Technical Certification Expo 2000
With all the IT-related conferences out there, it was only a matter of time before certification vendors would create a conference devoted to the world of certifications. The first Technical Certification Expo will take place on May 15 through 17 in Las Vegas. Its organizers are billing the event as "the premier event to bring together certification vendors, self-study vendors, IT professionals, HR people, training companies, industry experts, and others who wish to learn about, earn, and benefit from computer professional certification."

Sponsors include certification vendors Sylvan Prometric, Intel, Transcender, and Coriolis. Workshops will cover a wide range of certification issues and will include test-review sessions for specific certification exams. If you go to the expo, be sure to look me up— you can usually find me at the blackjack table closest to an event's location. For more information, visit the Technical Certification Expo Web site.

Another Free Training Class from Microsoft
Microsoft has added another free training class to its Web site called Microsoft Windows 2000: First Look. The course consists of two downloadable files, a 1.9MB course content file and a 10.9MB file containing lab simulations. (If you don't plan to run the lab simulations, you don’t need to download the lab simulation files.) The course contains six modules:

  • Module 1: Introducing Microsoft Windows 2000
  • Module 2: Using Microsoft Management Console
  • Module 3: Exploring Active Directory
  • Module 4: Examining the Disk and File Systems
  • Module 5: Using Management Technologies
  • Module 6: Learning More About Windows 2000

The modules cover topics such as hardware requirements for Windows 2000 (Win2K), upgrading to Win2K, the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), MMC snap-ins, examining the structure of Active Directory (AD), choosing a file system, assigning and publishing applications, offline folders, and roaming profiles.

These free online courses offer a great opportunity to get a head start with Microsoft’s new network OS. For more information about Microsoft Windows 2000: First Look, go to the Microsoft Web site.

New Online Learning Resources from Cisco
For those seeking training on basic networking concepts as well as Cisco-specific product training, Cisco Systems provides several free online training resources (in addition to a large selection of resources that you can pay for). One of these free resources, a module called Basic Networking, is the same training module Cisco Networking Academies uses. Basic Networking gives you an understanding of the concepts of networking and individual PCs and introduces you to networking protocols as well as networking terminology. If you're considering attending one of the many Cisco Networking Academies, you should try this module to determine whether Cisco's teaching methods are a good fit for you. You can access the module at the Cisco Web site. A word of warning for those of you who are Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) purists: You must run Netscape Navigator to take the class.

Another free offering is the Networking Essentials Guide, which Cisco designed to give K-12 educators a general understanding of networking. The guide isn't intended to make you a networking expert; instead, it will help you

    Understand the primary building blocks of networks and the role each network plays.
  • Understand the most popular networking technologies.
  • Select an approach and technologies that are best for your campus.

The primarily text-based guide is worth a look if you need to understand basic hardware and networking fundamentals.

Cisco is providing two free examples of its Cisco Interactive Mentor (CIM), a "knowledge-transfer solution." Cisco designed CIM to utilize an integrated self-paced and community participation learning approach. CIM combines CD-ROM-based products featuring technology-specific tutorials, Cisco expert input, and hands-on simulated configuration and troubleshooting practice labs with the benefits of online content support and shared resources. The free courses are Accessing ISDN and LAN Switching.

Accessing ISDN gives you an understanding of ISDN technology and shows you how to configure, monitor, and troubleshoot ISDN connections. After taking the course, you'll be able to

  • Identify the differences between Basic Rate Interface (BRI) and Primary Rate Interface (PRI) ISDN connections.
  • Identify ISDN connection and wiring components and understand the roles of various parties, such as the telephone company and the ISP.
  • Understand the differences between the various ISDN functional components and identify ISDN reference points.
  • Recognize the ISDN protocol layers.
  • Define the ISDN procedures for setting up and releasing calls.
  • Identify the Cisco ISDN features.
  • Differentiate between the current and legacy ISDN architectures.
  • Configure an ISDN BRI connection and an ISDN PRI connection.
  • Identify the most common ISDN connection problems.
  • List troubleshooting tools, commands, and methodology available for ISDN.
  • Troubleshoot a BRI ISDN connection.

The LAN Switching course provides instruction about the LAN switching technology. Unfortunately, you can access only Module 6 (unless you pay for the entire course). LAN Switching focuses on establishing communication with a Catalyst 5000 series switch and accessing its command-line interface. You learn to configure the basic system parameters that provide information about the system. You also learn to configure the sc0 interface for the switch, assign an IP address for the sc0 interface, and configure the SNMP and Remote Monitoring (RMON) parameters. In the lab exercise, you use the simulation engine to configure the system parameters and use the show commands that let you troubleshoot configuration problems.