Prepping for #MSIgnite – 50% discount on exams taken at the conference.

I was eventually able to find a post on Uservoice that confirmed there was a discount on Microsoft exams if taken at MSIgnite. Pick the exam and register in the normal way, but when selecting the test center, choose Orlando, FL and then select the Ignite center. This will then give you a 50% discount on the exam that will show at the bottom of the invoice.

Microsoft exam discount

All the MSIgnite information is scattered all over the place so you really do need to keep an eye out on the forums and twitter to find out whats happening.

I’m not sure what exams I will take this year but would like to get at least one done whilst I am there.

You can check out the rest of my #MSignite posts here.

Small Business Specialist certification upgraded to 2008

I finally got around to taking 70-653 on Friday and passing it. It was an interesting experience as I had to take a survey before the exam that asked questions about my experience with the product and what I thought were my strengths and weaknesses. If I didn’t know the exams were downloaded overnight, it would make me very suspicious – if I answered that I didn’t know remote access very well, would I get lots of questions on vpn configuration or would Microsoft be kind and avoid that area? Although I passed it would have been nice to also get a comparison with my answers from the survey and my final test results. Funnily enough my weakest area was user management – I’m pretty sure that is because I’m so used to doing things in AD and I know to do things with the wizard but I don’t pay attention to EXACTLY what the wizard is called.
Now that I’ve passed I’ve got another Technical Specialist under my belt and this should also upgrade my SBSC to 2008 status (although the SBSC doesn’t appear on Microsoft transcripts as this certification is “awarded to companies rather than individuals” (which I think is a big mistake on Microsoft’s part))

70-649 passed.

Took the exam this morning – I would say this is probably one of the easier exams, especially if you are familiar with the product (well duh!) A lot of the questions have keywords in them which means that instantly you know the answer has to be this particular one. Hard to explain, but in some exams you narrow down to two possibles and then you have to reread to get the correct one – in this case, keywords in the question instantly narrowed down to 1.
The annoying/scary bit is that it’s really 3 short exams in one and your worst score counts – if you fail one section you fail the lot. Fortunately I got 100% in the first two and 970 in the last one – I think I got one question wrong. Out of all the questions there were only 3 questions I wasn’t sure about – the others I knew were correct.

70-649 exam booked.

I booked my 70-649 exam last night for next Monday which gives me the weekend to do any last minute prep work and testing. I finished my 973 pages of reading the Syngress book – The Real MCTS/MCITP Exam 70-649 Prep Kit: by Brian Posey. The book wasn’t bad but there were quite a few errors in the book. There was only one sample answer that I totally agreed with (and therefore it must be wrong 😉 but there were a couple of times where text was repeated twice due to sloppy copy/paste editing and several times words were spelt wrong or letters missing. The last chapter for example, on Network Access Protection, seemed to be short on finishing the actual testing of the NAP client and unfortunately spent more time going on about tips for the exam. I would have thought this would be better in a separate chapter and instead actually go through the steps of testing the client machine for compatibility
Anyway, the exam is booked with the second chance offer .and if I pass I’ll be able to give the book a glowing review 😉
This exam is pretty good in that it is needed to upgrade my MCSE qualification to the 2008 equivalent but also gives me 3 MCTS qualifications,

SBS2008 loadfest in Springfield 2008.

I’ve never been to Springfield (any of them) before and tomorrow is the SBS2008 loadfest in Springfield, Ohio where people bring their machines to load SBS2008 on them and find out ways to automate the installation and demos and discussions about the new features in SBS2008.  I’m really looking forward to this as it will be some great training and also a chance to network with some peers. I’m curious to see how it all works as SBS insists it is the only DHCP server on the network when the connect to internet wizard is run so I’m not sure how it will like all the SBS machines being plugged into the Lan.

I must admit I cheated/was too impatient/needed to test the installation of SBS2008 on my hardware so I kicked off an install before work this morning ,answered the remaining questions at lunch time today and now have an installation on the hardware. I wanted to make sure that the installation would work with my hardware and my disk layout. Now that I know it works I will either reinstall over the top tomorrow or install it into a virtual environment under hyper-v. The latter will enable me to snapshot the machine when playing with various what-if configurations.

This is all really good timing as yesterday I received my “fee” exam voucher from Microsoft for SBS2008 – there was a typo in the subject of the email that gave me the free voucher code for the exam.  The only downside is that this will have to wait until I’ve passed at least one of my Windows2008 exams.

I had the beta of 2008 on my home training machine but it ran really slow as it was a virtual machine and the server didn’t have enough memory. Yesterday I purchased 4GB of ram for $70 (plus tax) and added that to the pc. I had an added bonus in that 1gb of ram had to be removed to make way for the 2gb sticks so I put these two sticks into my normal home pc.

I’m not sure if there are still spaces available – the click to register page still seems to work.

MCSE upgrade time.

It’s been a while since I got my MCSE qualification and I’m now starting to use Windows 2008 and Exchange 2007 so it is time to update the certifications!  Microsoft has a useful page on the transition path from MCSE on Windows2003 to MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) – looks like a lot more studying to do, although the first exam 70-649 gives me three new MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist )qualifications immediately which is nice. The good thing is that I have until the end of the year to pass with the second shot offer AND to fulfill my annual review goals.

The training book has been ordered from the library and the virtual server has been fired up, updated and my vpn configuration tested to allow remote access back home (I managed to break this when upgrading my dd-wrt router)

Second Shot enhancements

The Second Shot promotion is still running on Microsoft’s website, but now has an extra reward if you pass the exam on the first attempt. If you take a test before the end of the year and pass on the first attempt, you will now get a 25% discount on your next exam (if you take it by June 30th). Looks like it’s time to get the study books out again and push the guys at work to study too. So far for me the second shot promotion has just taken the pressure off of taking exams as I’ve passed each one, so this will be a nice reward. Thanks to Born to Learn for the heads up.

70-297 complete and I’m an MCSE!

I took the 70-297 test this afternoon. It’s a lot different and a lot harder than the other tests due to the amount of information that you need to digest and analyze (and in some cases assume). I passed with a score of 781. It could have been higher, but the main thing is that I passed and I now obtain my MCSE accreditation. This month has been very busy trying to study most nights for these tests – this was my third one this month and so for the next week or so I’m not going to be doing any overtime – I’m looking forward to being able to relax, watch some films and play rockband. Hopefully I’ll also be able to post some more stuff to the blogs now too.

70-297 complete and I’m an MCSE!

I took the 70-297 test this afternoon. It’s a lot different and a lot harder than the other tests due to the amount of information that you need to digest and analyze (and in some cases assume). I passed with a score of 781. It could have been higher, but the main thing is that I passed and I now obtain my MCSE accreditation. This month has been very busy trying to study most nights for these tests – this was my third one this month and so for the next week or so I’m not going to be doing any overtime – I’m looking forward to being able to relax, watch some films and play rockband. Hopefully I’ll also be able to post some more stuff to the blogs now too.

70-294 passed – 1 more to go.

It was quite disappointing to come out of the exam having not scored higher than 900. I was pretty convinced I had a higher score, but 873 is still a respectable score as 700 is the passmark. I won’t be taking any more tests at this test center though – the room was hot and right by reception and the front door so all I could clearly hear the (long) conversations as people had their smoke breaks, came back from lunch etc. It made it pretty hard to concentrate and in this exam you really have to concentrate on precisely which user in which OU needs access to which resource in which domain Almost every question had an exhibit button that needed to be pressed and the screens are at such a low resolution you need to scroll all the time (although this seems to be a standard resolution for the Microsoft exams – they really should give you the abilty to change them on the fly)
So I now have only one more exam to go and then I get my MCSE qualification – I hope to take this one next Thursday – I’ve not decided whether to do 70-297 – Designing a Windows Server 2003 Active Directory and Network Infrastructure or 70-298 – Designing Security for a Windows Server 2003 Network. 297 sounds easier as it builds on the skills in the other exams (and we have the mspress book in the office) but 298 would be more interesting but possibly harder and we don’t have the book.