I'm posting this from an email I sent, so I'll explain quickly. at my college, we're part of a large industrial "club" called SkillsUSA (used to be VICA) which has about 300,000 members, about 3,000 are Cisco Internetworking people. I won the WV state competition in April, so I went to Kansas City for nationals. There are a lot of spelling mistakes but bear with me. Ok, Monday, we got there at about 4pm. WV held a state meeting in the ballroom, we got a bunch of misc stuff and the rules laid out to us. In addition, the state made everyone a t-shirt, and of course even though they proofread it 4 times they still managed to spell "conference" wrong on the shirt. Tuesday, Me and Blake (WV secondary winner) studied for most of the day. In the morning we went to the convention hall, and looked around. There were a ton of sponsors outside doing things with games, like some sawblade manufacturer holding a contest on cutting a car in half, there was a lumberjack challenge, some stock cars on display, etc. We had a meeting there at 12 to go over the contest with the Cisco people, they told us the rules and also what the design contest was (building a wireless network in the convention hall- an open space almost 400,000sq feet!) There were a lot of booths with industrial companies, however almost none related to IT. At about 4:30 we left for the opening ceremony. It was huge... we were in Kemper arena, which is like a basketball/hockey arena, and it was FILLED with people. The dude from the first series of the Apprentice was the guest speaker, Kwame-something. Wednesday was pretty full- at 10am we went to a seminar at about 10am. Cisco, Fluke, and some other companies were on hand showing off some stuff. They showed the linkrunner, which is cool-when you plug it in it shows the topology of the network up to layer 3. We also got packet tracer 4 which I'll make copies of for anyone who wants it. At 1 began the post secondary end-to-end trooubleshooting and design contest. I started at the end-to-end troubleshoting part, and this is when things began to go horribly wrong.I had used a school laptop for the contest, but was not allowed to remove anything not related to the contest. I tested the laptop out the night before, and was able to console into the 871 we had in the hotel room for studdying. There were no problems until this day. The end to end was a 30 minute contest, and as soon as it started I tried to console into the first router-it said another program was using the port. So I start closing programs. I try to close the "RSLinx" program (some industrial mantainance program) and I get a BSOD/shutdown of the laptop. WTF? So it reboots, and I try again. Same thing. ok, this sucks. it's now about 6 minutes into the 30 test, and I still haven't started. I reboot in safe mode, and the program doesn't load. So I try to remove the program... nope, you can't do this in safe mode. I try to console in under safe mode, and you can't. So I reboot yet again, and begin to uninstall RSLinx. I get a BSOD and the laptop shuts down AGAIN. I restart, and the program FINALLY doesn't load on startup. I console in, and begin te test. Unfortunately, I only had 6 minutes left out of 30. I had time to find 1 problem out of 5. FUCK. I knew at that moment I was out of medal comp but still wanted to try and place in the top 10 so I continued to work my best. The design part was at 2:30 and It wasn't hard. The blueprints were crap and unreadable. They had given us the floorplan copy the day before. I did fairly well, and scored on average with the rest of the competition. Later on after the whole contest, the guy in charge says, "we wanted you to research in your own time to find better plans" (this was when people complained about the lack of clairty on the floorplan). This is a bullshit excuse, because on tuesday he NEVER mentioned being allowed to 1) research the plans or 2) bringing in any plans of the hall for the contest. Well, Wed night I was kinda bummed, but went to the "party and dance" they had that evening. As soon as they started to do the cha-cha slide, I knew it was lame and went back to the hotel and chilled in the hottub. Thursday morning I wok up at 5:30 and ate. The contest was to be from 8am to 4:30pm. I arrive and my first station is on the router config. It's two parts, basic and advanced. Now, for this if you cannot ping from the host (your laptop) to the webserver (interface on ISP router) you don't get ANY points for the section of the test. They gave us just over an hour to do both. I got the basic done in about 10 minutes, and began working on the advanced config. I got a lot of it working, but forgot several key things: 1) that when you subinterface on an ethernet intterface with vlans you pull the main ip address off and use the vlan IP addresses, with the main e0 IP being the one for sub int e0/0.0. I also forgot how to do ospf authentication. Since with these 2 things, and only those 2 things I forgot out of the entire config, I only got credit for the basic config. CRAP. anyway, I move on to station #2-a, network troubleshooting. you're at a table with only a wall jack visable in front of you. it has 3 plugs, and you're given a simple topology of what the network SHOULD be. They provide 3 kinda of cable (2 of which were wired incorrectly) and a linkrunner for you to use in addition to the laptop. You had 15 minutes to figure out 1) what ports your vlan was on 2) why half the network doesn't work 3) what the IP address of a mystery computer was 4) why the network is showing 10Mbps instead of 100 well, I find the right cable and jack and begin to ping and telnet to the switch. it keeps timing out. crap. everyone else is getting in ok, but why can't I? I'm trying to figure it out, testing cables and using the link runner, then trying things on the comd prompt, still nothing. 5 minutes left. oh shit, I had forgot to remove the static IP from my laptop when I had done the router config, and thus wasn't able to ping the network. I fix it and can finally see the switch. as soon as I do, time is up. 0 points due to a simple error on my part. At this time I knew I was pretty much done. Station 2-b. cable building. I figure this will be easy considering I've never had much trouble building cable. I was wrong. They decide to test us with STRANDED cable instead of solid. It's about 10x as hard to use. Everytime I start to insert it, the wires 'walk' out of order. So since it's trimmed so small to fit in the jack, I have to re-cut and re-sort the wires. I had to do this several times, and by the time the 30 minutes was up I had a patch cable with an open, and half a crossover done. that's it. Apparently though almost all of the other contestants had just as much trouble with it. I was too pissed to eat lunch, but I heard it sucked anyway. I move on to the testing part, station 3, which is a 60 question chunk of the CCNA exam. It was simple, I finished it with plenty of time. 4th and last station- the tech support call. This sucked, and I'll tell you why. Previous years they've used solvable problems, such as forgetting a password, having ip address settings wrong, or needing help with ACLs. Anyway, I pick up the phone, and they guy says, "We moved our 1900 series router and now it won't boot out of ROMMON" ok, so I first have him check the configuration register. It's ok. So that means only one thing, the flash file isn't being read. Start talking him through using xmodem, and I run out of time (you only have 5 minutes). Turns out the problem wasn't even that- it was a hardware issue, that the 1900 router uses a flash CARD and it had become unseated. yes, a HARDWARE problem we had to diagnose over the phone in 5 minutes. WTF 1) how would we memorize that that series router had a CARD for flash and not internal 2) everyone would spend 3 hours reinstalling flash through xmodem before doing anything (which I did) 3) how the hell can they expect someone to do this in 5 minutes? so I got a mediocre score on it, but so did many others. so the competition day was horrible. I placed 16th, mainly because of the mistakes I made (the RSLinx program and the IP address thing) The competition was HARD. most had thier CCNA and were already halfway through thier CCNP. They had access to much better resources than we did. I had an off-day, shame it was the only day I shouldn't have had one. Anyway, we spent the last half of the day at a amusement park, all skillsusa competitors had a free pass for that night. since the contest debriefing didn't end until about 5:30 and I had to still change at the hotel, I didn't leave until 7 (park closes at 11). I got to ride 3 rides. lame. Friday morning I did nothing. I was too damn tired and just chilled on the sundeck and slept. We went to the closing ceremonies where of course WV did horrible. we only won 2 metals, a bronze in a category I don't remember, and Gold in carpentry. We left halfway through because the medal ceremony takes FOREVER and we got bored. we all went back to the hotel, had a pizza party, then got back on the bus and went home.