An open letter to Senator Richard Burr

I sent this to Senator Richard Burr through his website. I am also leaving it here, and will update with his response:

Senator Burr,

First, I want to say Thank You for working on the behalf of North Carolina in our nation’s capital. I recognize that there are hundreds, if not thousands of issues that you are asked to consider on a regular basis, which cannot be easy.

I am contacting you regarding the encryption bill that you are working on with Senator Feinstein. North Carolina is a very tech savvy state. We have major technology companies in almost every tech sector, and now are home to some of the largest and most efficient data centers in the US. There is much to be proud of. With that in mind, I am surprised to see you as one of the advocates of the bill.

I recognize that as the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee you hear from our intelligence services on a regular basis. I am certain the current conversation is heavily geared towards how to deal with the pervasive nature of encryption. Today it is easy for a terrorist organization to have fully encrypted end-to-end communication. I am sure that is incredibly frightening to the intelligence services and their job is a very difficult one. I recognize that every attack on American citizens ultimately creates hundreds of questions like “How did the [insert three letter acronym] not know this was going to happen?” It’s an impossible battle.

I am a network engineer and I have worked in IT for many years. I intimately understand encryption and the basic underpinnings of the internet. I have spent many years protecting my employers networks and systems from outside attack. I understand that ever evolving battle first-hand.

With that said, I am very concerned that you feel that you can force companies to provide backdoor access to devices and communication without affecting every citizen who chooses to use an electronic device. I assume that you have chosen to believe the rhetoric which states that open access can be protected. Otherwise, the only other assumption is that you believe that normal everyday citizens should not have the ability to protect their private, personal information; that corporations should not have the ability to protect their intellectual property.

Assuming that you believe the former; I want you to consider these questions. How long do you expect that backdoor to be kept safe? How long do you think it will take before technical terrorist, both foreign and domestic find and utilize that backdoor?

If the US makes and is granted the demand, what prevents other foreign entities from doing the same? What do you think the economic impact would be for companies when China has a backdoor to every corporate device of every manufacturing company in the US? I have spent eight years of my career working with large international manufacturing companies. I know first hand what the impact of that is. I have watched it with my own eyes. I could argue this particular point, citing experience, but I want to respect your time. If you would like to discuss, I will be happy to do so.

I have one more question I would like to present. How do you expect that forcing backdoor access will actually aid the intelligence services? This is an exercise in futility and escalation. Assume for a moment that the NSA/CIA/FBI has root access to every device. What happens when the user also employs an encrypted communication app which also requires a passcode and does not store data locally? Let’s also suppose that they are always running a VPN or TOR client. Finally, let’s assume that the server the encrypted app on the encrypted phone, communicates to through an encrypted tunnel, lives in a non-friendly foreign state. What good does this legislation then do? The answer is, none. The US cannot compel the foreign server to give it a back door. But, the US, who loves to discuss freedom has created a wide exploit that will then begin to be used for a different type of terrorism and removed every citizens right to privacy with their most personal data.

I am not hurling these questions at a wall to see what sticks. I would like a response. This is a very important discussion to be had without rhetoric and fear-mongering. I can be contacted with the information provided if you would like to further discuss these or other concerns.

With respect,

Jonathan Davis

Cisco Live 2016 is coming and so are the kilts

Forget winter, Cisco Live 2016 is coming, and it is going to be hot! No, I’m not referring to the fact that it is taking place in Las Vegas, NV during July. I am referring to #KiltedMonday.

“What is #KiltedMonday“, you ask? Simple, it’s when people wear kilts to Cisco Live.

“Why would people wear kilts to Cisco Live”, you ask? Because we will be in Las Vegas in July. Kilts are breezy.


Yes, people actually wear kilts to Cisco Live.

No really, Kilted Monday started as a joke on Twitter last year between myself@ucgod, and @wifijanitor. That joke blossomed and bloomed until @CiscoLive picked it up and put us on the Photo Scavenger Hunt.

Now, it seems the joke has grown legs. (See what I did there?)

@DeniseFishburn has ordered her kilt, and @amyengineer and @ScottMorrisCCIE are joining us. Let’s face it…if Denise is doing it, you know it will be fun.

This is your official invite to be part of the cool (and breezy) crowd. 

So, you want to join in, but sadly have found yourself kilt-less. No worries, I ordered mine from I like my kilt, they are well priced, and have great shipping. Plus, with a name like that, how can you resist? (No, I don’t get a commission)

I will suggest that you must! measure yourself per their directions. I had to exchange the first kilt I ordered. Your pants size is not your kilt size.

Also, if you haven’t  already registered, now is a great time to get registered for Cisco Live US 2016. It’s going to be another great year!

Geek Tools Rant: Fluke Networks – AirMagnet

First, if you missed my public apology to Fluke Networks, you should read it. Besides giving some backstory to this post, it’s not very often you will see me eat my words. Wait, nah, that’s not true, I do it all the time.

A quick synopsis. In an event hosted by Fluke, I asked the question “When are you going to release a Mac client?” The response I received struck a nerve, and while I do not remember exactly what was said, it was something like “Why would we ever do that?”

So, this post will lay out the many problems I have with the current version of Fluke Networks solutions for the wireless industry.

The expense – AirMagnet Survey, Spectrum XT, and WiFi Analyzer are expensive products! I realize that they are complicated to build and maintain, but the cost is exceptionally high.

I have spent plenty of money on professional level tools without complaint, and yet every time I spend money on “Yellow and Blue” I can expect to be yelled at by my finance person and bruised by the purchase process.

This is further exacerbated by the fact that many organizations simply won’t spend the money. I spent four years working for a major global manufacturer with hundreds of sites, and many thousands of AP’s and I could not get them to purchase AirMagnet. In my current role, there is still no budget for the software. That means I end up spending my own money for software. I could get over this, except:

The software is OLD! AirMagnet Survey Pro is especially old code. It is clear in so many ways that the software hasn’t been refactored in many many years. I made a harsh comment at WLPC regarding the “Walking Man” animation when performing  surveys, but the comment stands. The little walking man is wasting CPU cycles on a laptop that is running on battery, and doesn’t even perform it’s primary function. I need a set of crosshairs to indicate where I stop, nothing more.

Spending money on AirMagnet feels like I am spending money on software that will be discontinued momentarily by a company that no longer cares about it.

Most importantly, AirMagnet only supports Microsoft Windows. I won’t rant about how much I despise, abhor, and generally hate Windows, really I won’t. A quick survey of their users would show Fluke that a surprisingly high number of users are Mac’s. We use Mac’s for many reasons and most of us only ever boot Windows to use AirMagnet products. Many have tried to use VM’s, and most have found issues with the USB sharing which makes it difficult to do our jobs. Even if we are able to make a VM work, we are now eating through our batteries much faster than we should be. If we are surveying a large facility, we are wasting our time, and our customers money waiting on devices to charge.

Based on conversations with Fluke during their session and after, I was given the impression (not told, simply given the impression) that Fluke is looking at an OptiView-like device as a future AirMagnet tool. I understand their thoughts. Control both the hardware and software, and you have fine grain control to make the most of the solution. I can only hope that Fluke Networks hears and understood from the feedback they received at WLPC that we want a single device for ALL of our work. We have that device, our laptop. We do not need a uni-tasker to drag through the airports and risk losing, stealing or breakage. The other concern with this solution is the OptiView is INSANELY expensive.

Fluke Networks repeatedly asked “What would you like to see?” to the audience. I’ve also spent some time thinking about that question. Here is what I hope could resolve many of the issues that are occurring on both Windows and potentially Mac and Linux clients.

Build the intelligence into a Docker App. That’s right, I’ll say it again. Build the intelligence to run on Docker. Immediately, you can now move the app to Windows, OS X, and Linux.

The most important code base can now be ran in a custom environment, easily reproduced on any piece of hardware thrown at it. Wait, you might say. Then I would have to install Docker on my laptop. How is that better than a VM?

I’ll answer that question in two ways. First, look at all of the redistributable apps that get installed along with AirMagnet. Imagine all of that going away. Just imagine…

Next, the resource utilization for Docker should be less than 1/4 of the utilization for a VM. Plus, there is no underlying windows OS to babysit. No updates to validate and install. No weird driver issues. No licensing issues do to a minor change in the VM.

Once the important code is running in Docker, build a GUI for each client that includes the hooks for the hardware (Spectrum Analyzers, USB NIC, etc.) and presents them to the Docker app in a standard consistent way. The GUI would include all of the OS customization, visuals, hardware hooks, but none of the intelligence.

I think I am most disappointed that Fluke Networks became comfortable as the market leader and chose not to push forward with new ideas. I have a ton of respect for the company and I own a lot of yellow and blue tools. Now that they have a serious market contender in Ekahau, I hope they take a serious look at their current situation, and choose to focus on the customer, rather than attempt to force the market to their will.

A Public Apology to Fluke Networks

In February I traveled to Phoenix to attend the Wireless LAN Professionals Conference (WLPC). It was an excellent conference with a ton of useful information and resources. One of the remarkable aspects of WLPC is that there are no corporate sponsors. All conference expenses are covered by attendees, and while vendors are encouraged to include items in the conference attendee bag, they are no booths, booth babes or trolls. I am certain some attendees would rather run booth to booth grabbing tchotchkes and attempting to avoid getting their badges scanned. I find the WLPC model refreshing.

At this years conference the organizers tried something new. Once the conference was done for the day, they opened the conference rooms for vendors to host attendees. Dinner or drinks were usually provided.

It was during one of these events that I overstepped an invisible, but clearly present line of professionalism, and I recognize that I owe a public apology to Fluke Networks. During their evening session, when things became slow for a moment, I took the opportunity to ask a question. I don’t remember the conversation verbatim, but my question was something like: “When will the Mac client be released?”

A simple question right? Only, the answer I got somehow exposed some raw emotions, and those emotions fueled my responses. I managed to completely side-track their session by asking for attendee participation in straw poles:
“Raise your hand if you want a Mac version.”

I mocked their walking man pointer used during surveys as a waste of CPU resources, when all I needed was crosshairs, and I continue on ranting and raving for a few more minutes. I acted like a drunk heckler, only I can’t blame alcohol.

As soon as my rant slowed, I realized I had fueled the crowd, and as other people began to chime in, I watched them reinforce my points and I sat there feeling vindicated; feeling great about delivering a bit of honesty and a big dose of reality. Their session never got back on track, but I will say the Fluke Networks team handled it with aplomb.

I now recognize that I needed a big dose of humility in that moment, not vindication. 

I’ve thought about that discussion a lot since it happened, which is what led to this blog post. Ultimately, that was the wrong venue for the conversation that I forced on them. I sat there with a belly full of food that they had graciously provided, and I completely derailed their conversation. My apologies to the Fluke Team in attendance. My apologies to the other attendees who might have been sitting there hoping for the very product walkthrough that Fluke was providing.

My blog IS the correct venue for the discussion. My passion for technology, networking, and specifically wireless fueled the rant and I plan to outline some of my frustrations in an upcoming blog post. The response I received that fueled my rant was one of disconnect. “Why would you want that?” Again, certainly not verbatim, but that was the message. I hope to start a conversation rather than rant into the void. With that in mind, I will lay out the case, and then I will put this to rest.

Geek Toys – The future of Apple TV

As WWDC approaches, I once again hope for a new Apple TV. The Apple TApple TVV has so much potential, and so much disappointment associated with it. Will WWDC be the time when we finally see an update? The bigger question is, with such strong competition from other products, has Apple already missed the boat?
I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I would like to see in a new Apple TV. There has been a lot of change in the last few months around home entertainment, and if Apple really wants to own the space, it has to adapt to compete. There are some key features that I think could make Apple TV ready to own the space again.


When I hear people discuss using Siri on an Apple TV, I rolled my eyes. I hate Siri. I refuse to use Siri. However, that changed just a little when I received an Amazon Echo. Amazon has knocked voice recognition out of the park! Alexa is fast, error free, and simply amazing. It is so good, I actually caught myself preparing to say “Thank you” to a piece of hardware! Each morning I ask Alexa for the news and my commute information. I use it when cooking for timers. Alexa is the only reason I use Prime Music. Let me repeat that. I began using Amazon Prime Music only because Alexa made it so easy. Make Siri that good on an AppleTV, and I get it now.

Facetime HD camera and mic

I do not understand why this hasn’t happened before. An Apple TV that could connect via FaceTime, is a no brainer in my opinion. Besides the ability to talk with relatives and friends through a TV, a camera could provide a lot of other features. The camera or mic could be used as a detector for HomeKit automation. Add some face recognition, and use it to choose the profile, and permit or deny content based on age restrictions. The list goes on and on.

HomeKit Integration

Imagine the Apple TV turning on lights when motion or sound is detected. It could also provide the remote view capabilities required by those of us who regularly travel and would like to check on our homes. This would be an easy way to integrate HomeKit and directly compete with the existing products on the market from Belkin and Wink and many other companies. I love my Wink Hub and the attached lights, sensors, and outlets. I hope that Apple gets the integration right.


Apple has built the 5K iMac to encourage 4K content creation. 4K content only becomes valuable once there is an easy way to consume that content. Apple TV should be that avenue.

Glances and notifications

The notifications on Watch are the reason I love my watch. There is no reason why this same thing shouldn’t work as a pop-up on the Apple TV.

A decent remote!

Apple works hard to refine every detail of their products, which leads me to ask. What happened? The AppleTV Remote is simple, small, and sleek. It is also the worst of the worst of the entertainment hub remotes. It uses IR, which means it must be in direct line of site of the AppleTV. Anyone who has used both an Apple TV and a Roku or Amazon Fire TV understands what I am talking about. The Roku and Fire TV remotes can be oriented in any direction, and yet they still work. The devices themselves can be hidden behind TVs or in closets and they still work. Not so for the AppleTV. It is time to move to BluetoothLE for the remote and show IR the door.

Games, apps, blah blah, blah.

I don’t play games. I try to care…but I don’t.

GeekTools: SolarWinds Wireless Heat Maps

Ever changing environments are the biggest problem that wireless engineers face. A new site can be surveyed, and based on that, an ideal wireless design can be created for the space providing perfect signal, overlap, and SNR; the wireless engineer leaves the site, SolarWinds NPM Wireless Heat Mapsmoving on to the next assignment, and that perfect design last through the weekend. Now the engineer is located in a different state, working on a different project, and is getting calls from the customer.

“Hey, we have problems, and I need you to fix them.” the customer says.
“Ok, can you describe the problem for me?” the engineer ask. Secretly, the engineer is shocked the customer is calling for any reason other than to laude the engineers talent, foresight, and general awesomeness.
“None of our customers can connect in the waiting area.” states the customer with disapproval.

Generally, troubleshooting this type of problem is straight forward. A quick look for interferers, a check to ensure all equipment is still functioning, and a general eye for anything that has changed. As a nod to the possibility of a changed environment, a simple question is asked.

“Has anything at the site changed? the engineer queries.
“Of course not” is the answer the customer provides, voice now dripping with disappointment.

Thus, the engineer continues to dig further.

Large enterprise organizations who deploy Cisco hardware generally keep maps for each facility in Cisco Prime. Smaller organizations without the budget or time to assign to Prime can find themselves looking for a different solution.

SolarWinds has a new solution that is part of NPM 11.5 and it is worth investigating. They now offer wireless heat maps. The simplicity of setting up the heat maps makes it easy for under-staffed shops to use the tool effectively. Import the floor plan, set scale, and then drag the AP’s supplied by the Cisco WLAN Controller onto the map into the correct locations. Once the AP’s are placed, the software makes a best-guess of wireless coverage. This is a standard but flawed practice.

The issue lies in physical placement of the AP’s within their environment. The AP’s are all at ceiling height, above cube walls, water features, whiteboards, and many other sources of signal degradation. The clients are on a much lower plane, and therefor see a different footprint.

SolarWinds solves this issue by allowing an engineer to place known clients on the map, and then use those to further improve the heat map. This provides a tool that can be used to understand what is happening at standard client heights, where signal matters.

“Oh look, now I see a huge null in the coverage.” the engineer says. “Are you sure there haven’t been any changes near the AP I placed by the receptionist desk?
“Oh, that’s right. We hung the sign this weekend” says the customer.
“That large metal sign that was in the shop area last week?” ask the engineer.
“Yeah, that’s the one, We suspended it from the ceiling right over the receptionist. It looks awesome. That wouldn’t cause this problem would it?”

The engineer proceeds to bang his head against the desk with a dull thud, thud, thud.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those responsible*

Watch SolarWinds discussing their wireless heat maps at Network Field Day 9 here: (Heat map discussion starts at 19:40)

-I participated in Network Field Day 9 as a delegate. As part of that participation, the cost of all travel and accommodations were covered. Additionally, some companies chose to give delegates small gifts for their participation. These accommodations do not in any way constitute a requirement for coverage, good or bad. In short, I am an opinionated jerk,  I was invited despite that, and anything I write is purely my own opinion. Special thanks to Tech Field Day, for the service they provide to engineers and vendors. If you would like to be a delegate at a future event, you can learn more here.  

Cisco Live US 2014 – Return to Camp

In May, I made my way to San Francisco for CLUS 2014. I had very fond memories from last year, and was looking forward to catching up with all of the great people that I met in Orlando.

This year was a little different for me. I purchased a full pass, paid for airfare, and my hotel all out of my own pocket. The ultimate question this year was going to be answered. How much is CLUS worth? Is the experience equally important when thousands of dollars come out of my pocket to experience it.

First, the most obvious difference this year was how crowded the experience was. Moscone was simply not big enough for 26,000 people. I recognized on day one, as I was looking for a place to sit for breakfast, that when San Francisco was chosen 5 years ago, the conference was much smaller. Conferences book their locations years in advance, and in this case the attendee base grew faster then they expected.

The large crowds definitely affected the experience. The World of Solutions reception on Monday was so crowded that I spent only 15 minutes there, and the majority of that time was trying to get back out. The crowds also affected the on-site meals. Lunch each day consisted of a boxed meal, breakfast was carb heavy, and the days that I went into the dining hall, it was extremely crowded.

On Thursday, I had an opportunity to talk with Kathleen Mudge, who manages the Social Media Team, and Kathy Doyle, the Director of Cisco Live, about the scale of the conference. Kathy mentioned that there were over 6,000 people who registered for Cisco Live at the conference. That is an incredible 23% of the attendees that could not be accounted for until the first day.

With that in mind, I can’t fault the conference. In-fact, I am surprised that the conference was able to absorb that many people and function at all. That is an amazing feat.

The next few years are in bigger venues, so I expect the conference won’t experience these growing pains again.

The sessions that I attended were all excellent, and allowed me to expand my knowledge in a few key areas that I had identified as needing more work. I didn’t attend as many sessions as I had planned, but that was simply a matter of not having enough time.

As for the social side of CLUS, it was everything I was hoping for. I was able to reconnect with friends made at CLUS 2013, and made many more. The Social Media Hub (which we quickly renamed the Social Media Routed Bridge) was in a great location. Power was easily available for recharging devices. The arrival Tweetup was well attended, and we were able to gather on Thursday for the final picture by the Cisco Live sign.

The Cisco Live Social Media Team at CLUS is always on top of the game. They work incredibly hard to help anyone who ask. They also keep things interesting with various games and prizes. I can’t say enough about the team, and how their work affects the positive experiences of so many attendees.

The parties and the Customer Appreciation Event were all excellent. I was able to participate in three Tech Field Day events, attended the CCIE party again as a non-CCIE, and participated in multiple Cisco Champion events. They were all opportunities to meet more people, and hang out with this huge group of engineers that I get to call friends.

Now for the question. Was attending CLUS on my own dime worth it? If my Cisco Live 2014 experience only included the standard CLUS sessions, the Customer Appreciation Event, and the World of Solutions, I would have to say “no”.

However, Cisco Live is much more than sessions, expo, and parties to attend. Cisco Live is a gathering of people who are passionate about technology and life. Cisco live is space camp, or as Denise Fishburne has begun calling it, simply “Summer Camp”.

Was Cisco Live worth it? Oh yeah. I’ll be back.