In the Land of the Linux

So, the occasional problem that has popped up for the few eXtension services that we have running at the moment has made me painfully aware how much I’ve delegated over the last few years when it comes to Linux-based services and infrastructure.

It’s not that I can’t muddle my way through it — and have repeatedly in my career. I know the system administration concepts pretty well — and those translate, no matter what platform you are on — even Windows. But I’m an ex-windows programmer and MCSE/CNE that knew enough Solaris, VMS, and Ultrix to be dangerous — and has been running Macintosh OS X on the desktop for three years. Experienced Linux users would (and do) laugh at me. I’ve installed a few Linux boxen every few years dating all the way back to Red Hat 5-ish or so, but never ran it for long as a desktop. And frankly some of the politics of it at NC State soured me on ever wanting to do much with Linux on a personal level — but that’s a story for another (or probably a-never) day.

Thankfully, I had great staff that worked for me that really enjoyed it, because I really was happy to have it our server rooms. And I hope to have that again here, but for now, I’m it — and I needed some kind of crash course in Linux system administration that hopefully didn’t involved crashed systems to cause me to learn what I needed to know.

So, this week I’m taking the Red Hat Rapid Track course for the RHCE. I figured that “rapid” and “crash” meant about the same thing — and that while I don’t really care about getting the actual certification (with the MCSE and CNE back in 1996 — I never got much personal satisfaction out of a “cert”) — I figured the test would help force me to concentrate on absorbing the material.

Up through this weekend, I’ve been pretty paranoid that I shouldn’t be taking this level of the class — I took the pre-req tests and didn’t do all that well on a few of them “Your knowledge of the materials at this skill level is spotty.” So I’ve been a little worried. But I’ve also been a little schizo — because when I go to the bookstore and look at the Linux books in the store — or even the outline for the RH300 class — I know pretty much all the concepts — just not the specifics. Then I start worrying about taking a course, when I could just pick up a O’Reilly book or something and learn what I need on my own.

Well, the first day of training has me feeling a lot better. The instructor is good — the pace is actually a bit slow (I know most of what he’s covering, only to learn the Red Hat-specific commands and file locations — which is exactly what I needed to learn). Over the next few days, I’ll have some observations, but overall, I’m pretty impressed with the course and am glad I’m in it — it gives me a enforced, and controlled environment to learn the things I felt I needed to learn.

I’m also impressed with Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 4 — and I’m especially glad to see some of the new features popping up — like finer-grained ACLs in ext3 — and things like SELinux. (neither of which we covered in much depth — but I’ll be glad when that stuff starts taking root in the next few years).

The Red Hat building itself (the first time I’ve been in it — the headquarters is on the NCSU Centennial Campus) — is interesting — along with our badge we were given a list of “don’t wander around” rules — and there’s all these cold-war esque propaganda posters on the walls. (but hey, this is from a guy that would have posters from Despair, Inc. on the walls).

At the very least, the custom-labelled water bottles are a nice touch 🙂