Wednesday, 27 January 2016

British startup brings Internet of Things to tabletop gaming

London-based game developer Sensible Object this week launched its first game, which combines the Internet of Things with tabletop gaming. Launching via a Kickstarter campaign, Fabulous Beasts is both a physical and digital game, designed for adults and children alike.

Fabulous Beasts is cooperative, where players build a tower on their tabletop out of  beast-shaped pieces, and see them simultaneously appear in a 'fabulous' world on the screen of a connected iOS or Android device.

As the tower grows, the on-screen ecosystem evolves. But if the tower falls, it’s game over – like a modern-day Jenga.

What's inside?

Behind the vivid design there's some serious tech: inside the base is a RFID reader, which reads unique IDs in each game piece. There's also a weight sensor - when a piece is scanned, the hardware knows the weight to expect to be added to the tower. Like the infamous “Unexpected item in bagging area” warning at supermarket self-checkouts. Finally, there’s a Bluetooth module, which sends the data to a connected device.

The game was developed at Makerversity at Somerset House. Makerversity provides affordable space, tools and cutting edge workshop facilities to startups like Sensible Object.

CEO and founder of Sensible Object, Alex Fleetwood, says: “We want to look at what happens when you use new technology to pull attention away from screens and back into the room, and the people you’re playing with. Fabulous Beasts is a big step towards realising that.”

The studio will be taking Fabulous Beasts into full production ready for final release towards the end of 2016. You can back the Kickstarter project here.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Planned Microsoft exam retirements for 2016

The next generation of Microsoft technologies are fast approaching General Availability. Windows Server 2016, System Center 2016 and SharePoint 2016 are all expected to arrive throughout 2016.

As is the way with new technologies, existing versions are soon rendered legacy. Demand for the skills to manage these legacy technologies disappear as they are replaced, with the associated exams and certifications retired to the archives.

With that in mind, we take a look at the planned Microsoft exam retirements in 2016.

Windows exams

With launch of Windows 10, we'll now witness the planned retirement of exams aligned to the MCSA: Windows 8 certification track. Exams 70-687 and 70-688 have been granted an extension to July 2016, forming an integral part of the new MCSA: Windows 10.

After this date we'll see a new Windows 10 exam, creating a 'pure' route to MCSA: Windows 10.

The retirement of exams 70-689 and 70-692 end the upgrade path from old Microsoft certifications and technologies to MCSA Windows 8. These include but are not restricted to MCDST: Windows XP, MCSE: Windows Server 2003, MCSA: Windows 7 and MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator on Windows 7. Expect this upgrade path to now align to MCSA Windows 10 with new exams later this year.

Retiring on July 31, 2016
70-687: Configuring Windows 8.1
70-688: Supporting Windows 8.1
70-689: Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows 8
70-692: Upgrading Your Windows XP Skills to MCSA Windows 8

Certifications retiring:
MCSA: Windows 8

Windows Server exams

This year sees the MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure certification retire, with exams 70-415 and 70-416 becoming obsolete. As the focus for professionals in this area moves towards device and app management, MCSE: Enterprise Devices and Apps is the recommended alternative.

We'll likely see Windows Server 2012 exams joining the planned retirement list towards the back end of the year, as MCSA: Windows Server 2016 makes an appearance sometime in June-August, 2016.

Retiring on January 31, 2016
70-415: Implementing a Desktop Infrastructure
70-416: Implementing Desktop Application Environments

Retiring on July 31, 2016
98-365: Windows Server Administration Fundamentals

Certifications retired:
MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure
MTA: Windows Server Administration

SharePoint exams

Now six years old, we see the planned retirement of the SharePoint 2010 MCTS and MCITP exams. The following exams have had a six month extension of life from a planned January 31, 2016 end date.

Retiring on July 31, 2016
70-573: TS: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Application Development
70-576: PRO: Designing and Developing Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Applications
70-667: TS: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Configuring
70-668: PRO: Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Administrator

Certifications affected/retiring:
MCTS / MCITP SharePoint 2010 Configuring / Administrator
MCTS / MCPD SharePoint 2010 Developer

SQL Server exams

The following retirements will mark the end of SQL server certification upgrade paths for the 2008 platform. IT pros looking to upgrade from SQL Server 2008 MCITP and MCTS certifications to the new MCSA and MCSE credentials will need to find an alternate pathway. 

Retiring on January 31, 2016
70-459: Transition Your MCITP: Database Administrator 2008 or MCITP: Database Developer 2008 to MCSE: Data Platform
70-460: Transition Your MCITP: Business Intelligence Developer 2008 to MCSE: Business Intelligence

Retiring on July 31, 2016
70-432: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Implementation and Maintenance
70-448: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance
70-457: Transition Your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012, Part 1
70-458: Transition Your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012, Part 2

Certifications retiring:
MCITP Database Administrator - SQL Server 2008
MCITP Business Intelligence Developer - SQL Server 2008
Upgrade to MCSA SQL Server

Microsoft Dynamics exams

With the launch of Dynamics CRM 2016 in December 2015, this is the third software upgrade since Dynamics CRM 2011. It's unsurprising therefore that we see the retirement of the final exams associated to the platform.

Exams retiring on January 31, 2016
MB2-866: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Customization and Configuration
MB2-867: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Installation and Deployment
MB2-868: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Applications
MB2-876: Extending Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

Certifications retiring:
Dynamics CRM 2011
Dynamics CRM 2011 Online
Dynamics CRM Developer 2011

Exchange and Exchange Server exams

Released in October 2015, the new Exchange Server 2016 puts the 2010 platform two cycles out of date. With this we see some of the last MCITP and MCTS certifications disappearing, soon to join the annals of certification history. 

Retiring on January 31, 2016
70-662: TS: Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, Configuring
70-663: PRO: Designing and Deploying Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange

Certifications retiring:
MCITP Enterprise Messaging Administrator
MCTS Exchange Server 2010

Lync exams

Another technology launch in October 2015, we saw the rise of Sykpe for Business Server and the demise of Lync Server. The retirement of exams 70-366 and 70-337 will see the MCSE: Communication certification upgraded, as new exams covering Skype for Business are incorporated.

The following four exams have enjoyed a stay of execution having been planned for retirement in November, 2015.

Retiring on March 30, 2016
74-335: Lync Network Readiness Assessment
74-338: Lync 2013 Depth Support Engineer
70-336: Core Solutions of Microsoft Lync Server 2013
70-337: Enterprise Voice & Online Services with Microsoft Lync Server 2013

Certifications affected:
MCSE: Communication (Lync Server)

Visual Studio and .NET exams

With the transition to .NET 4.5 in October 2012, 4 years on, it seems only right that the exams aligned to .NET 4 begin to retire. This marks the mass transition away from the now somewhat obselete framework.

Retiring on July 31, 2016
70-490: Recertification for MCSD: Windows Store Apps Using HTML5
70-491: Recertification for MCSD: Windows Store Apps Using C#
70-511: TS: Windows Applications Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
70-513: TS: Windows Communication Foundation Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
70-515: TS: Web Applications Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
70-516: TS: Accessing Data with Microsoft .NET Framework 4

98-379: Software Testing Fundamentals

Certifications affected/retiring:
- MCTS: Microsoft .NET Framework 4, Windows Applications
- MCTS: Microsoft .NET Framework 4, Web Applications
- MCTS: Microsoft .NET Framework 4, Service Communication Applications
- MCTS: Microsoft .NET Framework 4, Data Access
MTA Software Testing Fundamentals

Other exams
Retiring on July 31, 2016
70-673: TS: Designing, Assessing, and Optimizing Software Asset Management (SAM)

Author Profile

As part of Firebrand's global marketing team, Edward actively works to serve the IT community with news, reviews and technical how to guides. Working in the Industry for almost 5 years, Edward has a wide variety of experience with Microsoft Technologies including SharePoint, Windows Server and Exchange Server. Edward is an active member of the IT community contributing to a variety of tech publications including Microsoft TechNet, Channel Pro and PC Advisor.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Top 5 certifications to kick-start your IT career in 2016

 By Sarah Morgan

The New Year is a time for resolutions and career aspirations. In 2016, if yours is to embark on a career in IT, getting certified is a brilliant way to do this. IT certifications prove and refine your skills and knowledge in IT. This will help you get the early breakthrough your IT career needs, giving it a kick-start for 2016. 
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong /

We’ve researched and complied the five best entry level certifications available and outlined the knowledge and skills each certification offers you. These cover the basics in IT hardware and software, networking, Windows Server and software development. These are highly popular and rewarding areas of IT and can be excellent starting points for many IT careers. Find out how they can be helpful for you and your future.

1. CompTIA A+

CompTIA’s A+ certification is the starting point of many great IT careers. It gives you a fundamental understanding of basic hardware, software, and networking concepts. A huge benefit of the A+ is the practical skills you learn through hands-on experience. This is critical early-on in your career, building the foundations of knowledge you’ll need now and in the future.

The A+ is a highly regarded entry level certification throughout the IT industry and is often a requirement for many entry-level IT job roles. This is the case in companies like Canon, HP and Dell for example. It is attractive to employers partly because it’s vendor neutral, making it applicable to whatever technology your employer is using, and because of the wide range of skills it covers. These skills will be the most up-to-date available due to CompTIA’s curriculum update in 2015. 

After achieving your A+ certification, you’ll be able conduct maintenance and setup of PCs, laptops, printers, mobile devices, network and operating systems. These versatile skills will help you secure your first job in IT like Computer Technician and IT Support, averaging salaries of between £20,000-£25,000 (all average salaries from 

2. CompTIA Network+

After your A+, you can advance on to CompTIA’s Network+ which, like it’s prerequisite, is recognised globally throughout the IT industry. This is the perfect certification to steer your career into networking as you’ll learn to configure and control vendor-neutral networking technologies. 

You’ll learn to manage, protect, maintain and configure wired and wireless devices in a network. It is these specialised networking skills that can give you an edge early in your career, helping you stand out from others starting their IT careers. You’ll be able to apply for roles like Network Support Technician with an average salary between £25,000-£30,000.

3. Microsoft MTA: Windows Server Administration Fundamentals

The Microsoft Technology Associate (MTAs) certifications are aimed at the entry-level in areas like networking, database, cloud and software development fundamentals. The MTA: Windows Server Administration Fundamentals teaches you the basics of installing and managing a server. This MTA is good for those looking to secure their first job in IT because there are no prerequisites. Some basic prior knowledge of Windows Server’s role in businesses would help your learning, but is not necessary. The MTA: Windows Server Administration Fundamentals has the potential to open many doors for you in 2016 because of the fundamental server it teaches you, especially if you’ve had difficulty finding an introductory IT role.

The MTA: Windows Server Administration Fundamentals benefits from Microsoft’s hugely recognisable brand name, and focuses on a hugely popular technology. You’ll learn about installing servers, server roles, active directory, server storage, server performance management, and server maintenance. The MTA Windows Server Administration Fundamentals can help you on your way to an entry-level Server Support role with a £26,000 average salary. 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

4. Microsoft MTA Software Development Fundamentals

If you’re looking for a software development role creating and managing web and desktop applications, the MTA Software Development Fundamentals is a great certification to get you started. Like other MTAs, it has no prerequisites and requires no on-the-job experience. It is recommended that you have some basic prior knowledge of C# or Microsoft Visual Basic .NET as this will help your learning. Again, this is not compulsory. 

You’ll build an understanding of core programming, object-oriented programming, general software development, web applications, desktop applications, and databases. It covers all aspects of software development giving you all the knowledge you’ll need to get started in software development roles. The MTA can prepare you for a Trainee or Junior Software Engineer role with an average salary between £20,000-£25,000.

5. Cisco CCNA (Routing & Switching)

If you’re interested in networking, Cisco’s CCNA (Routing & Switching) is another excellent starting point. However, it does require you to be familiar with networks and have a minimum of six month’s working experience. Once you’re certified though, you’ll be in the perfect position for you to start growing your career in networking. 

The CCNA looks specifically at Cisco technology, which is dominant in the networking and switching industry with around 60% market share according to Statista. It demonstrates you have the routing and switching skills required for network support positions, building your skills in installing, configuring, operating and troubleshooting networks. After getting CCNA certified you’ll be able to advance into roles like Network Administrator or Network Supervisor with average salaries between £35,000 to £40,000, really giving your IT career a boost for 2016.

Getting certified is always a great way to boost your career in IT, worth considering at any stage of your career. Getting certified demonstrates and improves your skills whilst keeping them current. It can also make you better at you job on a day-to-day basis, and could come with a pay rise of 10 percent or more according to Discover 200+ accelerated courses that can help you in the area most suitable for you.

 About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Twitter down worldwide

 By Sarah Morgan

From around 8:30am GMT on Tuesday morning, users of Twitter have been reporting issues accessing their accounts on both desktops and mobile apps. Users are being shown "Something is technically wrong. Thanks for noticing—we're going to fix it up and have things back to normal soon." The outage has been reported primarily across the UK, France and Germany, with some reports in Japan and Russia.

Photograph from

Some users reported an intermittent return to service at around 10:00am GMT but performance issues have been continuing throughout Tuesday.

 About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Friday, 8 January 2016

Top 10 Cloud Certifications to target in 2016

Wait! There is a 2018 version of this article. Discover the 10 best cloud certifications for 2018 now.

The mass adoption of cloud technologies continues to accelerate at an ever increasing rate. The past 12 months has seen an explosion in the XaaS market as leading cloud platforms - Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS - diversify their product portfolio to meet consumer demand.

This transition to cloud has created huge demand for IT Pros with the skills to make the most of these new technologies and services. At present, WANTED Analytics estimate the UK's cloud employment market at 446,000. Where demand for skills appears, training and certification follow suit. The end result, 2015 has seen the launch of many new cloud certifications from all the major players including Microsoft, Cisco and CompTIA.

So if you're looking to enter the industry, or adapt your skills alongside your companies cloud adoption, we've compiled a list of the top 10 Cloud Certifications to target in 2016. They cover the in-demand skills across development, security, virtualisation and beyond. In no particular order, they are:

1. (ISC)2 Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

One of the major concerns for businesses when migrating to the cloud is the potential security risks to their key data. This means there is new demand for cloud security skills, as businesses look to make the transition as safe and smooth as possible.

(ISC)2’s CCSP certification gives you these skills. It covers how to protect your data in areas like cloud infrastructure security, architectural concepts and design requirements. The CCSP is modern and outward-facing, meaning it includes all the latest cloud security trends and topics. This top-level cloud security certification will give you all the skills you need to manage the security of your chosen cloud platform in 2016.

Image courtesy of / / Perspecsys Photos

2. CompTIA Cloud Essentials

If 2016 is the year you’re looking to specialise in cloud technology, CompTIA’s Cloud Essentials is a great way to get started and learn the fundamentals of all its capacities. 

It’s a platform neutral qualification, meaning what you’ll learn will be highly transferable. This will include the basics of the cloud in a business environment and the value it can have. Plus, the technical aspects of cloud types, and the basics behind a successful adoption of cloud technology. 

3. Microsoft MCSE: Private Cloud

Microsoft’s MCSE: Private Cloud certification will teach you the skills to create and manage a private cloud using Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 R2. You must already be certified in either MCSA: Windows Server 2012 or 2008. 

You’ll develop critical skills like how to configure a private cloud environment, how to optimise your cloud infrastructure and maintaining your cloud infrastructure, as well as everything else in between. 

4. Microsoft MCSA: Windows Server 2012

Microsoft’s current offering of their omnipresent Windows Server certification prepares you to manage Windows Server 2012, regardless of whether the server is on premise or a virtual instance in a public or private cloud.  

The MCSA: Windows Server 2012 will give you the skills you need to develop and manage Windows Server 2012. You’ll cover topics like, managing active directory services, implementing advanced network services and implementing group policy. 

5. Microsoft MCSA: Linux on Azure

The highly anticipated MCSA: Linux on Azure certification arrived at the end of 2015 and is unique in giving Linux specialists the ability to operate on Azure, taking their skills into the cloud. With more than 25% of Microsoft’s 1 million Azure servers running on Linux, the credential will be highly sought after in 2016.

You’ll learn to deploy, configure host and manage Linux websites on Azure, taking advantage of Azure’s key features like Windows PowerShell and Xplat-CLI. You’ll also learn to implement Azure Active Directory, virtual machines and virtual networks, all incorporating Linux.

6. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Solutions Architect

Split into the AWS's Certified Solutions Architect – Associate and AWS's Certified Solutions Architect – Professional, this is the best path of certifications to get you the skills you need to operate on an Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform. Amazon Web Services has established itself as an industry leader in cloud technology.

Get started with AWS in 2016 with the Associate certification, cover the fundamentals in designing efficient applications as well as deployment, security and troubleshooting.

Refine your AWS skills with the Professional certification and make your AWS operations more efficient for your business. You’ll learn about costing, scalability, cloud migration and managing complex, large scale cloud operations.

7. CompTIA Cloud+

The Cloud+ is another platform neutral certification from CompTIA that can set you apart by giving you skills useful in many different cloud environments. Whilst you couldn’t call it an introductory level certification, as it is recommended that you have 2 years IT industry experience, it does introduce you to the cloud industry.

You do not need to have any previous cloud certifications behind you to sit the CompTIA Cloud+. It covers cloud concepts and models, virtualisation, network management, security and business continuity. With this wide variety of topics, you get a well-rounded set of cloud skills, meaning it’s a great way to get started with a career in cloud technology in 2016.

Image courtesy of Anamwong

8. VMware® vSphere: Fast Track [V6]

With VMware’s vSphere 6, you can convert underutilised physical servers into virtual servers that offer high availability, flexibility, reduced consumption and increased speed and efficiency. The VMware® vSphere: Fast Track [V6] certification gives you all the skills you need to manage a vSphere setup in your business.

It is recommended that you have at least 6 month’s experience of working with vSphere 6, as the curriculum is comprehensive and penetrative in its coverage of the vSphere’s areas. These include the creation of virtual machines and virtual networks, vCenter Server, managing virtual storage and installing vSphere components. This makes it much easier for you to link vSphere with your chosen cloud platform.

9. Microsoft MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect

Microsoft’s MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect course helps you develop the skills to migrate your existing servers to Azure. It’ll also give you the skills to design websites and other types of infrastructure in Microsoft Azure and to take full advantage of all Azure’s capabilities. 

It’ll introduce you to the capacities of Azure and then explain its full potential in topics like, hosting web applications, storing SQL data, designing cloud applications and implementing automation. These skills will be well-rounded, helping you get ahead with Azure in 2016.

10. Cisco CCNA Cloud

Cisco’s CCNA Cloud is brilliant at introducing you to networking, combined with specialisations in cloud technology. There are no strict prerequisites, although it is recommended you have at least a year’s experience working in a data centre or cloud network environment.

With a focus on preparing you for on-the-job situations, the certification covers Cisco Cloud fundamentals helping you to fully understand its structure and essentials. Plus, you’ll be able to perform invaluable administration and maintenance tasks. This includes management of software applications like Cisco UCS Director, Cisco Prime Service Catalog and Virtual Application Container Services. 

 About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.