Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Exam Day

Back in August 2009, I managed to book a lab exam seat in Sydney on 20th November 2009 when someone dropped the booking last minute. I paid for the CCIE exam fee (USD1400 excluding VAT) on the spot. Time flies and 3 months had been fully utilized for final preparation and I was pretty confident for my first attempt.

My flight to Sydney was on 18th November at 10:40PM, and I reached Sydney airport on 19th November at 9:30AM. I took CityRail to the Central Station which is located just a few stops away, that costed me AUD15.60. The hotel which I stayed is Sebel Surry Hills, situated nearby Central Station. The hotel check-in time is 2PM, so I still had plenty of time to hang out before I can settle down. After I left my luggage at the hotel, I went back to the Central Station to take a train ride to St. Leonards station, which is where the lab exam center is, that costed me AUD3.40.

Since I couldn't sleep during the flight to Sydney, I was pretty tired. I had an early dinner at the Sussex Center's food court at Chinatown, it was just like 15 minutes of walking distance from the hotel, pretty convenient. After I returned to the hotel, took a hot shower, I felt really exhausted. I intended to go through the notes before I goto bed but I couldn't help and fell asleep as early as 8:30PM. It's actually a good news. Most people fail to sleep early the night before the exam, and that'll affect the performance on the exam day.

I had a total of 8.5 hours of sleep and woke up at 5AM. My mind was so fresh that I can remember every single thing I've studied. I headed down to the hotel restaurant to have a hearty breakfast at 6AM till 6:30AM. I left the hotel at 6:45AM and walked towards Central Station to catch a train to St. Leonards. The journey was predictable as I've done my homework the day before. I reached Cisco's office at 7:15AM and nobody was there yet. I waited till 7:25AM and the first person I met was the famous proctor - Scott Anderson. He opened the door and asked me to wait at the reception area.

At around 7:50AM, the other CCIE candidate (Voice track) arrived. Scott briefed us about the dos and don'ts for about 10 minutes. Most of the things were expected as I've been asking around and surfing forums to find as much information as possible regarding the lab exam. Two pieces of paper, pencils and color pencils were given.

The lab exam started at 8:10AM. I spent about 15 minutes reading the whole set of questions. I drew a simple table on the given A4 paper with the first column indicating the task number, second column indicating the remarks and the third column indicating whether the task is completed. The first four sections (L2, IGP, BGP and MPLS) took me 2.5 hours to complete. Then here comes the core section of the whole lab which is the VPN. Another 1.5 hour flew, lunch time was approaching and I was basically done with the VPN section, except for a subsection. I didn't have the time to reboot my routers right before the lunch break, but that was OK as I would prefer to reboot it only after I'm done with the whole lab.

A food menu was given before the exam started, and I chose Smoked Chicken Sandwich and Apple Juice for the lunch. I didn't have much appetite during the lunch break, and I couldn't finish the sandwich. As soon as we're done with the 20 minutes lunch break, we're back to the lab by 12:30PM. So the proctor told us we have 4 more hours to go. I spent about 15 minutes on the left over VPN subsection. As soon as I'm done I proceeded with the remaining sections (QoS, Security and Services). By 2:30PM, I was done with all the questions, except with a few doubts on multiple subsections.

Overall I feel the information given in certain questions are not sufficient. This might lead to multiple methods to answer the question. It's rather easy to interpret the questions wrongly, so it's best to clarify with the proctor. But please do not expect the proctor to help you. He or she might or might not even answer your questions. I struggled with a few questions by doing my own assumptions, that was a very tough decision and I shouldn't spend too much time thinking about it.

The remaining 2 hours were just enough for me to reboot all the 9 routers and thoroughly verify the result. Ping, traceroute and those necessary "show" commands were heavily used throughout the verification process. I had to make sure all my routers are working perfectly fine after a reboot. Also, ensure that all the required interfaces are up after you shut it down for testing purpose. By 4:30PM we were asked to stop working on the configurations. I left the lab by leaving all the equipments in privilege mode.

I took the train back to hotel with a blank mind. I thought could have felt more relief after the exam but I was wrong. If my answers for those few unsure questions are wrong, I could easily fail this lab exam. The more I thought, the more down I felt. I then checked my email at around 5:30PM but no news from Cisco yet. Instead of waiting in front of the laptop, I headed towards Sydney CBD for a walk. I took the opportunity to visit the Apple Store which is located along the George St., after the Queen Victoria Building. I reached the Apple Store around 7PM and I found out there were lots of people using the free internet over there with Macbook/iMac. I too found a vacant and quickly open up the browser and start checking email. This round there's an email from Cisco stating that my lab score report is ready. I clicked on the URL inside the email and logged in using necessary information. My heart was pounding extremely fast as the result page was loading half way. And at last...I saw the word "PASS" appearing on the screen, including the CCIE number assigned to me, which is #25728.

Screen capture of CCIE Verification Tool

That was the golden moment in my life! It's hard to describe how I felt with words as there're really not many people in this world could pass this exam in single attempt. With the amount of effort I've put in, I think it's really worth the reward. It's as if a new life has just begun, as this certification allows me to achieve a big leap in my career. One week has past, I still feel great and can't believe what I've achieved...I now can do the things which I've always wanted to do before this, and also buy the things I've always wanted to buy before this. It's time to enjoy for awhile before I start my new journey with Juniper certification...


CCIE #25728

Hey guys! OMG, before I make any announcement, let me apologize for not updating my blog for 5 months and 20 days. The reason being I'd been so busy with my CCIE lab exam preparation like there's no tomorrow. After suffering for more than 365 days, finally I've PASSED the exam last Friday at Cisco Sydney's lab exam center in single attempt! My CCIE number is #25728. This number will be tied to my name forever.

FYI, CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) is the highest level of technical networking certification offered by Cisco. According to Cisco's statistics, there are a total of 20782 of CCIEs worldwide since 16 years ago, as per update on 26th October 2009. I should be the 105th Malaysian CCIE, and one of the less-than-ten-people specializing in Service Provider track. The statistics are frequently being updated here.

Below is a long list of people I would like to especially thank for helping and inspiring me throughout the CCIE journey:
- Father, mother, sister and brother
- Girl friend, Kim Yew (You're the best dear!)
- Best friend and his wife, Alvin and Any
- Joseph Goh (CCIE R&S/SP/Security/Voice, JNCIE) from Cisco AS
- Brian Ng (CCIE R&S) from GK
- Goldman Lee (CCIE R&S/SP/Security) from GK
- Ruby from GK
- Loi (CCIE R&S/SP), Edward (CCIE SP), Ethan (CCIE R&S) and Muzamil from Cisco
- Aizudin, my manager
- Mohan (CCIE R&S), my team leader
- Chong, my buddy/colleague
- All my colleagues
- Hann Yong (CCIE Voice), my ex-colleague
- And many more...

The journey was extremely rough, with more than 1000 hours of lab practices, several hundred hours of reading and thinking. Without their help and motivation, I might not be able to pass this 8-hour killer lab exam, especially in first attempt. I'll be documenting the process of my studies, hopefully can help some of the CCIE candidates.

Ever since I knew the result of my exam last Friday night, I felt so much relief and had never feel so great before. It's one of the biggest achievement in my life. I extended my stay in Sydney over the weekend till Monday. I had 2.5 days to explore this wonderful city. Sorry guys, no DSLR for this trip, only depending on Fujifilm F11, Gorillapod and iPhone's camera.

Below is the marvellous view of Sydney CBD from the CCIE lab exam center situated at St. Leonards.

Sydney Harbor Bridge captured from Sydney Opera House


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Headlamp Restoration

The headlamps of my gf's Atoz is getting hazier and hazier. Not to mention it reduces the efficiency (due to light scattering and absorption), it also makes the car damn ugly. Here is how the headlamp looks like before the restoration:

Upon closer inspection, the surface of the lens has thousands of micro-cracks. The above photo shows how hazy it was (*puke*). This is beyond compounding's job. So I had to resort to wet sanding. My buddy (Thanks Alvin!) gave me 3 sheets of sandpaper (1000, 1500 and 2000 grit) for me to try out.

Below are the tools I used for this exercise:
- Makita 9227
- Wolly wool pad
- Meguiar's W8006 Polishing Pad
- 1000 and 2000 grit sandpaper
- M85 Diamond Cut Compound
- M83 Dual Action Cleaner/Polish
- 300W halogen light

Since the micro-cracks are pretty dense and deep, it took me quite some time to level the lens' surface by wet sanding. I started out with 1000 grit, and finished off with 2000 grit. This is to ensure that at later stage I won't face sanding mark problem. Here's how it looks like after wet sanding:

Once I was done with wet sanding, I brought the gloss back with M85 (old school yeah). Though the lens looks way better now, but the combination of M85 and wool pad left some heavy buffer swirls. This was easily fixed by M83 with polishing pad.

Check out the result!


Friday, May 22, 2009

(*) Specktacular!

The iPod Touch is more useful than I could ever imagine. Now I can read my Cisco eBooks on it wherever/whenever I am, surf web wherever there is WiFi, enjoy YouTube videos and much more without having to lug my heavy laptop along. Jailbreaking it will even further unlock more features.

Exterior build is high in quality and more than 95% of the surface area is glossy. This could also mean that it's so easily scratched if you're not careful with it. Also, it is impossible to keep it 100% fingerprint-free. I don't feel easy when the iPod is being used 'nakedly'.

So I Google up to find out which is the highly recommended protection case for the iPod and it turned out to be the Speck PixelSkin.

Several reasons why I choose this over other brands/designs:

- Silicon material prevents scratching the iPod
- Protects from bumps and scratches
- Snug fit
- Improves grip
- Funky design

I opt for the black color so it will look virtually clean all the time. It also comes in other colors such as Blueberry Blue, Sherbet Pink, Huckelberry Purple, Marshmallow White, Spearmint Green and Corncob Yellow. I also bought Capdase ScreenGuard (Crystal Clear) along with the Speck PixelSkin from Machines at Mid Valley. Overall I'm very pleased with the purchase.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thank You Cisco

Cisco organized an event today held at Nikko Hotel with a theme of "Cisco Data Center of the Future". Featuring the latest data center virtualization concept using a combination of Cisco, VMWare and EMC products. It's amazing to see how LAN and SAN are merged with the Cisco NEXUS while at the same time providing virtualization and automation services via Unified Fabric. The technology behind this concept is made possible by FCoE (Fiber Channel over Ethernet) on top of CNA (Converged Network Adapters). Very soon in future we'll be seeing more and more data centers going towards this virtualization technology to save space, power, cost and improve efficiencies of network.

While it's great to meet the key speaker: Damian Ryan (Regional Director for Cisco Data Center Asia) and Sal Fernando (Chief Architect of EMC South Asia); The best thing I have today is I WON AN APPLE iPOD TOUCH 8GB from the lucky draw at the end of the event! I LOVE it! Thank you Cisco!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Powered by Core i7

After spending 1.5 month to practice on the InternetworkExpert Service Provider Volume 1 workbook, I've suffered enough of sluggish response of the emulated routers on both my company laptop and desktop. For Volume 1, the maximum number of routers required is 10; Volume 2 simulates the actual CCIE SP lab, so it requires 14 units of emulated routers (R1-R9, CellModeATM, BB1, BB2, BB3 and TermServ).

Just 3 days ago I've started practicing on the 1st lab of the Volume 2 via multiserver Dynamips and this causes both the C2D 2.13GHz and DuoCore 1.73GHz's CPU utilization to shoot up to 100% fulltime. This triggered me to go ahead and upgrade my system. Here's what I bought yesterday:

Intel Core i7 920 2.66GHz
Intel DX58SO Motherboard
Corsair 6GB DDR3 1333MHz XMS3
Cooler Master 550W Power Supply

Unfortunately, WinXP can only support up to 4GB of memory allocation, and under the System Properties, it shows only 3.23GB of RAM with Physical Address Extension activated.

The next thing I did after setting up the PC was to load the full lab topology. I'm extremely pleased with the performance as the CPU utilization is only 14% with 14 routers up and running without any configurations. With all the common SP services (OSPF, BGP, MPLS VPN, MPLS TE, etc) turned on, the load increased to an average of 17% only. Ping response time improved from more than 1 second to less than 40ms, which is acting almost like a real life router!

Perhaps this upgrade is one of the most well spent toy (or rather tool) besides my Makita 9227C and EOS5D. Hope this tool helps to speed up my lab practice and head for the exam before the 4th quarter of this year.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Barry's Visit to the Meguiar's Detail Center

It was the 3rd and also the last day before Barry flew back to the States. We had a Friday night party at Meguiar's Detail Center along Jalan Templer and Barry dropped by for a visit and press interview. Here are the pics...

Forum Thread


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Barry Meguiar & I

More than 10 years ago when I first started using Meguiar's products (which was the Cleaner/Wax and Clear Coat Body Scrub), I always see Barry Meguiar's photos and videos over the Internet. He's such a wonderful person and I would consider him the father of detailing. He might not need to be an expert in machine polishing like Mike Pennington or Mike Phillips, but his experience is more than enough for him to handle Meguiar's Inc. When he was giving a speech during the dinner, I can feel how passionate he is in managing Meguiar's. Seriously, nothing beats meeting the real person who is "As Seen on TV". Here is a priceless "souvenier" he left for me. I guess it's my first time posting my own photo, except for that tiny blog avatar. :-)