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Mike Meyers' A+ certification lab manual
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0072191260, Paperback)If you have some book knowledge, a PC to dissect, and a lack of actual experience in cracking cases open, the A+ Certification Lab Manual will do everything but remove the floppy drives for you as it cheerfully walks you through your PC's guts. Guided walk-throughs, backed up with clear explanations and a more-than-generous dollop of real-world experience, make this a book that's perfect for beginners and intermediates. It won't get you through the test by itself, but it will definitely serve as a top-notch supplement for book-learners who are trying to expand their knowledge.
The Lab Manual is a series of 20 walk-through sections (there are 50 walk-throughs total, but they're grouped by category) that require some basic hardware knowledge. They focus on giving the reader a working knowledge of how the parts fit into the computer, how to put them together, and the common things that go wrong in the real world. So, while the hard-drive section doesn't go into great depth on the meaning of sectors and cylinders, it does have you identify and remove a hard drive, shows you how to configure the CMOS so that it recognizes a drive both manually and automatically, then shows you how to put it back in without a hitch. (It also covers formatting and partitioning.) This book serves as a nice yin to the yang you'll get with most A+ guides, giving you hands-on information that fleshes out your theoretical knowledge. After all, you can read all about cylinders and sectors, but what's ultimately going to be more useful--knowing what the cylinders mean, or being able to install a hard drive so that the computer recognizes it?
It's not until you actually read the walk-throughs in this book that you realize how perfunctory the exercises in other books are. Meyers spends a lot of time walking you through common mistakes that techs make, as well as giving handy tips for when things don't quite go right. (Can't determine which power pins to connect the on/off button to? Hook up the power supply and touch the connectors with a screwdriver tip until the fan whirs!) The depth and insight granted here are both rewarding and a pleasure to read, and, when you're finished, you should be able to vivisect and reassemble a test PC with little trouble.
However, one does wish that someone had told Meyers that a picture is worth a thousand words. It's frustrating to have a half a page's worth of writing on what an ISA slot and an ISA card look like without a single picture; particularly in the early hardware sections, this verges on the hair-tearing. And the pictures that are there are poorly laid out and in some cases blurry. Rather than a large picture with a tiny circle indicating what a fan clip looks like and how to remove it, wouldn't it be better to print a close-up of the clip so that we can see what the tech is actually doing?
Another slight problem with the book is its focus. To be fair, it really goes into some depth in the early and most heavily tested sections--the indispensable hardware parts like the processor, the motherboard, and the hard and floppy drives. And that is the stuff that the bulk of the A+ exam is about. But near the end of the book, the walk-throughs for the sections worth 5 percent of your total A+ score become almost exasperatingly short; the "Network" section only touches on wire and doesn't cover installing a network interface card at all. Likewise, the "Portable PCs" chapter, weighing in at all of three pages, doesn't even go through the basics of installing and removing a PCMCIA card from a laptop.
The third and final problem with the Lab Manual isn't really a problem at all, but could be viewed as such by some readers: it is not a reference guide. Commonly tested topics like the lists of hexadecimal memory addresses and the differences between the various processors aren't mentioned except in passing; if this is the only guide you buy, you are certain to fail.
But that isn't the point. What this book does do is meld the theoretical knowledge you've gained from whatever A+ reference you've used with the hands-on experience you'll need in the field. Using this in conjunction with a solid theoretical book will weld the knowledge into your head forever, reinforcing what you've already learned via endless lists and paragraphs into solid, screwdriver-twisting experience. You could pass the exam without this book...but it would be a heck of a lot harder. Recommended. --William Steinmetz
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:51 -0400)
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