August 27, 2012 4:26 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
This morning just after 7 AM, we dropped my son Gregory off for his first day of third grade at his local elementary school. And no sooner did we return home than my wife headed out to Austin Community College to try to wangle her way into the first day of some language classes she wanted to take, but was unable to pre-register for. She’s not home yet, so I can only assume she’s in the classroom for the first of her two classes today. All of this has got me thinking about the “back to school” state and what it can mean for IT professionals.
Even for IT professionals who already have a bachelor’s (or perhaps a more advanced degree) an occasional return to school can be a good thing. It can provide access to current technical or professional information in a structured setting, help keep your mind and learning skills sharp, provide another source of potentially valuable networking with fellow students and faculty, and give you a chance to try on new subjects, ideas, and perspectives. These intermittent forays into learning can also occur online as well, and are often available at very reasonable costs on schedules flexible enough to shoehorn themselves into busy, modern, working lives.
For some certification topics — especially those that benefit from (or require) hands-on access to complex systems or devices — classroom or online training may be the only way to make sufficient progress to master the curriculum (or like many Oracle or VMware credentials, meet stated certification requirements that mandate attendance at authorized training of some kind). That’s why even older professionals with multiple degrees should still be willing to contemplate a return to the classroom for continuing education and professional development. Simply put: while it isn’t free, it can’t hurt, and it might actually help your career and to keep your skills and knowledge fresh.
As for myself, at age 60, I’m unlikely to chase any more degrees but I can’t rule out a back to school experience for myself, either. There are plenty of classes I would like to take — yes, even in the classroom, though there are many more high-quality online encounters also available nowadays as well — even now, in the final phase of my working life (I’ve had a part- or full time job continuously for the past 44 years, I now realize to my astonishment and amazement). My own interests lean toward technical and certification topics, but I’m as likely to be in front of the classroom nowadays, as I am to be sitting in a student’s chair (I’m flirting with TrainSignal right now, who’ve asked to talk to me about teaching Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 classes, for example). But to keep a long and productive career moving, I am still ready to head back to school myself from time to time. You might try it, too!
August 24, 2012 5:41 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
In early August, MS Learning Product Manager for developer and SQL server certifications posted an interesting item to the Born to Learn blog entitled “Upcoming exam retirements and availability of related certifications.” This innocuous title actually heads some extremely interesting information, as I will soon elucidate. Let’s start with a table of upcoming retirements based on associated retirement dates to provide a snapshot of what she reports:
|Upcoming MS Cert Retirements for 2012/3
|Visual Studio 2008 & 2010
SQL Server 2008
|July 31, 2013
|MCITP: Database Developer 2008
||MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5, Windows Workflow Foundation Applications
|MCITP: Database Administrator 2008
||MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5, ADO.NET Applications
|MCITP: Business Intelligence 2008
||MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5, ASP.NET Applications
|MCTS: SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance
||MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5, Windows Forms Applications
|MCTS: SQL Server 2008, Database Development
||MCPD: Web Developer 4
|MCTS: SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance
||MCTS: .NET Framework 4, Service Communication Applications
|MCPD: ASP.NET Developer 3.5
||MCTS: .NET Framework 4, Data Access
|MCPD: Enterprise Application Developer 3.5
||MCTS: .NET Framework 4, Web Applications
|MCPD: Windows Developer 3.5
||MCTS: .NET Framework 4, Windows Applications
|MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5, Windows Presentation Foundation Applications
||MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5, Windows Forms Applications
|MCTS: .NET Framework 3.5, Windows Communication Foundation Applications
|Windows Server 2003
Windows Server 2008
|July 31, 2013
|MCTS: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuration
||MCITP: Enterprise Administrator 2008
|MCTS: Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuration
||MCSA on Windows Server 2003
|MCTS: Windows Server 2008 Applications Infrastructure, Configuration
||MCSE on Windows Server 2003
|MCITP: Server Administrator 2008
||MCSE: Security on Windows Server 2003
What does this table really tell us? Several interesting observations emerge from this collection of cert exams scheduled for retirement at the end of July in 2013:
- The key to the retirement date is that it tells you when the associated certs will no longer be available to be earned. Presumably, this means the exams will also disappear from the roster of available items in the MS exam catalog.
- We are seeing the pending lapse of certifications based on Visual Studio 2008 and 2010, SQL Server 2008, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2010. That means that only newer versions than these will remain valid certs in another couple of years — namely Visual Studio 2012, Windows Server 2010 R2 and Windows Server 2012, and SQL Server 2012.
- This is the quickest and most aggressive retirement schedule I’ve seen so far from MS, and I have to believe it reflects a strong “out with the old, in with the new” mindset along the lines of “out with MCITP, MCTS, and MCPD; in with MCSA, MCSE, and MCSD.”
August 22, 2012 5:00 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Last week, I did something I haven’t done since I starting working as a self-employed writer and consultant full-time in 1994: I took a real vacation for eight whole days. Granted, two of those days were more or less lost to the time required to travel from my home in central Texas to the San Diego area, but six of those days involved nothing more than making sure my eight-year old son and wife had the time of their lives exploring nearby attractions, amusement parks, dining establishments and the beach, while making the most of our hotel stay and lack of usual household chores and responsibilities. The only thing I did that was remotely work-related was to check e-mail on my iPhone once a day, just to make sure nothing had blown up or gone amiss to the point where I would have to fire up my PC, roll up my sleeves, and do some real work. Fortunately for me and my family, nothing like that came up and we were all able to enjoy ourselves, the scenery, and our activities without me peeling off all day long to pound at the keyboard, attend meetings, answer phone calls, and yada yada yada.
A cheesy but nice image of San Diego
I did go through some withdrawal during the week away from my desk, and I did suffer occasional feelings of guilt or responsibility along the lines of “I should be working.” But instead, we got to visit some cool amusement parks (LegoLand and SeaWorld), the fabulous San Diego zoo, and the “Silver Strand” beaches near the far end of the Coronado peninsula across the bay from San Diego. And upon my return home, I soon found myself right back in the swing of things and hard at work, though I was surprised to have only 90-odd emails that I actually had to read, and about half of which required some kind of response, during my first two days back at my desk (today is my third day back at work, which gives me the opportunity to compare the work mindset to the vacation mindset, and see some value in both states).
On the whole, I have to say that taking some real time away from work was quite refreshing. I’m humping away at a bit of a backlog with more verve and energy than usual, but am also glad to be back into my normal routine and interested in lots of projects and activities now underway or coming soon into my inbox. A real break proved to boost my energy level and my zest for work, and also helped me to appreciate many things I really like about my job, my work situation, my colleagues and co-workers, and life at home.
As an added bonus, we all got to see some interesting sights, visit some great places, and get an infusion of something new and different outside the “same old, same old.” I hope my son will carry the memories of his San Diego visit pleasantly and proudly for the rest of his life, and I hope he’ll acquire a taste for new people and places from time to time as well. They help add interest to life, but also help us appreciate the joys and splendors of home life and the usual routine.
It’s no wonder that productivity studies show that Americans who do take regular vacations are more productive than those who keep their noses incessantly to the grindstone and take no such regular breaks. Sadly, Americans take fewer and shorter vacations than people from most other first-world countries. Do yourself a favor: take an occasional break from your work routine. Even if you can’t afford to travel, get out of your workplace and your usual rut and do something different, even if only for the odd long weekend here and there. It will not only help you refresh yourself and recharge your batteries, it will also make you more grateful for the work you do and the life you lead. It worked for me, so it should hopefully also work for you!
August 20, 2012 9:05 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
By March, 2012, CompTIA will add performance-based questions that require candidates for the Network+, A+, and Security+ exams to interact with online simulations to carry out a task or solve some problem.
- Blog Header for CompTIA info about new performance-based exam Qs
CompTIA made its plans public in a blog post whose headline is shown in the preceding figure. It also published the following schedule for the introduction of such questions in its three most popular exams:
- A+: Updated versions of the two A+ exams — namely 220-801 and 220-802 will include performance-based questions, and become available in October 2012. The old, multiple-choice only versions (220-701 and 220-702) will remain available until August 31, 2013.
- Network+: The updated version of the Network+ exam (N10-005) will do likewise, and should appear before the end of 2012. The old, multiple-choice only version of this exam (N10-004) remains available until August 31, 2013.
- Security+: The current version of the Security+ exam (SYo-301) will get an infusion of performance-based questions, and become available sometime in the first quarter of 2013. No info on if the old version will remain available after the new one comes out, but I think it unlikely.
CompTIA also provides some words of warning about its new performance-based questions: “Exam candidates must pay careful attention to the wording and details of each question in order to form the correct answer.” They also opine that “To prepare for exams with performance-based questions, CompTIA encourages candidates to gain hands-on experience with exam objectives, in addition to engaging in their preferred methods for study and training.” I’m guessing this means there’s some potential to encounter trick questions in the mix, so candidates should be forewarned and fore-armed before they tackle the next-gen exams. I’m also guessing that this means some reworking will be needed for exam prep materials, and that interactive labs and simulations will start to become increasingly important tools for CompTIA exam preparation, too.
August 10, 2012 3:57 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
The BLS is the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a wing of the Labor Department. EmpSitSum is how I’ve come to think of the monthly Employment Situation Summary that this agency publishes, nearly always on the first Friday of each month. Last week I commented on the latest such report in a blog entitled Another First Friday Echoes “Slow Growth Mode”. This morning, an interesting and unexpectedly welcome press release from IT compensation and employment guru David Foote showed up in my inbox, and it’s both radical and inspiring enough to provoke a blog from me.
The title of his piece, labeled “IT News Analysis,” is “Technology employment trends in the July 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics United States Employment Report: Largest monthly expansion of IT labor force in more than three years as 18,200 workers are added to payrolls in July” (PDF Format). Yes, I know it’s a real mouthful, but the final sub-title really grabbed my attention, as I’m sure it will also grab yours. In his report, he identifies four job segments that he states are “commonly associated with IT professionals.” These are:
- Telecommunications and Data Processing
- Hosting and Related Services
- Management and Technical Consulting Services
- Computer Systems Design/Related Services
Foote reports 4,900 new jobs added in the first two segments above and says this is “notable because this is the first monthly net job gain in these categories since November 2010″ (he quite rightly excludes the data for September 2011, when a large cadre of 45,000 striking Verizon workers returned to their jobs after an August work stoppage). He also reports that an additional 13,300 jobs were added in the other two segments as well, for a total of 18,200 new IT jobs for July. He also indicates that these two segments have continued to grow steadily over the past two years, and have added 242,000 jobs in that time frame.
In my previous blog post, I had wondered whether the latest EmpSitSum was a dark cloud looking for a silver lining, or a silver lining looking for a dark cloud. It appears I overlooked some good news for our own home sector, and I wanted to share the news with my readers as soon as I saw his article. And I have to thank him for helping me find the “Industries at a Glance” section on the US BLS Website, where much more detailed breakdowns by sector and segment are available. Thanks, David!
August 8, 2012 4:32 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
OK, so GA is coming in a little under three months, on October 26, 2012. According to The Verge, this is what the packaging for Windows 8 will look like when boxed versions of the new OS appear on store shelves that day.
Images of the Windows 8 (left, white) and Windows 8 Pro (right, dark) boxes
Source: The Verge (8/7/2012)
From what blogger Salvador Rodriguez reports about this leak, the colored graphic at the left-center on each box represents its new “Windows 8-style UI logo,” which also appears in monochrome form on the spine of each box. I’m guessing that the colors inside the window panes are just fancy dress-up for the box art, and that the simple monochrome logo will continue on unchanged. No real word yet about what’s actually inside the box, and if it will include more than one DVD to accommodate the Windows 8 bits (as I look at the ISOs for the Release Preview, if MS wants to provide both 32- and 64-bit versions, it will probably need a separate DVD for each one).
No more crazy plastic shells for OS media, though. Having fought (and occasionally lost) against the prior enclosures for Vista and Windows 7, if I have to open one of these boxes, I’m reasonably confident I’ll be able to find my way to their contents without risking injury or frustration! This finally gives us something completely positive and complimentary to say about Windows 8 that everyone can agree on.
August 8, 2012 3:40 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Just yesterday (August 7, 2012), MS announced a brand-new Microsoft Certified Solution Developer credential — namely, the MCSD: Web Applications. This new cert is based around Visual Studio 2012, with a focus on developing what the company calls “modern, interactive web applications that seamlessly integrate with data-driven services.” Specific technologies mentioned in conjunction with this new cert include MVC (the well-known model-view-controller design pattern, now practiced within most interactive design environments, including VS 2012), Azure (Microsoft’s Cloud platform, which supports all kinds of interesting developer access and APIs), HTML5 (the latest incarnation of HTML, which offers powerful and interesting animation, interaction, and multimedia support), and CSS3 (the latest version of Cascading Style Sheets, which includes support for extended media controls, 3-D button effects, and numerous dynamic event-driven behaviors).
Born to Learn blog header for MSCD: Web Applications
Three exams are required to earn this MCSD credential:
Right now, there’s a free beta period running through the end of this week (until and including Sunday, August 12) with some free seats still possibly available, so act FAST if you’re interested. Use promo code WWW486 for exam 70-486 and WWW487 for exam 70-487; but because they’re in beta these exams have a 71- prefix instead of the 70- prefix they’ll sport later on when the final release of the commercial version is accomplished. The beta period for 70-480 is already closed, sorry.
Individuals who already hold the MCPD: Web Developer 4 certification are eligible for a 2-exam upgrade path to the MCSD: Web Application credential. The two exams required are 70-480 (already mentioned earlier in this blog post) and exam 70-492 Upgrade your MCPD: Web Developer 4 to MCSD: Web Applications (not yet available, but coming soon).
Each of these exams maps to a 5-day course that covers all exam objectives, and provides students with the chance to learn and drill on necessary skills and knowledge. The course for 70-480 is scheduled for an October, 2012, release, with the other exams to follow early in 2013. Exam prep books should also be available at around the same time as well. See the Microsoft MCSD: Web Applications home page for more information.
August 6, 2012 8:44 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Keith Mayer’s blog — Prepping for MCSE: Private Cloud
Keith Mayer has written a step-by-step guide for those interested in pursuing the MSCE: Private Cloud certification, including the 70-246 exam “Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012.” You do have to visit his blog post entitled “Get Certified on MCSE Private Cloud with this FREE Step-by-Step Study Guide” and click the “Pay with a Tweet or Facebook” button (and then Tweet about the offering, or share it on Facebook), but that’s not very much at all to ask for a well-constructed guide into Microsoft’s free study materials for this certification.
Pay the piper with a Tweet or a Facebook share
What you get from Mr. Mayer is a PDF document that walks you through the 70-246 exam, including objective domains, and pointers to videos and study materials on Systems Center 2012 (the foundation for the exam). He also explains how to set up a private cloud lab, using a private cloud evaluation installation that MS makes available. It also provides links to the Unified Installer that makes lab set-up possible, and a user’s guide to run you through installation and set-up. Much of the material provided consists of links to TechNet documents and materials, to help candidates prepare for specific exam topics and related objectives. And as you might expect, a lot of this stuff ties directly to the TechNet Library’s coverage of System Center 2012 tasks and activities, including implementing workflows, working with runbook automation, implementing service offerings, creating and managing workflows, and so forth and so on.
In fact, Mr. Mayer walks readers through the complete exam objectives, with detailed references for each element of each objective. This amounts to a nicely-curated set of links into the TechNet materials on System Center 2012, along with links to the video recordings of MS’s Jump Start training for the MSCE: Private Cloud, plus various guided labs and additional course materials available from Microsoft (Course 10750A, a 5-day ILT course that covers “Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012″).
If you’re interested in the new MCSE and in Microsoft’s take on private clouds and System Center 2012, these materials are worth a visit. Check them out!
August 3, 2012 3:50 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
This morning, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics issued the Employment Situation Summary for July 2012. It’s either a dark cloud with a silver lining, or a silver lining with a dark cloud, depending on how you’re inclined to look a it. That said, the silver lining is indisputable if still too modest to presage any kind of rapid turnaround in overall unemployment.
July 2012 Employment Situation Summary report header
The silver lining is that some economists expected that dismal monthly job growth rates under 100,000 would continue this month, continuing the running average for April, May, and June of about 75,000 new jobs added in each of those months. The actual number reported was 163,000, more than double the last quarter’s run rate, and trending more toward the 200,000 – 300,000 per month needed to make any kind of dent in overall unemployment, and to help put the long-term unemployed and discouraged workers back on somebody’s payroll.
The dark cloud is that the unemployment rate actually edged up by one-tenth of one percent, from 8.2 to 8.3 percent for July (in the three months with those dismal jobs-added counts, it had managed to stay stuck at 8.2 percent the whole time). This is sure to provide ammunition for both Republican and Democratic candidates in the various national, state, and local campaigns now underway, none as fierce or vocal as the ongoing face-off between Misters Obama and Romney. Neither side can use it entirely against the other, so both sides will look for aspects that make their guy look good, and the other guy look bad. The fallout should come fast and furious, and be interesting to watch.
The Information sector, as covered in Table A-14 of this report continues to show signs of improvement, too. The number of unemployed information workers in July 2011 was 237,000 which translated into 7.6 percent unemployment for the section. By July 2012, the number had dropped to 190,000 which corresponds to a 6.7 percent rate of unemployment in information instead. Likewise, Table A-13 which provides data by occupation, shows that Professional and related applications have improved from 4.6 percent unemployed in July 2011 versus 3.8 percent unemployed in July 2012. For office and administrative support occupations, rates dipped from 9.4 percent to 8.3 percent (I’m guessing that IT professionals are probably represented in both of these categories, and possibly others besides).
But one thing remains quite certain: slow growth mode appears to dominate forecasts for the foreseeable future.