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I’ll be honest; I’ve little experience using Git, or any other versioning software for that matter. I have had an interest in Git for a while now though. Mostly for keeping a personal code repo; scripts for working in the Azure and AWS clouds, PowerShell scripts for system administration tasks, and most recently to use to learn and deploy Docker and Kubernetes in my home lab. Previously, I just never thought that I had had the time to learn it. So when I stumbled across a link to register for FREE, for the GitLab Certified Associate (GCA) Training and Exam, I decided “What the hell. let’s do it!” (The link only lasted 2 days before they took down the free offering due to overwhelming interest, so sorry folks, I can’t provide you with the link.)
In my personal opinion, this certification is much more of a knowledge certificate than a technical certification. I feel like the course is designed to take you from 0 to drive. You cover all the basics and afterward, you’ll be able to jump right into using git without feeling like an imposter. If you have no experience, like me, this is the perfect place to start. If you’re already familiar with Git, well tough… You’ll still need to get the GCA before you can get one of their ‘specialist’ or ‘professional’ certifications. More info on their more advanced certifications can be found here.
The hands-on, self-paced, training lab was informative. There was definitely a sprinkle of marketing in there, like the inclusion of GitLab’s history. But they did do a good job of teaching the various Git concepts and terminology. They also included a bunch of labs to work on while proceeding thru the training. The hands-on portion, doing labs, was by far my favorite part. I like to learn by doing. So doing stuff like making a pull request, making changes in the WebIDE and from the command prompt, tagging code, and committing code to a project was what really made the training count. I also was able to recall that hands-on training to complete the exams later on. Like I mentioned early, I didn’t think I had the time to commit to learning Git… Well by spending 1-2hrs a night, for just a few nights, I was totally able to learn how to use Git.
The exam was twofold. One part was a “written” exam with questions you had to answer. The second part was a “lab” exam where you had to work a project and submit that project for grading. The written exam was not too bad. They give you a series of questions and you have to score 100% on them before you can proceed to the “lab” project exam. The questions dealt with terminology and things that GitLab could do. Honestly, if you did the labs, it was pretty easy as they had already covered all the information. I didn’t feel like there were any surprises or gotchas. I was a little more worried about doing the “lab” project. But again, having done the hands-on training labs, it was pretty straightforward of an exam. Some of the verbiage in the lab instructions had confused me up, and I had to reread the task it asked for a couple of times. But in the end, they again were only asking you to do stuff they had covered in the training materials. So nothing too bad if you take your time to complete it.
I feel like unless you work in development or DevOps, this is not going to be a high-priority cert for you to get. For most folks, I feel that this certification is going to more of a skill that they can add to their resume to show one more item that they are knowledgeable in. That said, it won’t hurt any to get the GitLab’s GCA if the opportunity presents itself like it did for me. You never know what you will be working on 1, 2, 5, or even 10 years from now in the future. IT is always changing. Who knows…. Tomorrow could come, and you or I might find ourselves in some sort of role needing to deploy code to a production CI/CD pipeline and using GitLab to commit our code change and push it. You never know… It could happen and when it does you’ll be happy you got yourself the GCA.
Let us be honest, software is what ultimately drives IT. It is what allows us to perform duties and complete tasks. We use it everywhere from our smartphones, to our home PCs and office workstations. But there is a difference between good software, and useful software, as well as just plain bad software. I am fortunate in that between work and home, I use a lot of different programs.
I’m always on the lookout for new programs that will help me do my job better, whether it’s at home or in the office. Like most things in IT, it is an iterative approach as there is always something new.
That said… here are some programs and services that I find myself using often. These are my personal recommendations. As my opinion or tastes change, I’ll make sure to update this post.
This post was last updated: April 6, 2021
FastStone Capture – https://www.faststone.org/FSCaptureDetail.htm
This application makes taking screenshots a breeze. I use it a lot when creating documentation. It’s inexpensive, but it really makes the chore of documentation a lot easier in my opinion.
MS Office 365 – https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/
Love it or hate it, it is the gold standard of Office suites. It’s what 99% of people are using at home and work. If you have more than one person in your house, go for MS O365 Family, as it allows for 6 users on the plan for only $99/year. If you are a student, make sure to utilize your “free” Edu licensed copies of Office.
Yes, there are other free Office suites out there, like Google Apps or LibreOffice, which will work in a pinch – but why settle. Go with the gold standard and go with the software you know will work, go with O365.
NotePad++ – https://notepad-plus-plus.org/
This is my favorite text editor. If you haven’t tried it, what are you waiting for? It really is just the best multi-tab text editor out there.
VMware Workstation Player – https://www.vmware.com/products/workstation-player.html
This is a great, free, type two hypervisor. Do you want to run a VM on your workstation? This will do it! If you are really getting into virtualization (or use it a lot for work) look into purchasing (or having work purchase) VMware Workstation Pro, it’s $149. Having the Pro version unlocks a lot more features which the regular player doesn’t have. Also, take a look at the VMUG Advantage membership I mention below.
VMUG Advantage – https://www.vmug.com/home
If you work with virtualization at all, then you probably want to get yourself a VMUG Advantage membership. VMUG is VMware’s free User Group and its paid VMUG Advantage provides members exclusive development opportunities with 365-day access to VMware solutions, discounted training, certification opportunities, and more.
While it’s a little costly at $200/year, you get a lot back. Heck if you were to buy VMware Workstation Pro, that alone is worth $150, so for a little more, you can gain access to basically the entire VMware software library. How’s that for a LifeProTip. And with a bit of googling you could probably find yourself a discount code even.
7-zip – https://www.7-zip.org/
This is my go-to archiving software. It is free. It is open-source. You can use it on any computer. You never have to register it to use it. It works with just about any compression/archive file format. What else could you want!?!
VideoLAN – https://www.videolan.org/index.html
Also known as, VLC player. Need to play a media file? Well, you are in luck! VideoLAN will play it.
If it can’t play your media file, then you got bigger problems. I find that VideoLAN just works better than other media players. It’s also fairly lightweight, so it won’t slow down your system. It’s also available on every platform iPhone, Android, Mac, Windows, and Linux.
PuTTY – https://www.putty.org/
This app is a bit dated. But it’s still a powerful little app that gets used daily by a lot of folks. It’ll open a terminal session (i.e. – SSH or Telnet) to the server or host or device you specify. I know that there are “newer” and more “robust” applications now that will let you do what PuTTY does… and someday I might swap one of them onto this list. But for the role PuTTY plays, it’d be hard to find a more widely used app among IT professionals.
WinSCP – https://winscp.net/
WinSCP is a great app that works as a FTP client, SFTP client, WebDAV client, SCP client & S3 client. Its mostly used for transferring files between your local and a remote machine, but it also has some capabilities in scripting and file management. I really like that it can share site settings with PuTTY, making it even easier to connect to my server and upload/download files.
I have two scary words for you – Password Management. Yes, it’s a scary subject. However, it’s one we need to talk about. With passwords needed everywhere and for everything, it’s important to keep track of what you are using on what site. Even more so, it’s important that you are not re-using the same username/password combinations on every site.
By using an application like Bitwarden, you can keep some of your sanity by letting it keep track of all of your passwords. There are plenty of other password managers out there… so I’m not saying that this one is the best. It’s just the one I am using. You just need to find the one that will meet your needs and utilize it.
Ninite – https://www.ninite.com/
This site is my goto when I’m setting up a ‘fresh’ Windows machine at home for myself or friends. To sum it up, it’s basically just a multi-installer. Tick the boxes to select all of the programs you want to install and then download just a single installer file. It’s fast and simple!
Trace32.exe – https://social.technet.microsoft.com/…
Trace32.exe, an executable found in System Center Configuration Manager 2007, can quickly open very large trace files and will automatically highlight lines with apparent errors. This tool will allow you to quickly open very large files and locate errors visually. It’s wonderful for log files!