Tom, I am interested in changing careers and want to get into the IT world. I have a Bachelor’s degree in another area and am wondering if a Bachelor’s degree in IT/IS is needed. What are your thoughts?
Sincerely, Job Changer
Dear Job Changer,
Absolutely not! In fact, many of the best IT professionals you’ll ever meet have no degree at all. The three keys to success in IT are:
Interestingly, these are the same keys to success in any career, IT is simply no different. However, each career has a different balance among these abilities. For example, early in an IT career, it is weighted heavily toward technical abilities. If you later move into management it becomes more weighted toward relational abilities.
So, my recommendation is simple: find the area of IT that interests you the most, that you can be passionate about, and dive in as deep as you can. Certifications, self-study, learning beyond “what is expected” and you will do great!
The final day of training with iBwave was primarily focused on a from scratch design to help ensure understanding of all the topics covered. The exam itself is a practical exam, meaning that you have to create a design and submit it for approval and wait up to seven days to find out if you passed. Oh the stress 🙂
The from scratch design was of a shopping mall that was a moderately small floor plan of about 100 meters in length (well small for a modern shopping mall). The specifications included information about capacity areas, equipment constraints, the number of users and so on. Have a real-world design scenario to wrap up the training was a good way to end it all.
Now that the training is over, I will take the exam in the next couple of days and then write a review of iBwave Wi-Fi and the certification program at the CWNP website.
My final take away from the training, in relation to iBwave Wi-Fi as a design tool is that it has the features and capabilities that most WLAN designers would need. It has some areas for improvement, as all tools do, but is a solid solution for WLAN design.
Just for fun, here’s some RF art courtesy of iBwave Wi-Fi’s propagation modeling:
Look for my post at CWNP.com in the coming weeks to get a more thorough and integrated review of the tool. As we are vendor-neutral at CWNP, it will not make an ultimate recommendation for or against the tool or compare it with other tools, but will give you all the information you need to make a good decision yourself.
My goal is to do the same exercise or similar with other design and Wi-Fi tools so that you can have excellent information to help you make buying and use decisions. As with many tools, you may very well find that you will use one tool for one type of project and another tool for another type (assuming a large budget [smile]).
I am still going through the three-day iBwave Wi-Fi certification training class. It is now day two. Today, we started the class using output maps. iBwave supports the following output map templates, which can all be fully customized:
Maximum achievable data rate
Average downlink data rate
They can all be generated for 2.4 or 5 GHz bands. You can also create a new output map to more specifically meet your needs. In addition, you can run the prediction for an output map, lock it, and then create another one like it, make changes to the plan and run the prediction. This allows you to compare the new results with the locked results – a very good feature.
The following image shows the CCI output map with three APs intentionally set to channel 1 in 2.4 GHz to illustrate the tool. It is important to note that such tools cannot really predict client-generated CCI. They only indicate the CCI that will result in areas from APs that can be seen on the same channel. Some guesswork could be used (possibly based on fancy statistics), but most tools just report on the AP-generated CCI. For my definition of CCI, see my blog post Defining Wi-Fi: CCI.
When creating the capacity map, you can configure several parameters to define the capacity. These include:
Market share (percentage of clients) for 2.4 vs 5 GHz
Percentage of SISO, 2×2 and 3×3 MIMO devices
Usage profiles defining Mbps in the link and throughput in Kbps
Application services including email, online gaming, web browsing and file downloads
Equipment limits (number of clients per AP radio)
The following image shows the Capacity Output map based on one capacity zone in the lower right corner and every other area defined as standard office use.
Data collection was the next topic of the day. Data collection is used to perform either a manual site survey or a validation survey. Like most tools in this category, both active and passive surveys are supported and iBwave Wi-Fi provides a communication server for the active survey.
Once collected, survey data can be used to calibrate modeling for the design as shown in the following image.
An extensive reporting solution is also included to generate all the documentation required by your design ranging from heat maps to bill of materials. The components database is extensive as well and updated regularly.
Tomorrow will be all about the lab. So I will report on the experience there and then you can expect a review blog at CWNP.com within a few days as well.
For the next three days, I am attending a training class with Ricardo Rosa, of iBwave on the iBwave Wi-Fi solution. As a WLAN design tool, it has some very interesting and useful features. During my first day of training, I was exposed to exceptional design features and also noticed some areas for improvement in the application.
First, the key areas requiring improvement are in the terms used throughout the application. Many areas seem to have borrowed terms from the cellular and DAS design world that don’t really fit into WLAN design. For example, for now, the application requires you to say you are connecting to a DAS, just to connect to an external antenna. Additionally, some parts of the interface seem to indicate you can do something (like have different channels for downlink and uplink, which, of course, we don’t do in Wi-Fi). Those aside, some excellent capabilities remain.
As you would expect from any application of this type, iBwave Wi-Fi allows you to start your planning from AutoCAD files with building materials (and even furniture) defined. Once loaded, you can customize the materials for your needs.
When drawing walls and other items, features you would expect are there: snap to corners, delete last point (for those accidental clicks) and so on. A full collection of building materials are provided and the database is open for modification as well.
Today was focused mostly on layout plans and project settings. Importing a floor plan, configuring settings and adding walls for a typical single floor building can all be done in 20-30 minutes once you get the hang of the interface. More time, of course, will be required when you have a multi-floor project or massive square footage with a single or multiple floor project.
Scaling a floor plan using Google Earth KML files is a nice feature when working with large buildings. This is particularly useful if you are not able to go onsite first. I will be using this for a project I’m working on for a local hotel this weekend.
When adding APs, as expected, the easiest way to add them is automatically. I NEVER recommend doing this, but it is a feature. Instead, they should be added individually and configured as appropriate. Now, if you want a quick picture of what is possible, the automatic placement can be useful. But, please, please, remember, you must be the expert. Tweak, tune, rip and replace, do what it takes to build a solid design.
The Design Plan view is a nice added benefit that allows you to see the overall topology of the network in a logical way. It can automatically pull in components that have been placed on floors into appropriate areas. The end result is an excellent topological view of the network design.
So far, without question, the 3D modeling feature is my favorite. The ability to nearly instantaneously truly see in 3D space how RF passes through floors is useful.
That’s about it for day one, I’ll be blogging more about my experience tomorrow. Talk to you then!
Here is another quick tool for this weekend. This tool simply grabs the output from NETSH WLAN SHOW INTERFACE and displays the results in the Windows interface (because you can’t quickly see all this in the Windows GUI). You can change the refresh interval in ms.
If no wireless connection is active, you will see a screen like the following:
When a connection is active, you will see the following:
If you want to have the percentage signal strength converted to dBm, you can use the following formula:
NOTE: Tool has been updated to resolve problems on some systems. (Feb. 13, 2017)
OK. I have a problem with NETSH. It shows signal levels in percentages based on a known algorithm, but gives no option to show dBm levels. Hence, WiFiScan.exe. This little tool will pull the NETSH information in, convert signal strength to show dBm as well (for strengths weaker than -50 and stronger than -100) and show them parenthetically after the percentage info. The command is the same as:
NETSH WLAN SHOW NETWORKS MODE=BSSID
It goes against the default WLAN interface and has no parameters. I may modify it to allow for interface specification, but it serves my purpose for now. By the way, the conversion to dBm follows this logic:
The wifiscan.exe tool should be run while not connected to a WLAN. It will sort of work if you’re connected, but give you an error related to an array. I may fix that when energy returns. Here’s the tool, feel free to download and use at your own risk [smile]:
I mentioned this script an a class recently. I threw it together sometime back. It’s not elegant, but it does what I wanted. It’s actually pretty beautiful when you consider that it was written late one night 🙂
It would need some tweaking to work as a command line script.
Just place it where you want it and then right-click and choose Run with PowerShell to get a listing of discovered networks sorted by channel.
By the way, I was studying two PowerShell concepts at the time: file access and pulling in NETSH information. I had used a method without files, but this was the last one I played with. If you want one without temp files, let me know. I can throw that together and post it too. This is mostly a learning tool for you.
Have fun and let me know if you make some great changes.
Here is a simple batch file that will get information from NETSH without the lengthy commands. No error checking. A little help. But it’s the one I use. I added a menu for those who want interactive use. Copy and past it into a file with a .bat extension and you’re good to go. I name mine wifi.bat. Someone asked for it so I thought I’d share it with the world.
Just run wifi.bat with no params to get help. Run “wifi.bat menu” to see the interactive menu I built just for you!
Have fun, tweak and change all you like.
if [%1]== GOTO HELP
if /I %1==interfaces GOTO SHOWALL
if /I %1==networks GOTO NETWORKS
if /I %1==drivers GOTO DRIVERS
if /I %1==settings GOTO SETTINGS
if /I %1==menu GOTO MENU
netsh wlan show interfaces %1
netsh wlan show networks interface=%2
netsh wlan show drivers interface=%2
netsh wlan show settings
netsh wlan show interfaces
ECHO Choose from the following options:
ECHO I = Show all wireless interfaces
ECHO S = Show general wireless settings
ECHO N = Show wireless networks on default interface
ECHO D = Show drivers on default interface
choice /C ISND /M "Make your selection: "
if %errorlevel%==1 NETSH WLAN SHOW INTERFACES
if %errorlevel%==2 NETSH WLAN SHOW SETTINGS
if %errorlevel%==3 NETSH WLAN SHOW NETWORKS
if %errorlevel%==4 NETSH WLAN SHOW DRIVERS
ECHO NETSH Speedy Interface Script
ECHO This command provides information about Wi-Fi
ECHO interfaces. The proper use is:
ECHO wifi interface_name
ECHO interface_name should be in quotation marks if
ECHO the name has one or more spaces. For example:
ECHO wifi "Wi-Fi 1"
ECHO When interface names are not known, use the
ECHO modifier interfaces without an interface name.
ECHO Other modifier commands may be used to show other
ECHO information. Such commands should precede the
ECHO interface_name parameter. Only one modifier'
ECHO command may be used at a time.
ECHO Possible modifier commands include:
ECHO networks - show networks
ECHO drivers - show drivers
ECHO settings - show general settings
ECHO menu - use an interactive menu
ECHO For example:
ECHO wifi networks "Wi-Fi 1"
ECHO would show the wireless networks seen by that
ECHO Created by Tom Carpenter, 2016
I have been working with various Linux distributions much more these days than in the past. Spending all that time in the shell has flooded the mind with memories of days gone by. When we used to have to know our systems well to properly configure the simple task of booting (config.sys and autoexec.bat), we had to master many technical skills. I am amazed, nearly every day, at how often those old skill still prove valuable to me.
Remember screens like this?
If not, you didn’t work with DOS. If so, you did. If not, don’t distress, you can learn the skills you need to get by in the Windows Command Prompt, PowerShell or the shell in a Linux distribution.
In this post, I’m going to focus on three skills we had to master in the DOS days that are still valuable today. They were:
System Diagnostics with Commands
At the DOS prompt (and still in the Command Prompt or PowerShell in Windows and the shell in Linux) help was always just a simple switch away. For nearly every command or program, you could simply add a /? to the command to find out exactly what the command could do. Those who learned (and still learn) commands this way are always more powerful users or administrators than those who simply learn specific command parameters for specific tasks from books, blogs and articles.
The reason for this reality is simple: when you use the help to see all the command can do, you often learn of uses that others have not demonstrated or used themselves.
Consider the mem command shown earlier from DOS. If you simply typed mem and pressed ENTER, you saw a screen like the following.
Now look at all you learned about the mem command if you used the /? parameter.
I can already hear someone saying, “Wait, Tom. The mem command is not in the Windows Command Prompt anymore. How does this help?” That’s a great question. The answer is that you can find other commands, related to memory, that you can use and use with power when you learn to get help. Consider the tasklist command in Windows.
The following screen shows the output of a basic tasklist command with no parameters:
It is showing every process, regardless of the memory consumed by it. Now, look at the help for the tasklist command using the /? parameter.
Notice that you can do several things to refine the list, particularly in relation to memory usage.
Armed with this information, I can now use the /FI filter parameter to see only tasks consuming more than 15,000 kilobytes of memory with the tasklist /FI “MEMUSAGE gt 15000” command.
As you can see, getting help is key to learning Command Prompt or shell commands. In Linux, you typically use the —help parameter for this. In PowerShell, use the Get-Help cmdlet to accomplish this.
System Diagnostics with Commands
The old DOS prompt gave us several tools for performing system diagnostics. In addition to the mem command, you had commands like checkdsk, ver (both still in the Command Prompt), and undelete (sadly, no longer with us). The Command Prompt is actually far more powerful today in Windows than it ever was in DOS. Dozens of additional commands are available for diagnostics. In addition to tasklist, important commands include:
sc – service management
ipconfig – IP configuration viewing and management
netsh – a plethora of networking functions
systeminfo – viewing information about hardware and software
ftype – working with file associations
This is a very brief starter list. Type help at the Command Prompt (just like in DOS by the way) to see a list of common commands as shown in the following image. Remember to use the /? parameter with them to learn all the details of how they work.
Finally, you can automate the Command Prompt using batch files and PowerShell or the Linux shell using scripts (PowerShell scripts and bash scripts respectively). The batch files work almost entirely the same in the Windows Command Prompt today as they did in DOS 25+ years ago when I used them. Of course, some of the old commands are gone, but the logic and concepts are still the same.
The point of this post is simple. Never discount old knowledge. It continues to benefit you today. In fact, I can say plainly that I passed a certification exam a couple of years ago almost entirely because I knew DOS all those years ago. And, yes, I still have my old DOS books including great books on batch files. Here’s a picture of just one.
And, yes as well, the Disk is still included after all these years 🙂