UiPath Studio first impressions

It is 1am basically Monday morning. I have just gone through the first section of the course and started on the next one. I was probably so excited that I couldn’t sleep and all I can think of is learning as much as I can about this software.

There is no time limit on the end of chapter exam and unlimited attempts though I read that after 3 attempts you would have to wait 24 hours to give students time to review the material. I failed on my first attempt and had to retake. I realized that the questions on the first sections were mostly taken from the following section which you won’t have access until you pass the exam. The search function on the academy’s website became my friend.

For a few hours I get to play around with the GUI, I can’t help but reminisce my university days doing programming using Visual Basic 5.0. The look and feel is pretty much the same. Everything is drag & drop with properties windows. Hence it feels home to me.

  1. Ribbon – this is basically your menu bar set in tabs. It has 4 tabs namely Start: To start a new project, Design: basic menu like new, save, run. menu where you’ll do the recording, data and screen scrapping and user events etc basically the whole meat of this application, Execute: running and debugging your workflow and Setup which is like properties in your apps and where you can find the web browser extensions.
  2. Activities – where it lists the objects for your workflow, e.g. dialog box, conditional statement box, message box etc.
  3. Workflow – this is where you place your objects dragged from the activities section such as flow charts, sequences, dialog box etc.
  4. Variables – displays all the variables that is being used inside the flowchart or sequence.
  5. Properties – displays the property option for an object in your workflow.
  6. Outline – gives you an overview of your workflow and objects under each flowchart or sequence.

Starting the automation path with UI-Path

If you have been following my blog, I have posted blogs on automation. Well…a way I can automate some of my tasks like configure a router by entering all the necessary info like IP, hostnames, routing protocols etc. Figuring out a way where I can also test to validate everything is working. I have been playing with python, netmiko, napalm etc. which requires a combination of programming, networking, linux skill sets.

Then at work I stumbled upon RPA, Robotic Process Application. Read a few Gartner articles and watched a few youtube videos on the topic and it just blew my mind away with the use cases that I can apply with work. The challenge though how can I get my hands into these robots. But before I got any futher I won’t assume you my read would have an idea what am I talking about.

So what is RPA?

Put it simply it is a software that follows a set of sequence, based on a given information, will process them accordingly to produce a desired output. To put it practically, let us say you want this robot to check your email for any request for a particular task, this task requires data to be entered to another software let us say maybe Salesforce, once it is processed, respond back to the sender to confirm that it has been done.

If you are imagining an actual robot with robotic arms and hands typing away from my keyboard and clicking the mouse away, it is not exactly that. Imagine those piano’s you see in the middle of the mall that would play itself. There is no actual robot sitting in front of it to play the piano but something was installed inside of the piano to trigger each key to be pushed to play a sound.

RPA is perfect for any repetitive tasks with accuracy as you remove the possibility of human error, reliability, speed and scalability. You can use RPA either to work side by side with humans to augment with their daily tasks or have them fully self-driven.

It is projected that the RPA market can reach up to $5 billion by 2024.

Getting some hands-on

Yes, here I am again about to get distracted with something shiny. Despite I know I should be focusing my attention to my CCIE RS Lab (2nd attempt). RPA has grabbed my attention. It is definitely not a cheap product or anything that you can just grab out of Best Buy (US) or JB HiFi (Aus).

There are many RPA vendors out there namely Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, Workfusion but the one that got my interest is UiPath. Aside from having a community edition that has a lifetime license. They have an open academy which you can go through and get certified upon finishing and passing the test.

The academy contains 172 sections of content including all quiz and final exam.

In saying this for the next couple of days, I will be blogging what I have learned and the whole experience of it.

CSR1kv Lab for CCIE RS

Here is my lab setup in preparation for the CCIE R&S lab. It is running on a HP Proliant DL380 G6 server running ESXi 5.5. I know its old school but it works!

Before you deploy your first Cisco CSRv, make sure you already have secured an OVF copy of the CSRv either via the cisco website or other sources.

File > Deploy OVF Template…

Browse to the file where the OVF is located, then click Next

I leave everything as default and just click on Next

Change the name to your liking and click Next

I leave Disk Format to Thick Provisioning Lazy Zeroed, click Next

Click Next until you reach the Ready to Complete page then click Finish

This will start provisioning your CSRv server, once done, don’t power it up yet. Instead, right mouse click on the server then choose Edit Settings…

Click the Add button, choose Serial Port in the list then click Next

Choose Connect via Network, click Next

Choose the Server radio button, in the Port URI: enter the IP of your server and the port using the following format: x.x.x.x:### , click Next

Click Finish button once you reach the Ready to Complete page.

Click the server on the left pane, click the Configuration tab. Go to Software section, click Security. Under the Firewall section, click Properties

Make sure you tick the VM serial port connected over network label, click Ok

Start the CSRv VM, right mouse click, Power > Power On

Go to the console tab to access the virtual router. At this stage would won’t be able to console into the device using your terminal app because by default it doesn’t allow you to do this. To activate this feature you would need to configure the router by typing:

configure terminal

platform console serial

Save the config, then reload the CSRv.

Once reloaded you can now access your CSRv using your terminal app of choice

I hope this helps you guys. Happy labbing.

Battling with consistency

Jerry Seinfeld was once asked by a budding comedian for advice as how to become a great standby. Jerry simply answered, all you have to do is write a joke every single day. Every time you did this mark an “x” on your calendar. Do this consistently until you create a chain of x’s for a week and without you knowing it you’ll be good in your craft.

I tried applying this in my studies reviewing for my CCIE RS lab (retake). I am sad to report that it has been difficult for the last couple of days. Just came from Sydney, pulled an all nighter working in the datacentre. For a moment I told myself, I am getting too old for these things. I am not in my mid 20’s where this would be nothing but that day when I entered the datacentre at noon time thursday, went to my hotel to rest, came back at 9pm and next time I got out was 7am, it felt horrible.

I don’t know what I was thinking, I didn’t bother to get an Uber to drive me to my hotel which is still a good 40min walk away, instead I opted to, you guest it, walk. Upon my arrival, the front desk person looked at me as if he’s trying to figure out if I just came from a drinking party as stared aimlessly into nothing.

Since my checkout time is at 10am, I asked if I can extend for another hour as I haven’t touched my bed since I arrived the day before. He agreed and ended his statement with “have a good night’s sleep”, that was 7:30am.

I took a quick shower, then laid my tired body to my king size bed. Closed my eyes and woke up to the sound of a raging jackhammer from the lot next to the building. Checked my clock and yes! its 8:30am. I forgot to mention my day isn’t done, in fact, its another day to go back to the datacentre and do something else. Since its useless forcing myself to sleep with all that noise, I’ve decided to pack my stuff and checked out at 9am.

Went into the DC, did my thing, rushed to the airport, having a flexi ticket I’ve booked myself into the next available flight within the hour. Everything from then on became a blur. To be honest, I vaguely remember being picked up by my Uber as I woke up it was night time, I was in my bed at home.

Now what does this DC story got to do with my consistency or my CCIE prep? Everything! It is a rant blog, you probably have guest it from the get go. My body is still recovering from it and can’t get into the studying state. Checked my calendar, it doesn’t look like I have a chain of x’s, it has become a constellation of x’s where one has to figure out if its trying to create a pattern of some sort.

Cisco CSRv Bug on IPSec

Just a quick blog while I take a break from my weekend lab prep. I have shifted my lab from using just plain GNS3 with 7200 running the 15 train to CSRv’s that are running on a vmware environment. I am doing some labs on IPSec VPN. I am pretty sure I have my commands correct. But for some reason whenever I would initiate traffic from the LAN, icmp wouldn’t go thru and all I can see from the other end of the tunnel is this log message:

I could see vpn’s Phase 1 and 2 are up but there’s just no traffic and eventually phase 1 would get deleted.

Did a few google and stumbled upon a forum where it says there’s known bug with the CSRs running tunnels on AH. Tried changing my transform set to:

Viola!

Configure a Cisco 887W AP to use Radius to authenticate users

In this quick tutorial, I am going to show you how to configure a Cisco 887W router’s AP to use a radius server to authenticate users to access the network. I will not cover how to setup a radius server, though if you are interested, I have made a blog post some time ago about setting up a radius server in linux and using it to test dot1x in a cisco switch.

https://running-config.net/2014/06/20/simple-dot1x-lab-with-windows-7-cisco-2950-centos-w-freeradius/

In saying make sure you have already setup the following:

  • Radius server, you will need its IP and the shared secret key
  • Policy in your radius server if applicable to allow request coming from your router, in my lab I have setup to allow the entire LAN range of the router.
  • Cisco 887W already configured for DSL connectivity. In saying this, I also expect that you are familiar with configuring a Cisco 887. These are routers used for ADSL or NBN(based in Australia) services. Make sure you also configure this DHCP.

Let us jump right in, to access the AP you would need to type in the CLI:

It feels like being in the matrix as it is an IOS within an IOS. All the commands you all love and are familiar with are applicable here. Start configuring the AP as you would normally configure a router such as username, password, enable secret etc.

Now the fun bit, we would need to configure the AP to use a radius server to authenticate the users which means we would need to use IOS aaa.

config terminal
!
aaa new-model
!
radius-server host 192.168.6.1 auth-port 1645 acct-port 1646 key p@ssw0rd
! — the radius-server declaration will be at the buttom of the config once applied but you need to declare this early on or else IOS will tell you the group hasn’t been created.
!
aaa group server radius test
server 192.168.6.1 auth-port 1645 acct-port 1646
!
!
aaa authentication login eap_users group test
!
interface Dot11Radio0
no shut
description Dot1Radio0_DELAN_Radio
no ip address
no ip route-cache
! — Dot1Radio0 interface is by default shutdown
!
encryption vlan 1 mode ciphers aes-ccm tkip wep128
!
broadcast-key vlan 1 change 30
!
ssid THIS_IS_SSID
!
!
interface Dot11Radio0.1
encapsulation dot1Q 1 native
!
ip default-gateway 10.0.0.1
! – the gateway IP is the same default gateway of your wired LAN unless you want to setup your wireless users on another vlan.

Everything else I left as default. Once you have saved your config, do a reload just to be sure. There are times it takes as much as 8 mins to power cycle the device.
Pull out your smartphone, you should be able to see the SSID you’ve created in my config its THIS_IS_SSID. Choose the SSID, it should start asking you for the username and password that is configured on your radius server. If authenticated correctly, you’ll be assigned an IP and off you go!

By the way, to exit out of the AP just press Ctrl+Shift+6 then x. Warning, sometimes it takes time to get out of this console. Don’t forget to clear the TTY line as well.

12/10/17 CCNA CyberOps, CCIE RS Lab prep

I don’t know if somebody even bothers reading my blog but anyway. If you stuble on my blog I welcome you. If this is your first time then great if you’ve been following me around, thank you so much for patiently reading through the pains and the joys of my certification journey.

I have just gone through my Annual Delan Flu season where I am just bed ridden for a few days, missed a number of corporate events including my company’s own Christmas party and a Gala Night to which we won one of the awards. bummer! I was also looking forward to my first Cisco Christmas party event, didn’t go thank you flu!

Anyway just some work update, aside from the technical aspect of work like projects, data centre migration, bit by bit I have been getting involved with management. I have been interviewing a few candidates for some entry level roles, screening them, I have done my first “yes you’re hired!” calls. The most interesting part of what I have been doing is giving performance reviews, its different when you’re on the other end of the table. I feel like if given some spare time I could actually write an entire blog about it.

After passing my CCNA Sec, I told myself that could have been my last CCNA level exam to take only to eat my words weeks later as I have been accepted to the Cisco CyberOps scholarship program. The program includes 3 months access to all official Cisco training materials + coaching. They will also pay for you exams (2 of them) as well.

Aside from that I have finally get my hands on some decent server at work to run my CCIE lab environment. I am actually firing up the vRouters as I am writing this blog. Yeah I know the ESXi approach is so 2014 and these days of VIRL, lab creator and UniLab.  In saying this I have re-started my CCIE RS lab prep. It feels like day 1 again going through all the INE VODs. I just have to remind myself of what a friend once told me when I went to the gym saying the same thing: “Day 1 is better than 1 day”.