Using the Cloud to Study for the Cloud

Windows Azure Certified…

This morning [Saturday December 3, 2011] I woke up early to start my venture to write my Windows Azure Certification Exam.

The first road block to this experience was attempting to find a test center that is open on Weekends. As a consultant it is hard to take time off during a project to actually book your exam. Luckily, I have a good friend Mitch Garvis who encouraged me down the path of Microsoft Certification, who graciously helped me find a Prometrics test center which opened on weekends.

The second issue was finding the time (or ability to study). For the past few months I have been working in Ottawa which is approximately 500kms away from Toronto. Often my weekends are filled with travelling in which provides an unbearable amount of downtime which I had to attempt to minimize to be able to get the needed amount of time to prepare for the exam.

How I got it done…

In order to minimize my downtime while waiting in line at Airport Security, the short time waiting for my flight, and while in Air travelling I knew that I would have to decrease the size of my study tools.

My arsenal of Devices:

  • Dell Precision M6500 – 17” Portable Workstation (Notice I didn’t say Laptop, it’s HUGE)
  • Amazon Kindle DX – 9” Portable E-Reader
  • Samsung Focus – 4” Super AMOLED Display

Knowing I had the most amount of time to study while I was mobile I needed to opt for a portable solution. This quickly removed my Dell Laptop from the mix (although, not completely). When studying for an Exam you need a few main pieces of equipment:

  • An Internet Connection (Trust, but Verify)
  • Easy Input Device (Physical Keyboard > On-Screen Keyboard)
  • Some screen real estate.

With these limitation in mind I looked for a way to provide myself with content with a large display area, but make it viewable on a smaller display.

Enter Microsoft OneNote

OneNote is an amazing tool. If you don’t use it, learn it! Essentially, It’s a FiveStar Notebook on steroids. OneNote has a feature to “Save to the Web” which saves your notebook to Office WebApps which is an extension of the Office Applications made available as a Service (for free) online. The documents are stored in SkyDrive which is also a free service Microsoft Offers which gives you 25GB of storage in the Cloud.

Once the Notebook is created, it continuously synchronizes with SkyDrive as you fill the notebook with content. This is nice, as you don’t need to hit save, it’s all done automatically for you and makes it easy to add things on the run as you don’t get prompted to save when you’re trying to run off and catch your flight. Speaking of which.. off to my next one!

Just before jumping on my flight, I pull out my Windows Phone and open the Office App, click on the Notebooks App button and begin to Sync my Windows Azure Studying notebook to my phone.

After the was complete it was time to turn on Airplane mode and power down my device for take off. Once we reached cruising altitude I powered up my device and read my notes that I synced to my Phone from the Cloud.

Go write the exam!

Before you think you can tackle this exam on your own, remember I have had at least 2 years of experience using Windows Azure. There were still a few sections that I needed to brush up on before feeling comfortable enough to take the exam.

Go to the Microsoft Learning page for Exam 70-583, to see the Skills Measured for this exam.

Good Luck!