net, personal comments edit

At the recommendation of a co-worker, I purchased the TestKing practice test questions. According to him, the questions he had on his test were darn close - if not identical - to the ones on the TestKing exam.

After reading through most of them, I’ve come to the conclusion that the self test questions from Self Test Software are almost identical to TestKing’s questions, so it’s all the same. I like the TestKing explanations better than Self Test Software’s, but for $40 extra, I may not do TestKing for the next one. I guess it all depends on how I do.

Regardless, I took a “certification readiness” practice test, which means they don’t tell you your score until the end and you are under a time limit, and I finished an hour early with an 80% (which, I think, is a passing score on the real thing). And since I’ve done that, and I’m looking over the TestKing questions and feeling pretty confident and comfortable with them, I did it.

I bit the bullet and scheduled the exam.

I’ll go in for my attempt (and hopefully pass) on Monday, July 28, at 9:00a. I figured, take this weekend to really study my ass off, then with all the info fresh in my mind, go in early Monday morning, do a last minute quick-review, and hopefully pass. At $125 a whack, I’m hoping not to have to make a second try. My hands were shaking with the adrenaline as I scheduled it. I mean, that was just the scheduling of the test. I can only imagine how I’m going to be the morning of the test itself. But I’m feeling good about it now that I’ve seen the TestKing stuff and got the decent score on the “certification readiness” test.

They said on the “certification readiness” test that 80% was a fail. Considering the other stuff I’ve seen from that practice test software, anything less than 100% is fail, too, so I don’t think I’m doing that bad.

So… here goes. Send good luck vibes my way. If I can pass this test, then I only have four more to pass and I get my certification. I haven’t planned that far yet, but it’s coming, so any help I can get, I’m taking.

net, personal comments edit

I’m still a little panicky about my certification tests. I know I sound like a broken record, but at $125 a pop, pass or fail, it’s pretty important that I pass the first time.

I went to the bookstore to check out some books in a series called Exam Cram, since a friend of mine at work recommended them, but they didn’t have any of the ones I needed. I looked at the ones they did have, to get a feel for how they are laid out, and they look pretty decent, but it’s like 300 pages of information that I don’t want to have to pick through to figure out the important parts. I mean, isn’t that what the self test software is for? To show me what I need to know and drill me via flash cards? So I think I may just try the first test using the self test software and the knowledge in my head, as useless as that may be.

Time to go download brain dumps

net, personal comments edit

8:14a

I’ve loaded up the car, checked out of the hotel, and I’m in my last day of class (which won’t start for another 45 minutes.

Last night I went back to the hotel after class and decided I needed to take a short break from learning, so I sat down with the GBA SP and played Metroid Fusion for a bit. After that, I fired up the computer, which promptly gave me a load of errors - something about being “unable to read instruction at memory address 0x7somethingorother” - which meant disk issues, after a little investigation.

So I started a disk check and went back to the Game Boy.

I’m not sure if it’s my frustration with the upcoming exams or just my general lack of patience… or maybe even a distinct lack of hand-eye coordination when it comes to video games… but I got playing Metroid again and I quickly got to a boss that I just can’t beat. I got reasonably far into beating him several times (I think) but I just couldn’t pull it off. So I switched to Yoshi’s Island, which is a Mario-style game, and I couldn’t beat the level I was on.

By this time I was so fed up that I didn’t want to try some other game, I just wanted the GBA away from me so I packed it up and got out some comics I brought along with me.

The disk check, of course, was still not done.

I read a couple of comics, checked on the disk check progress (almost done), read a couple more, and saw that the check had finally finished. Not the quickest process in the world, but it did find a couple of errors, which it fixed, and I subsequently have not seen the weird errors that I was seeing.

I did notice, however, that there’s some other weird error involving “ACPI BIOS” that’s been happening for a while now, so I should probably investigate that when I get back to work.

It was around 8:00p by then and I still had four modules’ worth of labs to finish up from my Programming Windows Apps in C# class (the whole reason I brought the computer along, really, was to finish these labs and understand the concepts we didn’t have time to go over in class). I moved through them at a pretty decent speed (so I thought) and ended up finishing them up around 9:30p. I’m pretty comfortable with the stuff they taught now (I wasn’t before), but I still don’t think I could do them without a little bit of help in the way of documentation.

I figured I should probably call Jenn before it got any later, since I still needed to eat and pack my stuff up for check out, so I called. We had about 15 minutes of what I like to call “bad phone” (where nobody really has anything interesting to say, so it ends up being something like: “How was your day?” “Fine, how was yours?” “Fine.” “Oh. Okay.” “Right.” “So what’s new?” “Nothing. You?” “Nothing.”) and I hung up so I could eat.

After a fine meal of Lean Cuisine, during which I watched some more Broken Saints, I got some stuff packed up. Not all, mind you, but some.

And then sleep.

10:25a

We’re on break, and I remembered that I have a dentist appointment coming up that I need to reschedule for the following week, so I figured no time like the present - I stepped out of the classroom and phoned them up.

They’re closed Fridays.

Apparently, the “regular business hours” are 8:00a - 4:30p Monday - Thursday. What ever happened to work, people? Dammit! I suppose I’ll call them on Monday, but not being open Friday is pretty frickin’ ridiculous.

11:08a

Two more words that have lost meaning: pointer and marshaling.

11:34a

We’re getting pizza in class so we can work through lunch and maybe I can get out at a reasonable time. That’d be nice.

Can diabetics eat pizza? This guy in class is diabetic but he’s getting a salad. I wonder if it’s that, or if it’s just that he doesn’t like pizza.

There’s a car alarm outside that goes off about every 20 minutes. I wonder if it’s mine.

<1>1:27p

I just finished the last lab, and now there are several “optional” modules of varying interest. I’m interested in the Threading module, but I’ve seen the ADO.NET intro module more times than are useful (I’ve got the in-depth course next month).

Pending on what they decide to go over, I may end up leaving soon.

We had pizza in class for lunch, so we worked through lunch and made up some time. Let’s see if we can put that to use.

2:03p

Here’s an interesting blast from the past…

3:04p

We’ve gotten past the ineresting stuff and now we’re neck deep in technical garbage that doesn’t mean really anything to me. I suppose if I ever had to get into this stuff it might, but I don’t, and it’s Friday afternoon after a long week of class, so I’m tuned out.

Besides which, I should be getting on the road pretty soon.

3:16p

That’s that. I’m packing up and taking the traffic-laden trip home.

net, personal comments edit

9:31a

I’ve entirely lost track of my concept of time. I had to look at the calendar today to figure out it’s Thursday.

It being Thursday means that I only have one more night here and then I go home tomorrow after class. It’ll be nice to get home, to sleep in my own bed, to see Jenn and my kitties again. I will admit I’m a little lonely sitting in my hotel room at night, but the flipside is that I don’t have any distractions while I study.

Speaking of studying, I took a practice test on SQL Server last night. It took about two hours to go through 50 questions (I was in “learning” mode, so I was reading about WHY certain answers were right or wrong). When all was said and done, I got around 60% correct.

I was pretty confident about my SQL Server skills before I took that practice test. Taking the test showed me that I don’t know jack squat. Now I’m feeling pretty disheartened about my whole learning experience because I thought these classes I was taking would prepare me, or at least better prepare me, for the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer tests. I’m not so sure about it anymore. I mean, I’m learning a lot of stuff. The problem I’m having is that tests are not real-world. When will I ever be programming when I don’t have access to the help docs?

So, needless to say, I’m a little down today. I told Jenn about it and she was all, “Doesn’t it make you happy that not everything comes easy?” No, I’m not. It’s about the unrealistic nature of the tests. It’s about the fact that everything I do anymore is an uphill battle - work and school. It’s that this is exactly everything I hated about high school and college. It’s all of this pressure and all of this “challenge” all coming crashing back on me and inducing fits of anxiety, stressing me out.

I feel like I’m a good programmer. I think there are people out there who would agree with that. I also think that I’m really going to have problems with these tests, and at $125 a pop, I really can’t afford to fail.

10:52a

I went cruising Amazon to see what sorts of study aids they have in print. There are all sorts of books, priced $25 - $40, none of which looked like they were “foolproof” or “all-inclusive.” I then see random boot camps and schools that promise certification “in 8 days - guaranteed.” It makes me wonder if that would have been a better investment. But then, I think I’m probably getting some better, more well-rounded knowledge out of these classes.

I’m just wondering if it’ll help me pass these tests.

11:04a

Have you ever said a word over and over enough times that it starts sounding funny and you don’t remember what it means? The word of the day is “dispose.”

11:33a

I was thinking about this (while sitting in class)… my job has made me a programming Sisyphus.

12:23p

I just went through a lab on memory management (making sure your program doesn’t eat all of your computer’s memory) and while I understood it, and I think I could implement it myself, I didn’t like the lab very much. The way things were written/phrased, it was really difficult to figure out what they were trying to get you to do. I ended up having to refer to the solution, and I haven’t had to do that for any of the class labs I’ve had yet.

It reminds me of that game where you give a friend a pencil and a piece of paper and you have a picture of something that you’re looking at (and your friend can’t see). The object is to describe to your friend what they need to draw on their paper so they come up with a picture that looks like the one you’re holding. If you’ve never done that, try it. It’s harder than you might think. For simple stuff (a house, a flag, a can of cola), it’s not too bad - you can sort of refer to simple shapes (“draw a circle, then draw a couple parallel lines coming from the sides of the circle…”). If you have something more complex, like an office chair, it gets a heck of a lot harder. This lab was like someone trying to describe to me how to draw a Picasso piece. Crazy.

2:02p

Still panicking about the exams and my lack of preparation. I went looking to see what Microsoft offers as far as test preparation material

  • lists of what they’re asking questions on, suggested preparation materials, etc. - and there’s nothing I can see that would help me. The lists of question topics are sufficiently vague that they may as well say, “We’re just, you know, testing you.” Thanks.

You’re probably tired of reading about my study anxiety. I’m tired of thinking about it. It’s just sort of sitting at the front of my mind, though, and it’s hard to get away from.

3:04p

Finally, an old person who realizes that sometimes you do get too old to drive. And one who didn’t figure it out soon enough. My 80+ year old neighbors who drive these gigantic antique Cadillacs should read these articles.

5:06p

That’s the end of today. We just did an interesting lab where we created a simple server app that can accept connections from clients and sends information. Just a little thing, but it demonstrates that you can do some powerful stuff in a simple way with .NET.

Just watch - I get this, but it won’t be on the test. The stuff I don’t get will be there.

net, personal comments edit

9:38a

I’m back in class again, which means I’m back to waiting for the rest of class to get their shit together while I surf the web.

I’m learning some good stuff, details that I wasn’t aware of, which is a Good Thing. After going through a few more flash cards last night in preparation for the tests I’ve got to take, I found that I don’t know crap. That said, I still need to run through a full practice test because, while flash cards are good, I think I’ll know the answer if I get to see it in a multiple choice context (which is how the tests work). At least that’s what I’m hoping.

I was going to do a practice test last night, but when I clicked the “start” button, it came up with a surprise “Activate This Product Now!” screen, telling me that if I want to do the test I need to connect online to their web site and get a code. Of course, I don’t have Internet access from the hotel, so I was hosed. I tried to get my cell phone working as a modem via infrared, but that didn’t work so well.

I went to the web site this morning and entered one code, then got another code that I’ve written down that should, when I return to the room, successfully activate the test so I can make use of it.

Here’s something I’m wondering: How come coffee foams up like pee bubbles? That whole idea disturbs me.

9:56p

I’ve been trying, for the last 10 minutes, to reply to a message via webmail. But the stupid “compose message” screen will not come up and I’m pretty much ready to beat the crap out of it… in a, uh, virtual sort of way.

The rest of the class is still working on their labs, and I’m boooooored. I think I may play a little Game Boy, since I finished my book last night and I don’t have anything here to read.

10:06a

Hold on to your seats, folks, we’ve finally started class.

10:24a

I thought of a cool idea for a program (for the .NET developers out there). A full-featured configuration file editor. Windows/console applications have pretty extensive configuration files that allow you to govern how they link to different library versions, which paths they search, etc. Web apps have different security settings, handlers specified, etc. Microsoft provides the “mscorcfg.msc” tool that does some of the Windows/console app configuration for you, but it’s not all-inclusive and it doesn’t do web apps. I’ve seen a semi-functional web app config file editor, but it didn’t do Windows/console apps. A full config editor would be a Cool Thing, and I think it might give me some good experience developing applications for Windows in .NET.

Not to mention making it easier for everyone to work with configuration files.

I’m thinking if you wrote your classes write, wired them up with XmlSerializer attributes, you could just deserialize the configuration file directly, make changes to the classes, then just serialize it all back into your config file.

Hmmm…

11:32a

Check this out

  • 128MB USB drive for $37, and it’s smaller than other USB drives. I may have to splurge on this.

11:56a

Lab time.

I have to say, I’m feeling a little oppressed in this overly geeky environment. I mean, sure, I work in a software development company, but the terrible, terrible geek humor isn’t remotely as prevalent as it seems to be here.

I sit in class here and people say things like, “I can’t tell you how many times I was burned by not having a copy constructor” and then snicker at the… humor? Riiiight. You’re so funny! You should be a comedian!

2:11p

Well, I’ve had lunch (sandwich) and finished the lab work, and now we’re moving on. I’m glad we’re sticking to the schedule; we might be able to move right along.

2:40p

Webmail is working again, so I was able to reply to a couple of messages. That’s cool.

3:45p

I think we’re on the last lab of the day. We get to write simple chat server applications. Should be interesting.

I noticed the bathroom here smells like the one at my dentist’s office. Sort of a mixture of urinal cakes and Scope mouthwash.

4:41p

That’s the end of lab. I’m outta here.