How to prepare for Exam 70-432

I received this question all over again during my daily jobs teaching SQL Server. I was tempted to create a guide base on my personal experience, but the time really don’t like me. Not until I received invitation to deliver short lecture for NUS student last month.

They were preparing for Exam 70-432: SQL Server  2008 Implementation and Maintenance. It is a foundation exam for SQL DBA. It test our knowledge on daily administration and a bit of development job. I wrapped up couple of important clues and tips, and compile them in PPT slides. You may download it here:

I passed SQL 2008 BI Beta Exam

I took Beta exam no 70-448 last July, because I was curious how’s difficult it is. It is a Business Intelligence exam, a foundation for MCITP for SQL 2008 BI. I’ve touched SQL 2008 since it’s CTP 5 release so I’m quite familiar with the stuff.

I sat almost 3 hours in the testing room, clicked the finish button to end the exam. There was no on the spot scoring for beta. So I did not really know if I passed or fail. But I felt that I pass even with no flying marks. After more than 4 months, I just received email from MS learning. They said that I passed the Beta. Wow, It seems magic to me.

From: Microsoft Certified Professional Programs
Sent: Thursday, October 09, 2008 11:22 AM
To: Muhammad Choirul Amri
Subject: Congratulations on Your Microsoft Certification! Access Your Benefits
Congratulations on earning your Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist: SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance certification! We hope you enjoy the benefits of your certification and of membership in the Microsoft Certified Professional community.

In fact, my knowledge on SQL 2005 helped a lot to clear the exam. I did not do special preparation for it. It was a free offer, so nothing to loose at my side. I really relied on my prior knowledge on SQL 05, play around with SQL 08 and of course my real world experience in the past. This is also a prove that at least I know the stuff better. I was not cramming the book and practice test to shot the test.

I logged in to my MCP transcript, and MCTS SQL 2008 BI Charter member is already under my belt. Yes, I’m the charter member.


I joined the rank of first 200 people who cleared this paper. I can’t wait to receive the welcome kit. Hopefully there will be something special for Charter Member :)

Now I challenge my friend Kasim and Zeddy. If you dare to fail, try the beta exam.

How to Pass NCLP Exam

I wrote that I failed NCLP 10 exam at the first try several days back. I took again yesterday to revenge, and passed. I really admit this exam because it’s a real lab exam with 2 Suse Linux machines sat on top of VMware. It’s not as difficult as RHCE, but at least comparable to RHCT. This testing measures candidate skill accurately instead of written exam.

I scored 764/800, it means around 95% was answered correctly. Here are some tips and guidance to prepare and take this exam:

Look the exam objectives. Novell published the exam objectives here, and make sure you can do basic configuration on every objectives. To summarize the objectives, at least you should able to do the following tasks:

  1. Storage and file system management (create/delete partition, edit partition, etc)
  2. User and group management (create/delete/edit user/group, configure home directory, etc)
  3. Manage user permission on file and directory: understand the ACL and file/directory ownership.
  4. Quota management for user and group
  5. Configure web server with Apache: create virtual directory, manage redirection, protect a web site with user and password.
  6. Configure Samba as a file and print server and mount Samba share on client.
  7. Configure network services: NFS, NIS.
  8. Create a cron job, either on user level or system wide cron
  9. Shell scripting :). Using bash to automate monitoring and management such as backup/ restore, monitoring log or daemon. Make sure you know how to create and assign variable, looping, and IF-ELSE control structure.
  10. Know how to retain and apply the configurations after reboot. Use insserv servicename.

Test taking tips:

  • We have 3 hours to do the practicum, it’s long enough to complete all tasks assignment. You can access Yast during the lab, but using console is better due to connection latency. I used Yast only for double check my configurations.
  • Basically it’s an open book exam. You can read the online manual that already installed in Linux by default. It doesn’t mean that it will be easy. If you don’t know the stuff, you won’t know which manual you need to read :D. So does the real job isn’t it? When I had any doubts with Samba, just type man samba. Not sure with the command arguments of useradd, just type useradd –help ;).
  • Remain calm, don’t panic
  • NEVER use kill or restart. If you need to apply the configuration, do it without reboot. Restart the services instead.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Do everything in console and make yourself confortable with it. Remember the most common used command, and know how to locate and search the information from the manual.

DO you need the training for this exam? It’s not mandatory but recommended. Novell has several official course that address the exam objectives. Choose any course that matched your existing skill level. If you are a good self learner, do the preparation with this book.

Good luck, do your way to NCLP.

Failed at the first try on Linux Exam

logo-nclp I sat NCLP exam last week, and failed :(. This exam was definitely hard, specially for seasoned Linux hobbyist like me. Anybody who’s lives and breath with Linux admin everyday should be able to passed with a good mark. In term of question difficulties, I think most of them (70%) are considered as intermediate. It means if I can do the practicum for intermediate level, I should passed.

I failed in shell/bash scripting practicum. I know C#, VB, and .Net by hart, but not the bash scripting. I need more exercise and reading material on this topic. Another labs such as user administration, secure remote access config, and apache was cleared in a good mark.

I felt thrilled during the studying process in the last 7 days. I never touched Linux extensively in the last 3 years. Everything is .Net and SQL server in my world now. That’s way I was challenged when my supervisor approached me and asked to clear the NCLP exam. I’ve been there before, played with Squid, IPtable, smoothwals, Samba, etc. So, why not?

But It needs time to bring my brain warm up again, tune with the Linux style. Cramming 15 days courseware in just 7 days was very hard.

Another reason why I buy his challenge is because this is the lab exam. It’s not the written exam in multiple choice format ;). This is not simulation based, it uses the real machine, It gave me 2 servers to be accessed remotely. This delivery format really measures candidate’s skill. I think Microsoft should follow this way to deliver their certification exams. They can start in networking exam, it’s easier to setup lab exam in that topics than the developer tracks.

I’m doing the preparation again now, spend my weekend with Suse Linux stuff. I plan to fight back next week, hopefully I can pass at he 2nd try :D.

Get IT Certification without any Exams

Do you want to be a certified IT Pro in an easy way, no hazle, and no exams? Now there are many test taking services website can serve your need. If you have enough money, but lack of knowledge and too lazy for learning the technologies, just ping them. Soon after receive your money, they will sit the exams on behalf of you, and you will be a CCNA, MCSE, MCSD, OCP, or anything you want at the next week.

Those kind of services is really hurt my feeling. When I am working hard to pass every exams, learn the stuff to gain the knowledge and skills, those people just simply break the rule. It’s scarry me, ilegal, and also not ethical.

Imagine that anybody without propher knowledge, or even never do basic router configuration is a CCNA. Somebody that pays $2000 will become an MCSD next week, but can not understand the try – catch – finally block.

This case is even worst than a braindump or paper certified. With braindump, at least you still need to learn and sit the exam. With this service, just simply choose which certification you want, pay the money, and somebody else will does the dirty job.

These practices make the certifications became more and more not valuable anymore. Prospective employer should examines carefully, wheater the candidate is really certified IT pro, paper certified, or just “buy” the cert. Microsoft, Oracle, Comptia, and any cert vendors should work together to fight this. This is not certification or test questions piracy. This is a pure criminal activity.

It seems that many test taking services around the internet has relationship each others. They use similar jargon, FAQ and Price. Also, they offer you to become an affiliate for 20% commissions :). They are just an affiliate from somebody else, and copy – paste the master website then replace with their own name. Still curious who are they? Here they are:


Also, They break the VUE or Prometric testing center rules. Normally, a testing center will ask for candidate identity to make sure that nobody sit exam for somebody else. I ever went to some testing center that never asking my ID card.

Apakah Sertifikasi IT Masih Berguna?

Is IT certification still valuable?

Saat ini banyak vendor menawarkan berbagai sertifikasi IT, baik untuk level technical support, engineer, architect, developer, maupun auditor. Rata-rata membutuhkan biaya mahal untuk mendapatkan sertifikasi tersebut.

Sebagai contoh, satu mata ujian MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) membutuhkan biaya Rp.550.000,-. Sedangkan Cisco mematok harga sekitar 1,4 juta per mata ujian. Harga tersebut belum termasuk biaya berbagai kursus, buku, dan riset internet yang perlu dikeluarkan sebelum mengikuti ujian.

Memiliki sertifikasi IT dari vendor international memang tampak bergensi. Bayangkan apabila Anda memiliki sertifikat MCSE (Microsoft Certified System Engineer) atau OCP (Oracle Certified Professional). Peluang mendapatkan pekerjaan bergaji tinggi terbuka lebar di depan. Benarkah demikian?

  1. Apakah sertifikasi seseorang merupakan jaminan atas keterampilan dan keahlian yang dimiliki?
  2. Apakah sertifikasi membantu mendapatkan pekerjaan yang diidamkan?

Sayangnya kenyataan tidak selalu sesuai dengan harapan. Saya banyak menerima keluhan bahwa memiliki sertifikasi tidak menjadi jaminan mudah mendapatkan pekerjaan serta gaji yang layak.
Berikut adalah beberapa sebab membuat sertifikasi tidak menjamin mendapatkan pekerjaan dan gaji yang diharapkan:

  1. Populasi pemegang sertifikasi semakin besar dibandingkan 5-10 tahun lalu. Ini menyebabkan persaingan juga semakin ketat. Jika 5 tahun lalu memiliki sertifikat CCNA dan MCP (lulus 1-2 mata ujian Microsoft) merupakan sesuatu yang bergengsi, tidak semikian halnya saat ini. Anda dapat dengan mudah menemukan pekerja atau mahasiswa yang telah memiliki CCNA atau MCP.
  2. Permintaan industri IT semakin kompleks, dan tuntutan kerja semakin tinggi. Saat ini masalah yang dihadapi perusahaan baik IT maupun non IT sangat beragam, sehingga tidak dapat diselesaikan dengan keterampilan yang diwakili oleh 1-2 sertifikasi. Dimasa lalu menjadi ahli Windows networking mendapatkan penghargaan tinggi. Tetapi dengan makin banyaknya perusahaan yang mengadopsi Linux dan menggunakan Cisco router, maka mereka menuntut pekerjanya memiliki keahlian di beberapa bidang sekaligus.
  3. Tuntutan skill perusahaan semakin tinggi. Jika dimasa lalu sertifikasi menjadi jaminan mendapat pekerjaan, maka saat ini terdapat kecenderungan sertifikasi hanya menjadi jaminan dipanggil interview :).
  4. Banyaknya paper MCSE dan paper CCNA, atau paper OCP, telah menurunkan nilai sertifikasi. Sebutan paper certified diperuntukkan bagi sesorang yang memiliki sertifikasi, tetapi tidak mempunyai skill sesuai yang diharapkan. Pemegang MCSD, tetapi tidak memahami konsep object oriented dan exception handling. Pemegang CCNA, tetapi bahkan tidak mampu mengkonfigurasi router dan menghitung subnetting dengan benar. Pemegang MCSE, tetapi tidak tahu port berapa yang digunakan SMTP dan POP3. Hal ini terjadi karena mereka hanya berfokus pada bagaimana lulus ujian dengan selamat, dan tidak mempelajari konsep dasar serta berlatih dengan berbagai keterampilan di dunia nyata. Kenyataan ini diperparah dengan banyaknya situs internet yang menawarkan “latihan soal”, tetapi sebenarnya adalah bocoran soal. Beberapa admin testing center yang nakal telah membuat soal-soal tersebut bocor dan diperdagangkan di internet. Microsoft, Cisco, Comptia, telah banyak melakukan upaya hukum terhadap para pembocor, namun tetap saja mati satu tumbuh seribu :).
  5. Banyak para pemburu sertifikasi tidak menyadari bahwa pengalaman di dunia nyata adalah jauh lebih penting daripada sertifikat. Sertifikasi diperlukan sebagai bukti kemampuan, tetapi bukan target utama. Hindari mengambil ujian untuk sesuatu yang Anda tidak memiliki kemampuan nyata di dalamnya.

Apakah sertifikasi IT masih bernilai, jawabnya bisa ya, bisa tidak. Tergantung bagaimana cara kita mendapatkannya, dan kemampuan nyata yang dimiliki.