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New course to cater to Linux newbies

As the use of GNU/Linux grows and spreads, training has become more and more of a necessity if one wants to join the burgeoning ranks of administrators.

Given this, it is not surprising that the Linux Professional Institute has added a new course for the rank beginner, a course called Linux Essentials. The LPI already has courses for three levels of certification; the new course is aimed at the newcomer.

IT trainer and Linux writer Shawn Powers (pictured above) has designed the new course and provided some details about what it covers.

iTWire: The major commercial distributions - Red Hat and SUSE - have their own training courses. How does this course fit in with them?

Shawn Powers: The "Linux Essentials" certification, much like its bigger brothers, LPIC-1, LPIC-2, & LPIC-3, are designed to be distribution agnostic. In this particular case, however, other than an explanation of what distros are, it's a moot point. The Linux Professional Institute (LPI) designed Linux Essentials to be a preliminary certification which would prepare an IT professional to either continue into LPIC-1 and beyond, or specialise in a specific distribution. Linux Essentials covers things which are assumed prerequisites for those other certification programmes.

Given the different directions that distributions have taken, it is practically impossible to create a "generic" Linux course? How do you plan to do this?

The more advanced Linux training gets, the more difficult it is to make it generic. My method is usually to start with concepts (package management for example) which are consistent throughout the various distributions, and then teach through the differences. With this particular course, most of the topics covered are the same regardless of the distro. The "mv" command moves a file, whether you're using Debian or Slackware.

What kind of training modules are planned and why?

First, to be clear, this course is specifically designed to meet the objectives for the Linux Essentials certification from the Linux Professional Institute. My personal method of training is such that I want every "nugget" - or short video in my series - to teach something useful that can be extrapolated on afterward,
however. The modules are designed around certification objectives, but I do my best to make sure every lesson teaches something useful and unique rather than just "teaching to the test."

What kind of timeframe is planned and why?

The timeframe for completion on our end is very soon. I've taken a particularly long time (I'm sure to the frustration of my coworkers!) with this course because I want to make sure every single nugget is approachable and understandable for folks completely unfamiliar with Linux. In this regard, being a Linux admin for so long is a detriment, because it can be hard to judge what is simple for a new user and what isn't as easy as I think it is. My wife has been instrumental in this, but I suspect she's looking forward to me finishing the course!

What are the pre-requisites for anyone to take the course?

Honestly, just enough knowledge with computers to start watching the videos. I've approached every video with the expectation that before my course, my students thought Linux was a heating/cooling company!

Who will recognise the certification? Have you spoken to companies and, if so, who?

Linux Essentials is a relatively new certification, but it's being issued by the venerable Linux Professional Institute. The LPIC series of certifications has become an industry standard for evidence of Linux expertise. This new cert should be recognised by anyone familiar with hiring Linux professionals. It doesn't relay the
level of ability that and LPIC certification does, but it shows the student has a firm grasp of Linux basics.

How much of practical work is involved in passing this course?

The amount of work will vary greatly depending on the student's background. For example, a Windows user who is familiar with Powershell or even batch scripts will more than likely quickly take to the command line. For someone familiar with a completely GUI interface, or not familiar with computers at all, the course will be
challenging. Since I designed the individual lessons with the latter in mind, more advanced users might catch on immediately - but should still learn something in every nugget.

How many init systems will be covered?

The Linux Essentials certification objectives don't cover init systems. I can answer for the LPIC-1 certification, which is the next logical step for those folks seeking further certifications. The Linux Professional Institute designs their tests to cover the SysV and Upstart init systems. While that covers a vast majority of current distributions, it's important to note the objectives are frequently updated to better match the industry. The Upstart init system, for example, was added only a few years ago.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.