Starting in 2015 Microsoft will drop Prometric for MCP and MTA exams and exclusively use Pearson VUE.

I received the email below and it’s pretty important.  Starting in 2015 if you want to take a Microsoft Certification Path (MCP) or Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) exam you won’t be able to use Prometric.  You’ll have to use Pearson VUE.  For Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) exams it will still be Certiport. 

 

 

 

We’re making it easier and more convenient for you to register for and take MCP and MTA exams!

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Microsoft

Important Information about Microsoft Certification Exams

We’re making it easier and more convenient for you to register for and take MCP and MTA exams!

Effective immediately, we’re partnering with Pearson VUE to bring you new location and appointment options when scheduling your exams. (You can still take our exams at Prometric testing centers through December 31, 2014, but starting January 1, 2015, all of our testing will be delivered by Pearson VUE only.)

When you schedule your exams with Pearson VUE, you’ll enjoy several benefits:

Your appointments will appear on your MCP dashboard, where you can manage them and find preparation resources.
Your photo may appear on your score reports, helping to prove its authenticity to prospective clients and employers.*
Your exam results will appear on your transcript within one business day.

It’s easy to schedule an exam with Pearson VUE. You can do it:

On the web, at our Microsoft Learning web site.
By phone, with Pearson VUE directly.
In person, at a Pearson VUE testing center.

But this is important: regardless of how you choose to schedule, you’ll first need:

An active Microsoft Account. We use this to verify your identity and to provide access to MCP benefits and resources.
A profile on our Microsoft Learning web site. We use this to keep track of your appointments and allow you to manage them.

Creating a Microsoft Account is easy—and if you’re already an MCP, you probably already have one. Use the same Microsoft Account that you use to access your transcript and MCP benefits. Creating a profile is also easy, and you only have to do it once.

If you register for an exam on-line, you’ll be prompted to create a profile if you don’t already have one. If you want to register by phone or in-person instead, you can create a profile by following these steps:

1. On the Microsoft Learning web site, in the upper right corner, click Sign in.

2. Sign in using your Microsoft account. Important: If you are an MCP, use the Microsoft Account associated with your member site benefits.

3. In the upper right corner, click Account, and then click Profile Settings.

4. Create, edit, or verify your profile, and then click Save.

For more information on Pearson VUE and Microsoft exam testing, please click here.

*where legally permissible.

All rights reserved. Microsoft respects your privacy. Please read our online Privacy Statement.

Microsoft

© 2014 Microsoft Corporation.

Microsoft Corporation

One Microsoft Way

Redmond, WA 98052

Incoming call “claiming” to fix your computer SCAM

First let me say that I am a very knowledgeable IT consultant so I knew what I was doing the entire time.  I don’t recommend doing anything a unsolicited caller asks you to do no matter what.  As you’ll see below the trick this person tried was to try to fool me that they knew something about my computer that only they would know.

95% of the calls to my old home phone number are from unsolicited telemarketers even though my number is on the government do not call list.  I think I just keep the number around so I can mess with them when they call.  I feel if they’re breaking the law and wasting my time I’ll waste their time.  I usually pretend to be interested to string them along for as long as I can before dropping the do not call list speech on them and letting them know I just wanted to waste their time.  I also let them know the company they’re working for is breaking the law.  They either debate, argue, tell lies, verbally insult me, or hang up.  Hey, whatever happens after they make my phone ring illegally is fair game right?  My record keeping them on the line is about 6 minutes and I’m working on ways to keep them on longer if possible.

Today when my home phone rang the caller ID said “Name Unavailable 997-914-9783”.  I was uploading a 4.2GB file (SQL 2008 R2) so I had some time to take the call.  It was from a gentleman that claimed to be Peter Brown even though he had a thick Indian accent.  I could hear other locals working around and/or next to him.  He said he was calling me from “computer maintenance department”.  Of course I knew where this was going so I put him on speakerphone and decided to go along with his game, or should I say scam.  He said the call was about my Windows computer.  He went on to say that they have been receiving some error message (not plural but singular without the s) from my computer and they’re calling to help me.  I asked him how he knows it’s my computer and he said my “computer ID number” has been entered into their database.  He said if my computer downloads any virus they receive the error message.  Trying to pull more info from him he said it was my “computer security ID number”.  Long story short he wanted me to open a command prompt and type in ASSOC then hit enter.  ASSOC is used to display and modify file name extensions in ALL computers.  Also the info is pretty common among all computers.  To gain his trust he wanted to say the CLSID number to me and if it didn’t match what I saw in front of me I could hang up.  Sure, I’ll play along knowing that number is the same in ALL computers.  Of course what he told me matched my computer, and my server, and another server but I just went along for fun.

After he believed he gained my trust he directed me to a website (microsoftsupport015.com) where he wanted me to download and run a file.  He said it will connect me to a Microsoft technician that will fix my problems.  That’s where I started challenging him saying I’m unsure of downloading a file and running it.  I explained to him the .ZFSendToTarget=CLSID number is the same for all computers since I ran it on another computer.  He tried to tell me that both of my machines were infected.  I told him he’s part of a scam and debated with him for a while.  He finally hung up on me.  The screenshots of ASSOC and the website are below.

After all of this happened I decided to spin up a VM in Azure, install Microsoft Endpoint Protection, update MS EP, go to the website, download the software, and run it to see what happens.  This is in an isolated environment on a machine that I don’t care about using one time unique credentials.  It has internet access but isn’t touching other machines so it’s pretty safe to blow up.  I can also delete the VM whenever I want so whatever software gets installed won’t keep running.  The file that downloaded was named aa_v31.exe and MS EP didn’t see it as a threat.  The software appears to be AMMYY remote desktop software.  It appears if I kept “Peter Brown” on the phone he would have given me an address to enter so they could remote control my machine to do who knows what.  I think I’ll power down this VM and spin it back up when I get another call like this to see what they do.  I don’t get these calls often so it might be a while with what I find out.

In the meantime people please don’t fall for this scam.  If they can’t tell you some information like your ISP, IP address, MAC address or something that is really unique to your computer then just hang up.  If you are a non-technical person don’t worry.  Just hang up anyway.  People don’t reach out to you and offer to fix your computer via the phone.  If they do more than likely it’s a scam.  Oh and by the way so are the lower your credit card rates calls.  I enjoy them the best.  They get so mad when you keep them from “selling” their service to other people, I mean victims.

For more detailed information go here www.webologist.co.uk/internet-security/pc-support-security-scams-zfsendtotarget-clsid-trick
This person took it farther than I did so you can see more of what happens.

Software I was directed to run

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ASSOC Results.  He rambled off the CLSID number below.

.ZFSendToTarget=CLSID{888DCA60-FC0A-11CF-8F0F-00C04FD7D062}

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Screenshot of the website I was asked to visit and download their “security software”

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Microsoft Azure Websites and ClearDB’s free MySQL database

A few weeks ago I used Microsoft Live Writer to create and post a blog article.  When I posted it to Catapult’s blog it worked.  When I posted it to my personal blog it failed.  I won’t discuss Catapult’s setup but my personal blog is WordPress running on Azure websites with ClearDB’s free MySQL database.  When I tried to post it to my personal blog I ended up getting some 500 error or something like that in Live Writer and it wouldn’t post.  When you’re in technology one question you always have to ask yourself is what changed between when something was working and when it stopped working.  That was pretty simple in this case.  My workstation crashed and I had to reload the operating system, software, and re-configure Live Writer on the new machine.  I was pretty sure that was the problem but I blew it off at the time since I had more important things to work on.  Today while trying to edit text in a WordPress tile it kept resorting back to what it originally was before I hit the update button.  That’s when I knew there was a problem bigger than an incorrect setting in Live Writer.  First I couldn’t post anything and now I can’t change a single word in a tile.  Now I was forced to troubleshoot my personal website.

I logged into my Azure account and clicked link to take me to my ClearDB account.  It turns out my free MySQL database was over the free 20MB limit.  Azure doesn’t tell you this but you’ll see it on your ClearDB page.  When you’re over your limit the database goes into a read only mode and nothing can write to it.  This explains the vague error when posting a new blog article and also why I couldn’t make any changes to the website from the WordPress admin site today.  It also explained why I couldn’t delete spam comments in the WordPress admin site today.  I’d hit delete and they’d come right back! 

Using guidance from the websites below I tried to clean it up through the MySQL workbench but it still didn’t take me below the 20MB limit.  I ended up having to upgrade my account from the free version to a paid version adding $10 a month to my budget for a 1GB database. 

I’m a little upset that I now have to spend more money on a DB for my website but overall the Azure website has been flawless.  I’ve never seen it offline unlike where I had my website hosted in the past.  Going from 20MB to 1GB hopefully I’ll never hit THAT database limit.

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/onemicrosoftvoice/archive/2013/01/02/using-mysql-workbench-with-windows-azure-web-sites.aspx

http://www.johnpapa.net/azurecleardbmysql/

Intel® Centrino® Advanced-N 6200 AGN wireless network card and Windows Phone hotspot problem?

Recently my work notebook crashed.  I had to reload it from scratch.  After I reloaded it I didn’t have any problems connecting to my home and other wireless networks.  When I could connect my notebook to my Windows Phone hotspot my notebook would blucscreen in 5-30 seconds.  I encountered this same problem last year and the fix this time was the same fix last year. 

The wireless card in my Dell Latitude E6510 notebook is an Intel® Centrino® Advanced-N 6200 AGN.  All I had to do was install the drivers from Intel replacing the drivers from Microsoft.  Once I did that I didn’t get any more bluescreens when I would connect to my Windows Phone.  I guess the Microsoft drivers for that NIC don’t like to play nice with a Windows Phone hotspot. 

Bluescreen.

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No more bluescreens. 

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What I do for a living

 

A lot of my friends and family ask me what I do for a living.  When I tell them I’m an IT Consultant specializing in Microsoft technology they just stare at me for a few moments then change the subject that they brought up.  If they don’t change the subject they tell me about a problem with their computer and expect me to tell them how to fix it.  I thought I’d discuss my career a little more.

 

I work for a company called Catapult Systems.  They’re a private company that’s been around for 20 years.  Their headquarters is located in Austin Texas.  Catapult has offices in:

  • Texas – Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio
  • Florida – Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa
  • Colorado – Denver
  • Washington D.C. area
  • Arizona – Phoenix
  • Washington – Seattle

I’ve had the privilege of working in the Austin and Houston offices.  These days I’m part of the D.C. office while living in Western Michigan.  As of 2014 I’ve been with Catapult for 10 years.  Catapult is considered a Microsoft Partner.  A Microsoft Partner basically means Microsoft trusts us to implement Microsoft products and solutions for companies.  It’s more complicated than that but I’m keeping this simple.  What companies do is hire Catapult to, well do stuff for them.  It can be creating a website, designing and implementing a custom application or custom web application, implementing servers with software to support business needs, outsource some or all IT work, and more.  I’m in the infrastructure division.  I work with Microsoft software and a wide range of hardware from HP, IBM, and Dell.  I am not a programmer.  I do not work with code all day getting something to work.  Catapult Systems has people for that.  I’m capable of doing some things like:

  • Migrating mail from one version of mail software to another.
  • Installing server operating systems using best practices.
  • Deploying Windows 7/8 to end users without any user interaction keeping their data and settings.
  • Implementing and locking down firewalls.
  • Configuring and deploying anti-malware software.
  • Making sure workstations receive Microsoft updates.
  • Migrating applications from huge data centers to “the cloud”.
  • Packaging applications to be deployed to workstations silently and without end user intervention.
  • Consolidating user accounts during mergers and acquisitions.
  • Performing health checks of designated environments.
  • Providing organizations a way to see if applications will run on new operating systems.
  • Installing and setup fault tolerant databases.
  • Design data backup strategies.
  • Architect remote access for employees.
  • Assist with having companies have more virtual servers than physical servers.
  • Migrate to newer versions of server type software with minimal downtime for the users.

The lengths of projects that I work on range from 2 weeks to a year depending on what’s involved.  At times I have to be on-site and other times I can work remotely.

I hope this blog helped explain on a low level what I do for a living.  I love what I do and see myself doing it into retirement.

Microsoft Azure Open Licensing for partners

“Microsoft Azure will be available for partners to resell in the open licensing programs on August 1st of this year(2014)”. 

 

This is great news as can be one less bill for companies to pay that are looking for a partner to implement and then manage certain aspects of IT.  It also combines the consulting and service fees in setting up a solution with ongoing costs.  I see this as a way for partners to keep a long term open relationship with a client. 

http://www.digitalwpc.com/Community/Perspectives/Pages/Announcing-Microsoft-Azure-in-Open-Licensing-for-partners.aspx#fbid=Ws6bDC9pQn-

Redeem your Bing reward credits for 100GB of OneDrive storage for a measly 100 credits!

I have 787 Bing reward credits and was going to redeem some of them for a $5 Starbucks or $5 Amazon card.  Normally a $5 card is about 475 Bing Reward credits but I noticed an option for 100GB of storage on OneDrive for only 100 credits.  100GB of storage on OneDrive retails for $50 so if you ask me that’s a deal.  Unfortunately I can’t use it as I already purchased the largest storage plan available but I wanted to share this with everyone.  If you want to redeem this offer you have until June 30, 2014.

 

To renew visit http://www.bing.com/rewards/redeem/000100000056

 

If you haven’t signed up for Bing Rewards and want to learn more visit http://www.bing.com/rewards/dashboard

 

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