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Which linux certification to take?

ramya narayanan
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Joined: Oct 06, 2008
Posts: 338
Dear all,
I'm working as a software engineer & I've got around 2.5 yrs of experience.
Already i hold
SCJP,SCBCD,SCWCD,OCA certificates.
Now i'm planning to take up linux certification, but i don't have any knowledge or experience in linux.
I want to learn linux by preparing for that certification.
Which linux certification to appear.
Your response is appreciated.
Regards.
Charles Lyons
Author
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Joined: Mar 27, 2003
Posts: 836
I'd recommend the Linux Professional Institute Certification Level 1 (LPIC-1) if you're used to the multiple-choice Sun exam format. They have a new version coming out in April 2009 which has some significant improvements over the existing objectives (which are almost 3 years old). I have a book targeted at the beginner/novice user like yourself coming out in early 2009 for it too---can't think why I'd recommend it then . You'll find most other Linux cert books expect significant prior experience.

For comparison purposes, Red Hat has the RHCE which is much more expensive and practical (lab) based. There is also the CompTIA Linux+ Certification which you can look into, but AFAIK it isn't as popular, though I have no personal experience of it.

Hope that helps.


Charles Lyons (SCJP 1.4, April 2003; SCJP 5, Dec 2006; SCWCD 1.4b, April 2004)
Author of OCEJWCD Study Companion for Oracle Exam 1Z0-899 (ISBN 0955160340 / Amazon Amazon UK )
ramya narayanan
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 06, 2008
Posts: 338
Can anyone say more about that
RHCE exam.
What cost is involved in it & approximate time needed for preparation?
Regards.
Charles Lyons
Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 27, 2003
Posts: 836
A Google for "RHCE" got me to their official site as well as many others. Firstly, you need to pass RHCT first as a pre-requisite, unless you sit all their courses. Then, as it says there: "Becoming a Red Hat Certified Engineer requires passing a five-and-a-half-hour hands-on exam.". Last time I checked, which was a while ago, the cost of RHCT and RHCE separately was about $750 in US and 18000 INR in India. This doesn't include any training, just the practical exams for each. Since this is a timed practical exam, you'll need to spend some serious hours hands-on to go from newbie to expert---just reading a book isn't going to cut it. Obviously you'll need to research for current prices as these are old figures I have. Red Hat Enterprise distros are the commercial ones sold by Red Hat, so you have added expense to get yourself the official distro for practise. While some Red Hat derivatives (e.g. CentOS) are free, they aren't quite the same as what you'd be examined on.

The LPIC exams currently cost $155 for each paper (there are two), so $310 USD overall (you'll need to research this if you need it in INR as it probably won't be at the exchange rate). The advantages are:
  • The exams are vendor-neutral and not biased towards one distro, so whatever you need to practise on is freely available and you get wider experience
  • There are two papers to sit (exams 101 and 102) so break the topics into two more manageable pieces.
  • They're multiple choice (an advantage for the exam taker as at least you have a chance of guessing!).
  • The cost (in both prep materials and the exams themselves)!
  • LPIC-1 involves fewer skills than RHCE.

  • I think you should go and research all the options for yourself now before making any decisions. A Google will get you all you need. The new LPIC-1 exam objectives are here.
    Tim Holloway
    Saloon Keeper

    Joined: Jun 25, 2001
    Posts: 16303
        
      21

    Most certifications are hardly worth the paper they're printed on. Brain-dead human resources people might match them against a checklist and discard otherwise-qualified applicants, but I personally wouldn't hire anyone based on cert/non-cert, because most of them are just cram-and-regurgitate exercises that really only demonstrate how good your short-term memory is, not your comprehension or ability to use the information.

    There are a VERY small number of exceptions. One of these is the the RHCE. I respect this one because - unless I'm misinformed - half the exam consists of taking a dead box and transforming it into a functional system, rather than simply vomiting obscure facts.

    That closely mimics real-on-the-job work. I am firmly convinced that I am assured a place in Paradise and at least 36 virgins as a result of all the times I had to do exactly this for OS/2-based systems. And it did take about 4 hours per machine once you got done fighting the driver configurations and other per-machine quirks.


    Customer surveys are for companies who didn't pay proper attention to begin with.
    Charles Lyons
    Author
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    Joined: Mar 27, 2003
    Posts: 836
    because most of them are just cram-and-regurgitate exercises that really only demonstrate how good your short-term memory is, not your comprehension or ability to use the information.
    From the perspective of the multiple-choice/short answer exams themselves (which includes all Sun exams), I have to agree that the paper is not in itself useful. However, there is a large faction of people who, like myself, believe that the structured learning process which comes from a decent set of (exam) objectives and the compulsion to do that work for an end goal is a good way to learn. I hear from a fair few SCWCD takers in the UK and USA for example, and that's their sole reason for doing the exam---to enhance their knowledge and skills. You will often see me say in the SCWCD forum "what's the point of the paper if you don't know the technology?" in response to some posters who clearly just want the paper for as little work as possible.

    From my experience, most exam candidates seem to find the cert books aimed at beginners (e.g. Head First series, and K&B SCJP) very useful. It takes them from knowing very little to acquiring the skills to pass the exam. And isn't that acquisition of skills a "good thing"? Linux on the command line is complicated for those familiar only with graphical Windows or Linux, no doubt about it. There is a lot of detail to know and appreciate (e.g. I have just finished writing 100 pages for LPIC-1 on the subjects of installing, booting and init on three different distros). Everyone has to start somewhere after all.

    So I don't think it's fair to imply that all exams are useless---just that the certificate shouldn't be the main reason for enduring the preparation.
    One of these is the the RHCE. I respect this one because - unless I'm misinformed - half the exam consists of taking a dead box and transforming it into a functional system, rather than simply vomiting obscure facts.
    Again, not fair really. Exams aren't supposed to be about "vomiting obscure facts" and if you look at the new LPIC objectives, they are extremely well structured and far from obscure. They cover a very wide range of essential topics in some good detail: BIOS and basic hardware compatibility, booting with GRUB and LILO and their installation, SysV (touching on Initng and Upstart), using the Bash shell, scripting, useful command line utilities, the filesystem, processes, networking, X, basic security, accessibility... These are all basic things the user and/or administrator should know. The LPIC-2 moves onto common server tasks like Web and mail servers, SSH etc.

    RHCE has a totally different emphasis. If it indeed covers the advanced knowledge you say, then it really is only for the experts, prohibiting beginners from choosing that structured learning route. There is also a wide body of Linux admins (e.g. in datacentres) who just need to perform daily tasks in the simplest manner and understand what they are doing---for most of them, RHCE is more than necessary. Being highly Red Hat focused is also not necessarily a good thing. distrowatch claims Ubuntu/Debian and openSUSE are well ahead of Red Hat in hits per month, though Fedora is close. LPIC is vendor neutral, so the skills can be applied to any flavour of Linux regardless of what's popular---e.g. they cover apt, which I personally prefer, and yum too. Some topics diverge slightly into the details of both Red Hat and Debian derivatives.

    So I believe there is a place for both types of exam, provided the added letters after the name is not the only reason to do it. What I would like to see added to LPIC is a command line simulator. In CCNA for example, there is a network simulation which has Cisco IOS emulation built-in for the purposes of troubleshooting a "live" network. If LPI could add a similar thing to their exams, e.g. "Locate and install the package for the OpenSSH Server on Debian" or "Configure IP address XXX on eth0" requiring CLI interaction, then they would have increased practical value while still be administered in the same way.

    All my opinion of course.
    Tim Holloway
    Saloon Keeper

    Joined: Jun 25, 2001
    Posts: 16303
        
      21

    "Vomiting obscure facts" means things like expecting the average programmer to be able to recite from memory what the various options of fine-tuning assertion handling are. I believe it was in "The Sign of the Four" that Sherlock Holmes commented on the importance of maintaining a separation of what you needed to have in your head versus what you needed to have in your library. Unless I"m doing something VERY obscure, even knowing that I can switch assertions on and off fine-grained instead of just all-or-nothing isn't worth much on a daily basis. And personally, I have doubts about code that throws so many assertions that such a filter is even necessary.

    Another pet peeve I have is the "look-at-this-and-tell-what-it-does" code exercises that are so common. I understand their importance, but truthfully, in the real world, the first thing I do when I see code like that is try and hunt down the #%$#%# who wrote it and inflict painful damage on them for producing such a monstrosity. The second thing I do is print out the code and draw lines on the paper to map out the interactions. Trying to draw those lines in my head on the screen the way the test is normally given is a poor substitute that doesn't reflect how I work effectively in the real world, and the less a test reflects real-world processes, the less weight I give it as a guide for determining whether someone's suitable to hire. Though I realize that not everyone suffers my need to physically outline things.

    I did pick up a few useful things from the SCJP study guide, but I'm not the one that originated the complaint that cramming is a very bad way to learn. The phrase "memorize-and-regurgitate" isn't my invention and it refers specifically to the academic observation that people can load up their short-term memory, spit it back out on a test, then forget it. In a real-world work environment, it's not what was in your short-term memory last week that's your primary referent, it's what you've made a permanent part of your knowledge base.

    Anyway, I'm diverting this thread too far from the original question. I just wanted to go on record that there are virtually no certifications that carry weight with me and enumerate some of the reasons why. There are, of course many places where certifications are paramount, and while I don't generally find them very inspiring places to work or for that matter as a customer, I don't much care for fast food either, and I don't expect fast food to lose its popularity anytime soon.
    Joe Harry
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    Joined: Sep 26, 2006
    Posts: 9618
        
        2

    I'm just opening a very old post. I"m in the middle of preparing for the Linux+ certification and to what extent does this LPIC-1 compare to the Linux+ cert?


    SCJP 1.4, SCWCD 1.4 - Hints for you, Certified Scrum Master
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