AWS re:Invent 2016 – Getting there

Las Vegas Boulevard South

Coming Soon: AWS re:Invent 2016. Photo courtesy of D-Stanley(CC Attribution)

Are you planning to be at AWS re:Invent in November? qwikLABS is going, and we hope to see you there! 

This is the first in a series of posts we’ll write leading up to the event. You will see all kinds of information, from packing lists to treasure maps. Today’s topic? How to get your ticket.

The easiest way, of course, is to register. 

Looking for a challenge? There are a few ways to get to re:Invent for less…

Win a ticket with the Serverless Chat Bot Competition

  • The challenge: Build a chat bot and win a ticket to re:Invent 2016! 8 tickets (plus other goodies) are up for grabs.
  • Deadline: Sept. 29
  • Click here for official details from the AWS team
  • Wondering where to start? Sign up for a free webinar from AWS. The webinar promises in-depth exploration of the skills you’ll need to master to build your own chat bot. 
  • … and finally, qwikLABS can help you learn to build a serverless chat bot! (Handy, eh?) With this Slack Chat Bot lab, you’ll get step-by-step instructions and a template for creating a chat bot. You can customize it to your heart’s content, then use it to enter the competition!

Earn the Alexa Developer Discount

If we find other nifty competitions or promos, we’ll be sure to share them. Good luck! 

3 reasons why Darth Vader is working on his own Alexa skill

1. Voice design is today’s Jedi mind trick. 

2. Vader wants a free t-shirt. It matches the rest of his wardrobe. 

3. So his Echo can answer him when he asks “Alexa, where is the Rebel Alliance base?” Hint: Not Alderaan. (Too soon?)

When Darth Vader asks, he gets what he wants. And what better way for him (and you) to take advantage of the latest lab, Working with Alexa: Build a Decision Tree Skill

This lab features a cleverly designed decision tree template. Take the lab, familiarize yourself with key concepts, then use the lab as a template to build and publish your own skill. It’s that easy to become part of the (growing) Alexa Developer community. Bonus: it’s part of the Alexa Skills Development Quest! These aren’t the labs you’re looking for…..

Alexa Badge

Can you imagine this pinned to Vader's cape?.

Need another reason? Check out how developing an Alexa skill can make your trip to AWS re:Invent 2016 a little easier… (Stay tuned- more on that later this week!)

New Quest: Serverless Web Apps Using Amazon DynamoDB

Ol

Your mission… earn your DynamoDB badge. Photo courtesy of JD Hancock(CC Attribution)

The newest AWS Quest, Serverless Web Apps using Amazon DynamoDB awaits! With great power comes great responsibility, and DynamoDB and Lambda are powerful tools in your arsenal of AWS skills. Build a super hero mission dossier generator that retrieves data from DynamoDB via Lambda functions – and send super heroes on missions to save the world!

The Backstory 

Every super hero has a backstory, and this Quest is no exception. Start the Quest by learning the basics with Introduction to AWS Lambda, Introduction to Amazon DynamoDB, and Introduction to AWS API Gateway. (If you already completed these labs, you don’t need to take them again. They already count towards your badge. Unless you want a refresher of course!) 

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Now that you know the backstory, at the core of this Quest is a 3-part mission:

Part 1: Lay the groundwork for your mission. Create a DynamoDB table and practice adding data in several different ways. Then set up AWS IAM infrastructure you will need throughout the lab. 

Part 2: It’s up to you now… to create Lambda functions that retrieve data from the DynamoDB table in several different ways. Once you create the functions, you will test them. Challenge yourself to dig into the Lambda function code and modify the custom tests provided in the manual.

Part 3: Complete your mission! Conclude this three-part series by configuring an API using Amazon API Gateway and setting up a public website to retrieve information from your DynamoDB table via Lambda functions, using what you learned in all three labs to send super heroes off to save the world! 

Serverless Web Apps using Amazon DynamoDB Badge

This would look great on your resume.

Did you know that you can purchase a qwikLABS subscription? Get all-you-can-eat access to every single lab in our AWS catalog for $55/month. It’s the most economical way to earn a badge or two. 

qwikLABS road trip: AWS Summit NYC

Were you at the AWS Summit in NYC? We hope you had time to swing by the hands-on lab room! Even if you didn’t make it, we hope to see you at the next one

AWS Summit: Hands-on labs

Lab-takers hard at work.

While you’re at an AWS Summit…

There’s always a ton of speakers, events, and programs with AWS experts and super-users. Usually you can find qwikLABS there too! If you haven’t been to one yet, or if you’re thinking of going to the next one, here’s why you should make the trip:

    Overheated? Turn up the AC with AWS IoT

    Thermostat

    The IoT thermostat looks a little different… Photo courtesy of alex_why(CC No Derivatives)

    Is it hot in here? AWS IoT can help, and qwikLABS can show you how with our brand new lab: Introduction to AWS Internet of Things (IoT). Does this lab sound familiar? That’s because it was one of the #nextqwikLAB winners earlier this Summer. 

    So what does AWS IoT have to do with heat? Other than IoT being hot new technology, this lab teaches you how to use AWS IoT to detect temperature changes in a simulated environment, and control the thermostat accordingly. It’s a three part lab (pretty in-depth for an intro freebie), but don’t let that scare you away. 

    What I like about this lab:

    • This lab keeps you busy. In a good way! We try to keep intro-level labs simple. They are geared towards AWS first-timers and freshmen. This lab sticks to basic concepts, as an intro. But you do a lot, and when you finish, you feel like you’ve had a busy hour. 
    • You walk through a real-world scenario. Sounds obvious, but it’s great to get hands-on practice with a problem you know you will encounter in real life. As you go through the lab, envision applying the strategies and tools in the lab to your environment.
    • Lots of images. I appreciate visuals when I’m learning, especially when in unfamiliar territory (of course it’s a personal preference). I like to see screenshots that either confirm I’m doing it right, or point out that I’m doing it wrong and I need to try again. 

    Four New Labs for AWS Olympians

    An accomplishment of any size is something to be proud of

    Photo courtesy of eddiecoyote(CC Attribution)

    Are you in Rio watching athletes performing incredible feats? Imagine how much training each person put into reaching the pinnacle of their sport. 

    Your career is just as important, and qwikLABS has a mission to help you train to be your best.  Each AWS lab you take, each Quest you complete, adds new strengths and skills to your arsenal (and your resume). 

    So tighten your laces, grab a handful of chalk, and vault into four new additions to your training program! 

    1. Parallel File Copy and Consolidation for Amazon S3: Take big data through its paces. Learn to copy and aggregate large amounts of data with different utilities (S3DistCp, awscli, and hdfs dfs to name a few), then compare results.
    2. Introduction to AWS Application Discovery Service: This one’s on us! Learn how to discover and tag resources to plan for successful migrations. For a free lab, this is a pretty deep dive….
    3. Deploy Docker Compose Microservices to Amazon EC2 Container Service: Stick the landing with the Amazon ECS CLI when you deploy example Docker Compose apps! 
    4. Using AWS Elastic Beanstalk with .NET: Continue your .NET on AWS workout, this time working with AWS Elastic Beanstalk for application deployment.

    Good luck on your next competition, whether it’s the 100 m butterfly or an interview for your dream job.

    How to show your qwikLABS badge – and get away with it

    Completing a qwikLABS quest and earning a badge is a huge accomplishment – and one you should be proud of. When you earn a badge, you demonstrate to the world that you mastered a skill set with Amazon Web Services. Not only that, you have real, hands-on experience with the AWS Console. Whether you earn a badge on your own or your employer sponsors your qwikLABS lab work, your badge is undeniably yours. You earned it! 

    By default, your badge is not public when you first earn it. You maintain total control of what information is shared, when, and how. You can post a link to your badge anywhere you want (online profiles like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), you can send links to badges through email, and you can even copy/paste a link onto your resume. But first, you have to choose what information to share and make your badge public!

    qwikLABS profile

    Profile roulette anyone? Here's what a badge looks like.

    Look mom, I published an Alexa skill

    I created an Alexa trivia skill. Call me a nerd, but it was fun :) If you haven’t already, check out the Alexa Skills Development quest from qwikLABS, the reason I’ve been eating, sleeping, and breathing Alexa Skills for the past couple of weeks.

    My Alexa skill took me about 3 days between starting to work on the skill and clicking submit. It will probably take you less – I asked for outside help on my icon, which added some time (thanks to my sister-in-law for the awesome artwork!) and I spent an afternoon working on my trivia questions. 

    Here’s what I learned about developing an Alexa Skill:

    1. My skill got rejected. Guess why?

    Alexa, what’s the new qwikLABS Quest?

    Today we’re announcing a new quest, and it’s all about Alexa! Have you met her yet? Alexa is the voice behind the Amazon Echo, Tap, and Dot devices. The technology is at the cutting edge of voice design. 

    Check out the Alexa Skills Development Quest now.

    You do not need an Alexa device for this Quest. Testing tools and an Alexa voice simulator are available in the Amazon Developer Portal (same great Alexa voice, just through your browser). 

    The new Alexa Quest walks you through creating 5 different types of Alexa Skills. “Skills” are very similar to apps, but instead of your phone or tablet, you use them on an Echo device. You learn how to design each type of interaction between the skill and the user (practical applications of voice design), as well as the AWS Lambda infrastructure that runs behind the scenes. 

    As you go through the Quest, you will download templates for each type of skill you create. After completing the lab, the skills you build in the lab will remain in your Amazon Developer account. You can customize them to build your own skills. Plus, you can add this badge to your CV!

    Here’s a sample of what you’ll do in your Quest (should you choose to accept it):

    1. Introduction to AWS Lambda – Learn the basics of AWS Lambda, the infrastructure behind running your Alexa skill. This lab’s a freebie, and it knocks out a requirement for the Serverless Design with AWS Lambda Quest too. 

    2. Working with Alexa: Build a Fact Skill – This is a good first-time Alexa Skill project. Familiarize yourself with the practical applications of voice design as you learn to set up interactions between your users and your Alexa skill.

    3. Working with Alexa: Build a How-To Skill – This skill’s interactions are a little more complicated so you will get an in-depth look at setting up utterances and custom slots. Minecraft-ers, you will like this template. 

    If you haven’t met Alexa yet, head over to this browser-based simulator and say hi. Planning to publish your own Alexa skill, or interested in more Alexa resources? I’ll share my Alexa experience here tomorrow. You can learn from my mistakes :) 

    Tweet us (@qwikLAB) when your Alexa skill is live with the hashtag #AlexaQuest. You can be one of the first developers to publish an Alexa Skill – and get the t-shirt to prove it! 

    Notice something different?

    Nope, not a new haircut. Next time you log into qwikLABS, you’ll see a few changes – for the better! Curious? Read on, then log in to see the new stuff for yourself.  

    1. Your lab connection details, including the password you use to log into the Console and take the lab, are on a new sliding tab labeled “Connect” on the right side of your screen. When you start your lab, click the tab to see your connection info.