little worrisome.  They do have a bike cage, but it is in the back by the parking garage.  It does require keycard access, but it is isolated.  Oh sure, they have security cameras, but what good is that if your prized possession is already gone.  It was also recommended by facilities to lock your bike, in addition to having this secure cage.

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I checked it out last week and saw the design of the racks, and it seemed like it was more looks than functional.  How are you going to get a u-lock around the frame and the rack?

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Well, I bought a u-lock, and it just does reach to the frame, so I am a much happier commuter.  However, this means I will be hesitant about bringing my good bike.  It also means having to lug around a heavy lock.

Now the topic of showers … where are they?  They have them in Building A, but I’m in Building B.  I’ll have to adjust to that.

Now the habit was when I leave the office, I leave my laptop locked and docked, and I could RDP through the VPN from home to access my PC.  This way, if I needed to do something quick for work at home, I could without having to carry my laptop with me.  Well, they are using UAC (unified access control), where they check each client on the network for compliancy.  What this means is no RDP they the VPN.  That really changed my workflow.  I really don’t want to carry that thing home everyday.  I guess I shouldn’t have to log in from home.  This forces me to leave work at work.

What is nice is having the cafe on the bottom floor of the building.  Much more convenient, and I won’t have to plan where should I go for lunch today.

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Oh but how are the digs? Well, you can judge for yourself.

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Moving to Smaller Confines

Time for a move to another building, once again.  After 11 years, this is now my 5th building I am moving into.  That’s not bad … the latest stretch was actually longer than I thought.  I stayed at my last building for 5 years.  It didn’t seem that long ago that we were shocked by our company being bought (NetScreen bought by Juniper), but it was 5 years ago.

Of course, staying in one place for 5 years, it is expected you will accumulate junk, lot of junk.

First order of business … cleaning up my messy desk.  Wow, I’m surprised I didn’t get more sick after looking at all the dust and grime that collected there.  I guess all that cycling did build up my immune system?  Second, looking at all the files, paperwork that I have collected over the years.  Since I have been in so many moves, I previously just kept a lot of things in boxes, anticipating I would be moving soon.  Well, 5 years is not soon.  What did I find?  Documents from when I first started 11 years ago, functional specs from the NetScreen days that were 6-8 years old.  Wow, I had paperwork going back to the original program plans from ScreenOS 4.0.  So I literally took one box of files, and threw the whole thing in the recycler dump.  That’s one box I got rid of.  It got to the point where this would be more than a 1-2 hour operation.  This would have to go over several days.

When cleaning up junk you have compiled over the years, you kind of reminisce about old times.  From awards, coffee mugs, stress balls, commuter cups … you never realize what you really have until you clean it up.  For example, how many commuter mugs can one guy have?  I think I may end up just giving some of this stuff away for those that were not part of the whole NetScreen experience.

I wittled my collection down to 4 boxes, and still, that was a lot of junk.  I think I have enough equipment in my junk boxes to even create a new ISP.  I mean I had 3 routers, 2 firewalls, and even a file server.  I ended up taking that one home (IT and the lab didn’t want to support that web server … hey it they don’t want it, I’ll take it).

My old building was a 4 story building, and now, we’re moving into a one story flat building.  Why are they doing this?  Well, they are consolidating one big department into the same building.  I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I like having the entire group together once again (especially when doing labs, recreating problems in the same lab, without having to send traffic across the network just to get to another lab).  The drawback is that some other departments, where we need constant interaction, is now in separate buildings, meaning we gotta drive.  Oh, that’s gonna suck.

Ok, move into the new building, and one thing that’s cool is they have a monitor

swivel.  This allows you to free up some real estate on your desk.  I use split screens, so one thing I never tried out is putting the external monitor on top, and the laptop screen on the bottom.  Initially, it seems like a great idea, right?  First, I did end up having to tilt my head up on the larger screen, and for a while there, I thought it might have some ergonomic neck stress.  Later on, I started to really get dizzy spills.  I was typing along, and suddenly, I couldn’t focus, and everything started spinning … arghhh … make it stop.  I got to a point where I had to just look away, stare into space, and just try to focus on some objects, making sure they stay still.  I eventually move to a more standard orientation, where my laptop screen is on the left, and my external monitor is on the right.  I did this, and it all felt a hell of a lot better.  What’s odd is another colleague, who moved in 2 weeks before we did, was also complaining about some dizziness, and some had to call in sick a few days.  That’s not a good sign, moving into a new building, and getting sick.  That can almost be deemed a little hazardous.

The next big issue for me was now where am I going to put my bike?  In the old building, we had a stairwell, with a nice solid bike rack post there.  Since it was in a secure building, having it in the stairwell is really secure.  Now that we don’t have that, where do I store the bike?  I looked around, and there are no racks to lock up, nothing … WTF!!!!  This is more important than any work related issues.  I need a place to park my bike.  Now there are a few empty cubicles around, but soon, they will be filled up.  For now, I rolled my bike in the office, and just to give you an idea how much room there is, I rolled my bike in my cubicle.  There seems to be enough space for me to roll around, but it does seem cramped, doesn’t it?

In a way, it’s almost like a brand new start, without actually starting fresh.   Going through the same routine for 5 years, then doing this, is really strange.  We were the first technical group to move in, and in the coming weeks, more will be moving in.  It’s going to be a hard adjustment at first, but I’ll probably make it through.  I mean, it’s only a job.

Oh, one more rant … trash cans.  Usually, you think nothing of it .. but with all these cost cutting moves, sometimes it can get a little ridiculous.  The dark brown, smaller box, is supposed to be where you put your trash.  The big blue container?  Well, that’s a recycle tub.  I’m almost tempted in going to the old building, and stealing one of the normal sized trash bucket.

So now we are in this older building, with smaller cubicles.  I’m trying to stay focused, and say it’s not going to matter … maybe so, but it will take a lot of effort to change work habits to accommodate this move.

On thing I notice after a week in this new building … it kinda makes me feel like I’m back at a startup company.  You don’t need to park in the front … you can park in the back, on the sides, and still get in the building securely.  That’s weird.  Oh, and the cafeteria … we don’t have one.  I guess it’s a short drive down to Togo’s, or remember to bring your lunch.

New Year, New Department

With the turning of the new year, it also marks the turning of a slight turn in my career path.  It’s not a drastic change, but it is a change.  After 11 years in Tech Support, supporting ScreenOS, I am now saying goodbye, and making the switch to JunOS, which is the direction that the company is going with.  I am still with the same company, and I am still in Tech Support, and I am still supporting firewalls, but it is a very different OS kernel.  This is the OS that will be used for the future of the company moving forward, so I decided it was time to make the move now.

In a way, I am excited about this move, but at the same time sad, and I have to admit, it does strike some fear in me.  I guess the fear comes from a bit of complacency, getting used to the same OS for 11 years … it does make you get into a regular routine.  That is not to say that all 11 years was doing the same thing … but the core of the technology was the same.  Now, I am moving onto another OS, and a different type of thinking.

Now I do have a niche, in that I specialize in UTM (Unified Threat Management, which includes things like anti-virus, anti-spam, web-filtering, among other things).  This is a skill that is much needed in the new department I am moving into … but that also means a lot may be expected out of me.  This is the fear I am undertaking.  I am so freaked about this, that I am actually taking quite a bit of this Christmas break, and really trying to self train myself to get myself up to speed.  When I speak to others, they do have high confidence in me … probably higher confidence in me than I do.  Do they know something I don’t know?  I just don’t want to disappoint, and I have this sense that I may be vulnerable … I am getting into an area that is new to me … something I haven’t done in 11 years.

Am I making too much of this?  Am I just too hard on myself?  Maybe this is a self-defense mechanism I have that internally pushes me.  Whatever it is, it does make me lose a little bit of sleep.

So as we say goodbye to 2009, I also say goodbye to 11 years of legacy knowledge of one OS, and now say hello to 2010, and a new OS, and a brand new world.  I am also gearing towards another triple crown in 2010, and I am just hoping this fork in my career path does not interfere with the training for this triple crown.  I hope 2010 will be a success.

One Strange Week

This week has been out of the ordinary. Of course, the beginning of the week is always rough, because you are trying to deflate back to earth, after going through the adventures from the past weekend. This past weekend was a little different … two of my best friends, Marco and Ruth, got married. So there was the high from that. Got to meet a bunch of their friends, and hooked up with a few of them on Facebook. Interesting how some friendships begin … hmmm maybe I should try to latch onto more weddings????

This week is a shorter week, because of 4th of July landing on a Saturday, we get an extra day off, on Friday. Actually, it gets more interesting, as my company has another of its forced PTO days, where the company shuts down beginning Wednesday through the end of the week. However, being in Customer Support, that means we don’t get to take the time off … we still have to work! Coming into the office, it’s much quieter, not as many cars. It’s not like coming in on the weekend, but there is the lack of other services, like no cafe, and the feeling that you’ve been deserted. However, one positive … you can use the bathroom without having to risk it being closed for cleaning. I know it sounds odd, but I don’t know how many times I needed to use the bathroom in the morning, and it’s closed for cleaning, because this is the time they allot to cleaning the bathroom.

The biggest hurdle, in working, while the company is shut down, is to try to explain to customers that the company is shut down, without telling them the company is shut down. For example, this morning, a customer needed to contact his sales rep, to escalate a product enhancement, to fasttrack the development cycle. However, when calling the sales rep, they get a voicemail stating they will be out of the office till Monday. Well, the company is shut down, so that is expected … no how do I explain this to the customer? Well, just tell him to escalate to the territory manager … and if they’re lucky, he will be carrying his cell phone with them. Now, will they answer or not? That’s the big question.

And to end this odd week, today, I am still working … but working from home. Why is that? Well, they need to do some power maintenance on the building, which means we cannot come into the building, no lab availability … usually when I work from home, it’s in LA … but this is strange to be working from home, and being local. Luckily, there weren’t many calls that required any lab intervention.

I would expect no calls for tomorrow, since it seems the rest of the country has that day off, but I don’t think many people have today off (unless you are one of those non-customer service folks, who actually get the day off because the company has a shut down). Oh well, I guess I should get back to work.

Bike to Work Day

May 14, 2009, is national Bike to Work Day, and this week is Bike to Work Week. So I did my deed and biked into work every day except Wednesday. Ok, I didn’t ride Wednesday because I was lazy, and didn’t feel like it. I admitted it, so there!

Every year, on this day, they always set up “Energizer” stations, which in the past, would include water, clif bars, brownies, and one year, Hobie’s Coffee Cake …mmmm. However, my work schedule is such that I have to be in the office at 6 am. This means getting on the road by 5:30 am. This time of year, it is not pitch black at 5:30 am, but who’s going to stand out there between 5-6 am, just waiting for some cyclist in lycra show up? So yes, it is great to have Bike to Work Day, but when I commute, it’s nothing special … just like any ordinary day, with hardly anyone on the road (which frankly is the appeal of riding this early in the morning). So I’m too early, which also means I don’t get any goodies.

But wait!!! My company always has an event every year, Bike to Work Lunch ride. It’s great, because it takes you on a flat … and I mean flat route, for about 6 miles. This is just enough to warrant feeding a bunch of cyclists free lunch (turkey sandwich and chips). That’s enough for me. This was perfect terrain to ride my fixie, so that’s exactly what I did. I was surprised to see I was the only one with a fixie out there. I did see a couple of riders with aero bars, and a handful with normal kit and road bike attire, and the rest were a variety of mountain bike and touring bikes.


The ride is actually a joint sponsorship between Juniper, Yahoo, and Network Appliances, and is part of the Moffett Park Business and Transportation Authority. We even had to pre-register for this ride. Imagine that … pre-register for a lunch time, 6 mile ride.


This ride gave us an opportunity to try out the new Borregas/237 bike freeway overpass. This constituted the bulk of the climbing on this ride.

This was not as big a turnout as in past years, but still a good turnout, and beautiful day for a bike ride. Of course, lunch was great. Once again, I didn’t score on the raffle. I’ve been at this for about 7 years, and I have never won anything on these raffles. Hey, do you think it’s rigged? Probably not.

5 Year NetScreen Reunion

When I first moved up to the Bay Area, it was a career decision for me. I had worked for 4 years as an IT person at E! Entertainment Television, and I just didn’t feel myself growing technically. I decided I needed to move to Silicon Valley, the center of networking technology.

I eventually landed at NetScreen, which is now legendary, because it was the first, “easy to use” hardware based firewall. I never get tired of telling this story, but I essentially saw how easy to use the GUI was, and I knew I needed to get into this company, thinking that it found a niche, and it is going places. I had painful experiences working with Checkpoint, and my first experience working with NetScreen was a breeze, and very refreshing.

NetScreen made many strides, and it was extremely successful. We went from startup, to taking away major deals from Checkpoint, and even Cisco. Eventually, Juniper saw how strong we were, and they ended up buying us for $4 billion. This was 5 years ago, and we all had a nice 5 year reunion bash.

We had it at Fibbar McGee’s in Sunnyvale, and it was wonderful to see some of the old gang there. There wasn’t as many there as I hoped there would be, but I guess they just couldn’t get off of work. I only wish Mark Smith, who was the VP of Sales at NetScreen, was there. He was really cool, and one of the few friendly high level Sales execs to the Tech Support gang. Many people ask me how it was at NetScreen, and it was your typical startup company, spending 12-15 hours a day, everyday in the office … however, it was fun. The management at NetScreen made it fun to come to work (can’t really say that too enthusiastic now). So when someone mentions a reunion for the old NetScreen gang, I jump at the chance to come. It brings back good times … fun times.

Brett, who was in Professional Services, was there, and we had a great time. We reminisce about our experiences with the big boys, like NMCI, Verizon, and the marathon conference calls we had. For some reason, when people are successful, they all take up golfing. I never really got it … some of the developers are now retired … and not even 50 years old yet. Well, a bunch of us were talking golf, and Brett, who is like me … a golf newbie … made one suggestion of how to play golf. Instead of carrying an entire golf bag, with 10-12 golf clubs, just carry one bat and one putter. A 34 ounce Louisville slugger, and when you tee off, freehand it, and give it a nice baseball homer swing … once it gets on the green, do your putt. Hmmm … why didn’t I think of that, or anyone else for that matter?

I also met Richard, who was in our product marketing, and he too is retired, and yes, < 50 years of age. He is a cyclist, so naturally, I spent quite a bit of time talking to him. Last year, he spent 39 days, riding across from Santa Barbara to South Carolina. That was cool … and he was one of the younger ones too. He is now starting to race for San Jose Bike Racing Club, and he even got promoted to Cat 4. Way to go Richard! He even competed in Sea Otter, but after about 5 laps, he had to pull out, being too far off the back.

Many of my friends at NetScreen, went on to other startups … many failed, and some are just barely surviving. Some ask why I have been at Juniper so long … well, I have a job, for one. Plus, I don’t think they will ever find another startup that was so successful like NetScreen. The upper management was so cool, and customer service focused … that even included from the top, at the CEO level, all the way down to me. The CEO and me … talking eye to eye, rubbing shoulders … imagine that! Robert Thomas was the CEO at NetScreen, and he is the coolest exec I have ever met. When we had our last NetScreen party, we had closed down all the bars, and there was one left in the lobby. A bunch of people were huddled in the lounge, and someone was pouring champagne to everyone. Who was pouring???? None other than the CEO himself. Now that is cool. When was the last time you saw a CEO pouring champagne for someone in shipping, or tech support?

Good times 🙂