Rednectar’s Rules for writing Lab Guides

I wrote these as a guide for lab writers whose work I get to review and are in the context of writing lab guides using the frustrating wordprocessor known as Microsoft Word. It is meant to be a set of instructions for writers to follow BEFORE passing them on to me.

Before saving ready to be check-formatted, take these simple steps

Page breaks, paragraphs, tabs and spaces


    1. Remove all page breaks. Page breaks are determined by grouping paragraphs together that need to stick together by using the “Keep with next” paragraph attribute.  [A “keep with previous” would be SO much better… please upvote this]
      1. This will save me from having to do my first task in every review, which is to search and replace all instances of page breaks with nothing.
      2. And while on the topic – make sure you apply “Keep with Next” to every cell in a table EXCEPT the last row.  [A “keep with previous” would be SO much better…]
    2. Remove all empty paragraphs.  Spacing between paragraphs is determined by the style. If you don’t like the amount of space between paragraphs, let me know which style you’d like to change. Remember that this will change ALL paragraphs of that style, that’s why we use styles. I reserve the right NOT to agree.
      1. This will save me from having to do my second task in every review, which is to search and replace all instances of two CRs with one CR
    3. Remove all double spaces except after full stops. Use <tab>s to space items if necessary, or create a table.



    1. In general, every Graphic is to be either:
      • Placed inline, so that text flows around it, something like
        Press the gearicon icon; or
      • Given an entire paragraph to itself, like those above.  If you have two graphics that have to go one after the other or side by side, find a graphics program like Preview and combine the two graphics into one.  Don’t paste them as separate graphics and expect that they will stay side by side (they won’t) or on the same page (they might if you are lucky.)
      • In the paragraph where the graphic lives, don’t add any tabs or spaces.
    2. Do NOT use MS Word shapes, or if you do, they follow the same rules as graphics. One per paragraph.  If your graphic needs a circle or arrow super-imposed, use a graphics program to compose it, and paste the picture. Powerpoint is a convenient choice if you love the MS style shapes so much that you have to use them. Preview also does a good job.
      • If you DO use MS graphic shapes, there is no guarantee that they will appear on the page you meant them to be on. That’s just life with MS Word.

Other rules

  • We click buttons – we Don’t press them or push them or “go to” them
  • We don’t “go to” menus or tabs.  We navigate menus and click on tabs or select tabs. You can select menu items too. Using “Navigate to” combines a “Navigate” plus a “Select”
  • Every Step MUST require the user to take an action.  The following is NOT a step.

Step 1: The GET request failed because the API Key has not been added

  • The following IS a step

Step 1: Observe that the GET request failed because the API Key has not been added

  • We check boxes, we don’t tick them. Sometimes we clear or (ugh) uncheck them. We never untick them.  If you must use the work tick, make sure you are referring to a small insect. Oh, and when a box is checked or cleared, it is to be accompanied with a little symbol indicating this:

This checkbox is checked: 

This checkbox has been cleared: 

I’ll update this document if I think of any more!



Posted in Microsoft, Microsoft Word, MS Word Tips | Tagged , | Leave a comment

How to schedule Hyperflex Scheduled Snapshots

If you have been using Cisco’s Hyperflex and have used the Flash/Flex vCenter Plugin to create a schedule to take snapshots, then when upgrade your Hyperflex plugin, you’ll find that the Schedule Snapshots option has GONE

This article show you how you can still schedule snapshots even if you are using the HTML5 plugin.

The secret is that you don’t need the plugin. All you need to do is make sure you take ONE snapshot using Hyperflex Connect ot the HTML5 plugin. This will ensure that the all-important SENTINAL snapshot is taken, which ensure that all future snapshots will be Hyperflex Native snapshots rather than the old VMware REDO type snapshots.

Step 1: Take a snapshot using the HTML5 plugin.

Right-click on your VM, select Cisco Hyperflex (way down the bottom) and choose Snapshot now

Step 2: Validate the SENTINAL snapshot

If the snapshot worked, you will see a snapshot called SENTINAL when you manage snapshots in vCenter

The existence of the SENTINAL snapshot validates that you have a Hyperflex Native snapshot and this will prevent VMware from even being able to create a REDO snapshot.

Step 3: Create your Schedule

In vCenter, locate your VM in Hosts and Clusters, click on the Configure tab, then click Scheduled Tasks, click NEW SCHEDULED TASK and finally Take Snapshot

That’s pretty much it – you’ll just need to give the task a name and set the schedule for when you want to run it!

Happy Scheduling


Posted in GNS3 WorkBench | Comments Off on How to schedule Hyperflex Scheduled Snapshots

New APIC ACI 5.1 firmware – Cisco have gone colloquial

Cisco released new firmware for ACI on 22 Oct 2020. I was in the middle of having a problem with upgrading a lab from 4.2 to 5.0 when I read that one of the enhancements in 5.1 was:

Enhancements to the upgrade process through the GUI when upgrading the APIC or switch software

so I thought I’d give 5.1 a shot.

Now the first worrying sign that I noticed with the UI for the upgrade process is that it looks much more like the super-unfriendly GUI of the ACI MSO (Multi Site Orchestrator)

but having said that, it turned out to be less confusing than MSO in this instance, and the upgrade process worked. But I really do have to wonder at the colloquial language used in the GUI – is this some kind of attempt to appeal to the masses by Cisco? If so, they are only making it harder for all those customers that don’t come from an English speaking background (or should I say North American speaking background) to understand the application. The dialogue that particularly annoyed me was this one:

Now not too many users will be jumping to get their watch out (many users don’t even use a watch), and the exclamation Watch Out is pretty universal, but why change from the traditional Caution text that is usually associated with a dialogue of this type?

So I can accept the Watch Out colloquialism, but Continue Anyways is NOT acceptable. This is an absolute affirmation that Cisco only cares about North American users and not the rest of the world. It is even worse than referring to events occurring in the summer or some other season with absolute arrogance – as if the southern hemisphere didn’t exist. Although that instance is probably ignorance of the fact that there IS a southern hemisphere.

And I suspect that in this case it is another case of ignorance and the usual lack of quality control in the ACI user interface. (Don’t let me start on the number of inconsistent namings used in the ACI GUI…)


Posted in ACI, Cisco, rant | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Making the most of ACI when routing between tenants via a Firewall

An approach often used when migrating traditional IP Subnet based networks to ACI is to isolate security zones into different tenants (or VRFs), and re-deploy existing Firewalls between the tenants (or VRFs).

In this post, I’ll show you how you can enhance your ACI migration by using some ACI features that are practically impossible to implement on L3 Firewalls.

The approach is identical irrespective of whether you isolate between ACI tenants or VRFs because the isolation is at the VRF level.  But for my example I’ll use two tenants.  To allow communications between the tenants using an external Firewall or Router to apply policy between the tenants, I have a couple of different options.

  1. Use Policy Based Redirect to send traffic to to a Firewall
  2. Use a L3Out to connect to the Firewall

And there would be several variations of the above, even a combined approach.  But for the purpose of this post, I’m going to use a L3Out to connect each interface of an external router to the tenant’s VRF.


First of all, the ground rules.

I have two tenants. TenantA and TenantB. Each has one VRF called A1_VRF and B1_VRF respectively.  Each Tenant has one Bridge Domain (A1_BD and B1_BD) each with one subnet. Each tenant has one Application Profile (A1_AP and B1_AP) and each Application Profile has two EPGs, TenantA has A1_EPG and A2_EPG, and (you guessed it) TenantB has B1_EPG and B2_EPG.


To connect to the firewall/router, each tenant has an L3Out configured and linked to the VRF. Each L3Out has an External EPG to allow traffic based on the IP addressing of the other tenant. So let’s add the L3Outs to the picture, and a little of the physical picture too.


Policy Scope

You might think that since you have a firewall in the picture, there is no need for policy. But that is not true in this scenario. You will still need ACI contracts in place to allow the endpoints in each tenant to communicate to the local firewall interface.  Of course the no-brainer approach would be to allow all traffic to and from each VRF to go to the firewall. You could use the vzAny construct in the VRF and the default contract in the common tenant to do this.

No-brainer vzAny approach


But this approach also means that you have opened up communication between every EPG in the tenant – so A1_EPG can communicate with A2_EPG. Ditto for B1_EPG and B2_EPG. And if this is what you want to do forever, then go ahead and take this approach.

But what if you now want to fine-tune your policy so that TenantB can access only the servers in A1_EPG?  Or perhaps allow only B2_EPG servers access to the services in TenantA?

Because your firewall is IP based, and TenantA servers are all in the same subnet – and the same for TenantB servers – you IP based Firewall is useless to you.

This is where you can leverage the ACI EPG construct to implement policy that is impossible to implement on L3 Firewalls.

To finalise the scope of my example, I’ll scope the policy to say that all TenantB servers can access only the servers in A1_EPG. TenantA servers do not need to initiate any TCP connections to TenantB servers.

Since A1_EPG and A2_EPG are sharing a subnet, this restriction is too hard for a Firewall, so I’ll use ACI features to implement this.


I’m going to use L3Outs in each Tenant. The L3Out will be configured to use OSPF, so the assumption is that the External Firewall is also going to dynamically learn the routes from each tenant and advertise them to the other tenant.  I could have used static routes or a different routing protocol, but my lab is already set up with OSPF, so OSPF it is.

Since the firewall is still applying policy, I won’t complicate things by filtering traffic to and from the firewall, but I will create a new contract in each tenant to be used specifically for traffic to and from the firewall. This avoids any confusion later if another EPG is configured to use the common tenant’s default contract.


Note the following:

In TenantA, only A1_EPG is providing the contract, but since the contract uses the default filter (from the common tenant – which allows all traffic) the concepts of “Provide” and “Consume” have little meaning.

In TenantB, since both EPGs are able to consume any services that get past the firewall, the  contract is consumed by the vzAny construct of the the VRF. If the policy should change in the future, say to restrict consumption to just one of the EPGs, the contract could easily be changed to allow this.

Another consequence of having the vzAny construct of the the VRF only consuming the contract (and NOT providing services to the contract), B1_EPG and B2_EPG are not able to communicate without a separate contract.  Should you wish these EPGs to be able to communicate freely, you could configure the vzAny construct of the the VRF to consume the contract as well, or use a new contract.

In TenantA, the External EPG (BSnet_L3EPG) is based on the IP addressing of TenantB, and vice versa for the External EPG in TenantB (ASnet_L3EPG).

Although the contract in both Tenants is exactly the same, and yes, I could have configured it in the common tenant or even used the common tenant’s default contract, I wanted to emphasise in the naming and in the implementation that the contract was designed to allow the consumption of services from A1_EPG in TenantA – hence the contract is named A1EPG.Services_Ct in both tenants.


To complete the story, I’ll add the steps required to do the L3Out configuration. I’ll assume you already have your tenants, VRFs, BDs, application profiles and EPGs configured. Similarly, I’ll assume you have created the Access Policies required to connect your external router/firewall.

My lab has the following subnets configured, and these will be used in the example:

TenantA Router ID:
TenantA L3Out SVI:
TenantB Router ID:
TenantB L3Out SVI:

Where the configuration is the same for both TenantA and TenantB, I’ll refer to the tenant as TenantA|B. Similarly for other names like A|B1_BD for A1_BD and B1_BD.  In the following, the >+ sequence when following the menu path means right-click.  >> is used to indicate the end of navigating the horizontal sub-menu and begin navigating the vertical tree menu.

Task 1: Create the contract

This will be exactly the same process on each tenant – you could indeed do this once in the common tenant and use it in both TenantA and TenantB

Tenants > TenantA|B >> Contracts > Standard >+ Create Contract

  • Name: A1EPG.Services_Ct
  • Scope: VRF
  • [+] Subject
    • Name: A1EPG.Services_Subj
    • [+] Filters
      • Name: common/default

Task 2: Create the L3Out

This step is the core of the config. It is a long one, and I’ll break it into sections that follow the wizard steps. By following the wizard, the Node Profiles and Interface Profiles will be named automatically, and be slightly different to my diagram above. My lab has the router connected to Leaf2201 interface 1/10 and is configured for OSPF – area for TenantA and area for TenantB

Tenants > TenantA|B >> Networking > L3Outs >+ Create L3Out

Wizard Step 1. Identity
  • Name: A|B1.OSPF_L3Out
  • VRF: A|B1_VRF
  • L3 Domain: A|B_L3Dom [Recall I’ve assumed you have the access policies configured]
  • [x] OSPF
    • OSPF Area ID: 0.0.0.x [in my config, x=11 for TenantA and 12 for TenantB]
    • Regular Area
Wizard Step 2. Nodes and Interfaces
  • Interface Types
    • Layer 3: SVI
    • Layer 2: Port
  • Nodes
    • Node ID: Leaf2201
    • Router ID: 10.21x.0.201 [in my config, x=1 for TenantA and 2 for TenantB]
    • Loopback Address: 10.21x.0.201
    • Interface: 1/10 [in my lab]
    • IP Address: 10.21x.1.201 [in my config, x=1 for TenantA and 2 for TenantB]
    • MTU: 1500
    • Encap: VLAN
    • IP Address: 24×1 [in my config, x=1 for TenantA and 2 for TenantB]
Wizard Step 3. Protocol Associations
  • [x] Hide Policy
Wizard Step 4. External EPG
  • Name: BSnet_L3EPG [for TenantA] ASnet_L3EPG [for TenantB]
  • Provided Contract: <blank> [for TenantA] A1EPG.Services_Ct [for TenantB]
  • Consumed Contract: A1EPG.Services_Ct [for TenantA] <blank> [for TenantB]
  • Default EPG for all External Networks [ ] UNCHECKED
  • [+] Subnets:
    • IP Address: [for TenantA] [for TenantB]

Note that the subnets specify the range of EXTERNAL addresses – so TenantA specifies that TenantB’s subnets are permitted, and vice versa for TenantB

Task 3: Configure your BDs

You will need to modify your existing BDs in two ways to ensure each tenant’s subnet is advertised to the external router/firewall:

  1. Configure the subnet for each BD and check the Advertised Externally option.

Tenants > TenantA|B >> Networking > Bridge Domains > A|B1_BD > Subnets > 10.21x.11.1/24   [in my config, x=1 for TenantA and 2 for TenantB]

  • [x] Advertised Externally
  1. Link the BD to the L3Out

Tenants > TenantA|B >> Networking > Bridge Domains > A|B1_BD >| [L3 Configurations]

  • [+] Associated L3 Outs
    • A|B1.OSPF_L3Out

Task 4: Apply the contracts

For my example, I’m allowing all of TenantB to use the services from TenantA but only A1_EPG is providing the service.

So, for TenantA

Tenants > TenantA >> Application Profiles > A1_AP > Application EPGs > A1_EPG > Contracts >+ Add Provided Contract

  • A1EPG.Services_Ct

But, for TenantB

Tenants > TenantB >> Networking > VRFs > B1_VRF > EPG Collection for VRF

  • [+] Consumed Contracts
    • A1EPG.Services_Ct

That concludes the required configuration. You are ready to test.

You should find that:

  • All servers in both EPGs for TenantB can access the servers in TenantA’s A1_EPG, but nothing from A2_EPG even though A1_EPG and A2_EPG servers are on the same subnet.
    • This is the key finding – you have used ACI features to implement additional control above and beyond what can be achieved by using a firewall alone.
  • TenantA’s EPGs can’t communicate until you configure another contract to allow them to communicate.
  • TenantB’s EPGs can’t communicate until you configure another contract to allow them to communicate.


The whole point of this post is to show that you can easily use ACI features to implement additional control above and beyond what can be achieved by using a firewall alone.

Don’t just blindly force all traffic through a firewall without thinking about what traffic actually needs to be firewalled – you’ll reduce the load on the firewall and give yourself access to easier fine tuning in the future.



Posted in ACI, ACI Tutorial, Cisco, configuration tutorial, Data Center, Data Centre | Comments Off on Making the most of ACI when routing between tenants via a Firewall

ACI Version mismatch Alert. Don’t use v5 on APIC and v14 on Leaves

No Problem

First of all – if you follow best practices, THERE IS NO PROBLEM

This problem I am about to describe is NOT a deficiency in the Cisco software, just an incompatibility between versions that you might not notice.

The Problem

If you are stuck with some first-generation switches in your ACI fabric, you might be tempted to upgrade your APIC to version 5.x – maybe even attempt to upgrade your leaf switches to the companion v15.x.

But of course, the first-generation switches (that DON’T have a -EX or -FX or -FX2  at the end of the model number) don’t support version 15.x firmware. But you knew that already from reading the release notes right!

Now if you DO decide to ignore my advice, then most things may well continue as normal. But I accidentally discovered a corner case that turns a filter based on port 22 into a filter based on unspecified. (=all traffic)

So, any contract that has a filter based on port 22, when pushed to the switches is transformed into a filter on unspecified. I.E. ALL TRAFFIC.

Now let me clarify “when pushed to the switches

Any EXISTING contracts and filters (for port 22) for existing stable EPGs will continue to work.

But if you create a filter for port 22 and use it or provide/consume a contract to an EPG using a filter on port 22, or create a new attachment on a 1st gen switch that causes policy for the filter to be pushed, this is what will happen!

Let’s say you create a filter called MgmtServices_Fltr and add two entries. One for port 22 and one for port 23 (Destination ports of course)

Note that the GUI show ssh rather than port 22 which you entered when you created the filter.  This fact is indeed the crux of the problem.

Now say you create a contract called MgmtServices_Ct, and allocate the MgmtServices_Fltr, to the contract.

Have the contract Provided/Consumed by two EPGs that have endpoints on one of your 1st gen switches.

Check out the MgmtServices_Fltr, in the object browser to learn the fwdId value (you’ll need this later)

Now check the entries of the filter with the ID you just determined on the Gen1 switch.

apic1# fabric 2201 show zoning-filter filter 161
 Node 2201 (Leaf2201)
| FilterId |  Name | EtherT |    ArpOpc   | Prot | ApplyToFrag | Stateful |  SFromPort  |   SToPort   |  DFromPort  |   DToPort   |  Prio |   Icmpv4T   |   Icmpv6T   | TcpRules |
|   161    | 161_1 |   ip   | unspecified | tcp  |      no     |   yes    | unspecified | unspecified | unspecified | unspecified | proto | unspecified | unspecified |          |
|   161    | 161_0 |   ip   | unspecified | tcp  |      no     |   yes    | unspecified | unspecified |      23     |      23     | dport | unspecified | unspecified |          |

WOW – your port 22 filter has been magically transformed to allow all traffic!

So what’s going on?

To understand what the problem is, you’ll need to look at one the changes made to the APIC GUI between v4 and v5.  It’s not listed in the Release Notes (although given the consequences, it should be.)

Start with a visit to and check out the details for the object vz:Entry for APIC version 4.2. Or just trust that I have it right below.

Then check out the same thing for v5.x (Note: At the time of writing, the v5.0(1) Model did NOT reflect what I found on a real APIC, as shown below from v5.0(2h) – so the change may have come between v5.0(1) and v5.0(2))

I think you can spot the difference. I’ve made it pretty obvious.

What you may not have realised is that when the filter information gets pushed to the leaves, it is the textual Constant value (i.e., the ssh) that gets pushed in the filter, rather than the numeric value (stupid idea in my opinion, but I didn’t write the code so my opinion doesn’t count)

When the switches still running v14 (the switch equivalent of APIC v4) code see the textual ssh, they look up the list of constants from the first list above and don’t find it, so use the default instead.


This is a bad thing. This will happen again if there is ever another port added to the list of constants. Cisco should do something about it.

What should Cisco do?

The way I see it, Cisco should do both of these things to avoid further problems in the future.

  1. Have the APIC always send filters as port numbers. Why it is any different I’ll never understand.
  2. Not have the default as unspecified(0) – instead make it 65535 – at least that would change the filter to allow only one port through.

Side Issue

I first discussed this in a Facebook post where Daniel Pita picked up an error in the GUI related to this change (and had it filed as bug CSCvv49124 – visible only to internals).  If you try to edit the filter later in the filter view, you see red boxes around the letters SSH, and if you try to edit it and select SSH from the drop down, it won’t let you!

So, I hope I save someone from grief with this post, and maybe even spur Cisco on to improving their code.


And thanks to Daniel for his help. You should check his blog

Posted in ACI, Cisco, Data Center, Data Centre | Comments Off on ACI Version mismatch Alert. Don’t use v5 on APIC and v14 on Leaves

Protected: You won’t beleive how secure Cisco is!

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Posted in Cisco, rant | Comments Off on Protected: You won’t beleive how secure Cisco is!

RedNectar’s Guide for writing Exam Questions

I feel your pain. You are sitting another [insert name of favourite vendor here] exam, and you come across a question that is just not written clearly, where the examiner has not made the question clear.

And so, you begin the test of trying to telepathically communicate with the examiner to guess his/her intent when writing the question.

I also feel for the examiner, writing evaluation questions is a tricky process.

If you ever need to write exam questions, please at least follow these seven simple rules which should make life much better for the poor candidate when they sit your exam. Here they are:

  1. NEVER ask a question in the negative. E.g. NEVER ask “Which of the following does not apply”. Instead, ask “Which of the following do apply?” (Choose four [assuming 5 options]).  You are NOT trying to judge a person’s
  2. If practical, put a story around the question. See my examples below.
  3. In general, ask a question rather than “Do an action”.
  4. If some distractors are partially correct, make sure you include an instruction to “Choose the best answer”.  Often this is stated in an overall statement at the beginning of an exam, but adding it to any question never hurts.
  5. [This is the hardest one]. Have good distractors, items that sound reasonable but could never be true, or at least never be true given the wording of the question. But this is tricky, because you don’t want to list items that could be true in a slightly different circumstance.
  6. In general, test only one objective per question when conducting these types of tests. In other words, don’t ask questions that require skills that relate to multiple objectives.
    • Note: This does not exclude those puzzling questions that require the collation of several pieces of information to solve.  But by the same token, there should be a course objective that the question relates to that allows for this.
  7. Every question should be able to be mapped to a learning objective or learning/skills/knowledge criterion.

Here are some questions I wrote for a course I was involved with some time ago for a wholesale service provide, which I have named xxx™.  I’ve put some comments after each in italics.

Q1:      A manager wants to know how signals can be transmitted in both directions on a single fibre.

Which of the following would you use to describe the way light is used by the OLT in the xxx™ network? (Choose two)

    1. Two wavelengths in opposite directions for voice and data
    2. One wavelength for voice
    3. One wavelength for data
    4. One wavelength for video
    5. Two wavelengths in opposite directions for video

This is a straightforward theory question given context by relating it to a particular type of device (Optical Line Terminal) in the given network. Note how all the options seem reasonable to the casual user. For the record, the answer is A & D. There is an argument that this question crept beyond my criteria that you test only one objective per question given that the candidate would need to know the term OLT. However, in the context this would not have been an issue.

Q2:      The [model no] 18 slot shelf as sold by [vendor] can perform many functions.  A supervisor wants to know which of the following technologies are deployed in the xxx™ network using the [model no] 18 slot shelf.

Which answer should you give?

    1. ATM
    2. VDSL2
    3. Ethernet Access Network
    4. GPON
    5. DWDM

Specific knowledge of this piece of equipment was a course objective. Every one of the terms used in the distractors is a common term in the environment, but only option D was relevant to the named piece of equipment.

Q3:      You have been instructed to replace a line card in a [model no] ISAM. The card you have been given is a XXXX-C line card, but the card you have been instructed to replace is a XXXX-A line card.

What action should you take?

    1. Return the line card and request a XXXX-A line card because the XXXX-C line card is incompatible with the XXXX-A.
    2. Replace the XXXX-A line card with the NGLT-C line card following the instructions in the MOP because the XXXX-A line card and XXXX-C line card are interchangeable.
    3. Call the NOC to ask that the XXXX-A parameters be reconfigured for the XXXX-C line card. When instructed by the NOC, replace the XXXX-A line card with the XXXX-C line card following the instructions in the MOP.
    4. Call the NOC to ask for further instructions.

Again, a question aimed at a specific objective that required the candidates to realise that the XXXX-A and XXXX-C line-cards were interchangeable in the given model ISAM. So, the answer is B, and a specific Method Of Procedure (MOP) detailing the process would have been in the candidates required reading.

Q5: You have instructed to replace a fan tray in a [model no] ISAM.

What is the maximum recommended time you can leave the [model no] ISAM running without a fan tray?

    1. 5 minutes
    2. 10 minutes
    3. 15 minutes
    4. The [model no] ISAM has redundant fan trays, one can be removed without penalty.

I tend to avoid questions that require the memorisation of specific numbers without good reason. These candidates for this exam needed to know that they had only a five minute window to replace a fan tray (a reasonably regular occurrence in our harsh climate).


Special thanks to John Hattie who taught me most of this theory back in 1977

Posted in Cisco, rant | Comments Off on RedNectar’s Guide for writing Exam Questions

CPOC Series: Exploring ACI —

CPOC Series: Exploring ACI — The guys at the unofficialguide have put out a series of videos tken during some Cisco’s Proof Of Concept Lab  (CPOC) activities. Cover a lot of interesting topics that you may enjoy.

Recently I had the pleasure to work with the fine folks at the Cisco Proof of Concept labs in Research Triangle Park, NC. Because of the unique times we live in, this normally onsite event was constrained to a virtual event, where we set on WebEx meetings throughout the week and ran through various test […]

CPOC Series: Exploring ACI —
Posted in GNS3 WorkBench | Comments Off on CPOC Series: Exploring ACI —

Zoom Support Warning

This is a courtesy announcement for any followers or vistors about Zoom Support.

Zoom Support is, from the evidence so far, non-existent

I think the following screen shot explains the situation.

Now this is a paid account, and my initial request was reasonably simple I believe. Here it is verbatum:

I am new to zoom – I tried the free version and was delighted to see that when I choose “Share Screen” I could choose “Desktop 1”, “Desktop 2” or “Desktop 3” – something WebEx could NOT do. So I convinced my boss to let me use Zoom for my next training session comming up. Now I’m pracicing for my training session using the Business account and I no longer have the “Desktop 1”, “Desktop 2” or “Desktop 3” options when I go to share screen – ONLY applications (see screenshot). Nor do I see (as shown in the option to share “portion of screen” in Advanced options – not that this is important but I DO need to share one of my desktops.

So how do I get the “Share Desktop” option to appear – what option have I changed? How do I turn if back on?

And the accompanying screenshot of course:

It is seventeen [Edit 2020.06.25 twenty-seven] days since I submitted my support question (which I sumitted as High priority), and although I’ve had several emails telling me I can cancel my support request if I’ve already solved the problem myself, and although I can see that some activity was recorded two days ago (another stupid email was sent), no-body has bothered to actually answer the question. You’ll notice that a couple of days later I followed with the same question – this time marked as Urgent. Here is how Zoom defines question priority:

Low- How to, feedback or request for features; Normal- Billing, technical or quality issues; High- Service is degraded or feature is unavailable, some workarounds; UrgentService is down or feature is unavailable, no workarounds.

Now, to be honest it doesn’t matter. I’ve given up on Zoom. I can’t possibly work with a platform that has such a pathetic support system. And even worse, they don’t even have a community support page – if they did, I suspect my question and many like it would have been answered within hours or less.

So friends, be warned. Zoom has some FANTASTIC features – a far superior platform than Webex Training and Webex Events which I am normally required to use. But a platform without support is useless.

Update: Zoom finally replied with the relatively simple answer to:

So how do I get the “Share Desktop” option to appear – what option have I changed? How do I turn if back on?

It seems that the option to “Disable desktop/screen share for users” applied to the PRESENTER as well – which is pretty stupid in my opinion, I SHOULD be able to disbale this feature for the particpants but not have it affect the presenter.

So friends, here is the timeline:

May 30, 2020 – submit question to Zoom Support
June 1, 2020 – resubmit questionwith high priority
June 20, 2020 – cancel Zoom account – reason “Customer support is POOR”
July 06, 2020 – Zoom Support answered my question

It took 37 days to answer a simple question that would have been answered in a day if Zoom had a Community Forum, like most other vendors.

In other words, my main gripe is not so much that it took so long to answer – I do understand that it was a tough time for them, but the fact that they had not seen fit to allow their valuable user base to lessen their burden by hosting a community page.


Posted in opinion, rant | Comments Off on Zoom Support Warning

Preparation List for using WebEx Training

The Covid #WorkingFromHome phenomenon has forced me to become re-aquainted with the Cisco Webex Training application.  To get the best performance from WebEx Training, I’ve made a list of the shortcomings of the application that I must remember to overcome each time I use this dinosaur.

RedNectar Tip: If you have a choice, use any other Training Delivery program that’s available. Use WebEx Training as a last resort, or as in my case, because your customer insists. In early 2014 I described Webex Training as “an ancient online video collaboration tool”.  The biggest change since 2014 with Webex Training is that it is now 6 years more ancient, so let me get to my list.

Tip #0: Run Webex Teams in parallel

Although Webex Teams shares branding with Webex Training, it as a FAR superior product than Webex Training except for one important area – real-time sharing.  You can’t share your screen when more than one person is in the meeting, and voice/video quality sucks on Webex Teams, so you need to use the Training app for that.

However, it has a far better whiteboard than Webex Training, an infinitely superior chat session, and Webex Teams provides a convenint and easy way to share other content like files as well. What’s more, the space says around between sessions and after the training is finished so you can continue with follow up questions if required.

Webex Teams Setup Tips

Log into Webex Teams and create a Webex Teams Space.  I use a convention of Course name followed by the training dates as the name of the Space.  Add the Eurl bot at the same time.

Don’t add any real people here – there are a far easier ways as you will soon see.

The Eurl bot should reply with a message like:

Only users in the can join this space using

So the first thing to do is to tell Eurl to allow outside addresses using the @mention like this:

Tip: When you type @Eurl – make sure you select the Eurl graphic so the @Eurl changes to Eurl as seen in the graphic below.

@Eurl internal off

Now get a QR code so you can display it on a welcome screen. Use the @mention @Eurl qr

Great. Now you have to get the participants into your space.  If you don’t have email address, you could display the QR code and link on the meeting start page.

But if you do have the particpants email, you of could email them the link, but there is an even better (although slightly big-brotehrish) way.  If you have a list of email addresses, you can add them by pasting them in to a dialogue or uploading a CSV file using Webex Teams Power Pack. Just click the Invite option and you are away.

You do have to get the email address list into shape by either saving them as a .csv and uploading it, or simly pasting in a list with commas separating the email addresses.

That’s taken care of the Webex Teams part, but I’ll come back to it during the Webex Training setup.

Webex Training Setup Tips

Tip #1: Use multiple monitors

At least two. One to share with students and one to have your mail and other stuff you might want to do.

Tip #2: Plan to share your Primary Monitor

Ideally of course you’d want your secondary monitor to be the one shared because typically system messages appear on the primary monitor so your students will see every notification that pops up, which I feel is a) distracting, and b) not-professional.

However, one of the FEATURES of Webex Training is that you can only share your primary monitor (on macOS anyway), so plan your presentations to sit on your primary monitor.  How foolish and embarrassing it was for me to think otherwise.

Tip #3: Run a non-default browser

On that screen that you plan to share, load up a browser window in case you wish to share some information in a browser. I use Canary, which is the Alpha build of the next Chrome browser. You might prefer Edge or Firefox.

A big advantage of this is if you display a webpage with a countdown timer like I do during breaks, it prevents wierd things appearing on the participant view when you open that email and click on the latest Dan Murphy’s beer special. How embarrasing to have it open on the participant’s screen as it would if you’d used your default browser.

I keep Canary completely free of plugins, bookmarks etc so no personal information that might be displayed in your everyday browser is seen. Like my bookmarks to those websites nobody wants to see. Makes a very professional look.

Tip #4: Prepare meeting preferences/templates

Log in to the Webex Training site and go to Webex Training > Host a Session > Schedule Training. Assuming you are starting with the [Webex Training Default] template, make the following changes and save the template.

Session and Access Information

Topic: The Topic will be saved in the template, but you will probably want to change it for every session, so make it something generic that won’t embarrass anyone. [Note to Chris – DON’T put the customer’s name in the Topic]

Password: It is likely your participants will have to type in the password, so make it easy to type. The reason participants will need to type in the password is because if they use their browser’s auto-fill to enter their email at the sart of the session, the password (pre-filled from the link supplied) will get over-written.

Important: Clear the [ ] Automatically delete session after it ends.   That way, if you have the misfortune to accidently end the session before you are finished (and this can happpen easily) you will still have the meeting in the schedule and you can-restart it.

Audio Conference Settings

Select Conference Type: Make sure this is set to Webex Audio and the [x] Mute attendees upon entry is set. It is NOT set by default.

Entry and exit tone: Use the drop-down menu to change this to No Tone

Date and Time

Only the Time zone and Estimated duration are saved in the template. Don’t waste your time setting up templates for single-session classes, Recurring etc. IT WON’T GET SAVED.

WebexSchedule Template1


Don’t touch any of these options. If you think that clicking Customize form is going to lead you anywhere useful where you might be able to create a customised webpage with logos etc – save yourself the trouble. Don’t click.


Again, don’t waste time trying to add attendees here, there is NO facility to say paste a list of names or import a CSV. If you try this option, you will have a LOT of typing to do. Far easier to find the Meeting Link (not that that is easy) and eMail the attendees from your regular Mail application.


Another rabbit-hole time-waster. You can’t invite presenters unless they have a Webex Training account. In my case, we instructors have to share accounts, so this is useless.

Session Options: IMPORTANT

Edit the available features to exclude the Chat function. I include ONLY the following:

Don’t bother with the Destination address (URL) after session, like so much of Webex Training – it SIMPLY DOESN’T WORK. If you put something in there, you will get the following message when you try to schedule a meeting using this template:


Tip #5: Do EVERYTHING on your iPad/tablet [Optional]

This ties in with sharing your primary monitor. I use an app called Reflections to mirror my iPad to my primary screen, and bingo what people see is my iPad screen. If you use a touch-screen computer, this may not be so relevent.

Ideally, you should be able to swap between iPad/tablet and PC in a single session – but for that you’d need a modern application – decidedly NOT Webex Training. So, like my 2014 artice, I suggest using your iPad/tablet for the best results because it will allow you to DRAW using a pencil or stylus.

For me, I present all my Power Point slides from my iPad (so I can draw on them) and use an application called Concepts for a whiteboard, although MS Whiteboard is a pretty good 2nd best. However using a 3rd party whitebaord means you loose the one big advantage of using Webex Teams whiteboard which is that you can save the whiteboard right into the Webex teams chat. To do the same using a 3rd party app requires a bit of manipulation.

Tip #6: Stay Calm

One day Cisco may actually realise there is a need to create a decent online training delivery program and build it.

Until then, happy Webex-ing


Posted in GNS3 WorkBench | Tagged | Comments Off on Preparation List for using WebEx Training