Microsoft and Compaq team up to offer a training solution

Keeping up with the flood of technology information is difficult for IT professionals, who have budget and time constraints. To keep IT professionals up-to-date on technology, Microsoft and Compaq have produced the Windows Media Training Server, which Figure 1 shows.

This Compaq ProLiant 800 Server is loaded with presentations from Compaq and educational conferences from Microsoft, such as the Microsoft Professional Developers Conferences and the Microsoft Advanced Web Development Seminars. The Microsoft material covers the company's key technologies: Windows 2000 (Win2K), SQL Server 7.0, and Office 2000. The most requested Microsoft Seminar Online sessions account for 50 of the more than 100 included training presentations.

To access the training sessions, you point your browser to the server and select from the menu the sessions you want to view. The presentations include slide shows with audio and video accompaniment. As you view the slides, you can listen to or view the multimedia content at your leisure.

Setting up the Windows Media Training Server is extremely simple. Anyone with a modicum of TCP/IP and networking knowledge will have the server running in a few minutes.

The server comes set up with the nonroutable IP addresses 10.0.0.1, 10.0.0.2, and 10.0.0.3. For testing, I used the default IP addresses and set the server up on a nonrouted intranet. I pointed my Web browser to 10.0.0.3 to bring up the server's menu page.

After I was sure that all the server features were available in this configuration, I changed the server's IP addresses (the server requires two static IP addresses for full functionality) to those of my production network. I also opened my firewall to the IP addresses that I assigned to the server and was able to access the server content from remote locations. Some server content provides selectable bandwidth streaming media (usually a 28Kbps and 56Kbps feed). Not all the training sessions offer this option, so be aware of the bandwidth requirements if you provide training content across your corporate network or over low-speed connections. Because configuring HTTP streaming to work with Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) has some known problems, Microsoft provides detailed instructions about how to enable the HTTP streaming functionality to coexist with IIS.

You manage the server via an administrative interface. The Web interface lets you name the server and control the content (e.g., delete, change). To add new content, you first place the information in the appropriate directories on the server, then launch the administrative interface to configure the newly added content. Configuration of new content consists of naming the new presentations and adding keywords. After configuration, when I entered the appropriate keywords in the search fields, the search engine brought up the new content and the old content.

To prepare new content, you need to follow the Windows Media Services guidelines. For testing, I captured content from other Microsoft streaming media presentations and added the content to my server. To download tools that you can use to create your own content, see http://www.microsoft.com/ windows/windowsmedia. Because the product lets you create inhouse training materials for your business, and provides this capability in a packaged product, the Windows Media Training Server is a reasonable investment for a professional IT organization that needs to keep staff current on the latest technological advancements.

Windows Media Training Server
Contact: Compaq * 800-345-1518
Web: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/tools/trainserv.asp
Price: $3999
System Configuration:
Compaq ProLiant 800 Server:
350MHz Pentium II processor, 128MB of 100MHz Error-Correcting Code Synchronous DRAM, 9.1GB Ultra Wide SCSI hard disk, 32X CD-ROM drive, Compaq 10/100 TX PCI UTP Ethernet adapter
Software:
Windows NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 4, Windows Media Services (formerly NetShow Services 3.0.1), Microsoft Internet Information Server 4.0