Computer Network Specialist
Instructor Notes to Students
AKA: "Rumor Control"
San Antonio College of Medical & Dental Assistants
Information Technology D

A+ Lab Equipment
Exam Scheduling
Practices & Policies
Thangs Verboten
  Swappable Hard Drives

Equipment in A+ Lab:

Sometimes we hear comments in regard to the equipment in the A+ Lab, primarily complaints that it is old technology. Yes, much of it is old technology; however, you may notice that the A+ hardware text and exam cover some old technology.  In our lab, we've managed to collect hardware items many techs have never seen, covering a very wide range of computer technologies. Almost everything that is addressed in the A+ text is available in the lab (and some that isn't even addressed) -- yes, we even have a few MFM drives. The other challenge is that most of the equipment is undocumented which is something you will frequently encounter in the field -- you learn how to find documentation and use it. Will you work on older 386 and 486 boards?  Very possible since those computers are still around, and being used.  Most of the boards in the lab span technologies from 1992 through 1998 (386 through Pentium) which was a period of unusual computer development where everyone was trying to create their own set of standards. You will find a wide variety of bus and expansion slot technologies on these boards.

In other courses in the program, newer technologies are widely discussed. The boards in CNS Network Lab 2 for instance have two UDMA ATA/66 EIDE connectors and two UDMA ATA/33 connectors capable of supporting up to eight EIDE devices.  The ATA/66 bus uses an 80-wire cable (as opposed to the 40-wire cable you're used to seeing) which has dedicated connectors for board (blue), master (black), and slave (gray) -- maximum cable length is 18".

You will find in the computer field, technology changes every day. All your instructors try to keep up with all the latest changes -- it is something that you as a tech will have to do as well when you enter your career. What we hope to establish here at SACMDA is the confidence and knowledge to approach any old or new piece of equipment in a logical fashion -- installation, configuration, and troubleshooting steps unlike technology, don't change, and even the most experienced tech in the field has to refer to equipment documentation frequently regardless of age of the equipment. 

As an example, in January 2000, I spent days (and several e-mails to manufacturers' tech reps) researching new memory technologies to ensure compatibility with a motherboard that is scheduled to come off the production line in February with the new Intel 840 Carmel chipset. I read the board's Users Manual (96 pages on the manufacturer's website) and found errors in it, and sent the errata info to the manufacturer. I also read Intel's specs for the 840 chipset (50 more pages) and memory compatibility, several whitepapers on memory technology, and manufacturers' memory module spec sheets. And holy potatoes, Batwoman, I even learned about the effects of Alpha particle radiation on DRAM (wow, cosmic rays can knock out memory cells and cause the "blue screen of death"!).  This is the kind of research you will have to do in the field.

So, age of the equipment doesn't really matter -- it's your ability to do your homework and find the answers.  These are the skills we want you to develop in the A+ Lab in the CNS program here at SACMDA -- with these skills you will have the confidence to work on any piece of equipment you may see, now and in the future.

Tere Prasse
(feel free to e-mail comments or questions)


A+, Network+, and MCP Testing: (see also Scheduling Exams)

SACMDA will schedule your A+ exams and Network + exam for you.  Please fill out the form on this website completely and give it to your instructor at least one week in advance of the date you wish to take the exam.  For your MCP exam, you will be responsible for scheduling and paying for the exam.  When you successfully complete the exam, bring your original test result sheet in and you will be reimbursed for the full amount of the test fee (presently $125).

Recommended testing plan:  A little past the middle of Unit A, you should be ready to take the A+ Core (hardware) exam, and within next six weeks the A+ OS exam.  Keep in mind that material in Unit B covers tested A+ items, so don't plan on doing all your A+ tests at the end of Unit A -- it's too soon.  Also don't plan on taking both tests on the same day.  It's not a good idea because the OS exam is tricky and harder than the Core exam. Guaranteed to turn your brain to mush. A good target time to take the Network+ exam would be near the end of Unit B or beginning of Unit C. You should plan on taking one or two MCP exams (we recommend Windows 2000 Professional/Server) near the end of Unit C or within one to two weeks after completing Unit C -- this is after program completion. At least one MCP exam MUST be completed successfully within one month after graduation in order to receive reimbursement. You may also use the Network Labs in the afternoon (1-6 p.m. Mon-Thu, until 5 p.m. Fri) after you graduate to prepare for your MCP exam.

Study materials for exams: In addition to the Readiness Reviews provided to you (Note: these are not part of the curriculum and will not be covered in class -- you study these on your own), there are A+, Network+, and MCP exam preps on CNS1Server and CNS2Server which are accessible from either Network Lab.  We recommend you spend some time working with these before or after class (or optionally during breaks).  These preps have question databases ranging from 500-800 questions. When you consistently achieve 90% (900) or above on these preps, you are ready to take the exam. Additionally, there are links to many exam "brain dumps" and test preps on the Handy Links page of this web site.  Preparing for these tests will require a lot of additional time outside class hours.

Tere Prasse
(feel free to e-mail comments or questions)


CNS Computer Configurations, Practices, and Policies 

We are presently in the process of completing acquisition of swappable hard drives for the Network Labs 1 and 2 [see below].  Each class will have dedicated drives for practice OS load and configuration use.  Each computer will also have a standard working load drive for use by all students when accomplishing other course items and using Office 2000 programs.  The standard drive loads will be configured as follows:

  • Dual Windows '98 / Windows NT (Network Lab 1) or Windows 2000 Professional (Network Lab 2) boot on the primary partition

  • Program logical drive for standard Office 2000 load and other software needed for class or exam prep study

  • Shared logical drive for students to use to store works in progress (students create their own directory on the drive for use)

A two-way trust is established between the SACMDA1 and SACMDA domains allowing access to resources in either domain from either networking lab. Communications within each lab and between labs is 100BaseT (100 megabits per second over UTP Category 5).  The instructor's computer in the A+ lab is connected to the Internet for component configuration research and downloading drivers -- it is also connected to the network in the two networking labs on a 10BaseT connection and shows up on the network as CNS3Server.

Policies for use of A+ lab components and networking lab workstations:

  • Students will not change any configurations on the dual boot standard configuration primary partition on networking lab workstations. Remember that 3 to 4 other students could be using the same computer and it is irritating to have to deal with someone else's bizarre configuration. The only thing you may change are items which are unique to your user log-on -- wallpaper/desktop background and desktop items. Do NOT change display size (standard is 640x480) or screen saver (including timing; standard is 20 minutes).  Do NOT make registry modifications to menus or taskbars, or add pop-up windows.  Above all, do NOT place a password on the screen saver -- this effectively locks out all other users if the screen saver kicks in and requires a hard reset (and potential data loss) to restore operation.

  • Students will not load any programs to the Program drive on networking lab workstations unless directed by your instructor to do so -- remember, these are standard configurations and we don't want extraneous programs from unknown sources placed on the workstations.

  • Students will not load any programs (freeware/shareware) from outside sources onto the networking lab workstations unless cleared by your instructor to do so, and the program is checked for viruses. Utilities (such as CyberKit or EliteFTP), add-ins (such as MS Digital Dashboard), or exam preparation programs (verify they are freeware/shareware) are acceptable sorts of outside programs.

  • Students in Units B & C will use the dedicated hard drive for practice Windows '98 and Windows NT/2000 loads and network configurations on the networking lab workstations. This is your "playpen" and it is here that you can knock your socks off with your wild OS configurations. IMPORTANT: Please store your dedicated hard drive in the designated storage area and return the standard drive to the computer before you leave for the day (a courtesy to other users of the workstation).

  • Students in Unit A will practice MS-DOS and Windows '95 loads on their computers in the A+ Lab.  Students in Unit A use the workstations in the networking labs from time to time for practice with Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and FrontPage, or orientation to Windows '98 / NT / 2000 and their features -- remember to use your directory on the shared drive to store any works in progress.

  • Students in the A+ Lab will be assigned a case and components for use while in the lab. You will occasionally be given other components during the unit to practice configuration changes. A label will be provided for identification of your assigned case. Please do not remove components from another student's case.

  • Students will not use another student's directory on the shared drive of networking lab workstations.

  • Willful disregard for our policies or malicious actions may result in points deducted from your professionalism grade or possible disciplinary action. It is not our intent to restrict your learning process with these policies, but to afford all students using the equipment an unhindered, equally productive and valuable learning experience. Remember, none of the equipment is "yours"; you are sharing it with other students, and professional courtesy is the name of the game.

Thanks for your help and cooperation!  :)

Tere Prasse
(feel free to e-mail comments or questions)


Thangs Verboten (That's DON'T Even Do It!) 

We are seeing a rash of unauthorized and completely unprofessional items popping up on the CNS Network Lab computers. Some of these items are inappropriate, others are grossly offensive. If you find any of these items on a computer you are using, delete or uninstall them as appropriate. The following types of items will NOT be loaded on SACMDA CNS computers, or even brought into the classrooms.

  • Games of any sort

  • Screensavers

  • Graphics including wallpapers and videos (except those authorized by your instructor for constructing your web page)

  • Programs (except utility or computer training programs authorized by your instructor for training purposes)

Students who violate this policy will be verbally reminded of CNS computer policies on the first instance. On the second occurrence, the student will receive a written counseling statement. A third occurrence will result in the student referred to the Director of Education for disciplinary action. Additionally, please reference your SACMDA Catalog for overall school policies regarding use of computer equipment.

Please reference the preceding policy note concerning computer configurations as well.

Tere Prasse
(feel free to e-mail comments or questions)


Swappable Hard Drive Policies & Practices 

CNS Network Lab 2 computers had swappable hard drives installed on March 30, 2001 (thanks CNS Class 07/27/00).  CNS Network Lab 1 computers will soon have a similar configuration.

Each computer has three numbered and color-coded drives associated with it. The tag numbers correspond to the number of the computer.

  • Red tag: Standard load for CNS Network which includes Office 2000 and other student resources -- for use by all CNS students. Note: It is crucial that these drives are not placed in a computer other than the one designated by the number on the tag -- remember that each computer on the CNS Network has its own ID.  (In CNS Network Lab 2, the Computer Office User students also use the standard load drive.)

  • Yellow tag: Day CNS student hard drive for practice OS loads.  These loads will not be connected to the CNS Network, but rather, networked on a student-designed network (separate forest-tree-domain).

  • Blue tag: Night CNS student hard drive for practice OS loads.  These loads will not be connected to the CNS Network, but rather, networked on a student-designed network (separate forest-tree-domain).

At the end of every class session, CNS students will return the standard load drive (red tag) to the computer, and place their practice load drive back in the classroom storage closet. Drives are not to be taken out of the classroom.

Operations: In order for the drive to be available to the computer, it must be locked using the key attached to the right side of the computer.  

  • To remove a drive, first unlock it with the key (notches aligned at the 6 o'clock position is unlocked), then raise the handle on the drive tray, and carefully slide it out.

  • To place a drive in the computer, carefully slide it into the slot (metal tray cover side up), lower the handle completely down, and lock it with the key (notches aligned at the 9 o'clock position is locked).

  • Never attempt to remove a drive that is locked in position! The drive trays are plastic and can easily be broken if excessive force is used -- installation and removal do not require any significant force.

  • Should you have problems installing or removing a drive, consult with your instructor.

Please use care in handling the drives to preclude damage. Never place a drive in a location where it can easily fall to the floor.  SACMDA has made a significant investment in equipment with the acquisition of these drives, and it's our job to protect those assets.  Thanks!

Tere Prasse
(feel free to e-mail comments or questions)


Last updated: Friday, September 20, 2002

E-Mail SACMDA-SA IT Instructors:

Tere Prasse
Jack Mayfield
Al Somers
Rich Schrauth
Ace Grigson
Edith Orozco
Nicole L'Esperance-Ellsworth