Tuesday
Jul232013

MCSA: Windows Server 2012

After several months of study, and 3 grueling exams later I'm now an MCSA. I'm happy that I did meet my personal goal of achiving the certification in approximately 80 days. Needless to say that I've had very little free time. I will post some of my study tips, and lab setup guides soon. Now on to MCSE! 

Monday
May272013

Path to 2012 Server MCSA

I've decided to take up the challenge of achieving my Windows Server 2012 MCSA in 90 days or less. I studied for a week before taking the time to create a plan. Without a plan I realized that I might not be as successful. I remember when I sat for one of my earliest exams (MS Mail 3.2 Enterprise) I felt overconfident and failed it the first time. I think I had that feeling due to the fact of working with MSMail on a daily basis, I thought I knew everything inside and out. However, when I sat the exam I got some questions that I had barely used such as the SNADS Gateway; I felt lost. After that, I learned that having a good study guide makes all the difference. 

 

Since then I have taken the time to create a personalized study guide based on vendor guidelines. I'm currently studying for the Microsoft 70-410: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012. I will post my study guide very soon.

 

Stay tuned.

Saturday
May112013

New content coming

Sorry I have not posted in a while, been busy moving data centers, Exchange migrations, Mobile Device Anaylsis, and other cool stuff. Will be posting some new content and tutorial videos soon.

Stay tuned.

 

Chuz

Thursday
Jan172013

CBT Training Options

WIth diminishing training budgets many companies are looking at different options to train their employees. There are a lot of Computer Based Training (CBT) options available to the IT professional. Recently I have been evaluating a number of training providers since I have been studying for some updated Microsoft exams. Some of these CBTs do offer practice exams or vouchers to obtain practice exams. I will outline a few options that I have recently tried.

CBTNuggets

Been using this company since 2007 and generally I have found their instruction to be of high quality. Their unlimited streaming program is the best value and is the most convenient I have found. The only drawback is the lack of offline access to the video content. They even offer a 24 hour pass to their library, however, it is difficult to find that particular offer on their website. CBTNuggets does offer an iPhone and iPad app but they seem to be a bit buggy at times. Watching via a web browser is going to be the best experience. CBTNuggets offers a 2 minute preview on all of their videos, I found this to be inadequate to properly evaluate the content so I purchased a 24 hour pass a couple of times. I liked what I saw so I purchased a year of streaming of their IT library. Another nice feature is  that they will lock in the price if you automatically renew year after year. Individual pricing on video courses is not so great at $199 per month. They do offer packages on a series of subjects such as Cisco Networking but they have time limits as well.I find that CBTNuggets updates their training very often and their daily free MicroNuggets are a bonus.

Trainsignal

I really like their instructors and the fact that they offer free streaming for paid products is a nice perk. Trainsignal also supplies its courses with MP3, and iTunes compatible MP4 files as well (DRM free). If you pay for some of the packs Trainsignal may provide you with free vouchers for Transcender practice tests. I found the overall quality of instruction to be comparable to CBTNuggets. Trainsignal does not offer any streaming only options but I think that their materials are a better value because of the non-expiring DRM-Free physical media. Individual courses are inexpensive ranging from $199 to $399. Another great perk is the 90 day money back guarantee, this is something I have not seen in a CBT training program!


LearnSmart (formally known as PrepLogic)

Back in 2008 I signed up for their unlimited plan, they sent me several DVDs and I watched them, go certified then sent them back for another set of DVDs. As a result I only got to view a few courses over the year. Their turnaround time for processing new orders was slow as well. Plus to top everything off their entire process for ordering was low tech. I found that to be funny for such high tech material. I ended up paying $2200 for the access. I also hated the fact that the courses had to be activated at least once a month and would not work on a Mac. Before opting for the unlimited program I had purchased a course that I can no longer use! On the positive side their instructors are excellent. The course also includes PDF, and practice exam downloads that were developed internally.


Lynda.com

Although Lynda training material is primarily geared toward consumers I have found that their instruction is one of the best in the industry. Lynda.com also has some IT related courses on SQL server, and Sharepoint. Their development library and instruction far exceeds any of the others I have tried. Lynda.com has a monthly based subscription model, they charge $25 a month for basic and $37.50 for premium features that include all of the exercise files. All couses can be streamed via the web or through the free iPhone, and iPad apps. Subscribers can save even more by opting for the annual plans. Some cources can also be purchased for a low cost, exercise files are included with the DVD purchase. Overall I feel that Lynda.com is probably the best value, however, the lack of most advanced IT subjects such as messaging, unified communications, and networking make it unsuitable for most IT professionals, however, it is an outstanding value for high quality instruction. I will continue to maintain my annual subscription, I'm always finding something cool to learn at Lynda.com!

Friday
Nov162012

My review of the 13" MacBook Pro Retnia (base model) 

I'm reviewing the new 13" MacBook Pro (base model) with 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD. I mainly use the machine as my mobile office. My hobby is video editing and use Final Cut Pro X for that. I also have been using some Adobe CS6 applications and Unity but I'm still learning those. 

 

First Impressions:

Weighs just 3.5 pounds and it runs just about everything I have thrown at it so far. The system boots in 12.8 seconds (slightly longer for boot camp at 16.2 seconds)! It runs games (in Windows) at medium-low settings at 20 to 25 FPS (not bad for integrated graphics).

Boot camp was easy to setup and get going, I created a bootable Windows 7 disk on an 8GB flash memory stick. I was able to partition and install Windows 7 in about 25 minutes.

 

Installed and tested the following applications:

 

  • Final Cut Pro X
  • Adobe Illustrator CS6
  • iPhoto
  • MS Office 2011
  • Evernote
  • XCode
  • Tweetdeck
  • World of Warcraft
  • Diablo III
  • Star Wars the Old Republic

 

All of these Apps work fine; Final Cut Pro was able to render about 14 minutes of HD 720p Video in about 60 minutes, not bad considering it’s a laptop. The Mac Pro renders the same video in about 17 minutes. iPhoto looks absolutely beautiful on the Retnia display! Recent photos look awesome, older photos that were taken on a 1.1 or 2 Megapixel camera (Circa 2000) look grainy but that is to be expected. Transferring data is a bit slow since I’m using USB 2, I don’t have any USB or Thunderbolt drives, only Firewire 800 and USB 2. I’m not going to replace 4 TBs of external storage because of Thunderbolt!

 

Retnia Display:

 

The Retnia display on the 13” MBP is nice at 2560x1600 (same as my 30” monitor). In boot camp I can barely ready anything in explorer unless I blow up the size of the icons, etc. Web browsing looks good on both OS X and Windows.

There are several settings for the screen in OS X but the best of Retnia looks like the same (1280x1024) resolution as the previous generation except the text is much crisper. I prefer to work at the highest resolution but in all honesty I usually work on an external monitor at 1920x1080 especially for games. Playing games at the full retnia resolution really sucks (7 to 15 FPS). Games run well at 1920x1080 with an external monitor once I lowered all settings to medium for most settings and low (or off) for anti-aliasing, sunshafts, etc.

 

Performance:

 

The laptop performs about as I would expect for a laptop with a base 2.3Ghz core i5 processor. Applications open in a second or two. I can load a large and complex spreadsheet like the Exchange 2010 Mailbox Role Calculator in about 2 to 3 seconds, takes like 7 or 8 seconds on my work laptop (i.e. Dell Lattitude with Core i5-2520M, & 7200 RPM drive). I typically use about 3 to 4 GB of RAM doing office and research (i.e. having 80 to 90 broswer tabs open), etc. When I need to run Windows applications I use Fusion which takes another 2 to 3 GB of memory for my applications. I cannot run another VM without sacrificing performance. The 8GB of RAM is the bare minimum for me; I need at least 16 to run everything I use on a day-to-day basis.

 

Battery:

 

About 3 hours 45 minutes with heavy internet use, I can get almost 4.5 if I dim the screen a bit. I’m sure I would get about 6 to 7 if I turned off wifi completely.

 

Conclusion:

 

For the road warrior or power user where portability is important but finds the Macbook Air too weak will love this machine. The only downside is the lackluster RAM capacity and non-discrete graphics support. I was very tempted to keep this machine despite being slower than what I’m used too. However, I ultimately decided to take this machine back and order the 15” MBP with 16GB of RAM. I will be posting a review of that machine shortly.