Here is a post from Ray Davidson on his 4th year doing Shmoocon Labs! Thanks Ray! Make sure to check @RayDavidson on twitter! I personally had a great time getting to know Ray a bit better during the con! He good peeps! You should too!
How I Spent my ShmooCon Labs Vacation by Ray Davidson
This was my 4th year at ShmooCon, and my 4th year in labs. If I had to choose, I think I would give up the formal talks for the ability to work more in labs; it’s way cool. I do labs for (at least) two reasons.
First, I always learn stuff. As it happens, I have a bunch of theoretical knowledge (degrees and certs), some of which is probably true, but that just makes me a paper tiger. There is simply nothing like the real life exercise of putting together a real network, on a short deadline, for a demanding clientele. And there is nothing more demanding than a security conference with a reputation to uphold.
Second, I do it for the experience of community. It is reminiscent of community theater – a bunch of people, many of whom don’t know each other personally, come together with a fairly focussed purpose, a venue and a drop-deadline, and basically “make it up as they go along” – using the collective talent to “put on a show”. There is nothing like the feeling when the overture starts, the curtain goes up, and it’s “magic time” again….<cue the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner theme>
ShmooCon Labs has a crew of a few dozen folks, self-divided into teams. We try to start out with fairly evenly divided teams, but depending on what goes well and what doesn’t, people shift to address needs and their interests. In my case, I’m interested in the entire range of the OSI model, from electrical pulses and frequency waves, to packets and frames, to the crazy people at the upper levels and the apps they use. In the past I’ve worked on upper layers – network monitoring and visualization – so this year I decided to get back to basics and work with the routing and switching team.
My labs experience actually started Wednesday night – 7 of us walked to Buca di Beppo for dinner and because the restaurant wasn’t too crowded, we had dinner in the Pope room. I know there exists a video with comments from the attendees; (ed. note: if you guys really want the video say so in the comments) perhaps it will be linked from this post… We had a great time, “partying with the Pope”.
The next morning we assembled the various teams in the NOC-to-be. The routing/switching team leader was Matt Hum, from Enterasys. He brought a pallet load of Enterasys equipment to be configured and distributed throughout the venue. We had a network architecture from previous cons, including VLAN specs, but we also had more equipment than previous years, so we were able to distribute switches more widely. It was quite an impressive stack of equipment – 2-1U 48 port switches for the core, 2-48 port stackable switches for the distribution layer, 5-24 port switches to split between distribution and edge layer, and a dozen stackable 12 port switches for the edge. The 12 ports were particularly sweet; 1U high and half rack wide, with POE. I know several of us were looking at them with SOHO/home lab use in mind.
Matt did us all a favor by creating the skeleton of a generic .config file for the switches. Enterasys configuration commands are somewhat different from IOS, and Matt was good at pointing out the differences (along with suggestions of how Enterasys had advantages). Our team was under the gun, too, since the other teams were dependent on physical wiring and VLAN/switch configs before they could really get their operations running. Fortunately we were able to get the NOC wired and configured earlier than usual, and things were running smoothly on that front by afternoon, so no one had to stay late at night.
We did learn a lesson – complex passwords are really important, but not *too* complex. There is a happy medium. We had a bit of a scramble on Thursday morning to get things set in the ballrooms for the initial presentations. It was a long run of cat 5 down the hallway to the ballrooms, and we were short on gaff tape and time. And with the new ShmooBall configuration, the 12 port switch in each ballroom was completely full. We did manage to get all the switches wired, taped and configured. In the process, we discovered that those little 12 port switches can not only supply POE to access points, but they can also *run* on POE. Probably not recommended, but it was confusing for a while, and amusing when we figured out what was going on.
To sum up, I had a great time, and I hope to be able to do Labs again next year. I learned more this year than previous years – sobriety probably helps – and I appreciate all the teaching form Matt and Ric F. and everyone else that shared information and community. Can’t wait to see my friends again next year!
Thanks again Ray! Please let me know what you though of Ray’s writeup in the comments! Be nice!