Network Design Step 1: Identifying Customer Requirements

The first step in any network design process involves gathering pertinent data in order to better understand a customer’s business and technical requirements. In many cases, companies will provide you with basic information about their business and technical requirements in advance, often in the form of a request for proposal (RFP) or request for information (RFI). While these documents sometimes provide great depth and detail, they can also be missing critical and necessary information. As a network designer, it is your job to ask the correct questions in order to acquire all of the necessary information that will allow you to understand the customer’s business and technical environment.

Broadly speaking, identifying customer requirements involves knowing more about their business and technical goals, as well as the services, applications, and features that they plan to deploy. While gathering information about goals is critical, it is just as important to gather information about any constraints that may exist; in other words, factors that cannot be overlooked that will ultimately impact the proposed solution.

For the CCDA exam, you are expected to be able identify goals and constraints of a business or technical nature. Unfortunately, part of gathering information involves the sleuth or detective work mentioned earlier. You simply cannot expect to be presented with explicit information that states, “our business goals are” or “our technical constraints are”. Instead, you’ll be expected to extract constraints and goals from case studies, using the information provided to determine exactly what the real issues are, and the categories they fall into.

The following articles outline examples of common goals and constraints associated with a network design project, and the categories that they fall into. It’s important to note that the process of documenting an organization’s goals, constraints, and requirements is not a series of standalone steps, but rather an iterative process that involves gathering information in certain areas, and then making adjustments as new information is discovered or presented to you.

Close Firefox Download Manager Windows Automatically

If you surf the web with Firefox, then you’ve no doubt noticed the Downloads window that appears when you download a file. While this window makes it easy to view the progress of downloads as they occur, one default behavior can be a little annoying for those who download files on a regular basis – namely the fact that the program will leave the Download window open once the download is completed.

This feature is helpful for users who like to launch downloads immediately (using the window’s Open link), but not as much for users who’ve configured Firefox to download files to a particular folder for later use. If you’re in the latter camp, follow these steps to have the Downloads window close automatically once your downloads are complete.

Open Firefox, type about:config in the address bar, and press Enter. Browse to the setting called browser.download.manager.closeWhenDone, double-click it to change the value to True, and the the Download window will now close automatically when downloaded files are complete.

Disable Automatic Image Resizing in Firefox

When you browse the web with Firefox and attempt to view an image file (a JPG, for example), Firefox wants to ensure you see the “whole” image and therefore resizes the image dynamically to ensure a complete view. Unfortunately, resizing the image often results in less-than-optimal quality, a situation that’s easily remedied in Firefox by simply clicking on the image once to view it at its original full-glory resolution.

While the ability to full-size images in this way is handy, some people will want to view all images in their full size by default. A simple Firefox tweak will get the job done if this is what you want:

In the Firefox address bar, type about:config and press Enter. Next, browse to the preference named browser.enable_automatic_image_resizing. This value is set to true by default, but if you double-click on it, it will switch to false. Once complete, all images will appear without any resizing applied bu default. To switch to the resized, fitted view, simply click on the image as you normally would.

Burning ISO Files to Disc

If you’re the type of person who often downloads large files online, you’ve probably come across files with an extension of .ISO. ISO files are probably the most popular optical disc file format, literally an “image” of a CD or DVD disc. When one user wants to exchange an entire CD with another, for example, one will create an ISO image file of the disc’s contents and then pass it along to the other who will need to burn that ISO image to a disc. Once the ISO file is burned to disc, it is literally an exact replica of the original.

One of the most common uses of ISO files in the public domain is as a means of distributing Linux distributions to users. For example, let’s say that you want to download and install Ubuntu Linux. The Ubuntu site provides the operating system as an ISO image. After downloading and burning the ISO to disc, it’s like having an original copy of the Ubuntu installation disc in hand. ISO files are also commonly used to distribute large files or images of discs via means like Torrents.

Unfortunately, Windows XP lacks built-in support for burning ISO files. All is not lost, however. Most of the CD burning utilities included with PCs – including limited versions – include support for burning ISO images to disc. In Nero Express, for example, the option is called Burn Image to Disc. When selected, you supply the location of the downloaded ISO file and then click the appropriate options to burn the disc. If your PC lacks a third-party CD writing utility, then I would suggest downloading CDBurnerXP Pro, a free program that includes a variety of advanced burning options for both CDs and DVDs, including the ability to both burn and create ISO files. You can find this handy tool at www.cdburnerxp.se.

Disabling Native ZIP Support in Windows XP

Windows XP includes built-in support for creating and opening ZIP files, but it’s capabilities are nowhere near as robust as third-party ZIP management tools like WinZIP, Filzip and other popular compression programs.

While there’s technically nothing wrong with leaving both XP’s built-in ZIP capabilities and a third-party tool installed simultaneously, some performance improvements can be had by disabling XP’s native ZIP support.  Disabling XP’s native ZIP handling capabilities is a simple matter of unregistering the DLL file associated with the feature, namely zipfldr.dll.

To disable XP’s native ZIP support, click Start > Run and then type the following the Open text box:

regsvr32 /u zipfldr.dll

Click OK, and when the RegSvr32 dialog box appears, click OK to confirm that the file was unregistered. Reboot and from that point forward, use your preferred third-party ZIP utility as you normally would.

To re-enable native ZIP support, enter the command regsvr32 zipfldr.dll

Add Custom Shortcuts to the Windows XP Send To Menu

When you right-click on a file or folder, Windows XP displays a shortcut menu that includes options like Open, Delete, Rename, Properties, and so forth. More than likely, you’ve noticed that this menu also includes an option called Send To, which when expand displays different locations to which you can send the item. For example, choosing the Send To > Mail Recipient option automatically opens a new blank email message with the file in question attached. Choosing the Send To > My Documents option places a copy of the current file or folder directly into your My Documents folder hierarchy.

While the default options supplied by XP (and some other programs once installed) are handy, most users don’t recognize that they can add custom locations to the Send To menu as well, as per their needs. For example, let’s say that you commonly store image files in a folder like C:\SharedImages. Adding a shortcut to this folder to your Send To menu makes it easy to move files or folders into C:\SharedImages from the right-click Send To menu.

To add new shortcuts to your user account’s Send To menu, click Start > Run, type Sendto and click OK. Then, right-click and choose New Shortcut to open the New Shortcut wizard and select the location and name of your choice. Once complete, the new shortcut will appear as an option on your Send To menu.

Control System Icons Displayed on the Windows XP Desktop

Everyone has their own ideas as to what constitutes their “perfect” Windows desktop. Some prefer the clean and crisp look, where shortcut icons are kept to an absolute minimum. Others deem substance more important than style, and prefer to use their Desktop real estate as a placeholder for shortcuts to all of their most commonly used programs and system tools.

Creating shortcuts to programs is easy enough, but some users struggle after making the decision to remove certain “key” desktop icons like those associated with the Recycle Bin or My Computer. Most often, these icons are removed by accident, leaving the user in a panic as to how they can be removed to their rightful place.

Microsoft’s free Tweak UI PowerToy makes it easy to return certain key system icons to their rightful place without the need to dig through system settings or edit the Registry. By opening the program and browsing to the Desktop icon you can control whether the Internet Explorer, My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places, and Recycle Bin icons appear on your XP desktop. Simply check those you want to appear and uncheck those you want to hide, click OK and you’re off to the races.

Changing the Windows XP Screen Saver Grace Period

If you’ve enabled a screen saver on your Windows XP system and set it to prompt for a password (or display the Welcome screen on Windows XP Home edition) to re-enter your user session, then you may be aware that you have a “grace” period between when the screen saver first appears and when a password is required to dismiss it. This grace period is provided to give you a quick opportunity to dismiss the screen in cases where your PC has been idle for the wait period, but you’re not quite ready to have Windows XP be safely locked up just yet.  By default, the grace period for a screensaver is 5 seconds. In other words, if you move your mouse or tap a key before the grace period expires, your password will not be required to exit the screensaver.

Want a little more time before the locking mechanism of your screensaver kicks in? All you need to do is adjust it’s grace period, a task easily accomplished with Microsoft’s free Tweak UI PowerToy. Open the program, browse to Logon > Screen Saver, and then adjust the Grace Period (seconds) setting to a number that better meets your needs. A little more time (say 30-60 seconds) may be the differences between having to unlock your system multiple times per day rather than just a couple.

Disable Display of Unread Email Messages at XP’s Welcome Screen

With XP’s Welcome logon screen enabled, users will be presented with a list of their unread email messages when the screen is displayed. This list of unread messages is generated for users individually and takes into account unread messages from programs like Outlook, Outlook Express, Hotmail, and so forth depending on a user’s setup.

While this feature makes it easier for casual users to determine whether it’s worth logging on or not, it can also be downright annoying. If you’d rather not have the unread email message list appear on the Welcome screen, a simple change can make it happen.

One way to remove the unread email message is to edit the Registry directly, but a safer method is by using Microsoft’s free Tweak UI PowerToy. With the program open, browse to Logon > Unread Mail and then uncheck the Show unread mail on Welcome screen check box. Next, choose a suitable option in the Scope section, for example whether this setting should apply to your user account only, or all user accounts. Once complete, click OK and enjoy.

Access the XP Administrator Account from the Welcome Screen

If you’re running Windows XP on a shared multi-user system at home, there’s a good chance that you’re also using XP’s Welcome screen as your primary logon enironment.  While the Welcome screen provides the “friendliest” logon environment for shared systems, it comes with a drawback – namely the fact that XP’s built-in Administrator account is missing as a logon option from this screen.

Thankfully all is not lost. If you need to log on with the built-in Administrator account (perhaps to change system settings or reset a password) you can access the Administrator account even though it’s not visible by default. To get to it (or any other account for that matter), try the following with no other users logged on:

At the Welcome screen, press Ctrl+Alt+Del. Without releasing the Ctrl+Alt keys, release the Del key and tap it again. This will display the traditional XP logon dialog box, from which you can then enter the Administrator username and password and log on with that account.