Passing the Windows 2000 exam won't be easy--at all. This book can help you weather the storm.

Master of the Server

Passing the Windows 2000 exam won't be easy--at all. <i>Mastering Windows 2000 Server, Second Edition</i> can help you weather the storm.

I feel like I’ve just been run over by a truck. Lying flattened on the road, I feebly lift my head to read the truck’s license plate as it speeds away. I can barely make out the letters—WIN2KBETA—Windows 2000 beta exams. I’ve just finished my fourth one in as many days and I’m about to pull my hair out. Imagine taking a certification exam and being tested on the intricacies of Win2K Server, TCP/IP, and IIS on the same test. Remember, these were three separate exams with Windows NT 4.0, but now they’re consolidated as one under Win2K. You’ve heard me say it before, but I’ll reiterate the point: You’ll need Win2K knowledge, Win2K hands-on experience, Win2K troubleshooting skills, and a solid NT background before attempting Win2K exams when they count.

As you prepare for your trip down the Win2K highway, Sybex’s Mastering Windows 2000 Server, Second Edition by Mark Minasi and co-authors Christa Anderson, Brian Smith, and Doug Toombs should be on your list of required reading materials. Written in informal, relaxed language, this 1,595-page book is technical enough for the average network geek yet still clearly explains basic concepts to the neophyte.

Product Information
Mastering Windows 2000 Server, Second Edition
By Mark Minasi
Sybex, Inc.
ISBN 0-78212-774-6
$49.99, 1,595 pages

One thing Mastering Windows 2000 Server is not, as the author boldly proclaims in the introduction’s third paragraph, is an MCSE study guide. Instead, the book’s stated goal is “to help you get your job done rather than to help you pass a test,” but then the book goes on to say that many folks have used Minasi books in the past to study for exams. What a novel idea—know your stuff and successfully pass a test!

Consider the Win2K beta exams I took. On average, each lasted four hours (I took two of them back to back, ouch!) and consisted of 90 questions. Oh, and what fun questions they were. The majority focused on complex troubleshooting scenarios. There were no overly simplistic questions such as, “What control panel applet is used to install a modem?” Heck, there were very few moderately difficult questions on the beta exams. No, sir, the questions on the real Win2K exams (which I hope will be released by the time you read this article) are expected to be very difficult.

Here’s The Scoop

On to the technical content. Mastering Windows 2000 Server is logically broken into three major parts: a Win2K Overview; Installing, Configuring, and Deploying Win2K and Win2K Services; and Monitoring and Troubleshooting Win2K. The chapters don’t follow this logical subdivision in numerical order but are scattered throughout the book. Fortunately, this doesn’t detract from reading the tome chapter by chapter.

Win2K Overview: The book starts off with a discussion of Microsoft’s overall goals for Windows 2000, an overview of new capabilities and features, and how Win2K can lower your TCO (Totally Cryptic Oxymoron)—I mean, (Total Cost of Ownership). Then, there’s a fairly good overview of Active Directory (AD), touching upon how to plan for and implement AD components and AD’s implications for a Win2K enterprise network. I do wish, however, that the book authors had included more in the way of AD design guidelines. Some case studies showing how organizations might approach AD design would’ve proved quite helpful.

Installing, Configuring, and Deploying Win2K and Win2K Services: Win2K installation and deployment are tackled next, followed by chapters on understanding the registry, installing hardware, disk management, and managing and creating user accounts, with emphasis on creating group policies and supporting roaming users. Other chapters cover the distributed file system, creating and managing shared folders, software installation, printing services, connecting various clients to a Win2K server, and, last but not least, deploying Terminal Services. In addition, there are in-depth chapters on DNS, DHCP, IIS, WINS, and RAS address planning and deployment issues concerning these services. Throughout the chapters you’ll also find numerous screen shots and follow-along exercises designed to familiarize you with the plethora of new administrative graphical tools you’ll be using to get a Win2K installation and deployment up and going.

Monitoring and Troubleshooting Win2K: The last part of the book is designed to teach you how to tune Win2K, followed by chapters on monitoring Win2K servers and troubleshooting problems you may have with a Win2K computer or an Active Directory implementation. I mentioned previously that the beta exam questions were mostly troubleshooting scenarios. I’m not referring to just troubleshooting a failed Win2K server that won’t boot, but also troubleshooting Active Directory design mistakes, permissions problems, Group Policy issues, and so on. In other words, troubleshooting is the test, hence the need to have hands-on experience with a live Win2K network to prepare for the exams.

Making Concepts Clear

Mastering Windows 2000 Server is well written, with most of the technical content rock solid. I did find some technical inaccuracies (every technical book has them). For example, the volume states that the telnet server ships only with Win2K Server and not Win2K Professional. This isn’t true. Still, the authors have done a good job of making Win2K concepts understandable by relating these back to the NT 4.0 concepts that the average administrator already knows. At the same time, the authors appeal to an even wider audience by explaining basic networking concepts and even covering in detail how certain things work in NT 4.0, so that the techno newbie can get up to speed without getting lost in the Win2K forest. Since the book isn’t designed as a study guide, you won’t find structured lab exercises, practice test questions, or a CD with interactive learning content, all the things we take for granted in a traditional study guide. What you will find is a comprehensive index of topics, and you can use this book as a primer and reference guide when pursuing your studies.

From a Win2K exam-taking point of view, Mastering Windows 2000 Server covers most of the test objectives for the Win2K exams but falls short in some areas. Notably lacking is in-depth coverage on Certificate Server, sysprep, NAT, Advanced Power Management, multiple-display support, card services, infrared devices, wireless devices, Task Scheduler (Task Pad is covered), multiple language support, process management, SNMP, and Kerberos. You’ll need to explore other technical books to fill in these gaps. Again, I must stress that knowing concepts will be of no value to you if you can’t properly design or troubleshoot a Win2K network.

Why is Mastering Windows 2000 Server required reading? Because it’s written in layperson language and breaks complex topics down into easily digestible pieces, something you’ll really appreciate when you tackle the enormous technical beast that is Windows 2000. Good job, Minasi and company. Just remember, don’t strut off confidently to the testing center if this is the only book you’ve read to prepare for the Win2K exams.


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