Tag Archive for education

Windows Server 2012 MCSA Upgrade 70-417 Study Guide and Exam Experience

Sat and passed the 70-417 exam this week so thought I would get a few thoughts down for the benefit of the handful people who may still be planning to sit it. Yes, I know it’s Windows 2012, and I am writing this in 2016, but I’ve been a bit busy the last few years doing “other stuff”. šŸ™‚

Preparation Materials

The list of materials I used to prepare for this exam were relatively few, and were certainly very inexpensive!

  1. Upgrading Skills to Windows Server 2012 Jump Start on Microsoft Virtual Academy – not massively in depth, but a great introduction to the new features in 2012.
  2. What’s New in Windows Server 2012 R2 Jump Start on Microsoft Virtual Academy – again, a good overview on the new changes. This of it as the foundations on which to build your new skills!
  3. Pluralsight training: Dipped in and out of the 70-410 / 70-411 / 70-412 courses for areas I needed additional knowledge. The quality of course material on Pluralsight is second to none and they are always my go-to video training provider. The only shame is that they don’t have a specific 70-417 course, which you can get on their biggest competitor (CBT Nuggets).
  4. Pluralsight: Windows Server 2012 Remote Desktop Infrastructure.
  5. Exam Ref 70-417 Upgrading from Windows Server 2008 to Windows Server 2012 R2 (MCSA) by J.C. Mackin. This was by far the single most effective aid to learning all of the new features, as well as passing the exam! If you only have time to use one study aid, this is the one to invest in. It’s also only just over a tenner! I will definitely be investing in these official guides for my future MS exams (if I do any – see below!).
  6. Followed the blueprint on the MS 70-417 site, to confirm that I had a reasonable understanding of each of the areas tested.
  7. Spent a number of hours installing and configuring as many of the different new / updated features in Windows 2012 R2, on my home lab (Intel NUC Nanolab). In terms of getting to know what the different configuration options and processes are, this is invaluable!

Exam Experience and Tips
This exam is unlike most other MS exams (or indeed other vendor exams) in that it is broken down into three distinct sections, covering each of the three equivalent exams (70-410/411/412). Once you complete each section, you cannot go back to the previous one. Personally this is not a massive issue for me as my exam technique is to answer and move on. If I’m unsure, I go with my gut feeling as this is probably more likely to be right than anything I come up with spending 10 minutes wavering back and forth between answers!

Taking this three section element a step further, your final grade is actually based on the lowest score of each section. Worse still, if you don’t meet 70% in any one section, even if you ace the other two, you fail the exam. No pressure then! I believe it varies, but I had less than 60 questions, roughly split three ways between the sections.

Everyone is going to have their strengths and weaknesses but I personally found the middle section the trickiest, passing by relatively small margin, but the first and last were not too bad.

It felt to me like the typical mixed MS bag of easy marks from simple questions, and the insanely difficult “how would you know that one setting or feature unless you had implemented it in some obscure use case”. This is perhaps where I feel sometimes MS exams are not very realistic, and don’t actually test your real world understanding / skills. This has become even worse in the past few years, as you are now expected to memorise literally hundreds of PowerShell commands, many of which you will probably never use, or could check using the ISE when you need to.

In terms of tips, my number one suggestion is that you definitely make sure you know all of the key PowerShell commands required by the blueprint / exam guide. Beyond that practice as much of the configuration as you can in your home lab, as you will be expected to know which “nerd knobs” to turn and buttons to click to achieve some activities.

Closing Thoughts on the Current State of Microsoft Exams
I have stated this openly previously, but I will say it here again. I strongly object to the concept of certifications which are linked to a specific product version, having an expiry date. There is absolutely no benefit to the individual, or indeed the industry to have someone take the same exam over and over again every couple of years, and any particular version is only “current” for 3-5 years anyway.

Do employers of vocational degree graduates expect you to go back to University every couple of years and re-take your finals to prove you understood the content? Of course not! They take your degree as proof that you understood the subject matter at the time, and that you have gained skills and experience both from that time and subsequently.

The other joke here is that the technical certifications themselves do not actually prove that you truly know how to do the job anyway, especially with the prevalence of brain dumps, and IMHO are only a gateway and aid to recruiters. Unless you’re a contractor, the further you progress in your career, the less potential employers actually seem to care about these certifications anyway. They appear to me to be seen as a “nice to have”, but your experience and skills are far more important.

For this reason I have decided that even as a self professed certification junkie, it is very unlikely that I will take my new MCSA 2012 and upgrade it all the way to the MCSE, largely due to the 3 year time limit and re-certification requirement. I would far rather spend my limited time learning other new technologies (for example AWS, Docker, Vagrant, etc) with or without certification, and using those new skills to progress my career.

I don’t think there is any doubt that the new Microsoft is making a great many positive decisions under Satya Nadella’s leadership, but the organisation’s decision to expire certs is not one I can get myself behind.

VCP6-DCV Delta Exam (2V0-621D) Study Guide and Exam Experience

Having successfully completed the VCP6-DCV Delta Exam (2V0-621D) this week, I thought it would be worthwhile jotting down a few thoughts on the exam, and noting the resources I used to prepare for it.

I’ve previously completed the VCP3, VCP4 and VCP5 “DCV” exams, however being specifically a delta exam, this one was a little different. The exam primarily covers the differences between vSphere 5 and vSphere 6, with a handful of seemingly more general questions.

For summary impressions of the exam (i.e. the TLDR), jump to the end of this article! šŸ™‚

Preparation
I used the following resources in prep for the exam:

homelab

The Exam
The exam itself was different to any previous VCP exam I’ve done. I would say that because the scope of the exam was much narrower, the depth of the questions seemed to me to be significantly more, with a few really tricky ones thrown in there.

Over all if I was to do it again (and when it comes time to do the VCP7 in a few years) I would probably just do the full VCP exam, rather than the delta. That way you can be sure of a decent number of the easy peasy questions which will probably be on stuff you’ve been doing for years, as well as the new stuff you may not know quite as well.

Obviously having not done the full VCP6 exam I can’t say this for sure, but I would say it’s a pretty good bet.

NanoLab – Part 9 ā€“ Installing VMware vSphere ESXi 5.5 on Intel NUC

I successfully ranĀ my VMware vSphere ESXi 5.1 Nanolab for 18 months on my pair of Intel NUCĀ DC3217IYE hosts. Early this year I got around to upgrading toĀ 5.5. I had experienced some issues with my vCenter Server Appliance so ended up just rebuilding the lab from scratch and reattaching my old data stores. Having written all of this up, I then promptly forgot to post it! So for the sake of continuity (before I do the same for 6.0 shortly), this article covers the process.

In addition I also purchased a 3rd node for my lab, the 4thĀ Gen D34010WYKH model (also with a Core i3), with which I was able to test and prove the process on as it uses the same NIC chipset.

The following are updated instructions for installing vSphere 5.5 on Intel NUC (any model with theĀ IntelĀ® 82579V or IntelĀ® I218V onboard NIC should work).

I recommend before you start, you upgrade the NUCĀ to the latest firmware, to avoid any potential bugs (of which there were a few when they were first released). Copy the latest firmare image onto a USB stick, boot the NUC, hit F7 at the bios, find your firmware on the USB stick and let it do it’s thing:

Intel NUC Firmware Upgrade

Intel NUC Firmware Upgrade

vSphere 5.5 Install Requirements

  • A USB Stick. This should work on anything over 1-2GB but personally am using 8GB PNY Micro Sleek Attache & 16GB Kinston DataTraveler Micro drives as they’re tiny, so less likely to catch on anything as they stick out the back of the NUC box, and they cost less than Ā£5 each.
  • A copy of VMware Workstation 8 / Fusion 6 or newer.
  • ESXi-Customizer 2.7.2 (created by Andreas Peetz)
    http://v-front.blogspot.com/p/esxi-customizer.htmlĀ for adding VIBs to your image. NOTE: This can also be done by Powershell, but I like the GUI as it’s easy! (http://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2012/04/using-the-vsphere-esxi-image-builder-cli.html)
  • The ESXi driver for theĀ IntelĀ® 82579V Gigabit Ethernet ControllerĀ (e.g. for the originalĀ models using ESXi 5.5):
  • OR The ESXi driver for theĀ IntelĀ® I218V Gigabit Ethernet Controller (e.g. for the Haswell based D34010U models):
  • (AND) The ESXi AHCI driver for the SATA controller (if you want to use local drives in theĀ Ā Haswell based D34010U models):
    • sata-xahci-1.10-1.x86_64
    • If you do choose to add this in as well to your image, simply run the customiser twice, once for the network VIB, then a second time for the SATA vin, using the interim image as your source for the final image.

Process Overview

  • Create a customised ISO with the additional Intel driver.
  • Install ESXi to your USB stick using VMware Workstation / VMware Fusion and the customised ISO you will create below.
  • Plug in your NUC, insert the USB stick, boot and go!

Part One – Create the Custom ISO

  1. Run theĀ ESXi-Customizer-v2.7.2.exeĀ (latest version at time of writing).
  2. This will extract the customer to the directory of your choosing.
  3. Navigate to the new directory.
  4. Run theĀ ESXi-Customizer.cmdĀ batch file. This will open up the GUI, where you can configure the following options:
  • Path to your ESXi Installer
  • Path to the Intel driver downloaded previously
  • Path where you want the new ISO to be saved
  1. Ensure you tick theĀ Create (U)EFI-bootable ISO checkbox.
ESXi-Customizer with 2.3.2 vib

ESXi-Customizer with 2.3.2 vib

This will output a new custom ESXi installer ISO calledĀ ESXi-5.x-Custom.isoĀ or similar, in the path defined above.

Part Two – Install bootable ESXi to the USB stick.
I stress that this is my preferred way of doing this as an alternative is simply to burn your customised ISO to a CD/DVD and boot using a USB DVD-ROM. That would however be a whole lot slower, and waste a blank CD!

  1. Plug your chosen USB stick into your PC.
  2. Open VMware Workstation (8 or above), VMware Fusion, or whatever you use, ideally supporting theĀ Virtualize Intel VT-x/EPT or AMD-V/RVIĀ option (allowing you to nest 64-bit VMs).
  3. Create a new VM, you can use any spec you like really, as ESXi always checks on boot, but I created one with the similarĀ specs as my intended host, single socket, 2vCPU cores. RAM doesn’t really matter either but I use at least 4GB normally. This does not require a virtual hard disk.
  4. Once the VM is created, and before you boot it, edit the CPU settings and tick theĀ Virtualize Intel VT-x/EPT or AMD-V/RVIĀ checkbox. This will reduce errors when installing ESXi (which checks to ensure it can virtualise 64-bit operating systems).

VMware Workstation Nesting

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 22.09.01

VMware Fusion Nesting

  1. Set theĀ CD/DVD (IDE)Ā configuration toĀ Use ISO image file, and point this to the customised ISO created earlier.
  2. Once the above settings have been configured, power on the VM.
  3. As soon as the VM is powered on, in the bottom right of the screen, right click on the flash disk icon, and clickĀ Connect (Disconnect from Host).

Attach USB in VMware Workstation

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 21.38.18

Attach USB in VMware Fusion

  1. This will mount the USB stick inside the VM, and allow you to do a standard ESXi installation onto the stick.
ESXi Install

ESXi Install

  1. At the end of the installation, disconnect the stick, un-mount and unplug it.
Install Complete

Install Complete

Part Three – Boot and go!
This is the easy bit, assuming you don’t have any of the HDMI issues I mentioned in the firstĀ post!

  1. Plug your newly installed USB stick into the back of the NUC.
  2. Don’t forget to plug in a network cable (duh!) and keyboard for the initial configuration. If you wish to modify any bios settings (optional), you will also ideally need a mouse as the NUC runs Visual BIOS.
  3. Power on the NUCā€¦
  4. Have fun!

That’s it!

Any questions/comments, please feel free to hit me up on twitter as I have recently disabled comments on my blog due to the insane volumes of spam bots they were attracting!

Free vSphere 6 Training! (Yes this title is blatant click bait!)

Yes I fully admit that this article is click bait, but i can promise youĀ that attending the event below will help you learn all about VMwareā€™s latest and greatest release (and a few other things besides), as well as having the opportunity to network with some awesome like-mindedĀ individuals!

The event agenda is below and follows the usual mix of vendor sponsors and top notch community sessions, followed by a couple of cheeky lemonades at the vBeers event at the Pavilion End at the end of the day.

As an added bonus it seems that theĀ night before theĀ meeting, the crew from TECHUnpluggedĀ will be in town and everyone is invited to a vWhatever session (vBeers, vWine, vCurry, vWhatever!), location TBC. Keep an eye on Jane Rimmerā€™s blog for more info!

London VMUG 23rd April 2015 Agenda

I am hoping to be at the event, having only missed one in about the last 3 years, so if you do spot me there (Iā€™m the 6ā€™7ā€ Scottish blokeā€)!

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