Friday, 28 September 2007

Certifiable

Training Camp was tough. Seven fifteen-hour days of studying, lectures and labs takes its toll. By Tuesday I didn't really know what day it was. By Thursday, I didn't care. The accelerated learning programme is all about taking the information contained in the MS exam books and cramming it into your skull in the shortest time possible.

But here I am, a week after my first exam, and I'm supposedly a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist in .NET 2.0 Web Applications. I say
supposedly because I haven't yet received my MCP number, but it should be in the post.

My experience at the Training Camp was extremely positive. I'm in no doubt that without the accelerated one-week course, I would not have been able to pass. The books are big and it would be easy to lose focus through self-study or a longer course. I'd urge anyone looking to get Microsoft or Cisco certified to look at their programmes and consider paying the steep fees to greatly increase your chances of passing.

The daily routine at TC was as follows: Into class at 08:30, Lunch 12:30-13:00, Class and labs 13:00-19:30, Dinner 19:30-20:00. Evening schedule was usually an hour of practice tests from 20:00 to 21:00 then reading around five chapters of the book to prepare for the next day, which usually took around two hours from 21:00-23:00, sometimes longer. All your needs are taken care of during the course: free food of a great quality. Free snacks. Relaxed atmosphere with few distractions. It was very easy to get focused for studying and to stay in focus for the whole week. Looking back on it now, I can say that I did actually enjoy it and now that I've gained a useful qualification I'd safely say I would do it all again!

The day before I went away to TC was Jamie and Christine's wedding. Congratulations to them for an amazing day during which I made my first ever best man's speech. I was pretty nervous to say the least, but from all accounts I pulled off my speech with aplomb. I can't remember much of what happened past dinnertime as I proceeded to drink way too much and eat way too little, basking in the glory of a job well done.

Not much else to report - my 360 was collected two weeks ago today and the last I heard of it was when it arrived at the repair depot. If I haven't received anything by next Friday, I'll be calling to check the status. I'm itching to get back to Bioshock and I find myself somewhat pleased that nothing decent has been launched on XBLA in the downtime.

Recording of Puritan Slain's first EP has been put on hold - we've been screwed over by our practice space (that was also due to be our recording space next month) and we now have nowhere to practice
or record. Yet another setback on the road to rock-stardom. Queue band in-fighting. Nothing new there, to be honest.

This weekend I plan to take as much time as I can to relax and recover from last week. On Sunday afternoon, I'm driving down to Brighton to see Dark Tranquillity and Soilwork. I've not been to Brighton in years, and I've certainly not driven there before, so I fully expect to get lost and I imagine I won't be getting to bed until 2 or 3am, then waking up to go to work on Monday! It's all in the name of fun I guess...

Monday, 3 September 2007

Bricked!

RIP My first 360, November '06 premium.

I was hoping that I wouldn't fall victim to the Red Ring of Death that has plagued the Xbox 360 since launch. The unit first crashed and RRoDed last week, but thankfully it continued working after I called support and they told me to try unplugging the hard drive and booting it up again. I then plugged the HD back in and carried on playing and it was fine. Microsoft support still gave me the option of returning the unit, but as I hadn't yet finished Bioshock I thought I'd risk it.

So this weekend I bunged in Bioshock to carry on where I left off. Unfortunately, five minutes in the damn thing crashed again and red ringed. This time it was fatal, and no amount of unplugging the HD, turning off at the mains etc helped. So when I get home this evening I'll be calling support to send back my box. *Sniff*.

Luckily, this month should be keeping me relatively busy. Band practices begin again this week and we're working on a couple of new songs that have been kicking around for a while. We're getting closer to recording the EP, with almost enough cash in the pot to purchase the mics we so desperately need. We're booking a week in October to use our regular practice hall to do the recording.

Until then, I've got to work on my best man's speech for Jamie and Christine's wedding. This weekend it all started to form in my head after weeks of procrastination, and I've got a pretty strong picture of what I'm going to say and in what order. It all started to go down on paper and now I've just got a few blanks left to fill in and then to practice the speech until I know it by heart. I'm not the greatest public speaker, but once I get warmed up I can deliver the goods without too much embarassment. I just hope I can inject the right amount of
funny without being utterly lame.

The day after the wedding, I'm off to
Training Camp for a one-week intensive course at the end of which I'll be a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) in Web Applications. It's basically the .NET 2.0 foundation course that can lead to a Professional Developer qualification. It's going to be tough. Seven days of lectures and classroom-based learning that focus entirely on the exam you take at the end of the week. Sunday to Sunday. If I pass, it'll be amazing. Failure is not an option. I'm just having nightmares about my lack of focus when it comes to academia and hoping that I'll be too busy learning to actually worry about the fact that I've not taken an exam in eight years.