Sunday, October 30, 2011

Qantas. Still Call [Insert Off-Shore Maintenance Facility Here] Home

What a debacle.  I wish I didn't understand, but unfortunately I think do.  The bottom line, to use an apropos phrase, is that Qantas wants to shaft pay and conditions and use off-shoring to boost profits.  As an amoral corporate entity whose only reason for existence is to make money, that is entirely rational.  However, the company doesn't use those words.  Profit is bad for PR.  So they say that they need to do this to "compete" because Virgin and the other low-cost carriers are not as unionised and pay their pilots, engineers and ramp staff less.

So how is Qantas doing?  Well, in 2010, they made a couple hundred million dollar profit.  Obviously, the institutional shareholders think that the CEO was doing a good job as they voted him a couple million dollars in extra pay this year.  This is despite the fact that the share price is down.

Now I am not a fan of unions, and sometimes they go overboard.  But is it not unreasonable to ask for a pay rise when the company is profitable?  After all, the CEO seemed to find it eminently reasonable to accept a 71% pay hike.  And given that management has the power in negotiations, and the only weapon at the workers' disposal is their labour, is it not unreasonable that when there is a breakdown of negotiations that the employees take industrial action?  Especially when the "industrial action" taken by the pilots was simply to issue announcements about their claims over the intercom after take-off?

Qantas has massively over-reacted.  Even ignoring the massive disruption to passengers, this lockout punishes all of the Qantas employees; even those not part of the unions taking part in industrial action.  Given Qantas' dominant position in the domestic airline space, with more than 50% capacity eliminated with no notice, how is this not just the management version of the thuggery they accuse unions of?  As I saw a quote somewhere, the Qantas management are holding the nation hostage to get their way in an industrial dispute.

I also find it unbelievably hypocritical for some right wing, free-market nutters who are against big government wanting the self-same government to intervene, interfere with the statutory industrial arbiters, overturn their own legislation to "resolve" the dispute - which to their mind means shafting the union.  These people will then blame the same government should Qantas succeed and then move its operations off-shore, which seems to be the company's long term strategy anyway.

I have a horrible feeling that the CEO of Qantas, with the rhetoric he is using, believes that he needs to destroy the company in order to save it.  And to be honest, in the long run, will the 60,000 stranded passengers care that this is a tactic of the management in response to union demands and ultimately blame the unions?  I doubt it.  The vast majority of these passengers won't care a jot.  But they will remember that Brand Qantas screwed them over, and while many domestic travellers won't have much choice due to the effective duopoly in the airline business, this will be another blow to the part of Qantas that is losing money, namely the international travel part.  Thus giving further "justification" to the argument that restructuring, wage and condition cuts and off-shoring are necessary.

There is no way that this is going to end well.  And I leave you with the fundamental questions I have.  Is it unreasonable for workers to ask for a larger share of the profits (and remember Qantas is turning a profit) when the CEO takes a pay rise for, seemingly, the same reason?  How much profit is enough?  (Silly question, I know)  And finally, if it is perfectly acceptable to decry "union thuggery" that impacts passengers during a work stoppage, how can you reasonably defend the actions that the CEO has take in response?

I'm just glad I'm not scheduled to fly this week.

Cisco Smart Install

I have been doing some blogging at the Packet Pushers Podcast site over the past few months.  Yesterday I had published a post on Cisco Smart Install that includes a Youtube video.  It is long and boring, so you may not want to see it.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


I just finished watching the Ken Burns series "Prohibition".  Ken Burns' stuff has a particular style to it, and it doesn't click with some people, but I loved his series "The Civil War" and "Baseball".  I really recommend this new series.  It resonates today, and not in just the equivalent modern-day prohibitions with their organized crime, bootlegging and hypocrisy.  The way a series of single-issue zealots managed to hijack politics and legislatures to get their program through is downright scary, and we can see it in politics now, especially in the US.  The last episode ends by implying that for nearly three-quarters of a century, the lessons of unintended consequences from such political manipulation learned in the twenties and thirties have kept this kind of thing in check, but I fear the absolutists who want to legislate morality today have forgotten the lessons of history.  It would do them good to look past the sensationalism and "glamour" of the Hollywood version of Prohibition, with its gangsters and speakeasies and actually think about why, after nearly a hundred years of fighting for Prohibition, it lasted only thirteen years and left destruction, crime, and contempt for government in its wake.

Worth watching.

Friday, September 30, 2011


After a session with the personal trainer this morning, I am feeling sore and tired and it is hard to move about.  I haven't posted much in the past couple of weeks as I am ploughing through some CCIE Lab preparation workbooks, but two things really annoyed me in the past couple of days.

First, when I am at the supermarket checkout, it annoys me to no end when the person in front does not put the little plastic divider thing on the conveyor behind their stuff so you can start unloading yours.  How hard is it to extend that small courtesy?  It is sitting right there.  It is particularly annoys me because I am pedantic when unloading my trolley.  I group the cold stuff together, then the fruit and vegetables, keeping cleaning products and such separate.  It makes things so much easier to unpack and put away upon returning home, and these inconsiderate people make me rush to place my shopping on the conveyor whereupon my careful strategy falls apart.  This complete absence of civilized behaviour deserves the strongest possible sanction, in my humble opinion.  Perhaps a dozen lashes, or for them to be stuck in checkout queues forever behind people requiring price checks on items at the far end of the store.

But the other thing that annoys me, and my apologies if you have them on your vehicle, are those damnable "My Family" stickers.  You've seen them.  These things can cost four dollars each!  For a piece of plastic.  One each for the father, mother, kids, dogs, cats - I've even seen a freaking goldfish in a bowl.  These things cause an irrational red mist when I see them.  Part of it is that every one of the stickers is smiling like a gormless brain-dead moron, putting a sanitised face on what is probably the reality within that eight-seat minibus filled with psychopathic ten-year-olds.  Another part is that I have an aversion to putting stickers on vehicles in general.  But I think that the main reason is that I am sure someone has made, if not a fortune (four dollars each!), at least a tidy sum out of this somewhat obvious, yet totally useless idea.  This putrid display of familial harmony and pride is another example of the undeserved success that comes with having a useless idea that seems to land upon a gullible public at the right time in the right place.  Pet rocks.  Furbys.  Facebook.

Of course, my dismissing of the idea as useless is the reason that I'll never get rich.  I'm not the creative type who will look at something and conclude that this will be something people will want, and pay money for.  However, maybe "" will go viral and I'll make my fortune with Google ads.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Fall of Empire and the Indifference to the Suffering of Others

I've posted before that I think the United States is on the decline.  However, in the space of a week, the illustration of the depths to which it has sunk has come to the fore.

In a Republican Presidential debate last week, Rick Perry was asked a question about his record in Texas where he has presided over two hundred executions, and whether he had any concerns that any of the people executed may have been innocent.  A legitimate question, given that there is significant evidence that at least one innocent man has been  put to death, and that Perry impeded the investigation into the circumstances.  Putting that to one side, before the question was even finished, at the point where the number of people executed was mentioned by the host, the crowd cheered and whistled.  Perry said he had no concerns, and that "if people come into our state and kill our citizens" they will face execution.  More applause.

How artfully framed.  How beautifully Christians-to-the-Lions.  The so-called Republican Party faithful, the "pro-life" party, enthusiastically cheering the deaths of criminals who have been defined by Perry as "not us".  Somehow, they have come in from the outside and killed "us".  So vengeance equals justice.  And if the accused haven't received a fair trial, or are innocent, or are mentally retarded, who cares?  Kill 'em all and let the Lord sort 'em out.

Say what you like about capital punishment, but for me this is always the biggest issue for me.  An imperfect legal system can lead to the innocent being put to death in my name.  I believe some criminals deserve death, but until perfect safeguards against this type miscarriage of justice can be put in place, then the risk is too great.  We can compensate someone falsely imprisoned.  We cannot compensate someone wrongly executed.

But this post is not about the death penalty per se, or even about Perry's lack of conscience about the lives he has taken in the name of the people of Texas.  It is about the reaction of the crowd.  And so, we come to the next debate.

The host asked Ron Paul a hypothetical about a healthy person who has no health insurance and gets badly sick.  Who pays?  Paul started to go on about how that is a risk that people take, that the government should not have to take care if them.  Of course, this ignores that fact that many people in the US, such as the poor or unemployed, aren't taking a risk - they simply cannot afford insurance but aren't poor enough for Medicaid.  Or that in some cases insurance doesn't cover some conditions, leading people into debt and bankruptcy.  The host went on to ask, "should society just let them die?".  And this is where things left me disgusted.

People applauded, and some shouted "Yeah!".  Paul went on to say no, that in the past churches and charities looked after those who could not afford health care.  Yeah, see how well that worked out in the past.  We have programs like this paid for by taxes because relying on charity failed to help all in need.

I am sure this kind of barbarous survival-of-the-fittest mentality has always been out there.  Can't get a job - your fault.  Don't have insurance?  So sad.  Why should my taxes go to support these moochers?  Not a shred of human compassion or decency.  Applauding executions as if the death of a person, potentially an innocent person, is entertainment.  But now, people feel that they can act this way in public?  People can actually go out, into a crowd on national television and exhibit their heartlessness towards others.

This is pathetic.  These people will be selecting one of those eight morons on the stage as the Republican candidate in 2012.  These people don't care about the suffering of others if it affects their taxes.  These are probably the same people who want to further inflict suffering on the sick and the elderly by getting rid of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, just so their taxes don't have to rise.  Cheering death.  Allowing the sick to die in the gutter, or choose between food and medicine.  And in good conscience they most likely go to church on Sunday and listen to the preacher talk of the Sermon on the Mount and not see the irony.

I hate to say it, but the United States deserves all it gets if one of these people is elected in 2012.  But I hope their greedy, hateful, pathetic brand of politics dies in a ditch before it further infects our politics here.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Exam News

As most of you who read this blog already know via email, today I took the CCIE Routing and Switching written exam.  I passed with 991/1000, which was a big relief.  I was quite concerned I was not ready for this exam, but I suppose 17 years of experience and a month of solid preparation was enough.

I now need to look at booking the CCIE Lab exam.  I need to carefully consider this, as I need to give myself enough time to study.  However, the Cisco site where you go to book the exams say that the information from Pearson Vue about my written pass may not be in their database for up to 10 days.  In the meantime, I need to pull together my resources and start preparing.

I celebrated a bit with some nice Chinese food this evening, although as it tends to go, I overindulged a bit.  Back on the treadmill tomorrow.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Economics and the iPhone

Posting has been a bit light the last couple of weeks, what with preparing for my CCIE written exam tomorrow.  But I came across this article which gives a breakdown of the cost of the iPhone.  Apple makes a 64% profit on each unit.  All of the components come from Korea, Japan and Germany, and are shipped to China where workers are paid around $1 per hour to assemble.  Think about that for a minute.  Assuming a 40-hour work week (a big assumption, as working conditions in China leave a lot to be desired), at the US retail price of around $500, the average Chinese worker assembling an iPhone would have to work for over 3 months to afford the product they are assembling.  And that is if they had no other living expenses.

As the article points out, if Apple was to pay their workers ten times the rate they pay these Chinese workers, Apple would still make 50% profit per unit.  Plus the people who actually assemble them would be more able to afford them.  But Apple won't take a hit to its per-unit profit.  No company these days will.

This was the whole principle behind the business philosophy of people like Henry Ford (although a raving anti-semite and pro-Nazi, to be sure) who paid his workers well; a little less profit per unit but more unit sales makes for a sustainable business.  It it this process that builds the middle class, growing market size - a rising tide that lifted all boats.

These days, corporations, being amoral entities with the sole goal of squeezing maximum profit out of each unit have forgotten these lessons.  And so labour is a pure cost.  A cost that can be reduced by paying people as little as possible in countries where those people are desperate for any kind of work.  But the middle class will not be built in those places, because as soon as wages begin to rise, the corporation will look around for somewhere else cheaper, leaving those low-paid workers once again unemployed.  In the US, suffering high unemployment, the median household income has been falling.  Jobs that are being created are low-paid and menial.  Well-paying middle-class jobs are disappearing, and this increases the gap between rich and poor.

This is a vicious cycle.  People are paid less, the market shrinks, demand goes down.  Corporations then look to cut wages and conditions to be "more competitive", by which they mean "maintain profit levels and share price".   That is if they don't just lay people off and move their factories elsewhere.

A race to the bottom helps nobody.  Good wages and conditions in manufacturing helps society and the economy as a whole.  Demand drives the economy, but the voodoo Reaganomics of "supply side" or "trickle down" economics seems to still have the right wing in its grip.  In the US, the term for the wealthy and the corporate class in Republican politics is "job creators" and the theory is that if you give them tax breaks, they will hire more people.  Bull.  If I am in business, I am not going to hire unless people want to buy my goods and services.  And by paying people less and less, rejecting government stimulus or unemployment benefits - putting money in the pockets of people who will spend it - these people are crapping in their own nest.

I can't see why this is so hard.  Pay people well, they will buy your stuff.  Pay people poorly, they will only buy at Wal-Mart, and in the end, the only jobs left will be at Wal-Mart, at Wal-Mart wages.  But I know this is not going to happen.  Profit is the only measure that counts.  Profit drives share prices, and share prices and profit determine executive remuneration.  Say farewell to the middle class, and welcome back to the 19th Century of the working poor and the mega-rich.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Downside of Ownership

A common term used in organizations these days is “ownership”.  Someone needs to take ownership of a support call, ownership of a project, ownership of a service.  Ownership not in the mode of the box-hugger of old, but rather the term implies a responsibility, or a duty.  A duty to the organization, to the client.  This thing we’ve given you ownership of is important dammit, and you’d better make sure that you live up to your obligations.

And there is the heart of the problem for me.  Obligation.

For a period of years, I had ownership of the network at the educational institution where I worked (and am still employed for two more months).  This was more literal than the term usually implies, because for some of those years, due to budgetary issues, the difficulties of recruiting personnel to regional areas and other factors, I was the only Senior Network Engineer and often the only network engineer period.  I designed and implemented two generations of the network, implemented wireless, remote access services, authentication services, maintained DNS, DHCP and who knows what else.  I owned the network.  Or at least I knew it like the back of my hand – where the old and new gear was, where the single points of failure were, the IP addresses of practically every switch.

As the organizational reliance on the network grew, my sense of obligation grew.  Times were that the old HP router would lock up, and the old hands would wait until after lunch before sauntering over and rebooting it.  Not any more.  The network became critical to the operation of the enterprise, but the budget and personnel were not commensurate to that importance.  Now I could guarantee a phone call would arrive within 30 seconds of an outage.

Now many of my colleagues could simply switch off, deal with the issues in the morning.  “Hey, the organization cares not a jot for the unpaid overtime you do; they will exploit that; you owe them nothing”.  That was something I was not able to do.  I built this thing, I owned it, felt responsible for it.  I felt that an outage was a reflection on me.  Never mind that someone dug up a cable run somewhere, I should have been able to magic up a redundant path for which there had been no budget.  My fault.  The network was critical to operations at the organization.  People started work at 8:00.  So I needed to make sure things were working at 7:00.  So I would need to get up at 6:00 to check things and get them fixed if needed.  What if an alert came in overnight?  I began not turning my phone off at night, despite the dread that the ring tone engendered.  Any hour, the beep that indicated an email had to be heeded and checked.

This began a repeating cycle of stress and health issues.  I was like a deathly ghost haunting the corridors of the IT building at all hours, sending emails to my colleagues at 3 a.m., calling them from my sick bed asking if they had seen the outage alert that had just come in.  For the past several years, my life consisted of waking up at 4:00, checking logs, going to work at 6:00, working to 5:00 or later, coming home, logging in, watching the email listening to the phone, and getting to sleep after midnight.  My ownership of the network was, literally consuming my existence, and destroying my health.  People would tell me that it wasn’t that important, get a hobby, do something else.  But, once you are in that rut, and the psychological pull of the sense of obligation is so strong, it is hard to see a way out.

There are other manifestations, too.  An obsession with functionality; not wanting to make changes lest something break.  This resulted in a type of paralysis which impeded the forward momentum of projects.  An obsession with testing and prototyping and wanting to make any change in the dead of night – heaven forfend that a user was impacted.

This all had a detrimental effect, not only on me, but on the team around me, and on the organization.  Projects dragged, and I could see that people were reluctant to engage with me for fear of making things worse.

Even now, after resigning in April, and five months into seven months of long service leave, the pull of the place is not quite gone.  The sense of attachment is getting less and less, but it is still there, lurking in the background.  The projects I started which I didn’t finish, the documentation I didn’t complete and the knowledge that is locked in my head; all the little details and foibles and twenty years of history.  And it can all come back to the front of your mind when you get the phone call five months into your leave that starts, “Hi – sorry to bother you, but…”   Like it did today.

So ownership is not necessarily a bad thing.  In my case, the confluence of a misplaced sense of obligation to only full-time employer I have known for most of my working life, a proprietary feeling towards that which I built and some underlying personal psychological predisposition to stress conspired to turn that ownership against me.  When I start looking for work again in the new year, I hope that I am able to recognise the signs and guard against the temptations to take ownership too far.

I waited far too long to wake up this time.  I am determined to not make the same mistakes again.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Librarian 3

This was a long process, but I was taking a break from the study over the weekend, so there was not much else to do.  Take a look and let me know what you think.  I'm not going to write much, but I think it looks fine.  I can see areas that need improvement, and I might do some touching up later.

I did do some freehand for the text in the books.  I also drybrushed some grey to give depth and on the white robe material.

The is not much detail on the left side that I hadn't previously done on the first librarian post.

So there it is.  A lot of detail, and a lot of close concentration.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Librarian 2

This morning, I spent a couple of hours painting the Librarian's staff and right arm.

Going to take a break now and do some more study.  Have to think about which next part to tackle.

I am having to learn a whole new level of patience.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Librarian 1

With today being my 39th birthday, I took a bit of a break from the study.  I had a session with the personal trainer, and I seem to have done something to my right wrist. Luckily, I'm left-handed, which meant that I could do a bit of painting.  I thought I might try something a little challenging, so I began work on a Librarian.

This is my first metal miniature, and it came in three pieces.  I undercoated them separately the other day, blocking out the joins with masking tape so I could work on the detail unimpeded.  I spent two and a half hours painting the left arm carrying a book.

I began with the gold parts on the book and shoulder.  Next, I did the green of the bookmark and silver on the pendant.  Next, the white on the pages, which was then drybrushed with Bleached Bone and brown to give an aged look.  Some brown in the centre of the book adds some depth.  After the pages, I did the red "leather" of the book.  I tried to make the red a bit "rough" to give a bit of texture.  I'm not sure yet if I am going to attempt a bit of freehand work to at text to the page.

I then did the white of the banner on the shoulder.  This was overlaid with some Bleached Bone to give some texture, but it doesn't show up too well in the photo.  Then red on the purity seals and silver on the chain.  I chose green as the shoulder colour, although technically it should be blue for an Ultramarine, but I thought the colour stands out.  (This photo and the next were taken, then rotated, which is why the light seems to be coming from a funny place)

Lastly I did the arm.  The silver part is the un-coated area to attach to the main piece.  Note that the fine detail on the back of the book will be practically invisible once it is attached.

This was painstaking and careful work.  I have a feeling this librarian will be a fairly lengthy project to do in between study.

An idea of scale.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Devastator Squad 5

A Slightly different approach with the Devastator Squad Sergeant.  Only dusty on the lower legs, and a light drybrushing on the backpack.

Not sure how well I did the face and hair.  I think it came out alright.

No rocks on this base, rather three clumps of grass.

So that is the Devastator Squad complete.  Below is a picture of the three Space Marines on the desert sand bases.

And finally the whole Squad.

It would have been nice if I had all of them on the same base design, and all with similar weathering, but I think this is a good group all the same.  I have another full Tactical Squad of Space Marines, so I will do some more experimenting with them.

Devastator Squad 4

This morning was laundry day, so while waiting for the spin cycles, I did the fourth member of the Devastator Squad.  This Marine is wielding a heavy bolter.  I made a more aggressive weathering on this one, and coupled with the desert base, I think it looks fine.

Only one to go in this squad, the squad sergeant.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Devastator Squad 3a

Today, after spending a while messing about with Spanning Tree Protocol, and before I head off to a torture session with the personal trainer, I have done some work on the base of the Space Marine with the Missile Launcher.

To get a desert-style look, I got some modelling sand and model railway grass  from Toyworld of all places, and a small piece of quartz.  The grass is "autumn" style to give it a dry look.  I painted the existing base piece he is kneeling on with Bleached Bone, which seems to match the sand quite well.

There are a couple of places where I will need to touch up a little bit of PVA glue and add a bit more sand.  The piece of quartz may not bond well with the PVA, and I may need to replace it with superglue.  We will see.

Personally, I think it looks better than plain grass.  I'm not particularly creative and so I am not a good judge, but I am happy with it as a first attempt. The store has sands in different colours, so maybe I need to experiment a bit with the look.  They have different grass shades as well.  If I was building an army, I would try to make the bases consistent.  I will probably make the remainder of the bases of the Devastator Squad this same colour, with pale weathering and light desert sand.  My next one I may try something different.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Devastator Squad 3

The next Devastator Squad member, with the missile launcher, I used to experiment again.  I used a drybrushing of white over blue to create a "weathered" appearance and creating highlights on the edges of the armour.  I have not finished the base, and the photos are a bit dark because of low light when I took the pictures.

You can see the extreme highlight on the elbow and right leg (from the Marine's perspective) and the weathered appearance of the blue, particularly on the legs and arms.  The detail is also brought out on the helmet.

Deybrushing Boltgun Metal over black gives the edges on the launcher highlights and and overall weathered appearance.  Drybrushing Mithril Silver over the launcher tube gives that part a bright highlight.

And again, the weathered look on the legs.

The weathering is clear in the last image.  Note the underside of the left leg is "clean".  I am going to colour that when I do the base.  I am going to do something a little different with the base, but I need to go to the store first to get some stuff.  You can see the weathered and highlighted areas on the helmet, backpack and launcher.

It is a first attempt at some weathering and highlights.  I think it gives the Marine a more natural look than the pristine paintwork I've been doing.  Let me know what you think.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Devastator Squad 2

Today I painted the second of the Devastator Squad.  This Marine has a multi-melta.  I took a slightly different approach with this one.  I used a fine detail brush exclusively, even for the blue areas, and attempted some finer control  I tried to get just the one coat of blue in most places, so that later touch-ups weren't a fourth or fifth layer.

I also tried some new things. The weapon was left black, and I drybrushed the Boltgun Metal over the top.  I then used Mithril Silver on the weapon end and the skull detail.  The black hoses to the backpack, I drybrushed the Boltgun metal on edges to give the hoses some highlight detail.  The scroll on the front of the weapon was layered.  I used Scorched Brown, then Bleached Bone, followed by white to give it a textured look with highlights.  I used Shining Gold on the hanging piece, and brown for the ropes.

All in all, I a pretty happy with the way this turned out.  A am going to try some shading and blending on the power armour in the next couple of Marines.  That will need a trip to the store, though.  I'm going to try to do a bit of painting now and then, but tomorrow (Monday) I am going to start into my CCIE study for the written exam.  I'm going to see how long a chapter of the guide takes, and then do up a schedule so I can get to the written exam in the next few weeks.  So painting will be for relaxation and breaks, or when the study gets a bit much.

Devatator Squad 1

Even though I am going to swing into study mode for the CCIE, I still have some Space Marines to paint.  Here is a Devastator Squad Space Marine with a plasma gun.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Q-in-Q from GNS3

Following on from the previous post stating my intentions, I have been messing about with GNS3, the graphical front-end to Dynamips and Dynagen.  GNS3 is great for simulating Cisco routers, however it cannot easily do the same for switches, as much of the functionality of switches is performed in custom silicon.

I did all of my routing lab preparation for the CCNP using GNS3, and am looking to do the same for the CCIE.  However, what to do about switches?  Well, I'll have to buy some.  Which means I'll need to connect the simulated routers to the real world.  There are many posts elsewhere about how to do it, so I am going to just put up a quick post about Q-in-Q, and connecting GNS3 to a set of real-word switches and extending layer 2 between them.

First, connecting GNS3 to the real world.  I am running GNS3 on Ubuntu in a VMWare Workstation guest OS.  So, first, I bridged the eth0 of the VM to the ethernet interface on my laptop.  The only limitation I can see going forward here is that I can't seem to increase the MTU of the guest OS eth0.  Any VMWare/Linux gurus out there, let me know, but when I search, it appears it can be done in VMWare Workstation.  It shouldn't be a problem unless I start punting around large packets.

My laptop has a Broadcom chipset, and once I got underway, I was experiencing problems because the interface was dropping the VLAN tags.  I found that I had to edit the registry (host OS is Windows 7) and search for (what should be the only instance of):

TxCoalescing Ticks

And in the same place, add a new String Value:

with a value of "1".

If you have a different ethernet chipset, you may need to sort this out, too.  Anyhow, next I connected my laptop ethernet to a 3560 switch, which is connected to a 2960 switch where my target test PC is located.  The 2960 has a VLAN for the PC, VLAN 5.  This is the "client" VLAN to be tunnelled to the router.

Now, in GNS3, I connected a generic switch to the real ethernet interface with an 802.1q trunk.  Then a router, connected to an access port, VLAN 7.  VLAN 7 is going to be the host VLAN carrying the tunneled client VLAN(s) for this router (R3 in the diagram; R1 and R2 are shut down).

On the router, R3, I create a subinterface tagged with the "client" VLAN, VLAN 5.  Now, for the Q-in-Q magic.  The port on the 2960 connecting to the 3560 is configured as a normal trunking port, carrying the client VLAN.  On the 3560, the port is configured as a dot1q-tunnel port, with the access VLAN of 7 (the host VLAN).  So essentially what is happening as a packet is sent from the target PC is the following:

  • The PC sends a frame and it arrives on the 2960.  This is on an access port, VLAN 5.
  • The 2960 forwards the frame to the 3560 via the dot1q trunk, adding the VLAN 5 tag.
  • The 3560 recieves this frame on its Q-in-Q interface.  A second VLAN tag is added to the existing frame, VLAN 7.  This frame is then forwarded to the GNS3 virtual switch.
  • The GNS3 ethernet switch receives the frame on the dot1q trunk, and strips the VLAN 7 tag from the frame.  This leaves a dot1q frame tagged with VLAN 5.  This is forwarded to the router, which accepts it on the subinterface.
In the reverse direction:

  • The router sends a frame, tagged with VLAN 5 to the GNS3 ethernet switch.  The switch adds the VLAN 7 tag and forwards it to the 3560.
  • The 3560 receives the frame, strips the VLAN 7 tag and forwards it to the 2960.
  • The 2960 strips the VLAN 5 tag and forwards the frame to the PC.
In a proper Q-in-Q tunnel situation, switches at either end of a provider cloud would add and remove tages, but here, essentially the GNS3 router and switch are doing a VLAN hopping-type thing.  Security admins everywhere are having palpitations.

And there you have it.  In addition, som l2protocol-tunnel commands allow the router and switch to seem adjacent.  In some cases, especially with GNS3 this does not hold, but it seems to work OK.  So, here is the topology of the GNS3, and the configuration (click to enlarge).

And the result from the router pinging the PC:


Type escape sequence to abort.
Sending 5, 100-byte ICMP Echos to, timeout is 2 seconds:
Success rate is 80 percent (4/5), round-trip min/avg/max = 4/18/40 ms
 And the CDP, showing the adjacency of the virtual router and 2960 switch:

Router#sho cdp nei
Capability Codes: R - Router, T - Trans Bridge, B - Source Route Bridge
                  S - Switch, H - Host, I - IGMP, r - Repeater

Device ID        Local Intrfce     Holdtme    Capability  Platform  Port ID
bldg-a-cc.9bc0   Fas 0/0            173          S I      WS-C2960P Gig 0/1

And on the switch:

bldg-a-cc.9bc0#sho cdp nei
Capability Codes: R - Router, T - Trans Bridge, B - Source Route Bridge
                  S - Switch, H - Host, I - IGMP, r - Repeater, P - Phone,
                  D - Remote, C - CVTA, M - Two-port Mac Relay

Device ID        Local Intrfce     Holdtme    Capability  Platform  Port ID
Router           Gig 0/1           149             R S I  3725      Fas 0/0

So there you have it a Q-in-Q connection from GNS3 to some real switches.  And to prove (although you still need to take my word for it) that I actually have switches, here there are.

A Decision Not Taken Lightly

Since I completed my CCNP a couple of weeks ago, I have been contemplating my next certification step.  I have nine weeks of my paid long service left before I officially stop being employed, but I decided that that should not be any kind of cut-off, as I have plenty of time to find work after that.  I considered stopping with the CCNP, as that is what most employers seem to regard highly anyway and I might just take it as a win and move on.

That didn't seem to appeal, and in any case a broader set of certs or the CCIE would open other doors in the employment space.  So the question came down to whether I should plough ahead and attempt the CCIE or do some other specializations, like wireless, voice or security.  The design track seems appealing, and I even had a look outside the Cisco space at the Juniper certification track.  I bought the CCIE certification guide, and a couple of the specialization Cisco Press books.  I consulted with a few people about which path I might go, and everyone seemed to have different opinions, and it really came down to what I was looking for out of the experience.

So what am I looking for?  Marketability of the certifications is one concern, but in reality that is not the major concern.  In the end, given the time I currently have, I think I want a challenge.

So my decision is this.  Unless a particularly attractive job offer comes along in the interim, I am going to take the rest of 2011 and attempt the Route & Switch CCIE.  I am setting myself a timeline of four or five weeks from today to pass the CCIE written exam, and then to attempt the lab in December or January, depending upon the availability.  I have scribbled out a bit of a budget, and I am going to look buy a couple of 3560 switches for lab practice, but I am going to use GNS3/Dynamips to do the router side.

Everyone says that the CCIE is very difficult and challenging.  I want to try it to see if my network skillz really are any good.  I am never going to get a better time to try it.  I was looking at travelling overseas later this year, and as part of the experience, I am considering delaying that and going to take the lab exam in the Cisco Mecca of San Jose (although in reality, I'll probably book in for it in Sydney).  Also, as the time approaches for the lab, there are some excellent boot camps available to prep for the exam.

I'm setting myself a tight timeline, and I am fully aware that many, if not most people don't pass the lab on the first attempt.  But now I've made the decision, I'm quite excited that I have a plan for the rest of the year - CCIE study, gym to try and get down near 100 kg, and then to look for work.  I do have a bit of regret that I didn't follow on and get my PhD.  I'm not going to let the opportunity pass me by to give the CCIE a go.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Networking Nerds

For the past few months I've been listening to the Packet Pushers Podcast.  News, new gear, tech, security.  Go check them out.  They are awesome.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Twilight of the American Century

It has been a while since I posted a soap-box article, so in the wake of the S&P downgrade of the US credit rating, I thought I'd make a comment on the erosion of the American experiment.

On the evening of July 21st, I watched on television the landing of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.  It was the last flight of the Shuttle program, leaving the American space program without a means of sending humans into orbit.  As budgets are cut and enthusiasm wanes, I began to seriously contemplate that the United States may never send a person into space again without subcontracting the job to Russia, China or a private company.  This was a passing thought, and I consigned it to the recesses of my mind.  However, the goings-on in Washington D.C. and across the rest of the US over the past few months have led me to think that this is not such an unreasonable thought.

And the Shuttle program's demise is a metaphor for what I see across the US.  Government is bad, public spending is evil, and nobody wants to pay for anything through taxes.  The Shuttle program employs over 3000 contractors and government workers.  These people are now losing their jobs.  By October, only 1000 will be left, converting the Shuttles into museum pieces.  Turning the lights out.  And so it is with this deficit reduction farce which was recently completed, with savage cuts in spending and no revenue increases.  Far from creating jobs, this will mean government shedding jobs, as has been happening in States, cities and towns across the US.  No new taxes at any cost.  Never mind that the wealthy and corporations are sitting on their money.

The new euphemism for the rich is that they are "job creators" and taxing them a higher rate would disincentivise hiring.  So last month, Cisco Systems, who is sitting on piles of cash outside the US, taxable at 35%, is lobbying to bring that money back almost tax-free; a so-called "tax holiday"; and in the meantime has announced a cut of over 6000 jobs.  One in ten of their worldwide workforce.  The reason they are laying people off?  People aren't buying.  Why not?  Because they have no jobs, or they have tightened their belts.  The only reason to hire more workers is because there is demand for something you have to sell.  Companies aren't buying.  Consumers aren't buying.  Cutting taxes on Ford won't give them an incentive to hire more people if people aren't buying their cars.  It just serves to increase the company's profit.  So the argument that tax rates must be cut and government spending must be cut to improve the economy defies logic.  And the Republicans are now advocating an amendment to the US Constitution which would mandate a balanced budget.  This is insane.  Sure, debt can be a bad thing.  Is US debt out of control?  Perhaps.  But consider this.  It is not as bad as Greece, and even with a $14 trillion debt, the credit rating was still triple-A.  Why?  Because a big as that debt number is, the government can raise revenue and service that debt.  So in bad times when nobody is buying and nobody is hiring, government is the only entity who can create demand and stimulate the economy.

A perfect example of the dysfunction at the heart of US government had to be the FAA shutdown this past month.  For ideological reasons, Republican Senators blocked the re-authorisation of the FAA budget.  Four thousand workers were furloughed.  Safety inspectors were coming in to work without pay to do their critical jobs.  But, because the FAA was shut down, $30 million a day in taxes were not being collected, reducing revenue.  At the same time, infrastructure projects were put on hold, putting between seventy and ninety thousand construction workers out of a job.  So there you have it.  Lower taxes, people out of work, infrastructure not maintained and safety potentially compromised.  And who benefits?  Well, until they were shamed into refunding the taxes to consumers, the airlines had raised prices, kept the taxes and pocketed the cash.  So in addition to the economic impact of the shutdown, corporations made more profits, and Joe Average gets screwed.

But governments must provide some services and they must be paid for.  So what is happening?  Well, in this example, local government is raising parking fees and fines.  State government is raising tolls and fees on things such as getting a birth certificate.  In some places, parking revenues now are competing with property taxes as the main source of revenue.  Call them fees or fines, but these are taxes.  And they are taxes on the people who can least afford the increases.  Increase corporate taxes or the top marginal rate or progressive property taxation on the value of the property?  Hell no.  But slug the shopper who has no choice but to use the parking meter, the commuter who has to use the bridge?  No problem.

And again, regular people bear the brunt.  Layoff of teachers, police, city workers.  Cities tearing up the tarmac roads because they are expensive to maintain.  Turning out the streetlights to save on electricity.

What is happening to the US?  Well, the tactic must be working for someone, as the same tactics of vitriolic and utterly negative response by business and the opposition to the carbon tax proposal here are just unhinged.  I personally don't know if a carbon tax is the right approach or whether it will work.  But it seems that the disease of believing that any tax increase is an assault on freedom, liberty and who knows what else is spreading.  This is a dangerous road to go down.  Nobody like paying taxes, and nobody likes their taxes to be seen to be misused or mis-spent.  But they are necessary to maintain society and the standard of living people have come to expect.

Welcome to the end of the American Century.  Hastened by the principle that government of the people, by the people and for the people, is a bad thing if you have to pay for it, and the sooner is perishes from the Earth, the better.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Terminator Squad 6

At last, it is complete.  Today I spent around five hours painting the Terminator Squad Sergeant.  I really tried to make this one as good as I could.  For the most part, I am fairly happy with it.  However, I can see the flaws in my technique.  That is a good thing, however, as it can only make me better to know where I can improve.

So here it is.  The images in this post are not reduced; I wanted the best resolution possible.  Click on the images for larger versions.

Some of the freehand on the banner is a bit rough, and again the chest emblem was a little too filled in by the undercoat.  I am happy about the detail on the power sword, storm bolter and the face.  It is not super-obvious, but I did put some writing on the banner plaque; uses a thin felt-tipped pen, and then covered with the gloss varnish.

I tried some of the layering techniques to try to get some definition in the facial features.  I think it is fine, but the technique needs some work.

So, there it is.  The Terminator Squad is complete.  I have a Devastator Squad (standard Space Marines with heavy weapons) in the box, but I think I will take a little break from painting.  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Terminator Squad 5

So with the light fading today, and this afternoon's gym session beckoning, I have just completed the fourth member of the Terminator Squad.  This Space Marine is equipped with a storm bolter, power fist and with a missile launcher.

I was a bit disappointed with the chest detail.  It seems I got quite a lot of fill-in with the undercoat, and it did not come out as well as I hoped (the photo makes it look better than naked eye).  I made the missile tips yellow instead of the black or red you usually see.  I finished them off with a coat of gloss varnish to bring them out.

On the back, I tried to keep the hinges boltgun metal, and the skulls white.

So with just the sergeant to go now, the Terminator Squad is coming together.  I am learning a lot.  The Terminators are slightly larger than the standard Space Marine, and can be a bit more forgiving for the unsteady of hand.  But I think my technique is improving as I go.

Terminator Squad 4

The third member of the Terminator Squad was completed today.  This one wields a heavy flamer and a power fist.  I always seem to have difficulty with the shoulder-mounted decals; they never seems to quite sit down right, no matter how much I try.  Blending the edges doesn't seem to quite work.

On the other hand, I was quite pleased with the detail on this one; perhaps a slight improvement over the other two so far.  I also tried out a new colour called Burnished Gold for the wreath on the left arm.  A slightly muted shade compared to the Shining Gold colour.  I took the photos before the PVA glue was fully dry, so there is a bit of stray grass on the legs that I need to clean off.

So  now three are done, just two to go.  Next I will be doing the Terminator with the missile launcher pack.  So far, I think the squad is coming together nicely.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Terminator Squad 3

This morning I completed the second of the Terminator Squad.  This Space Marine has a power fist and an assault cannon.  Some nice fine detail on the right shoulder pad.  I chose to do the text and edging in gold, although white may have looked more consistent? 

So two down, three to go for this Terminator Squad.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Terminator Squad 2

Yesterday I glued together and undercoated the Space Marine Terminator Squad.  Today, I spent about three hours painting the first miniature.  I needed to get some black paint as I had accidentally knocked over the pot of Chaos Black, and the remnant had begun to harden, so I headed off to the local Games Workshop store.  I know that the paints and things can be bought on-line and you can use non-Citadel paints that are cheaper, but I do prefer to support the local store when I can.

In addition to the paint, I purchased some PVA glue and the "burnt grass" material for the base.

One thing I have found in yesterday and today is that as mediocre as I think I am at painting these miniatures, I am worse at photography.  I am using a $70 Sony  Cybershot, but I find I just can't get the pictures to come out particularly well.  The exposure is usually not right, and parts are out of focus.  A proper SLR and a bit of knowledge about lighting would probably be helpful.  Anyone out there who can give advice on photographing small objects with lots of colour variation?

Anyhow, on with the painting.  I took a few photos of the steps along the way, but once the detail painting began, if I took a photo every time there would be a million of them, so these are the main highlights.

I paint at my kitchen table.  It is near the back door, so I get good natural light.  I set up with my paints and brushes and get to work.

I am sticking pretty close to the colour scheme on the box.  With a black undercoat, the white areas can be a problem, so the first thing I did was a quick wash with white on those areas and let it dry.  Then a second wash coat of white went on.

Next, the first coat of Ultramarine Blue. While waiting for the white to dry, you may notice the I did the red part of the seal on the left leg.

So once the large Ultramarine Blue areas are done, I started painting the weapons in Boltgun Metal.  The Boltgun Metal on the weapons was then drybrushed with black to take away some of the shine.  Then the fine details.  Red eyes and red lights, gold for the eagle on the side of the storm bolter.  The next image from the back, you can see many of the details.  PVA glue was added to the base and dipped in the "scorched grass" material.

I have left the final image in full resolution, as I am pretty happy with how it turned out. Click on it to get a closer view.  I overpainted the chest, eyes, belt buckle and the attached sigil with a gloss varnish to bring out the highlights.

The book on painting Citadel miniatures advises that if you are building an army, to paint the miniatures in a kind of production line.  That is, do the same areas on all the models at the same time.  I don't do it that way; I like to paint each model individually.  This is partly because I'm not making an army, I am painting to relax.  In addition, I like to learn from each one I do to get better for the next one.  So with this squad, I will work my way through, learning as I go, until I get to the sergeant with his war banner and intricate insignia.

Anyway, let me know what you think.  I'll probably just post images of the others finished individually as I go over the next week or so.