Archive for the ‘Cisco’ Category

Top 5 cities for big data jobs

San Francisco tops Modis list, followed by McLean, Va., Boston, St. Louis and Toronto

Corporate data stores are growing exponentially, nearly every tech vendor is positioning their products to help handle the influx of data, and IT departments are scrambling to find the right people to collect, analyze and interpret data in a way that’s meaningful to the business. On the employment front, the big data deluge is creating a hiring boom across North America. Modis, an IT staffing firm, identified five cities in particular where big data is driving job growth.

San Francisco tops the Modis list, followed by McLean, Va., Boston, St. Louis and Toronto. The roles that companies in these cities are fighting to fill include data scientist, data analyst, business intelligence professional and data modeling/data modeler.

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Business intelligence and data analysis have been core enterprise disciplines for a long time, but they’re becoming more important to businesses as data volumes rise, says Laura Kelley, a Modis vice president in Houston. “We’re in a new era in terms of how large the databases are, the amount of data we’re collecting, and how we’re using it. It’s much more strategic than it’s ever been.”

Big data professionals can be particularly difficult to find since many roles require a complicated blend of business, analytic, statistical and computer skills — which is not something a candidate acquires overnight. In addition, “clients are looking for people with a certain level of experience, who have worked in a big data environment. There aren’t a lot of them in the market,” Kelley says.

 

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Looking at recruiting trends across its offices, Modis finds there’s not one industry that’s doing the most big-data hiring. Rather, the cities have in common a concentration of large enterprises across myriad industries.

San Francisco, for instance, is home to large companies in the retail, insurance, healthcare, and e-commerce sectors.

McLean, Va., has both a strong commercial sector and government presence. “There are many data center operations in this area, both commercial and government related, that require talent to support the high volume of that data,” Modis explains in its report. “In addition, there is no larger consumer of IT products and services in the world than the US federal government.”

Banking and bio/pharmaceutical industries helped put Boston on the big data hiring map. “Both industries deal with large amounts of data that are detailed and complex in nature. That data then needs to be analyzed and placed in reports, dashboards and spreadsheets by data scientist and analysts,” Modis writes.

In St. Louis, universities and healthcare companies lead the big data hiring boom, followed by pharmaceutical and bioresearch firms that need to fill data analyst and scientist roles.

Lastly, in Toronto, financial institutions are fueling a need for business intelligence pros who can help organizations get a more precise and complete picture of the business and customers, Modis finds.

In the big picture, companies often have to compromise and prioritize their wish list — technical expertise, industry experience or quantitative statistical analysis skills, for experience — to find available big-data candidates.

“What is this person going to be doing? Do you need the technical skills? Or is the quantitative/statistical expertise more important? Is this person going to be doing data modeling or making business decisions?” Kelley says. “In an ideal world, companies want all of it. But it’s not an ideal world.”

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Database Certifications

Popular database certifications are always in demand, whether it’sMicrosoft’s MCTS and MCITP, Oracle’s OCA, OCP and OCM or MySql’s CMA, CMDEV and CMDBA.

Are you a database professional seeking to polish your resume in the hopes of landing a better gig? Perhaps you’re just getting started in database administration and you’d like to establish your credentials in the field. Database vendors offer a variety of professional certification programs that can help you advance your career while gaining valuable technical skills. After all, even the most seasoned professional has yet to fully explore some nook or cranny of the field that’s covered on a certification exam.

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So, where do you start? Most database certs are vendor-specific, so you’ll want to earn a certification from the company that puts out the software you’re currently working with or would like to work with in the future. We’ll take a brief look at the credentials available from the major vendors.

If you’re an Oracle guru, the Oracle Certified Professional program may be for you. There’s one catch to this program, however. Before receiving any Oracle credential, all candidates must take at least one instructor-led course. If you’re like me and you just want to pick up the book, study and take the exam, you’re out of luck here. Oracle’s program includes three tiers of certification, beginning with the Oracle Database Administrator Certified Associate (OCA), progressing through the Oracle Database Administrator Certified Professional (OCP) and culminating with the Oracle Database Administrator Certified Master (OCM). Each certification is version-specific, so you’ll need to update your certification each time a new version of Oracle rolls off the production line.

On the other hand, if you work in a Microsoft shop, you should consider one of several certifications:
• If you’re maintaining Microsoft Access databases for your organization, the simplest database credential is the Microsoft Office Specialist Access Track. This is a one-exam certification that covers basic knowledge of Microsoft Access 2003 and Access XP topics. Users of Access 2007 should instead prepare for the Microsoft Certified Application Specialist (MCAS) program.
• The Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist (MCTS) credential is the entry-level certification for SQL Server professionals. There are three different certification paths: MCTS SQL Server 2008 Implementation and Maintenance, MCTS SQL Server 2008 Database Development and MCTS SQL Server 2008 Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance. Each requires only a single exam and may be used to build toward higher-level Microsoft certifications
• The Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional (MCITP) credential is the premier certification for SQL Server administrators. It also comes in three variations. If you already hold the MCTS in SQL Server 200 Implementation and Maintenance, you can upgrade it to MCITP: Database Administrator with a single exam. Similarly, those who passed the MCTS Database Development exam can become MCITP: Database Developers with one additional exam. Finally, if you’re an MCTS in Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance, you can upgrade to MCITP: Business Intelligence Developer with one test.
Finally, if you’re a MySQL user, you might find one of their four certifications useful in your career:
• The MySQL Associate (CMA) certification requires passing a single exam and attests to the holder’s knowledge of basic MySQL skills.
• MySQL database administrators may earn the Certified MySQL Database Administrator (CMDBA) certification by passing two advanced examinations.

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• Similarly, MySQL developers may earn the Certified MySQL Developer (CMDEV) credential with two development-focused exams.
• Finally, CMDBA holders may upgrade to MySQL Cluster certification by passing a single additional exam.
Once you’ve chosen a credential that’s suitable for you, it’s time to hit the books and/or take a course and get started on your way to professional certification!

Protocol wars: Can Fibre Channel survive Ethernet’s assault?

Protocol wars: Can Fibre Channel survive Ethernet’s assault?
Although Fibre Channel is seeing single-digit growth rates, Ethernet for storage is exploding

Computerworld – Fibre Channel, the high-speed data transport protocol for storage area networks (SAN), is under increasing pressure as data centers move toward Ethernet for all data network traffic and SAS for hardware interconnects.

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By no means is Fibre Channel down and out. In fact, recent figures indicate it’s still showing low single-digit, year-over-year growth. The protocol is currently used in $50 billion worth of equipment around the world, according to research firm Gartner.

Because corporate data centers are slow to change out technology, the Fibre Channel networking market will likely continue to show sluggish growth for the next five to 10 years. After that, Ethernet looks to be the protocol of the future.

“The counter winds against Ethernet is that there’s a lot of politics and a lot of religion around Fibre Channel,” said Forrester analyst Andrew Reichmann. “[But] Ethernet can do most everything Fibre Channel can do. Ethernet is cheaper, more ubiquitous.”

And it allows IT managers to find the best fit for specific application workloads, he said. “As those decisions move more toward a workload-centric approach, the one that makes the most sense is Ethernet. For example, it makes more sense to put your [virtual machine] infrastructure on iSCSI or NFS [network file system] because there’s very little difference in the performance you get compared to Fibre Channel.”

Slowing the move to Ethernet — for now — are the usual IT turf battles. Storage networks and hardware are purchased by the storage team, which controls that portion of the overall IT budget. Moving to an all-Ethernet infrastructure means giving that budget away to the networking group, according to Reichmann.

On top of that, some storage administrators simply don’t believe Ethernet is robust enough for data storage traffic. They’ve always used Fibre Channel and see it as the fastest, most reliable way to move data between servers and back-end storage.

“All those factors make it hard to move away from Fibre Channel,” Reichmann said.

Market research firm IDC predicts Fibre Channel will remain at the core of many data centers (supporting mission-critical mainframe and Unix-based applications), while most future IT asset deployments will leverage 10GbE (and later 40GbE) for the underlying storage interconnect. This transition will lead eventually to market revenue losses for Fibre Channel host bus adapters (HBA) and switch products.

As the Fibre Channel market shrinks, IDC predicts “rapid and sustained revenue growth” for 10GbE storage interconnect hardware such as converged network adapters (CNA), 10GbE network interface cards (NIC) and switches. (A CNA is simply a network interface card that allows access to both SANs and more common LAN networks by offering multiple protocols such as Fibre Channel, iSCSI, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and straight Ethernet.)

SAS and Fibre Channel drives

Although Fibre Channel switch revenues have remained relatively flat over the past two years, according to Gartner, Fibre Channel disk drive sales have plummeted. Vendors are expected to stop shipping them within five years.

“We’re forecasting SAS will replacing Fibre Channel because it provides more flexibility and it lowers engineering costs,” said Gartner analyst Stan Zaffos.

High-performance applications such as relational databases will be supported by SANs made up of 5% solid-state drives and 95% SAS drives, according to Forrester’s Reichmann. SAS, or serial-attached SCSI drives, are dual-ported for resilience and are just as fast as their Fibre Channel counterparts.

Unlike Fibre Channel, SAS shares a common backplane with cheap, high-capacity serial ATA (SATA) drives, so they’re interchangeable and can be mixed among drive trays. It also allows for simpler data migration in a tiered storage infrastructure.
IP storage is a buyer’s market

Gartner recently released figures showing that over the past two years, shipments of Fibre Channel HBAs and switches have remained relatively flat, while 10GbE unit shipments have soared. According to Gartner, shipments of 10GbE NICs rose from 259,000 in 2009 to more than 1.4 million last year. And it’s a buyer’s market, with prices falling through the floor due to fierce competition between seven principle vendors, including Intel, Broadcom, QLogic and Emulex.

“Prices for 10GbE hardware is going into the Dumpster. The market has to stabilize around three vendors before we see something from the revenue side,” said Sergis Mushell, an analyst at Gartner.

According to Mushell, single-port 10GbE NICs sell for $43 to $60 dollars; a year ago they went for $100. Dual-ported 10GbE NICs now go for about $300. And CNA cards sell for between $700 and $1,000.

In comparison, a 4Gbps Fibre Channel HBA sells for $337, while an 8Gbps HBA ranges between $1,000 and about $1,900 on sites such as Pricegrabber.com.

In the first quarter of 2010, Fibre Channel switch revenue totaled $1.59 billion; a year later it hit $1.66 billion; and in the third quarter of 2011, it was $1.58 billion. (Those figures includes both 4Gbps and 8Gbps modular and fixed switches.)

Sales of Fibre Channel HBAs — network interface cards that are required for servers and storage arrays alike — have also struggled. In the first quarter of 2010, HBA revenue totaled $781 million. While it rose to $855 million in the first quarter of 2011, it dropped back to $811 million by the third quarter of the year.

According to IDC, as the economic recession abated in 2010, IT shops began server upgrades that had been deferred, with an increased use of server and storage virtualization. To manage those virtualized infrastructures, IT managers sought out a set of standard elements: x86 processors for computing, PCI for system buses, Ethernet for networking and SAS for hard drive and SSD interfaces.

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Overview of Major IT Certifications

In today’s competitive IT job market, an IT certification is often a prerequisite to get a high-paying job or a salary increase. Professional certifications are the best way to demonstrate your skills and expertise in any given technical field to present to prospective employers. Through education and certification, professionals gain the skills, knowledge, and validation needed to be recognized as an expert in diverse products or technologies. MCSE Certification, CCNA Certification, A+ Certification, and SAP Certification are a few of the many certifications or credentials an IT professional may achieve.

 

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Microsoft Certifications

Microsoft certification programs are considered to be the major advancement to gain both professional and education background. The Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification prove an individual’s expertise in designing and implementing the required infrastructure for any type of business solutions based on the Microsoft Windows 2000 platform and Microsoft Windows Server System. Other Microsoft certifications include MCAD (Microsoft Certified Application Developer) certification, MCSA (Microsoft Certified Systems Analyst) and MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer).

Cisco Certifications

The CCNA certification (Cisco Certified Network Associate) indicates a foundation in apprentice knowledge of networking with certified professionals able to install, configure, and operate WAN, LAN, and dial access services for small networks with 100 nodes or fewer. Operation and configuration services also includes but are not limited to use one but several of the following protocols: Serial, Frame Relay, IP RIP, IP, IGRP, VLANs, RIP, and Ethernet, Access Lists. CCNE, CCIE and CCNP are other Cisco certifications.

SAP Certification

SAP Certification is sponsored by SAP corporation – a leading business software (ERP, CRM and Supply Chain software) vendor. It is one of the few credentials in the world of business with additional value only issued to those professionals who demonstrated their abilities by passing demanding, process-oriented exams through rigorous study or direct experience.

A+ Certification

A+ certification is different from the others because it is not promoted by one company only, but by a whole group of PC manufacturers and other companies in the hardware market and its acceptance as an industry-wide credential offers additional benefits. A+ Certification prove the competency of entry-level service technicians in the computer industry and it is an internationally recognized testing program sponsored by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA).

How to set up the perfect teleworking environment

Teleworking (aka working from home) is increasing fast as new technology and communications make it possible. Here’s how to make the most of it.

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It can be the best of both worlds – getting paid to work, but doing so from home where you can avoid hours wasted stuck in traffic or beating the train crush, not to mention saving on those transport costs and expensive cafe lunches. Plus, you can even sit there and work in your PJs, as long as you don’t sleep on the job.

But if you’re going to work from home – part-time or full-time – you need the right setup. This applies whether you’re working as an extension of your presence at work, or if working from home is your full-time employment. It is, as always, about the right tools for the job.

Work space
Ideally, you want a spare room. It’s not just that you need an area to work, or that the area is sufficient to support your work (if you can only fit a tiny desk it isn’t going to help if you work with a lot of papers), it’s also essential to help you strike the work/life balance: an area separate from the rest of the house allows you to close the door at the end of the day and separate your work from your home life.

Then, of course, you’ll need:

Desk
Don’t underestimate the value of a large desk. The height should be around 70cm tall and should have enough space to comfortably place your monitor 45-60cm away from you, and which should be adjusted so the top of the monitor is roughly in line with your eyes. Regardless of whether you use a notebook or a desktop, having ‘spread space’ to lay out your work on your desk helps you keep organised. You also need room for your mouse, keyboard, phone, printer and anything else you need to work (no, that espresso maker doesn’t count as essential for desk space!).

Chair
If you plan to telework extensively, you need to think about your health. A bad chair can encourage bad posture and ultimately lead to problems. If this is your full-time working environment, you need a decent, ergonomically sound chair to support your hours at your desk – just as is if you were in the office. So no, that kitchen stool is right out! The chair needs to be height-adjustable, and you need to set it so your hands and forearms rest on the desk at a 90-degree angle, with your feet flat on the floor. It’s not just a matter of posture – being comfortable and having your back properly supported enables you to work more effectively. There’s a reason chairs can cost a lot of money, so invest in a good one. In many ways it’s the centrepiece of your work space.

Lighting
This is often neglected, but the work space needs to have good lighting. Sunlight is ideal, but otherwise if using artificial light make sure it’s overhead and diffuse to prevent glare. If you have to use desk lamps, face them away from your field of vision. Be careful with windows for sunlight – monitors placed facing them will also suffer glare, and windows behind can cause contrast issues with the monitor and strain your eyes, so it’s usually best to place them perpendicular to the window. Blinds are very useful for controlling lighting in your work space.

Noise
Another often-overlooked component, how noisy is your work space environment? Your space at the office may be quiet or quite rowdy, but it’s usually consistent and you can tune out. At home, external noises such as the street or neighbours, to say nothing of internal ones from family or pets, can be distracting. If you can’t prevent the noise, you can reduce its impact by masking it with radio or playing music on low volume. You should also set a schedule of when you can and can’t be disturbed.

Hardware
By definition, teleworking is a surrogate for your office, and so needs much of the same equipment. You likely have most of these already, and what you don’t have your IT department may be able to supply – it depends on the policies for teleworking at your office:

Computer
The obvious one. Desktops certainly make it easy, but notebooks and the prevalence of 3G means you don’t actually have to be bound to any one place to telework. It’s also easy for an IT department to outfit a notebook with everything you need to telework installed and ready to go, which not only makes it easy for you but allows them to ensure security with a known installed software base and configuration.

Modem
Broadband is prevalent these days, and one of the key drivers for telework adoption. However, you can also use 3G through dongles or phone tethering (Android and iPhones make this a snap). If you plan to use remote desktop software (see ‘Router’, next), broadband will be all-but essential – 3G can’t match the latency or speed. Check your broadband plan – if teleworking will break your data cap, you’ll need to upgrade to a larger plan before you realise your cap is broken. Paying through the nose for excess 3G data, or being throttled by an ISP, will kill your ability to telework effectively.

Router
If you have other networked devices connected – notebook and desktop, network-attached storage, printer etc. – you’ll need a router. Most broadband modems these days include a four-port router and wireless, which is usually sufficient. These however are almost always 10/100. If you plan to move a lot of data at home, you’ll need a gigabit router or switch (a switch is preferred if you have heterogeneous devices with different capabilities).

Printer or MFC
If your role requires paperwork, you may be expected to print out material. Printers are cheap these days (though inks can quickly add up – read reviews before deciding on a model).

Backup and storage
Sounds boring, but this is vital. Firstly, where are you storing your work files? Are they only on the work network, or stored locally? If they’re on your notebook, what happens if it gets stolen? And do you have a backup regimen? Hardware fails eventually, so storing just on the desktop or notebook is not enough. An external USB drive or (if you have a lot of data) NAS is essential. If backing up is always last on your to-do list, automate it with specialised software. Cloud services are another option (more on this below). These days multi-terabyte USB drives can be had for peanuts.

Communication
Sometimes email and messaging isn’t enough. Your home phone is one option for keeping in contact, but a mobile is probably preferred. If you can, get a new mobile specifically for work. Not only can this help you keep your work and home life separate (leave the mobile in the office when you’re done for day!), but as it’s for work it should also be a work cost. Otherwise, VoIP is cheap if you have it as an option on your broadband plan.

Other hardware, aside from stationary (you did buy or borrow some pens right?) that’s useful are surge protectors (this is your work, getting behind due to a hardware failure probably isn’t what you have in mind), wireless routers if you plan to be able to ‘roam around the home’ with notebooks and phones for work, and if your ADSL or cable broadband connection is in a different room to your home office, powerline networking devices can allow you to connect rooms without stringing cables around the home.

Software
There are a number of solutions for teleworking. If your company encourages and promotes teleworking, it will likely already have a solution in mind – software specifically designed to make connecting remotely both easy and, importantly, secure. Traditionally, there are two key methods for teleworking:

Connecting to your work PC
As though you were sitting in front of it. You can interact with your PC’s desktop and do anything you would normally do if you were at work. Software to do this includes Citrix GoToMyPC, Symantec pcAnywhere, TeamViewer, LogMeIn, NoMachine, and Real VNC, among others. Microsoft also has remote desktop software built into Windows 7, as does Apple for Mac OS X, and there are a range of free tools for Linux.

Connecting to the work network
Usually via a VPN (virtual private network). This gives you access to shared drives, the intranet, printers and other services as though you were sitting on the network at work. For extra security, some companies will run remote desktop software through a VPN. Windows, Mac and Linux all support VPNs out of the box.

Both have their pros and cons. Remote desktop software is a virtual presence at the office, and has the advantage of providing any software and services at home that you would be able to access and use if you were at work. It also makes it relatively easy for the admins to keep the network secure, as your access is only via your PC. The downside is that this can be a bandwidth-heavy solution, operating your desktop remotely in real-time.

Access to a network such as with a VPN can be a lot less bandwidth-intensive – you’re literally connecting your home network (even if that’s just your PC) to the work network through a secure connection. You won’t have access to your work desktop, but you should be able to access anything else on the network that you would normally be allowed to use via the VPN.

There’s a third method these days that’s rapidly evolving thanks to the internet – shared cloud services. Rather than connect to a secure work network or PC, if a business migrates its email, office applications and file sharing online then the concept of the office no longer becomes the physical work network sitting in the building where your office is located – it becomes any place you happen to be, as long as there’s internet access.

This is something that groupware providers have been taking heavy advantage of, and three of the big players are:

Microsoft now provides Office 365 which integrates local Office software and web-based services. This include Microsoft’s Office Web Apps, SkyDrive storage, Exchange and SharePoint.

Google has its suite of apps that include Google Docs, Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Talk for messaging.

Zoho provides Zoho Docs, Zoho Mail, Zoho Meeting, Zoho Projects, Zoho Chat and even shared Wiki collaboration with Zoho Wiki.

All of these aim to provide a consistent suite of productivity and collaboration programs that work both at the office and remotely for teleworking.

Other software that is useful specifically for teleworking includes messaging – even if it’s just classics such as ICQ, MSN or Yahoo – and video conferencing, for which there are plenty of options, though Skype is the most well-known. Beyond this, depending on your role, you can even find shared cloud services that include web presenting, whiteboarding, screen sharing and project management. However while cloud services can still be secure, and provide a way to work and collaborate through purely internet-accessible tools, the downside is the reliance on cloud service providers – if they go down or suffer outages, so does your business.

Your company may also require some extra security software be installed (even if it’s just a reliable anti-virus/anti-malware suite). After all, your PC becomes an access point to the network, which is one more point of vulnerability. If this is the case, follow whatever procedures your IT department requires. It’s a small price to pay for the freedom of working from home.

Certs: Added value or minimum requirement?

I’ve got a Bachelors Degree in Information Systems Management, my Certified Information Security Systems Professional (CISSP) certification, the SANS GIAC Systems and Network Auditor (GSNA) certificate and I used to be a CCNA.   I spent two years getting my B.S. by attending night courses, the CISSP took me 6 months of constant study, the GSNA required a week’s worth of intense instructor lead study, and I spent the better part of a school year taking the official Cisco course work at the local junior college before taking the test.  And with the exception of the CCNA, the time I spent earning my degree and getting my certifications was aimed strictly at filling in a check box on an HR person’s list rather than learning something.  Not to say I didn’t learn something in studying for each, but my goal was fulfilling a job requirement instead of education.

I have mixed feelings about certifications in the IT and security professions; certifications show that someone has the minimum knowledge required to pass a particular test.  It shows they understand their profession well enough to know what certificates are going to be required to get a job in their field.  It shows that the person is dedicated enough to their profession to take and pass these tests.  But what it doesn’t show is real-world knowledge of security.

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Obviously I’m not opposed to certifications, since I hold several myself.  But I’ve never liked the fact that many people think certification and skills are the same thing.  The fact that having the right certification can mean a significantly higher level of pay for professionals who otherwise are of the same skill level only further complicates the situation.   It encourages people to accumulate as many different certifications as possible to help bolster their income, something I’m as guilty of as anyone else.

I remember the early days of the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and “paper MCSE’s” who had passed all the tests, but could barely remember how to change a password when they got their first job in the real world.  I often hear accusations that the CISSP is heading in the same direction, despite increased efforts by the ISC2 to validate candidates and  verify levels of experience.  But I think both of these miss the real point of certification; they show that someone has spent the time and effort to pass a test, not that they have the skills required to work in the real world.   After all, no one expects a kid fresh out of college to know everything about their chosen career, so why should a certificate be any different?

Cisco launches new routers aimed at wireless carriers

For carriers, Cisco is pitching its wireless network routers as a way to speed up IPv6 migrations, improve returns on investment and make service management easier.

Cisco on Monday rolled out a new set of routers designed to allow wireless carriers to deploy mobile services more easily.

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With the move, Cisco is aiming at Alcatel Lucent, which is a major player in wireless networking gear and betting heavily on low power and its new processors. In addition, Juniper is also targeting wireless network providers. Cisco’s routers are installed at more than 500 service providers globally, including Comcast, NTT Plala, PCCW in Hong Kong, China Telecom and Tata Communications.

These telecom equipment makers are chasing carriers that are likely to struggle to keep up with traffic. Cisco estimates that there will be two network connections for every person in the world.

Cisco called its latest wireless effort the Cisco ASR 9000 Series Aggregation Services Routers Systems. The idea behind the collective platform is to allow carriers to deliver mobile, video and data services faster.

Specifically, Cisco introduced three wireless service provider offerings:

ASR 901 is a cell site router designed for 2G, 3G and 4G services.
ASR 903, an Ethernet access router for mobile applications.
ASR 9001, a smaller version of the ASR 9000 edge router.

These products run on Cisco’s network virtualization, which mixes various parts of a network into one 96 Tbps system, as well as the company’s mobile framework.

For carriers, Cisco is pitching its wireless network routers as a way to speed up IPv6 migrations, improve returns on investment and make service management easier.

Tips for printing digital photos at home

It’s easy to capture and preserve memories as digital snapshots with Windows 7 and Windows Vista, and so is turning them into stunning scrapbooks or photo albums.

If you’d like to create professional-looking photo prints using a home PC, here are a few hints and tips that will help you produce sharper, more eye-catching results.
Photograph of red poppies in bloom

A little care is all it takes to turn photos into gorgeous prints.
Maximize image quality


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The best prints come from the finest images. Help improve picture quality by following these suggestions:
1. Increase photo resolution

As a rule, the higher the resolution, the better the picture. Most digital cameras offer a choice of settings. Check your camera’s instructions to figure out how to change the resolutions you’re using. For premium printing results, always select the maximum offered photo size and quality.

Here are some good resolution guidelines to consider:

2 megapixels: Appropriate for an attractive wallet-sized (2.5-by-3.5-inch) or album-sized (4-by-6-inch) print

3 megapixels: Minimum resolution required for projects like calendars and greeting cards or 5-by-7-inch reproductions

5 or 6 megapixels: A resolution that offers better image quality for use with craft projects. Also suitable for printing and framing an 11-by-14-inch photo for use around the home

8 megapixels: A resolution that’s capable of providing attractive 16-by-20-inch prints

10 megapixels or more: Optimal for printing larger (20-by-30-inch) projects, including posters and panoramas

The more you increase photo resolution, the more you’ll improve image clarity and detail.
Higher image resolutions (left) produce sharper snapshots.

Higher image resolutions (left) produce sharper snapshots.
2. Choose the correct file format

The JPEG file format, which compresses image data, is suitable for emailing pictures or posting them to the web. For photo-printing purposes though, it generally pays to stick with larger TIFF files. Despite consuming more space on a memory card, TIFF images are smoother, crisper, and vastly superior to their JPEG counterparts.
3. Edit and enhance images

Use programs such as Windows Live Photo Gallery (Windows 7) and Windows Photo Gallery (Windows Vista) to soften edges, experiment with lighting and color, remove blemishes from pictures, and touch up your photos. It’s a simple way to add special effects, get rid of red eye, and otherwise improve your snapshots. Read more articles about how to make simple fixes to your digital photos, take better pictures, capture the perfect moment, and create online photo albums.

Enterprising shutterbugs can even use Microsoft Photosynth to transform their images into three-dimensional scenes.
Add special effects to spice up any photo.

Add special effects to spice up any photo.
Prepare your printer

Enhance print quality by configuring your printer for optimum results.
1. Use current drivers

Drivers are software interpreters that let your computer and printer communicate. But printer manufacturers are constantly revising these drivers. Always use the most current drivers to help ensure peak performance and picture quality. Check your printer manufacturer’s website regularly for downloadable updates, or see this tutorial for advice on locating and installing them.
2. Don’t skimp on dots per inch

The higher your printer’s dots per inch (dpi) specifications, the better the prints it will produce. Avoid images which suffer from frayed and jagged edges by using a printer with 600 x 600 dpi or better printing capabilities when producing hard copies of color digital photos. You can find photo printers for sale at Microsoft Store and advice on picking the right model here.
3. Configure print quality settings

After installing your printer, check your owner’s manual for instructions on how to change print quality settings, or read this article, which covers the basics of printer selection, page orientation, and color management. Remember that it’s always important to choose the right print options and preferences before printing. Detailed instructions on how to print pictures are also available that can help you get the most from your images, as are answers to frequently asked questions.
4. Managing paper

Different types of paper, such as high gloss or card stock, require varying amounts of ink and touch-ups. When setting printing preferences, be sure to tell your printer which type you’re using to help ensure first-rate results and to avoid wasting expensive stock.
5. Ongoing maintenance

It’s a good idea to run printer alignment, color calibration, and print cartridge cleaning functions every 90 days. These practices help prevent blurring, streaking, and off-center photo prints. See your printer’s owner’s manual for instructions on how to perform this maintenance.
Pick the right paper and ink

Help improve photo prints by selecting the right choice of paper and ink to perfectly complement your images.
1. Go with photo paper

Standard printer paper isn’t suitable for creating pleasing photo prints. Unless you’re printing documents, choose a glossy or matte finish photo paper instead. Black and white prints generally look best on matte finish papers, and color tends to look best on glossy paper.
2. Creativity counts

Multiple varieties of paper stock are available, designed for a wide range of specialty uses. These special-purpose materials can enhance any photo printing project. Whether incorporating your photos into decals, business cards, or T-shirts, before starting a new project, browse the selection at your local office supply or electronics retailer.
3. Choose the right size

Photos come in many shapes and forms, from wallet-sized (2.5-by-3.5-inch) to album/scrapbook-ready (4-by-6-inch or 5-by-7-inch) prints. Match the paper to fit.

Alternately, choose a standard letter-sized (8.5-by-11-inch) paper and use Windows Photo Gallery or Windows Live Photo Gallery to squeeze several smaller images onto one sheet.
Windows Photo Viewer makes printing multiple photos a breeze.

Windows Photo Viewer makes printing multiple photos a breeze.
4. Get inked

The safest way to pick an ink is to choose a brand from the same company that manufactured your printer. Various types of ink provide differing degrees of resistance to water, smudges, age, and fading. Which one you should pick depends entirely on how much you’re willing to spend for various image-enhancing qualities.
Additional advice

Always align new print cartridges.

Experiment with free or commercial photo-editing software to eliminate image imperfections and to improve your subjects’ already stunning good looks.

Practice by making test prints. Try reducing image size and creating multiple prints on a single sheet of paper to cut down on wasted materials.

Before placing photos in an album or framing them, give the ink approximately 12 hours to dry.

Remember that Windows Photo Gallery and Windows Live Photo Gallery also make it possible to order prints online or print files at a local printer kiosk, for your convenience.

How To Hide Your Data

Want to keep your private files under wraps without making it obvious they’re important? Rather than encryption, try hiding them, so prying eyes don’t even know they exist.

We live in a world where data rules. Sharing your files, from docs to pictures to videos is as easy as breathing. But we’ve all got some stuff that we’d like to keep to ourselves. It could be data files that are so important to your company that your job hangs in the balance. Maybe you have secret plans drawn up on your home PC, and you don’t want busybody siblings, parents, spouses, or offspring peaking at them. Perhaps you travel and, on principle, you don’t want “The Man” getting into your stuff even legally—customs agents and border patrol can delay you plenty if you don’t show them what they want. Occasionally, we all need to make sure some of our important files aren’t open to all.

 

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The typical method for file protection is encryption—the process of turning your information into unreadable junk that can’t be opened without a password. However, encrypting a file is like sticking a red flag in the data that says, “Look at me! I’m ever so important and clandestine! Please, obsess over cracking my cipher! Decrypt me and you’ll know all my secrets.”

Thankfully, there is a better way—one that can work hand in hand with encryption. Camouflaging your data—and where you store it—can go a long way to providing you with peace of mind. Plus, you’ll never stir up those snoops in the first place.

Get in the Cloud
When we talk about hiding files, we typically mean they’re still stored on your computer hard drive but are invisible to digital peeping-toms. However, these days, a quick way to keep files handy but not readily visible is to store them in the cloud. The files remain hidden (the files aren’t physically with you), though you can access them anytime and anywhere on any computer. The secret of keeping the data truly hidden is to erase your browser history after accessing them and sign out of your cloud storage accounts without saving passwords. In theory, no one will ever know you have files online to access.

This isn’t the same as synchronizing data with the cloud and other computers, like you would with Dropbox or SugarSync or the like. Those services don’t hide your files; in fact, they, arguably, put them in more locations for people to find. To help hide them, you could cheat a little by deactivating synching to your computer for a limited period—say, when you’re traveling—and then turn it back on to get your files back on the drive later. But that defeats the purpose of ongoing synch. (Some of the tips below can help obscure files even when synched, however.).

There are a few ways to skin the cloud-storage cat, but right now the best services for the average computer user are:

• Amazon Cloud Drive (3 stars): You can store any kind of file, and if it’s a music file (MP3 or AAC), you can play it back easily with the Amazon Cloud Player app. The allotment is 5GB for free and then $1 per GB per year (so about $20 for 25GB a year). However, you can jump up to 20GB for “free” for a year if you purchase one MP3-based album from Amazon. Note: This service lacks sharing, backup, and online editing.

• Google Docs (3.5 stars): It was once the place where you went to edit files created with the Docs apps. Now Google lets you save any kind of file, too. You get 1GB free, but you can upgrade to 20GB for $5 per year—a better price than Amazon Cloud Drive but not as nice as Windows SkyDrive—and scale all the way up to 16TB for a measly $4,096 per year. The extra storage you buy is also shared with Gmail and Picasa for messages and pictures, respectively. Sharing is a regular component, and Docs is all about online editing, but you’d have to convert your files to its format during the file transfer to edit them later.

• Windows Live SkyDrive: Free file storage of 25GB is hard to beat. If they’re Microsoft Office files, you can edit them online easily either by opening the files instantly in the online Office app equivalent or at office.live.com (if you use Internet Explorer as your browser). Sharing files with others is a built-in feature. MCITP Training

Remember, most cloud storage is meant to be a backup of your local files. My suggestion, however, is to move files to the cloud. Leaving them on your hard drive means they’re still visible. The three services mentioned above excel at back up, as well as acting as a cloud-based hard drive (albeit not as if they’re a drive letter in Windows Explorer), which will help keep your files on the down low.

7 Intelligent Tips To Prepare For Certification Exams

Clearing any exam is crucial for students. Though due to rising standards of technical and career-driven programs, exam preparation is widely observed as a laborious task, attaining online IT certification can be interesting and an experience of a lifetime. Now days a rising number of institutions provide online Microsoft certification classes to students. They also provide sample exam questions for preparation and configure software technologies to let students practice and consolidate their understanding before appearing for certification exams. The Microsoft certification classes are designed to increase your knowledge base over various technologies or features that you may not be aware of before preparing for the certification program. In this way, acquiring Comptia certifications or any other certifications has less to do with testing your current knowledge, but it has more to do with expanding your knowledge horizons.


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We’ve listed below ten smart tips that should support you really well while preparing for those tricky certification exams:

1. Certification papers are time-based, keep a close watch on the time spent on each question, as you may end up spending most of your time on few questions and not able to attend all of them. It’s quite possible that you’d spend most of your time on answers that you were not sure of.

2. Thoroughly read all the questions before directly jumping onto the supplied answers as they are mainly structured to confuse nervous students or those with low confidence.

3. There may be certain questions that come structured simply but contain a lot of irrelevant information. They are generally aimed to confuse students. You must look forward to identify what is irrelevant and work in right direction.

4. While attempting a question, be certain about why a particular answer is correct or incorrect. Be thorough, even if it is laborious in the start but it will be worth the investment.

5. In case of lengthy question, the statements beginning with “the” are vital. Always read them first and pick out maximum relevant information. This avoids re-reading to extract relevant information that could have wasted your time.

6. Avoid changing your answers. Oftentimes students select the correct answer and then due to lack of confidence, they change it. Remember that there is usually a subconscious reason for your first choice.

7. Most of the exam centers provide small dry-erase board for you to use during exam. You must always take them as and write things down. This helps as you can even forget simplest things under pressure during the exam.