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The ACCU passes on review copies of computer books to its members for them to review. The result is a large, high quality collection of book reviews by programmers, for programmers. Currently there are 1918 reviews in the database and more every month.
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MCSE: The Electives in a Nutshell
Michael Moncur
1 56592 482 7
Richard Blundell
MS Windows
Appeared in:
The current MCSE exam consists of four core operating systems exams, followed by two elective exams that can be chosen from around a dozen possibilities. Another O'Reilly 'Nutshell' book by the same author covers the core exams.

The first thing to point out about this book is that it only covers five of the electives (the author states that they are the most popular five). These five are: TCP/IP, Internet Information Server 4.0, Internet Explorer 4.0 Admin, Proxy Server 2.0 and Exchange Server 5.5. These certainly are popular exams and there is a clear bias towards Internet technologies. Some may, however, be disappointed by the absence of the three SQL server exam categories (Administration, Design and Implementation and Data Warehouses). Also missing are the Site Server, SMS and SNA Server exams.

Apart from an initial short overview of Microsoft's certification system, the book consists of five roughly equal chapters (one per exam), each of which is broken up into five sections. The first section is the Exam Overview, a couple pages that list the main requirements for the exam, giving page references to where those items are covered. Next comes the main Study Guide section - forty to sixty pages of detailed information containing the bulk of the material. A page or two of suggested exercises follow this, emphasising that you will need more than just a study guide to pass MCSE exams. They list procedures that you should be able to carry out, installing and setting up software, configurations and optimisations, etc. The Practice Test section has forty or so multiple-choice questions on all aspects of the material in the chapter, complete with answers and sometimes very brief explanations where warranted. Finally, the Highlighter's Index condenses the key points of the chapter down nicely into three or four pages of bulleted lists.

Despite the limited exam coverage, I really liked the content and manner of presentation of material in this book. Many reference books would benefit from sections like the Highlighter's Index. It demonstrates concisely how much material there is in the book and serves as a handy introduction as well as useful refresher for the main material. The presentation is clear, easy to read and well edited (I don't remember finding a single typo) and O'Reilly's 'RepKover' softback covering stays open nicely on your desk. The material is well organised within each chapter and exams are easy to find with the named thumb index on the edge of the book. In a few places the descriptions are a little tautological and would have benefited from further expounding. In a few other places, configuration dialogues are explained in detail but are not shown as figures, which would have added the extra ha'p'orth of tar. On the whole, though, this book is packed full of summarised information for the MCSE exams and also serves as a handy reference to various Internet technologies and Microsoft's implementations of them.