[CALUG] "Where to start" and "Linux courseware" -- WAS: linux man page(s)

Bryan J Smith b.j.smith at ieee.org
Sat Oct 29 13:21:30 EDT 2011

That quick reference is extremely dated, about a decade from useful.  Half of the commands are either non-preferred or incomplete.

Yes, the problem is always, "where to start?"  Of course, that's the same issue with technology in general.  If you're teaching someone Windows, Mac or Linux for the first time, it's basically the same boat, "what do they want to do?"  If they already know Windows or Mac, then breaking down and even "deprogramming assumptions" can make it worse than for the non-compute literate (I kid you not, I've been there with people when I've taught courses).

[ Ever met Gen-Y individuals who have only used Linux?  I know several.  And when they are first confronted with Windows, it's entertaining to see their perspectives on "how things should be in Windows"! ]

From a "course" standpoint, obviously a quickref is going in the wrong direction.  A better solution is probably to leverage a non-profit, volunteer-driven book of knowledge.  And one exists for Linux, from the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) [1], http://www.lpi.org .  Matthew Rice et al have done an excellent job the last six (6) years building up the LPI to be a broad set of objectives in three (3) levels. [2]  From those, extensive types of courseware has been developed, including community and free resources.

Red Hat also revamped its System Administration core for EL6 (EL6 is forked from Fedora 12/13) so its initial RH124 [3] course now targets Windows sysadmins with Linux GUI (GNOME) foundations, before moving on to command line.  This was based on input from the prior 033/133 approach (in EL5 and earlier).

Of course, both LPI Certified (LPIC) level 1 and higher, as well as Red Hat's curriculum, still target users who are looking for technical and sysadmin tracks (or higher).  it's been largely difficult to find a good "user" course for the non-technical, as there's really no money in this area.  So it falls to user-to-user, YouTube videos, presentations and general user share.  I mean, new users to Linux should _not_ be installing the OS, but getting it pre-installed -- either from the OEM, or at a LUG InstallFest.  We want users _using_ Linux, not installing it.

Furthermore, most users don't use or study "OSes," but applications.  Frankly, if I was installing and updating Linux all-the-time, I would have left it long ago.  But instead, Linux is much easier to install, update and support than Windows, hence why I prefer it over Windows.  But there are still issues with any OS when it comes to support, and that's unavoidable regardless of the OS.  Apple does a fairly good job, with compromises.  And there is the "superstore model" which causes a lot of issues for home users (but that's another story).

[ Again, I refer back to Gen-Ys who have only used Linux.  They see right through the "superstore model," and the self-inflicted pain 90% of home consumers cause themselves. ]

On the application front, Sun previously offered a StarOffice training course, even trying to use the tandem of the commercial offering and training options to the OpenOffice.org project, but it never sold well to corporations and academia.  So that too became a limited started -- not so much a non, but more limited -- which is now gone.

Heck, let's look at what I use Linux desktops for day-in and day-out, _not_ related to sysadmin:  
- Web browsing / Web-based collaboration
- RAW photo editing (Adobe DNG and Pentax PEF)
- Video editing (MJPEG, lossy compressed frames, but not inter-compressed)
- Gaming

Photo and video editing is a common, consumer detail.  A superstore will try to sell users on all sorts of things, as some OS platforms only include "basic" (if at all in some editions).  There are countless tutorials on the Internet for this in Linux, as most of the software is the same, and freely available.  At the same time, I do pay for LightZone (a commercial product) because I've gotten used to its workflow (and I don't mind paying for proprietary software, as long as it works on and does open standard formats).

For years LPI has talked about a "Core" or "Level 0" (unofficial, and they don't like that "level" designation today).  They are starting to move forward with its development now that LPIC-3 is fairly well done with several options.  It's called "Essentials" and defines a candidate as "Minimally Qualified" in a technical aspect [4]. But that still won't address "consumer/user" type application training.

In reality, every question of "Where to start" should be followed by a counter-question, "What do you use your computer for?"  Throwing an user a list of sysadmin commands is _hardly_ the response warranted.  And as far as "choice of distributions," I always say, "pick the distro of someone who is using their computer for the same as you, who will help you, so you get the best support, first-hand."  In reality, sometimes it's best to wean them off of hostageware/abandonware formats (do _not_ confuse these with "proprietary," MS Office does _not_ qualify as "proprietary," it's worse, even OOXML, which has 2 different implementations thanx to v12, 2007/2008, and v14, 2010/211, differing in ISO spec).

And that means starting with open source on Windows is often a good, first move.

-- Bryan

[1] http://www.lpi.org
[2] http://lpi.org/linux-certifications
[3] https://www.redhat.com/courses/rh124_red_hat_system_administration_1/

[4] http://wiki.lpi.org/wiki/LinuxEssentials

----- Original Message -----
From: Walt Smith <waltechmail at yahoo.com>
Sent: Saturday, October 29, 2011 12:18 PM

While a user asked for a linux "Course",
here's a (pdf) page worth mentioning for those
who might be really new to linux (and I haven't seen
mentioned lately).


It's often the case one doesn't know enough to know
the question or where to start.

One interesting thing about man pages is, while they are
often overly concise,  as you drill down, you get into
real technical fundamentals that require effort to learn
( like, what is a system call, and what is a pipe, or redirection ?).

It's easy to create new projects... one has to merely
throw out an idea... assuming someone else is going to do the work.
For example, I'd like to see "The Linux Expanded Man Pages" manual.
Where each "command" or "program" has 500% of added detailed information.
alas .......

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