My 2010 Reading List: So Far

It’s unfortunate that I feel like I’m starting the year already behind on my “tech” reading list. Here’s a quick list of I have within arms reach.

In addition to books, I’ve downloaded several whitepapers onto my Kindle for those free moments on the subway:

New Years Resolution: Get Certified!

Is your New Years’ resolution to finally sit down and take some Microsoft exams? I’m planning to work a bit harder toward my Exchange 2007 MCITP certification in the first half of 2010. Just because Exchange 2010 is released doesn’t mean that taking the time to learn an “older” technology isn’t useful. Especially if that is what you are faced with administering on a day to day basis.

If you haven’t visited the Microsoft Learning website recently, it’s worth a look. Microsoft has updated several of their charts and learning paths to make the changes between the MCSE program and the MCTS and MCITP programs a lot clearer. I’m a fan of the the “Certification by Technology” chart that lists out each major product line and the certification paths available.

There are also some downloadable charts detailing the upgrade paths from older certifications, complete with recommendations for online or live training and reading materials. Finally, the Learning Catalog has several free “clinics” covering topics such as “Exchange 2010 in the Enterprise” and “Exploring Microsoft Virtualization”. They are easy place to get started.

Here’s to a productive 2010!

Tech Tidbits – PDFs on Kindle 2, Beta Exams

For those of you who like to be on the bleeding edge of Microsoft exam offerings, don’t miss out on the Microsoft Beta Exam Announcements blog. Right now there are 3 new beta exams available:

  • 71-663 – Pro: Designing and Deploying Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
  • 71-580 – TS: Windows Mobile® 6.5, Application Development
  • 71-579 – TS: Windows Mobile® 6.5, Configuring

Also, Amazon released a firmware update for the Kindle 2 that increases the battery life by several days and added support for native PDFs, which was originally only available in DX version. I don’t expect I’ll be dumping my Kindle “classic” immediately, but I will put a few whitepapers on my husband’s to see how it handles diagrams and other components that don’t convert well to the regular Kindle format.

Finally, don’t miss out the PacITPros December meeting. Check out www.pacitpros.org for details and to RSVP.

Configuring Server 2008 AD – Traditional vs. Virtual Lab Exam

There has been some recent chatter on the web about the 83-640 exam, which is the “virtual lab” version of the 70-640 exam, TS: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring. Both of these exams are available by Prometric (at least in CA), but 83-640 is not currently listed as an official exam option for the MCITP: Enterprise Administrator or for the MCITP: Server Administrator if you refer to the MCITP certification list. However, the exam details for 83-640 note that it DOES count toward them. It’s hard to say if or when this new version will officially replace the traditional exam.

I did have the chance to sit for the pilot of this test held in late 2008, when it was numbered as 70-113. While the test did have a multiple-choice section, the sections that were done in the virtual lab were actually fun. Yes, I thought the test was fun.

It really gives someone who works a lot with Windows a chance to showcase their skills without having to memorize the exact name of the tab or screen where a setting is located, as is often the case with the regular exam format. Instead, you worked on a fully functional server, making about 10 configuration changes in each test segment. I had access to everything I would have on a “real” server – I could click around to review all the tabs, settings and tools and even had access to the help files. Once all the tasks were completed, you close out that segment and move onto the next.

The experience was as close to a true work environment as you could possibly get for a test. We all know that on any given day, we may not know exactly where to go for what needs to be done, but we certainly know it when we see it. And browsing a few tabs or pressing F1 is part of the process to jog our memories and get us back on track.

If I was given the choice to take 70-640 or 83-640 to meet my certification requirements, I’d look to take the “virtual lab” version, hands down. I hope Microsoft looks to this new format for future exams.

Windows 7 Beta Exam for Pro: Enterprise Desktop Admin

Through the middle of the month, IT Pros will be taking the beta exam version for the 70-686, Pro: Windows 7 Enterprise Desktop Admin. My exam slot was in the middle of last week and as far as testing goes, this one hit on every possible area you could run into Windows 7 in the enterprise.

Obviously, I can’t rattle off exam questions and this test had more than the average share of them due the the beta nature. However, I can tell you that there was at least one question for EVERY bullet point in the skills list in the exam catalog.

Because this was geared to the enterprise, general experience with AD and group policy were important, as well as WAN/LAN networking concepts and security methods. And because this is a new OS with plenty of new features, don’t plan to empty your pockets at the testing center until you know the differences between the various options for application compatibility, the range of deployment methods (including image and licensing management) and how the newer features in IE8 and Windows Server 2008/2008 R2 can affect the desktop experience.

This exam, combined with the 70-680 exam, make up the MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator 7 certification. While this certification doesn’t require as many tests as the MCITP: Enterprise Administrator it’s certainly gearing up to be challenging in it’s own right, as the desktop client is the portal through which the majority of workers experience your company network.

More Windows 7 Beta Exams

There are two new Windows 7 beta exams available for a short time. As with most beta tests, you won’t find any official study material and likely won’t have enough time to read it anyway. However, if you’ve been using and testing Windows 7 since it’s beta days, it’s worth a shot to take one of these exams.

The promo code will get you the test for free and you’ll get credit for the real deal on your transcript if you pass. Seats and time slots are VERY limited, so don’t waste time thinking about it too long.

71-686: PRO: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Administrator
Public Registration begins: September 14, 2009
Beta exam period runs: September 21, 2009 – October 16, 2009
Registration Promo Code: EDA7

When this exam is officially published (estimated date 11/16/09), this exam will become the official 70-686 exam, which is one of two exams needed for the the MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Adminstrator 7 certification.

71-685: PRO: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Support Technician
Public Registration begins: September 14, 2009
Beta exam period runs: September 14, 2009 – October 16, 2009
Registration Promo Code: EDST7

When this exam is published (also on 11/16/09) as 70-685, it will be credit toward the MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician 7 certification. This certification isn’t listed yet in the MCITP Certification list but I suspect it will be paired with the 70-680 exam, much like the Enterprise Desktop Administrator 7 certification.

Information about these and other exams can be found at Microsoft Learning.

Why Certify? Or Not?

Last night, I presented a brief overview of current Microsoft certifications at the PacITPros meeting. One of the questions that came up was how to determine the ROI of getting certified. Right now, I’m in the early stages of updating my messaging certification from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2007. My office pays for exam fees, so I like to take advantage of that when I can. But why certify at all?

For me, it’s not a “bottom line” calculation. I do it as a motivator to keep learning. The nature of the business where I work means we tend to deal with a lot of dated software and don’t always have a need to upgrade to the latest or greatest of anything. We usually run about 3 years behind, particularly with Microsoft software, though that has been changing. If I wasn’t personally interested in staying current, I could easily let my skills lag behind.

Getting a certification in a specific technology gives me something tangible to work towards. By using some extra lab equipment at the office and making time to read, I can have a little fun and stay up to date on technology that will eventually get deployed in production.

Certification isn’t a perfect science. I know that the exams aren’t always in line with real production situations, but they have been improving over the years. And I know there are people on the ends of the spectrum -those that have great skills or experience with no certifications and others with limited experience and a series of letters after their name. I aim for balance. I stick with the topics and products that are in line with what I work with regularly so I can be confident that taking the time to study is going to provide value.

Right now, getting a certification doesn’t end in extra bonuses or a higher salary grade. But maybe one day it will be the item that stands out on my resume when compared to others with similar experience. Or show that I have the ability to set a goal and follow through. Or perhaps I’ll just enjoy challenging myself – certainly no harm in that!

PacITPros – Certifications, BranchCache and Office 2010

PacITPros will be having the September meeting tomorrow night at 6:30pm.

There is quite the line up of topics – Ed Horley, Microsoft MVP in Enterprise Security, will be presenting on Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 as a “Better Together” story. Specifically, what items are available only from Windows S2K8R2 with Windows 7 and how they would be compelling to use.

I’ll be doing a short presentation of what’s new with Microsoft certification tracks (specifically info about the MCITP and MCTS certifications) and Kathy Jacobs, Microsoft MVP in OneNote, will be doing an overview of some of the cool new features in Office 2010. Plus with the VMWare conference going on right down the street, there is sure to be a lot of chatter about what’s going on over at the Moscone Center.