It’s no secret that you need to stay on top of the latest technologies in order to stay marketable, but how do you do it on a tight budget? For one you cannot just go out and purchase the most beefy server(s) available because the hardware alone can cost at minimum two-three months rent and that’s a scaled down version. The server’s I often dream about are way out of my budgetary league. Then you have the software and licensing to add to the piling list of expenses. So where do you turn? How about virtualization? After all virtualization is booming so while you’re practicing Active Directory management or SQL Server Mirroring you can learn a few things about virtualization in the process. And that my friend is what I consider a true win-win scenario!
Virtualizing as I like to call it is essentially running or hosting a guest operating system on top of another system. Your current system should have at least 4GB of RAM and running at least an Intel Core2Duo processor or comparable AMD. I mean you could make do with less but performance will suffer. Don’t get me wrong virtualization can be costly but there are affordable versions available. I am bias to VMware and I love Workstation 7 but it comes with a price. However VMware Server is (FREE), as well as VirtualBox (FREE) by SUN and VirtualPC (FREE) by Microsoft to name a few. I have used all of the software listed and found that VMware has the fastest load times. I am talking about installing and loading the Operating System form an ISO CD image. Honestly in the end they all accomplished the same results so no matter what you choose you will still reap benefits of virtualization. Now you just need to get your hands on some operating systems and server software.
Good news… if you are a college student you have some options. Academic versions are often offered at significantly reduced prices. If that is not an option you can sign up for Dreamspark.com and get software for free, but you need an active college email address to validate your student status. At the very least you have the trials editions offered by Microsoft that are readily available but you will be limited to 120 days. You can always reseal the OS and extend your trial a bit further so keep that in mind. With either software option you should get enough experience and understanding with the OS to hold an intelligent conversation about the subject matter.
Some people tend to think that their company should invest in them and pay for technical training when in reality you really need to invest in yourself. It speaks volumes about a person who is able to tackle new functionality from new releases let alone get certified without the aided help of the employer. Honestly how else are you supposed to get ahead and advance your career without putting forth the effort to learn on your own? Trust me education through osmosis does not work so don’t just by a book hoping it will make you smarter. You have to open it and read the pages to get the most out of that investment. Not to mention picking up some reading material is always a good idea and it’s also a great way to work towards certification. If all else fails you can always turn to google or bing and they are both filled with tons of useful resources.
If at all you are into SQL Server you can download SQL Server 2008 R2 Express which will provide you with the tools necessary to perform the install, configurations including settings and security, restores, backups, business intelligence and well as diving into the Transact-SQL query language. However if you want to work with mirroring, replication, high availability then you can opt for Developer Edition which is typically $50. It provides all the functionality of Enterprise edition with limitations of course. So you can create database snapshots, setup principal and mirror servers, setup a publication, remote or local distributors and other good stuff. So what are you waiting for? It’s at your grasp… so grab a hold of it and run with it!
Today I received an email from Ken Simmons (website | twitter) indicating that I was a winner of his MSDN Ultimate subscription contest. Ken Simmons held a contest that provided three methods of entry so I took advantage of two of them via twitter and proof I was a PASS member by emailing an article title that only registered members can view.
This is truly fantastic. I have been wanting to purchase an MSDN subscription for my personal development, but my budget didn’t permit it. Especially at an Ultimate level which is extremely out of my budget range. We do have some where I work, but they are not accessible to me so I try to make do with the time limited trial editions. To be honest 120 days come and go so quickly. Especially if your schedule seems to last throughout the day which makes the trial editions end before you can fully explorer all the functionality.
I have never owned an MSDN subscription before so I feel like a kid in a candy… giddy as can be. Anxious to play and just tinker away. I have so many scenarios that I have archived in my mind that I will be able to finally put into action. I am a bit bias to SQL Server, but I also have a hidden desire to develop skills in the application development arena. I have a few concepts that I believe would be beneficial on a mid-level scale so that would be exciting to see it finally moved into action.
At this point all I can say is Thank you Ken for holding this contest… I deeply appreciate it!
The day before father’s day my wife presents me with a Kindle 2. Never before have I seen one, let alone touched a Kindle device for that matter. My only experience was from reading about the Kindle on Amazon.com. She knew that I wanted to return to my old reading affair but due to my career I end up selecting technical centric titles. With this new device I am able to take the ebooks that came (as an added bouns) with my print version books and upload them to my Kindle 2. In some cases the font size is pretty small but can be adjusted if the option is available.
Before the purchase was made she knew that I did some research and that I did weight out some of the differences between the Barnes and Nobel (Nook), Apples (iPad), Sony’s (ebook Reader), Amazon’s (Kindle 2) and the (Kindle DX). Of course each of the devices has their strengths and weaknesses so it boils down to native features and overall price. Well at least for me it does.
In the beginning I was set on a device that offered at least a 9″+ touch-screen (color and readable in direct sunlight), storage expansion via SD slot, USB support, long-lasting battery life and broadband wireless with WiFi support. However, after some consideration I decided that a compact factor would be more suitable for my actual needs. With this decision this immediately removed the iPad (though very cool) from the selection. Not to mention the price tag of the iPad did not sit well with me. Besides the iPad’s next generation(s) will most likely include a ton of added features; hopefully, at a more affordable price. Which will make it even more attractive but until then I must pass for now. This also removed the Kindle DX from the selection.
With those factored out I sought for wireless options which immediately terminated Sony’s Reader from the standing competition. From here it boiled down to services. Even though the Nook and Kindle stood toe-to-toe in terms of internal storage the Nook had the available of expansion and the added Wireless support. Which were a feature I felt I needed. After careful consideration I felt that I really did not need WiFi support (though extremely useful) or had the desire to sign-up for Wireless services especially from AT&T. I have never been a fan of AT&T; further more, based on the stories from some my friends and colleagues that are or were AT&T subscribers, the coverage was apparently an issue.
This left one candidate standing and that was the Kindle 2. Though it does not offer storage expansion nor WiFi support I am granted FREE 3G wireless service throughout the United States. Unfortunately my version is not equipped with Global coverage but all new versions of the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX come with standard Global service for FREE. This means I can pretty much purchase and download books from anywhere right from the convenience of my Kindle 2. This alleviates the need of a computer to transfer files, though it is a standard and readily available option.
I am very pleased with the Kindle 2 with its convenient compact size and the crisp-clear (E-Ink) display that is remarkably visible in direct sunlight. In darker settings a light will be required since the Kindle(s) are not equipped with back illumination (reduces stress on the eyes this way). The battery barely dropped a notch or two during my week away on business. This includes uses on the airplane, in the hotel for an hour or two per day and on some occasions during lunch (30 mins – 1 hr). Of course I kept the WiFi disabled since I did not need it.
|Features||B & N
Memory Stick Pro
|Wireless||3G1 + WiFi||3G1 + WiFi||No||3G (Free)
|Screen Size||6″ Grey Scale||9.7″ Color||6″ Grey||6″ Grey||9.7″ Grey|
|Battery Life||10 days2||10hrs3/9hrs4||2 wks||2 wks2||2 wks2|
|Touch Screen||3.5″ Menu only||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Text to Speech||No||Yes5||No||Yes6||Yes6|
Table – 1: eBook Reader Comparison
1 3G service by AT&T
2 With WiFi disabled
3 With WiFi usage
4 With 3G usage
5 Available in some applications
6 Available in most books