Everything stated on this site is, of course, MY opinion / statement / thought, unless specifically stated otherwise. You knew that.


PLEASE NOTE: I'm *slowly* combining my blogs into this single site. If you are looking for Lotus Notes content from my old site, please EMAIL me at: jrlitton at gmail dot com and tell me the link or the content you were seeking. I will try to email you the content within a day.

- Joe

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Passed MCSE SharePoint 2013 exams

This morning I passed the Advanced Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 exam. That (finally!) completes the requirements for the MCSE SharePoint 2013 certification. The "E" is supposed to stand for "Expert". The reality is that SharePoint is looking more and more like an iceberg to me: I feel like I'm exploring more deeply into the tip and there's a vast swath of SharePoint-ness that I've not yet seen or have only partially glimpsed. 

My weakest area is in "BI" (Business Intelligence) in the SharePoint arena. I missed over half of those questions. Fortunately I was stronger in other areas. So my first next step is to read up more and experiment more with BI. Microsoft has added a LOT of BI capabilities, accessible within and outside of SharePoint. Much of this is in the Excel space and/or SQL Server (Power View, Power Pivot, Power Query). I need to learn a lot more about all of them! 

I'm also very much looking forward to diving into the learning toward achieving the MCSD SharePoint 2013 certification. That one focuses on the development side; development has always been more enjoyable to me. I've been a hardware guy, and a systems guy, but dev is what I love the most. So that will be fun. I have spent the last 9 months working toward the MCSE, knowing that I'd forget many pieces of that material but it would serve as a solid foundation for the dev pieces. 

And, after 20 years of taking tech certification exams, I have finally today stumbled on the way to be able to take an exam that can last for more than 2 hours and not find myself needing to visit the restroom. Instead of my normal morning coffee, I went light on the fluids. There's a Starbucks very close to the exam center, so I stopped in there and grabbed a double espresso just before the test time. That woke up my brain, gave my bloodstream its dose of happy caffeine, and did not leave me wishing during the last half of the exam for a larger bladder! Too much information?


Live! 360 conference recap - Part 1

So I took a little trip to Orlando last week. From Sunday afternoon through Friday, I was at Live! 360 – a 4-in-one conference. This was a mashup of tech and geek goodness. Live! 360 was comprised of Visual Studio Live!, SQL Server Live!, SharePoint Live!, and Modern Apps Live! …a conference pass to one of the conference was good for entrance to sessions of any of the conferences. To make the choices a bit more difficult, during Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday there were typically 4 sessions being offered in each of the 4 tracks. Right. At any given time, one had to choose from among up to 16 different sessions.

Well, aside from the keynote addresses, I only attended sessions from the SharePoint track. Of all of those sessions, there was only one where I was a little disappointed by the speaker. I have at least one book written by this person, the book is quite good, and the speaker absolutely presented good information in the session. I simply thought the presentation was a little dry. To have a week full of grade 'A' sessions and one 'B' is remarkable. I've been to manyconferences during my 25 years in IT, focused on multiple technologies. There's typically been several sessions that I would grade lower than a 'B'.

The format was clever and I found it to be wonderful. Any who cared to join were invited to meet up Sunday evening. We paraded our massive group over to Margaritaville at Universal's City Walk for drinks and snacks, then each of the 4 tracks went to a different restaurant for dinner and conversation. Anyone could, of course, join any group.

I went with the SharePoint group to Hard Rock. There were maybe 20 of us there. A number of the folks who'd be presenting the sessions I'd attend over the coming days, several folks who'd been part of the community for some time, and then a few n00bs like me. What a brilliant idea to actively help folks make acquaintances before the conference proper began!

The format of the 5 days was a choice of all day sessions on Monday and Friday, an evening keynote on Monday, and then multiple 75 minute tracks throughout the day on Tue/ Wed/ Thu. And of course, plenty of options for meeting with folks in the evening.

Over the coming days I'll blog about some of the individual sessions, keynotes, and gatherings. It was a very well-done conference, I learned a ton, met a number of wonderful people, and had a blast!


Live! 360 - Monday keynote with Mary Jo Foley

Mary Jo Foley has been reporting on everything Microsoft for many years. The Windows Weekly podcast is one of the places where she discusses technology, and has become one of my must-listen-to podcasts. And she homebrews beer (and enjoys good craft beers). So yes, I'm a fan.

Well, after a very full day Monday, Mary Jo was the speaker for a 7pm keynote. I'm definitely not the only fan, as evidenced by the large number of conference attendees – many most likely hungry and, ahem, thirsty – who nonetheless made sure to catch this opportunity to hear her speak.

I've heard Mary Jo state on Windows Weekly that she's a fan of RT on the Surface. And she's also stated that she's a fan of RT on the Surface 2. But it still caught me by surprise when she stated Monday evening, "Windows RT is the future of Windows at Microsoft. They're just going to keep at it until it's a success". Now that I've had a day to think about that, I'm starting to agree. It's similar to the push to Office 365. These initiatives will help get us to the point of truly working anywhere with any device. Even though I'm typing this on a Windows 7 machine (which obviously then includes a Desktop), and Mary Jo admitted to using a machine with a Windows Desktop for most of her work, I can understand why she says that Microsoft is working to get folks used to the idea of no Desktop.

Think about it. The UI formerly known as "Metro" did not include an easily accessible Desktop at launch time, instead offering Tiles. Windows phone - which gets good reviews and which I'm considering when my current phone contract expires in a few months – uses tiles. My Android phone and BlackBerry both use app icons, as does my iPad. I can be quite productive on these other devices without feeling any need for a Desktop. Indeed, as Mary Jo stated, one of the main benefits of the PC is really just the ability to have multiple windows open, not the "Desktop" itself.

Oh, and when I asked Mary Jo if she'd tried any of our great Florida craft beers, she listed Tampa's own Cigar City Brewing as one of her favorite breweries, so I give her extra points for that!


Live! 360 conference - Orlando

The conference kicked off (for some of us, anyway) Sunday evening with the "Dine-A-Round". Anyone who cared to take part met up at 6pm and we popped over to Margaritaville in City Walk for drinks and snacks (I can't spell "hors d'oeuvre"). Groups then split up according to technology focus – or which group looked cooler. I went with the SharePoint group, destroying chances for the rest of the group of being the cool kids, but they were still kind to me. We (the SharePoint types) went to Hard Rock for a nice quiet dinner. Well, it was nice, even if a tad loud (yes, I also like to sit out front at home and yell at kids to get off my lawn).

Discussion was quite technical and sophisticated, as evidenced by this pic from the dinner:


The ground rules for the week, having been properly set, some new acquaintences made, and a surprisingly good veggie burger ingested, I retired to my room to rest up for the coming 5-day mass infusion of SharePoint knowledge.


MCSA in Win Server 2012 complete. On to MCSE in SharePoint 2013...

After months of reading, videos, practice, a 9-day "boot camp" course, more study, and feeling like I must have read every Technet article in existence - twice - I've finally passed all three exams to earn the MCSA Windows Server 2012 certification. And I even passed one of the exams on the first attempt (it took two attempts for each of the others :)

OK, so that's done. But my reason for working to get the MCSA was really because it is required in order to earn the MCSE in SharePoint 2013 (along with passing another couple of exams). Whew! On to the next chunk of studying!

To start with, I'm going through the video courses on Pluralsight; they've got 12 hours or so of videos covering the material for the 70-331 exam (Core Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint 2013) and then another series of videos for the 70-332 exam (Advanced Solutions of Microsoft SharePoint 2013). Once I've viewed the 70-331 videos at least once, I'll work my way through the Exam Ref from O'Reilly.

I'm hoping that by the time I've been through the videos, poured over the book, and read any related Technet articles (along with mucking about in SharePoint), that perhaps there will be some practice tests available. I'd purchased a 3-pack from MeasureUp for the MCSA exams; granted, the MeasureUp practice exams are not as challenging as the actual tests, but when I start going through them they are a definite challenge. I like Transcender exams better, since they are hard. But it appears that neither MeasureUp nor Transcender nor Kaplan currently have practice exams for 70-331 / 70-332. I did buy the SecondShot exam vouchers, so if I fail an exam the first time (which is what usually happens to me with Microsoft exams), then I can take the exam a second time at no extra charge. But I'd rather have the added confidence that comes from practice exams (and the initial humiliation when first going through them).

But no need to worry about that for now. I've got a lot of work to do!