A New Method of AWS Training

Prologue

A few years ago, I knew nothing of the cloud – I wasn’t even working in a traditional IT job.  Throughout my 20s, I was always more of a business guy; however, in my early 30s, I started to see the handwriting on the wall: Tech, and tech jobs, were the future.  And although my work experience to this point was on the business side, I grew up with a solid foundation in tech. Back in the early 90s, I was the first in my neighborhood to get online – name any early 90’s online platform (pre-AOL), and I had an account.  I ran a side business in high school upgrading computers with more RAM, hard disk space, and modems.  I also completed a few programing classes in high school (Pascal) and college (C).  I knew computers, and I knew tech, but I left that all behind as I progressed through college.

Fast-forward to eight years later, and I found myself being pulled back.  In the late 2000s, I started to notice all these inefficiencies in the company I was working for at the time. We lacked proper data analytics, and there were numerous workflows that could be automated in various departments. I began spending evening and weekends writing up ideas for various software applications we could build to help solve these issues.  Before I knew it, the company had an in-house development team building many of my ideas. Some worked very well and were very profitable for the company; others were not.  In the end, it reignited my love for tech, programming, gadgets, hardware, and software. Around 2013, I left that company in search of a new career. (more…)

Troubleshooting EC2

Troubleshooting EC2 Connectivity Issues

Learning AWS can be a very long and daunting experience. There are dozens of primary services, each with hundreds of features to learn. However, very few things can be more frustrating than having connectivity issue when trying to access a provisioned AWS resource, like an EC2 instance.  After all, you just spent hours learning about AMIs, instance types, IP addresses, user-data, storage volumes, security groups, and key pairs.  Now you just want to actually access the damn instance and have some fun with it. But as you try to access the instance, whether by SSH or HTTP, you get one of these dreaded errors: “access denied,” or “operation timed out,” or some other variation.  Regardless of the error – you can’t log-in.

AAAAARRRGGGGGG!

Ok, so you vent a little bit – perhaps even yell at your computer.  Regardless of your frustration, you still need to figure out what is wrong.  With that in mind, I present some of the common (perhaps even simple) issues that cause many connectivity issues. (more…)

Tips and Tricks: Taking an AWS Cert

Tips & Tricks: Taking an AWS Certification Exam

You have spent months studying, watched hours of video lessons, and passed all the quizzes and practice exams. You can run through each Live! Lab scenario with your eyes closed and can recite every note card front-and-back from memory.

You are feeling good, even confident, as today is Test Day. You finally get to reap the benefits of all your hard work, and in a few short hours, you will have that shiny new AWS certification.

Then things start to go awry…

There is traffic on the way to the testing center. You start to think that maybe you will miss the scheduled start time. You rush into the testing center, thankful that you just made it in time.  You are handed piece of paper to sign, and told to read it word-for-word. Legal terms, NDA requirements, and cheating consequences suddenly cloud your thought process. Everything you brought with you – keys, cell phone, purse, wallet, watch – all get locked away. You are asked to turn out your pockets to prove you aren’t hiding anything to cheat with. And finally, you are escorted into the quietest room you have ever been in. As you walk to your testing station, you pass others taking exams and you can feel the tension in the air. You were already anxious from the traffic and sign-in procedures, and before you had a second to relax and breathe, you are now sitting at the exam terminal. Finally trying to collect your thoughts and get into an exam mindset. You hit the “start” button on the exam, notice the timer in the upper corner start to count down. You read the first question and have no idea what the correct answer is – and panic sets in.  The next thing you know you are staring at the results screen, with the worst word in the English language staring back at you – failed.

How did this happen? You spend months studying, you knew all the terms, definitions, processes, concepts, and passed all the practice exams. As it turns out, you forgot one very important thing – a game plan for test day.

Game Planning

The scenario described above is fairly grim (I know); however, it does represent real-world things.

To help avoid any of these potential downfalls, I am going to outline my test day game plan, and a few tricks I use to give me an edge on the exam.

1.) Getting to the Testing Center (Arrive Early)

Oh, someone telling me to arrive early – I haven’t heard that a million times before. If you are saying that to yourself right now, that’s fine. This piece of advice is so cliché that I should be laughed out of the room just for mentioning it. However, I take a slightly different approach with it. I don’t show up at the testing center early. I put my physical location within a five minute walking distance (of the testing center) one hour early. It allows for two things:

  • I have a large time buffer if something goes wrong (i.e. traffic, flat tire, bus/subway delay, or the random Stay Puft Marshmallow Man attack).
  • Assuming my buffer time wasn’t used due to an issue, I find a café/restaurant, sit down, order some coffee/light food, and relax. You can use this time to review notes for the exam or just clear your mind. And do NOT drink more than 8oz of fluid 1 hour prior to the exam.

Now I have no worries about being late. I don’t have to rush.   And I can focus on what is important – the exam.

2.) Walking in the Door (Arriving at the Testing Center)

I still aim to arrive at the testing center about 15 minutes before my scheduled start time. However, before I check-in I do one (very) important thing – go to the bathroom. However much (or little) you have, just get it out.  So whatever happens, you should be walking into the sign-in area 5-10 minutes before your start time.

3.) The Check-In Process (What to Expect)

If this is your first time taking a proctored exam, this all may seem a little weird. When you check-in, you will need to provide your government issued ID, and a testing “code” that will have been provided to you via email when you registered for the exam. So you will need your wallet/purse and the code with you at this point. (I have prematurely locked my wallet in the provided lockers, only to have to go get my stuff again for this step. So don’t be a noob like me). Next, they will hand you a form to sign with a lot of legalese regarding NDA, cheating, etc. If this is your first time, read it, sign and return the form. At this point, you may have a few minutes before being called into the actual testing room. Use this time to put ALL your personal belongings into the provided locker.  At this point – go the bathroom again (if you need to or didn’t earlier). Then wait to be called.

4.) Entering the Testing Room

When your name is finally called, several things will happen. First, the proctor will ask you to turn out your pockets to make sure you don’t have a cheat sheet hiding in there. Second, you will be handed two pencils and several sheets of blank paper (these items are key to success – more on that in a minute).

When you enter the testing room, things will be eerily quiet. Others may be taking exams – or the room may be empty. Regardless, follow the proctor to your terminal.

5.) The “Mind Dump” (Pre-test Pro Tip):

When you sit down at the terminal (after the proctor leaves), on the screen you will be asked to verify your name and the test you are taking. Afterward, there will be another lengthy disclaimer form that you can read before choosing to start the exam.

It is here where we have an advantage…

At the very least, you are provided with a few minutes to read the test instructions/disclaimers before starting the exam. You have anywhere from 5-10 minutes (but I have never pushed it that far before starting the exam). What I do during this untimed period before I start the exam is “dump” as much information as I can onto the sheets of paper that were provided to me by the proctor.   Formulas, limits, step-by-step procedures, architectural diagrams (yes, I memorized and hand drew the entire basic VPC architectural setup). I really focus on getting all of the memorized numbers and procedures onto the sheets of paper. Now I have my own study/cheat sheet I can use for reference, and I did it all without using any of my allotted testing time.

Once I have my notes flushed out on paper – I then click the button to start the exam.

6.) Taking the Exam (Managing Stress and the Timer)

Ok, it all comes down to this. You clicked the button to start the exam, and now there is a little timer on the screen counting down the time you have remaining. All I can say about the time is this – don’t be afraid of it. It may be really intimidating at first, especially if the first few questions take a long time to answer. But all you need is a few quick questions (which there will be), and you will have time in the bank to burn on harder questions. If you can’t answer questions after a minute or so, mark it for review and move on. You can always come back to it at the end and give it another shot. And you may find that you know the answer when you come back to it.

After you have answered all the questions, you will have the opportunity to go back and change the answer of any question. The questions you have marked for review will be highlighted.

Once you are done with reviewing, submit the exam, and wait for what feels like an hour (but is only about 5 seconds) to see the result.  Hopefully, you will see the words you have been preparing all this time to see – Passed.

AWS Labs

Let Linux Academy guide you to your future success.

Linux Academy: A Visual Course Guide

Students come to Linux Academy from all across the globe, each with varying skill sets and experience levels. Some students know exactly the course (or courses) they want to take, while others are looking for guidance or a starting point. Navigating the certification/e-learning landscape can be confusing, with many different courses and content from which to choose.  Have you ever asked yourself one (or more) of the following questions?

  • Where do I start?
  • What course is right for me?
  • What course should I take next?
  • What “path” is best?
  • What course should I take first, as a prerequisite?
  • I don’t need a to get a certification, what other types of courses do you offer to learn new skills?

To help answer those questions, I present to you the Linux Academy Visual Course Guide. (more…)

Mobile AWS Header Background Image

Jump Start Your Mobile App with AWS Mobile Hub

A few months ago, I had an idea for a mobile app that would be cool and useful. I had no delusions of hitting it big in the Apple or Android app — it was just a fun side project for myself. I had never built a mobile app before, and owning a Galaxy Note 4, I saw a great opportunity to teach myself Android Studio and build an Android app.   So I downloaded Android Studio, got it all setup, and watched some online tutorials to learn the basics. I then mapped out what I needed for my app, and this is when the feeling of dread set in. For my app to work, I needed: (more…)