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Certification tips for Unix sysadmins

2008-01-01 00:00:00

It takes at least a couple of years for a fledgling sys admin to build up his or her experience to a level where people will say: "Yeah! He's a good sysadmin.. He knows his way around the OS."

Most of the time of your first two or three years (assuming that you start admining in college) will be spent either with your nose in the books (learning new stuff) or with your nose to the grind stone (practicing the new stuff). A lot of time will be spent on basic grunt work, combined with maybe a couple of nice projects and some programming. But at some point in time a dreaded new word will drop on you like a brick from up on high... Management level that is...

_certification_

At first official vendor certification may seem like a humongous task! Especially if you take a look at the requirements that the vendor publishes on its website and at the sheer volume of the prep-books available. I had the same problem! One day may Field Managers mentioned that official certificates would look good on my resume and that I should go order a book or two... Which I did... And I subsequently try to read three times over... And just could not get through...

You see, I made the fatal mistake of wanting to cram everything in my head before even setting a date for the exam. This gave me way too much slack, causing me to lose interest at least two times over. So, after a bit of coaching from one of my friends/colleagues I came to the following conclusion on how to prepare for certification.

1. Get some experience :) Don't try to get certified immediately after being introduced to a new OS.

2. Take a look at the vendor's requirements for the certificate. These are usually published on their website.

3. Order one, maybe two good study books. I've created a small list of which books are good and which ones should be avoided.

4. Make a rough guestimate on how long you'll think you'll take studying. Don't make this any longer than two months, else you'll simply lose interest.

5. Order an exam voucher from your vendor.

6. Schedule the exam.

7. Start studying.

There's also a couple of other things that can really help you get the knack of things, ensuring that you'll be absolutely ready for the exam:

* Ask your employer to provide a sandbox system: a simple, small server which you are free to tinker with, configure, play with and break. This is an invaluable study tool!

* Purchase an account for a practice exam website (or get your employer to pitch in). The guys at Unixporting.com provide damn good test exams for Solaris Sysadmin 1 and 2, at a low price!

Most important of all: don't sweat it! A little excitement or a couple of shivers are good, but honestly: the fate of the world does not lean on your shoulders. If you don't make the exame, try, try try and try again. :)

Good luck!


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Recommended Unix Sysadmin books

2008-01-01 00:00:00

When getting certified, one of the most important tools are your cram sessions. With books.. You know: dead trees? treeware? those big leafy things which you read?... But you gotta know which ones are good and which ones to avoid like the plague.

Sun Solaris SCSA 1 and 2

"Exam cram: Solaris 8 System Administrator" ~ Darrell L. Ambro, Coriolis press

478 pages, comes with seperate cram sheet with "everything you need to know for the exam".



Avoid this one. This is the book it bought at first as it got some good reviews at Amazon.com. It was also the one that I tried getting through three times over *ugh* Honestly, the book is written in a very dull style but worst of all: it really isn't that much of a cram book since the author misses almost all of the important stuff for the exams. Way too little detail, so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but the starting Solaris sysadmin who needs to find a start.

"Solaris: Sun Certified System Administrator for Solaris 8.0 study guide" ~ Global Knowledge, Osborne McGraw-Hill

892 pages, comes with CD containing practice exams and a digital copy of the book.



Now _this_ is what I'm talking about! My colleague Martijn recommended this book and it really _does_ cover everything you need to know to ace the exame, plus a little more. The authors don't brush over any subject and take on each and every topic in detail. Yes, it's a big book and it may take you a while to get through it, but it's worth it. The exames included on the CD are a bit dodgy and are only good for one, maybe two attempts. In any case I recommend that you go out and get an account for a trial exame site.

Sun SCNA (TCP/IP Network admin)

"Sun certified network administrator for Solaris 8 study guide" ~ Rick Bushnell, Sun Microsystems Press

462 pages, no extras



Martijn also tipped me off about this book; apparently he aced the test with this book. I have to admit that the book _does_ take its time in explaining everything to you and that Rick doesn't leave out any details. I have to warn you though that the author also made a couple of mistakes, that he likes repetition (sometimes a little too much) and that at times he underestimates the exame (tells you that you don't need to know what he's about to explain, when you do). All in all a good book, but I'm not too crazy about it.


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LPI-101 summary

2008-01-01 00:00:00

In 2007 I got my LPI-1 certification. This certificate requires one to take two exams: LPI-101 and LPI-102. I've studied hard for both exams and created summaries of all of the stuff I had to learn. I thought I'd share my summaries with all of the other LPI students. I hope they are useful to you!


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SCNA summary

2008-01-01 00:00:00

Back in 2004, when I originally studied for my SCNA certification, I wrote a big summary based on the course books. I thought I'd share this summary with the rest of this world's students. Even though it was meant for the Solaris 8 SCNA exam, it should still be useful.


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LPI-102 summary

2008-01-01 00:00:00

In 2007 I got my LPI-1 certification. This certificate requires one to take two exams: LPI-101 and LPI-102. I've studied hard for both exams and created summaries of all of the stuff I had to learn. I thought I'd share my summaries with all of the other LPI students. I hope they are useful to you!


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