17 Aug 2020

Can you do virtual wireless training ?

Covid-19 has forced us to try a lot of things out of necessity, that we may never have thought possible or counter intuitive.  Some companies I look after are now asking me how they can remove their office all together as working from home is working so well for them and they want to save the $150,000 p/a office rent. They would never have thought they could all work from home before Covid-19 lock down.  We are lucky in Australia that technology (Zoom, Office 365, Cloud products) and broadband upgrades are making working from home technically possible.

One of the problems of being in the technology field is keeping up with the latest advances and keeping fully trained and knowledgeable. I have always found learning by certification the best way of learning and differentiating yourself in a crowded market. I started my certification journey in 1995 with Microsoft and then Cisco in 1999 after finding wireless to be right up my alley.  Doing my first 802.11b wireless survey for a wool shed, with survey mode (which only showed signal strength!) on Cisco 802.11b PCMCIA adapter.

One of my biggest issues was getting Cisco courses to run in Australia and in Melbourne.  Generally these high-end courses run only when they have at least 8 people and will run where there are the most people (generally Sydney). The additional cost of traveling to Sydney adds up an extra $2000 to the cost of the training making it out of reach for many. I have lost count of the amount of times Cisco courses were cancelled due do to lack of paying customers. In one instance I paid for 2 extra attendees so the course would run in Melbourne after being cancelled 4 times over a 2 year period.

When Ekahau ECSE Training was offered in Melbourne via Dicker Data, I was not going to miss this opportunity especially with Keith Parsons teaching the course. I love face to face training as it gives you time to be 100% dedicated to learning and learning from other student experiences.  Even with face to face Keith's plane was delayed and Darko of Dicker Data had to try and fill Keith's big shoes on the first day (he did a great job).  What a great course this was always learning something new and learning from Keith's vast experience. Highly recommend this course.

With ECSE under my belt ECSE Advanced (the one I sat was under license from Wifi Academy https://wifiacademy.net/awst) was the next on the bucket list.  Dicker Data ran this again in Melbourne and with  Francois Verges, his knowledge and enthusiasm to wireless again made this a fantastic course which I highly recommend to anyone who has completed the ECSE Design course.

The third course in the Ekahau training series (which I have now realised is not a series) is the ECSE Troubleshooting course.  I asked Dicker Data if they ever ran this course in Australia to count me in.    There seemed to be enough interest so Dicker Data scheduled the course. Then Covid-19 struck.  I was disappointed as I knew after all the travel restrictions and Melbourne going into lock down that it would be cancelled. Sure enough it was! This was not going to stop Darko and the Dicker team thinking can we do it virtually??  The email came out to all attendees "Would you attend this course in a virtual format?"  This required a lot of thought, these courses are expensive and would you get the same information and experience?  I had my doubts. How would you do wireless virtually, how would you do the wireless labs? Wireless signals don't travel that far! I had my reservations. I knew this course would not run face to face for some years in the current situation so I decided to attend (and I am glad I did!)

ECSE Troubleshooting

The Team at  Ekahau, Wireless LAN Professionals, Dicker Data and most of all Ferney Munoz, went out of their way to not only just teach the face to face curriculum but to use all the advantages of virtual training to make this course in my opinion better than on site training. Dicker Data who have always been attentive and professional training hosts, got all the LAB equipment couriered to our home address with quick testing instructions so all would be ready on day 1 of the training. No sharing of equipment like you do in classroom training and no working in groups. This enabled us to be able to individually fully complete and understand the labs which was a very useful advantage.

Day one started perfectly on time (no one arriving late trying to find the place or stuck in traffic) and students were immediately impressed with the Presenter, Zoom and wireless setup. At this point we knew the course was going to be good. Ferney had gone to great trouble to set up his garage with everything wireless and everything was in reach so his explanations were using real equipment you could see which greatly enhanced his teaching and explanations. He has the lighting just right, auto focus camera and wireless microphone so you could always hear him, even when he was surveying the property outside!

View from the participant point of view

Ferney hit the ground running starting with content from 9.00 am  as we had already introduced ourselves via a Google sign in document in the previous week. You did feel like you were really there.  Zoom makes it feel like you are in the classroom and you can see all the students as well.

I have a 3 screen setup so I had the Teacher on one screen, his shared presentation on another and all my class mates on the third. Breaks were short and lunch was 35 minutes each day with Dicker Data supplying Uber eats vouchers for lunch. I did however,miss the networking aspect where you can interact face to face during a class lunch, but this was a small price to pay for the efficiency of the class and keeping it running like clockwork and not missing any content. In fact this format meant than Ferney could go off script regularly and add more content depending on class interest and questions imparting some of his vast real world experience.

Class from teacher (Ferney Munoz) point of view (There is me 4th from left on top row!)

This class is so full of content and time so precious that the classroom environment would not have let us learn from Ferney's vast experience. Ferney was clear and attentive not having just got off a plane and suffering from jet lag and hotel food! Ferney did cover all the curriculum but on day 3 due to going off script a little due to class interest and questions, the virtual format allowed us to do some of the LABS as homework.  Having all the equipment at home and not having to waste 1-2 hours travelling to and from the training center meant we could spend that time doing the labs at night at our own pace.  Dicker also gave us the option of returning the LAB equipment a week after the course finished also giving us time to fully get the most out of the hands on experience.

This course is a great stand alone course! You do get more out of it if you have done ECSE Design but this course gets you to understand WiFi and how it works and how can you fix something if you don't know how it works in the first place? Ferney does LIVE demonstrations that truly help you visualize how WiFi works. He even does a live wireless survey around his property while you watch and listen to the do's and don'ts. This course shows you can troubleshoot most WiFi issues with free or cheap tools too.  I highly recommend this course to anyone who looks after WiFi at their work or whose job it is to fix WiFi issues. You will need to understand the OSI model, basic network protocols and CWNA would be an advantage to get the most out of the instructors verbal knowledge.

I was skeptical about doing a virtual Ekahau course but now I think I got more out of the virtual class than I would have from the physical class. I think Zoom technology and the effort that Ekahau, Dicker Data, WLAN Professionals and Ferney made this format work and therefore was a great success.  Going forward I think this will be great for the industry as courses that I could never do in Australia could now be made available in Australia virtually. 

A course that would probably never come to Australia is Devin Akin Wireless Adjusters Course however, due to Covid-19 has started running this course online. This was a bit harder to do virtually as it would run in Devin's Local Time zone, which was 11.00pm - 6.00am Melbourne time so this was going to be a bigger commitment. Despite this I am glad I did this course. Devin is a WiFi veteran and the wireless wisdom that he explains during his class kept me awake all night and early morning! He will make you fall in love with WiFi Explorer Pro as a diagnostic tool and reconsider the move to MAC! Again I highly recommend his course as well and would be a great follow up from ECSE Design and ECSE Troubleshooting as you need to have a good understanding of WiFi before you then start tuning it for Best Practices. Devin takes you through 57 WiFi parameters that have Best Practices to make WiFi work at it's most optimal.
Again a virtual course I would highly recommend.

Looking forward to my next virtual class!

8 Aug 2020

Cisco Catalyst 9100 Series

 Cisco Catalyst 9100 Series


Comparison of Sizes

New Bracket

Wall Mount AP with PASS THROUGH

Catalyst Power Requirements