1) Are MS certifications actually worth the effort / money? It appears that most of the certification tests cost $150, which is enough money that I don't want to waste it. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?
Don't. You're better off picking up C# and SQL Server and the world will open up from there. I have yet to be turned by a company for not having MS certs. Although having them would be neat, I'm not quite sure how they would help in finding a job.
My resume is fairly Java-centric, in terms of standard application programming, so I was hoping that a C# certification would help bring me closer to the dark side... =)
Realistically, I think a C# cert (plus advanced degree) might open a couple of doors that would otherwise have been closed off due to overly nit-picky HR people. We'll see. One of the Las Vegas companies to which I'm applying offers $5K in tuition plus certifications. If I get a job with them, I might pursue a couple of the certifications.
I HATE how f'ing HUGE the MS stacks are now. What a confusing, mind numbing, mess.
3) I noticed that MS has some BI certifications now. Has anyone taken the cert or worked with the MS BI stack?
BI is a monster. I haven't touched the MS BI Stack in a while but BI is a beast. OLAP/SSAS will occupy much of your time.
What is SASS? I don't want to get stuck writing software that generates reports that a bunch of managers use to validate their own opinions. I'm kind of hoping to find an industry position that would allow me to utilize more of my stats/math background than a standard application programming position. I've been able to do this with research positions, but I'm hoping to move to Las Vegas where I can take full advantage of the extremely inexpensive real estate in that area, and there aren't really any research positions in the area.
Oh, and what the heck has everyone been up to lately?
Better than not working, right?