If you’ve been a subscriber to the Microsoft Action Pack, then you might know of a couple of changes to the plan this year. First up is the requirement that you pass an assessment course. I figured I could do this when I had a chance, and so I pretty well blew off all those notices that they kept sending me and didn’t bother to read much on the subject, so I finally got around to checking out the details today. I found out that the subject matter is a little bizarre. Mostly to do with sales, which I absolutely hate, but still, I figured I could stumble may way through.
I eventually settled on Designing, Deploying, and Managing a Network Solution for the Small-and-Midsize Business, which is described as “This course teaches you to design a network solution, install and upgrade to Windows Small Business Server 2003.” I figured that wouldn’t be too hard, right? So I registered. Of course I was in the middle of about three things, and still wasn’t paying attention, and so the first thing I noticed was an assessment of my current skills, to see if I was able to take the test. I found that odd, but oh well. So I answered the 15 questions, and passed with 80%. That’s cool. Then I spent a while trying to figure out how to actually get to take the real test, and I couldn’t find it.
To make matters worse, as I was taking the actual course, which was several modules, each of which was broken into a few different lessons, I noticed that the questions that I had just answered on the initial assessment were in the material that I was reading. As I neared the end, I was getting really bored. They say to allow an hour for the course itself, and I couldn’t have spent more than half that overall, so when I got to the end, it said that I had only done 80% of the course. I then had to figure out which sections I had missed and page through them again.
This was made worse by the fact that Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, has some sort of ActiveX control on some of these pages, that doesn’t load right, so you can’t just click through – you have to wait for it to load. And to make thigns even worse, when you click the little yellow bar at the top of IE (you can’t use Firefox), you are sometimes taken back to the very beginning! But eventually, I did get all the way through, and it said that I have “completed the course”, and… nothing. No test, nada. So apparently, the initial evaluation was the evaluation, and I just had to page through all the rest of the course to get a “complete” message. That blows.
I can understand that they want a certain barrier to entry for the action pack, so people aren’t just signing up to get free software. It makes sense. Really it does. Even though there probably aren’t too many people doing it in the scheme of things, it follows that they have businesses going through a few hoops to get a break on software, and I’m okay with that. But dang, if I can take a test and pass it, why make me spend an hour on the stupid course? Why can’t I just answer the questions and be done with it?
As to the second change, for the first time this year (or at least the first time I’ve ever noticed), the boys from Redmond send out a lovely cease and desist letter, telling me to destroy all the software that I might be using from my action pack, since it had expired (as I hadn’t taken the test yet). Since I never received a letter before, I’m not sure if they changed their terms to say that you can only use the software while you are current, or if they just started following up on the existing license, but either way, it’s a bit less enticing now, because that means that you have to stay a subscriber, which sorta stinks. If I could keep whatver software I had previously, it was a much better deal!