Welcome to the third in a series of articles addressing IT-related training and certification issues, with a focus on Microsoft’s certification program. Each week, I'll provide you with information that will assist you in your training and certification efforts.

Improve Your Knowledge Base with Intel’s Online Training Resources
To maintain our effectiveness as professionals, we need to keep up with a rapid flow of new information, and just deciding which information is important can be an arduous task. I’ve found the Internet to be an invaluable tool in the effort to maintain a reasonable level of current competency—and its resources are usually free. One of the best online training sources I’ve seen is the Intel Channel On-line Learning Center (http://channel.intel.com/training/olc/index.htm). The site currently offers 23 Web-based courses. Predictably, some of the courses contain sales information, but many provide excellent technical presentations of how devices such as hubs, bridges, switches, and routers function.

I took several of Intel’s courses last fall, and the only problem I had was with the reliability of my Internet connection. Some of these courses are lengthy, taking up to 8 hours, and are difficult to complete in one session. Intel addressed this problem with its OLC Desktop Companion, software you can download that gives you the opportunity to take Web-based training offline. Training offline with the OLC Desktop Companion means no more waiting for large graphics and multimedia objects to download—you download everything you need for a course in one easy step, before you begin training.

Intel requires that you take its New Computer Industry and Intel training before you can access the remaining 22 courses. The course is marketing oriented, but it does provide interesting historical information about Intel and its growth over the past two decades. The good news is that this course takes just 20 minutes. Next, you should consider taking Fundamentals of Networking Technology, which provides an outstanding presentation of how networks work. This course, like many of Intel’s offerings, includes a quiz at the end of many of the modules. Many of the questions are surprisingly difficult. Have fun, but learn.

Another course I recommend is Fundamentals of Ethernet Technology, a great effort on Intel’s part. You’ll leave the course with a detailed understanding of what makes an Ethernet network function and how you can improve Ethernet network performance. Even if you think you’re an Ethernet expert, you should take this course—it’ll give you tools to help you explain Ethernet technology to others.

Other courses I recommend include:

  • Fundamentals of Desktop/Server Integration
  • LAN Solutions
  • WAN Solutions
  • Intel Device View 2.0 Introduction
  • Intel Hub Product Introduction v.3
  • Intel Router Product Introduction v.3
  • Intel Switch Product Introduction v.4
  • Intel LAN Systems Product Introduction v.1
  • Intel NetPort Express Print Server Product Introduction v.2
  • Intel PRO/100 & PRO/1000 Adapter Product Introduction v.3
  • Introduction to the Pentium III Processor

With each course you complete, you’ll get a certificate of completion from Intel that’s suitable for framing (if you really want to impress your friends and coworkers). Certificates aside, what you gain in Intel product knowledge is important, particularly in light of Intel’s market penetration. Take my advice and give these courses a try—and let me know what you think.

Online Visual Basic Scripting Training
If you’re interested in learning about the fundamentals of Visual Basic (VB) scripting or are considering Microsoft exam 70-087, Implementing and Supporting Microsoft Internet Information Server 4.0, you should check out the free, self-paced Microsoft Course 1080, Essentials of Microsoft Visual Basic Scripting Edition 3.0 for Web Site Development. You can download the zipped file, which is approximately 7MB, from http://msdn.microsoft.com/training/options/vbscript.asp#sp_train. Microsoft designed this hands-on course to give you the skills and the know-how to create scripts using VBScript 3.0. Granted, there are newer versions of VBScript, but that doesn’t discount the course’s value, particularly because it’s free. The basic information in the course applies to creating scripts for any other Microsoft or third-party product that uses VBScript. The course teaches basic programming concepts such as:

  • Using variables
  • Getting and displaying information
  • Using conditional statements
  • Creating looping constructs
  • Using ActiveX objects
  • Structuring code
  • Using debugging techniques

Microsoft designed the course so that even nonprogrammers can learn the processes associated with simple programming in a VB scripting environment. I’ve insisted students take this self-paced course as a prerequisite to Microsoft Course 936, Creating and Managing a Web Server Using Microsoft Internet Information Server 4.0.