Cisco Certified Network Associate Lab

The North Alabama Network Professionals (NANPRO,) has a goal of increasing the number of recognized, network professionals in North Alabama and Huntsville. In addition to being the secretary, I especially enjoy helping those who only lack hands-on time and disciplined study to achieve a Cisco Certified Network Associates (CCNA) rating. The challenge is how to get these extra skills and recognition that are important for job satisfaction and excellence.

To help, I recently installed and added a RESET switch to a Cisco AP-EBC card, a Cisco 2503 router on a pair of ISA bus cards, in an Intergraph "Intelligent Desktop" IDT PC (a 486 PC with ethernet.) With SuSE Linux running in the IDT PC, a mini-hub and a Macintosh Wallstreet, I have created a mini-lab to support introductory NANPRO activities:

Operational Scenario

The Linux utility, 'minicom' provides console control of the 2501 (AP-EC) and 2503 (AP-EBC.) The routers and the PC are critical elements of this small training network:

Supporting Node

The Wallstreet Mac shown normally runs Mac OS 10.1 and provides another Unix network node. These elements provide the flexibility to supports Appletalk, Samba and other protocols:

Adding RESET for Password Recovery

One problem with the AP-EC and AP-EBC cards, is they power up in parallel with the PC and can not be independently turned on or off. There are boot-time debug and diagnostic messages that will never been seen unless the console is connected at power-up. Worse, password recovery, an important capability, depends upon getting a "BREAK" sent to the console within one minute of power-on. The AUX port won't substitute for this console function.

To solve this problem, I made a "paper clip RESET" switch using a small brass tube, pull-down resistor and jumper to the RESET pin on the MC68EC030 FE. After Linux boots up and 'minicom' connects to the console, inserting a paper-clip in the hole resets the MC68030 and the AP-EBC card:

To add a RESET requires working with small parts and very close tolerances so the right tools and a little planning goes a long way. For tools, you will need a good magnifying lens, a sharpened solder pencil, needle nose pliers, a tiny drill-bit and pointy-tool (toothpicks work great.) For supplies, epoxy, a 6 inch length of fine stranded wire, a 150-180 ohm pull-down resistor and small diameter hobbyist brass tube. The most important element is a bit of self-confidence and working carefully and deliberately.

The most difficult problem is soldering to the very tiny RESET pin, #64, actually, the microprocessor's "NOT-RESET" pin. The specific pin on the MC68EC030 is very, very tiny, ~0.010 inch, about the thickness of cardstock. The gap between the neighbor pins is about the thickness of a thin sheet of paper. If you make a solder-bridge, you will tie the NOT-RESET pin to Vcc, #63, or to a "Do not connect this pin" lead, #65 (a forbidden experiment!) So look at your AP xxx board, identify the right pins (using the magnifying lens as needed,) and look at your solder pencil point. Think about the AP card and ask yourself, "Is it worth it?" and realize it can be done if you work carefully.

Start by dry-placing and fitting the parts so it will be easy to assemble. With a paper clip inside the brass tube to keep it from collapsing, cut a short length, ~ 1/4-3/8 inch long. Using a tiny bit, make a small hole in the face-plate and fit the brass tube in the hole. You can solder the tube in place on the inside of the face plate at this time or wait until the pull-down resistor is ready.

Curl one lead of the pull-down resistor to make a contact pad and bend the lead 90 degrees for a spring action. Lay the multi-strand wire to run from the area of the pin to an area close to where the resistor will be glued to the board ... routed between the components. Strip the microprocessor end and leave a few wire whiskers about the size of the lead for the MC68EC030 and prepare the other end normally to connect to the pull-down resistor.

Solder the brass tube into the face plate on the inside and make sure your paper-clip slides easily in the tube. Take a second to "tin" the jumper wire ends at the same time making sure the pin-end does not have a glob of solder (a solder bridge waiting to happen.)

This is a good time to take a break from soldering and expoxy your pull-down resistor so a paper clip through the brass tube hits the curled wire pad. Don't worry about the lead since you can bend it up after the epoxy cures. Also spot epoxy the jumper wire from near the CPU over to the pull down resistor. Take a break until the epoxy sets since this will be your "third hand" when you solder the circuit together.

Pre-position the jumper wire over pin #64, the NOT-RESET pin. Dress your solder pencil to a point. Solder tack the jumper end to the pin and carefully inspect to make sure: (1) no solder bridges and (2) lead is soldered. Slip some shrink-wrap on the other end and solder it to the pull down resistor. Inspect everything one last time, install and enjoy!

Work Remaining

There are several tasks remaining including:
  • defining the operational scenario There needs to be a way that anyone can access the lab from home, snapshot a test setup and restore to a previously saved setup.
  • define structured labs The CCNA and other exams have specific objectives. To maximize the benefit of training time, there needs to be a set of well defined lab challenges that employ the concepts.
  • organizing study-groups Although self-study works, a lot of folks work better in a study group. However, it can't go on forever so the duration and focus is the key for student success.

V01.01 November 11, 2001 Show the reset AP modification. V01.00 November 3, 2001 Baseline showing the original system.