dev certification, sql_server

I believe I had a considerable amount of experience with SQL Server throughout my career. Recently I decided to get SQL Server MSCA title which requires taking 3 exams (70-461, 70-462 and 70-463 namely). I think it’s a good way of polishing existing knowledge and learning new stuff. Hands on experience is great but generally you only learn enough to get things done, which is the desired result of course but when studying for certification you have to cover all details. Some of them may be quite trivial and don’t have much practical usage but I think they all may come in handy sometime so it doesn’t hurt to learn more.

On to 70-461

The number of questions vary between 40 – 60 and test duration is between 2 – 3 hours. In my exam, I had 44 questions and the time given was 2 hours.

Total score is 1000 and the passing score is 700. I’ve got a whopping 906. Actually at the end of the day doesn’t really matter if you get a full 1000 but it feels better to pass with a high mark.

Study Notes

I decided to release my notes on a separate blog post as it became very lengthy very quickly.

Study Materials

70-461 Training Kit

I used several different sources preparing for the exam. One of the most important ones is the official Training Kit. Also, I found the CBT Nuggets video series quite useful. You can move at a much faster pace to cover the topics with a video. So I recommend those videos (despite the steep price of CBT Nuggets subscription)

There is another series in TrainSignal but I haven’t tried it.Finally I’ve found a short introductory video (around 1h 15m) to the exam. You can find the find link in the resorces section. It’s a very fast-paced introduction mainly underlining the exam topics that are not commonly used in real life.


hobby electronics

Playing with Gadgeteer fuelled my enthusiasm so I dusted off my solderless breadboard and basic electronics components that came with the basic kit I bought a while ago.


I don’t know what most of those things are but I decided to start with a simple circuit that lights an LED. After burning a few LEDs I learned that it would be a good idea to use a resistor in the circuit in order not to fry the LED. Reading resistors turned out to be a pain though! They are colour-coded and you have to know the value of each colour. I found here a nice calculator to free myself from that unnecessary waste of time:

Yet there was another problem. All the sources I had found were talking about 3 bands. But my resistors had 5 colour bands! After spending some more time I learned that there is also a 5-colour version of resistors. Here is the calculator for the 5-band version:

The problem is they are so tiny that it’s not always easy to distinguish the colours. Anyway, I decided to pick one and hope for the best.

The next challenge is using the breadboard. Even though it’s meant to make life easier for circuit builders there’s a still a few things to learn about it which are not very intuitive. I found a nice video on Youtube to learn the basics:

After playing around a little bit a finally managed to light a LED which was nice but didn’t feel like much of an accomplishment. It required too much time to achieve something so trivial.


I think I’ll need various components to build something significant. The kit I have looks very limited. But before I invest more money into this I think I’ll keep playing with more high-level products like Gadgeteer, Netduino and Arduino. If I can incorporate breadboard and lower-level components into systems using those that would a bonus but without such powerful controllers I don’t think I’ll get satisfying results with circuits built on a solderless breadboard.

hobbydev dotnet_gadgeteer

I like gadgets and electronics. Programming against hardware and interact with the real world makes it much more fun I think. I bought a .NET Gadgeteer kit set some time ago but hadn’t much time to spend on it. Now it’s time to break that cycle and actually do something with it.

Setting up dev environment

As this will be more experimenting than actual development I decided to use my spare laptop for this task. I installed the latest version of .NET Micro Framework which can be found in the official site. My kit is GHI Electronics’ FEZ Spider Starter Kit which can be ordered from here: I also needed to install device drivers and Spider mainboard SDK which all could be found on GHI’s website.

Updating the Firmware

Since I bought the device .NET Micro Framework release v4.2 and I wanted to work with the latest version. Turns out it’s a quite complicated process! I tried a bunch of tools but finally managed to upgrade my framework by using FEZSpiderMainboardUpdater.exe application which can be found under the legacy apps from GHI.

Spider updater

Down to coding

After installing every bit it was time to develop my first program to explore its capabilities. For this I used the excellent “Getting started with the FEZ Spider Kit”. You can find the link below in Resources section. What you do is basically designing your gadget using the designer that’s installed in the Visual Studio and comes with the Gadgeteer project. Then you connect the actual hardware components in the same way. After this you run it just like a regular project. It first compiles and deploys the project to the device then runs it. You can even debug your source code even though it’s running on the mainboard.

Mainboard Diagram

After I completed the gadget described in the guide, I got a rather strange and annoying error called “MMP error”. After Googling it a little bit I found the link for the workaround: After copying the config file the problem was resolved. The source code for the sample project is just a few lines which can be seen below:

Gadgeteer source code

The application is quite simple: You press the button and the camera takes a picture and displays on the screen. You can see a sample screenshot below:

Gadgeteer sample Output

So far so good. I now have the environment ready and I have to check all the components and find out what they are capable of and hopefully come up with a cool project idea to make all this worthwhile.