Tuesday, November 2, 2010

day 1 (posted late on day 2)

Writing a book/blog about taking the CompTIA A+ Computer Certification exam.  I never took computers very seriously growing up.  I basically knew how to use them, but had no idea how they worked.  In my junior year of high school several of my friends took the A+ computer certification class that our school offered.  It was extremely difficult to get into.  Only one section was offered with a strict limit of 25 students accepted.  You had to be at least a sophomore with a 3.5 gpa.  You had to get letters of recommendation from two teachers talking about how you are a good serious student and would do well in a class about computers.  I never tried to get into this class.  I would have been futile.  I didn’t have 3.5 gpa.  I wasn’t a serious student that would do well in this class.  It just wasn’t my thing.  I also wouldn’t be able to convince my parents to pay the $600 for the class.  Yes you needed $600.  $100 was for the test fee and $500 was for the parts to build your own computer.  Over the course of that year my friends became bigger and bigger computer geeks, and I guess it kind of started to rub off on me a bit.  Halfway through the year they had built their own computers.  These things weren’t cheap crappy ones like the ones in the library computer labs.  These computers were beastly gaming rigs with high-end processors and graphics cards.  They had Full Tower cases (the largest size) with all sorts or lights and after-market cooling systems.  These things could play games that I didn’t even think were possible on a computer with graphics better than my xbox.  They were quite impressive, but something that I still considered to be not for me.  Too expensive and too unknown.  That changed when I graduated from high school.  
    I honestly had no idea about the serious inflow of cash I would receive upon graduation.  I figured it would be like birthdays: $5 or $10 from each aunt and uncle for a grand total of maybe $50.  I was off by a factor of 20.  I came away with about $1000 for graduating high school.  I was stunned.  I already had about $1,500 saved up from my job as a cashier at Meijer.  With some convincing from friends I decided to put that money towards a computer.  You could buy a pretty decent pre-made computer from Dell or HP or some other computer manufacturer, but you can make your money go even further if you buy all the parts individually and put it together yourself.  With some careful guidance from friends I picked out the parts and assembled it.  We had some trouble with the graphics card at the end.  It was a Nvidia 7600.  We could only get basic display.  After getting some older drivers for the card we tried tested it again.  Nvidia bundles a demo file in with all the drivers and other software.  So we tried launching that.  What happened was awesome.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hvwKQDMixQ  Isn’t that just the most awesome way to be informed that everything is working?  Imagine that on a 19” fullscreen display and that awesome music pumping out of some 5.1 surround sound speakers.  One of the greatest moments of my life.  Well ever since that point I was increasingly interested in computers.  This was mostly as a hobby although I did do some work for my dad’s accounting business on occasion.  I kept looking at that A+ computer certification as something I’d like to do some day.
    So what exactly is A+ Computer certification anyway?  Well  It’s a test about computers.  More specifically it’s about personal computers that run Windows operating system.  By taking and passing this test, it says that I am qualified to fix, repair and work on other people’s computers.  It says I know how computers work.  It’s very useful for getting a job.  It is a professional certification.
    It is provided by CompTIA which is a non-profit organization that provides vender-neutral professional certifications in the IT field.  They offer a lot of different tests, but their big 3 are the A+, Network+ and Server+.  The A+ test has been offered since 1993.  They update the test every so often although now they are looking at doing it every 3 years.
    If you take and pass the test you a certified for life.  This is good,  because the test is freaking expensive.  $366 to take the test.  So that’s what I’m doing this November.  Got to study up, because it would suck to fail and have to pay again to retake the test.
    Alow me to break the fourth wall here, or break the page, or screen, ao whatever you want to call it.  I have to do national write a novel month for a class.  This sucks.  I have to do this.  

    So I was talking to my friend and old roommate today before class.  I brought up that I had to do this National Novel Writitng Month for my advanced fiction class.  He asked me what I was writing my novel about and I told him I was a little foggy on iedas.  I told him that I wanted to write about computers and more specifically about the A+ exam, but I was afraid it would be too boring.  My friend works at the writing center here at Ball State and he stood there and thought about it for just a few seconds and then said, “ Why don’t you make it like a parody of something... like Dante’s Inferno?”  
    That idea hit me like a sack of concrete.  I could do so much with it.  I could adapt areas of computing to different layers.  I have a structural guide now.  Its very cool.  Plus I love the idea of linking this big, nasty exam to hell itself.  My friend even suggested throwing Bill Gates in as Satan.  I don’t know if that is where I’ll place him, but we’ll see.  
    There are basically two ways that I want to go with this.  One: each component has it’s own area of hell i.e. level 2: RAM, level 4: processors, level 7 graphics cards, level 9 motherboards.  Two: adapt each level’s sin from the actual text to something related to computing or IT related.  An example of this would be Wrath and it’s a line in a waiting room in a computer repair shop where there are a bunch of people with broken computer parts or gluttony where it has something to do with torrenting and piracy, I don’t know.  I sort of like the second one better, but feel that I would have more trouble fitting it into the A+ exam theme.  I guess I’ll just try to combine them.  So each level will have a sin associated and a component or area of computing.  
    I’ve got to think of characters now.  I would play the role of Dante, but who should Virgil be?  Maybe one of my friends who know more about computers than I do.  Maybe a teacher.  I’m thinking my friend David might fit the role well.  I could try to borrow a thing or two from the oracle in Venture Bros.
    How about the other roles?  I’m not even sure I remember them that well.  I’ll have to reread Dante’s Inferno or at least the

So let’s start.

    As I drifted off to sleep last night, the night of Halloween, my thoughts were on the A+ computer certification exam that was only one month away.  These thoughts transformed into a dream as I fell unconscious.  I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that I fell asleep.  All I remember was that at some point I was alert and aware with all signs of sleepiness gone.  I was no longer in my warm comfy bed.  I was lying on a cold, smooth, metallic surface.  It was dark, but still visible.  The round was black I think, maybe not but definitely dark colored.  The metal ground was perfectly flat and continued further than I could see in all directions.  
    I was dressed in the same clothes I had gone to sleep in, a t-shirt and some pajama pants.  It was a little cold.  I was fine for now, but I knew that I would be pretty miserable in an hour or two.  I looked aroud for anything in any direction.  I wasn’t sure, but one diresction seemed to have a faint glow.  It looked like maybe the sun had set in that direction a few hours ago.  I decided to call that way west and wandered of towards it.
    After a few minutes I was rewarded with confirmation that this was indeed the way to go.  The glow seemed a bit brighter and had a blueish tint to it.  Every now and then I’d feel the lightest of warm breezes.  The metal beneath my feet seemed a bit warmer as well, although that could have just been my feet going numb.  The warmth and light urged me forward quickly.
    A little bit later I saw a bright blue glow on the horizon ahead.  It seemed to be a line of blue light where the sky met the black metal ground.  I continued “west” towards it.  As I drew nearer it revealed itself to be a large glowing blue circle.  I was also now aware of a whirring sound.  I came to this realization because it grew louder as I neared the glowing blue circle.  It sounded like a giant fan or maybe a helicopter.  
    I got to the edge of the circle.  It was actually a big hole.  It was at least  500 feet in diameter.  Hot air was being blasted out of it by a huge glowing blue fan.  It seemed to be a..
    “Chimney exhaust fan,” said a voice from behind me.  I spun around and saw a tall lanky guy standing behind me with a smirk on his face.  I recagnized him.
    “David?” I asked, “what the hell is going on?”
    “As you are right now, you will fail your A+ exam and be forever trapped in computer hell.” he said, “ this is the first level, Limbo.  Here are all the users who did not know the way.  They are regular users.  They can use some programs, but know nothing about how things work.”
    “Wait where are they?”
    “They’re all out there,” he said while gesturing back the way I came from, “wandering around in the dark, clueless.”
    “So what’s the point man?” I asked, “ What the hell is going on here?”
    “Well basically I’m gonna Dante’s Inferno your ass through this computer certification shit.  Like I said, this is limbo.  This is for people who don’t know the first thing about computers.  Maybe computers are after their time.  Maybe they have no need or no computers where they live.  For them the computer is a black mystery box.  What does it do?  How does it work?  I don’t get it.  I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.  All these cables look so ugly.  These are all thoughts that go through these people’s heads.”
    “Haha that last one was my mom I think,” I said.

    At this point more research is needed.  I want to read through or at least skim, or even just read the wikipedia summary or Dante’s Inferno.  Also, I need to order my A+ Certification study guide.  I should figure out what else to put on this level.  peripherals like mouse, keyboard, moniter, and other things.  What should be the next level?  Windows environment?  Maybe power supply stuff.  oh well, already behind a bit.

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