AWS S3 Cheat Sheet

AWS Simple Storage Service may be one of the easier AWS products to use out of the box, but that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes need a quick reference for the command line — especially if we’re new to the CLI or what to memorize some S3 feature before the big CSA exam. Which is why for the first AWS-themed cheat sheet, we went with S3. Click on the image below to get the full size!


Elastic Beanstalk

An Introduction to Amazon Elastic Beanstalk

Let’s start with an important question: What is Elastic Beanstalk?

Elastic Beanstalk is a service offered by Amazon which makes it easy to quickly deploy applications using AWS resources.

Think about the traditional way of creating an application to deploy on AWS. First, we need to create the infrastructure. Second, we need to create a pipeline to deploy our code to that infrastructure. We also need to make sure that the new code can be deployed to a testing, Q&A, or other environments, before going to production. We have to have the infrastructure for all of those environments, which means we need to have the knowledge and resources to create that infrastructure.

What if you’re just trying to test a prototype really quickly? What if you don’t have any infrastructure engineers on your team? The developers will have to learn how to deploy resources, and how to set up those pipelines. Instead of creating features, they’re bogged down in the details. Elastic Beanstalk aims to solve that problem. Using Elastic Beanstalk, we can deploy our code and the service will automatically provision our capacity, set up our load balancing and auto scaling, as well as configure monitoring and anything else necessary to glue it all together. (more…)

AWS QuickSight

AWS QuickSight is the BI (business intelligence) tool from AWS that enables creating attractive visualizations and perform ad-hoc data analysis on business data with the added advantage of high speed and scalability. Created by the leading cloud provider, it fills the void of a business analytics tool, which is an important part of a data analytics ecosystem. AWS QuickSight is the perfect answer to fthe BI needs of Amazon’s massive customer base, which already stores massive amounts of data in various AWS services like Athena, Redshift, RDS, S3 and others. QuickSight also offers an app for iOS and Android devices. (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

AWS and the Internet of Things

AWS and the Internet of Things

IoT has become one of the hot topics of the tech industry. From dedicated sessions at Amazon’s re:Invent 2016 to the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017, the term comes up everywhere. IoT refers to an interconnected network of smart devices sending data to the Internet. The list includes your washing machine, A/C thermostat, car, watch, TV and almost anything else that has a ‘chip.’ By some estimations, there will be 6.4 billion connected devices by the end of 2016, generating $1.4 Billion in revenue and growing [1]. With those revenue projections, it is no surprise that companies like Amazon have already launched their IoT platforms.

The Amazon eco-system offers services like Amazon Cognito, AWS Lambda, Amazon Kinesis, Amazon S3, Amazon Machine Learning, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon CloudWatch, AWS CloudTrail, and Amazon Elasticsearch Service with built-in Kibana integration to build IoT applications that gather, process, analyze and act on data generated by connected devices, without having to manage any infrastructure [2]. Pricing for the US East and US West Regions are a flat $5 per one million messages [3]. (more…)

Linux Academy New Features!

New Features!

Our developers and instructors have been working away at bringing you new courses and features here at Linux Academy! Here’s some of the content we released last week:

  • AWS Essentials – A new course from instructor Tom Haslett that will introduce you to AWS, walk you through the process of setting up your own AWS account, and teach you the essentials to get you using AWS’s core services. No prior AWS experience needed!
  • Serverless Concepts – We’re so excited for instructor Johnny Jelinek’s first course, which will teach you the basics of this hot new technology, including AWS Lambda, Google Firebase, and more.
  • Amazon Marketplace – The Linux Academy Android App is now available on the Amazon Marketplace! Study with Linux Academy on your Amazon Fire device.
  • Course Reset – Want to go back and start from the beginning? You can now reset progress on a course you’ve started.

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  • New Speed Controls – In addition to the 15 second flashback feature we announced last week, we’ve added new options for video speed. You can watch at 0.5x, 0.75x, 1x, 1.25x, 1.5x, 1.75x, or 2x.
  • New Dashboard – Test out your new dashboard, which will make it easier to find your in-progress courses, learning paths, and bookmarks.
AWS Shield

Cloud Compliance – How AWS Shield Plays a Part

In our last article, we took a look at some of the most common compliance regulations that affect IT organizations and their cloud stratagem. Understanding the requirements around compliance can help to inform your cloud infrastructure plans, but is only part of the equation. Today, I want to talk about how the recently announced (AWS re:Invent 2016) AWS Shield can help organizations put some of the complex issues into perspective in a more comprehensive policy. (more…)

AWS Lambda & C#

Serverless in C#

With the announcement of the new C# runtime in AWS Lambda, enterprises are now able to start taking their .NET investment into the world of serverless applications. In this blog post, I want to help you get up and running with .NET Core using the new AWS Serverless Application Model (SAM) transform for AWS CloudFormation. We’re going to build a simple “Hello World” API endpoint by deploying a resource in Amazon API Gateway and a C# function in AWS Lambda. (more…)

AWS Athena

Introducing AWS Athena

At the re:Invent conference held in Las Vegas in November 2016, Amazon’s CEO announced Athena, among a series of new services. Athena’s specialty is to support interactive queries using SQL over data stored in S3 buckets. What sets it apart from Amazon’s Redshift, used for data analysis on a highly structure data warehouse environment and Amazons EMR, used for data analysis on unstructured data, is Athena’s simplicity and ease of use. (more…)

AWS Shield

AWS Announces: AWS Shield – A Linux Academy Closer Look

To say that RE:Invent was a shocking revelation for many 3rd party vendors/integrators/developers would be an understatement. However, this has become the norm when it comes to Amazon’s Cloud offering, AWS. Holding an annual convention for the past 5 years, they have redefined what it means to add features and react to an ever-changing and challenging market during this age of IT innovation and disruptive tech.

As CEO of AWS, Andy Jassy, said during the first keynote, “We are iterating at a faster clip than anybody.” From 280 significant features in 2008, to now over 1000 significant features, yielding an average of just around 3 new features a day, AWS truly has set a new standard in what it means to speak to your customers needs.

In line with the tradition at the annual RE:Invent, AWS announced a slew of new features and services to speak to their customer’s needs and progress an idea they have dubbed as “being transformers” in an ever-changing and adapting IT landscape.

Part of the focus during the keynotes revolved on how customers are demanding specifically what is being done to ensure that certain security measures are in place guaranteeing that their usage of AWS Services will not result in an increase of risk/attack vectors. In response to these customer demands and to bolster their offerings, AWS has announced the general availability of AWS Shield.