Think you’re the only one that’s driven crazy when preparing for a cert exam? Check out Steven Pittsley’s recent experience studying for the Novell NetWare and Windows NT Integration exam. If you are wondering how your IT pro brethren make the grade, this two-part diary will provide some great insight into what’s required to pass and still keep your sanity.

Here’s the story
Welcome to my diary. Well, okay, so it’s not actually my personal diary. Not many people would want to read that. However, a TechRepublic editor thought that it would be interesting to follow me through the ups and downs of preparing for Novell exam 50-644, Integrating NetWare and Windows NT. I’ll start the journey in the classroom, and hopefully I’ll finish with my passing the exam.

Day 1
The day started off well. We received our student kits and I was very relieved to find only one book containing eight chapters. After spending two months studying thicker books for the Networking Technologies exam that I passed last week, this was a welcome sight.

Before lunch we covered chapter one. The subjects included an overview of Windows NT and 95, the default user accounts in Windows NT, the default group accounts in Windows NT, the NT registry, and some basic Windows NT utilities. The majority was review, and it felt good to be familiar with the material.

After lunch we covered chapter two. We learned the differences between a workgroup and a domain, the native Windows NT protocols, NTFS, FAT, creating shares, and permissions for directories and files. As I mentioned before, quite a bit of the Windows stuff was a review, but the hands-on lab kept it interesting. I am pleased with the course so far, as my instructor seems knowledgeable about the subject and we have a small class of only three people, and each of us have similar backgrounds.

Day 2
By the end of the day I had to look at the book’s cover a few times to ensure that I wasn’t sitting in a Microsoft class. We talked about nothing except Windows NT, and I was sure that I had signed up for a Novell class.

We completed chapters three, four, and five. Chapter three explained NT Directory Services (NTDS), PDCs, BDCs, adding a workstation to a domain, and administering user accounts in a domain with local and global groups. Working with the user accounts, local groups, and global groups is new to me, but after getting past the different terminology, it all makes sense. I can already see that I’ll need to set up an NT server and workstation to learn the new procedures since they are very different from NetWare Administrator.

Chapter four introduced Windows NT security, policies, and profiles. I will have to spend some extra time on this unit, but I’m confident that it won’t be too difficult. By the end of the section it was starting to make sense. The three labs helped, so a little more hands-on practice will probably help drive the subjects home.

We started chapter five late in the day, and after the previous chapter I was beginning to get a little tired. However, chapter five proved to be mostly review. The unit covered trust relationships and the various domain models that can be used with Windows NT. Our day ended with an interesting lab and the promise of working with NetWare tomorrow. Yeah!

Day 3
Novell has created an interesting product in NDS for NT. Although we were introduced to the product in relatively pristine conditions, NDS for NT proved easy to use. Managing Windows NT objects and domains with NetWare seems odd at first, however the powerful tool simplifies management and adds a great deal of functionality that is not present in the Windows NT tools.

Chapter six of our course manual covered the benefits of integrating Windows NT and NetWare, as well as designing, implementing, and maintaining an integrated network. The hands-on lab was excellent, and it helped clear up a few details.

We also completed chapter seven, which explained providing user access in an integrated NetWare and NT environment. The highlight of this chapter, for me at least, was learning how to perform an automatic client upgrade on a workstation. Novell has made this process painless and straightforward.

With the bulk of the class completed, I’m feeling confident about the exam. I’ve gone out to Cramsession and printed the respective cram. At first glance it looks straightforward. I’m hoping to be prepared to take the exam in two weeks. After looking at the Cramsession and Novell’s test objectives, I feel confident that I will be ready.

Day 4
Class was fairly short today. We only had to cover the final chapter in our book. The title of the chapter is Managing Windows NT Workstation User Accounts, but it really covers the ZENworks policy packages used to manage Microsoft objects. We were finished quite early, but we stuck around for most of the day to answer questions and play with the network. We installed the eDirectory, which turned into a project since we had to upgrade DSREPAIR and NICI. We also installed NetWare 5.1.

I am quite satisfied with this class. The content was interesting, and I learned quite a bit more about Windows NT. My attention now turns to studying for the exam. My goal is to pass it two weeks from today, and I feel confident about making that goal. Time will tell…

Tune in tomorrow for the second installment of “Diary of a madman” to learn how Steven prepared on his own for the exam.

Is Steve Pittsley a CNE? He was a CNA when he wrote this piece and a desktop analyst for a Milwaukee hospital. He enjoys playing drums, bowling, and most sports.

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