Educating Self

There have been times I have seen employees who are frustrated because their employers don’t help them with their education, typically getting paid while getting educated and/or paying for classes. What is sad to see is when they don’t do anything about it, including getting a new job that is more in line with your knowledge hunger or investing in yourself. You can pay for classes or find low cost or free resources. Don’t let an industry, short sighted employer, or controlling manager keep you from advancing. Just the mere act or attitude of fighting for yourself can land you an improved position, better job, or increased credibility.

So where to start? While this is focused on the Windows platform, these approaches are available for Linux and Mac systems. Or even cloud based options using Chrome OS or tablets.

There are news sources such as ZDNet. Microsoft Channel 9 has free video educational content. If you are willing to spend some moola, Pluralsight and ITPro.TV offer rich technical content.

Podcasts are great ways to stay current with technology. TWIT.TV has a bunch of IT-based content. .NET Rocks has great developer information. Using a podcast player (e.g. Pocket Casts is a favorite) on a mobile device allows you to subscribe and play back content while you workout, drive, do house chores, etc.

With development, if your employer hands you a poor performing machine, you can still buy your own home machine with some decent RAM and CPUs (recommend quad cores).  You can freely use Hyper-V on Windows 10 Pro or use VirtualBox to run multiple systems at the same time on the machine. Microsoft offers a lot of free resources to help. You can use Azure for virtualized machines. Visual Studio Community 2017 and Microsoft SQL Server Express are free editions for development and database respectively.

If you want to education credibility, you can work hard to prepare for a Microsoft Certification Exam. Take the right exams to obtain a MTA, MCSA, MCSE, or MCSD (the last one is best for developers) certification. While the exams aren’t free, you can find deals on purchasing multiple exams, typically with time limit restrictions. Or if you are nervous about taking your first exam, you can opt-in for an exam replay (if you fail the first time) or exam replay with practice test.

In short, there is no reason to not educate yourself, whether you are new, need to catch up, want to shift areas, or want to stay current.


Migrating MSA to AAD “fun” (rant)

I am starting to go through the Microsoft push to move from Microsoft Accounts (MSA, a.k.a. accounts) to Azure Active Directory (AAD), their cloud-based enterprise solution to user and group management.

With a heavy investment in Azure, Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS), Visual Studio Subscriptions (formerly MSDN subscriptions), etc., this has been challenging.  We have run into issues with moving Azure subscriptions to AAD (previously managed via MSA).  We have run into PowerShell for Azure scripting issues.  We have run into automation issues between VSTS and Azure. VSTS has strange requirements with the primary email address on MSA must be the VS subscription email address (change the primary email address on your MSA and you won’t see your VS subscription, unless it is the free one).

Add to the fact that my MSA used to have a custom domain.  They offered it, promoted it, and then are taking it away although “grandfathering” those that had it.  But this has been problematic in that I couldn’t renew it and their support kept trying to push me over to the business side (Office 365) when it is part of Outlook Premium.  I finally gave up and moved my custom domain to Office 365 to make it more straight forward.  But I shouldn’t have had to do that, now having two separate accounts where before I had one.

I know we will get through this.  In the long run, it will probably be for the best.  In addition to my navigating from MSA to AAD, I also access multiple AADs, so that fun should be interesting when the time comes.

Microsoft should have continued to embrace custom domains with Outlook Premium (via MSA).  Microsoft should have done a much better job of supporting both MSA and AAD integration, giving us migration tools to map MSA accounts to AAD (with the MSA accounts approval of course) so resource access wasn’t lost or confusing (instead of having to work with Microsoft directly, where they have made mistakes because of the complex array of services over the decades via MSA).

I did look at an alternative to O365 and Outlook Premium once I knew I was in trouble with their policy changes that were well supported.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much that could provide the Exchange Active Sync (EAS) capabilities along with Webmail and Outlook support (with all the features of Calendar, Inbox, Folders, Contacts, etc.).