August 11, 2010 4:44 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
free prep and support from vendor for new NVIDIA cert
, NVIDIA Certified CUDA Programmer
, NVIDIA offers programming cert
Check out the Syllabus for the CUDA Certification Exam on the NVIDIA Website. Not ony does the company provide free access to the textbook as a collection of individual chapters in PDF format, they even have podcasts of lectures, online assignments and activities, and a raft of other supplementary documentation available — all for free! Seldom, if ever, do you see this level of support for vendor certifications available at no charge. Gee! Do you think NVIDIA is eager to get people enrolled in this program and earning their cert, or what?
For those not already in the know, CUDA is short for Complete Unified Device Architecture. It reflects NVIDIA’s ongoing work to make the hundreds of processors and complex processing pipelines available in its current, high-end graphics cards available for all kind of massively parallel or distributed computing applications. The goal of this cert is to get programmers trained to write code to use and exploit these largely untapped capabilities.
Those who complete the materials on the syllabus can take an exam to become recognized as an NVIDIA Certified CUDA Programmer. Exams are available through Prometric, and cost $250, which is decidely not free, but still well-supported with preparatory materials in any case.
August 9, 2010 1:08 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
College recruiters encourage student debt to gain federal aid dollars
, some college recruiters engage in fraudulent and deceptive practices
, weight the benefits carefully before incurring higher-ed debt
Heard an interesting story on NPR last week while driving in the car. It’s entitled “For-Profit Colleges Encouraged Fraud, Used Deceptive Marketing, GAO Reports.” The meat of the story comes from results of undercover investigators that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sent into 15 for-profit colleges all around the US. They went with hidden video cameras, and presented their findings to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on August 4, 2010.
Cover page from GAO report
Here’s an interesting and somewhat chilling quote from that NPR story:
Some recruiters, caught on hidden cameras, openly urged applicants to lie on the federal form use to obtain student aid. One student was urged not to report $250,000 in assets because it was “none of the government’s business.” Other would-be students asked to speak to a financial aid counselor, but were told they’d have to sign an admissions form first. In some cases, applicants practically begged to get a full accounting of the likely costs, but were told they’d have to sign on the dotted line first.
While our slow economy has led many people back to school to bolster their employability, there’s an increasing tendency for higher-ed recruiters (including at not-for-profit institutions, as well as the for-profit ones that were the focus of this story) to talk prospective students into assuming sizable debts that the work for which degrees might qualify them does not always allow them to repay. The various practices cited in the preceding quote are illegal, so the NPR story urges stronger enforcement of existing laws, despite calls from student advocates to close down schools that seek government aid as a way to stay afloat, or that encourage students to take on debt that they cannot easily repay after graduation.
Anybody who’s considering school as a ticket to work should weigh the costs of education carefully against the resulting income likely to be earned after graduation. Any time that debt cannot be serviced by a reasonable portion of resulting income (generally, no more than 10-15%) it’s time to step back and question the costs and re-examine the benefits.
August 8, 2010 2:06 AM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
August 2010 employment situation summary
, July 2010 shows little employment change
, Tiny uptick for information in July 2010 adds up to "nothing new"
When the Bureau of Labor Statistics pushed out their August Employment Situation Summary on Friday morning, it looked like deja vu all over again. Overall, numbers were down by 131,000 for July but that reflects a loss of 143,00 temporary workers hired for the US Census, and was offset by another very modest gain of 71,000 jobs in the private sector. Both the gross total unemployment number (14.6 million) and the unemployment rate (9.5 percent) were unchanged from June.
Looking at the information sector, we do finally see some teeny-tiny signs of improvement vis-a-vis July 2009. The number of unemployed persons in information jobs edged down from 373,000 (2009) to 344,000 (2010), and the unemployment rate likewise dipped from 11.5 percent (2009) to 10.6 percent (2010) (see Table A-14 for details). In the Information sector breakdown, all of the sub-sectors except “Telecommunications” (-5,800 jobs) and “Motion picture and sound recording industries” (-300 jobs) showed small gains (ranging from 300 jobs for “Data processing, hosting, and related services” to 3,800 jobs for “Broadcasting, except Internet”; see Table B-1 for details).
No wonder markets dipped a little, but not badly at the Friday, August 6, close. It’s almost become a “no bad news is no news at all” situation, given that there’s little to cheer about on the employment horizon, now and for the foreseeable future. All I can say is “Hang in there!”
August 4, 2010 3:16 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Linux virtualiztion cert
, LPI offers virtualization add-on to LPIC-3 certification
, new virtualization cert
With the introduction of Exam 304: Virtualization and High Availability, the Linux Professional Institute adds another specialty option to its senior-level LPIC-3 certification. Aimed at enterprise level Linux professionals, this base certification seeks to identify IT workers with substantial skills and experience in working with Linux in an enterprise-class computing environment. This includes several years’ experience installing and maintaining Linux on various systems and servers across a broad range of roles or applications, integration experience with multiple platforms and operating systems, and advanced Linux administration tasks and responsibilities related to installation, management, security, troubleshooting, and maintenance.
Likewise, familiarity with Open Source measurement and analysis tools is required to support capacity planning and resource consumption problems or issues. Sophisticated networking knowledge includes LDAP for use with Unix and Windows services, such as Samba, PAM, email, and Active Directory. Senior-level skills and knowledge come into play through requirements to understand and undertake the lifecycle process inherent in planning, architecting, designing, building and implementing a complete Linux-based computing environment, to measure and monitor its real-time behavior, and plan for growth and explansion. Finally, scripting skills (Perl, Bash, Korn Shell, and so forth) or knowledge of a system programming language (such as C, C+, or C++) is needed to handle automating routine tasks and analyzing system logs and reports.
What the virtualization exam add to LPI-3 is a strong working skills and knowledge regarding virtualization theory and concepts, as well as tools and technologies. Candidates must understand pros and cons of virtualization, as well as costs and benefits. They must also be familiar with various virtualization environments, including related hypervisors, virtual machines, paravirtualization techniques, and so forth. Platforms covered include Xen, KVM, OpenVZ, and VirtualBox. Other topics and techniques covered on the exam include load balancing, HAProxy, LinuxPMI, Cluster Management, Advanced Pacemaker, Red Hat Cluster Suite and Advanced Cluster Suite, Cluster Storage, Global File System and OCFS2, plus other clustered file systems.
Candidates must first take and pass LPIC-3 Exam 301 (Core, $260) before they can attempt Exam 304 (Virtualization, $160). Exams are offered at both Prometric and VUE testing centers worldwide.
August 2, 2010 1:57 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Greenspan sees recovery on hold
, no major boosts in hiring for rest of 2010
, unemployment to stay steady at 9.5%
As reported this morning on NPR, former Federal Reserve Chairmain Alan Greenspan opined during an interview yesterday on “Meet the Press” that the recovery is currently “in a pause” and went on to predict that there would be no substantial employment improvements for the rest of this year. With unemployment still stuck at about 9.5 percent this isn’t good news, either for the economy in general or the IT sector in particular.
By definition, we seem embroiled in what’s known as a “jobless recovery” — namely, a period of (usually modest or slight) economic growth where levels of employment either stay the same or decrease overall. If you look at the numbers for the last year, and accept that what Greenspan has also called a “technical recovery” is underway, the number line for unemployment fits that definition to a “T” (take a look at this chart from forecasts.org from July 2009 to August 2010 and you’ll see it confirmed throughout that period).
Thus my recurring mantra “Stay put. Be calm. Watch Out!” remains current, however much I might wish for more tangible signs of improvement or the kind of recovery that would boost hiring, increase capital spending, and open consumer’s checkbooks a little wider. All we can do, apparently, is to hang on and wait for things to improve some time next year. This makes Friday’s July employment situation report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics a point of some interest as well. We’ll see!
July 30, 2010 3:56 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
high-demand IT certifications
, high-paying IT certifications
, role of seniority and specialty in IT certification
A propos of my recent blog “How do certification plans figure in an uncertain economy?,” and all the surrounding conversation — which features the common thread that high-demand technical specialities in IT, especially more senior credentials in such area, remain active and vigorous certification goals for many — CertMag just published a new story last Monday (July 26) entitled “Today’s Most In-Demand Certifications.” This turns out to be an interesting list, for lots of reasons, so I’ll present it here just as it appears in the story, and accompany it with some comments and observations of my own:
- CISSP (ISC-squared’s Certified Information Systems Security Professional) is a vendor neutral information security cert (about which I contributed to the Sybex CISSP Study Guide, now in it’s fourth edition) that’s been a top ten item since the late 1990s. Recently, the Feds recognized it as among a handful of credentials that would-be infosec workers who actually work for the government, or for a government contractor, must obtain. This has made an already-hot credential hotter still.
- MCSE (Microsoft Certified System Engineer) is getting a bit long in the tooth (it covers only up through Windows Server 2003, and has nothing to do with or say about Windows Server 2008). I’m amazed it’s still at the top of the Microsoft class (though Certmag does say that “…although the MCSE designation is in particularly high demand, job candidates who have earned any Microsoft certification have an edge in the job market” (emphasis mine). To me this speaks of slow uptake of Microsoft’s MCTS, MCITP, and MCM (Microsoft Certified Master) credentials in the market, perhaps along with slower-than-expected uptake of Windows Server 2008 itself.
- PMP (The Project Management Insitute’s, or PMI’s, Project Management Professional) This is a major “soft skills” certification and undoubtedly a very important one. It’s not only a great addition to anyone’s IT resume, it’s also a potential ticket into management. While it’s not completely equal to an MBA, it’s not at all bad, either, and in fact, teaches its holders a great deal of useful information, tools, and techniques designed to boost one’s productivity and job performance. It’s my personal favorite in this batch, in fact.
- CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) The CCNA is the gateway to all of Cisco’s Professional level certifications, and is a pre-requisite for many of its specialist credentials as well. Although I’m surprised to see it here because it’s simply a first step to more advanced learning and credentialing, it certainly is a common stop on the Cisco certification road for most, if not all, of its huge certified population, which probably numbers in the millions by now.
I’m surprised not to see more highly-specialized and hot credentials on this list — such as those from SAP, Brocade, EMC, the Cisco CCIE family, ITIL stuff, and more — amidst these results. For a more catholic view of the certification space, you might want to leaven the previously cited CertMag story with Laura Schneider’s About.com story “Top 15 Highest Paying Certifications in the Technology Industry” as well.
July 29, 2010 3:45 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
A+ Network+ Security+ to require renewal starting in 2011
, avoid re-cert and annual fee requirements for A+ Network+ Security+
, CompTIA cert change reminder
Here’s a snippet from a spam message that just showed up in my inbox (actually, it’s probably not out-and-out spam; I bet I let a “let us send you offers from our advertisers” clause slip by my sign-up for some cert site or another). It provides a poignant reminder of the pending CompTIA certification change that kicks in next year, and shows how clever (and perhaps also desperate) training companies always try to turn circumstances to their advantage:
Starting in 2011, holders will have to renew A+, Network+, and Security + credentials
The point in the first line of the message is key: anybody who earns A+, Network+, or Security+ until the end of 2010 retains that credential for life. After that, those who earn the credential will have to meet continuing education requirements or retake the exam every three years (as I mentioned in a February 2010 blog right here) and pay an annual membership/upkeep fee to keep current as well. Anybody who beats this deadline avoids all of this onus, as the preceding snippet correctly notes.
Let this posting serve as a reminder that the end of the “old CompTIA regime” is coming and that a newer, more expensive one kicks in next year. Let it also serve as a warning that training companies will stop at nothing to chase down your dollars, whether the pretext be fairly substantial like this one, or less so, like many others.
July 28, 2010 9:08 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
is IT certification getting better or worse
, what's up with IT certification
, where's the IT cert market going?
I got the following e-mail this morning from long-time certification guru and occasional collaborator Anne Martinez of GoCertify.com:
I am curious as to your opinion on the current state of the IT certification industry. From my perspective, I felt as if it was picking up a year or two ago, but a slump seems upon it again. It seems that most of the formerly active IT certification websites are largely idle or very minimally active. It is almost as if when the economy first really nose-dived, interest in certification picked up, but now as the economy has not significantly rebounded after time has passed, interest and activity related to IT certification have dropped off again. Do you have any insights on this you would be willing to share/discuss with me?
Here’s how I replied to this inquiry, in brief:
The short, brutal response is that IT certification tracks IT hiring and promotion/raise budgets. With little hiring, and even fewer promotions and raises to go around there’s little incentive for people to get certified right now. As the economist on NPR this morning said about consumer confidence, most people and businesses are still in “wait and see” mode.
To amplify a bit on Anne’s observations, I’ve noticed that CertCities.com is pretty much quiescent, and that CertMag.com is likewise pretty spare on posting, new content, and activity. But sites with a definite axe to grind — including, both the various vendor sites (Cisco, Microsoft, Citrix, Sun, and so forth, all with active certification programs) and the big organization sites (CompTIA, PMI, LPI, and so on, ditto) — have kept on keeping on during this same period with nary a hiccup.
What does this all really mean? Those who have their own reasons for you to get certified are not letting up a bit, while those who serve the market that consists of individuals actively seeking certification, and employers interested in hiring certified professionals, or steering their best employees into certification, are falling off, sometimes severely. And yet, certain areas where jobs available exceed qualified applicants — namely, IT security, storage, SAP, and other high-demand specialties — continue to go great guns. Draw your own conclusions: I’m confused, just like the pundits, prognosticators, and regular Joes out there. Sheesh! How’s a reasonably intelligent, decently aware guy like yours truly supposed to make a living in such turbulent times? Good question, eh? Now, only if I had some more answers…
July 28, 2010 3:10 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
, Citrix cert program structure and organization
, Citrix certifications
For years I’ve written about and covered various Citrix certifications, so I’ve spent my fair share of time on the Citrix Web pages and on the phone with Citrix Education trying to nail down what’s available to whom, how much things cost, how long they take to complete, and yada yada yada. Upon my most recent visit to the Citrix Certifications pages, I’m very pleased to report that the company has reorganized and rearranged their look and feel, and has made them somewhat easier to explore (though it still has some way to go in terms of making them equally easy to access and understand).
This screenshot captures the basic layout and tab structure:
Pick your certs by category (Admin, Engineer, Architect) and go on from there
Here’s what you’ll find for each category:
- Administrator Series (CCA: notice further tabs for Desktops, Servers, and Networks)
Offerings also make specific mention of XenDesktop 4, XenApp6, XenApp 5 for Windows Server 2008, XenApp 5 for Windows Server 2003, EdgeSight 4, Passord Manager 4, XenApp 5, XenServer Enterprise Edition 4 and 5, Provisioning Server 5, XenServer 4 and 5, NetScaler 8 and 9, Access Gateway 4, 8 and 9 Enterprise Edition, WANScaler 4, and finally, Application Firewall 8, with Platinum versions for some platforms mentioned, and even a Citrix Certified Advanced Administrator, or CCAA, for XenApp 5 for Windows Server 2008 is included under the Desktop tab. Whew, what a tangle dangles from the CCA moniker!
- Engineer Series
Citrix Certified Enterprise Engineer (CCEE) for Virtualization (XenApp, XenServer, XenDesktop)
Citrix Certified Enterprise Administrator (CCEA) for Citrix XenApp (Presentation Server 4)
- Architect Series
Citrix Certified Integration Architect (CCIA) for Virtualization
Citrix Certified Integration Architect (CCIA) for Citrix XenApp (Presentation Server 4)
The structure and coverage of the CCEE and CCIA credentials are pretty straightforward, and easy to follow and understand. The CCA (and CCAA) are less intelligible, and would really benefit from some kind of narrative overview to help readers understand why there are so many of them, how they’re differentiated, the possible (or missing) value of obtaining multiple CCA credentials, and so on and so forth.
Come on, Citrix! Things are improving but there’s still a ways yet to go. Stand the old Talking Heads song on its head, and “start making sense” of the CCA (and CCAA).