Category Archives: Exams

Is It Over?

To be honest, it didn’t start too bad at all. We travelled in late December of 2019 flying halfway across the Atlantic to enjoy post-Christmas and New Years 2020 in the Azores.

It was fantastic! Did you know you can fly direct to Sao Miguel from Toronto? Five short hours and you’re standing in pleasant weather waiting for your rental car. We spent a lovely week exploring the island, eating fantastic food, enjoying delicious wine and beer. We arrived back in Canada to cold and snow but that’s what you get when you live here right? January was almost over, things looked pretty good for the rest of the year.

In February my sweetheart surprised me with a weekend trip to Montreal to see Jim Gaffigan perform at the Orpheum Theatre. It was excellent fun. He is a funny guy indeed. It was super cold in Montreal but we managed to have a fun evening, enjoy some delicious food, drink some delicious wine, enjoy a comfortable train ride home.

March arrived. Cue: ominous music. Going to work in an office tower in downtown Ottawa was pretty normal for the first week and then things started going pear shaped and suddenly we were the only ones in the office, contractors and students, and the downtown core was beginning to empty. People started to get nervous and then our client, followed shortly by our company, sent everyone home. Shit got real. The Mrs. was on her way home too. The “youngster” was still at the college but by this time he was in a mostly deserted residence building. Working from home is old hat for me, I’ve been doing remote work since 2000. No big deal. For a lot of other people this was some odd stuff.

Food boxes became the norm. We’re now 140 and a few meals in (I’ve prepared probably 130 of them) thanks to Good Food, Hello Fresh, Red Apron, and a handful of other lovely people who provided provisions delivered to the door. Juniper Farms delivered special boxes of goodies. Cylie Chocolates prepared amazing chocolate boxes for pick up. The online order frenzy began. All the crap you don’t need and more. I have a mountain of books and a similar sized stack of plastic model kits. I have new rubber wheels on my 30 year old office chair. I ordered a 24 port switch from the office. I think I need some new music. I’ll get some thank you. Thankfully that has settled down a bit. We’ve done our best to order through local shops and not a—-n. Like I want to hand more money over to Bezos. Fuck that guy.

In May my company celebrated its 25th year in operation by doing something super cool. They provided meals, including wine and a celebratory cake, that we picked up from volunteers at agreed on pickup points. Back home to warm up the food and we all jumped on a Teams meeting and celebrated from the comfort of our own homes. Super smart, super safe.

Haircuts have been fun. I discovered I can cut my own hair, down to the bristle, without assistance although I do miss the nice people at the barber shop. I started an instagram account to entertain myself and provide some animal hijinks for the masses.

Summer was mostly the new routine although we did get new neighbours in the unit above us. Canadians from California coming home. They seem like nice people.

I waited to the last minute to finally sit and pass the Microsoft Azure Administrator Associate exam. It was retired a couple days after I passed it.

At the end of the summer we spent the long weekend in a cabin in Gatineau Park. Isolated and surrounded by nature, including a late night visit by a bear, we relaxed and enjoyed some campfire foods and read books and chatted. No tech.

We took another SPAO course with David Barbour starting in September. Socially distanced photography. We’ll start a couple more courses in January.

October and November were fairly new normal. Events we expected to be participating in were cancelled or postponed. Thanksgiving was a much reduced event involving our house and the one other person in our bubble. Christmas has been the same. None of the usual gathering which we all enjoy. We’ve all read a lot more and I’ve surpassed my usual movie viewing habit by quite a bit. I’ve just watched movie 185 of the #2020MovieMarathon.

In the end I think its pretty clear. We haven’t had to sacrifice much to get through this year. We’ve been able to modify our lives to allow us to continue to do much of what we did before but without the contact we usually have with people. Many people have given a lot to get Canada through this and we’re forever thankful for that. We’re very much looking forward to 2021 and vaccinations. Travel will be nice, seeing friends will be nice, going to restaurants will be nice. Stay safe everyone, see you all next year. First round is on me.

Exam Time! Crack the Books

It’s that time again when we gather with loved ones and prepare to sit Microsoft exams to gain and update our certifications.  For me it’s upgrade time, I have 70-417 on the menu for this year while others on my team are looking at the whole slate of Windows Server 2012 R2 exams.

We’re using an assortment of resources to get this done.  I prefer Microsoft Press study guides, I always have, and recommend them.  Another excellent source for study materials is the voluminous Microsoft Virtual Academy which provides tonnes of material to learn and review all of the stuff you need to bust a move on those exams.  Do a search with your favourite internet search engine using the exam code of your choice to see who out there has written the exam and get some input on how they found the exam.

There are all sorts of lists of suggestions on how to approach actually writing the exams.  This is how I like to approach them.  I’ve written more than a few and the method to my madness has changed over the years but in a nutshell I like to follow a couple of rules:

  • Book your exam.  That seems like the obvious thing to do but I have known a lot of people who want to write an exam, express interest in writing an exam, but never get around to it.  So, decide which one you want to do, give yourself what you think you’ll need to for prep time and book it.  If you’re not ready when the date approaches you can always reschedule or just go ahead and confront the beast.  Microsoft is going to do you a solid this spring by offering you a Second Shot so if you miss it on the first go you can come around and give it another try.
  • Prepare.  Take advantage of the many free resources out there to allow you to set up a lab and test and play.  Most computers these days run nothing less than 8GB of RAM and I’ll hazard a guess that most of us have a gaming machine that has more.  Load up your favourite hypervisor and practice installing and configuring and learning.  I like to pair this with reading then rereading the study guides for the exam I’ve chosen to write.  I find I almost always come across something new, there’s a lot to learn.
  • Adding to the “book it” note above I prefer to write first thing in the morning.  I find that at some point in the study process your brain is full and you know you’re ready to go.  I’ll put the books down the night before the exam and relax.  The morning of the exam I like to get up early, have my usual breakfast and make my way to the exam center with time to spare.  Being first allows one to get in and get it done without the distractions or delays of a later appointment and doing it first thing in the morning means you’re focused on the exam.

What do you think?  What would you add or remove from the tidbits above?  I’ve always found the Microsoft exams challenging which makes that feeling of successfully completely the exam just that much more satisfying.  Good luck exam takers!