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Get Ready for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012

Last week Microsoft opened public registration for its exams related to the MCSE: Private Cloud credential. With Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 just around the corner -- the smart money says they'll be done before Halloween in October -- it's just a matter of time before an onslaught of new courses, exams, books, and practice tests hit the streets. Here's a quick list of suggestions for what to do to get ready in the meantime.

I'm going to present this list of suggestions as a "Top 5" list. Like Mr. Letterman's contributions to this ouevre, the suggestions will roll out in reverse to help you figure out what's coming (and what's worth digging into):

5. Start checking Amazon Books for "Windows 8" and "Windows Server 2012" book titles. The publishers won't always tell you when their new books are coming out, but they will (almost) always tell Amazon, and what it tells, it knows. Check it out.

4. Read the Building Windows 8 blog. Sinofsky and crew have already shared a LOT about Windows 8 (and Windows Server 2012) and will keep it up until the products ship.

3. Patronize your favorite Microsoft pundits. Mine are Ed BottMary Jo Foley, and Paul Thurrott. To mangle a Shrekism: "Them's my pundits. Go get yer own!" (or not, as you like).

2. Keep a close eye on TechNet. This is where Microsoft maintains its technical literature on all of its OSes and platforms. There's already lots of great stuff on Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 here (though Windows Server 2012 stuff was labeled Windows 8 Server beta until mid-April of this year, when the product name became official as "Windows Server 2012).

1. Download and learn the release candidates for each OS (Windows 8Windows Server 2012). There's no better way to learn about an OS than to install, configure, and use it -- except perhaps for breaking and fixing it, but you'll do that anyway as you get to know these new runtime environments.