PluralSignal

Over the last couple of years you have heard me talk about TrainSignal CBT training.  It seems they have been acquired!  Pluralsight today announced that they have acquired TrainSignal.  More important, they say that many of the key players at TrainSignal are staying on.

Read the entire announcement here.

While I do not know the folks at Pluralsight, I know that they are a company that has primarily focused on the dev side of things.  TrainSignal will expand their offerings to the IT Pro segment.

Congratulations to both parties, and good luck!

TrainSignal: Tooting the horn a little

I was a VMware Certified Professional for nearly a year when it was announced that current VCPs would have a six month window to upgrade their certification to VCP5 without having to take the required class.

I took the class once, and it was a great one, but I had no interest in doing it again.  The problem was, in order for me to take the exam I would have to know the material.  In order for that to happen, I would usually simply install it and use it for a few months, and then be ready.

Problem: The six months following the release of vSphere 5 I was otherwise occupied with projects, including System Center, Windows, Hyper-V, and all sorts of other things that meant a) a lot of travel, and b) my primary server environment needed to be running Microsoft.  I had to make a living of course.

On the other hand, the living I make is sometimes enhanced by and even reliant on my being certified in the latest technologies, including VMware.

ROCK ——-> ME <——- HARD PLACE

That was about the size of it, and the Catch-22 was easy to see.  I had to find another way to prepare for the exam.

Now here’s the thing… I have said many times that I do not generally study for certification exams.  I prefer to know the material (Skills Measured- Improving your chances of passing certification exams).  Unfortunately in some cases (as was the case here) I would have to ‘hit the books’ as it were.

Ed… Ed Liberman… why was Ed Liberman’s name coming to mind?  He works for TrainSignal, and I met him a couple of years ago on an airport shuttle in (I believe) New Orleans as we were both arriving for TechEd 2010.  He had made his pitch – he creates content for TrainSignal – e-learning material type stuff.  I had used their material once before (in 2005 I needed to learn Microsoft’s ISA Server, and that was how I did it) and remembered that I appreciated the quality of the content.  I pinged Ed, and a few days later the VMware vSphere 5 Training kit arrived. 

It was three discs – two Video discs and one ‘additional content disc’ which included the appropriate files for iPod, mp3, and wmv files (should I want to learn how to architect and manage my enterprise-level datacentre from my Zune or iPod).  I appreciated the thought that went into that.

Right on the case the two instructors are named and their credentials are listed.  I really appreciated that, because it is easy to read words off a script (the instructors voices are heard throughout, but their faces are never seen).  David Davis and Elias Khnaser are both VMware Experts, VCPs, and have a host of other certs which are especially important in a course like this, because managing a VMware environment necessarily requires heterogeneous skillsets – David is a CCIE and CISSP and Linux+, while Elias is an MCSE, CCA, CCEA, and CCNA.  All relevant to the course.

The style and format of the course were demonstrative of a company that did not want to simply deliver a run of the mill product.  The quality of the videos, instruction, and format was all top notch, matching that of the instructors.  As well the .wmv files that I initially mocked came in handy when I started traveling (ok, when I resumed traveling) and realized that my primary laptop doesn’t have a DVD player.  I was able to copy the appropriate files onto my hard drive and continue my learning in hotel rooms and on airplanes without any concern.

While I wouldn’t say that I am a VCP5 because of TrainSignal, it is a safe bet that earning that credential would have been tough for me had I tried to do it without them.  The books I have are nice (and quite helpful!), as is the material from VMraining (for whom I have been teaching for several years), but those videos on the road really helped me pass the exam before (if only three days) the deadline.

Thanks Ed!

Wanna be an MCT? Read on!

I cannot count how many people have come to me and asked how they could become a Microsoft Certified Trainer(MCT).  I have said many times that I consider it among my most valuable credentials, and well worth the yearly fee.  If you are one of those who would like to become one, then read on… especially if you are in the Greater Toronto Area!

Of course in order to become an MCT you need to be proficient in the technologies you are going to teach… so you have to have the senior certifications that align with the technology (MCITP/MCSA, etc…)

Unfortunately there are a lot of people who hold those certifications who cannot teach, and that is not a surprise… one of the greatest fears in people is the fear of public speaking, and training is just that.  Getting up in front of an audience is not easy.  Add to that you have to be able to clearly and concisely make your point – you have to know not only the subject matter, you also have to know the courseware, and the flow.  And don’t forget the importance of knowing how to use and project your voice.

So how does Microsoft distinguish between those who can and those who can’t (and sometimes there are those who shouldn’t)?  It is difficult, but one of the ways they determine eligibility is to check that people have taken and passed a CTT+ ‘Train the Trainer’ class.  The class is only taught by a very select few companies in Canada, and at that not very often.  So now is your chance… Trab Training, a CTT+ certified vendor on Microsoft’s pre-approved list, is offering the class in Toronto next month (June 26/27).  You can sign up at http://www.trab.com/form-reg.html, or contact them at http://www.trab.com/contact.html for more information.

While I did not take this class I have heard from several of Bart’s students that he is an excellent trainer, and they each have their MCT to prove it.  Please mention to them that you heard about this class from me, and when it is done please let me know any feedback you have!

Remember… if you want to be an MCT, you almost certainly need this class!

…and I WILL Walk 500 More!

Many of you probably know that I am overweight… but like my wife likes to say, I am a slim man trapped in a fat man’s body. I am pretty active – I worked hard to earn my Black Belt in Taekwondo two years ago, and am currently in training hoping to test for my Second Dan Black Belt in June of this year.

If you ran into me for more than a few minutes in the two months leading up to the first test you would have known that I was ‘In Training,’ which meant that I was in the gym every day, I was on a radical diet plan that was healthy but extreme and unsustainable, and that despite still being a hundred pounds overweight, I was in damned good shape… for a fat man.

Unfortunately after my test, three things happened that contributed to my falling off the diet wagon:

  1. I broke my hand during the test, and had to take a couple of months off of training
  2. The night of the test several friends took me out to Monaghan’s Pub for ribs, wings, and beer. The following night there was another celebration, and so on… I quickly remembered how much I enjoy bad foods and forgot how bad I feel being fat.
  3. Work got extremely busy, and I started traveling… A LOT. Every restaurant was another missed opportunity to eat healthy.

Last year I decided that my ultimate weight loss goal would be to be able to wear my old army uniform again. I finished Basic Training at about 215lbs, and was in really good shape back then. I don’t know how much I weighed when I moved to Canada, but whatever I weighed it was far less than I weighed by May of last year, when I made the decision to start losing weight again.

I tried one diet plan for six months, and was completely disappointed in it. In truth it likely would have been better had I not been on the road as much as I am – it is impossible to follow a plan where they provide the food when you are traveling from city to city, country to country.

clip_image002In September I was in Harrisburg, PA when a friend told me about an electronic and computerized pedometer and system called Fitbit. She was raving about it, so I went down to Best Buy and picked one up. It has, since then, been tracking my steps… but that is not only walking, that is also Taekwondo, golfing, and everything else I do. If I am not in a swimming pool I am wearing it. The on-line system (it is a USB gadget – how cool!) tracks my progress and lets me see where I am at on any given day, or week. The new version – the Fitbit Ultra – also tracks stairs climbed, but I don’t think I’m going to invest in another $99 version for that.

The Fitbit allows me to set goals for myself and see how well I do in reaching them. It awards clip_image004you achievement badges for both daily achievements (and lets you know how often (and when you last earned one) for your number of steps, and also Lifetime Distance awards, which allows you to track… really nothing of value, but it is another milestone.

(For those of you who are wondering, my daily record was on December 4th, my first day in Mexico City. I took 32,019 steps, walked 15.52 miles, and burned 5,287 calories. It is the only day that I earned the 30,000 steps badge. My activity report logged 1h28m VERY ACTIVE, 5hrs15m FAIRLY ACTIVE, and 1h7m LIGHTLY ACTIVE. I have earned the 25,000 steps badge twice… that day, and three days later on December 7th, also in Mexico City. The highest badge that I have earned five times is the 15,000 steps badge (most recently on Tuesday)

clip_image006A few days ago I received an e-mail from them congratulating me on earning my 500 mile badge. That is a lot of walking, even over the course of six months. Still and all, it is a reasonably useless statistic to track – it is not like a car, where I would need an oil change every 10,000 kilometres. It is still nice to know that I did it though… but as the badge (and the song) says, this is just the beginning… I will walk 500 more – possibly by the time I test for my belt in June!

For those of you who keep asking me about my current weight loss plan, YES I am on one, and no, I will not tell you what it is. It is a diet that I do not and would not endorse for anyone because it is an unhealthy way to eat, and I am told that without the strictest discipline when I end the program I will immediately gain back so much of the weight. Needless to say I have tried several diets, and the best plan for weight loss is this: Know what you are eating and be disciplined both in substance and in portion size. Eating smaller meals (or snacks) more frequently keeps your metabolism high (I remember the army served us six ‘meals’ per day in Boot Camp). Exercise wisely and frequently. There is a simple equation: Burn more calories than you consume and you will lose weight. If you exercise, eat wisely. On days that you don’t, eat less. You can rely on your spouse or friends or whoever to support you, but there is nobody responsible for your weight gain or weight loss other than the person you see in the mirror every morning.

More Taekwondo articles to come… but no, until I have lost it ALL I will NOT tell you how much I weigh, only occasionally how much I have lost.

…Now I will walk 500 miles and I will walk 500 more just to be the man who walked a thousand miles to fall down at your door… But for now, have a great week-end! -M