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« on: January 07, 2004, 12:53:24 PM »

I was reading these books in order to recertify my CCNA.  I managed to let it expire before passing my first 642 level CCNP exam, so now I have to retake the CCNA exam before I can complete my CCNP.  I was dreading reading a CCNA book, but figured that I probably needed a refresher on some of the basic principals and there would surely be some new material covered since I last took the exam in 2000.  I assumed correctly.

I chose the Cisco Press books because I‘«÷d learned that if you want to get the right material weighting for a Cisco exam, it‘«÷s best to pick your apples right off of the tree.  In my previous experience, Cisco Press books had a tendency to be somewhat dry but I quickly learned that this misconception is no longer true.  I found that the author, Wendell Odom, brings a friendly approach to the material that makes it quite readable.  His examples are handled very well and his explanations are good.  He doesn‘«÷t write in the ‘«£just-the-facts-ma‘«÷am‘«ō way that tends to be the norm in technical books, so I will definitely be looking for titles by him in the future.  

The books are intended for someone fairly new to networking, so I experienced a bit of the ‘«£duh‘«ō factor.  However, I was still able to learn a few interesting facts and reinforced a lot of what I already knew.  The biggest change since I last took the CCNA exam is that Cisco now offers the option of taking it as 2 separate tests or as the single exam.  I was pleased to see that, although the CCNA has been split into 2 books, the author has included a reading plan that allows you to read the 2 books in a back-and-forth order that makes it easy to use the same set of books to study for the single test version.

Overall, the books are well written and readable.  A little more care should have been taken into the spell checking prior to publishing, but that‘«÷s far from a deal breaker on these books.  Overall, I‘«÷d give them 4 stars out of 5.  Here‘«÷s the individual run-down on the books‘«™

CCNA INTRO (ISBN: 1-58720-094-5)
This book can be used by itself to study for exam 640-821(Introduction to Cisco Networking Technologies).  The exam covers the basic principles behind basic network topologies, cabling, switching, routing, TCP/IP, IP addressing and WAN technologies.  The book approaches this material in a very shallow way.  Without going into too much depth on most topics, it covers a very broad range of material.  If you are studying for the single CCNA exam, you can bounce back and forth between this book and the ICND book, reading the basics in this book then going to the ICND book for the nitty-gritty details.  The one exception to the rule is the topic of IP Addressing, which is covered entirely within this title.  Probably the most important topic in this book, it is very well explained and there are plenty of practice IP addressing exercises on the CD.  This book covers the material adequately for a beginner who is just learning the networking principals.  On it‘«÷s own, I‘«÷d give this book 4 stars out of 5.

CCNA ICND (ISBN: 1-58720-083-X)
This book can be used to study for exam 640-811 (Interconnecting Cisco Network Devices).  The exam covers basic switch configuration, basic IP routing, basic access list configuration and basic remote access configuration.  This book takes each topic and explains the details regarding its implementation.  The basic configuration commands are presented, explained and then given in the form of an example.  The examples are generally pretty clear and the commands are shown in relation to the surrounding commands, so the context of the command is clear.  This book is the opposite of the Intro book, as it covers a small amount of material to a deeper level.  There are some new topics presented, like route summarization and Link State protocols, which weren‘«÷t on the old CCNA exam.  If you‘«÷re wanting to recertify, but aren‘«÷t ready to move on to CCNP, then this is the book to pick up.  I‘«÷d give it 5 out of 5 stars.  

The CD‘«÷s also include a pair of excellent test banks.  I found them to be very useful in preparing for the test and working through the book.  There were a few answers that were just plain wrong, but I‘«÷ve come to expect a little inaccuracy with my test banks.  The questions are not overly easy, but they‘«÷re also not all that tricky.  They‘«÷re about the right level of difficulty for this exam.  One especially cool feature is the ‘«£Study Saver‘«ō which makes the question bank your screen saver.

Cisco has an affinity for simulation questions on their exams, so it‘«÷s good that they included the Boson Netsim LE on the CD.  The bad news is that all the functions and labs are not unlocked unless you go through the ‘«£upgrade process‘«ō which consists of downgrading your wallet to the tune of $125, which is supposed to be a great deal compared to what they usually charge.  I didn‘«÷t want to spend a lot of time with what is essentially a simulator demo, but feel free to give it a try.  However, if the interface doesn‘«÷t really make you comfortable, try something else like the Cisco Interactive Mentor CD‘«÷s (which I recommend) or one of the many other simulator options out there before shelling out your hard-earned money.

In addition to the test banks and Netsim, the CD‘«÷s also include PDF versions of the books and 25 IP subnetting practice exercises.  All in all, I‘«÷d give the extras 3 stars out of 5.  The test banks are good, but I‘«÷d have like to have seen the CIM simulator instead of the Netsim.
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« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2004, 10:24:40 PM »

Do you happen to have any experience with Cisco's CCNA Flash Cards Book for the 640-801 or Cisco's CCNA Router and Switch eSIM?
I was also looking at the books you reviewed but I may use Sybex instead since it's cheaper and Sybex has been good to me so far. Thanks.

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