15-08-14

VCAP-DTA Consolidated Study Guide 1.5 Released

Now that I have finally passed, I’ve been back over the Consolidated VCAP-DTA Study Guide and updated it. I’ve done some small formatting changes so it’s a little easier to read, as well as correcting a few typos I found and adding in the two quick reference tables for PCoIP and Windows image tuning that I blogged about previously. I’ve also added in a few exam tips for those thinking of sitting soon. As this road has now come to a bit of an end, I won’t be maintaining this guide from here on in until the VCAP6-DTA is released, which I expect to be a little way off just yet.

I’ll also update the sample questions guide, but that may follow in a week or so.

Enjoy!

 

14-08-14

VCAP-DTA Exam Experience (Redux)

So I got back about an hour ago from my second sitting of the VCAP-DTA exam in Leeds. As regular readers will know, I sat it a couple of weeks ago and failed. The score report I got back gave me some suggestions on the areas I wasn’t quite so hot on, so I spent some extra time going back over those and making sure I understood them (two factor authentication and group policy settings to name but two). I had the mindset that if I didn’t pass it today, it would be a would be a while before I’d be back as my employer wants me to get up to speed with the latest MCSE track and quickly, meaning I wouldn’t have the bandwidth (or the mental capacity!) to take on both at the same time.

Nor did it help that I was running a little late, I’d had a coffee and an early lunch because as usual, my appointment spanned over lunch time and I didn’t want to get hungry. By the time I set off for the test centre, it was getting close to my appointment time start so I had to run the last couple of hundred yards to make it on time. With that and a coffee swilling around inside me, my eyes were on stalks when the exam started!

I’m not sure how large the pool of questions is, but I did get a few I’d had previously, including some I came a little unstuck on. I tried to move on if I felt I was getting bogged down, with the intention of picking up as many points as possible elsewhere. Somewhat surprisingly, by the time I’d completed question 23, I still had 30 minutes left. So I went back, quickly checking my answers and referring to the admin guide on the ones I was stuck on.

It turned out to be a pretty effective strategy, although I did go back to delete and restart one “answer” I’d started and then ran out of time, as the desktop refresh was a little laggier than last time, and I couldn’t quite complete the task in time.

I came out feeling tense as I thought I’d passed last time and didn’t,  and I was mindful that I hadn’t completed all tasks with the loss of points that entails. Anyway, I got the score report back quickly again (thanks Joshua!) and this time thankfully I’ve passed! So now I have four VCAPs and I can afford to dream of the far off pot of gold that is the VCDX. I’m not going to think about that yet, as I’ve a box full of Microsoft exams to get done before I can get to that. Still, in the words of Peter Venkman, “we came, we saw, we kicked it’s ASS!”

 

G-1136 - We came, we saw, we kicked its ass

 

07-08-14

VCAP-DTA PCoIP Tuning Quick  Reference

Following on from my previous post regarding tuning your Windows 7 image for the purposes of the VCAP-DTA exam, I lifted the following table from the View 5.2 Best Practices guide. In the exam you don’t have a lot of time and you’re probably going to have to tackle a question at some stage about PCoIP performance or be asked to tune it for certain restrictive network conditions. The table below has a handful of settings which should help you go a decent way to getting good marks for this question:-

SETTING

DEFAULT RECOMMENDATION

DESCRIPTION

Build to lossless

On

Turn Off

Enables the ability to enable or disable build to lossless
Session Audio BWlimit

500Kbps

50 – 100Kbps

Reduces bandwidth usage of audio with usable quality
Maximum frame rate

30

Change to 10-15 based on network settings

In WAN conditions, this will be helpful for video playback and fast graphics operations
Maximum sessionbandwidth

n/a

Set per network conditions

Good for better bandwidth estimation
Client side cache size

250MB

Set per client-side memory available

This allows you to configure the client side image cache size

05-08-14

Windows 7 Desktop Tuning Quick Reference

Another item that kicked me a bit in the VCAP-DTA exam (as per the RADIUS post below) was tuning the Windows 7 desktop image for VDI. I mean, that could be a million settings, couldn’t it? Where do you start? You could take the whole of the three hours of the exam tweaking and changing! While going through a View best practices white paper for another piece of work that I’m doing, I came across a handy chart for a handful of basic items you should tune on your Windows 7 desktop, which is a damn sight easier than remembering hundreds of registry keys and group policy settings!

 

PARAMETER CONFIGURATION
vCPU 1 for WinXP and Win7 and Win8

2 for multimedia intensive apps

Memory 512-768 MB for WinXP

1GB for 32-bit Win7 and Win82GB for 64-bit Win7 and Win8

3GB for Win7 and Win8 64-bit for memory-intensive apps

Network adapter VMXnet3, flexible
Storage adapter PVSCSI or LSI Logic SAS
VMware Tools Latest installed
Visual settings “Adjust to best performance”

Disable Animations for Windows Maximize and Minimize operations

Use default cursor for busy and working cursor

Disable services Windows Update, Super-fetch, Windows Index
Group policy settings Disable Hibernation

Screensaver to None

Other settings Turn off clear-type

Disable fading effectsDisable auto-play and external drive caching for quick release

Disable last access timestamps (1)

 

1) Set the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Control/Filesystem/
NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate to 1

31-07-14

Configuring RADIUS Two Factor Authentication with Horizon View

One of the things I fell short on in the VCAP-DTA exam was RADIUS and two factor authentication. I hadn’t really done much with it for the thick end of 10 years and when it came to the exam, I just hadn’t worked through it enough to remember what all the moving parts were and how they worked. Once I failed the exam, I wanted to go back and re-review what all the moving parts were, how they hung together and basically how to set it all up from start to finish.

Like most people with home labs, I have a couple of Windows Servers performing multiple roles, including Domain Controller, Certificate Authority etc. One thing you can do to practice configuring RADIUS authentication for Horizon View is to install the Network Policy Server role on one of your Windows boxes and configure RADIUS. When Googling how to do this, I found a really good (and up to date) white paper on VMware’s website with clear and concise instructions about how to configure the Windows Server end and also the Connection Server end to make two factor authentication happen.

Literally from start to finish, the process took no longer than around 10-15 minutes. Well worth a run through before the VCAP-DTA exam to make sure you really understand RADIUS components and how Horizon View hooks into it. The guide also covers RSA Authentication Manager if you want to practice that, but I wouldn’t expect to see that option on the exam. Worth knowing though, just in case.

The white paper (PDF) is available here.

 

30-07-14

VCAP-DTA Consolidated Study Guide 1.4 Available

 

download

 

I did promise on Twitter last week that once I’d got the exam out of the way, I’d take the study notes I’d written so far and put them into one document for easier (and offline) reading. Well I’ve done that. Turns out it was a lot more effort than I thought, but it’s now available from the link in the top menu bar on the VF homepage. There may be errors or typos in there, I checked it the best I could. If you spot anything, let me know via Twitter and I will try and correct it once I’ve validated it.

I’m also writing some exam questions that follow the exam blueprint. Nothing special, but it will hopefully just jog your memory enough to make sure you understand the things you’re being tested on. That’s coming along nicely and should be available by the week’s end.

Hopefully you will find the study guide of use for the exam, all feedback is welcome as I improve it.

 

28-07-14

VCAP-DTA Exam Experience

As most regular readers will know, I sat the VCAP-DTA exam last Friday. The short version is I failed. Only by a few points, but first is first and second is nowhere, as they say. I’d been studying for the exam on and off for seven months and I felt reasonably well prepared for it, but like all good exams, it found my weaker spots and probed them mercilessly.

As usual, I had to travel over the Pennines to Leeds to my nearest VCAP test centre. I don’t mind that so much, it’s an air conditioned train and I can get some quiet time to go back over my study notes and make sure I’ve got it all fresh in my mind. The exam itself is 23 questions (many with subtasks) over 3 hours. I say this all the time, but it’s really tight time wise and you just don’t have the slack in the three hours to get stuck on something or to go back and validate your responses. That’s not an excuse by the way, I’ve said that before on VCAP exams I’ve passed.

In terms of exam content, it was pretty close to the blueprint, so the usual advice of read it thoroughly before you go in still stands true. A special mention for VMware Education for getting my results back in a couple of hours. I know a lot of effort has gone into streamlining the marking process and it is better to get the results quickly, even if it wasn’t the score you wanted.

How did I feel? Annoyed with myself, but also a bit surprised. My gut feeling was that I’d done enough to get through the exam and pass, but I hadn’t. That being said, I know of other very competent View folks who haven’t got past it first time either. I suppose if anything, it illustrates the value of the certification as it’s so hard (for me) to get.

I will be back to have another crack at it, but I have to wait 14 days now. I’ll probably need that long to recompose myself (no pun intended) and also to cover over ThinApp and other items that kicked my ass a bit. Anyone who thinks that you only need to know your way around View Administrator is in for a pretty rude awakening.

So then, to close, here are some words of advice :-

  • Follow the blueprint and look at the wording of the skills and abilities section carefully
  • Keep moving. You have three hours and it will go in a snap. If you are doing a task that requires an installer running, kick it off and move on to the next thing. It will buy you valuable minutes and you can go back to it later
  • Steve Dunne’s advice on re-sizing your remote screens to 1024 x 768 is a good one if you don’t have a large monitor
  • If you get the 5 minute warning and you haven’t finished and then you can’t click inside your remote session anymore, click the question tab and then click the top tab to get back to your remote session to restore control. I worked this out with about 45 seconds to go!
  • Use the study guides available, they’ve usually been written by folks who’ve been through the pain of the exam!
  • Run through all the objectives in your lab. If you can’t afford a home lab, use the VMware Hands On Labs and just play around there, I’m sure they won’t mind if you don’t stick to the script