Monday, November 09, 2015

Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

One of the challenges of a career in IT is keeping up to date and learning new skills. For the past 14 months or so, I've managed the primary lab/data center at my employer's corporate HQ, but have relied upon a couple other guys to handle the network. I'd like to take over the network, which mostly runs on Cisco equipment. So, I decided it's time to get my CCNA certification as a way to get my feet wet.

For texts, I went with Wendell Odom's CCNA Routing and Switching 200-120 Official Certification Library. Additionally, the Free CCNA Workbook site has a variety of lab exercises to do.

Although I'll be able to work on real equipment I felt it would be prudent to learn on gear completely separate from my lab network. My first step was to download and install the GNS3 router emulator on my laptop. I was able to find some usable Cisco images by exercising my Google-fu.

But I also wanted physical hardware to bang on. eBay is full of used Cisco gear. This post on Reddit was helpful in deciding what to buy (and what to avoid). Using that, I ordered a kit off eBay containing three Catalyst 2950 switches and three 1841 routers, plus various cables and T1 WICs, and a desktop rack.

One thing you need when working on initial device configuration and sometimes for troubleshooting is a console cable. Most laptops no longer have a serial port, so I and my coworkers have been relying on USB-to-RS232 adapters, mostly the Keyspan USA-19HS. However, I recently found FTDI chipset based USB-to console cables and got one of them. So far, it's been working fine in OS X Yosemite and El Capitan.

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