The units in town homes/condos are not completely sealed off. Specifically in the attic, there can be holes between units. Usually this doesn't matter, the holes are not easy to find or see but if one of the units is not properly sealed from the outside, it allows critters to get in which then becomes every unit's problem in the building.

 

This problem became my building's problem recently with the friendly addition of roof rats. Fortunately for me, my attic only had a few trails that led from one unit to another, but the fact of the matter was they were still a problem, and more than that, they were annoying because I could hear scratching every now and then when I was working in my office.

 

To fix the issue, I called a few pest control companies and ended up finding out that there are two things that needed to be done. Seal the exterior and then start trapping. Something interesting during getting quotes was that over the years there has really been very little rodent catching technology. Maybe the only difference is that now there are plastic re-usable traps with jaws nicknamed "T-Rex traps" instead of the traditional wood snap traps. Of it all, the thing that I found most interesting was most companies just checked the traps weekly until there was no activity. There was really no technology or smarts in determining if the trap was snapped outside of manual intervention with the exception of one company, which wanted to put up a Ring camera so they did not have to physically come out or come out sooner if needed. There was nothing more to it really.

 

From a DIY perspective there were a few different things I could try instead of snap traps, all with pretty poor reviews results or not practical for my situation. The one that I liked the most was the rolling log mouse trap, but this was not a valid solution for me because I was not going to lug a 5 gallon tub of water (with/without rats) up and down my attic and did not have space to do it properly with ramps either. There were also other things like ultrasonic sensors, but they had poor reviews and questionable success rates and the electronic zapper which shocks the rodent dead, but the cost to value was not quite there for me because ideally I would set a few of these.

 

 

I ended up deciding I would use a pest control service for the exterior and treatment of the inside of the insulation and cleanup but I would do the snapping myself because honestly, I could check the traps more often and I was using better traps. This is where I started thinking, there has to be a better way.  A part of me went wanted to buy a bunch of the plastic traps and put a limit switch on them or jerry-rig an Amazon button to trigger but that was too much effort. I decided the old fashioned way was good enough and set some T-rex traps and 

 

When most was said and done, I caught a few of them on the plastic jaws of life and the scratching stopped and entered the final stage -- the waiting stage. You can never be 100% certain everything is gone just by looking but the general consensus is that after two to three weeks of no activity detected you should be good. The method I used was to rake the attic to make I could tell if any trails formed in the insulation and also kept some traps up just in case. This is when I caught an article from twitter. 

 

During CES one of my favorite Internet of Things (IoT) podcasters Stacey Higginbotham was doing extra articles on new and upcoming tech. Reading one of them, this image caught my eye:

 

 

This inspired me to do some digging. I found that there was a company that designs a trap similar to what I was looking for the whole time. It is called the Xignal Rattrap that connects to a LoRa gateway and uses an app to tell you if the trap is armed, un-armed or un-armed with catch. This was what I wanted. This is what I needed. ….. Until I tried to get one. First they are difficult to find via an official retailer from the Xignal website, but when I found a place that sells them they were going for $79.99 for the mouse version and $89.99 for the rat versions not including shipping or tax, per unit. Even then, this pricing does not account for cost of the actual LoRa gateway hardware required which would just add to the costs.

 

I thought about it for a few moments and realized this would be worth it if I owned a rodent business, had a chronic issue, or I was helping neighbors/family with rodent control, but even then, for the amount spend on one Xignal trap and stuff to make it work, I could get at least 24 T-Rex traps and place them in even more places, and the not even have to worry about re-using them. I could throw them away if they got any catches (I did this) and still be ahead.

 

 

In the end, IoT has some pretty valuable use cases. I did not like going into my attic to check these traps because it is a chore and would much prefer some automated way to let me know to go or not. Maybe I was just trying to automate too much though. Was the sales guy who puts the Ring camera in the attic on to something?  It may not be an app notification saying "Pavan 1, Rat 0" but a Ring Stick Up or an Arlo Pro along with my T-Rex traps may be the way to go if I ever run into this issue again. And as an added bonus, I can use the camera for other things after.

When I left Cisco, I knew that I would need to build a lab of my own. I used my lab extensively in TAC and knew I would benefit having my own place to test new features, customer questions, and help colleagues. In addition, owning the hardware would help me better understand the server (hardware and VMware) side of things as well.

In December 2017 I finished my initial build and set up a full UCCE deployment with bells and whistles. Thanks to virtualization, I did not need to utilize the 2951 sitting in my office and was able to use Cisco vCUBE and vCUSP for call routing. For UCCE work, I got a full UCCE system with most of the peripherals up including CCMP and ECE because I wanted to get a better feeling of these products before I needed to deploy them for work.

As I started enabling and using more features for UCCE and add-ons, I started hitting some performance issues. The two that made me really want to spend a few more dollars were CUIC and CCMP. CUIC eats RAM. I could have put 32GB of RAM on the VM for CUIC and it would find a way to need more. Doing some more digging, I found that VMware was reserving ~2GB so I was actually oversubscribed quite a bit. I had a feeling about this all along but thought sluggishness was something I could live with for a while, but it finally got hit breaking point.

I got fed up so I set up an alert on PC Part Picker and finally pulled the trigger. Since I was taking the server apart, I decided to add another SSD for additional VMs coming soon. The upgrade brought me from 500TB SSD and 64GB RAM to 1.5TB SSD and 128 GB of RAM.

Pre-upgrade utilization:

 Note: CUIC is powered down in this image.

 

Final build:
    CPU: Intel - Xeon E5-2620 V4 2.1GHz 8-Core Processor
    CPU Cooler: Noctua - NH-U9DXi4 37.8 CFM CPU Cooler
    Motherboard: ASRock - X99 Extreme4 ATX LGA2011-3 Motherboard 
    Memory: Corsair - Vengeance LPX 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-2400 Memory
    Memory: Corsair - Vengeance LPX 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-2400 Memory
    Memory: Corsair - Vengeance LPX 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-2400 Memory
    Memory: Corsair - Vengeance LPX 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-2400 Memory
    Storage: Samsung - 850 EVO-Series 500GB 2.5" Solid State Drive
    Storage: Samsung - 860 Evo 1TB 2.5" Solid State Drive
    Storage: Western Digital - Red 3TB 3.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive
    Video Card: Gigabyte - GeForce 210 1GB Video Card
    Case: Cooler Master - N400 ATX Mid Tower Case
    Power Supply: EVGA - SuperNOVA G2 550W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply
    Keyboard: Logitech - K400 Plus Wireless Mini Keyboard w/Touchpad

Note: The case is a bit bent because my standing desk got caught on the case but there was no functional impact.


Final utilization and VM list of my lab:



This was my first PC build. I have upgraded parts in the past but never really built anything from scratch. Shout out to Chris for his help during the build.

Before I left Cisco, I was doing a rotation with an Advanced Services project to get a better understanding of the delivery aspect of the Contact Center ecosystem. In one of the customer calls, they mentioned the use of Okta as their Identity Provider and the need to use SSO for their UCCE environment. Immediately the TAC engineer thought "this is unsupported" based on the compatibility matrix and what my interactions had been but it got me thinking to what would be require especially since the 11.6 release had big claim that it was protocol based implementation.

Being someone who lives by the lab, I got to work.

I immediately spun up a dev account on Okta and some IdS servers, rooted boxes, tested configurations, and looked through plenty of logs.

Tl;dr - UCCE integration with Okta. CCEAdmin, Finesse, CUIC, and even ECE works, CCMP does not. UCCX uses the same backend, so it also works.

Contact Center SSO with Okta Identity on cisco.com

This was my last article to be written and published on Cisco.com but one of the most fun and interesting problems I had a chance to work on the side with. One of the biggest challenges was my Cisco lab had some interesting proxy settings that required some fine tuning and showing some BU folk that had attempted this but failed that this would actually work.

 

Note: This was a proof of concept article. This was tested for functionality and failover with a few agents but was not thoroughly vetted in pre-production or production environments.

Last week Wink released an interesting article on their blog regarding home automation and smart homes. It reads off more as a marketing tool than statistics but still some interesting numbers.

  • Almost half (48%) purchased connected product to save energy followed by 44% to keep home safe

  • 57% of people have forgotten to do a routine household task in last 6 months.
    -51% turning off light
    -29% locking main door
    -24% closing garage door

  • People have a desire for monitoring
    -63% make sure home isn't broken into
    -38% to check in on pet
  • 36% of Renters would pay more to rent a home with smart products as amenities.
  • Renters would pay on average of 5% more in rent for smart homes
  • 63% of millennial said they've forgotten to lock front door in last 6 months.
  • 34% of Americans believe it would cost $5000 to turn home into smart home
  • 9% of Americans believe it would cost $20000 to turn home into smart home
  • Wink says most users start out with 4 products with an average cost of 200 bucks.

This is fascinating. The price points that some people think it takes to get into automation is crazy.

I started off with Hue starter kit and my home came with Ecobee3 system. Once I was gifted my Echo I felt like I had a proper smart home because I could use my voice instead of apps and the home finally felt "smart" at that point. Obviously my home system has grown but it's still nowhere near the $5000 mark but I also don't think $200 will get you a decent experience.

My recommendation for folks getting into smart home:

  • Basic
    • Google Home or Amazon Echo (I prefer the Home)
    • Hue Light starter kit (3 lights + hub)
  • Once you get the hang of it
    • More Google Homes or Amazon Dots/Echos
    • More bulbs
    • SmartThings Hub
    • Smart Outlets (TP Link makes a great one for 25-30 bucks)
    • GE Smart Light Switches
    • GE Fan Controllers
    • Smart Doorlocks
    • Video Doorbells
    • Garage door openers
    • Much much more.

Note that once you get into the home automation grind, you tend to start buying more interesting gadgets. It is an addiction that hamper the pocketbook but that the wife can benefit from too at the end of the day.

Link to blog post - Blog
Link to full data - PDF with more stats