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kenja
01-20-2001, 11:05 PM
I'm on my way to becoming one of the (much ridiculed) paper MCSEs. For those who don't know, a paper MCSE is a person with no real-world adminstrative experience working with "NT technology", yet Microsoft grants them the title of "Certified Systems Engineer".

From what I can tell, a paper MCSE may hope to be granted an interview for the following types of jobs: Assembling server machines (a local online retailer expected you to configure eight to ten servers, per customer specifications, in an eight-hour day); Help desk operator; Backup tape machine operator during the night.

As you can see, not exactly $100,000 a year jobs (like the title of a recent book implies). There are so many paper MCSEs, I think it's the equivalent of a high school diploma (or GED): a necessary requirement to being considered for an entry level job in the Information Technology field.

I attended a "career seminar" at a nationally-based computer retailer that holds classes in the back of the store. They were basically promising anyone, even if they had merely used a computer for data entry, the MCSE after completing a multi-week course (and paying a large sum of money, naturally). It was obvious to me they could only be "teaching the test".

My method for achieving the MCSE (and it is an achievement, even if it is denigrated):

1.) Set up a home computer networking lab. If you have your own networking lab, you can do some things that are too risky or impossible to do on a "live" network in the real world. (I am the absolute king of my own domain http://www.PCGuide.com/ubb/biggrin.gif .)

You can get by with two computers, but three is much nicer. A server can easily be configured as a router, which is what inter-networking is all about. I've got four desktops and a laptop on my network, but that's extreme (I love hardware). Going into debt for hardware, study guides, and reference materials was an easy decision for me after I saw how much classroom-based training costs.

Hardware (Almost every study guide has these wrong.):

Minimum processor for W2k is a 133MHz Pentium. Minimum RAM: 64MB for Professional, 128MB for Server (and that 64MB truly is a minimum, 128MB on the server should be OK for training purposes). Minimum hard drive: 2GB with 650MB free for Professional and 1GB free for Server. If you have computers that won't run W2k, they can still be useful as client computers on your network.

Network: If you've only got two computers, in theory only a "CAT5 crossover" cable is necessary to connect the two NICs (Network Interface Cards). My newer model 10bT/100bT NICs work fine in this manner, but not my older style (dissimilar) 10bT-only adapters; they keep intermittantly disconnecting. The 10bT cards really seem to like the buffering that a hub provides. Most of the ports on a hub are crossed over internally, so you'll use a "straight through" ethernet cable to connect to these. Many hubs also have an alternate port (meant for uplinking) that is not internally crossed over. (Confused yet?)

If you've got the choice between using an ISA or PCI type of NIC, choose the PCI for better performance. I've also got a USB ethernet adapter that connects as 100bT. (Must be a ton of "wait states"; USB is limited to 12Mb/s and I read an SMC box that rated their adapter as 8Mb/s maximum, 6Mb/s sustained (that's megabits per second, we're talking serial data transfer here).)

Windows 2000 recognizes multiple network adapters on the same machine; you'll need at least two to make a server into a router. If you'll be dual-booting with Win9x, use Device Manager to disable the extra adapters when running on Win9x.

Software: You'll need the server operating system. Evaluation (120 day) W2k server software was initially available for free download from Microsoft. I missed it. It's not included in the MS Press 70-215 Training Kit, either. It is included in the MS Press "Core Requirements" bundle: ISBN 0735611300. You don't really need the Professional operating system; paying attention to a 70-210 study guide will explain how it differs from Server. Note on the 120 day limitation: I've heard it can be reinstalled (starting from scratch, of course).

2.) Reference material: If you can afford it, get the Microsoft Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit. I've found it to be surprisingly readable (not that I've attempted to read it cover-to-cover http://www.PCGuide.com/ubb/tongue.gif ). I've also got the Professional Resource Kit; it comes as a single paperback volume, but I rarely use it.

For a good general read about W2k, there are the Sybex "Mastering Windows 2000..." books for Professional and Server written by the widely hailed Mark Minasi, et al. Here again, I'd pick the Server version; it's where the real meat-and-potatoes are.

3.) Study Guides: The old NT MCSE track included the exam "Networking Essentials". Microsoft now assumes this stuff to be common knowledge, so I'd recommend reading a study guide for the CompTIA "Network+" certificate. I liked the Syngress/Osborne/McGraw-Hill book (ISBN 0-07-211846-6).

There are a lot of overlapping objectives for the MCSE Windows 2000 exams. Professional ties in with Server ties in with Networking ties in with Active Directory (directory services).

I read one of the first W2k study guides published: the Microsoft Press book for the 70-210 (Professional). It was something of a struggle (doing the labs would have helped). The book left me with feelings of "Huh?...".

The next guide for the 70-210 I read was Emmett Dulaney's (he wrote it for an MCSE series of guides that QUE cancelled), a very smooth publication. Allow me to copy here my post to SaSaSite.com about the 70-210 exam:

[Start of Copy]
I should be happy with my passing score, but I'm not. The reason: both drag-and-drop questions were easy "gimmies", but the testing software kept insisting I had not provided an answer to the questions.

Here is what Microsoft>Certification>Training Innovations has to say about drag-and-drop: (apologies to SASA if this is copywrited)
http://www.microsoft.com/trainingandservices/default.asp?P ageID=mcp&PageCall=sapexamfaq&SubSite=examinfo#3Frequently (http://www.microsoft.com/trainingandservices/default.asp?PageID=mcp&PageCall=sapexamfaq&SubSite=examinfo#3Frequently) Asked Questions

Q. How do I respond to select-and-place questions?
A. Select-and-place questions first present a scenario or problem identifying the task that must be completed. To complete the task, launch the select-and-place application with the "Select and Place" button, right-click and hold the mouse button on an answer object, drag that object to the center of the appropriate answer field (identified by "Place here"), and release the mouse button. Repeat the process with other answer objects as appropriate.

Q. How do I change the solution I have created for a question?
A. If you have completed a question and moved on to the next one, you cannot modify your previous answer. If you have not yet moved on to the next exam question, you can modify your answer by dragging previously placed objects off their placement area and placing a different answer object in the answer field, or by selecting a different answer object and placing it on top of the previous one in the same answer field. To ensure proper scoring, you must always select your answers from the set of answer objects; dragging a previously placed answer object to a new answer field will result in an improper score.

Q. Once I have completed a select-and-place question, will I be able to review it later and change my answer?
A. You can go back to previous select-and-place questions you have answered, but your answers to those questions will then be deleted, and you will have to answer the questions again.

Q. Some of the select-and-place questions require the placement of multiple objects. Will I receive partial credit for responses that are partially correct?
A. No. Microsoft exams do not give partial credit for responses to select-and-place items that are partially correct.

(Unquote)

First FAQ: Well, unless I'm severely confused, I've been dragging and dropping with the LEFT button all these years.

Essence of the second FAQ: Always pull the answer object from where you first saw it.

Third FAQ: Here is where my test went awry. I would go back to the question, a window would pop up, telling me my previous answer would be cleared. OK, fine. But after dragging, dropping and pressing NEXT, then going back to the question, a window states that the question has not been answered!

The only explanation I can think of (other than violating the rule of FAQ #2): Earlier in the exam I absent-mindedly kept the mouse button depressed. The testing software semi-crashed, told me to see the administrator. She reset the software, I was required to go through the surveys again, then the test restarted where I had crashed it. Didn't use up that much time, but it was unnerving. Moral: Don't keep the mouse button depressed!

I'd like to throw in a blurb for two excellent study guides that I believe have been under-publicized:

1.) MCSE Windows 2000 Professional Long Course by Emmett Dulaney. (Pure wheat, no chaff; look elsewhere for lab exercises.) This is an E-book that is now bundled with the 70-210 exam at CertificationCorner.com , or E-book alone at MightyWords.com .

2.) Windows 2000 MCSE Study System by Alan Carter (ISBN: 0-7645-4701-1). The whole "core four ball of wax" contained in a single volume. Although I'm just a paper MCP, I don't recall seeing a single error in the entire fifteen hundred pages! (I'm not including minimum hardware specs, almost every study guide has these wrong.)

A tip for those who will be taking an IT cert test for the first time: Before you sign up, physically visit the testing facility where you plan to take the exam. My A+ exam experience was less than good. Something like 30 people in a single room, but the worst part was monitors running at 60Hz refresh rate under flourescent lighting (murder on my eyes).
[End of Copy]

Back to the subject of study guides: Reading the Alan Carter book will give you an excellent overall view of things.

I started reading the New Riders guide to the 70-210, but gave up. Reason: this series of books is formatted with the outer third of each page left open for white space or sidebars. I think the space would have been better utilized by printing the book in a larger typeface. The tables are set in even finer type. The CD contains the book in electronic form, and I printed out all of the tables using a "screen shot" utility, but the end result is so awkward that I've given up on New Riders study guides altogether. To their credit, they post the best "errata" on their web site, better than any other major publisher.

Visual ergonomics is what persuades me to use the Syngress study guides. The paper is thicker than what any other publisher uses. This makes for easy page turning and a nearly opaque page. (My only criticism of the Alan Carter book: fitting all those pages into a single volume required thin paper, resulting in translucence.) The Syngress typeface and screen shots are easy on my eyes. The Shinders' writing style is not my favorite, and the Professional and Server guides seemed to suffer from "NT hangover" (at least for this newbie). I'm a third of the way through their 70-216 (network administration) book, and it's quite good (ISBN 0-07-212383-4).

Notes on study guide CDs: I was disappointed in the Syngress CDs. The .avi files seem plodding (and the 70-210 is virtually unusable, there is an update on their web site). About the "Drive Time" audio files: almost pure pablum. A far better idea is to make your own audio cassette tapes (I use the tear-out cram sheets included in the "Exam Cram" books). The Syngress sample test questions are OK, I guess.

The best study guide CDs are the ones from Sybex; the one with the Alan Carter book is also good. (My opinion is based on owning most of the W2k study guides from: Coriolis, Microsoft Press (Training Kits and Readiness Reviews), New Riders, Sybex, and Syngress (I had an online buying fetish a while back http://www.PCGuide.com/ubb/rolleyes.gif ).)

Notes about additional sample test questions: You can go to various sites and download demos and/or get on their lists and they'll email you "questions of the day". Brainbuzz.com can help link you up.

Transcender.com enjoys the best reputation for test questions; I've got their demos, and they fully expain why answers are either right or wrong, with references. Judging from brain dump posts, even better for zeroing in on actual W2k exam questions is TroyTec.com. I just bought their (thin) study guides for the 70-216, 70-217, and 70-219 at $29 apiece (money back guarantee if you don't pass). Haven't really looked at them, yet.

Reasonably priced ($29 + shipping) CBT (Computer Based Training): Currently available at Fatbrain.com (under Certification and Training) is a promo title concerning Active Directory security. I'm presently studying their "W2k Update" disk about networks. It's not advertised as a MCSE study guide, but it maps well to the 70-216. This title is still available from Fatbrain under "SmartForce Past Promotions". I really like this method of study; the text is concise and the graphics are attractive. (No audio content, which is the way I prefer it.)


[This message has been edited by kenja (edited 01-20-2001).]