I’m always looking for ways to improve my workflow and productivity; most recently I’ve started using Markdown for as many projects as I can, so using Markdown in WordPress is no exception!
If you haven’t seen or used Markdown before; it’s a super-lightweight markup language that allows you to add formatting elements as you go by using special syntax. For example, if you want to make a section of text display in italic, simply put an asterisk at the start of the word or sentence. When the output is then parsed, your *Italics* then becomes Italics).
Why is this useful?
Like an XML file, it’s open, super portable and easily readable across many applications, operating systems and web platforms (think Reddit, GitHub, Stack Exchange, Confluence, etc).
It saves time when editing simple documents as you don’t have to go back and highlight/modify formatting, just add the syntax as you go, often with the use of one or two characters at the start of a line. Simple examples might be a bulleted list, where you add an asterisk *, or an H1 heading where you add a single hash symbol #.
It’s fantastic for writing documentation where you might want to insert a quick code snippet or command just like this!
Due to the very simple notation, it’s far quicker than writing HTML and can be substituted for HTML on many publishing platforms.
If Git is already part of your workflow, it makes for easy collaboration with others (ideal for Devs!) and you can use GitHub for both version control and easy access from anywhere to your in-progress content.
Learning and practising with Markdown opens up future opportunities to move to various publishing platforms such as Jekyll, Hugo, etc. I might even think about giving the site a facelift sometime soon!
New skill to master, init?
You’ve sold me! How do I start?
I don’t know why WordPress didn’t enable it in the default code, but it does come as part of Jetpack (which I assume 90% of sensible WordPress Users are using!). If you want to adopt it to your blogging workflow your site too, simply install Jetpack, then enable it under Settings → Writing.
After writing a couple of draft posts with it so far, I have to say I’m pretty happy with it. The next step is to find a decent plugin for linking to GitHub, enabling me to write/edit posts in my favourite text editor (VSCode, Sublime Text, Atom depending on my mood), then push them up via Git!
I don’t know about you, but some of my best and worst ideas come to me when I’m in the shower… it’s quite possible this may be the latter, but let’s see where it goes!
For those of you who are either regular readers of this blog, or perhaps even know me in the “walking, talking flesh sacks” world, you will probably have noticed I’m prone to long-form communication; whether it’s writing, or indeed speaking!
Due to many reasons I won’t bore you with today (but maybe later!), life has been spectacularly busy the last few months. This has led to something which I want to correct; missing out the enjoyable act of blogging here!
What’s the plan, Stan?
In response I am going to try a little experiment based on the theory of “little and often”.
In addition to my traditional “epic saga” posts, I will be producing a new post series I’m calling #TekBytes. Not quite Twitter-style microblogging, but more regular, bite-sized chunks of content. No more than a few paragraphs or a couple of hundred words per post, based on observations and challenges I see day to day in my role as a multi-cloud solutions architect.
That doesn’t mean it will all be cloudy of course, just whatever comes to mind and I can get down into a post in a few minutes, possibly even from my phone! Some of them might even only be questions for you, the readers!
And before you ask… of course there will still be terrible memes! 😀
Thoughts? Feedback? Make yourself heard using the comments below!
Having been warned that the exam was a bit tricky, I made sure to do more studying for this than most exams, probably spending fast approaching 100 hours to prepare. Based on my actual experience I believe I could have reduced this a bit, for example by dropping the Pluralsight course altogether (even though I really like them, it is too out of date to be useful, other than for historical knowledge).
Microsoft Azure 70-534 Study Materials
Whilst studying for the exam, I used the following study materials:
Excellent course, and pretty well presented by Doug Vanderweide. This does cover most of the topics at a broad level, with some deep dives. It is not enough to pass the exam on its own, however.
The BEST thing about this system (IMHO) is the Flash Cards. I did all of the decks provided by Linux Academy, and some bits of the other ones.
Doug, and the “Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions Exam 70-534 Prep” deck from “Dominic”. The great thing with these is that you can just pick them up and do them for 5-10 minutes when you have some spare. They are also really good for helping you remember the ridiculous and pointless minutia which you need to know (such as the precise specs of individual names instances, e.g. A8 vs A10).
The quiz at the end of each section was also pretty useful.
I believe they have also just introduced some hands on labs, which will also help to solidify things, as well as help you remember the specific order in which certain implementation steps need to occur.
I only found this one with a couple of weeks to go until my exam, so only had time to watch the videos described as updated in 2016/2017. This was useful however as it covered several areas not included in the Pluralsight / Linux Academy courses.
The best thing about Scott’s course (which was glaringly missing from Linux Academy and Pluralsight) was that it asked you to do labs with your Azure test account, then showed you how to do them afterward.
Scott has also released some practice tests, which I bought (on offer for £10) but then didn’t have time to go through!
This is always the go-to document for almost any current industry certification, and should be used as your primary guide for resources and areas to study. In the case of the AWS Exam Blueprint, they actually direct you to specific white papers, docs or FAQs to review as well as the content areas to study.
Normally I would lab like crazy to learn a new technology, as I genuinely believe you learn something best when you get your hands on it. I only managed to get a few labs done in Azure, purely down to lack of time. To be honest I really felt it when it came to exam time, and there were a couple of questions where I really wished I had created at least one or two ARM templates and configured a few bits via PowerShell, just to help memorise syntax.
Concentrate on learning the ORDER in which you do things, as this is a learning outcome for MS.
Reading other people’s exam tips (just google it!)
I had purchased an exam voucher which gave me the exam, a free retake and a free MeasureUp practice test, for less than the full price of the normal exam!
The MeasureUp practice test was very good prep as it had LOADs of questions (179 IIRC), and covered a broadly similar set of topics. There were one or two questions in there which seemed to be out of date, but when I got to my actual exam, I had a couple of legacy questions, so this made sense to me after the fact! What I did was do an untimed exam with the setting that tells you the answer after you hit next every time. That way as soon as I got a question wrong, I then went and read up more on the specific topic.
This was absolutely invaluable in my prep as I think I got just under 70% in the MeasureUp, but passed comfortably in the actual exam (largely due to MeasureUp prompting me to “fill in the blanks” to my knowledge). This is an excellent resource, and highly recommended!
As above, make sure you check out the Second chance and Measure Up for free offer here:
Anyway, that’s probably about enough reading material for now! Best of luck to you, and if you found this article useful or have any other recommended resources (eval please, no brain dumps!), please leave a comment below! 🙂
Want to Learn More?
You can find more information on this exam in my exam experience and advice article, here:
The information below covers my Microsoft Azure Architect 70-534 Exam experience. Following this I will post a list of my study materials, so keep checking back for updates!
One real positive for me when taking this exam was that I realised if you have an MCSA 2012, you do not need to take another Azure exam to achieve the MCSE title. Handy, especially as I have been pretty vocal about my thoughts on re-certification for versioned exams!
Microsoft Azure Architect 70-534 Exam Experience
Almost everything I read in the run up to taking the Azure Architect 70-534 exam, suggested that it was going to be pretty tricky. Many people suggested to me it was harder than typical MS exams. For those of us who are already a bit cloudy, harder than the AWS SA Associate exam but easier than the SA Pro.
My personal experience (having done both) was that it was a little harder than the AWS SA Pro exam, mainly in prep time and breadth of information, but and the reputation was perhaps a wee bit overblown. Don’t get me wrong, it was definitely tricky, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they may have dumbed it down a little in the past few months, as my experience did not quite match that of those who came before me!
The scoring methodology was WAY better than many other exams I have taken in the past (including from Microsoft). When you have a multi-part answer (e.g. choose 3 of 5, etc), then for each correct PART you get a point. In other exams, one wrong selection means “nil points”! In the 70-534 exam, I could have got one wrong selection in every multi-part answer, and still walked away with half or more of the points, which is AWESOME! This really took the pressure off!
The exam is very similarly formatted to most other MS exams, with a couple of notable exceptions. There is a section with standard multi-part, ordering, drag/drop, multi-choice as you would expect. Once this is completed (or perhaps before?), then you do a number of case studies. Note: Once you complete each case study, you cannot go back to it, however, the timing for the case studies was cumulative, so you don’t have to worry if one takes you a bit longer than another.
The number of questions I had in my exam left me with plenty of time, vs some of my colleagues who have done it in the past as well as since, who had 50% or more questions and case studies than me (I had 39 questions spread across all sections of the exam). I can only suggest that perhaps there have been some changes of late which mean you may or may not end up with more time per question.
It’s also worth noting that one or two of the questions I received were based on ASM (i.e. classic) instead of ARM! Not enough that it would be worth learning ASM, but don’t be surprised if something does come up.
Exam Tips and Advice
Here are a few tried and tested tips for most exams as well as specific to the 70-534 exam (based on my experience):
Flip through the case study questions as you get to each one to get an idea of the kinds of questions being asked (e.g. security, authentication, networking, etc) so that you can bear these in mind as you read the case study.
Don’t worry too much about the clock, they give you plenty of time, especially as there is no specific time limit on the individual case studies (I think there may have been in the past?). For around the number of questions you are likely to get, this is loads of time.
Personal opinion: Old questions are dead to me! What I mean by that is that I don’t mark questions for review and once I click Next I never, ever, ever, ever, [ever!] go back. Chances are if I wasn’t sure about an answer and I go with my gut, it’s more likely to be right. If I sit there paralysed with indecision, I just waste time (or worse, potentially change a correct answer to an incorrect one!). By the time I hit the end of an exam I generally have a feeling whether I have passed or not, so going back to get a couple of extra points is a waste of time and I am just desperate to see the result! 🙂
The one and only contradiction to this rule is if I come across a later question which immediately triggers me remembering something, or even blatantly answers a previous question by asking another. These are as rare as hen’s teeth though!
Finally, this may sound a bit cryptic, but I can’t go into any detail obviously due to NDA. All I can say is don’t get weirded out by what seems like an odd handful of questions at the start of the 70-534 exam. I got some which didn’t make sense to me at all until the end of the series (which doesn’t allow you to go back). I can’t go into more detail than that, but hopefully this preps you more than me, so you are not as surprised!
I do have one complaint about this exam which I will therapeutically air publicly now; why on earth as an “Architect” exam should anyone have to memorise the thousands of possible combinations of PowerShell commands, or indeed any commands whatsoever?! Fortunately, the percentage of the exam weighted towards this is small, but it is ridiculous IMO. 532/533, yes! 534? Stupid!
There also seems to be a key focus on understanding the exact specs of exact machine types. IMO this is also dumb as with any cloud platform you simply pull up your machine list and match the right machine at the time. Wasting time memorising the spec of every A-series, D-Series, etc machine is completely pointless, but is unfortunately required reading (at least as a minimum to remember the key “odd” ones, such as which provide RDMA).
Anyway, all in all, a reasonably fair exam across a broad and relatively deep set of information and services. Best of luck to you, and if you found this article useful please leave a comment below! 🙂