Certified Mail

Certified Mail

Licensing confusion, and more salary survey feedback.

License Confusion
I thought Em C. Pea’s July article, “Playing Chicken With Licensing,” was insightful. Can you clarify the excerpt: “After three years, you no longer have the right to keep using the software you purchased; you must buy a new version, or you’re breaking the law…”

My vendor says that this isn’t so.
—Sheldon Livingston
Largo, Florida

I’m an account executive for Softchoice, specializing in volume software licensing. I must say that the statement about Microsoft licenses “expiring” after three years is inaccurate. Although Microsoft seems to be heading toward a subscription model, most Microsoft licenses to date are perpetual. Once you’ve purchased a license for a particular version of a product, you retain perpetual rights to deploy that particular version. The specific “license agreement” you purchase the license under may expire in three years (in some cases, two years), but this will not affect usage rights.
—Anne Marie Griffin
Virginia Beach, Virginia

Thanks for correcting this gal’s over-simplified view of Microsoft licensing. Anyone who really needs to sort this stuff out for the enterprise, of course, should be in touch with a specialist, and plan on spending some significant time on the Microsoft Licensing Web site at www.microsoft.com/licensing/. There you’ll find that we’re both right! If you purchase new software under the Enterprise Agreement, you get the perpetual licenses and can keep running the software forever. But, if you opt for the Enterprise Subscription Agreement instead, you get a license “with product usage rights ending at term expiration.” At that point, you get to renew your agreement, buy a permanent license—or stop using the software.
   So, right now, there’s a choice. But, the leaves at the bottom of my teacup, and some of my enterprise contacts, say that Microsoft has been promoting ESA pretty heavily as the flexible and inexpensive alternative. Take a look at the comparison chart at www.microsoft.com/licensing/programs/sa/saolsleacompare.asp to see how Microsoft is positioning the various programs. And, of course, Microsoft has been floating trial balloons about an Office subscription for years now; don’t be surprised to see that as a heavily pushed way to buy Office 11 when it ships.
   And to think that Microsoft has been promoting Licensing 6.0 as a simpler alternative to the old programs!
—Em C. Pea

Personality Clash
Being the ENFP that I am, I intuited what author Greg Neilson, an INTJ, was really trying to say in June’s “Professionally Speaking” column when he suggested that the Myers-Briggs personality test can be used to help us in our career planning. People like me are in the wrong line of work. Damn.
—Bill Wettler
Irvine, California

Nuggets Reviewed
There are inaccuracies in James Carrion’s September “Drill Down” column, “Will You Strike It Rich?” regarding the review of CBT Nuggets MCSE video. The videos aren’t “blurry,” regardless of the screen resolution. At 800x600 resolution or higher, the viewer simply needs to click on View-Zoom 100 percent within Windows Media Player to get clear resolution. At 640x480, the viewer must click on View-Full Screen to get a perfect picture. An alternative to using Windows Media Player is the freely downloadable CBT Nuggets’ Media Player, designed and optimized for our training videos.

CBT Nuggets believes that people can use the training videos to learn the material and pass the exams without supplemental resources. The excerpt “...some of the details that may show up on the exams are glossed over or missed altogether. Normally, these ‘exam details’ show up in practice questions or study guides bundled with a certification product...” is damaging to the certification industry. The mentality that a person must cheat on the exam—have the questions and answers beforehand (as in braindumps)—to pass exams, has created the “paper certified” crisis. Our goal is to provide the most comprehensive, realistic and technically accurate training for vendor specific certifications—training that will help in the real world as it will for the exams.
—Dan Charbonneau
CBT Nuggets Development Team
Eugene, Oregon

When evaluating CBT Nuggets, my screen resolution was already set at 800x600 and the View-Zoom defaults to 100 percent for Windows Media Player 7.0. At that zoom level, the icons on the screen were jagged and unreadable. Changing the setting to View-Full Screen helped but was still not optimal. On the CBT Nuggets main screen, there’s a viewing tip that states that “Most Videos are shot at 640x480 resolution. Setting your screen resolution to 1024x768 will provide for an optimal viewing experience.”
   I stand by my remarks that the product will not lead to a passing score on a Microsoft exam. I’m not advocating the use of braindumps or the incorporation of real test questions into certification products but instead targeting the concepts covered in a product to match the level of detail you’d expect on the real exam. In addition, test preparation involves more then just learning how the product works, it also involves teaching candidates the fine art of question/analysis and dissection. Without a pool of practice questions on which to hone these important skills, a candidate could be knowledgeable and have years of real world experience, but still get lost in the “fluff” of a test question. Even Microsoft itself promotes the use of practice tests as a valid means to prepare for certification.
—James Carrion

Software Sensibility
Regarding Em C. Pea’s September column, “Does It Have To Be This Hard?” she says that “the software that handles reconciling check transactions between banks is largely trouble-free.”

In my experience, even this statement of quality isn’t true. I’ve worked with online banking and ATM software, and it’s plagued with errors. My friends in the banking industry say that banks rely not on avoidance of errors but in traceability and making the customer whole if something goes wrong. Money gets “lost” and “found” frequently, but it isn’t visible to the customer.

In some situations, higher costs and longer schedules are tolerated to get higher quality, but it still seems impossible to create an error-free application. There are no rules of physics in software to guide us to the correct conclusion or punish us when we break them. It’s difficult to visualize the overall state of a piece of software—you can’t take surveys and aerial photos of it. It seems like every application is a 39-cent taco—some just cost more and take longer to cook.
—Jon Pulsipher, MCSD
Redmond, Washington

Flunking Pass/Fail Scoring
I’ve completed courses toward my MCSE certification and have passed the 70-210 exam, making me an MCP. I recently took the 70-215 exam and failed. I studied with Transcender sample exams, questions from exam prep Web sites and other sample exams from my tech school instructor. I studied close to 400 sample questions, but found that all but about three or four of the 50 questions I hadn’t seen before. Since I failed the exam and have no way of knowing what I knew and what I didn’t know, I’m confused on how to go about studying for the exam a second time. After failing the exam, I felt like Microsoft was just out for my money. There’s no way to know what you missed on the exam so you can be better prepared for it the next time.
—Gary Ordway, MCP
Mission Viejo, California

It’s harder, with the new scoring system, to know your areas of strength or weakness on a given test. What the results are telling you, though, is that you’re not where you need to be yet. The best thing to do at this point would be to set up a network on which you can practice. Just studying test questions and answers isn’t enough; you need to understand how the technology works and go through the process of setting up the network, adding users, creating DNS zones, troubleshooting and so on, to a) pass the test, and b) be prepared to work in the field, (if you aren’t already). You’ll need at least two computers, and three or four would be even better. Find books that step you through various configurations; there are also training and certification companies you can find online that are becoming more lab oriented, allowing you to connect to their servers remotely and work on them in a setup closer to a real-world environment. Whatever methods you choose, you’ll need to get your hands dirty to be a solid test-taker, as well as a solid employee.
—Keith Ward

More Salary Survey Sentiments

I've read the comments in the August issue's "Salary Survey" regarding the disparity between an NT 4.0 MCSE and a Win2K MCSE, and I agree. Cross-platform familiarity is the real key to defining yourself in this very difficult job market. I've been involved in the IT field for quite a few years now and, finally, four years ago decided to get certified. I followed the MCSE track and made it a point to digest all the MCSE track objectives. I completed the track in November 1998 and continued to achieve the MCSE+I designation. During this time, I was working for a network integrator, using the skills that I'd learned. I then found out about Citrix and got certified as a CCA under MetaFrame 1.0. and then the Citrix CCEA program. I've distinguished myself among my peers as both a Microsoft and Citrix expert. I've also upgraded my MCSE credential to Win2K and MetaFrame certs to MetaFrame XP. I just landed a new position with a Fortune 500 firm after seven months of searching for the right fit (all the time remaining employed). What made me stand out wasn't my knowledge of Win2K but of how to migrate to Win2K and from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000, and how it all works with Citrix and its migration. I agree that Win2K alone won't get you where you want to be: You must create a portfolio of technology that defines you, then market that portfolio in your resumé. The real challenge with Microsoft's OSes of the day is being able to make them all play well together.
—Kevin Barrett, MCSE+I, CCEA
Orange, Connecticut

Think about the possibility of NT 4.0 MCSEs at higher salaries that haven’t yet or don’t plan to complete their Win2K certifications. Though the years of IT experience within these two areas is fairly close, I still suspect many of the Win2K MCSEs were never certified on NT 4.0, thus they haven’t been certified as long or don’t have as much relevant NT/W2K experience. -Name withheld Atlanta, Georgia There are others like me; our small but well-established company didn’t lay off anyone, but there are no salary increases across the board. We provide consulting, programming, training and software for midsize manufacturing firms. Otherwise, I think your numbers are pretty accurate, as they have been for the past four years.
— Will Goubert
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The comment about MCP jobs going overseas is incorrect. While many large firms are outsourcing programming jobs overseas, I don’t know anyone outsourcing operating system implementation or network engineering projects. As a matter of fact, many companies that were outsourcing programming jobs have now stopped the practice because of management and quality issues. Most firms, especially American ones, are not adept at remote controlling software projects. At the same time, American software products are sufficiently complicated that a serious commitment to programming discipline is required by the developers. This type of discipline is generally not provided nor understood by either overseas programmers or their management staffs.

The job problem is one of large companies being very discriminating when hiring. Since it’s now an employer’s market, you also have to have good credentials. This means at least a B.A. or B.S. in some technical field, a couple of years experience and some certifications. The total package is what employers are looking for. With so many IT people being put out of work by large company problems (WorldCom, Enron and so on), many qualified people are available at extremely reasonable prices. Unless you have good credentials, you aren’t going to get hired.

I teach Win2K courses at the College of Dupage in Illinois. My suggestion to students is to stop thinking they deserve a job and start thinking about marketing themselves. Do an objective inventory of yourself, your technical skills, education and language skills and then look at where you want to go.
—Bruce Waid, MCSE
Schaumburg, Illinois

I'm an MCSE in Orlando, Florida, with several years experience. After years of making the big money, I can't find a decent paying job in IT to save my hide. The last contract I had, two years ago, paid $40 an hour. The best offer I've received since the economy went bad was $11 an hour. Maybe I'm living in the wrong town, but I know a lot of people in this same predicament, and your salary numbers don't jibe with what's going on in Orlando. I don't buy it! —Name Withheld
Orlando, Florida

One reason the MCSD certification brings the highest salaries isn't the certification directly, but the content. I'm employed but job searching because I'm relocating to a different part of the United States. In my searches, I've noticed that the requirements for developers tend to be the same: "VB/VC++, SQL Server Design, ASP, XML, HTML, MTS/COM+/COM" and so forth. But even if the ad doesn't state "MCSD preferred," the MCSD requirements expose you to most of those areas; thus, you come pre-qualified, even if they don't specifically ask for the MCSD (many hiring managers seem to toss every techno-acronym that they've ever seen into an ad).

As a programmer/analyst, I design the architecture, figure in ROI and TCO, consider its impact on the backbone, design the database, code the app, bulletproof the user interface, and almost act as DBA through the whole project (all of which I truly enjoy). So anyone who's reached MCSD status isn't just a good VB code-cranker. Now, add to that equation 500,000 MCSEs vs. 34,000 MCSDs, and I think you'll find that the $70,000-plus salaries (for MCSDs) reported are quite accurate, to the dismay of the nay-sayers. I feel for the MCSEs, because they're equally skilled and relied upon; there are just so many.
Salem, Oregon

I'd like to see numbers comparing salaries of dual MCSE holders to those who hold only one. Those stats might really tell a tale regarding migration experience.
— Russell D. Scott, MCSE, MCSA
Ft. Worth, Texas

Sharing the Love
I just finished reading the July 2002 issue of MCP Magazine, and loved every bit of it. The troubleshooting, packets, system recovery, scripting (can't wait for the next issue to finish the script). Loved it! I can't believe all the ways this particular issue will help. Thanks loads.
—Sue Diefenderfer, MCSE, MCT, MOUS, A+, Network+
Tampa Bay, Florida

Keep on Truckin'
I've been an MCSE since January 1997 and in the industry eight years. I've worked for both large- and mid-cap companies. I've even worked and managed at the international level. I got laid off in October and spent three months looking for a job. I had all kinds of theories back then, like, "Thirty days and I'll be back in the seat!", and "If I average eight resumés a day, maybe I can average one or two interviews a week." I managed four interviews in three months. At one interview, my resumé was one of 400. They interviewed four people for the position. Then they eliminated the position before they even selected anyone. I'm sure my story isn't much different from others out there.

I quickly ran out of theories, save one: Go back to school, get your degree and come back to a healthier market. The worst that could happen would be the question: Why were you out of work for so long? Answer: "I went back to school and got a shiny degree!" It's definitely better than "Because no one wanted to hire somebody over-experienced for the job." In an employer's market, if they want to mandate that you have three eyes, blue hair and an MIT degree, they can. I even saw an ad asking for a network manager with 30 years' experience. I don't know any network managers who would answer that ad, even if they had 30 years. Maybe that was the point. So I'm back in school, graduating next March. We'll see if my theory pans out.
—Jim Ownby
Atlanta, Georgia

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Reader Comments:

Mon, Oct 28, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous


Mon, Oct 21, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

I concur with most of the comments.

Mon, Oct 21, 2002 Scott Spiess Redding, CA

After reading the “Certified Mail” Column this morning, I have to wonder what the MCPMAG magazine is all about. Is it about the test taker and what that test taker goes through to pass a Microsoft test or does this magazine act as an online marketing tool for Microsoft? I have noticed in the past that Mcpmag has been a magazine about the people taking Microsoft tests. I have also noticed that Mcpmag always falls short of taking a real stance on any issue that might offend the software giant. Yes you do have a column that pokes fun at Microsoft, but do you really think that joking about it is going to send them a message? You also have forums like this one for us as MCSE’s, to express our opinion. What you don’t say is that Microsoft does not even come to the Mcpmag website nor do they care what we as MCSE’s think. I have seen in the past that you occasionally will talk about Microsoft's unpleasantness like Pass/Fail testing, retirement of the NT 4.0 MCSE and then the un-retirement of the NT 4.0 MCSE, real life horror stories of becoming a MCSE, salary surveys and Microsoft Licensing. Microsoft has made confusion a marketing tool and it appears that this magazine is a willing participant in that capacity. I see in “License Confusion” (letter above) you state that Microsoft has multiple licensing agreements. If you have ever tried to figure out exactly what you need to buy to be software legal with Microsoft, you know that they will NEVER tell you exactly what it is needed. Someone else (vendor) has to guess and then turn a blind eye when the event logs fill with errors because of Microsoft’s bugs in their licensing program. I see in “Flunking Pass/Fail Scoring” (letter above), you tell the person that he needs to setup a network. I agree fully that anyone with a MCSE should have a personal network and be able to configure it on the fly. Although, letting Microsoft off the hook for crappy tests and not giving us feedback is inexcusable. You are doing your readers a disservice here. I am a MCSE (NT 4/Win2k), CCNA, CCDA, CNA, CCA and CCEA. Microsoft has the worst testing materials I have ever seen. Simply put, I have taken and passed enough tests to know better. Even though this magazine is about getting Microsoft certified, you should bite that hand that feeds you when they are doing a crappy job. This also goes for the people who advertise in your magazine. I think integrity and independent journalism are the words I am looking for here. I have participated in several of the Mcpmag forums and have along with others, questioned the ethics and business practices of Microsoft. It is pretty hard to imagine a business turning a blind eye to what their customers think, but we are dealing with Microsoft here. Lying, deception and screwing the little guy is the business ethics and business practices of Microsoft. I have never seen Mcpmag take a stance and say that what Microsoft is doing is wrong. I have never seen Mcpmag take a stand and say that they will not participate in deception and fraud. Hell with ethics, this is business! Without taking a stand you are perpetuating the fraud that some, if not all MCSE’s feel. I have never heard your magazine tell the truth about the MCSE Certification and what it really means. The reality is that without experience there is no job. You know this, but you continue with the Microsoft party line. I see people in this industry do gutsy things, like invest in themselves and go into debt up to their eyeballs. What you never tell your readers is that once you have paid for that boot camp or condensed MCSE classes, there is no job out there for them. They have been sold a bill of goods with no job prospects. To be fair, you have hinted at this, but hinting is not taking a stand. Reality works and Microsoft marketing campaigns are not based in reality. I think it is time for Mcpmag magazine to step up to the plate of reality and take a big spoonful.

Scott Spiess

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