Friday, January 22, 2010

New A+ and What Makes LabSim So Great

If you’ve ever spoken with a TestOut salesperson, you know what an “open” simulation is. We’ve gone to great lengths to get the word out about our simulations because they set our training apart from all the other materials you could purchase. When you train with TestOut's LabSim, you’ll have real-world experience because our simulations require you to perform real tasks without forcing you down a specific path.

I’ll give you an example, and I think you’ll see exactly what makes LabSim so great…

Just imagine that you are learning what to do when helping someone fix a computer that can’t access files on a corporate network. This kind of problem can be related to any number of things: perhaps the computer hasn’t been configured with the correct TCP/IP settings, the DHCP server may not have been configured to accept the computer's MAC address, the computer may need to be joined to a domain, or the network cable may have even come loose. In the real world you would investigate all of those possible causes. So why use a simulator that doesn’t allow you to check every one of those possibilities as well?

With LabSim you can do it all. Our simulators won’t give you extra assistance that isn’t available in the real world either. Our video instructors will teach you everything you need to know to perform all the tasks the simulator will throw at you. Changing the simulated computer’s Bluetooth settings probably won’t help with the networking problem I just described, but the simulator will let you try it anyway, without ever letting on that you might be on the wrong track.

And just in case we haven’t made a fan out of you yet, we’ve just enhanced our simulators with new capabilities. We’ve just released an updated version of our A+ Essentials course, our first course to combine Hardware, BIOS and Operating System tasks into a single simulator!

Now when you assemble a computer in the hardware simulator, you can actually plug the power cord into a power strip, push the power button and watch the computer boot up. If you’ve put together a bad configuration, the BIOS will let you know and you’ll have to return to the hardware bench. But when you get everything assembled correctly, it’s a thing of beauty. You’ll actually see the simulated operating system installing all the drivers for the hardware you’ve installed and you’ll get real-world results for any issues.

Remember that networking problem I described before? In our new simulators, you could actually view the Network and Sharing Center in the simulated computer, then switch to the hardware view and plug and unplug cables to your heart’s content. Be careful about the power cords though; you can actually shut down the simulated computer that way, but you’ll lose points for that! Once you get both ends of the network cable plugged into the right places you can return to the simulated Windows system (unless you killed the simulated computer and have to go back through BIOS), and voila—the Network and Sharing Center will update with any simulated network it is now able to find.

The only thing closer to the real world would be… the real world.

--Nate Garner, TestOut Lead Software Engineer

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