A+ Certification expert, Internationally renowned Researcher and
Design Engineer, and Best-selling Author
This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., catches
up for an update interview with Charles Brooks.
Charles is an internationally renowned
researcher and design engineer, A+ certification expert, best-selling author of
several books including five editions of the A+ Training Guides. He also sits
on the CompTIA’s A+ and CompTIA Network+ Advisory Boards. He is co-founder of
elTPrep, LLP, an online IT exam-prep games and textbook publishing company
dealing with Microsoft MCSA/MCSE Certifications. He is president of Marcraft
International Corporation and is in charge of Research and Development.
His latest book, “A+ Certification Exam
Cram 2 PC Maintenance and Troubleshooting Field Guide”, is a quick and easy
reference to installing, troubleshooting, and repair information. A great
supplemental resource in exam studies for A+ candidates.
Q: Charles, thank you for taking the time to update us on your current
A: Glad to. I always enjoy getting to talk
about the things we work on. It's like working in a big technical toy box
Q: Please bring us up-to-date with your activities and those of Marcraft
International Corporation in the past year. Describe current projects and what
is new on the horizon.
A: In the past year we have added a complete line of Home Technology
Integration training panels to our product list. These panels support students
preparing for the HTI+ certification exam from CompTIA. We offer a terrific
textbook for this exam but the Lab Guide and Lab Panels really prepare the
student for the job they will be doing.
We have also produced a Mobile Electronics
Installer Trainer that prepares students for jobs installing high end consumer
electronics in automobiles and other mobile environments. This product got a tremendous
amount of attention at the ACTE trade show where we introduced it.
We are also completing a line of Digital
Literacy products that help students become literate in a number of digital
areas. These courses typically don't track directly to an industry
certification but they can be used as a precursor to several certification
Q: Provide an overview of your book, “A+
Certification Exam Cram 2 PC Maintenance and Troubleshooting Field Guide.”
A: The A+ Field Guide project emerged from
the fact that many of the topics covered by the A+ exam deal with pieces of
information that PC technicians and others involved with maintaining and
servicing PCs needed to have at their disposal. We had seen all kinds of small
reference books that had listings of specs for all kinds of different drives
and peripherals, but nothing that just provided quick references to
Installation, configuration and troubleshooting information for hardware and
operating systems. We also wanted to provide a quick reference to contact
information that people working in the field could have at their fingertip. One
of the most interesting structures in the book is a Troubleshooting/ Symptoms
Jump Table at the front of the book that enables readers (users actually) to
locate their symptom in the table and jump directly to the pages where it is
Q: Can you provide ten compelling tips from
A: 1) Step-by-step procedure for
troubleshooting a dead system. What does a reading lamp have to do with fixing
2) Steps for using TCP/IP utilities to
troubleshoot and repair networking problems. I'm can't see anyone on my new
network connection. How do I go about getting this connection up and running?
3) Step-by-step procedures for
troubleshooting system boot or operating system startup failures. Use the
single beep produced by most systems, the Starting Windows splash screen, and
the appearance of the Windows Desktop to differentiate between different groups
of startup problems and their related causes.
4) A list of third-party support Web sites
for locating and downloading device drivers and utilities. I want to install
the video card I picked up at the tech fair but I don't have any drivers for
it. I wonder where I can find them?
5) An overview of key TCP/UDP Well-known
port numbers. My network is secure now. How do I get my email through the
6) CAT5 Twisted Pair Cabling pin outs. I
need to make a cable to connect a computer to a hub or router. How did that
color coding go?
7) CAT5 Twisted Pair Crossover Cabling pin
8) An overview of key Windows Command Line
functions and their usage. The Windows Desktop GUI won't come up. How am I
going to get this thing working?
9) An overview of key Linux Command Line
functions and their usage. Why did the company put in Linux machines anyway?
10) Tips for troubleshooting batteries in
notebook computers and correcting battery memory problems. A new battery for my
two-year old notebook costs how much?
Q: Your books are targeted to different
markets with the associated different learning styles and the specific support
required. This book has a broader audience than just for those writing the A+
certification exam. Who should get this book and why?
A: This book is really not about the A+
certification in any way except that most of the material was compiled by
looking at what the A+ Objectives, Job Task Analysis, and Critical Incidence
Analysis said that technicians across a wide breath of the industry needed to
know. When we researched these areas with people we know who were actually
doing this work, we came up with a collection of the things that would be most
beneficial to have at the actual work site. A real usable reference for PCs.
With this in mind, the A+ PC Field Guide is
for anyone who needs a concise guide to carry with them or have on their
reference shelf. I wanted to ad a line to the cover of the book touting it as
the “Swiss Army Knife for PCs” but the editors thought better of it.
Q: The profile in terms of knowledge level, age, and experience of the
“typical” student going for certification has changed extensively in the past
several years. Courses and products, including books are developed and written
as their viability appears in the industry. In what areas have you had to make
the most significant adjustments and why?
A: Actually, we have had to write books for
the different certification that are appropriate for different markets. For
example, the last A+ revision led to five different versions of the book – one
for ILT classroom use, one for the Book Store market catering to professionals
and self-study users, a concise version for the Test Prep market, a Core
Hardware-only book and an Operating System Technology-only version. Three of
these required Lab Guides as well as separate and specific Instructor Support
Some products must be prepared so that they
can be delivered to High School level readers while others can be written at a
slightly higher reading level for Community College students and professionals.
Q: You have seen a lot of things change in
the technical side of computing over the years. In your opinion what have been the three most significant technical
advances in computing technology since 1990?
A: 1) Plug and Play – This really has changed
how we construct and use the computer. We can now plug things into the computer
or remove them while it is operational and the system basically handles
everything for the user (no technician needed for many of the functions that
required technicians or tech savvy users in the past).
2) Operating Systems – The second are that
has made computers more widely accepted and usable are the advances in
operating system interfaces and tools. So many functions are now intuitive in a
3) Wireless communications – What a great
thing. Sharing data, programs and files without having to master all the
nuances of networking. Walk through airports or coffee shops, flip open your
notebook, click a few icons and you're online.
Q: Charles, please consider this question
an opportunity to look into your personal crystal ball and provide your own
take on the future of computing technology. Computing and its applications are changing rapidly. Convergence of
tools into multi-function devices and significant breakthroughs in human brain
- computer interfaces such as the Braingate Neural Interface System are
developing at a fast rate. If you were
writing an edition of your book , “A+ Certification Exam Cram 2 PC Maintenance
and Troubleshooting Field Guide.” for the year 2010 how do you think it might
differ from your current one?
A: I believe the A+ course of 2010 will be
less about the central computer and more about all the things that get attached
to it. I think the emphasis will shift even more to what happens when some
portion of the system won't work or breaks.
The home is becoming intelligent and many
new items will be talking to and through the computer. We're bringing in music
and video as well as voice and control systems and connecting them to the PC.
Eventually, our PCs will likely be hidden away in some closet and be connected
to and controlled by all types of new input and output devices working in
various facets of our environment. Likewise, the car will increasingly become a
computerized extension of our home. Why drop the car off at the dealer for its
checkup – just do it from the garage at home using the Internet.
The other development that is still
interesting for me is better voice control for the PC. These products are
getting better and moving past simple typing programs. I just saw a demo of a
home automation control package that responded to spoken key words without
training and could recognize different dialects without problems. How long
before mice and keyboards just won't cut it for what we want to do?
Q: What book(s) can our readers look
forward to in the coming year?
A: Security System Installer Certification;
Security + Certification; Mobile Electronics Installer Certification; Mobile Electronics Installer
Certification. I'm sure a couple more will manifest themselves as the year
swings into full speed. We seem to always have more projects than
Q: Are there any additional comments that
you would like to add? What thought would you like to leave us with?
A: As I said earlier, working in this
industry is like working in a big technical toy box. Can't imagine a better
field to be in.
Q: Charles, thank you again for taking the
time to do the interview.
A: Thanks to you and your readers for the