Thursday, July 31, 2008
MSDN Virtual Labs
I always try to find new ways to learn stuff. I don’t like what’s ordinary so as any rookie I used only introductory books to learn about new technologies and thought that I had it all then I saw tutorials. Actually for quite some time my culture about learning new stuff was “tutorialic”- when I found new technologies I got a tutorial that talked about it and that was it. Later on I got to find that that alone isn’t enough (Now all I do is reading as any of you). Along the way I started using some "on the fly" ways like Eclipse help which leads you through each step showing what was done right and what wasn’t, it was really great when I was learning about RCP. It helped me both get things done and learn fast at the same time. Two days ago I found a new Microsoft tool that I really liked; it’s really innovative and time and software resources saving. What I am talking about is –as you already know- is MSDN Virtual Labs. MSDN virtual labs is a new tool that helps a developer build applications with Microsoft’s latest technologies without having to install any application on your machine. When I used it what I really liked about it that it helped me learn about new technologies in a very interactive and interesting way. I tried it the first time just to try a new thing but I found it could be put in real use.
When you open the web site you’ll get to choose what technology or product you want to use and then choose what scenario you want to experience. After a long and boring registration phase you’ll get to use it (there is an express version if you want to try it without registration. You can find the link on the top left side of the main page). When you are done with that phase the web site will ask you to install a certain ActiveX add on. Then you’ll get to start using you session of the virtual lab. Every session is about 90 minutes (those are the ones I’ve seen I don’t know if there are any longer or shorter sessions). Through each session you will be provided with a certain exercise to do. I found that downloading the lab’s manual and reading the steps from it is better than reading the exercise from the lab’s window.
I found the experience of using that lab so amusing and educating- that’s the way I think learning should be “fun”. That lab also has some downsides which are the long and boring registration phase. Also if you don’t have a fast DSL connection, don’t even think about using it. One last thing is that you can’t get the result of your work on the exercise on your machine but if you only want to learn about a technology or a product that won’t matter to you.
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