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Micro 2000 Basic Hardware Learning Course

by Bob Wright
2000/02/10

Recently, we were asked to review numerous products from Micro2000. The first one to arrive was their home self study program: BASIC PC Learning Course.

The program comes well packaged in an impressive box, including the following items:

  • The instructional manual: 280 pages of very detailed information in concise and easy to understand terms
  • The instructional video: about 60 minutes of quality video and excellent explainations
  • MicroScope Limited Edition: a 3.5" floppy disk utility that is one of the best in the industry to diagnose computer problems
  • MicroScope instructional video: a complete walk through video explaining each feature of the MicroScope software
  • Supplemental update to the Instructional manual: this consisted of about 50 photocopied pages adding additional information not found in the manual.

    The first thing I noticed was the age rating on the product of Grade 8 to Adult education. I take that to mean for someone about 14 or older. Of course that said to me... Oh Really? My friends all know that I have been raising two sons, (ages 5 & 8), who are considered computer geeks by our friends and neighbors. So, you know I gave them the video to see how much they liked it. I will tell you more about that later.

    Using the Product
    I sat down one afternoon with the manual in hand and watched the instructional videos. My first impression addressed my concern about a quality produced video keeping track with today's industry. In the video they lead you step-by step through the process of building a computer. This approach follows my basic philosophy that unless you have built a computer from scratch, you will never really understand how to solve most problems that arise.

    I found the video fast moving, interesting and I did not find anything overlooked for walking a user through the process of building a basic PC. The video contained humor and was not chocked full of boring technical jargon. While I was watching the video I also began to thumb through the manual. I found the manual to be a great source of additional information concerning situations and computer configurations not covered in the video tape.

    Then, nearing the end of the video, after the successful assembly of the computer, they began to explain how to use Micro2000's MicroScope software to verify the system had no problems. Great approach. Finally, the video finishes with an excellent step-by-step instruction to installing Windows98. This was quite impressive and something Microsoft should be including with Windows98. It would save a myriad of the questions asked on PCBUILD mailing list concerning Windows98 installs.

    This then lead to watching the instructional video for MicroScopeLE, the limited edition version of MicroScope software included in the package. Okay, this video was boring and I fast forwarded through a lot of it, though a few things struck me and I backed up the tape to watch them. Would someone new to PCs find value in this video? Yes, of course. There was a great deal of information and valuable knowledge to using the MicroScope software. MicroScope is an excellent package for today's PC technician and receiving a copy with this instructional program is wonderful for the average PC user, future PC builder.

    Down Side
    If you have read any of my many reviews on NOSPIN.COM, you know it is extremely rare that I find anything completely satisfactory. So, what did I find this time? The first thing that bothered me about the instructional video was it is dated. The program follows the assembly of a PentiumII 233 computer with Simm memory modules. Okay, it does address installing a Slot 1 CPU and that is good. But, since the PII-233 CPU has gone missing from the market for a long time now, a few days at least... it dates the video. The second factor, the Ram Memory modules are Simms or 72pin chips. Not that it is a big factor, but if you decide to invest in this program, remember that nearly all the memory used today in a PC is SDRam or Dimm modules. Unlike Simms, they do not slide in at an angle to be pressed into the holder. Dimms slide straight into or down into the slots.

    The third item was the discussion of motherboard jumpers for the Front-Side Bus and the Clock-Multiplier on the CPU. Although many motherboard manufacturers still use this method, the progressive motherboards now use a CMOS Soft-Menu to handle this in the Bios, sometimes referred to as the "jumperless" motherboard. Not mentioning this option is clearly an issue, as more and more motherboards will be configured in this manner.

    As long as you understand that education materials become dated, especially in an industry as dynamic as PCs, then this is an excellent program.

    My Sons
    Earlier, I mentioned we would discuss this age issue of the product. My sons sat and watched the video, they even re-winded it and watched it through again. We sat and talked at length about their impressions of the material. I mention all of this, as I thought it would be good to have their impression with their limited knowledge of PCs. Both of them took away a great deal of information from the video, actually surprising me how much they grasped. Part of this I am going to attribute to the style of this video and the work invested to insure even people with limited knowledge of PCs will not be lost... not that the video was simplistic. The video was quite informative and an effective training tool.

    I will hedge this by mentioning my 8year old son can already change out most minor components in his PC without my guidance, such as a floppy drive or CD Rom drive. I guess we will probably wait a few years before they will sit for their A+ certification. Anyway, my point in this was the quality of the instruction you will derive from the video.

    Recommendation
    Okay... this is always the bottom line. Is this product for everyone? Of course not!! If you have your own home PC and play with it on the weekends, this maybe more of an investment than you want. If you are serious about becoming adept with building and repairing PCs this is an excellent starting point. If you want an educational tool for your children or grandchildren interested in PCs, once again I highly recommend this program. If you have built several PCs and feel comfortable with opening the box to do more than clean out the dust or swapping out memory chips, then this program is probably a bit too basic for you.

    Anyway... in the final analysis, this is an excellent program for the beginner PC enthusiast.

    Micro2000
    1100 East Broadway - Suite 301
    Glendale, California 91205
    (800) 864-8008

    http://www.micro2000.com
    http://www.micro2000.com/learning.htm

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