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BlueWolf's Howl

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February 12, 2012

Love my Rack Time

So this is not about being lazy on a Sat afternoon or laying in a hammock. I'm talking about INE R&S Rack Time. And I'm totally enjoying it.

Of course, as you can see - I also have a local "in person" rack at home. Yeah, it's in my KITCHEN. [Priorities, ya know.] But I am fortunate enough to be able to use both. INE started running a special on Rack Rental Tokens where you can get tokens for half price. Not sure how long they are going to run that special, but I now have as many as I can use between now and my first attempt at the real lab (thanks to the speedy IRS that processes early returns fast).

I'm feeling like I need both racks. The rack I have at home is always available and I can practice whatever I want on it. However, that "always available" is also its drawback. I know I won't have physical access to the rack at the test. So I need to be comfortable with that in every way possible. I also need to feel the pressure of a timed environment. When your 5.5 hour block is up, the telnet screen disappears. So you need to work your magic before the terminal disappears. In my local rack, I could go over the time and not know until I'm done. Well, how far did I really go before time ran out?

One of the other benefits of rack rental is the ability to load the preconfigured scenarios through the control panel. This is especially important when doing the Troubleshooting labs. If you use this, you don't SEE the configuration that you're loading. It's more like the "real-world"/"real-lab" environment.

A word about the scheduling - you're scheduling up against other people. I was a bit discouraged when I found that most of the rack time that I wanted was gone. So I scheduled around it. I had a few hundred tokens left and only spots here and there on the weekends. However, a few days later, when I went to double check on my first rack slot, I found there were suddenly a whole bunch of slots that had opened up! Someone must have rescheduled something and now there were just the slots I needed. So don't look once and write it off - or postpone scheduling the time you want. Set it up in advance (so you get the times and dates that you want) and if you don't get what you want, check back often. People procrastinate. When they put things off, they have to reschedule. They might open a spot right where you need it at any time.

Another item of note on scheduling. If you're looking to maximize your tokens -- you'll see that some slots (during the week) are less than the ones on the weekend. If you schedule far enough in advance, you can do your rack practice during the week and use the weekends for reading the reference material, watching the INE videos or actually having a life... And, like I said above, check the schedule often. If you look, last minute scheduling is also at a cut rate. You just can't count on it being available. But if you've got tokens and you don't have plans, check the schedule and see if you can slide into an open rack at the last minute.

And of course, plan your rack time. Know ahead of time what lab scenario or workbook section you want to work on before the rack appointment. One of the ways I've managed to keep the cost reasonable is that I practice the technologies (Workbook I) using my local rack. I save the rack time for lab scenarios - to maximize their impact.

Well - here's my first shot at a back-to-back session. This should be interesting. I have a rack from noon to 5:30 (local) and then from 6pm to 11:30 (local). Then I have the same setup again for tomorrow (I took the day off to study). Originally I only had a slot for noon to 5:30pm tomorrow, so I took the day off. The three other slots (along with one yesterday afternoon) opened up after my first round of scheduling. Fortunately, these are the only two back-to-back slots that I have scheduled. I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing. I guess I'll find out today.

Posted by BlueWolf on February 12, 2012 10:03 AM