Blue Sky Hosting and the cScape Group have finally attained two very highly regarded statuses within the I.T Industry, and it is my pleasure to be able to announce this here on my own personal blog! It has been a long year of organising, managing, creating and work to produce what was required to gain these “badges”.
First of all Blue Sky Hosting is a daughter company to cScape Group Limited, and organisation made up of a number of other companies. Between ourselves at Blue Sky, and the rest of the cScape group, we were able to attain two gold competences within the Microsoft Partner system. Recently Microsoft changed the system to make gaining the “gold” status a lot harder than it was before, this meant that we had to knuckle down and work more to attain what was required. As of the start of this month, we are proud to be able to say that we have the Gold Hosting and Gold Digital Marketing competencies, along with 10 other silver competences.
Finally, Blue Sky Hosting was proud to achieve its ISO 9001:1998 accreditation. ISO 9001 is the internationally recognised standard for the quality management of businesses. Certification by an accredited certification body shows commitment to quality, customers, and a willingness to work towards improving efficiency. Also it demonstrates the existence of an effective quality management system that satisfies the rigours of an independent, external audit, in our case from the British Assessment Bureau.
London Expo time, and once again I am with DDR:UK and having a great time with all the machines, consoles and tournaments for the day. This marked the 6th year that we have been attending the London MCM Expo, and things have evolved majority since then. I mean I found this picture the other day, this is our stand from 2005!
Back to 2011, and things went very well. We still are, and always will be, pushing to better ourselves, and to bring more to the event. All in all, if you ignore the issues we had with security (who were doing their job I have to admit), it was a pretty fun weekend. Just got to concentrate on the future with that.
For a brief moment on the Sunday of the Expo, and a number of miss-communicated messages, I was able to actually get outside (yes, outside, the one place I don’t think I have EVER gotten to during the event itself), and join Street-Angel, SuzuNyan, NavigatorxNami and a number of others for their “Clamp in 3-D Land” photoshoot! Unfortunately I ended up being a few minutes late, but I got a few photos!
You should be able to see all the photos in the Cosplay part of my weekend below:
I separated them out, but below are the photos of the DDR:UK stand itself:
Once again many thanks to all of those that attended and helped out on the DDR:UK stand, and additional thanks to those cosplayers that put up with me for the few moments I got away too!
The clocks tick, and 9 years on, I am back in Southampton for the UK’s (and possibly Europe’s) longest running Anime Convention – Minamicon 17!
As you are probably aware, at a number of Anime Conventions I assist and run the DDR:UK Games Room, which usually takes up most of my time at the event. Thankfully I had a very persistent Street-Angel and a patient SuzuNyan bug me for most of the convention to run off with them and take some photos.
Annoyingly, I was in a rush at the time as the Games Room was being packed up, and I wasn’t really meant to be out taking photos! I did leave most of the team working hard to pack up everything, ready for me to take back home. I am very thankful for all the help I do get from the team, I wouldn’t be doing this at all if I didn’t have them hanging about helping out, all off their own back. However that is another story. One of the major problems I have with the photos I took, was just down to silly, normal things which anyone taking photos should have thought about. The silly and normal things which I completely forgot! A number of the photos were washed out, forgetting the sun was quite low in the day, and a number of my lenses do not have a hood. This has had an effect on the colour within the picture, which on attempts to try and fix, just made the skin colour look off and odd! A second personal annoyance is that I was thinking so much about the Games Room, I forgot to try a number of shots and poses that I had been saving up for a situation like this. In hindsight, all of this could have been sorted and dealt with however, in the case of this weekend, I am just happy that I was given another opportunity to take some photos! My thanks go out to you both, especially for the persistence that got me out of the Games Room!
The costumes which each of them wore are as follows:
All of the photos from these shoots are available here:
As some of you may be aware, I have been working hard towards attaining my VCDX, the highest level of qualification from VMware at present. The process involves building and writing up a large scale design, filling out an application form, submitting this to VMware for them to process and check through with a fine tooth comb. Finally, if you get through those stages, and they feel that you have the technical expertise and knowledge to continue, you are then invited to move on to defend your design in front of a panel of highly qualified individuals.
Since my VCAP-DCD pass, I have been working hard to ensure that I had all my notes ready, started writing up some of the design document, and there is a serious amount of work that has to be done.
Then a few weeks ago, the email came through that I had been waiting for, the content of which showed that I could put my defence through, in the UK, as soon as May! That was enough to get me going, however the deadline for submissions of the design document is the 21st of March (which happens to be next Monday).
Time has always been against me, work has been very busy with all the new projects on the line, and additionally the speed at which I needed to complete the document in question. Something which should have been possible. Then disaster struck. On Thursday last week, I had one of my rare but very powerful migraine attacks.
If you do not know me that well, or even you may know me very well – just I have never had one at any time you have known, I often suffer from Migraines. There are times where they are the simple type, small flickering lights, the headache which hurts, and the loss of hearing… however once in a while, I get the big ones. I seem to be getting better, the last one I had was about a year ago, and before that, it was almost three years ago, however everything seems to reset when I have them. Thursday afternoon, just after lunch, I was bundled into a taxi to Waterloo station, and suffered the whole 2 and a half hour trip back, whereby I ended up in bed… for most of the weekend. I am still suffering the headache now, and probably will for a few weeks, however that was bad for me on a different level. I lost 3 days worth of time towards putting my application together, and I feel that I may just miss out on the deadline.
It’s never a good thing for illnesses to happen, but deadlines are deadlines. I am still going to attempt to put what I can together, but if I feel it is not going to be complete enough, I will not submit it and waste people’s time. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, and I need to get it right the first time. I am truly kicking myself at the moment, as even as the email said “be one of the first”, that I really had hoped for. The other dates for defences, are in other countries later in the year, August in America, and November in Singapore, both of which clash with events I am due to attend.
I do wish all those that have been able to submit an application the very best of luck and I can’t wait to hear the stories at the other end. I do hope myself that I find the time in the next few days to finish everything, however… this could be the end of the road for me.
Back in November 2010, I was lucky enough to have been asked by VMware to attend the second part of their VMware Certified Advanced Professional exams, Datacentre Design – also known as the VCAP-DCD. I had attempted this version of the exam in its previous format for VMware Infrastructure 3, however I wasn’t having much luck with this system.
Once again due to the NDA in place on such an exam, there is very little I will be able to say about the actual content of the exam. This was my first time into the realms of a beta exam, so I was preparing myself for any eventuality when I walked in. Typically companies run beta versions of their exams for select people, so that they can work out the bugs and issues with any questions that may have been missed in any internal QA of them. In my case, we were presented with a vast number of questions, and a much longer time limit to go through them. I did feel that the time limit they had imposed on us, probably wasn’t enough for a proper run through of all the questions, however being a beta, you were also keeping an eye out for other mistakes.
The exam itself has two sections, the usual multiple choice questions which most computing exams are similar too, question, then an a/b/c/d answer, but also included click and drag questions, which required you to put specific items in order of relevance. The second section of the exam are design diagram questions, these give you a scenario in which an infrastructure is formed, and you have to then draw a diagram based on this scenario, plus figure out where items will go. For example, if you had a number of servers, and a number of storage devices, you had to put them in the right place, link them together properly, and ensure you use the right links. In the previous version of exam, this section was my downfall, the interface was clunky, and you spend more time working out how to use the interface, rather than answering the question. The VCAP-DCD version has been much improved, and is simpler to use, giving you more time to understand the situation and create the appropriate diagram.
Once again this exam took place at a Pearson Vue Professional Centre, so I had to go through the process of emptying everything out of all my pockets and going in light! The exam itself ran on the same computers as the VCAP-DCA exam, however the interface had been updated to the newer style one that I have seen of late (specifically my CCNA exam looked very similar). The biggest issue that came up was the lack of a back button (again like the CCNA exam), however this time I was able to log a comment about this within the exam interface, something I believe a lot more of the beta candidates did, and VMware listened, so the live version of the exam contains the elusive back button. You will be surprised how handy this button is, if you make a silly mistake, or need to review a question, this helps a lot. Without the button it does make you think more about the question, and gets you to double check right then, however with the beta, this just make things more frustrating!
All in all I was very pleased with this exam, VMware had listen to comments made before, and the new updated interfaces are actually quite fun to work with! The only final issue I had was the wait for the results. I was informed it could take between 6 and 7 weeks before I got the result, and I knew there had been delays. The real odd one was they had made live the VCAP-DCD exam, and the beta candidates still didn’t have any results, and to top it all off, the live exam gives you a result at the end, rather than the long wait like with the VCAP-DCA. However, it all came to a head at midnight GMT last night!
Results day… and I got an email… with someone else’s name on! Wasn’t a good start, I saw their marks before their name and then started to get twitchy as I was told they were sending them out again. — 2 hours later… I got the email I had been waiting for. A lovely PASS!!! – After all these many weeks, it really was fantastic to see the result! This now makes me a VCAP-DCD qualified person, giving me both the VCAP qualifications.
This leaves me with one final step and qualification to complete… one that I have been aiming for for a few years now… the VCDX – VMware Certified Design Expert. To quote from their documentation about the qualification:
VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) is the highest level of VMware certification. Comprised of an elite group of highly-skilled design architects of VMware enterprise deployments, this highest level of VMware certification is designed for veteran professionals who want to validate and demonstrate their expertise in VMware virtual infrastructure.
Here goes nothing!
For anyone interested, here is an image of the path I took to get to this stage.
A few months ago, I had the privilege of being allowed to take an early shot at the VMware’s new advanced qualification that they had bought in. The VMware Certified Advanced Professional, specifically the Datacentre Administration qualification (VCAP-DCA). I had previously been invited to take the qualification’s predecessor for the VMware Infrastructure 3 system, that didn’t produce a qualification, which meant that I had an idea of what I was going to be expected to do during this exam.
Due to the nature of the NDA and agreements that you accept before you take the exam, there isn’t a lot I can talk about the actual content itself. Needless to say that I was very impressed at how the system has evolved from its original format.
The main difference between the VCAP-DCA exam and its original incarnation, is that they have done away with all the multiple choice questions which you had to answer. This time you are presented with a remote controlled desktop of a fully working, very much live system, for you to work on a number of scenarios. You are repeatedly reminded that this is a live system, so if you make any sort of changes which breaks your connection, there isn’t any magic reset button! So say you decided to log onto an ESX server and change its IP, well you are pretty much stuffed! The remote system had changed since I last used it, this time you are presented with a small tool bar of the specific software items you would be required to use, and access to a limited amount of documentation. You are then presented with a number of these scenarios, which are there to test different aspects of your knowledge and skills. They can range from anything from changing passwords, all the way up to configuring virtual switches and virtual machines.
VMware also recently introduced a VCAP-DCD, Datacentre Design Qualification, which I will be going into on a later date, however moving all the questions to this exam, and having all the practical tasks to do in this exam I think was a very good move by VMware. Design is very much a theory based part of the planning and administration of virtual infrastructures, while the administration side is a lot more hands on, and on the fly, making this layout appropriate for the qualifications in question.
All exams are not without their issues though, and some of these are not always the fault of VMware.
The exam was taken in a Pearson Vue Professional Centre, these buildings have a little more security on it compared to some of the other buildings I have taken computing exams in. This I feel for this sort of exam is appropriate, as they are designed to be for the best of the IT industry out there, not for anyone just to walk in pass and have a random set of letters after their name. The computers in the centre had recently had some changes made to them, so my resolution on the monitor wasn’t up to scratch. This caused me a major problem during my exam. The very first part of the exam, just after you fill out a short survey, is that it asks you to select a resolution for the remote desktop client to connect to. The lowest setting was actually larger than the screen I had on, so I was constantly moving the vSphere Client and Putty windows about, just so I could see what I was doing. Additionally, there was a slight problem, in that sometimes the connection would freeze up, this could just be due to the number of people taking exams that day, however your remote desktop client is connected externally somewhere on the planet Earth, so it could have been congestion as well.
Finally the major part of the exam… how they score you. Unlike other multiple choice question exams, where you can get your result the moment you answer your last question, or in the simulation based exams which other companies have started to bring in, which test your result, and not how you got there, this exam is recorded. All your actions, mouse clicks, keyboard shortcuts, the lot, are recorded and then reviewed by the VMware Certification Team. They review all the actions you take during the course of the exam and score you appropriately. A few weeks after you take the exam, they will email you the result. I am from the time where getting your exam results from a computing exam straight away was always the best part of the exam, as there was no waiting, but this time the wait was painful! Just shy of one month after I took the exam, I finally got the result…
I passed! Which means I am now a VCAP-DCA! (Certificate number VCAPDCA-32, yes that is #32, in the world! :P)
On the 2nd of October 2010, I was able to get into London to visit Hyper Japan, which was running at the Old Truman Brewery, London. After the issue with our tickets, and a long wait in the queue, we finally got into the event at just gone mid-day. This is the first event in a LONG time where I have actually gone as an attendee, and not as anything to do with the event, or organisation of. Just plain ole me!
At this event, the main sceptical of the day was the Cosparade, which was split into two sections, normal competition and the main prize competition, which consisted of a trip for two to Japan!
After wondering around for a short while, we headed over to the Cosparade area, and due to timing issues on our part, we got there just as it was starting… which meant bad seating (or in our case, standing!) Still Foxy and I continued all the same, with me having to hold my camera in the air, and using Live View to take the photos.
After the show, we met up with Street-Angel and Emizone who had entered into the main competition of the afternoon. Their piece was very good, the scream at the end, while standing next to the speaker, was enough to make me jump!
While we were there, we bumped into Ben, who happened to have recently bought…
All in all the weekend was a nice relaxing weekend, we didn’t go back on the Sunday as we had decided that it was a great day to chill, and have Dominos Pizza and Ice Cream for breakfast! Saturday was fun, there were some up and downs, and it was great to see friends again.
The full gallery of all the images I have taken can be found here
Once again delayed with the update, but I have been all over the country these last few weeks, that I have been completely side tracked!
A few weeks back, I was invited along to Street-Angel’s abode for a nice weekend of photo shoots and general socialising. We were lucky also to have SuzuNyan join is for the Saturday for a Haruhi Wonderland shoot, and additionally we was joined by a fellow photographer Foxy.
It was great to hang about with everyone, and the weekend went as well as it could have done, it was a shame that we couldn’t do all that we wanted due to MIA people and other circumstances, however I am very pleased with the outcome.
The full gallery of all the images I have taken can be found here
A little delayed on the update, but here we go all the same!
I was lucky enough to be able to grab Abby for a Photoshoot on the Bank Holiday Monday just gone, and a recent trip up north, meant I could also visit the National Heritage Site “Calke Abbey” and the grounds around there.
The first shoot was with Abby on the Bank Holiday Monday. We did have a great time, avoiding the odd person when she dressed up as Snow White, however I would have liked more time to continue with the shoot.
The second shoot at Calke Abbey was more for the views and landscape, in an attempt to try and see if I could get any better at these types of shots! The following are the best of the best for these photos!
I wish to thank Abby for being the model for me, Kayne and Kate for hanging about while I was taking photos of random things!
Just a quick note to say that I have finished the Gallery Page, and it is now on line at the top. This links directly to my Flickr account’s uploads.
For people wondering, I do have both a Fickr and a DeviantArt page, and you can find them linked here: