Passing Exam 70-461: Querying Microsoft SQL 2012/2014

Recently I passed my first Microsoft Exam. After lots of time studying, tinkering and practising I can now say I’ve passed exam 70-461: Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014.

For those looking to take exams you might find my “study mix” helpful. I’m not going to divulge what was on the exam but what I would say is that you need to be prepared and you really, really need to know your T-SQL right from the knowledge about how and why queries work to how you write them.

  • Courses – I attended a course in Leeds, West Yorkshire provided by a company called QA Ltd. They provided a service they call “certification in a box” which is: the course, a voucher for the corresponding Microsoft labs for 14 days, a voucher for a MeasureUp practice exam for 180 days and a voucher to take the final exam. The instructors were very knowledgeable and I thoroughly enjoyed the courses as well as learning a lot.
  • Training Books – My humble beginnings in SQL were from Sam’s Teach Yourself SQL in 10 Minutes a Day but for this exam you need something far heavier. Microsoft Press have a book written specifically for those taking exam 70-461. Just a word a of caution: don’t take the included practice exam as a good measure of what the real exam is like. Microsoft Press even event spelt ‘training’ wrong on the CD label.
  • Practice Exams – The course from QA provided a practice exam from MeasureUp. Again, I’m not going to let you in on the exam content but this practice exam isn’t exactly what you should expect for the real thing. It was great for learning as it does provide explanations of why an answer was wrong.
  • Experience – As I mentioned above you really need to know the practicalities of how SQL works. If you can do it under pressure in your job you can do it in an exam (which is less pressure!).
  • Lab – As a keen target archer I found inspiration to build a database on a PC at home. This gave me a great example of how to build an eventually query data from it without regurgitating examples.

Lastly a word about “braindumps”. Don’t. That’s all you need to know bout them.

My next exam will be 70-462: Administering SQL Server 2012/2014 and then followed by Exam 70-411 to hopefully earn an MCSA in SQL Server.

Let’s Review WiFi Security

I recently decided to update my wireless keys and I wanted to share some notes to help others understand what needs to be done to not only have a secure network but also one that performs well.

Tip 1: Choose WPA2.

WEP and WPA are both done for. In addition the 802.11n spec states that you must use WPA2 or else your WiFi won’t set a rate of any higher than 54Mbps. You also need WMM APSD enabled so don’t forget that either. Is there any counter argument left here?

If you are in an enterprise environment you should deploy WPA2-Enterprise which relies on an accounting method such as RADIUIS instead of shared paraphrases to authenticate. This makes it much easier to manage who or what gains access to the network.

Tip 2: choose a sensible length key with a mix of letters, cases, numbers and symbols.

Whilst you’re unlikely to have an issue with someone sat outside in a white van cracking your WiFi keys it’s no harm to choose a password that is something other than a word you might find in a dictionary.

Balance your passphrase complexity and length with user friendliness. A 32 digit key that looks like your cat had a rampage on your keyboard only infuriates your family and tires poor little fingers.

A passphrase 12 digits long with uppercase, lowercase, some numbers and a few symbols thrown in should suffice. Don’t write it down on a scrap of paper either!

Tip 3: Don’t rely on MAC filtering or hiding your SSID. They aren’t security settings. They’re actually management functions to help guide 

MAC filtering can be very cumbersome to maintain not to mention someone in that infamous white van mentioned above can sniff out what MAC adresses are transmitting on WiFi which can then be spoofed very easily.

Hiding your SSID in effect sets a flag to the device OS “do not display me”. Imagine of someone wrote software that just ignored such a flag? I’m sure someone hasn’t done that. Surely…

Tip 4: Segregate guest traffic and don’t hand out connection details to your core network.

If you want to offer guess access do it right. Even in a SOHO environment you should avoid the risk of someone introducing a malware bitten device into your network.

For best results your guest access needs to separate the guest traffic by using a VLAN. Consult your router’s documentation for specific details here.

 

 

Hello World

I am pleased to be able to introduce myself. I am Joseph Scott from the United Kingdom. I have recently moved away from a family business where I was employed as an IT & Marketing consultant and have started life as a technical consultant with a specialisation in financial systems.