Review: Mac OS X Support Essentials

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Recently the University of Utah's Continuing Education department has began building an Apple Certification program geared to IT professionals. This will be in conjunction with the other IT certification programs that they will have, and the classes will be open to students who want to include certifications with their CS, EE, and IS degrees.

The Certifications
As the eventual instructor for the Apple Certification classes, I have been reviewing the program in preparation for my own certifications. In a nut shell, here is what I have found.

The Certification program is broken into 5 overall certifications:
Apple Certified Help Desk Specialist (ACHDS)
Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC)
Apple Certified System Administrator which requires 7 total credit points (ACSA)
Apple Certified Desktop Technician (ACDT)
Apple Certified Portable Technician (ACPT)

The certifications are dependent on the individual courses and tests that are passed.

The Courses
The courses are broken down as the following:

Mac OS X Support Essentials (alone gives the ACHDS certification)
Mac OS X Server Essentials (together with Support Essentials gives ACTC cert)

Directory Services Integration and Administration (4 credits)
Mac OS X Server Command Line Install and Administration (3 credits)
OS X Deployment (2 credits)
Security Best Practices (3 credits)
Podcast and Streamed Internet Media Administration (3 credits)
Xsan Administration (3 credits)

Apple Portable Service (with Support Essentials gives ACPT cert)
Apple Desktop Service (with Support Essentials gives ACDT cert)

Overall, we hope to have all certifications in place by Fall of 2008.

Mac OS X Support Essentials
I have just audited the course matieral for this class as provided by the Peachpit Press, and found it overall very effective as a general overview for supporting Mac OS X. Keep in mind that this course is only for those help desk personel whose job it will be to make sure their network and the Macintosh computers using it play nice together. It had enough detail that any phone jocky could do the job without too much fuss.

The really good news is that if you have previous experience with Unix networking and management, much in Mac OS X is a review. It emphasizes networking communication methods that Apple has automated for ease of use, but also ways to manage it if security is an issue. This means that the learning curve is potentially small. Most of it focuses on learning the tools that Apple has available to support any generic computer with issues.

I was really impressed with Target Disk Mode, which allows one computer to become a Fire Wire drive while hooked up to another system. This makes disk imaging very simple.

So, in conclusion, if you are interested in generic Macintosh support methods and tools, I would highly recommend the Mac OS X Support Essentials course. Not only does it provide the ACHDS certification upon passing, but it also gives one a clear view of what supporting Macintosh systems can mean. And it's a gateway into all the other certifications that will be offered shortly.