Active Directory Training Labs

A review of Train Signal’s Windows 2000/2003 Active Directory Video Lab Training – Product Details. See more details at Train Signal’s website.

Comprehensive Instructional Video. Perfect for the novice who needs a crash course in installing and setting up Active Directory in Windows 2000 Server/Advanced Server and/or Windows 2003 Server or for the more experienced administrator who wants to expand their knowledge. Both operating systems are covered on each CD.

The CD comes with AVI movies that can be played through the Camtasia player supplied on the CD or Windows Media player but first the Camtasia codec must be installed. I prefer Windows Media player due to the video time played display. Makes it easier to restart at a point after stopping or “bookmarking” an area of interest.

This instructional CD comes with several videos. The first to look at is Concepts. This covers the terms used in Windows 2003 Server, what they mean and how they apply to the O/S. Each concept is explained fully with some cross covering of the explained terms during the introduction to the new one. I found this very useful as the repetition of the explanations assisted with the absorption of the new information or old (forgotten) material revisited. These concept explanations provide a good grounding for what is to come.

The next video in the list covers the new features in Active Directory in Windows 2003. Once again these features are explained in an easy to understand fashion with examples given. Important features are noted and talked about in greater detail or even cross covered with an interlocking feature. I especially liked the Drag & Drop feature in AD along with the ability to now disable the built-in Administrator account.

Although listed as Lab 1 on the CD, I am going to refer to it as Video 1 to avoid confusion with the various individual Train Signal Labs.

Video 1 starts with a run through of the steps that will take place during the installation of AD and DNS. It is gone into in sufficient depth but it is done in such a way that they make it easy for the complete novice to understand. What surprised me was that during installation of AD, a DNS error occurred. Instead of stopping the video, fixing the error and re-recording that segment, Scott (the instructor) found out what caused the problem and then proceeded to show what was wrong and how to fix it, leaving that valuable information in the video. This added to the video by inserting a “diagnostic” segment into the video. Absolutely brilliant and a case of Train Signal providing more bang for your buck. Nothing seems too small to be included. Even the simple operation of converting a FAT32 partition to the necessary NTFS one that is required for the AD database is included.

Video 2 is an interesting, informative and in depth look into AD Organizational Units (OU) and Group Policy Objects (GPO). (Windows 2000 had around 500 policies, 2003 has around 1000.) Correct design of OUs makes applying GPOs extremely efficient. This video gives, once again, easy to understand and follow instructions and examples. This particular video made me realize just how damn good this Train Signal training course is. I have installed Windows 2003 Server several dozen times, read bible sized books about it but never caught on to the multitude of Right Click options that are available in AD. The information in this video is very detailed and this video alone is worth purchasing the product.

Video 3 looked more deeply into “Active Directory features that allow you to manage policy, software, desktop restrictions, security settings and more from one centralized interface.” Sounds a lot, well it is a lot! I made over a page of notes on this video alone when preparing this review. Not only is the video chock full of goodies but it also goes over related information from videos 1 and 2. For me this helped drive home the message on some of the fundamentals that just have to be known. Details are not just glassed over with the hope they will be remembered. The repartition may get annoying when you replay the videos several times, but hey, you don’t forget it. GPO Editor is given a good workout and you come away with a good understanding of it and how to apply a GPO. I loved the part of making sure a GPO is not applied to the Admins. After some practice in my lab I can’t wait to apply the new knowledge and apply it on a live network. The Losers aren’t going to know what hit them.

Video 4 is about AD from the AD users perspective and publishing resources so they can be searched for in AD. Again nothing is too small to be included. You are shown how to create a SHARE, publish it in AD so you can search for that share in AD. The difference between object permission and the actual share permission is explained and how to apply keywords to a share to make searching for it easier. It means users don’t have to remember the share name anymore, just the keyword or keywords. Sweet!!! The Saved Query tutorial included in the video showed that this is also a pretty useful tool to have.

These instructional videos are professionally made. I was impressed that each video was made in one hit until I noticed the time on the Taskbar in the various videos. Some of the segments were hours apart but have been made to appear seamless. You just don’t notice that the instructor has finished, gone home, slept and come back and finished it the next day. I also found myself asking a question at one stage because it felt like I was sitting in the same room as Scott. It is just like having a personal tutor. I was also pleased to discover that Scott and I have the same make of malfunctioning keyboard. Mine also has trouble spelling many of the same words.

I found this CD to be extremely useful. I wish I had found Train Signal before I forked out $850 on 2003 books. It also convinced me I need more Train Signal Labs. I would also like to point out that I am in no way affiliated with Train Signal nor was I paid to write this review. This is just an excellent product that demystifies a complex operating system.

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