August 22, 2001

Review: Linux LPI Certification in a Nutshell

Author: JT Smith

- By Dan Berkes -
Linux certification programs are big business, and the industry gearing up to
help you study for those exams hopes to be big business, too. While O'Reilly's
LPI Linux Certification in a Nutshell meets its goal, I can't think of many
reasons any Linux professional, novice or otherwise, would find any benefit in placing this
redundant and unnecessary title on their bookshelf.Title: LPI Linux Certification in a Nutshell
Author: Jeffrey Dean
Pages: 551
ISBN: 1-56592-748-6
Summary: Decent but redundant title for LPI exam-takers.

So what certification program is right for you? That's a question that
I can't answer. Actually, it's a question that I won't answer. I don't think I
have the asbestos underwear thick enough to survive the flames that would be
generated by such a proclamation. If you're going to go the certification route,
evaluate the merits of each program, and then choose the one that best suits
your needs and the assets you'd like to offer a current or future employer.

Most certification programs arrive with an entourage of study aids -- books,
mostly -- to help you get the most out the time and effort you'll spend to
prepare for the exam. Some are produced and marketed by the certification
providers themselves, and others are produced and marketed by third parties, as
is the case with O'Reilly's latest tome, LPI Linux Certification in a

As the title makes obvious, the book was designed to aid those individuals
availing themselves of the exams from the Linux Professional Institute.
Specifically, this reference guide was designed for LPI's Level 1, 101 and 102

To understand how the book works, you have to understand how the LPI exams
work. Level 1 of the LPI exam was designed to test your knowledge on 14
major topic areas; exam 101 tests five of those topic areas, and exam 102 tests
the remaining nine. According to the book, the exams were created with similar
length and difficulty, and because of that, there's no requirement or advantage
to taking the tests in sequence.

As for the book, it uses a weighted system of objectives to allow students to
concentrate on topics that are considered more important on the exam. For
example, a study objective with the weight of one isn't likely to be covered in
much depth on the exam, while an objective with a weight of 10 -- the maximum
weight -- would obviously receive extensive coverage.

Exam 101 covers the basics: Unix commands, filesystems, booting, initialization,
documentation, and administrative tasks. Exam 102 covers slightly more advanced
(but still very basic) topics: hardware, installation and package management,
text editing, shells, X, networking, and security. In each case, the book
patiently walks through each area of study, offering an introduction, overview,
and tutorials to help you master the exam.

The subject matter at hand would suggest that the initial LPI exams were
designed to test very basic knowledge of how Linux systems work. Hey, there's
absolutely nothing wrong with that. Everyone has to have a starting point, and
it can be intensely ego-boosting to have an exam or two under your
belt as proof that you know your stuff. If that's what you're aiming for, then
this book and, I suppose, the corresponding exams, will serve you well.
Experienced system administrators might have a slightly different viewpoint.

For the record, I don't consider myself an administrator, serious or otherwise.
My own Linux learning experience has come from printing out countless HOWTOs
from the Linux Documentation Project, and the help of one or two reference
guides that, I swear, are lurking somewhere underneath the pile of paperwork and
Diet Pepsi cans littering this table. When I run into something I can't do or
comprehend from documentation, I wave beer and anime in the general direction of
someone more knowledgeable, and learn from their actions.

I don't really have anything against LPI Linux Certification in a
. Author Jeffrey Dean has done an admirable job of outlining what
you'll need to know in order to pass those exams, and that is, of course, the
stated goal of the book. The book makes good on those promises.

But look around your den, office, dorm room, or wherever your Linux system calls
home. Do you have a stack of LDP HOWTOs fluttering in the breeze? Is there a
Linux reference manual or two lurking about on your bookshelf? The information
presented within this book, while presented clearly, is quite basic. It's
information that has been repeated and reprinted in countless forms and formats
over the years.

Again, if you have what it takes to pass the exam and you purchase this book,
you'll likely find yourself flipping through page after page, skimming the
topics, and saying, "I already know this. I already know this. I already know
this ..." After a while, true resentment sets in and you'll wonder why on earth
you paid $39.95 for a study guide that covers subjects its target audience
should, in reality, know from memory.

The cover
You can't judge a book by its cover, a saying that may be only partially true
when discussing an O'Reilly title. As a matter of tradition, O'Reilly book
covers have long featured the rendering of an animals and other subjects that do
their best to convey the spirit and subject matter of the book's contents.

On the cover of LPI Linux Certification in a Nutshell, you'll find a
Texas longhorn cow. You can perhaps find your own meaning and relevance to Linux
within the description provided by O'Reilly:

"Christopher Columbus originally brought cattle to the New World from Spain.
Descendants of these animals mated with English cows, and the offspring
gradually evolved into the breed we know today."


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