22 09 2011

Both a 2950 switch, and a 2811 router (that one hurt!) in two days! Unbelievable.

Firstly, the switch – I used write erase, expecting this to effectively delete my startup configuration file, but it actually deleted the OS image file. D’oh! I am finding the 2900XL fine for my study needs so far, but will be buying a replacement 2950 on pay day.

The router wasn’t my fault – it went from being fine one day to having a non-working console port the next. Tried alternative rollover cable, a different router etc, and every other combination worked fine. Unfortunately, I hadn’t enabled Telnet / SSH access so although it was working (a show cdp neighbor showed it live and kicking), so it’s effectively bricked.

This was my only 2-ethernet port router and my DCE-DTE cable hadn’t arrived yet, so I ordered a Cisco 1605 from Ebay for ┬ú30. Looks OK, with two ethernet ports (not fast ethernet) and a Serial port – plenty of scope for messing around with routing protocols etc.


ICND2 update

22 09 2011

Completed the ICND2 on Friday, as scheduled. I didn’t pass the exam, getting an 804, with the pass mark 825.

Slightly gutting, but a good experience, with some positive outcomes and learnings.

Firstly, time, or lack of it. In almost every forum or blog post about this exam, the lack of time is mentioned, and with really good reason. This cannot be emphasised enough.

My particular exam had 44 questions, with 75 minutes to complete it. However, some of the questions were testlets, in the same style as the Microsoft 70-646 that I completed recently.. these had 4 sub questions each, so there were technically more like 50 questions.

There were a few simulator questions, which I’m positive I smashed, along with a lot of the first half of the exam.

This is where the problem became apparent – I simply took too long to answer (including being very thorough with checking) the questions. On question 23, I had only about 30 minutes or so remaining. Throw in a few of the non standard multiple choice questions (drag and drop, testlets etc), and that time soon diminished, culminating in a complex VLSM question near the end, which I ended up half guessing – I did calculate the masks correctly based on the number of hosts needed, and answered accordingly, but didn’t check for overlapping networks etc – simply too little time.

I wanted to answer all of the questions, so I hurried the above, and got through the last few in a really short time.

Secondly, was to know the entire syllabus really well. I did work hard on this, but tended to neglect access lists and NAT somewhat, and this showed through with a really poor score in this section.

My strongest area was switching, which is also the area I enjoy most, and which I have exposure to at work. I was pleased when one of the SIMs was switching related, but I still took too long on the answer, double and triple checking my config – this comes back to point 1 – time. So to combine the two points: “Know the material, and be confident enough in your knowledge to move on from each question once you’ve answered”.

I have no exposure to dynamic routing protocols in my environment, or frame relay – my point to point link has an RJ45 hand-off which is plugged directly in to a layer 3 switch.

I identified Frame Relay as the weakest area around a week before the exam (which I had taken off work), so focused relatively heavily on that, and ended up answering quite confidently.

I also did quite well on the routing protocol elements – there was a lot of theory, rather than configuration, thank goodness, and theory was something that I learnt a fair bit of from my various learning sources – same as usual, CBTNuggets, TrainSignal CBT, and the official Cisco ICND2 Certification Guide.

Needless to say, I’ve booked a retake. My study between now and then will consist of heavy revision of calculating network ranges, subnetting etc, combined with as much time as possible working with my small Cisco home network (a 2811 router, a couple of 2600’s, a 2500, a 2950 switch and a 2900XL switch). I’ve ordered a new DCE-DTE cable (lost the previous one during a house move), so once I’ve got that I’ll be able to practise configuring point to point links and routing protocols to a higher level than I was able to without it.

I’m sure there was a third point, but can’t remember it ­čśë I’ll update the post if I do.


3 06 2011

Failed the 70-646 exam that I took last Friday. With a 678, it was pretty close to a pass, but to be fair that’s irrelevant.

I was right to SWOT up on the changes in R2.. the exam is very much focussed on these. The CBT Nuggets video series for the exam is pre-R2, but still very useful.

A major difference to all previously taken exams, although expected as a result of practise tests and checking out exam forums, was the testlets.

I had 5-6 of these in the exam and the major difference is the time constraint.. You get 20 minutes for a 5 question testlet and 23 mins for a 6 question one. Although this was enough to answer the questions and check them over, you can’t go back once you’ve proceeded past the test let.

This added pressure to the overall experience. My test started off with 3-4 of them, followed by 22 standard format questions, and then another 2-3 of them.

I think the added pressure was a good thing.. this is a PRO level exam and it should be a step above the standard TS format.

I’ve already book a re-take, which is in a weeks time. This won’t be at the same test centre, something which i’m not exactly gutted about, as per my last post. Planning on hitting the study hard, and hopefully killing it this time round!

ADA Technology Services

27 05 2011

So, arrived a little early at ADA Technology Services in Burgess Hill (nearest MS test centre to Brighton.. Sort it out!) for my 70-646, to be asked to ‘come back in 25 minutes’ as there was no one on reception.

Asked if I could sit there to read my notes.. It’s slap bang in the middle of an industrial estate so not exactly many places to go.. But got a ‘no’.

Great customer service there, nice one ADA.

70-646 booked

7 04 2011

Booked the 70-646: Pro: Windows Server 2008, Server Administrator exam today, for some time round the end of May. Having┬átaken 4 exams between late December and mid-February (and failing two – both the original attempt at the 70-662 and the retake – doh!), I thought it was time to ease the pace.

Already been through my CBTNuggets videos a few times, plan is to go through again more thoroughly, making notes as I go.

I’ll also be making lots of use of my home virtual environment – this is a Dell Optiplex 745 with 8GB RAM and VMWare ESXi – I use the licenses from my personal TechNet subscription for the servers. I’ve already built an Exchange environment on this kit; now I’ll be using it to install the roles and features that the exam tests on. Also got┬áthe MeasureUp practise tests for the exam, but sadly there are no learning resources available in the iPhone App Store for the 646.

MCSA Upgrade exam – 70-648

7 01 2011

As mentioned in a previous post, I have the retake for the 70-662 booked; this is late in February. However, I’m planning on taking the MCSA 2003 upgrade exam, the 70-648, first.

I’ve given myself a very short timescale for this, from the┬álast week┬áof December until halfway through January. I’m using a variety of resources for this, including the trusty CBT Nuggets series. I’ve got these for quite a few exams now, and they’re definitely my preference over reading from a 3 inch thick book!

My technique for these videos is to watch them all through first, and then watch them a second time, noting down any exam-specific tips that the instructor gives, in the notes, and highlighting them. This is a great way of picking out specific areas to focus on. For me, the DRM protection is an issue – my iPhone (and Palm Pre before that) doesn’t support WMA files, and they’re DRM protected, so I can’t use them for the train / tube when I work in the London office.

I do have the Microsoft Training Kit for the exam in e-book format saved on my phone – bought this from the Apple App Store for ┬ú5.99 – a massive saving on the hard copy of the book and much more portable. I’ve also bought a test exam from the App store – this is slightly flawed (IMHO) in that you have to go through all 100 questions before getting a┬áscore – most test engines I’ve tried allow you to choose how many questions they’ll contain.

The exam is very soon so time will tell if such a short timescale in combination with the above study measures is effective.

Exchange 2010

7 01 2011

Went on an intense 6-day Exchange 2010 course during December – we’re in the process of moving to a new Windows 2008 R2 native domain, complete with new Exchange 2010 Organisation so I needed some formal training.

The course included the two exams needed to achieve the “MCTIP: Enterprise Messaging Administrator” certification – the 70-662 (TS) and 70-663 (PRO).

The biggest thing to note for people taking the 70-662 exam is the sheer volume of questions related to PowerShell commands – the instructor estimated 20-40% and I’d say it was definitely in the upper end of the range. Having never used PowerShell before, and not covered it nearly enough during the 5 days before the 662 exam, I found myself unprepared for it and bombed it rather miserably ;(

The 663 is a different story – it focusses more on how Exchange integrates with the rest of your infrastructure, strategies for installing which roles where, etc etc. It calls much more on experience with a Microsoft Infrastructure, so I was very pleased to pass it.

I’ve re-booked the 662, but as a result of a very specific requirement at work, have chosen to focus first on upgrading my MCSA to Server 2008 – TS (the 70-648) first. That’s another post though.´╗┐´╗┐´╗┐