Apple Training II: Support Essentials Impressions

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I just finished the first week of Leopard Training for Support Essentials. It was an interesting ride, and there is a lot that I like about it, and some that I'm not too happy with.

What I Liked
I have to hand it to Apple: When they contract to people to write their training materials, they do a good job. The three instructors that we had all wrote the materials in the Student Workbook, and the workbook now looks like it is worth the money you pay for it.

The course does eliminate the need for a key chapter that was my most popular when I taught the class: The Command Line. Now, instead of having a single chapter, we introduce it bit by bit, integrating it with each of the chapters. So now instead of just getting a quick look at how to play with the command line, you are using it actively in each chapter.

How is this better? Well, for those that are looking to integrate a quick remote method of troubleshooting on the Mac and don't want to bother with the bandwidth required for a VNC connection, they can quickly perform pretty telling troubleshooting tasks. In fact, I would say that more Command Line content is included in this course than in the previous course.

Other great things are the lack of Apple Remote Desktop (yay!), more focus on the core open source technologies available, and a focus on BootCamp (which is now integrated into Leopard). It's also nice to be able to repartition your drive, live, with Disk Utility without having to use a third-party application. Sure, linux could do that for years, but with Windows and previous versions of Mac you would need a third party app to get it done.

What I Didn't Like
The weakest point in the Apple training is perhaps the testing. It always has been, because there has never been a bank of questions, just one set of questions for each time you take the test. So, it's not a real evaluation of your knowledge. It's also problematic because in order to compensate, they provide obscure questions that require a constant study of the reference material instead of practical application. But then, it is a multiple choice test, and what else can you do?

The good news is that it's possible that new testing methods could be on it's way. I'm hoping for a more Flash-based virtual environment that will simulate the experience. Another possibility would be to have the training centers set up a physical exam, much the same way as RedHat exams, and allow the instructor/training center to deliver it. Of course it runs into consistency issues (from one AATC to another), but that is another topic all together.

Other than that, it was a good training situation. We got a quick peek at the future new exams that are coming down the pipe, and I'm really impressed with them. Finally, it feels like Apple is getting some real quality back into their training materials.

I'm really excited for next week, when we go over Server Essentials!