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Tips on how to take Microsoft Azure Certification Exams

Tips on how to take Microsoft Azure Certification Exams

As I wrote a couple of blog posts on Microsoft Azure Certification exams, like why should you become Microsoft Azure Certified, how you pick the right Azure Certification path or how you prepare for an Azure exam, I now got the questions if I have some tips to share about how to take the Microsoft Certification exams. I know that everyone takes exams differently, but I want to share what helped me to pass the exams. So here is a short list with tips on how you can be more successful when you take your Microsoft Azure Certification Exams.

Make sure you are prepared 💪

As mentioned in my blog post how you prepare and pass a Microsoft Azure Certification exam, you need to go through the topics and prepare. There are a lot of great resources to prepare for this exam. Great free resources I use usually are Microsoft Docs and Microsoft Learn, make sure you check out my blog post to get prepared.

There are also Microsoft Official Practice Tests available which are a great way to build your confidence and validate your skills, allowing you to identify gaps that you might need to resolve before you take your Microsoft Certification exam. Another resource you might find helpful is the Exam Replay offer, giving you the opportunity to retake the same exam if you failed the first time.

Empower your brain ⚡

Now it is essential to make your mind work best during the exam. Make sure you had enough sleep, and you have the right amount of sugar and caffeine in you. Depending on the exam, you will be spending quite some time on the exam, and you will read a lot, so make sure you have enough energy to get the answers out of your brain. Questions often come with a lot of different information. Parts of that information is relevant for the answer, and other parts are not. You will need to focus on sorting relevant and irrelevant information.

Plan enough time and avoid stress ⌚

If you are going to take the exam at a test center, make sure you show up early. It is not great if you have to rush into the exam room because you came late. The same applies when you are taking the exam from home. I like to be ready for the exam more-less half an hour before the exam starts. This gives me a little bit of time to get in exam mode and make my brain switch from the thing I was doing before, to the exam topic.

Get into the topic 📄

For some people switching context between different things isn’t a big deal. For me, it works best if I have some ‘stress-free’ time after the last thing I did, before getting into the exam mode. I usually do an extra round on Microsoft Docs to get my brain thinking about the right context.

Get comfortable 🛋

Make sure you are relaxed and ready for the exam at least half an hour before your exam is scheduled to start. Also, make sure you used the restroom, you had your coffee and water because you are not allowed to take a break during the exam, and you can’t have these things close to you during the exam. And again, be relaxed, if you don’t pass the exam it isn’t the end of the world, you can still retake the exam another time. That said, also make sure you take advantage of special offers, like exam replays.

Read the questions carefully 👓

Make sure you read the questions carefully, to understand what is really asked. It also helps you to navigate through the exam, usually, you can go back to specific questions later. However, in some cases, the exam will let you know that you cannot access the question later after you have clicked next.

Answer all questions and use the mark question feature ✔

Now, when you start with the exam, you will maybe find some topics you are not familiar with, and you might not be sure about the answer. In these cases, you can mark this question and come back to it later, so you don’t lose too much time on it. If you don’t know the answer, make sure you at least select an answer, it is always better to have a small chance in guessing the right answer, then not answering the question at all. If you want to know more about the different types of questions in a Microsoft exam, check out my blog, which has a couple of additional tips on how to prepare and pass the exam.

Write down what you have learned 📝

For me it doesn’t matter if I have passed the exam or not, I always write down things I didn’t know the answer to. This allows me to look them up later and learn more. Make sure you don’t share this information since that would violate the testing policies.

Do you have tips to take a Microsoft Azure Exam? 🤔

I hope this blog post gives you some useful tips on how to take a Microsoft Azure Certification exam. Do you have any suggestions and tips? Let me know in the comments!

By the way, make sure you take the 2020 IT Skills and Salary Survey from Global Knowledge and be one of the first to get the results of the report early next year.

Getting started! 🧪

Are you also interested in becoming Microsoft Azure Certified? Check out my blog posts about why you should become Microsoft Azure Certified and how to pick the right Azure exam certification path. And have a look at my Azure exam experience with the different Azure exams.



Cascadia Code in Windows Terminal

Change the Windows Terminal Theme from Light to Dark

This is again a very small post on the Windows Terminal, like how to open the Windows Terminal from the command prompt or run and how to change the Windows Terminal background image. This time I got asked about how you switch the Windows Terminal Theme from light to dark. Well, the answer is pretty simple. The theme of the Windows Terminal is defined by the Windows 10 color theme. So to change the Windows Terminal theme from light to dark, you simply need to change the default app mode to dark or switch completely switch to dark in the Windows 10 personalization settings. Not like other Windows 10 apps, after you have switch the color mode, you will need to close and reopen the Windows Terminal to see the change.

The Windows Terminal is currently in preview and lets you run shells like the classic command-line, PowerShell or WSL and WSL 2. If you want to know how to install the Windows Terminal, check out my blog post.

Change to Windows Terminal Dark Theme

Here is how you change it to the dark theme.

  1. Open Windows 10 Settings
  2. Go to Personalization
  3. Click on Colors
  4. Choose your color and select “Dark
Windows Terminal Dark Theme

Windows Terminal Dark Theme

 

Activate Light Theme

Here is how you change it to the light theme.

  1. Open Windows 10 Settings
  2. Go to Personalization
  3. Click on Colors
  4. Choose your color and select “Light
Windows Terminal Light Theme

Windows Terminal Light Theme

I hope this is a quick help, also check out my blog post about the new font called Cascadia Code. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment.



Ping Azure VM Public IP address

How to enable Ping (ICMP echo) on an Azure VM

This is just a very quick blog post because I got the question from a couple of people. In this blog post want to show you how you can enable ping (ICMP) on a public IP address of an Azure virtual machine (VM). First, just let me say that assigning a public IP address to a virtual machine can be a security risk. So if you do that, make sure you know what you are doing. If you need admin access to virtual machines only for a specific time, there are services like Azure Just-in-Time VM Access (JIT) and Azure Bastion you should have a look at. Now back to the topic, Azure by default denies and blocks all public inbound traffic to an Azure virtual machine, and also includes ICMP traffic. This is a good thing since it improves security by reducing the attack surface.

Azure Network Security Group Port Rules Deny All Inbound Traffic to Azure VM

Azure Network Security Group Port Rules Deny All Inbound Traffic to Azure VM

This also applies to pings or ICMP echo requests sent to Azure VMs.

Ping Azure VM failed

Ping Azure VM failed

However, if you need to access your application from a public IP address, you will need to allow the specific ports and protocols. The same applies to the ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol) protocol. The ICMP protocol is typically used for diagnostic and is often used to troubleshoot networking issues. One of the diagnostic tools using ICMP is ping, which we all know and love.

What do I need to do to be able to ping my Azure virtual machines (VMs)

Overall we need to do two main steps:

Configure Network Security Group (NSG) to allow ICMP traffic

So here is how you enable or allow ping (ICMP) to an Azure VM. Click on add a new inbound port rule for the Azure network security group (NSG).

Enable Ping ICMP in a NSG on an Azure VM

Enable Ping ICMP in an NSG on an Azure VM

Change the protocol to ICMP. As you can see, you can also limit the sources which can make use of that rule, as well as change the name and description. You can also use the following Azure PowerShell commands to add the inbound security rule to your NSG.

Get-AzNetworkSecurityGroup -Name "AzureVM-WIN01-nsg" | Add-AzNetworkSecurityRuleConfig -Name ICMP-Ping -Description "Allow Ping" -Access Allow -Protocol ICMP -Direction Inbound -Priority 100 -SourceAddressPrefix * -SourcePortRange * -DestinationAddressPrefix * -DestinationPortRange * | Set-AzNetworkSecurityGroup
Configure Network Security Group PowerShell

Configure Network Security Group PowerShell

Set up the operating system to answer to Ping/ICMP echo request

If you haven’t already configured the operating system that way, you will need to allow ICMP traffic, so the operating system response to a ping. On Windows Server, this is disabled by default, and you need to configure the Windows Firewall. You can run the following command to allow ICMP traffic in the Windows Server operating system. In the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security, you can enable the Echo Request – ICMPv4-In or Echo Request ICMPv6-In rules, depending on if you need IPv4 or IPv6.

Windows Firewall Enable Ping

Windows Firewall Enable Ping

You can also run the following command to do that:

# For IPv4
netsh advfirewall firewall add rule name="ICMP Allow incoming V4 echo request" protocol="icmpv4:8,any" dir=in action=allow
 
#For IPv6
netsh advfirewall firewall add rule name="ICMP Allow incoming V6 echo request" protocol="icmpv6:8,any" dir=in action=allow

After doing both steps, you should be able to ping your Azure Virtual Machine (VM) using a public IP address.

Ping Azure VM Public IP address

Ping Azure VM Public IP address

I hope this helps you be able to ping your Azure VMs. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments.



Windows Terminal Background Acrylic Opacity

How to Change the Windows Terminal Background Image

As you may know, Microsoft released a new Windows Terminal, which is currently in preview. However, it has some great new features, and a lot of people are currently trying it out. Now I got a lot of questions about how you can change the background of the Windows Terminal. So I decided to write a quick blog post about how you can configure and customize the Windows Terminal background image. There are multiple ways you can do this. And you can not only change the color or use a background image, but you can also change the opacity, and if it should use the acrylic Windows effect.

Customize the Windows Terminal Background Image

First open the settings of the Windows Terminal app, which will open a JSON file, where the settings are stored.

Windows Terminal Settings

Windows Terminal Settings

This will allow you to customize the settings and colors of the terminal. Every console has a so-called profile, which you can modify. Let’s start with adding a background image.

        {
            "acrylicOpacity" : 0.5,
            "closeOnExit" : true,
            "colorScheme" : "VibrantInk",
            "commandline" : "C:\\Program Files\\PowerShell\\6\\pwsh.exe",
            "cursorColor" : "#FFFFFF",
            "cursorShape" : "bar",
            "fontFace" : "Consolas",
            "fontSize" : 12,
            "guid" : "{574e775e-4f2a-5b96-ac1e-a2962a402336}",
            "historySize" : 9001,
            "icon" : "ms-appx:///ProfileIcons/{574e775e-4f2a-5b96-ac1e-a2962a402336}.png",
            "name" : "PowerShell Core",
            "padding" : "0, 0, 0, 0",
            "snapOnInput" : true,
            "startingDirectory" : "%USERPROFILE%",
            "useAcrylic" : true,
            "backgroundImage": "C:/Users/thoma/OneDrive/Pictures/Me/Thomas Maurer Logos 2016/WindowsTerminal/Black Cloud Robot.png",
            "tabTitle": "PowerShell Core "
        },

With the “backgroundImage” value, you can set a specific image as the background.

"backgroundImage": "C:/Users/thoma/OneDrive/Pictures/Me/Thomas Maurer Logos 2016/WindowsTerminal/Black Cloud Robot.png"

Opacity

You can use the “backgroundImageOpacity” to set the opacity of the for the background image, and this is super helpful when you have a full background image.

Windows Terminal Background Image Opacity

Windows Terminal Background Image Opacity

You can add the following value to configure the opacity.

"backgroundImageOpacity" : 0.2

Acrylic effect

You can also configure the Windows Terminal to use the Acrylic effect in Windows 10 for the background. This will combine the acrylic effect with the background image.

Windows Terminal Background Acrylic Opacity

Windows Terminal Background Acrylic Opacity

Just set the following value to the settings.

"useAcrylic" : true,
"acrylicOpacity" : 0.5

Here is a full config you can have a look at, with all the settings enabled.

Profile

Profile

Let me know if that helps you to set, change, and customize the background image of the Windows Terminal. You can read more about the new Windows Terminal on the official blog. And if you want to know more about how you can run Azure Cloud Shell in the terminal, check out my blog post. If you have questions, let me know in the comments.



Create Azure Dedicated Host

Azure Dedicated Host for your Azure VMs

Last week Ziv Rafalovich, Principal Program Manager in the Azure Compute team, announced the Azure Dedicated Host Public Preview. Azure Dedicated Host is a new Azure service which enables customers to run Windows and Linux virtual machines on single dedicated physical servers. Usually, the Azure host is used by multiple tenants, and the virtual machines are isolated using a multi-tenant hypervisor, with Azure Dedicated Host, the physical server only runs workloads from one tenant/customer. This gives customers the visibility and control on what physical hardware their virtual machines are running, and it allows to address corporate compliance and regulatory requirements.

Azure Dedicated Host Preview provides physical servers that host one or more Azure virtual machines. Your server is dedicated to your organization and workloads—capacity isn’t shared with other customers. This host-level isolation helps address compliance requirements. As you provision the host, you gain visibility into (and control over) the server infrastructure, and you determine the host’s maintenance policies.

You can find more information on Azure.com.

Azure Dedicated Host scenarios

The Azure Dedicated Host offers a couple of benefits and enables some new scenarios.

  • Host-level isolations for compliance requirements
  • Visibility and control over the server infrastructure to manage host maintenance policies, load on the server, fault domain count.
  • You get control over the full performance and capacity from a single Azure host which is not shared with other customers.
  • You get the advantage of unlimited virtualization for Windows Server and SQL Server with Azure Dedicated Hosts using the Azure Hybrid Benefit.

If you need these scenarios, then the Azure Dedicated host is an excellent option for you. However, if you don’t need them, you are more flexible with the shared Azure virtual machine experience.

Licensing and Pricing

Dedicated Hosts are charged at the host level and not on the number of Azure VMs you run on the host. However, software licenses are billed separately from compute resources at a VM level based on usage. There are no upfront costs or termination fees. Currently, the Azure Dedicated Host is a pay-as-you-go service, and you only pay for what you need.

You will have different dedicated host types and VM series/families available. During the preview period, you will be able to choose between Dsv3, Esv3, and Fsv2 VM series.

Dedicated Host Typ 1

Dedicated Host Type 1 is based on the 2.3 GHz Intel Xeon® E5-2673 v4 (Broadwell) processor and can achieve up to 3.5 gigahertz (GHz). Type 1 host has 64 available vCPUs.

    • Dsv3 Series
    • Esv3 Series

Dedicated Host Type 2

Dedicated Host Type 2 is based on the Intel Xeon® Platinum 8168 (Skylake) processor, which can achieve maximum single-core clock speeds of 3.7 GHz and sustained all core clock speeds as high as 3.4GHz with the Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0. Type 2 host has 72 available vCPUs.

    • Fsv2 Series

Dedicated Host configuration table

This is the Dedicated Host configuration table during the Public Preview. This might change later, and you can find the current pricing information on Azure.com.

Azure Dedicated Host configuration table

Azure Dedicated Host configuration table

Additional cost reduction

You can use your on-premises Windows Server and SQL Server licenses with Software Assurance benefits, or subscriptions with equivalent rights, when you migrate your workloads to Dedicated Host (Azure Hybrid Benefit).  Different the before is that with the dedicated host you get unlimited virtualization rights for Windows Server and SQL Server. For more information on the updated Microsoft licensing terms for dedicated hosted cloud services, check out this blog post. With this running Windows Server 2019 in Azure becomes even more attractive.

We are also expanding Azure Hybrid Benefit so you can take advantage of unlimited virtualization for Windows Server and SQL Server with Azure Dedicated Hosts. Customers with Windows Server Datacenter licenses and Software Assurance can use unlimited virtualization rights in Azure Dedicated Hosts. In other words, you can deploy as many Windows Server virtual machines as you like on the host, subject only to the physical capacity of the underlying server. Similarly, customers with SQL Server Enterprise Edition licenses and Software Assurance can use unlimited virtualization rights for SQL Server on their Azure Dedicated Hosts.

You’ll also get free extended security updates for Windows Server and SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2.

Azure Reserved VM Instances are not available for purchase during the preview on Azure Dedicated Host.

Deploy VMs to an Azure Dedicated Hosts

To deploy a new Azure Dedicated Host, we first need to create a host group. After that, we can add hosts to this group, which will be used for our Azure virtual machines. In this blog post, I am going to show you how you can deploy a new host and after that, how you deploy Azure VMs on that host using the Azure portal. If you want to know more and if you want to see how you do this using Azure PowerShell, an Azure Resource Manager (ARM) template or the Azure CLI, check the Microsoft Docs.

Create a host group

Azure Host Groups

Azure Host Groups

You can find a new Azure resource called Host Group. Create a host group and configure the host group with specific settings like availability zones and fault domain count.

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Deploy an Azure Dedicated Host

Azure Dedicated Hosts

Azure Dedicated Hosts

After you have created your host group, you can start creating new hosts and add them to your host group.

  • Select the location (region) of the host
  • Select the dedicated host VM family and hardware generation. You will only be able to provision VMs on this host in the same VM family. During the preview, we will support the following host SKU values: DSv3_Type1 and ESv3_Type1.
  • Configure the fault domain for the host.
  • Enable or disable of automatically replacing the host on a failure.
  • Configure cost savings like the Azure Hybrid Benefit.
Create Azure Dedicated Host

Create Azure Dedicated Host

Your host will be deployed in a couple of minutes. Important, your Azure subscription will need to have enough resources (CPU/Cores) enabled. Some subscriptions are limited to a specific amount of cores you can deploy in your subscription, in that case, you will need to open a support ticket, to raise the number of cores available in your subscription.

Create a VM

Now you can create a virtual machine on the Azure Dedicated Host. There area few things to consider about that VM. First, make sure the VM is created in the region you have created the host. Secondly, choose a virtual machine size of the VM family you had configured when you created the host.

During the creation process, you will find the section Host in the Advanced tab. Here you can select your host group and your host where the VM will be deployed on.

For more information, check out the Microsoft Docs.

Conclusion

The Azure Dedicated Host service enables new scenarios and addresses, especially customers with host-level isolations for compliance requirements. It makes the Azure IaaS platform even more exciting, and together with Azure Migrate, you can quickly move your virtual machines to Azure. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.



Thomas Maurer Speaking at Experts Live Europe

Speaking at Experts Live Europe 2019 in Prague

Today, I am proud to announce that I will be speaking at Experts Live Europe 2019 in Prague on November 20 – 22, 2019. This is a great honor, and it will be my 7th Experts Live Europe event I am speaking at, all the way back to the first event, when it still was called System Center Universe Europe. I have presented several sessions at each event previously hosted in Bern, Basel, Berlin, and Prague. This will be the second time Experts Live Europe will be hosted in the beautiful city of Prague, Czech Republic. I am looking forward to speaking at this Microsoft community event again. The conference has a strong focus on Microsoft Cloud, Datacenter, Security, and Modern Workplace topics and brings together the community from all over the world.

This year the conference will be three days again, with a pre-conference day including a couple of different pre-conference deep dives, as well as two main conference days with over 70 breakout sessions in 6 parallel tracks. This year the conference will have not only over 40 top expert speakers but also a vast Microsoft presence. You will not just find Microsoft Cloud Advocates and Program Managers, but people from all across the organization. Guess what, this is a perfect time to connect and network with us, but also with other members of the Microsoft community.

Another big highlight for me this year is the track specifically focusing on Windows Server and System Center, presented by Cloud Advocates, Program Managers, and Microsoft MVPs.

My sessions at Experts Live Europe 2019

I am happy that I will be speaking at Experts Live Europe 2019:

Windows Server 2019 - The Next Generation of Software-Defined Datacenter

Join this session for the best of Windows Server 2019, about the new innovation and improvements of Windows Server and Windows Admin Center. Learn how Microsoft enhances the SDDC feature like Hyper-V, Storage, and Networking and get the most out of the new Azure Hybrid Cloud Integration and Container features. You’ll get an overview of the new, exciting improvements that are in Windows Server and how they’ll improve your day-to-day job. In this presentation Thomas Maurer (Microsoft MVP) will guide you through the highly anticipated innovations in Windows Server 2019 and the Semi-Annual Channel including: ○ Windows Server Containers ○ Azure Integration ○ Hyper-V features ○ Storage ○ Networking ○ Security ○ Windows Admin Center And more!

How to become Azure Certified!

With Cloud Computing becoming more and more important, proofing your skills and becoming certified will not only boost your career but will also make you more successful in your job! In this session, you will learn why you should become Microsoft Azure Certified, what different Azure exam certification paths there are available, how you prepare, take, and pass an exam. This session will focus on the overall available Microsoft Azure Certifications.

Azure Stack Experts Panel

Join this global list of Azure Stack Experts for an open question and answer session as we discuss real world scenarios.

If you want to know more about the event and register, check out the Experts Live Europe website. I hope to see you in Prague!



PowerShell 7 Installer

How to Install and Update PowerShell 7

Currently, you can install the cross-platform version PowerShell Core 6 on Linux, macOS, and Windows. Early April the PowerShell team announced the next release called PowerShell 7. PowerShell 7 is built on .NET Core 3 and brings back many APIs required by modules built on .NET Framework so that they work with .NET Core runtime. While PowerShell Core 6 was focusing on bringing cross-platform compatibility, PowerShell 7 will focus on making it a viable replacement for Windows PowerShell 5.1 and bringing near parity with Windows PowerShell. Here is how you can install and update PowerShell 7 (preview) on Windows and Linux using a simple one-liner.

If you want to know more about the roadmap, check out Steves blog post.

One great example of how cross-platform PowerShell can work, check out my blog post: How to set up PowerShell SSH Remoting.

Install PowerShell 7 (Preview)

As mentioned PowerShell 7 is currently in preview. You can download and install it manually from GitHub. However, the easiest way to install it is to use the following one-liners created by Steve Lee (Microsoft Principal Software Engineer Manager in the PowerShell Team). You can also use the same one-liners with different parameters to install the current GA version of PowerShell 6.

If you are installing the PowerShell 7 Preview, this will be a side by side installation with PowerShell 6. You can use the pwsh-preview command to run version 7.

One-liner to install or update PowerShell 7 on Windows 10

Install and Update PowerShell 7

You can use this single command in Windows PowerShell to install PowerShell 7. The difference between the installation of version 6 versus version 7 is the -Preview flag.

iex "& { $(irm https://aka.ms/install-powershell.ps1) } -UseMSI -Preview"

There are additional switches to, for example, install daily builds of the latest PowerShell previews.

-Destination
The destination path to install PowerShell Core to.

-Daily
Install PowerShell Core from the daily build.
Note that the ‘PackageManagement’ module is required to install a daily package.

-Preview
Install the latest preview, which is currently version 7. This will

-UseMSI
Use the MSI installer.

-Quiet
The quiet command for the MSI installer.

-DoNotOverwrite
Do not overwrite the destination folder if it already exists.

-AddToPath
On Windows, add the absolute destination path to the ‘User’ scope environment variable ‘Path’;
On Linux, make the symlink ‘/usr/bin/pwsh’ points to “$Destination/pwsh”;
On MacOS, make the symlink ‘/usr/local/bin/pwsh’ points to “$Destination/pwsh”.

One-liner to install or update PowerShell 7 on Linux

Install PowerShell 7 on Linux

You can use this as a single command to install PowerShell 7 on Linux

wget https://aka.ms/install-powershell.sh; sudo bash install-powershell.sh -preview; rm install-powershell.sh

Depending on your distro you are using, this will register Microsoft’s pkg repos and install that package (deb or rpm).

You can also use the following switches:

-includeide
Installs VSCode and VSCode PowerShell extension (only relevant to machines with a desktop environment)

-interactivetesting
Do a quick launch test of VSCode (only applicable when used with -includeide)

-skip-sudo-check
Use sudo without verifying its availability (hard to accurately do on some distros)

-preview
Installs the latest preview release of PowerShell side-by-side with any existing production releases

To currently run the PowerShell Preview, you can run the following command:

pwsh-preview

After Installing

After you have installed PowerShell 7, also make sure to update PowerShellGet and the PackageManagement module.

Remember PowerShell 7 is still currently in preview, if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments.