Microsoft Exam Second Shot Vouchers


Microsot exams are a pretty integral part of any IT certification plans and now, thanks to a recent expansion of Microsoft’s schemes, I can offer free 2nd shot exam vouchers!

What are they?

If you’ve got an upcoming MS exam, the 2nd shot vouchers can help alleviate any worries you might have around not passing and having to pay for a second exam attempt :-)

They are valid for

“all Microsoft IT Professional and developer certification exams and all Microsoft Dynamics exams (all 070 exams).”

and can be redeemed via Prometric testing sites.

“Each voucher is valid for one exam retake (if the first attempt failed) and one Practice Test discounted 40% before June 30, 2010”

So this gives you a great cushion in knowing that you can re-take it for free should something go wrong the first time you take it. Relieving that pressure can often give you the freedom you need to get it together and pass the exam first time anyway!

How do I get them?

If you’ve planning on taking a Microsoft exam and would like one of these vouchers, simply email me on:

richfrombechtle@live.co.uk

and I will get the voucher created and sent over to you ASAP :-)

Expiry:

Currently, the vouchers available are valid until June 30th 2010 which is a little over 2 months so there’s not too much time to dawdle!

Get emailing and get certified…good luck!

Windows Azure: Free Developers Course


Windows Azure is a key part of Microsoft’s “Cloud” strategy moving into the future but of course, it needs people to use it and develop for it for it to be truly successful. They are piloting a new way of training developers & architects Azure, via self paced, web based training…best of all it’s FREE!

The method is one that I’m quite familiar with which aims to offer the best features of classroom training without the hassles and expense of travel, hotels, being out of the office for days etc. It utilises:

  • Interactive Live Meeting sessions with a tutor
  • On-line videos
  • Hands on Labs
  • E-Learning
  • Weekly Assessments

to cover off the topics, and you don’t need to go anywhere! The course lasts for 6 weeks from:

May 10th – June 18th

and covers:

Week 1 – Windows Azure Platform
Week 2 – Windows Azure Storage
Week 3 – Windows Azure Deep Dive and Codename "Dallas"
Week 4 – SQL Azure
Week 5 – Windows Azure Platform AppFabric Access Control
Week 6 – Windows Azure Platform AppFabric Service Bus

and did I mention it’s FREE?!

This is aimed at developers, architects, programmers and system designers and recommends at least 6 months experience programming in .NET and Visual Studio.

It will take around 4 to 5 hours a week to research and complete the tasks and there are timelines etc for submitting the work. However, successful completion gets you a “Microsoft Certificate of Completion” :-)

This is a new approach from Microsoft and one that I hope will be expanded out to other product areas.

Register:

You can find more information and sign up here:

https://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032449971&Culture=en-GB

If you’re technically minded and interested in Azure, sign up…and get any colleagues/friends that would be interested to sign up too!

I’ve registered and am looking forward to it so hopefully I’ll see you there :-)

Windows 7 Deployment Learning Portal


Windows 7 deployment is definitely a hot topic. The larger/more technically minded end end users are looking to get their IT teams skilled up and more Microsoft partners than ever before are looking to acquire these skills, and offer the services. Add into this the number of consultants and techie home users and there’s a real appetite for information across the board.

Microsoft have already made a lot of great information available via Technet as well as the MS Press books etc. For me, although Technet is great, I do sometimes struggle to find what I need for a certain situation/question and end up none the wiser. I also like online exams as a way of testing/tracking my level of knowledge, and also my (hopeful) improvements. Thus, I got pretty excited (more excited than a Rydberg atom in fact :-)) when I discovered the

Windows 7 Deployment Learning Portal

It’s aim is

“to help you identify the strengths and gaps in your knowledge around Windows 7 deployment and provide some targeted learning to help you reach the top of your game”

and, in my opinion, it does just that…and very well too. Going through the 11 modules showed me there were a few areas that I was already quite strong in as well as a number of modules I needed to work on. <—This is where the targeted Technet materials came in very handy. Rather than leaving me to my own devices, after each question I answered incorrectly there were a few links to specific Technet pages relating to the topic in hand; I was able to quickly read up on the subject, identify my mistakes, find the right answer and then re-take the module.

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Learning Style

I really like the way that Microsoft Technet have approached this site. It’s much more about identifying, and then filling, any knowledge gaps you may have rather than simply passing/failing an assessment; this is a much better approach for all involved.

I failed a few of the modules and hugely benefitted from being able to read through the Technet articles straight away, and then re-take the modules. Once I’d read through the various suggested articles including how to guides/step by step procedures etc, I passed each module but, more importantly, retained the knowledge. If it had simply said “You’ve failed”, I wouldn’t have improved my skill levels anywhere near as much.

For anyone looking to become more au fait with Windows  deployment methods, be it for personal interest or work necessity, this site is a great place to start. Equally, if you’re looking (as I am) to complete the Windows 7 70-680 exam, there is a wealth of information available through this site and I would definitely recommend it! On the subject of the 70-690 exam, Microsoft are running an:

Early Bird Promotion

“The first 150 individuals to pass all modules will receive a free Microsoft Press Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) self-study guide. The first 500 individuals to pass all modules will receive a free certification exam voucher.”

I have no idea if it’s still within the 150 pass limit (or the 500 for that matter) but if I was you, I’d head over to:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows/ff470986.aspx

get registered and get taking those modules. Worst case you get a great, solid grounding in Windows 7 Deployment tactics and best case you’ll get some great free gifts :-) Friendly word of advice, make sure you select the “I want to be included” tick otherwise you won’t be eligible for the free book or voucher ;-)

I hope you have fun over there and I just want to say, Thank You Microsoft Technet, for a great resource :-)

Windows 7 Cram Live Meeting


If you saw the Windows 7 Exam Cram session that was running on March 11th but missed the actual event (like me), the recording is now available online here:

https://www112.livemeeting.com/cc/microsoft/view?id=DC031110&pw=webcast

So if you’re working towards some Windows 7 exams (at least 70-680 & 70-685) or would like to but not sure where to start, head over there and get started…I will be ASAP!

Office 2010 New Feature Videos


One of the main things I did in preparation for BETT 2010 was create a bunch of videos showing some of the new features in Office 2010. I can talk about them ‘til the cows come home, but it’s always better to see things where possible. The videos were very well received and Office 2010 got a LOT of positive feedback…June should be an exciting time :-)

Anyway, I thought I’d put the videos up on here too and hopefully you’ll find them just as interesting & useful as our stand visitors did last week…enjoy!

Background Removal:

This is a great feature in Word 2010, making in nice and easy to remove all or part of a picture’s background.

 

Broadcast PowerPoint:

This feature lets you “broadcast” your presentation over the net by giving you a link to share with whoever you need to…allowing people to see your .pptx as long as they have an internet connection:

Insert Web Video:

Inserting videos from sites such as YouTube has always been a bit of a pain in Powerpoint…but no more! Powerpoint 2010 makes it super easy…teachers loved this at BETT.

Edit video inside Powerpoint:

Inserting videos into Powerpoint has been available for ages, but any editing you needed to do-even basic stuff-has required a 3rd party product. Again, Powerpoint 2010 makes it easier by enabling you to edit the video without leaving the program. Here I’m trimming a bit of Shooting Stars :-)

Powerpoint Video Effects:

More built in video editing here with shadows, borders, reflections and more being easily applied within Powerpoint 2010.

Create a Video:

You’ve made a presentation and now you need to make it available as a video file, rather than a slideshow. I believe most people use Windows Movie Maker to do this currently but, with 2010, it’s again all done inside Powerpoint.

Save to Skydrive/Sharepoint:

This is a great new feature. It lets you save to your Live Skydrive (25GB free storage!) directly from the Office applications…no more save to folder then upload to Skydrive…it’s all one nice, smooth action :-) I don’t do it in the video but you can see there is also exactly the same thing to save to Sharepoint, which should really help drive adoption of Sharepoint in schools. From various discussions I’ve had, many people see Sharepoint as an extra step so:

Create Document > Save to Folder > Upload to Sharepoint

and this leads to many people just not bothering as it’s more work and they perhaps don’t see the point of it. Having the ability to save directly to their MOSS site will cut that out and make it just as easy as it’s always been :-)

Word Navigation Pane:

This is quite a small new feature, but I love it! The navigation pane picks up all the  headings, sub-headings etc and enables you to use them to navigate documents; making large documents much less painful!

MS Exam 70-680 training videos


Exam 70-680 is the new Microsoft MCTS exam for Configuring Windows 7 that builds towards the MCITP accreditations.

I’ve been thinking of taking this exam for a little while and now there is what’s shaping up to be an excellent series of training videos available from @Bibbleq. He’s an IT Admin and has started putting these videos together in his spare time to help out anyone looking at this exam – so ‘nuff respect for that :-)

I’ve watched the 1st 2 videos that are available and they’re really good. Well presented, clear and I’ve definitely picked up a thing or two, which is what it’s all about isn’t it?! I’m not sure how many will be in the series but I’m confident that once you’ve seen them all, you’ll be in a position to pretty much go and take the exam straight away!

First video is here.

Second video is here.

Third video is here.

Fourth video is here. This is the start of Section 2.

Section 2 Module 2 is here. This covers DISM & ImageX.

Homepage is here.

Nice one Bibbleq!

New features of Exchange 2010


Microsoft Exchange 2010 is nearly here so I’ve just been going through some of the free e-learning that’s available (here) to see what’s new.

Unified Communications:

There have been many improvements around the Unified Messaging piece including:

SMS Notification of missed calls

Message waiting indicators

Personal Auto Attendant

Users can have voicemail transcribed into their chosen language

Voice mails are now protected from unauthorised forwarding, copying and extracting

These enhancements should lead to the UC aspects of Exchange gaining more traction. Previously they’ve been seen as quite superfluous and “nice to have” rather than a “need to have” (at least in my experience); now however the user productivity gains are apparent.

Another big one is Federated Calendar Sharing, allowing you to easily share info with 3rd party organisations, using Windows Live as the trust broker. You need an internet accessible Client Access Server (CAS) as calendar sharing is done via web services – thusno special ports need opening.

Microsoft Clustering Services are no longer needed to get High Availability (HA) with Exchange 2010.

Things to know for deployment:

Can upgrade from 2003 to 2010

AD must be at least in

Windows Server 2003 forest functionality mode

Also, you must have at least one Windows 2003 Service Pack 2 Global Catalog server in every Active Directory site that will have an Exchange 2010 server.

Note that Read-only domain controllers (RODC) and read-only global catalog (ROGC) servers are not supported.

Exchange 2010 does NOT support in place upgrades.

Read-only domain controllers (RODC) and read-only global catalog (ROGC) servers are not supported

Storage:

Microsoft have made a number of changes in this area and, at least to me, they seem like great improvements. They’ve worked hard to reduce the I/O traffic and this is done via:

IOPS changed to write more data at fewer intervals

Merged I/O instances

Both of these reduce the number of operations and improving performance. Two more improvements include:

Larger cache size (32kb)

Sequential data storage reduces I/O

They have also removed the Database maintenance windows by pushing the defrag process into the background.

All that and more, along with moving diagrams and voiceovers can be found here:

http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/training/exchange-server.aspx

Windows 7 Free Training Courses


We’ve got an official release date for Windows 7 now (22/10/09) so there’s now a definite time by which you need to be up to speed/certified on the latest OS from Redmond. The Register is here to help, they’ve got 3 introductory courses available here:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/06/02/free_windows7_training/

or you can go directly to the courses here:

http://cblms.com/ekp/servlet/ekp/pageLayout

that are completely free of charge and look pretty good :-) Although having said that-the self test on the Information Workers “Finding & Organization” module wouldn’t work for me!

I’d be interested to hear what you think…