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Next: 2. Computing Sub-basics Up: rute Previous: Acknowledgments   Contents


1. Introduction

Whereas books shelved beside this one will get your feet wet, this one lets you actually paddle for a bit, then thrusts your head underwater while feeding you oxygen.

1.1 What This Book Covers

This book covers GNU/LINUX system administration, for popular distributions like RedHat and Debian, as a tutorial for new users and a reference for advanced administrators. It aims to give concise, thorough explanations and practical examples of each aspect of a UNIX system. Anyone who wants a comprehensive text on (what is commercially called) ``LINUX'' need look no further--there is little that is not covered here.

1.2 Read This Next...

The ordering of the chapters is carefully designed to allow you to read in sequence without missing anything. You should hence read from beginning to end, in order that later chapters do not reference unseen material. I have also packed in useful examples which you must practice as you read.

1.3 What Do I Need to Get Started?

You will need to install a basic LINUX system. A number of vendors now ship point-and-click-install CDs: you should try get a Debian or ``RedHat-like'' distribution. One hint: try and install as much as possible so that when I mention a software package in this text, you are likely to have it installed already and can use it immediately. Most cities with a sizable IT infrastructure will have a LINUX user group to help you source a cheap CD. These are getting really easy to install, and there is no longer much need to read lengthy installation instructions.

1.4 More About This Book

Chapter 16 contains a fairly comprehensive list of all reference documentation available on your system. This book supplements that material with a tutorial that is both comprehensive and independent of any previous UNIX knowledge.

The book also aims to satisfy the requirements for course notes for a GNU/LINUX training course. Here in South Africa, I use the initial chapters as part of a 36-hour GNU/LINUX training course given in 12 lessons. The details of the layout for this course are given in Appendix A.

Note that all ``LINUX'' systems are really composed mostly of GNU software, but from now on I will refer to the GNU system as ``LINUX'' in the way almost everyone (incorrectly) does.

1.5 I Get Frustrated with UNIX Documentation
That I Don't Understand

Any system reference will require you to read it at least three times before you get a reasonable picture of what to do. If you need to read it more than three times, then there is probably some other information that you really should be reading first. If you are reading a document only once, then you are being too impatient with yourself.

It is important to identify the exact terms that you fail to understand in a document. Always try to backtrack to the precise word before you continue.

Its also probably not a good idea to learn new things according to deadlines. Your UNIX knowledge should evolve by grace and fascination, rather than pressure.

1.6 Linux Professionals Institute (LPI) and
RedHat Certified Engineer (RHCE) Requirements

The difference between being able to pass an exam and being able to do something useful, of course, is huge.

The LPI and RHCE are two certifications that introduce you to LINUX. This book covers far more than both these two certifications in most places, but occasionally leaves out minor items as an exercise. It certainly covers in excess of what you need to know to pass both these certifications.

The LPI and RHCE requirements are given in Appendix B and C.

These two certifications are merely introductions to UNIX. To earn them, users are not expected to write nifty shell scripts to do tricky things, or understand the subtle or advanced features of many standard services, let alone be knowledgeable of the enormous numbers of non-standard and useful applications out there. To be blunt: you can pass these courses and still be considered quite incapable by the standards of companies that do system integration. [System integration is my own term. It refers to the act of getting LINUX to do nonbasic functions, like writing complex shell scripts; setting up wide-area dialup networks; creating custom distributions; or interfacing database, web, and email services together.] In fact, these certifications make no reference to computer programming whatsoever.

1.7 Not RedHat: RedHat-like

Throughout this book I refer to examples specific to ``RedHat'' and ``Debian''. What I actually mean by this are systems that use .rpm ( redHat package manager) packages as opposed to systems that use .deb ( debian) packages--there are lots of both. This just means that there is no reason to avoid using a distribution like Mandrake, which is .rpm based and viewed by many as being better than RedHat.

In short, brand names no longer have any meaning in the Free software community.

(Note that the same applies to the word UNIX which we take to mean the common denominator between all the UNIX variants, including RISC, mainframe, and PC variants of both System V and BSD.)

1.8 Updates and Errata

Corrections to this book will be posted on http://www.icon.co.za/~psheer/rute-errata.html. Please check this web page before notifying me of errors.

next up previous contents
Next: 2. Computing Sub-basics Up: rute Previous: Acknowledgments   Contents
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