December 11, 2013 3:20 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
free upgrade to Windows 8.1
, IT careers
, using ISO for free upgrade to Windows 8.1?
In the past month or so, I’ve documented various issues and potential gotchas in upgrading from Windows 8 to 8.1 This morning, I came across an extremely interesting item from Microsoft amidst its Windows 8 Website pages. The title of that page speaks volumes, so I reproduce it here in pictorial form as a screen capture:
MS clearly states that you can upgrade from 7 or 8.1 Preview only, and that the Windows Store method is REQUIRED for the Windows 8 to 8.1 “update”.
Alas, I wish this news were better. Just for grins, I’m going to try this method with the Windows 8.1 ISO and the Windows 8 product key from my son’s Dell XPS 2710 later today or tomorrow, to see if it will work for that scenario as well (Windows 8 key with a Windows 8.1 setup; FYI the link later on this page labeled “Install Windows 8.1″ points to a file named WindowsSetupBox.exe, whose original filename descriptor reads “Web Setup Self-Extractor” so I’m guessing this provides an alternate means of accessing the same installer that’s used through the Windows Store for ordinary 8 –> 8.1 updates).
To grab the product key from an already installed version of Windows 8 (or other versions, for that matter) you need a tool to extract it for you (find a list in this Yahoo! article “How to Find Pre-installed Product Key for Windows 8“). I like Nir Sofer’s tools and utilities more than most, so I turned immediately to the NirSoft ProduKey utility. It coughed up the necessary info in seconds after I unpacked the ZIP file into my standard Utilities directory.
Next blog post: a report on using the Windows 8 key with an ISO install from a bootable USB using an MSDN-obtained image file for Windows 8.1 Pro.
December 9, 2013 7:16 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
, IT training for separating military
, Microsoft Systems and Software Academy
, preparing transitional service members for civilian IT employment
In other blog posts here and elsewhere, I’ve mentioned the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy, a military-oriented offshoot of the company’s IT Academy program which has branches at high schools, community colleges, technical schools, and even some four-year colleges and universities around the US (and all over the world, actually). A pilot program had been set up this past summer, which put a group of 22 service men and women through a 16-week training program at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JGLM) set up in partnership with a local St. Martin’s University campus in Washington State. This first batch was honored last week on campus in a ceremony described in this story from the JBLM newspaper, The Northwest Guardian, entitled “Service members looking to the future.” Senator Patty Murray gave the ceremony keynote, as a key contributor to the “VOW to Hire Heroes Act” legislation passed by the Congress in 2011 that helped provide funding for this venture.
Microsoft has indicated it will hire some of these graduates itself, while others will go to work at technical staffiing company Launch Consulting, to work as contractors for Microsoft and other high-tech employers. So far there’s been no precise word on what kinds of certifications are being conferred at the successful conclusion of the 16-week program, but my “educated guess” is that it’s either one of the MTA or MCSD credentials with a Web programming focus. I’ve got a call into Lorna White at Microsoft to try to tease out this all-important detail, and will modify this blog post as soon as I find out!
December 6, 2013 4:06 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
2013 jobs report delivers more new jobs than expected
, IT careers
, November 2013 jobs report shows lower unemployment
, US Employment Situation Summary
, Us November 2013 jobs report shows IT unemployment continues downward
It’s the first Friday of the month and with it comes another opus from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, reciting the employment situation for the previous month. Even as more workers entered — or returned to — the workplace, unemployment still managed its biggest drop in quite some time, from 7.3 percent in October to 7.0 percent in November. With 203,000 new jobs added in November as well, and modest upward revisions to employment numbers for September (+12,000) that offset small downward revisions for October (-4,000; net gain: 8,000 over both months), the news was pretty positive overall. In fact, because the average forecast for new jobs in November was around 180,000 and the actuals came in at 23,000 over that mark (12.8 percent better), we see something of a “hat trick” in this latest report: a dip in overall unemployment, upward revision to recent reports, and better-than-expected numbers in the most recent employment figures.
What does this latest set of figures tell us? We’re clearly still in slow growth mode, because at least an additional 100,000 new jobs per month are needed to start whittling away more effectively at overall unemployment. But it looks like some modest acceleration in job growth may finally be underway. Perhaps it’s just the usual effect of hiring for the holiday buying season, and the foot will leave the pedal early next year. But for the moment, at least, it looks like the pace has picked up just a tad.
Overall unemployment is down nicely for the information sector, but no noticeable job growth there as yet.
Table A-14 shows some trickle down into the Information sector, too. Whereas the sector reports fewer unemployed persons in November 2012 version the same month this year:187,000 in 11/12 versus 176,000 in 11/13, the respective unemployment percentages tilt more strongly: 6.8 percent for 2012 versus 6.4 percent in 2013. Why is this an interesting shift? Because these figures mean that total information employment in 2012 was 2.75 million, and exactly the same in 2013 (2.75 million again). Though unemployment has dropped, the Information sector still hasn’t added to its overall job count.
Methinks this may be forced to change soon, because 6.4 percent unemployment is getting closer to the typical 5-6 percent range that represents full employment for most sectors of the US economy. As the counts edge close to that threshold, I’d expect to see the sector finally start adding new jobs overall, at long, long last.
December 4, 2013 2:50 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
, GIAC program incorporates mobile security (GMOB) credential
, IT careers
, Mobile Security certifications
, SANS GIAC adds mobile security GMOB cert
The SANS Global Information Assurance Certification, or GIAC, program is nothing if not forward-looking. Driven by constant input from a cadre of loyal adherents and followers, the GIAC program stays pretty much at the forefront of information security topics, tools, and technologies. That’s why upon reading at GoCertify (“Latest Certification Updates“) about the organization’s new GIAC Mobile Device Security Analyst, to which the seemingly unrelated acronym GMOB applies (until I had a Homer Simpson moment — “Doh!” – and realized it meant “GIAC Mobile”), I decided to dig a bit further into its content and coverage.
The latest mobile security GIAC cert stresses mobile device penetration testing and mobile application security analysis.
A quick look at the GMOB home page makes it clear that the credential focuses on operational security, with an emphasis on hardening mobile devices, and making sure that communications between mobile devices and corporate systems is protected from snooping and eavesdropping through all technical means available. More specifically, here’s what this credential takes as its primary objectives:
- General understanding of mobile device architectures, operating systems, and security features.
- Assessing mobile devices to find and mitigate security vulnerabilities and deficiencies.
- Ensuring technical knowledge necessary to conduct mobile device penetration testing.
- Understanding how to conduct a basic security analysis for mobile applications.
- Able to understand and apply security policies in a mobile device environment.
- Familiarity with common attack methods for mobile devices, such as jailbreaking, rooting, sidejacking, and web application attacks, and methods to remediate or mitigate them.
- Able to employ common protection techniques for mobile devices, such as encryption, VPN, configuration management, content filtering, and more.
As is its usual practice, SANS offers a training class to prepare candidates for the GMOB exam — namely, SEC575: Mobile Device Security and Ethical Hacking (6 days, long course, $4,645). Alternatively, candidates may simply challenge the exam without taking the class (2 hours, 75 questions, $579; cut score: 66% ). This credential must be renewed every 4 years to stay current, either by re-taking the exam, completing a continuing education requirement, or other means (see “Certification Maintenance Guidelines & Requirements” for more information).
December 2, 2013 11:03 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
This blog post picks up where my prior November 20 item “Mobile IT: It’s the New Raison d’Etre for Information Technology” left off. In particular, I’m digging more deeply into what I learned about upcoming certification changes and new introductions from Ophir Erez, Senior Director of Education Programs at Citrix. The original impetus for my mid-November phone interview with Mr. Erez came from a personal observation that much of the look and feel, and apparently also, a lot of the content, for the Citrix Certification pages had recently changed. My observation was confirmed when Mr. Erez indicated that recent and upcoming changes to Citrix certification credentials and their surrounding infrastructure represents “…the most meaningful change to our framework in the past decade…”
The tiers remain the same, but the silos for content are changing dramatically.
When asked about what motivated such broad and sweeping changes he replied that “…certification has to evolve as the world evolves…” More important he also asserted that Citrix is seeking to provide tools and training to foster the “successful adoption of technology” across what he called “the whole talent eco-system — namely, employees, partners, and users” where the idea is to stress hands-on exposure, in-depth validation of skills and knowledge, and constant efforts to keep cert coverage relevant to on-the-job needs and situations in the workaday world.
Mr. Erez also said a number of things that captured my attention, not just because they speak of shifts in philosophy at Citrix, but also because they speak to broader changes in the drivers for IT certification programs from many sponsors and sources:
- moving to a solution oriented information domain, which is broader than a product or platform focused approach, and takes necessary cognizance of other third-party products and platforms (he mentioned both Microsoft Server, and a variety of virtualization technologies in this context)
- a desire to address customer needs directly and forcefully, and an equal motivation to enable and facilitate positive business outcomes (to me, this testifies eloquently that the “gee whiz” days of cool new technologies for their own sakes’ is coming to an end, and is being replaced by more more focused attention on what kind of ROI cool new technologies can and should deliver to their buyers)
- Workforce mobility in general, and to some extent also Windows as a Service (which I often think of as the most common case for “Desktop as a Service”), is driving Citrix strongly into mobility (where the target end-user devices may not even run Windows, yet still need access to Windows apps and services). Urgent market needs are, in fact, driving them to develop an entire Mobility silo in their overall certification offerings. In early 2014, the professional level Mobility cert will make its debut, with the Expert level looming further out later into 2014. Presumably, an associate level may make its appearance sometime thereafter. The reasoning for this mid-tier introduction is, in Mr. Erez’s words “…end to end mobility (devices, apps, and data) is not easy and therefore we will start at mid-tier for an implementer, because that is where the market need is.”
There’s a lot more interesting information from this interview about the Networking certification silo at Citrix, but I’ll save that for another blog post. Suffice it to say that interesting changes are indeed a-working at Citrix, and there’s a lot to say about what the organization is doing to update and enhance its training and certification programs and offerings. Stay tuned for another thrilling episode in the next week or two!
November 27, 2013 4:50 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
, VMware certification
, VMware Free Fundamentals training
I’m innately suspicious of IT certification programs that require cert candidates to take expensive, multi-day classes as necessary pre-requisites before allowing them to challenge the exams that lead to such certifications. That doesn’t mean I don’t think all of the many programs that levy such requirements are questionable, worthless, or do more harm than good. Case in point: VMware which, except for a narrow window following a new major platform version release wherein they permit VCPs and higher to take an “upgrade” exam without taking a class, otherwise requires all of its cert candidates to take official curriculum classes to gear up for the related cert exams. Their technology is important and popular, their training is sound and well-designed, and their certifications are deservedly highly regarded. There’s only one thing “wrong” with them: they’re pretty darn expensive, too.
VMware’s Free Fundamentals training classes offer quality, 2.5 hour basic topic coverage at no cost to attendees.
That’s why I was tickled to discover a whole raft of free VMware Fundamentals courses on the company’s web site. Currently, their Top Free Courses webpage lists 30 (of a total of 50) such items. Here’s what the top 15 look like (with links to match; all are self-paced and video based):
1. VMware Data Center Virtualization Fundamentals
2. VMware Cloud Fundamentals
3. VMware Workforce Mobility Fundamentals
4. VMware vSphere: What’s New Fundamentals [V5.5]
5. VMware Horizon Workspace Fundamentals [V1.5]
6. VMware VCP-DCV 5.1 Exam Preparation Workshop
7. Virtualizing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 with VMware [V5.X] Fundamentals
8. VMware ThinApp Fundamentals [V5.X]
9. VMware vCenter Operations Manager Fundamentals [V5.X]
10. VMware vSphere: What’s New [V5.1]
11. Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Design [v5.X]
12. vCloud Networking and Security Fundamentals [V5.X]
13. VMware vCloud Director Fundamentals [V5.1/V5.5]
14. VMware View: Fundamentals [V5.0]
15. vCloud Automation Center: Fundamentals [V5.1]
That’s a whole lotta free fundamentals, covering a broad range of interesting, informative and potentially useful topics. These classes generally run 2.5 hours or so in length, demonstrate high production values and quality content and coverage, and will help ease prospective candidates into the first steps toward the respective certs to which they relate. My guess? These fundamentals are intended to show the public that VMware’s required training is not simply a money-extraction tool, but is intended to make sure that candidates really do learn (and interact with) the tools, platforms, and technologies around which their certification credentials are focused. As I understand it, the real reason VMware requires training is that they want to make sure that rote learning alone can’t get their certifications into candidate’s hands. The required training means that all candidates must spend some significant time learning about such things passively in a classroom or self-paced situation, but then also practicing and demonstrating skills and knowledge in the virtual labs that invariably accompany such materials.
Thus, these high-quality free fundamentals serve a dual purpose: to help the general public learn some basic facts and aspects of the company’s products and platforms, and to show prospective cert candidates (and their managers) that the mandatory training does in fact deliver value for the money it costs to attend such classes, either in the flesh in a classroom or virtually online. Given the importance of virtualization in today’s IT infrastructures, its absolute centrality to cloud computing, and growing trends toward increased and more widespread adoptions of such technologies in the future, VMware is staking out its place as a major player in this IT market niche. The “Free Fundamentals” make a nice teaser to draw the uncertain or uncommitted into their clutches. And for once, in the face of blatant marketing tactics used to add value as well as create incentives to buy into a technology vision, I approve!
November 25, 2013 2:45 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
In mid-October 2013, VMware acquired Desktone, a leading player in the “Desktop as a Service” (DaaS) space. At the same time the company’s Horizon View platform supports delivery of Windows desktops and applications to mobile users on a wide variety of devices. This puts standard corporate desktop capabilities into the hands of users who may have only smartphones or tablets running Android or iOS at their disposal, as well as more typical “road warriors” armed with Windows notebooks, laptops, or tablets (as well as other desktop OSes such as MacOS or Linux).
The first step in an associate – professional – expert cert sequence for mobility is out; more to follow in 2014.
At the same time, VMware is rolling out a Workforce Mobility certification track, and has made its VMware Certified Associate – Workforce Mobility (VCA-WM) credential available to interested candidates. A Professional-level follow-on credential will be out in 2014, with more advanced tiers to follow thereafter.
All this tells me that VMware is taking cloud-based virtual desktop technology incredibly seriously, and betting at least part of its future on delivering products, platforms, training and certification to arm its partners and customers to cope with a brave new part of the IT landscape as soon as they can put up the necessary scaffolding and infrastructure to support that effort. The acquisition of Desktone speaks loudly to their desire to do more than enable cloud-based VDI, but also to become a player at the services end of that business.
Thus, it will also be really interesting to see how the various Workforce Mobility certification credentials unfold, and what kinds of capability for defining and maintaining images will be exposed to the IT professionals charged with turning the general idea of DaaS and mobile, device-agnostic access to virtualized, cloud-based Windows desktops into working and viable desktop infrastructures for everyday mobile and remote use. We’re in the process of doing nothing less than reinventing IT as we know it — or so I am convinced — so it should be simply fascinating to see how all this unfolds, and what VMware lets its customers and partners do.
November 22, 2013 3:08 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
I’m reaching out to the major IT cert sponsors to learn more about their programs and benefits for veterans and active duty military preparing to transition out of the service into civilian life, with a special emphasis on prepping for and finding employment in information technology. To that end, I spoke with several members of the Microsoft Learning Experience (LeX) earlier this week to discuss what kinds of programs and benefits are available to these people. In coming months, I intend to do likewise with Cisco, CompTIA, Oracle, IBM, HP, VMware, and anybody else I can find to help me open up the subject for discussion and documentation.
The Army’s Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) is just one of several gems my conversation with MS turned up.
Before I dig into key details of what I’ve learned so far, I’d like to observe that something is lacking in this picture. Amidst all the great and laudable efforts from many players, there’s no central clearinghouse for this kind of information, and overall benefits information available. A vast cast of characters, including the White House, all branches of the military, certification sponsors, training companies, and others are engaged in trying to help our veterans and transitioning military personnel find their way into meaningful employment preparation and job opportunities. But it’s difficult for the target audience to find out how to take advantage of these many opportunities, and how to make best use of programs like the post-9/11 renaissance of the GI Bill. I’m going to do my best to shed some light on this subject matter, and to try to make information more transparent and readily available, to help veterans and those transitioning out of the military make more and better sense of this situation.
In my conversations with various members of the LeX team that included a military recruiter for the company itself, plus various individuals involved in programs and offerings that target this specific audience (veterans and transitioning active duty personnel), I not only garnered some interesting and useful information, I also got a sense of how huge and complex this landscape really is. Here are some key bullet points from our free- and far-ranging discussion:
- The US Army operates ACAP, the Army Career & Alumni Program, which is labeled as “The Army’s Official Transition website.” There, members of the US Army will find locations for physical ACAP centers at various Army bases and installation, a central phone number for questions and additional information, and a virtual online center for those unable to take advantage of the ACAP centers in person.
- The Points of Light foundation takes on veterans as one of its specific focus populations, with a military initiatives component that provides all kinds of information and opportunities for the public to show support for and provide assistance to veterans, as well as to provide information and pointers to veterans in search of career development and employment opportunities.
- Microsoft itself is working with veterans and transitioning service members in all kinds of ways, and through numerous programs, one of which is documented in this recent blog post “From the Conventional Classroom to the Military, IT Academy Is Spreading to New Realms.” A new Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) takes a curriculum developed by St. Martin’s University based on the long-running MS IT Academy program and its materials, and is making a pilot program at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Ft. Lewis, Washington. There, those who complete a 16-week course to earn certification in development or IT project management areas may be hired into entry-level roles as software testers by Microsoft or Launch Computing (the technology consulting firm that’s administering this program). Plans are to open other such training programs before the year’s end at other key bases in Texas and California, with additional locations to be announced next year. Active duty personnel from all branches of the military, the National Guard, and Reserves, will be eligible for this program.
Finally, my discussion with the LeX team (Sarah Roberts and Dan Sytman of Microsoft, and Sheryl Tullis of Launch Consulting) concluded with some hard-learned advice that they asked me to pass onto members of the target population who may read this blog post:
1. Look for local transition centers for information, guidance, and help.
2. LinkedIn offers numerous advice and mentoring groups that can offer advice, guidance, and good information to those who seek it out.
3. Don’t forget that the job market is tough for civilians right now, too, so that plenty of old-fashioned (people) networking and lots of elbow grease will be required to find a job in IT (or just about any other field) these days.
4. Remember that the modern “GI Bill” is limited to four years of support, so be sure you take it up with a well-crafted plan of training and courses to produce a degree or a collection of certifications, if not both, before you start cashing in on the program. Otherwise, you risk running out of benefits before reaching your education and/or certification goals.
All of this is good information and advice, and should be helpful to those who take time to ponder and then act upon it. Count on me to keep coming back to this topic, and to keep adding to the store of information about programs and providers, and to share any further nuggets of advice and wisdom that I can turn up in my conversations with cert sponsors on the general subjects of training, certification, and career development for veterans and transitioning active duty military personnel.
November 20, 2013 8:31 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
I follow the cert market, especially as technical competencies and the certs that sometimes go with them point to high growth and attendant job opportunities. That’s why I keep getting my face rubbed in that part of the IT landscape that falls under the “mobility” moniker. This area seems to be growing and expanding faster than almost anybody can keep up with, and keeps popping up almost everywhere in the IT world nowadays. Indeed, mobility is transforming the way people work. As a serious player in mobility technologies, Citrix has focused on designing its next-generation training and certifications to help educate businesses and users on those technologies, roles and skills that it believes to be essential for maximizing the business value of mobility investments.
That probably explains why, when I spoke to Ophir Erez, Senior Director of Education Programs for Citrix on Monday, he had a LOT to say on that topic (enough, in fact, that I’m working on another blog post to explain what’s up with Citrix certifications and where they’re heading in the year or so that still lies ahead). But for this blog post, I want to concentrate on a cluster of remarks he made around the topic of mobility in particular.
Mobility is not just a passing fad or fancy for IT; it is reshaping the entire focus and functionality of what IT is and does.
[Image Credit: Shutterstock 126150599]
Here’s what I grabbed from that conversation, transcribed directly from my notes taken during our November 18 call:
- “Mobility is critical to our customers, and ranks among their most pressing concerns. That’s because it has high impact on their operations, and is essential when it comes to getting work done.”
- “Mobility poses interesting challenges because it crosses so many technology lines, for everything from devices, to applications and apps, to networking and infrastructure, to policies and processes needed to protect organizations yet still permit employees to do their jobs.”
- “Dealing with a new and rapidly-changing market and its technologies requires expressing a vision as much as it requires products and solutions.”
- “Making mobility work for business means delivering a consumer-like experience to end-users, while imposing policies and controls needed to meet legal, regulatory, and security requirements.”
I am struck by these words, not just because they’re accurate and relevant, but also because they succinctly capture the issues involved in tackling and keeping up with a rapidly-moving technology and its attendant uses and controls. He does a great job of summing up why mobility is important — it helps organizations get things done — while also capturing the serious difficulties inherent to getting a rope around (and holding onto) something moving at great speed with significant momentum behind it. The requirement for “vision” is about understanding why the demand is there, where its value and appeal come from, and how to turn that demand into productivity and material gains for the organizations that support mobility, especially in BYOD situations. But nowhere else does Ophir’s understanding shine as brightly when he endorses end-user’s expectations that their mobile experience should be the same at work as it is for them outside the workplace, but still remain subject to best business practices, relevant rules and regulations for compliance’ sake, and proper security wrappers to maintain confidentiality, privacy, integrity and access controls as appropriate for the content or data that’s streaming to and from the legions of mobile devices already involved, or on their way to workplace use.
To me, this goes way beyond Citrix and what they’re doing to help enable mobility in the workplace. It reaches all the way from the beginning of the lifecycle, to where hardware engineers design mobile devices and their capabilities (and security) and software engineers build apps or craft protocols to support mobile access and use. From there it extends into the wireless and wired networking infrastructures that enable mobile communications, to the servers that support back-end data access and services, and so forth. In short, mobility really does cross all the boundaries and touch all the disciplines in IT. It really, truly is a game changer. And that’s why it’s bound to alter the IT certification landscape, just as it’s altering so much elsewhere on the broader IT landscape as well. Mobility is no longer an undiscovered country on this landscape, but we will be exploring and feeling our way into it as part and parcel of what it means to work with, use, or manage information technology from now on.