The Telecommunications Engineer’s Toolkit

With a title like the one above, this post could go in several different directions. For the purposes of this entry I am talking about a physical toolkit i.e. all of those handy telecommunications tools that make the nuances of any voice install; analog, digital or yes even IP more productive.

“But Justin,” you may say “I use the web to log into CUCM and I ssh into my voice gateways, I have a laptop and a console cable, what other tools do I need?”

I’ve softened to the question above in recent years. Rather than just reaching through my screen and slapping the crap out of the reader, I simply shake my head in disappointment…Really?

I get that with the ever increasing prevalence of ITSPs and advancements in faxing and other legacy voice related appendages that there may in fact be an entire crop of telecommunications engineers that think that a laptop and console cable are really the only tools that they need, but I respectfully beg to differ. Can your laptop help you get to the bottom of the now infamous “Ethernet Disconnected” message on a Cisco phone? Can it help you put an RJ11 end on a piece of silver satin if you need a backup POTS line into your voice gateway? Can it help you tone out mysterious devices/circuits/gremlins when migrating from a legacy system to an IP solution? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I think I want to buy your laptop, if you answered no, you need tools.

My toolkit is more basic than some and far more advanced than others, here is a list of what it currently includes…

  1. Multi-bit ratcheting driver (I carry a power driver as well, but batteries are often fickle).
  2. Punch down tool with both 66 and 110 block blades.
  3. Crimping tool for putting on RJ11 and RJ45/48 ends (mine also does coax, but that doesn’t usually come into play).
  4. Outer sheath cutter for CAT5E/6 cable.
  5. Lineman’s scissors
  6. RJ45 and RJ11 male ends
  7. Telecom Butt-Set w/ Banjo
  8. Toner
  9. RJ45 and RJ11 cable tester (mine includes remote plugs for port identification which have proven to be really handy).
  10. T1 Loopback plug
  11. Bulk Cat6 cable (just enough to make a few patch cables, no need to lug a box of cable everywhere you go).
  12. Label Maker

I keep a few other miscellaneous things in my bag but the above items go where I go.  I may not use all of my tools on every job, but more times than not I’ve went to a job thinking I wouldn’t need them and I’ve ended up using them. If your employer provides these tools for you, that is great, I have my own because as I said before…they go where I go.

What do you carry in your toolkit? Have something that you love that you think I should add? Want more information? Leave your feedback below!

-Justin

 

 

 

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Prepping for My First Crack at the CCIE Collaboration Lab Exam

Well its finally here… On 4/26 I’ll sit for my first crack at the CCIE Collaboration Lab Exam in RTP.

I am excited and nervous but more than anything ready to get in there and do it!

After last week’s final (so far) demise of IP Expert, which I had rack rental tokens with, I was forced to shell out some cash for time on the INE racks. I don’t mind the INE racks but I seriously believe that had they stayed in business, the ProctorLabs (IP Expert rack rentals) would have been much better.

My home lab setup while better than some was not nearly verbose enough to allow to me study and prepare the way I wanted to. I could have probably built something at work to do the job, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have been given this week for nothing but prepping and going into the office just sounded like a bad idea. INE allows for a L2VPN connection to their equipment which allows me to use my own phones and thus get the “touchy feely” prep for the lab as well as the technical practice.

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With regards to the technical practice, I found a supposed lab scrape on a forum (don’t ask I don’t remember which one) and I have materials from when I attended an IP Expert CCIE Collaboration Lab 10 day boot camp last December. The IPs are different but the technology is the same.

As an engineer that’s been working in the Cisco AVVID space for 12+ years now, I’ve developed some bad habits and while it has been painful, I think my lab prep and study have helped me break at least some of them. For those in the same position, my best advice is below…

  1. Read. Don’t assume you know because you’ve seen it all before, just read.
  2. Think on your feet. Because you may have seen it all before (see point 1) you probably can figure out what just about anything the exam throws at you.
  3. Do you play the points vs. finishing game?  No idea. I’ll let you know after 4/26.

I guess I’m not truly sure how long 8 hours is, but I hope I can at least make a decent showing. My confidence right now after a week of prep is high but we’ll see what stepping into the exam room on Tuesday does to me.

Wish me luck!

-Justin