Lee Elston began teaching for The Linux Foundation in 2014, but he says, “I’ve always been teaching something, someplace…”
Elston has been working in the computer industry since 1978 with various hardware and software. Linux became part of his daily business in the early 1990s with applications running on kernel versions as early as 0.97. Currently, he teaches The Linux Foundation’s administration-related courses and is in the process of updating the Advanced Linux System Administration and Networking (LFS230) course.
When he’s not in the Linux classroom, Elston teaches other things, including scuba diving and first aid, and can often be found in the water photographing fish. In this profile, Elston tells us more about how he learned Linux and network administration and describes his path from ham radios to IT support to teaching.
What courses do you teach at the LF?
I teach the Administration classes, Network Administration, Performance and Tuning, and Security classes.
How long have you been teaching?
I have always been teaching something, someplace — as for formal classes, that would be IBM AIX High Availability in the UK then RS600SP in the US around 1998. I started teaching Linux in 2000 (I think) for IBM UK. At the time, IBM UK was the delivery agent for Red Hat in the UK. Teaching in North America came later. I started teaching for The Linux Foundation in 2014.
How did you get started with Linux?
Well, that is an interesting story, we were working with bulletin boards interconnected with Ham Radios. The application we were using was stretching the limits of Windows memory management at the time. Constant upgrades for expensive compilers prompted the developer in Europe to switch to Linux, and we followed suit and never looked back. This is way back around the 0.96 Kernel. The really cool bit is the AX25 protocol is still alive and functioning.
How did you learn?
By jumping into the fire. I started using Linux in the office lab for network experiments it became easier to use Linux functions like tcpdump than it to requisition the data scope to monitor networks. Then we needed a DNS for the lab, then a file server and … so the little Linux box under my desk became part of the glue keeping things running. It was not the best solution, but it was fun. It sounds great, but we did have some formal training on other *ix’s as the company was looking to migrate away from the proprietary OS’s of the day.
What is your area of expertise now?
Although I’m tempted to say “I am super expert at X”, it would be far more accurate to say that my expertise is to translate all the cool technical stuff we have into language that can help others understand it. We, the Linux world, have the tools to create a credit card-sized weather stations, control televisions, keep supercomputers running, trade stocks or anything else you can imagine and we have to start someplace, the beginning, that is where you will find me. I just want people to have some fun with Linux and the rest will come.
How did you develop that? What has your career path been?
I have spent most of my IT-based career doing some type of support, helping others do “stuff” with or to computers. I started out fixing the “dots” in dot matrix printers then repairing floppy disk drives from there bigger and better hardware until I came to the realization I needed to not only fix the hardware but the software too. Fortunately I was able to expand into OS maintenance and system level support.
The 80’s were a magical time. I was slowly moved away from the “doing” to the “support and supervising”, definitely one of the hardest moves I have done, closing the tool kit for the final time, but it was time. (There is a story there too) I moved to a *ix reseller for a time and was able to immerse myself in AIX consulting. The consulting led to teaching then into course development and my own company. I woke up one day and noticed I had somehow migrated from fixing & support to instructor and course author. So to answer “how”, well it just happen when I wasn’t looking.
What projects are you involved in currently?
Currently, I’m updating the LFS230 class and building a weather station out of a Raspberry Pi.
What are the hot issues or latest trends in your area?
In the administration realm I see OpenStack, big data, and virtualization of everything continuing to be provide challenges. The choices available to administrators for implementation is becoming staggering. We are being faced with selecting the best virtualization component for the job, some assembly required, or to jump on one of the vendors pre-configured environments.
What emerging technologies and skills do you see that Linux professionals should be prepared for?
I believe the rate of change to Open Source & Linux is going to increase significantly over the next few years. My crystal ball sees the ever increasing innovation from developers and more acceptance by big corporations. How do we prepare? We need to be well grounded in the basics, we need to talk the same language, Linux, not historic *ix or a specific distribution. Education, discussion, contribution and involvement are key, we have unprecedented access to people and ideas through the Web, let’s use this responsibly and have some fun doing it.
How do you address these in the courses you teach?
I try not get too philosophical when teaching but encourage new ideas, new application of old ideas and continued education. I think everyone that comes to class does so for a reason, this subject or that topic, exam preparation or to relax and learn something new. I try to get that desire out in the open and address the area of interest as best we can within the confines of the topic of the week. Often I spend my evenings locating reference material for class participants on subjects that may not be within the confines of the class at hand.
Anything else you’d like us to know about you?
I teach other things as well as Linux: SCUBA diving, First AID, CPR, and other SCUBA-related courses. I love to dive and, if I’m not teaching someone else to dive, I probably have my camera pointed at a fish.
Learn more about Linux Foundation Training courses and certification at http://training.linuxfoundation.org/.
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