Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Why I Play Competitive Cornhole?

Yes, there is competitive cornhole? From the unusual sports out there of face slapping to disk golf to the more common games like dodge-ball and chase tag.  Cornhole as we know it is growing and if you are not aware, the American Cornhole League, has their National Finals broadcast on ESPN and CBS Sports.  Yes, it is a fun back yard game turned pro with the ACL and in my state of Connecticut there are multiple clubs for anyone to play socially or competitively almost every day of the week.  So why did I get into it? 

I needed to find a something to do outside of work and home.  I wanted to play softball but I wanted something to do indoors during the winter season and I needed knee surgery so I knew I could not do that.  I tried playing chess, and still do online via Lichess.org, but it can feel like a library at the chess club and I wanted something a bit more social and fun.  Then one day, at my local Costco store, I saw a cornhole set with "premium" boards and bought them for myself on father's day (2022) and fell in love with the game since.

Throughout that summer, whenever I could, I would setup the boards on the tennis courts at my apartment complex and throw for about an hour while the kids road their bikes, scooters and chalked up the court with kids art.  One day while I was throwing bags, a neighbor asked if he could join me in a friendly game. We played with these lower quality bags and decent boards but throughout the game I was not winning at all.  Actually, I lost fairly quickly but through conversation he introduced me to a cornhole club in town and explained how they run switcholios.  He then told me about an app called Scoreholio and showed me how to register and search for a switcholio tournament.

So I gave it a try and went to the local club and got hooked.  People had jerseys, music, drinks, premium cornhole bags, and a chance to win your money back and more.  I would never forget my first time going to a switcholio.  I was nervous but nevertheless excited to go throw bags at Naugatuck Valley Cornhole.  When I could not get the bag in the hole or even on the board it was frustrating.  I wanted to get better and did not like the fact that I could not keep a bag on the board.  After that day I quickly returned the cornhole set I got at Costco and bought my first Reynolds Pro Advantage bags and a more premium set of Cornhole Solutions boards.  At the end of that switcholio I was already looking forward to the next one. As a beginner, at that time, I was not great but I found out that this game helped me to disconnect from the world for a few hours.

Two Roads Tournament in Stratford Connecticut June 2023
I continued to play cornhole because it was hard for me to process my mother being in a nursing home and having to go to Florida to admit her for the first time was the hardest thing I had to do in my life.  I felt like I let my mother down because my brother and I could not care for her in our homes like we would have wanted to.   Having two young children and having my mother as a wanderer was not safe for anyone.  While she was in Florida I could not sleep, eat, and went into a depression because I would think about my mom constantly. I would think about her care and how my brother and I were going to bring her back to Connecticut.  Every nursing home I called in Connecticut either did not have an available bed, did not accept state assisted services or had a several years long waiting list.  Even the less expensive nursing homes can cost at least three hundred dollars a day!  But I kept searching, calling and visiting every nursing home I could.  One of my aunts, in Florida, did as much as she could to care for my mother and it is not easy to care for someone in this condition, especially if they are super combative.  At one time I thought my mom would have to stay in Florida and that is when I went into a deeper depression.  But I kept at it and prayed more to God for help.  Thankfully we were able to find a skilled nursing that could help care for my mother.

Visiting my mom at the nursing home shortly after were able to bring her back to Connecticut

In all I thank God for allowing me the opportunity to experience this game and the community of players we have in Connecticut.  I have met a ton of nice people who love the game just as I do.  Unfortunately I could not play as often as I would like to because of family and work responsibilities but I still enjoy it more every day.  It helps me to connect and disconnect.  If you are like me who has a parent with Alzheimer's disease, know that you are are not alone.  There are people out there willing to help and your scenerio will get better.  It will not be easy to find a place for your loved one but keep at it, educate yourself and talk to your local social worker.  Last, if you are still struggling mentally call your health insurance company to find a mental health coach to talk to.  I really learned a lot about myself during my sessions with my mental health coach. 
Things will get better for you!
As some say in the cornhole world, keep it straight and keep throwing four baggers. 

Cornhole clubs in Connecticut

203 Cornhole
Battle Baggers
Candlewood Cornhole
Central Connecticut Cornhole
Coastal Connecticut Cornhole
Connecticut Cornhole
Cornhole by The Sound
Naugatuck Valley Cornhole


Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Lenovo T490/T495 Review

This laptop is not available to purchase now at Lenovo.com but I wanted to give you my personal insight on what I think of this device using it for almost 4 years.  Why?  Because many reviews are only when they are new and out of the box with very low usage.  So why did I go with this and not another computer? 

At work I decided to switch over about four years ago from a fifteen inch 2015 MacBook Pro to a Lenovo T495.  One of the main reasons why I switched was because of the keyboards they had during that time plus some I would not need a virtual machine with a Windows operating system to run IT related applications.  Currently the new Apple laptop keyboards are better but I still would not go back to a MacBook just yet because of the limited ports.  If you are on the fence on getting a MacBook Air or Pro versus a Windows computer this post may help with you just that.  In this post I will provide some features and benefits of the Lenovo T490 series laptop. 

The Lenovo T495 is my daily work computer and overall enjoy the laptops performance.  There are many reasons why I like the laptop and as mentioned the keyboard of the Lenovo ThinkPad is by far of the best keyboards on the market.  

If you are a college student, teacher or professor, business manager or director the Lenovo T490 laptops are a great buy for the price.  The newer version of the laptop is the Lenovo T14 models.  They look and feel the same as the T490 series except the Lenovo T14 model has some internal updates but the biggest notice to me, when I setup the computers at work, is the new glass like trackpad and ports.  

If you are use to using the Lenovo ThinkPads their trackpads were one of the worst on the market.  The clicking was horrible and the trackpad design was not great.  They have come very far from a few years ago and that is one big improvement they have done to the T14 model.  The laptop I use is still not bad and much better than the ones they have a few years ago. 

Another great feature and benefit I love about this laptop are the multiple ports already with the computer.  They include two USB A ports, one Thunderbolt port, and HDMI.  Of course they also include the headphone/microphone jack to connect your headphones to and a micro sd card slot on the sight.  Oh and I forgot about the ethernet port as well on the side. (RJ45) This alone helps one not have to worry about carrying a multiport adapter when needing to plug it to an external monitor or projector when presenting.  Now the one thing that I still have not used much of is the Red center trackpoint stick.  I remember my dad having an IBM and long ago I had to use that or a mouse but I guess its okay to have instead of using the trackpad.  Again I dont use it much because most of the time my laptop is connected on the docking station at work and use a wireless mouse and keyboard. Despite the multiple ports available on the laptop it is not that bulky. 

One thing I noticed with the new Apple MacBook Pros are the difference in size.  They are designed nice but they are heavier devices to carry around.  If I were to puchase a MacBook I may go with the MacBook Air but again this Lenovo T495 does just right.  The design is professional and sleak looking.  The durability of the case is great and one great feature about the keyboard is that it is spill resistant.  

Regarding performance I upgraded my memory to 24GB and

Monday, January 3, 2022

What IT certification to study in 2022?

I spent most of my time studying for the Cisco Certified Network Associate last year. In my previous post, I explained my experiences with the exam and why I did not pass. In the end, I was not ready and needed more time. I enjoyed my studies, especially the Boson labs but after that exam, I took some time to reflect on my career and personal development goals for 2022..."What do I do now?".

I thought very hard about what to do after not passing the CCNA exam. Should I go after it again or learn something new? After that exam, I took time off from studying and spent more quality time with my family and friends. With the holidays come and gone I decided to not go for the CCNA just yet. Why? Because I want to learn more about CyberSecurity.  I will eventually go back to the CCNA studies but for now I want to focus my learning on something else.  Even if I did not pass the exam I still learned a lot and I that is why I am focusing on CyberSecurity.  So I did some research, found a video online and went to TryHackMe.com.

Why TryHackme.com? Because I like their content, format, and labs. So I signed up for the CompTIA PenTest+ learning path. Why this? I wanted a place that would provide hands-on experience with applications like BurpSuite, OWASP, Nmap, and more. 

Will I go for my PenTest certification exam? Not any time soon because my goal is to learn the content and find my passion through learning. Not that I was not passionate enough with the CCNA but I want to go about this learning path differently and so far it has been great. With TryHackMe I now have hands on experience with Nmap, BurpSuite, and OWASP Zap. Plus, I did a little bit of Advent of Cyber 3 in early December and learned a bit on web exploitation. Why this path? 

In general, I am a curious person, I may not be the most technical person but I am a team player and enjoy learning new technologies. Plus I saw a job posting that caught my eye which required experience applications BurpSuite, OWASP, Nmap, and more. So I wanted to learn some more about those applications and PenTesting.  That is why I found the CompTIA PenTest+ path in TryHackMe.com. 

Will I go back to the CCNA? Yes, absolutely! I will but I want to learn something else that is not Cisco or networking related and that is why I want to focus a bit more on information security. I almost went to Juniper's JNCIA because their exam vouchers are not as much and sometimes provide discounts if you take their online training or practice exam. But when I saw TryHackMe.com I just got hooked.  Plus most of their courses are free but if you want to use their virtual machines longer than the allotted time one has to subscribe to their services, which is not priced bad. I am not sponsored by them for this but recommend you take a look at the difference between the free version and the paid version of TryHackMe.  Why Subscribe to TryHackMe

My approach this time is not to pass the certification but go through the PenTest exam objectives. During my studies, if I noticed myself interested in taking an exam I will then sign up and schedule a date for the PenTest+. For now, I will do the TryHackMe.com site and learn as much as I can with their labs. 

I hope you are all well and have a prosperous new year. Be safe and keep on learning!

Sunday, December 5, 2021

How was the CCNA exam?

The Cisco Certified Network Associate exam was not easy and neither was the Network+ certification when I pass that on November 2019. I had a feeling earlier during the week that I would not pass and had a feeling that I should have rescheduled it.  Why did I not reschedule?    
I was at a point where I was burnt out from studying. I went through the Cisco exam objectives, Boson labs, watched David Bombal Udemy videos, used Todd Tammle's CCNA book as a reference, flash cards, practice exam and even took an official week long live virtual training back in the spring. But none of what I learned was enough to pass the exam. But why did I not reschedule the exam? I wanted to keep my commitment and I wanted to accept the outcome regardless of the exam results. Let me explain my experience with the exam. 

I took the Pearson Vue exam at work.  I was lucky enough to reserve a small huddle room in the human resources building because I have too much equipment in my office to move out for a two hour exam.  In the huddle room it had a small table, an office chair and network jack.  There were no pictures on the walls, no monitors, no computers and it had good lighting.  I used a spare work laptop and had it wiped and reconfigured with no firewall settings or no antivirus.  It had the bare-bone Windows 10 image to make sure I was not blocked or disconnected from the exam since I was taking the exam at work.  Also, with a hybrid work schedule for some people in the building I knew I was not going to be disturbed.  The check in process by Pearson Vue was amazing.  I would highly recommend you take the exam at home or work versus going to a testing facility.  Once I finished my I exam I got the notification right away that I failed.  I was hoping to see the details on the exam but they did not include that in the end but I knew I did really bad.  Halfway through the exam I used up to much time on some difficult questions and guessed on a few questions.  I did not want to end the exam without time and now I know. I was not ready for this exam.

My detailed exam results came in the next day.  Once they did I logged back into Pearson Vue right away and it showed the percentage scores of each category. I wanted to post them here with this blog post but I am too embarrassed to show my results with anyone. I am still upset at myself for not rescheduling the exam with how bad I score but I wanted to keep my commitment to the scheduled date.
I was at a point where I was putting too much pressure on myself for this exam. At the end of the day, it is just an exam. This does not define who I am and what I am capable of doing and if you are in the same just know that you are not alone.  I am thankful for my job and the opportunity they have given me at work, to learn and develop my skills.  I am most thankful to my wife who is always supportive of my goals and I could not be more grateful for her loving support.  

I am happy that I failed because I will get back to my studies after I have take a small break and spend some time with my wife and kids during the holidays.  
Stay strong, keep moving forward and keep on learning. 
Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Time-Saving Tricks for Subnetting by Practical Networking - My CCNA Studies 10 days Left

With my exam in ten days I have to brush up on my subnetting skills. I will be doing this every day till exam day.  If you are looking for ways to learn subnetting check out the links and video below by Practical Networking. I highly recommend you watch all of the Subnetting Mastery videos and website. If you have done subnetting before and just need a refresher check the video I included below.  The video provides great quick tips.

 By far these are the best videos on subnetting. I think being able to do subnetting quickly is a must know for the CCNA exam.  I have seen at least one or two questions within the Boson ExSim practice exams that require subnetting knowledge.

The links below are directed to their blog, website and YouTube videos on subnetting.  If you want to practice check out subnetipv4.com.  It has a clean and simple to use  tool that populates random CIDR notation to practice from.  In there one has to figure out the Network ID, Broadcast ID and if stuck it can populate the answers.  

Now I got to practice to get fast and better at subnetting. 


Subnetting Mastery Blog Post by Practical Networking

 Subnetting Mastery by Practical Networking

Sunday, November 7, 2021

CCNA Studies - Learning Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol w Jeremy's IT Lab

My exam is in twelve days and wanted to give you a quick up on my studies.  From my last post I have continued well with my studies but still have much to do.  What my focus has been is reviewing some topics that I am not that good in and use Anki flashcards through the next few days and then go through Boson ExSim exams B and C.  I redid the Boson exam A and did much better but still have some weaknesses.  Mainly that I do not carefully read the questions and would recommend that when you are taking any exam you carefully read the question and answers. Plus I am quick to make a selection without really taking an extra few seconds to make a sound decision.  

With this I wanted to shared a good video on learning about Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol.  If you have not checked out Jeremy's IT Lab on YouTube do so below.  He has tons of free videos on YouTube on all of the CCNA topics.  If you are looking for an alternative trainer online this one is highly recommended. 

Well, I would like to continue on what I have learned but I got to get back to studying and back to the flashcards. 

Next time I post on here will be on the exam results.  My exam is on November 19th.  

Till next time...later!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

CCNA Studies - I Took My 1st Boson Practice Exam

I finally took my first Boson ExSim practice exam this week and I did horrible.  I am not kidding, I only got thirty-four percent of the questions right and by question number sixty I only had eighteen percent of the answers correct.  After that score I decided to take a mental break from anything IT related including studying for the CCNA and work. So I took this weekend off from just that.

I have been working six days a week most of this year and lately it has been super busy with many people returning to their offices after eighteen months working from home.  Why am I working every Saturday…overtime pay! Out of a large team of technicians I wanted to do it so I talked to my wife to make sure she was okay since she would be by herself with the kids. I cannot thank my wife enough for her support.  Working Saturdays was a win win for us since I would get good overtime pay and use any free time to study for the CCNA.  Besides the good pay it was a nice shift to catch up with repairs or incidents from the work week.  Most shifts on Saturday were quiet and the working hours are between seven to eight hours but in September they extended the hours to twelve hours due to many staff, faculty and students returning to campus.  I enjoy working the extra hours and studying for the CCNA but I was feeling burn out and needed a mental break from it.  Especially after taking the Boson practice exam.  

 So I told my manager that I would not be covering this past Saturday and spent a full weekend with my wife and kids.  No labs, no studying, no work, just family time.  I went to my five year old son's soccer game and was super excited to see him score his second goal.  After the game we stayed a few more minutes to let the kids play on the playground in the park.  We did a lot fun things with the kids this weekend and could not ask for the best fall weather in Connecticut.  At times I wanted to pickup my flash cards or do a Boson lab but was I enjoying the mental break and being with my family.  I was due for a break and glad I took the practice exam now.

 The exam was great.  I felt like I got punched really hard in the gut after taking the exam but it was important for me to gauge where I stand from what I have studied so far.  I have heard nothing but great things about the Boson practice exams online by others who passed the exam.  The format is great, the content is hard, and the questions are well written.  I will recommend to anyone looking for a good CCNA practice test to get the Boson ExSim and NetSims. The only thing I wish the ExSim would have is the option to break it down by chapter, subject or content.  One thing I did for the Network+ exam was study a chapter then test myself which really helped. 

Why did I take the exam now?  I schedule the exam for mid November and need to know where my weaknesses and strengths are.  It clear to me that I have more weakenesses than strenghts but when I was going through the exam I knew some of the answers.  My issue was that I was misreading the question or the answer.  After seeing my score I think I am going to reschedule my exam and if I do that is okay.  But I will wait till I get closer to that day to gauge myself then.  If by end of October I am no where close to retaining the information I will know what to do.  

 I keep hearing some people on YouTube, online or social media that the CCNA is not a destination but a journey.  If now is not the time then that is okay. I keep reminding myself that I am new to this content and many people were in my shoes.  My goal after I pass the CCNA is to be a Network Administrator/Technician or Junior Network Engineer.  Whether it be that I get into that role with my company, or somewhere else.

The reason I am thinking of rescheduling my exam is because I think I have a lot of information to retain and have about fifty days left.  I also have parts of the exam objectives that I still do not understand.  There is so much information to learn on the CCNA what really confuses me, among many things, is how packets flow.  I have an idea on how they flow with networks but to explain it to someone else I may miss a few things.  With about seven weeks and three days till my exam I have a lot of information to learn, test and review again.  

I do not know how people take the exam under eight weeks not knowing anything about networking or information technology.  I mean anyone can learn this but this is taking me a while to understand the concepts. Especially having to understand how certain commands do certain functions and then having to memorize them is a different workout. 

In all I am happy to have taken the weekend off and excited to get back to studying and learning the CCNA.  I am not going to reschedule my exam just yet.  I still have much to learn but if you are feeling overwhelmed or burned out it is important to take breaks in between.  Especially if you have a wife, kids and other responsibilities outside of work.  Take advantage of every moment of every day and take a reset day if needed. Do not stop and do not give up.  

I am ready for these seven good weeks of studying. See you soon CCNA.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

My CCNA Studies - I Scheduled My Exam for November!

It has been a while since I have posted an update on my CCNA studies and I am excited to say that I scheduled the exam for the second week in November.

I need to be honest and say that it was challenging to study this summer.  I feel like summers are not that long in Connecticut.  I took most of July off from studying to enjoy the warm weather and to spend quality time with my wife and kids. While we were on vacation my plan was to study at night when the kids were in bed but that did not turn out as planned and I am really happy it did. 

My wife and I had previous employers that did not allow employees to take more than a week at a time of vacation unless there was a major life changing event. So taking two full weeks was one of the best vacations we had since we got married.  But after we got done with vacation I knew that I had to make up some ground with my studies. 

I have been studying on and off since earlier this year but truth is that I did not have the official accountability. But now I do with my exam schedule and once I did, in the words of Emeril Legasse, I "kicked it up a notch!".  

 Learning networking technologies is not easy for me to understand but I still like it.  I am a person that loves how things are made and work.  At work I have been taking advantage of the overtime and working six days a week most of 2021. Nobody at work has wanted the overtime on Saturdays, except another technician but it is really quiet so I take the opportunity to do a full day of studying.  Even then I still feel like it has been a challenge to study eight to 11 hours every Saturday but what keeps me in check is having the exam scheduled.

As soon as I scheduled it I knew I needed a good lab to work with since the Cisco labs I got in March expired and were only available for three months. I wish they would just provide access to that for the whole year. Three months of access is not enough in my opinion unless you already have experience in networking and just need to review some things in a lab environment.  So I  went and got both the Boson NetSim for labs and the ExSim as a practice exam. So far the labs are just as good if not better than the ones from Cisco. I like the format and the way they go about it. I like how they create multiple tasks that are repetitive. It helps me to grasp the commands when configuring the devices and for anyone who is a musician can appreciate and understand how important repetition is.  

Since then I have been able to understand more how NAT and PAT work along with many other protocols and configurations. I also change it up and use David Bombals CCNA and Packet Tracers courses.  His Packet Tracer course on Udemy is great.  If you do not have enough funds to purchase the NetSim from Boson get his course.  You wont regret it but definitely get the ExSim if you do not have a practice exam for the CCNA.  I went through a few questions on exam one and they are really good. I heard others online say how the Boson ExSim is close to the Cisco exam. 

I like David Bombal's Packet Tracer courses because he challenges one to go about real-life-like scenarios before providing the how to. I think it's important to do so to force one to learn the process because in real life we will need to do our own research to troubleshoot and configure a network. 

For books, I had the digital copy of Cisco Cert Guide but somehow they got removed from OReilly Books from my company so I have Todd Lammle's book and will say it's an easier read. I should have used these a long time ago because the OCGs are a tough read.  

In all, I am excited and nervous to take the exam in three months. August almost gone but I have learned a good amount from earlier this year.

What I might do next is just go through the first of the three available exams by Boson to get an idea of where my strengths and weaknesses are and focus on where I don't know anything. 

Let me know if you have any struggles and successes. I like to see what people have done to pass their exams and their experience with the exam taken at home or work.