January 6, 2012 3:17 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
December 2011 unemployment figures show modest improvement
, IT experienced only modest growth in 2011 at 0.4%
, Week of December 24 jobless claims continue below 400K
The latest first-time unemployment filings continue their downward trend, while employment numbers are up (and unemployment dropped by 0.1% to 8.5% for December, 2011). Actually, first time filings are up by 8,000 from the week of December 17, but the four-week moving average (generally less up-and-down than the weekly average) has now declined for five straight weeks, to a value of 373,250 (see this CNNMoney story “Jobless claims improve” dated 1/5/2012, for more details). This is the lowest value since June 2008, which means we’re still approaching the return for what passed for normal before the 2008 market downturn that launched our latest recession.
At the same time, it’s the first Friday of the month, so the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has published its latest “Employment Situation Summary” (dated 1/6/2012). It, too, has some good numbers to share: employment rose by 200,000 in December, and also continues the downward trend for the number of unemployed persons (13.1 million) and the overall unemployment rate (8.5%). But alas, Table A-14 (“Unemployed persons by industry and class of worker, not seasonally adjusted”) shows only modest gains for the information sector, and for professional and business services, where most IT professionals are classified. Information gained a paltry 9,000 jobs for 2011, while professional and business services did better with a gain of 74,000 jobs (respective unemployment rates were 8.1%-2010 vs. 7.7%-2011 for information, and 10.2%-2010 vs. 9.3% for business and professional services).
It seems we’re still slowly but surely inching away from the brink of the precipice of depression, and fears of a double-dip recession. Why then, do we appear to have such a fascination with looking over that edge, and the huge drop below?
January 4, 2012 3:04 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
CompTIA and viaForensics team up to certify mobile app developers and test and vet mobile apps
Last month, CompTIA announced it is teaming up with viaForensics (a digital forensics and security firm) to create a new “Secure Mobile App Developer” credential this year. Citing IDC research that estimates that annual mobile app download numbers will jump from 10.7 billion in 2010 to almost 183 billion in 2015 (that’s an annual growth rate of just over 37 percent, as shown in this handy-dandy constant annual growth rate (CAGR) calculation (from IGetIt.net):
The exponentiation operator is a lambda not a caret in Excel
The net-net is that’s a HUGE amount of growth, and with app security already an occasional and sometimes vexing or dangerous issue, these problems are only going to get worse. Thus, the goal of the new credential for programmers, and testing services for the apps that they build, is designed to tackle security problems head-on and avert the large numbers of potential disasters that might otherwise occur in their absence. This effort appears to be primarily in the kick-off and research phases, so there’s not much else to report right now, except to say that the credential and app testing will cover both iOS and Android environments, presumably with tracks to match. It’s also not unreasonable to assume that viaForensics appSecure service known as appwatchdog, and its mobile security intelligence gathering and reporting services, will play a major role in the testing side of this interesting equation.
For once I find myself hearily applauding a CompTIA initiative, and hungry for more dates, news, and information. Count on me to dig some up, then blog about them here!
January 3, 2012 3:14 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
HP cert program overview for 2012
, HP updates its cert programs
From engineering to solutions, for all kinds of good reasons
In the past couple of months HP’s certification programs, collectively known as ExpertONE, have undergone some restructuring and had a trio of cloud-related credentials added to its already substantial portfolio (thanks to GoCertify’s guest contributor, Janet Foley, for bringing this back to my attention). HP offers two separate cert tracks in its programs: one for IT professionals outside the HP umbrella known as “career certifications,” and another for HP employees and channel partners called “affiliate certifications.” Here, I’ll concentrate on the career certifications on the assumption that HP employees and channel partners already know how to learn more about those offerings that apply exclusively to them (they can, and often do, also pursue career certifications as well).
There are four levels of credentials that fall under the HP career certifications, and their rebranding involves a fairly common change of terminology from engineering to solutions (I’ll explain later):
- Master: These credentials fall under the general designation of HP Master Accredited Solutions Expert aka HP Master ASE. The acronym is the same as the earlier incarnation, except that ASE stood for “Accredited Systems Engineer.”
- Expert: These credentials fall under the general designation of HP Accredited Solutions Expert aka HP ASE. Ditto above for the change to the ASE acronym.
- Professional: These credentials fall under the general designation of HP Accredited Technical Professional aka HP ATP. This single credential replaces several previous HP designations, including HP Accredited Integration Specialist (HP AIS), HP Certified Systems Administrator (HP CSA), and HP Certified Systems Engineer (HP CSE).
- Associate: The HP Accedited Technical Associate, aka HP ATA, is a new credential that HP just launched in November of 2011, and it falls under the Certiport umbrella that I blogged about on 12/12/2011. According to Foley, as new versions of the HP AIS, HP CSE, and HP CSA are updated, they will also fold into this sub-program starting this year (2012).
Overall this program embraces some 61 credentials at present, with 3 scheduled to retire by March of this year, and numerous others likely to fall by the wayside in the next 12-18 months. As that happens, however, I’m sure that HP will add new items to keep their portofolio up with topics, tools, and technologies of greatest interest to their customer base. Check out a complete list of certs (by job role, or by technology) to see what I mean.
Why Do Modern Certs Avoid the “Engineer” Word?
As it happens lots of places (roughly half the states in the US, the EU, and many other countries around the world) are very picky about who gets to call themselves an engineer in a job title. For example, my home state of Texas does not permit anyone to call themselves an engineer, or use that word in their job title, unless they have taken and passed the requirements for the Professional Engineer (PE) license, which includes a demanding technical exam, an ethics exam, four years of documented on-the-job experience, and a suitable educational background (which usually means a bachelor’s of science in math, physics, or some kind of engineering). In keeping with such stringent and demanding practices, certification programs have generally steered away from incorporating “engineer” in modern credential designations (except for those that include the PE or its equivalent among their requirements). And likewise, those that once included the word “engineer” in their titles have switched to something else to avoid mis-use of the term in areas where it is subject to legal and licensing strictures (The Novell CNE still stands for Certified Novell Engineer to my amazement, even though it has been around since the late 1980s!).
December 26, 2011 12:58 AM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
This will be my last blog post for this year (I’m off until January 2 after tonight), so I’d like to wish everyone a terrific holiday season, and a joyous and successful New Year. We’ve been celebrating quite nicely around here at Chez Tittel with plenty of good-quality cheer for children of all ages. Gregory and I have been learning how to build and program a project for his Lego Mindstorms today. We started with the Explorer robot project, as documented in Chapters 2-4 of Laurens Valk’s excellent The Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Discovery Book. This is the first time I’ve built a moderately sized Lego project (around 300 parts, give or take) by picking my own parts from the general inventory that comes with this “many possible robots” kit that includes the NXT 2.0 controller, 3 electric motors, various sensors, and a boatload of Lego blocks and parts. Here’s a snapshot:
It rolls forward better than it backs up but turns like a demon!
There are all kinds of more ambitious projects ahead of us, but it’s already cool to see what this thing can do with either USB-cable or Bluetooth guided remote control from a PC, or “load-and-go” execution of a pretty decent robot instruction language. Should be some fun along the way to learning how this environment and the component tools and projects really work!
And once again from my family — especially my happy and excited 7-year-old son — to yours: Happy Holidays! And may we all have a brilliant 2012 ahead of us.
December 23, 2011 4:03 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Downward treand on unemployment filings continues
, economists see more signs of ongoing uptick
For the past couple of Fridays (12/9 and 12/16) I’ve described how first-time unemployment claims have dropped from the preceding week (and stayed below the 400,000 mark that economists feel is the threshold between reducing unemployment below, and increasing unemployment above that boundary). Well, this week it’s become a “hat trick” of sorts, as a third week of downward movement has been registered by the US Department of Labor. This time, however, the down-tick is pretty slight — only 4,000 to 364,000 total claims filed — but the four week-average of such claims has fallen by 8,000 to just over 380,000, and is the lowest number registered since June of 2008. And this week’s current initial claims number is the lowest since April of 2008, so we are indeed groping our way back to where we were before the crisis kicked into gear in December of 2007.
By way of explanation as to what’s going on here, Marketwatch quotes Ian Shepherson, Chief US Economist at High Frequency Economics as follows:
The underlying story here, we think, is that businesses were braced in the fall for a weakening in demand — implied by plunging consumer confidence — which did not then happen. Robust sales growth has therefore left many firms in a better position than they expected, so layoffs are falling. Other things equal, the drop in claims in recent weeks, if sustained, is consistent with private payrolls growth ramping up to about [200,000] per month.
This is still not robust enough growth to whittle away at current unemployment levels quickly, but it is enough growth to bring them down over something less than the decade of agonizingly slow improvements that economists were seeing in the numbers as recently as one month ago. And while improvements still remain sluggish, they are continuing unabated and are finally producing some signs of optimism and improving overall prospects. Hard to imagine a better present for battered consumer and commercial confidence or a better harbinger for 2012. Let’s hope this trend continues to pan out!
December 21, 2011 4:51 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Check out Tittel's "Top 5 Certs" articles at Tom's IT Pro
, Tom's IT Pro hosts my "Top 5 Certs" articles in numerous areas
The latest element in the Toms Hardware family aims at IT professionals
Since September, I’ve been beavering away for the latest spin off in the Tom’s Hardware family of Websites–namely Tom’s IT Pro (www.tomsitpro.com) as their resident “certification guy.” In addition to a raft of other bits of general IT certification information and advice, I’m also engaged in a “Top 5″ series of stories that identifies leading certifications in a number of different (and hopefully also, valid and interesting) technology areas or niches within IT. So far, this series includes the following elements:
There’s also a multi-part item called “Evergreen IT Certifications” that addresses what you might consider as the creme de la creme of IT certification across all niches.
But wait! There’s more: I’ve also developed additional stories that haven’t yet posted to the site, and have others in the wings for early next year. Here they are (upcoming items for next year as yet unwritten end in an asterisk ‘*’):
- The Top 5 Computer Forensics Certifications
- The Top 5 Developer Certifications
- The Top 5 Training Certifications
- The Top 5 DBMS Certifications
- The Top 5 Virtualization Certifications*
- The Top 5 Cloud Certifications*
- The Top 5 Project Management Certifications*
So there’s still plenty more to come. Be sure to check the already-published items out at your convenience, and to keep your eyes peeled for new ones as they appear (I’ll update this posting as well, to turn currently inactive links live as that happens).
Happy Holidays, everybody!
December 19, 2011 3:51 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
changes to MS exam UI on the way
, MS adds new question types to its cert exams
I just watched Episode 1of Technet Radio’s “Microsoft Certified-Cert Talk” show (despite being called a form of radio, it’s a full-fledged video with pictures as well as sound). The guest is Liberty Munson, Microsoft’s lead psychometrician, the person who oversees the design and delivery of MS certification exams who also vets their content as being sound, rigorous, and statistically defensible. This material is worth checking out for all kinds of reasons, so I recommend it highly for viewing.
In the video, Ms. Munson not only walks viewers through a nice diagram that documents the MS exam development process, she also digs into some upcoming changes heading toward a testing center near you (if they’re not there already). For one thing, it looks like MS is switching over to a much-modernized user interface for its testing center products (what I saw on the screen looked very much it was developed using Microsoft’s Silverlight interactive Web development interface, or some visually equivalent non-Web API). For another thing, the company is working hard to present test-takers with more question types and interactive styles, to help spice up the plain-vanilla multiple choice questions that still make up the bulk and backbone of its exams (Ms. Munson also explains that while multiple choice exams do the job of measuring candidate skills and knowledge quite well from her psychometrician’s POV, they are also “a little bit boring,” and cheerfully concedes that other question types are being included to spice things up a bit and add more interest and sizzle to her organization’s public offerings).
The overall flow of MS exam development involves out-of-house subject matter experts at many steps along the way
New question types expand on the current inventory–which includes standard multiple choice, build lists, drag and drop items, plus active screens, case study items, and simulations of actual code and systems–with some new items that include the following:
- matching questions: like a multiple choice, but with a much longer list of options from which test-takers must choose one or more correct answers to meet the current question’s stipulations and requirements
- code case studies for developers: presents snippets of code that purport to solve a specific problem, or provide a specific implementation solution, and asks test-takes to choose the correct one (or ones)
- best answer: for professional-level exams (MCM and MCA, primarily) provides a list of answers, all of which are technically correct, but asks users to pick the one that best matches or meets the criteria expressed in the question (or that represents the best solution out of those options for some reason or another)
Sounds like your next trip to Prometric or Vue for a Microsoft exam just might be a little more interesting and visually appealing. Hopefully, that gives everybody something to look forward to, rather than to dread!
[Note: you can visit the various "Learning Snacks" linked to from this Born to Lear blog entitled "Check out our new Snack demonstrating our wide variety of questions types!" dated 12/16/2011 to see some examples for yourself.]
December 16, 2011 7:38 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
2nd dip in weekly unemployment filings
, More signs of economic improvement
Last Friday, I posted a blog here entitled “Unemployment filings finally fall below critical 400K weekly mark.” It basically stated that we’d finally had a week wherein overall new jobless filings for unemployment dipped below 400,000 for the week that ended on December 3. Economists believe strongly that only when that number dips (and stays) below the 400K threshold can unemployment really improve here in the USA. And the number for that week was a relatively modest 381,000, down 23,000 from the preceding week.
This week, to my surprise and delight, the filings turned out even better. At 366,000 they’re down an additional 19,000 from the preceding week, and definitely trending in the right direction. This not only beat economists’ forecasts, it’s also the lowest number of filings since May 2008 according to US Labor Department figures released yesterday in our nation’s capital (that’s five months after the last recession officially began, so we still have a ways to go to get back to the previous “normal”).
Manufacturing is also up, after a slight pause for the month of November. Economists are starting to talk about the US economy “gathering momentum” (see this San Francisco Chronicle story “Unemployment claims filings hit 3-year low” for more info and attribution of the just-quoted phrase).
Maybe it’s just the holidays lifting everybody’s spirits and consumer confidence. But hey: could this really be a glimmer of hope for genuine improvement? Only time will tell!
December 14, 2011 3:30 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
16 Gbps Brocade BCFD goes beta on 1/19/2012
, Brocade to make free study materials available for upcoming BCFD 16 Gbps beta
OK, so once a month I either get together by phone or email with Joe Cannata, Brocade’s Senior Manager of Business Development/Certification, to get the latest and greatest news from that company’s active certification and training program. Although Joe tells me that this time of year “is kind of a quiet period for us,” he also informs me that as of December 8, his company is getting a new version of its Brocade Certified Fabric Designer (BCFD) program underway. This iteration will address the company’s new 16 Gbps Fibre Channel switching and routing fabric technologies, in much the same way that the existing BCFP exam addresses 8 Gbps technologies.
Headline from the BCFP home page
There’s an upcoming beta exam in development that will carry the exam number #142-270. It should become available to interesting candidates in mid-January. Joe also tells me that you’ll be able to find study materials in Brocade’s online Certification Communityabout two weeks before the open beta exam period gets going. He also indicates that one primary exam resource will be the Brocade eBook entitled SAN Design and Best Practices (available for free through the link provided here). In fact, it’s already available for download and reading, and thus also seems like a great way to get started right away if you’re interested in the upcoming BCFD credential. The beta period is scheduled to start on 1/19/2012 and will run about five weeks, to close on 2/24/2012, with results available in late April. Normally beta exams are available at a deep discount, so this may be a worthwhile venture for those already involved in Brocade certification or looking for a good reason to jump into this arena.
On another note, Joe informs me that Brocade just awarded its fourteenth Brocade Distinguished Architect credential this year. All 14 of these individuals work around the world from Florida to Thailand, and represent the cream of the Brocade certified professional cadre (it’s necessary to pass around 20 exams to earn this highly esteemed pinnacle certification).