RouterSim's MCSE WindowSim can help you pump up your IT muscles.
As much as consultants or experienced Windows 2000 technicians may think
they've seen everything, what shows up on tests doesn't always reflect
real-world problems. Setting up systems from start to finish, depending
on corporate policy, may not give you the opportunity to try much or all
of Win2K's capabilities. One of the values of using a simulator is that
you can test your training memory without worrying about changing settings
or that someone else has selected the scripts or exercises. Before a behavior
becomes well learned, you need to repeat that action at least 22 times.
That's a big advantage of using a simulator. I've always considered the
exercises the most important part—it doesn't necessarily matter whether
or not the simulator works perfectly. What counts is that you know what
the results will be and can repeat steps until clicks are automatic.
The study kit is sold only on the Web site and it includes four Sybex
MCSE Study Guides, Redmond Exams test-prep software, a bonus Active Directory
exam, and bonus MCSA lab (70-218). Each of the labs—five including the
bonus lab—offers approximately 50 exercises, split among six to 14 subtopics.
Although some of the labs are repetitive, overall, there's a good mix.
Particularly valuable are the exercises for the Directory Services Administration
and Network Infrastructure Administration exams, as some of the exercises,
such as setting up DNS to work with AD, require multiple computers. This
simulation is the brainchild of James Chellis and Todd Lammle; as much
as I admire many of their literary efforts, there are a number of rough
edges to this project.
Wholly exercise dependent—with not even a "task" category—the labs
give you several options for exercises. In some, you're presented with
a large window that lists the steps, as well as some of the caveats, for
a defined task. Clicking on Start Simulation takes you to the Simulation
Virtual Desktop, a functional simulator. Usually, you have the choice
of Challenge mode, in which you are only given the task to perform, with
no steps. Other times, you're presented with only screenshots, in something
called Solution Viewer in which a smaller window simply lists where you
should click. Annoyingly, if you attempt to click anywhere else in the
field, a message pops up telling you to "Remember, click..." If you attempt
to use the Virtual Desktop and the larger window (which is still generated)
when the program is the Solution Viewer, at some point the simulation
will fail, as no next window appears. If the simulation is set to use
the Virtual Desktop, you have the ability to click on Demonstration, which
performs the simulation for you. This is more useful than it sounds but
for the few complicated exercises, the authors could have put in a timer
to slow down the demonstration.
The main complaints I have are related to some inconsistencies. Sometimes
you can grab the elevator button and scroll; other times, you can only
use the down arrow. Also, sometimes you can double-click an object, other
times you must click the plus sign. If you close some windows out of sequence,
an error message will appear even though you've completed that lab. At
times, a completed lab isn't marked on the progress chart; but, for some
labs, if you merely open and close them, they're marked completed. Microsoft
has never been known for consistency: Given that and the slow machines
that plague many Vue and Prometric testing centers, it may be an advantage
to have to figure out how a simulation author wants you to proceed, as
there's frequently more than one way to accomplish an exercise; but I
doubt that was the authors' intent.
In one exercise, you're directed to configure a simple volume after you've
configured a spanned volume. When you set up media pools, for some reason,
the media choice is left at 2.5-inch Avatar floppies. When you install
AD, some of the script prompts don't match the display, in terms of names
selected or suggested. On many account policies, where you elect a number,
such as Account Lockout Threshold and other account policies, you can
get a negative number. Also, some explanations could have been proffered
when converting dynamic disks. For some reason, Disk 0 wasn't eligible
and when setting up account lockouts, a domain policy overrode my configuration
with no chance to change the domain policy. Though these are only a few
of the annoyances I found—all relatively minor—they detract
from what is, otherwise, a great product.
The introductory screen states that this simulation is, "part of a comprehensive
approach to exams." This alone isn't sufficient preparation. I found the
suggested scripts, as well as the ability to run the gamut of Win2K capabilities,
useful. Coupled with the rest of the package from RouterSim, this can
be useful training material for those without the hardware or software
to set up a small lab.
Douglas Mechaber, MCSE, MCNE, CCDA, is a network consultant and dive instructor and is always on the lookout for utilities that make his life easier, or panulirus interruptus, the California spiny lobster.