A common criticism of Microsoft’s MCSE certification is that it places little emphasis on network hardware. Microsoft's response is that as a software company, it focuses on NOSs and other network-related software components. With Microsoft’s decision to drop Networking Essentials from its new Windows 2000 (Win2K) MCSE certification, you might think that a basic understanding of network hardware is no longer important. The truth is that you won’t be able to function in the real world as a systems engineer without a well-rounded understanding of network hardware devices and network connectivity.

In past articles, I’ve provided URLs for several sites that offer free network hardware training. Some of these sources have discussed fiber optics in general terms, but Siecor, a major manufacturer of fiber-optic components, offers a free training source at its Web site that provides specific information about fiber optics.

The course, called Introduction to Fiber Optics, consists of five modules:

  • Introduction. The introduction provides a history of fiber optic development, identifying product usage and benefits.
  • Basic Principles. This module describes the information transmission sequence, a cross section of a typical fiber, and the different types of fiber.
  • Applied Principles. Subjects in this module include Index of Refraction (IOR), total internal reflection, and the acceptance cone.
  • Optical Fiber Parameters. This module covers a variety of parameters associated with fiber optic transmission, including wavelength, frequency, attenuation (intrinsic and extrinsic), dispersion, and bandwidth.
  • Fiber Manufacturing. This module focuses on Outside Vapor Deposition (OVI), the method developed by Corning to manufacture fiber optical, discussing the phases associated with fiber production consisting of laydown, consolidation, and draw.

Once you’ve completed this introductory course, consult Siecor’s Fusion Splicing Education Center for detailed information about fusion splicing, the controlled aligning, melting, and pushing together of hair-thin strands of glass to form a transparent, nonreflective joint.

If you’re interested in becoming a Certified Fiber Optic Technician (CFOT), check out the Fiber Optic Association’s (FOA's) Web site. FOA, a nonprofit professional society, develops educational programs, certifies fiber optic technicians, and publishes lists of approved fiber-optic training courses. FOA has more than 2000 members, over 1100 of them CFOTs. In December, I took an FOA-approved course called Introduction to Fiber Optics from Aviation and Electronic Schools of America (AESA). The 20-hour hands-on course covered cable preparation, connection, termination, applications, splicing, operation testing, troubleshooting, installation, and repair. AESA also offers an advanced 36-hour course that I plan to take this summer to obtain CFOT status.

A Cisco Web Site Gold Mine
In my January 17 column, I described a "great certification site for those of you seeking specific information about \[MCSE\] certification exams." Well, I’ve found a similar site devoted to Cisco Systems certifications. The Cisco In A Nutshell Web site, an enormous repository of a variety of Cisco-related resources, references everything you would ever want to know about Cisco, including study tips, free resources, product information, product tools, and troubleshooting advice. Randall Benn, the site developer, is a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE). The site's content reflects Benn's deep understanding of the Cisco product line.

While you're at the site, be sure to check out the free stuff. The site lists five books and two t-shirts that you can get for free. You'll find a variety of quality links that can introduce you to a variety of internetworking concepts and the products that support those concepts.

Free Cisco Exams
If you’re interested in saving money on Cisco certification exams, check out Cisco’s Beta Exams Web site, which lets you take beta certification exams for free. The tests are long, and you don’t get the results right away, but considering the price, $0, these concerns are mere inconveniences. Upcoming beta exams include the CCNA exam (641-507), available from March 2 to March 23; the Routing exam (641-503), available from March 21 to April 13; and the Foundation exam (641-509), available from March 30 to April 20. If you’re interested, you must wait until an exam's first availability date to register with Sylvan Prometric.