Rich Freeman on 3 Oct 2011 13:07:01 -0700

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Re: [PLUG] lpi

On Mon, Oct 3, 2011 at 3:26 PM, Conor Schaefer <> wrote:
> On Mon, Oct 3, 2011 at 2:24 PM, Ron Kaye Jr <> wrote:
>> build a linux server
>> buy the book
>> go through it yourself
>> ask the group if you have questions
> +10,000 to this. There is absolutely no substitute for your DIY approach,
> because (often enough) in a professional context, you'll be in that same
> boat, and falling back on actual personal experience from when you had to
> troubleshoot issues and diagnose problems is far better than referencing
> class notes.

Agreed 1000%.  Sure, books or courses can help if you have no idea
where to get started.  However, with linux all the tools are there and
are free.  You can even just start by installing it in a VM if you
don't have a PC to dedicate.

An early question would be what flavor of linux to try.  There are a
lot of options, and I'd recommend trying more than one of them (VMs
are great for this).  Some notable ones:

1.  Ubuntu - it is probably the most popular, best supported, and
easiest distro to get started on.  However, it isn't very common on
servers for a number of reasons.  The good thing about ubuntu is that
it hides a lot of the technical detail from you.  However, if you are
looking to learn linux inside and out that is also a bad thing.  My
recommendation is to give it a shot and get used to just working in it
so that you can at least get conversant in the lingo/etc without being
drowned in it.

2.  Debian - it is probably the most popular free option for servers.
The biggest reason for this is that it is minimal and stable, and the
stable version is VERY stable (for example, they're still running
"Firefox" 3.5.16, but with backported security patches).  They issue
security patches against software long-abandoned by other distros so
that you don't have to change unless you want to.  Most people don't
like them for desktops for this reason - you don't get new software
often.  The reality is that 90% of servers don't run anything that
wasn't around five years ago.

3.  RHEL (or Fedora/CentOS) - RHEL is probably the most popular paid
option for servers, so if you plan to support linux you'll want to be
well-versed in it.  I'm not much of a RedHat guy so I can't tell you
lots about it - I dislike it for a bunch of reasons.  However, their
support is supposed to be very good and they do a lot to make sure it
is solid.  If you don't want to pay for it I think that CentOS is
supposed to be very similar but lacks the proprietary bits, and Fedora
is RedHat's testing distro so it tends to be where they deploy new
features first.  If you don't want to pay for RHEL you can mess around
on Amazon EC2 with it for a per-hour fee (though you can't really
install it from scratch easily there).

4.  Gentoo.  Ok, I'm a Gentoo guy.  There are actually a bunch of
places that run Gentoo on their servers (even a major stock exchange).
 Gentoo gives you a somewhat mainstream experience, but goes about it
in a completely non-mainstream way.  For starters, it has no
installer.  So, you'll be forced to gain some understanding of how the
OS works just installing it.  I'd consider it a good way to develop a
stronger knowledge of how things work under the hood, even if
ultimately not all of the details of how you go about running it are
transferable.  Whether it is the best choice for actually running
servers depends on a lot of things - Gentoo is great if you need to do
something different because it gives you a lot more control (while
still automating just about everything you need automated).  I imagine
that was the appeal for the stock exchange (where performance is more

Honestly, I wouldn't apply for a paid job as anything but a very
junior linux sysadmin unless I felt pretty confident that I'd have no
trouble if confronted with any of those distros.  That doesn't mean
that you need to be an expert in everything to take a starting
position, but be aware of what the job entails and up-front about your
experience with it.

And be sure to show up at PLUG meetings.  You'll learn a wealth of
info just in the hour of free discussion up-front.

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