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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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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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w00t! Passed my LPIC-102!

2007-04-06 10:57:00

Yay! There wasn't much reason for my doubting :) I passed with a 690 score (on a 200-930 scale), which boils down to 87% of 73 questions answered correctly. Not bad... Not bad at all...

Next up: ITIL Foundations!


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LPIC-102 summary

2007-04-03 23:41:00

The LPIC-102 summary is done. You can find it over here, or in the menu on the left. Enjoy!


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Finally! I'm done!

2007-04-03 23:37:00

Calvin hard at work

Ruddy heck, what a day! All in all it took me around thirteen hours, but I've finally finished my LPIC-102 summary. 41 pages of Linuxy goodness, bound to drag me through the second part of my LPIC-1 exams.

Argh, now I'm off to bed. =_= *cough* Let's hope I don't get called for any stand-by work.


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Preparing for LPIC-102

2007-03-20 21:01:00

Cailin working hard

One of the rules my employer Snow imposes on its employees is a rather strict certification track. Technically speaking each employee progresses through five C-levels, starting at 0 and ending up at 4. As you reach new levels of certification you will also reap benefits of your hard work.

Let's take the track that applies to me as an example:

C0 = no certification

C1 = LPIC1 (101 and 102) and ITIL Fundamentals

C2 = LPIC2 (201 and 202)

C3 = SCSA1 and SCSA2

C4 = SCNA and others

The irony of the matter is that I've already achieved both SCSA exams and the SCNA exam a long time ago, but that I'm still stuck at C0 because I haven't done my LPICs. So to work myself up the ladder I'm slogging my way through the requisite LPIC stuff, even though I'm not that fond of Linux.

The challenge here lies in the fact that haven't used Linux in a professional environment that much, so I'm at a disadvantage when compared to the rest of my colleagues. I'm really glad I've always been a rather good student, so cramming with a few books should get me through. I managed to score a 660 (87%) at my LPIC-101, so that brings some hope :)

And now I'm cramming for the 102 exam! Since I was postponing it way too long, I reckoned I'd better get my act together! This week I took two days off to dedicate myself completely to studying. I managed to work through six of the nine objectives in these two days, resulting in a thirty-one page summary so far. In two weeks time I'll take another two days and then I'll be ready!

Like last time I'll post my summary over here, to help out all those other souls trundling through their LPICs.


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Got my LPIC-101

2006-12-14 11:37:00

This morning I went to my local Prometric testing center for my LPI 101 exam (part one of two, for the LPIC-1). On forehand I knew I wasn't perfectly prepared, since I'd skipped trial exams and hadn't studied that hard, so I was a little anxious. Only a little though, since I usually test quite well.

Anywho: out of a maximum of 890 points I got 660, with 500 points being the minimum passing grade. Read item 2.15 this page to learn more about the weird scoring method used by the LPI. It boils down to this: out of 70 questions I got 61 correct, with a minimum of 42 to pass. If we'd use the scoring method Sun uses, I'd have gotten an 87%. Not too bad, I'd say!

I did run into two things that I was completely unprepared for. I'd like to mention them here, so you won't run into the same problem.

1. All the time, while preparing, I was told that I'd have to choose a specialization for my exam: either RPM or DPKG. Since I know more about RPM I had decided to solely focus on that subject. But lo and behold! Apparently LPI has _very_ recently changed their requisites for the LPIC-1 exams and now they cover _both_ package managers! D:

2. In total I've answered 98 questions, instead of the 70 that was advertised. LPI mentions on their website (item 2.13) that these are test-questions, considered for inclusion in future exams. These questions are not marked as such and they do not count towards your scoring. It would've been nice if there had been some kind of screen or message warning me about this _at_the_test_site_.

Anywho... I made and now I'm on to the next step: LPIC-102.


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LPIC-101 Summary

2006-12-12 22:38:00

Version 1.0 of my LPIC-101 study notes is available. I bashed it together using the two books mentioned below. A word of caution though: this summary was made with my previous knowledge of Solaris and Linux in mind. This means that I'm skipping over a shitload of stuff that might still be interesting to others. Please only use my summary as something extra when studying for your own exam.

I'm up for my exam next Thursday, at ten in the morning. =_=;

Oh yeah... The books:

Ross Brunson - "Exam cram 2: LPIC 1", 0-7897-3127-4

Roderick W. Smith - "LPIC 1 study guide", 978-0-7821-4425-3


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