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Ask Slashdot: How Did You Become a Linux Professional? 298

First time accepted submitter ternarybit writes "By 'Linux professional,' I mean anyone in a paid IT position who uses or administers Linux systems on a daily basis. Over the past five years, I've developed an affection for Linux, and use it every day as a freelance IT consultant. I've built a breadth of somewhat intermediate skills, using several distros for everything from everyday desktop use, to building servers from scratch, to performing data recovery. I'm interested in taking my skills to the next level — and making a career out of it — but I'm not sure how best to appeal to prospective employers, or even what to specialize in (I refuse to believe the only option is 'sysadmin,' though I'm certainly not opposed to that). Specifically, I'm interested in what practical steps I can take to build meaningful skills that an employer can verify, and will find valuable. So, what do you do, and how did you get there? How did you conquer the catch-22 of needing experience to get the position that gives you the experience to get the position? Did you get certified, devour books and manpages, apprentice under an expert, some combination of the above, or something else entirely?"
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Ask Slashdot: How Did You Become a Linux Professional?

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  • by Tesen ( 858022 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @02:44PM (#41130757)

    I ate a penguin!

    • by Tesen ( 858022 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @03:35PM (#41131105)

      Okay seriously:

      * Started to play w/ Solaris on a sparc station at uni while learning C programming which got me interested in *nix.
      * Installed Slackware Linux at home and really liked what I saw during my uni days.
      * Spent time modifying hardcode on MU** servers and doing basic administration.
      * Started working at another college where a bunch of us decided that Redhat Linux was the choice for some services we wanted to host.
      * Started supporting a Linux based installation that acted as the firewall for the college I worked at.
      * Started setting up Apache web servers and SMB shares for a few local companies.
      * Did some side programming projects that involved dealing with some real time application needs under Linux.

      While I was never a dedicated Linux admin or coder I keep those skills in my skillset arsenal. That is how I got in to Linux and I run a couple Gentoo boxes at home to support some of the stuff I am doing. I found during the Sysadmin part of my career keeping multi-OS skillsets honed was useful and during the programming part of my career (current part of my career) I spend most of my development in the .NET/MSSQL environment (it pays the bills really well) with the odd side project in Linux here and there.

      So it all comes down to what you want to do when you grow-up; I scope my career based on what interests me - I have gone in to job interviews lacking a skillset they were wanting but ended up getting the job because I told them how I would learn it and I also gave an eager competent professional impression that I treat my job seriously and will learn whatever needs learned. I would conclude that while an impressive resume is always nice, the short comings can be made up by the soft skills.

      I know not the exact answer you wanted...


      • Do it the way Linus did. Write your own OS and then convince the rest of the world to use it.

    • by DragonTHC ( 208439 ) <Dragon.gamerslastwill@com> on Sunday August 26, 2012 @04:48PM (#41131545) Homepage Journal

      I spent a few years running slackware servers and hosting my own services. Then I studied and got both my LPIC1 and LPIC2. Then I did a bunch of contracting.

      That's when I discovered that companies won't hire Linux admins unless their business deals with Linux. Linux administration is more of a hit and run contract profession for 90% of the companies out there. I've contracted for very large companies, including fortune 500 all the way down to rinky dink fly by night operations that reincorporate when the investment capital runs out.

      Linux servers have a tendency to just work when setup properly. I know this because I made a small unsuccessful business of migrating small business customers away from Microsoft servers towards Linux servers to handle most of their services. Once everything was setup, the service calls stopped coming so often. In IT, you'll never convince a customer to switch to Linux for the desktop. The best you could hope for is a Linux home media server or similar.

      If you're serious, work towards your LPIC2 to start and learn bash scripting and perl. I currently don't know perl because I've never needed it, but 90% of the permanent jobs are looking for admin scripting skills.

  • Practice... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 26, 2012 @02:44PM (#41130767)

    Practice, practice, practice... learn by failure, otherwise you are just a common user

    • Re:Practice... (Score:4, Informative)

      by masternerdguy ( 2468142 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @02:46PM (#41130779)
      Just do Linux from Scratch or install Gentoo.
      • I've been playing with linux at home for years, mostly Gentoo. I've been an applications admin, and knew enough linux to be dangerous. My sysadmins often trusted me with elevated privs on my own when I needed to install things, etc.

        They knew I knew enough to NOT do something stupid and something I didn't understand.

        I've gained experience that way. On some gigs, I just fell into admin...when other admins quit their job, and I was one of the few that was left that knew anything about Linux administration.

      • Mod parent up. (Score:4, Informative)

        by bircho ( 559727 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @04:57PM (#41131599)
        A Linux from Scratch installation is far from a usable system on the long run, but is a great experience for learning.
      • by fisted ( 2295862 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @07:47PM (#41132537)
        Yeah, LFS is a great way to practice copy&pasting, and as a neat side effect you get a system you're guaranteed to never be able to maintain, ever.
        I also did it, and literally drowned in job offers afterwards. Turned them all down though, an Xorg update came in at the same time
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 26, 2012 @02:45PM (#41130777)

    I spent much of my childhood reading instead of playing video games. I received my first programming contract when I was 16, did some telco programming after that, lazed around for a year then went to work as a system administrator. I'm still a sysadmin, in a devop role, where I earn 45USD an hour. I'm probably going to grow further than this, as I've been doing it for 7 years. I believe my next goal will be to reach 55USD an hour.

    Far as education is concerned, I've no college degree, no certs, the fact is I dropped out of high school since it was keeping me back.

  • Knife professional (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SSpade ( 549608 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @02:46PM (#41130781) Homepage

    Being a "Linux Professional" in most fields of IT is like being a "Knife Professional" working in a kitchen.

    It's a useful set of skills, and it gives you the ability to use a suite of tools that are very useful - and essential for some career paths - in that field.

    But it's not how you should define your career, or even your desired job. (That you're thinking of it that way might be why you keep seeing sysadmin in a Linux environment as the only obvious role.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ldgeorge85 ( 1660791 )
      Exactly. I agree here. I had been using and developing on Linux for years before I got a job that was in any way related to Linux. I finally broke down and went into a hosting provider looking for work, and because of my Linux skillsets I was able to get a position working with a (at the time) new 'Cloud Platform'. My actual job there didn't involve too much Linux, day-to-day, but without my experience I could never have kept things together when it was falling apart. As I went along, the Linux skills got u
    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      Being a "Linux Professional" in most fields of IT is like being a "Knife Professional" working in a kitchen.

      hmm ok

      But it's not how you should define your career, or even your desired job. (That you're thinking of it that way might be why you keep seeing sysadmin in a Linux environment as the only obvious role.)

      Disagree. If you really love knives and making exotic knife cuts and carvings in food, don't define your dream job as being a pastry chef where you don't get to chop stuff up very much.

      Maybe I can give the standard /. car analogy that even if you really like using a screwdriver, it would pay to try and learn a bit about a wrench or maybe even a hammer.

      • by ToasterMonkey ( 467067 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @04:14PM (#41131323) Homepage

        Being a "Linux Professional" in most fields of IT is like being a "Knife Professional" working in a kitchen.

        hmm ok

        But it's not how you should define your career, or even your desired job. (That you're thinking of it that way might be why you keep seeing sysadmin in a Linux environment as the only obvious role.)

        Disagree. If you really love knives and making exotic knife cuts and carvings in food, don't define your dream job as being a pastry chef where you don't get to chop stuff up very much.

        Maybe I can give the standard /. car analogy that even if you really like using a screwdriver, it would pay to try and learn a bit about a wrench or maybe even a hammer.

        Why do you disagree, his point was there is no "Knife Professional" in a kitchen where you play with knives all day. If there were, it would be because there are too many knives for cooks to maintain, and your day would be mostly spent cleaning and sharpening them, it wouldn't be a job for people who actually like doing things with knives. If you like doing something for fun, don't do it for work.

        There ARE Linux administration positions, but your time will be divided amongst application support and a whole host of other activities. If a company has straight up pure Linux admins, it would be because they have LOTS of "knives" and you'd spend most of your time using tools to manage them, like Chef, Puppet, etc.

        To anyone dreaming of becoming a "Linux professional", please get it into your head right now, it is a TOOL. You might choose to become a carpenter because you love working with hammers, but your work doesn't revolve around your tools, your tools revolve around your work, so if you have a problem using screw drivers and nail guns, stay out of the profession.

        • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

          "Why do you disagree, his point was there is no "Knife Professional" in a kitchen where you play with knives all day. "

          You have never been to a http://www.benihana.com/ [benihana.com] restaurant and watched the Knife Professionals work. They are incredible and can cook as well.

        • This is a horrible analogy. Saying that Linux is a knife is like saying that ls is a kitchen set.

          GNU/Linux is the collection of kitchen utilities. The kernel would be like the oven, and all the utensils (knives included) the gnu utilities.

          The application developers are the cooks, and the Linux Administrator is the dishwasher. He gets to work with all the utensils, but never touches the food.
          • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

            Linux is just one of many brand of knives that follow the same basic design. Fixating on Linux in particular seems strange when if anything you are really a UNIX professional rather than just a Linux professional.

        • by mark-t ( 151149 )

          If you like doing something for fun, don't do it for work.

          I've heard this advice before, but I have to say that I think it's ill-conceived. I believe that it's based on the supposition that if you have to do something every day, then it will simply suck all of the enjoyment out of it.

          This is simply not true... happiness is not subject to laws of thermodynamics. If you really enjoy, or especially have a passion for something, then doing it for a living is not going to diminish that. It fulfills it.

          • You're right it's not black and white: but the problem is, even if you enjoy it, you probably don't enjoy doing it ALL THE TIME. At work, you have no choice; you've got to keep doing it, even if you don't currently feel like it or there's some aspect you don't enjoy.

            Yes, there really can be too much of a good thing.

            • by mark-t ( 151149 )

              ...e: but the problem is, even if you enjoy it, you probably don't enjoy doing it ALL THE TIME

              This is true. I do what I love for a living, and I can't imagine doing anything else. Certainly there have been days where things get a bit stressful, and it's hardly the same thing as just goofing off and having fun.

              Nonetheless, I wouldn't trade what I do for anything. Even if I won a lottery and didn't need to work, I know I'd still do what I do everyday.... if for no other reason than the fact that at lea

    • by binarylarry ( 1338699 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @03:09PM (#41130957)

      That's a bad analogy.

      Being a linux professional is more like being a French Chef vs say a Windows Professional which is like a Fryolator Chef at McDonalds.

      • by element-o.p. ( 939033 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @04:34PM (#41131473) Homepage
        Funny, but I'm not sure I agree entirely (and I say that as one who *does* work -- professionally -- with Linux on a daily basis and really doesn't like Windows all that much).

        If you want to work with Linux professionally, then by all means, polish those skillsets. Maybe an RHCE or LPCE wouldn't hurt, although I don't hold either one. But the big key, IME, is not to snub other skills, either. Yes, I work in a shop that uses mostly Linux servers (even Linux-based routers, made by a company called ImageStream [imagestream.com], who I highly recommend), but we also use Cisco routers, Brocade switches and a few Windows servers -- and I work on them all. Let's face it, most places today, IT professionals wear many hats; being a one-trick pony doesn't cut it.
        • Oh, one other thing...if you like Linux, then I'd recommend getting some experience in other *Nix environments, as well. Download and try one of the *BSD's. They are a little different, but you'll pick it up pretty quickly. Try to get your hands on Solaris or OpenSolaris (is that still available?). These are easy ways for a competent Linux guy to broaden his skills without too much effort, and one of those buzzwords just might get you past the HR filters and into an interview.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That's a bad analogy.

        Being a linux professional is more like being a French Chef vs say a Windows Professional which is like a Fryolator Chef at McDonalds.

        No it's more like being a salesman. I became a Linux professional standing on nearest shady street corner in a trenchcoats with burnt CDs of different Linux distros in the pockets yelling "Linux Linux TWO Dollah" at passers by. The police were very confused when they arrested me and realised I wasn't selling sex and that the burnt CDs were legal.

    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @03:34PM (#41131103)

      I agree. You know Linux, that is a plus to your resume. You want a job that is only in Linux, then that is a minus. When I was younger I only wanted to work in Linux/Unix environments over the years, I really stopped caring about what freaking OS I am using and more on what am I accomplishing with my work. In my professional life I go on and off Linux... Usually I have both some times I have one or the other. But I don't see the OS as what defines my skills, I see my skills as someone who creates/improves/optimizes. The company uses Linux, No problem I know how to work on that environment and Ill give you a solution you should love. If the company works on Windows, I can give them just as good of a solution. If they are are on some older mainframe system, I can probably give them something that they never though they could do before, with using Linux/Windows/Unix in conjunction with the system. I personally don't care on the OS to define myself.

      Now if a company asks me what OS should they use my answer is based on the following.
      Linux: If they have a strong IT culture, and there are at least a few employees who know it beside myself, or some people who are exited to learn the system.
      Windows: If they have a weak IT culture, or the employees are not that interested in learning a new OS, or they already have a windows network.

      It is about finding the right solution for the organization. Being a Linux professional isn't that much more helpful. You need to be a good system administration/software developer/technical writer.... Reguardless of the make of your system. Yes each one works differently and there is a learning curve. But it isn't the 1980's anymore, we got Google, that make it rather easy to get the right information.

    • by fm6 ( 162816 )

      I'm actually planning on taking a class in kitchen knife skills.

      Yeah, Linux is just a tool, but hiring managers and HR bureaucracies are big on buzzword compliance. I've lost work because I didn't have experience with specific tools, even though I had tons of experience with similar tools that do the the exact same job. It's a stupid way of doing things, but that's the way it is.

  • Linux Professional? There's nobody here by that title. Most people who know Linux also have some other job to do because there's few jobs for people who want to maintain Linux all day without at least worrying about an app or hardware too.
    • Don't let the plus mod go to your head. You couldn't be more wrong. First off, he was clear that he wasn't looking for his title to be "Linux Professional". Second, I have been employed as an embedded Linux developer on more than one occasion before I started my business, which still does mostly Linux work, and these [slashdot.org] guys [osadl.org] would also find your statement absurd. Monster [monster.com] doesn't support your claim either.
  • Easy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ccguy ( 1116865 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @02:50PM (#41130823) Homepage

    How Did You Become a Linux Professional?

    By installing the first one in a non-linux shop when I was asked to install some service, once it was in used I mentioned it in some meeting with some big dog. No one had the balls to acknowledge they didn't know.

  • Long story... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sique ( 173459 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @02:51PM (#41130833) Homepage

    It starts with my first account at the university for a computer lab running AIX V3.2 and HP UX 7.1.
    It continues with me taking a C programming course, then diving deeply into MUD programming.
    It goes along with Linux 0.99.4, which a collegue of mine showed to me running an MWM like window manager.
    It sees me helping acquaintances compiling kernels for Slackware based distributions on their respective boxes.
    It has to do with my second position as a firewall administrator of firewalls running on Solaris and later FreeBSD based machines.
    It gets me to owning my own Solaris box along with a Linux box running several Linux distributions installed on top of each other.
    It accompagnies me to a short stint as a system administrator at a research institute for distributed computing.
    And now it sees me administer phone switches based on Linux and applications plugging into the phone switches and running on Linux too.

  • For me, a background C++ development on Windows along with doing sysadmin-type work outside the main project, was sufficient to get C++ on Linux development work at IBM.

    If you can get yourself consulting work or work with a smaller company where you are their main "technical guy", you can often just specify what you're going to do--as my first "resume-able" work with Linux was. Getting approval for doing a client's entire internet presence (mail server, web server, firewall, NAT router) for "free" (outsid

  • Bioinformatics (Score:5, Informative)

    by airuck ( 300354 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @02:54PM (#41130857)

    Bioinformatics has been very happily open source and Linux friendly for my entire career to date (14 years). Only the last two and a half of those 14 years have been whithin acedamia, but open source is an especially easy sell here.

  • I've been programming since I was 8. I started with BASIC on Apple IIs, then BASIC on Atari systems, then BASIC on a Timex Sinclair 1000, then assembly on a variety of platforms, then Pascal on Atari ST and then C...

    So, I'd been programming a long time before I could even really think about the job market.

    My first real job was something my HS career counselor pointed me at. It was a small business who'd had an HS kid handling all of their on-site computer needs. I ended up being hired by them at just barely

    • I would like to add that I started working with Unix on University computers. And by the time I'd stopped hanging around there U of MN I had my own x86 system with a Unix on it. First it was SCO, then it was UnixWare, then Linux. Since about 1993, it's been the main platform I've used for just about anything on any of my own systems.

  • I got the LPI Linux certification, but only after I got a Linux job. I wouldn't recommend it, it was little more than a stupid cram of shell commands.

    One certification which has a better reputation, though, is RHCE/RHCT.

    The easiest way to get a Linux job is just to use it, develop in it, and then apply for a position in a company known to use it (which is almost everyone these days).

  • I've spent 1/2 my 25+ year career as a "Unix" (you know what I mean) system administrator and the other 1/2 as a Unix system programmer, sometimes application programmer, all with a little (sigh) DOS/Windows thrown in. I've worked on just about every flavor of Unix running on PC class to Cray-2 hardware, usually several at any one time. For most of that time, there were no books on the topics, just man pages and the compiler. Linux is just another tool in my toolbox.

    It seems almost universal that ever

  • I'm not a Linux professional, per se. I fell into the role of Virtual Machine server guy. Some of the VMs are Linux. For many things, Linux is a better tool than windows to deal with VMWare problems, system monitoring and so on. So I use Linux as part of my paid work, and I notice that part is increasing. I guess I have to say that I'm slowly sinking into it, sort of like quicksand, but not as messy, at least not until you get into the configuration files.

  • "By 'Linux professional,' I mean anyone in a paid IT position who uses or administers Linux systems on a daily basis.

    Being a "Linux Professional" (or as people tend to more often call me, "Linux Guru", damn them) is more about a broad and deep level of experience than it is about 'knowing linux'. For instance, you're going to know the inner workings of how many protocols work; you're going to know how to build your own Linux distro (more or less), and you're going to know how hardware behaves properly. There are many 'professionals' who don't know this, but if you're specializing you've got to know pretty much everything.

  • like some clustering combo with virtual servers that you could scale to work with n+34523 users. maybe open source it. it helps if you can find real users for the service, like if it's a game or does something useful digging up some info from some source.

    and suddenly you would have experience you could use to score a gig, then another...

  • by JoeCommodore ( 567479 ) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Sunday August 26, 2012 @03:37PM (#41131113) Homepage

    I started with Linux use early 2000s, went through a couple years of labor and frustration installing, re-installing troubleshooting, etc. until it became my primary OS. One of the best things UI did was grab one of those fat Linux Bibles and read it cover to cover (the one I read was the Red Hat Linux 8 bible) - not all of it will stick, some will be not useful now, and largely it makes a great sleep aid, but it will give you a general picture of how things work in Linux.

    From there start setting up a test system where you can try out the more serious stuff like setting up a web server, FTP, shell, ssh, etc. Maybe try out LTSP, etc. Once you get to the point where you can confidently do something useful (business wise) then see about migrating it to work. Show your boss you could do x with Linux, faster cheaper and without licenses, and that you can write out what to do if it crashes and your not there. Once you get the chance, make it work and also show it to your peers. Once things are rolling on Linux, you've become the Linux professional. Now you're there, you have to keep up on all that stuff - and there's always more to learn.

  • The first computer our family had was a 286 12MHz running DOS 3.3 and Windows 2.11. Then came some 486SX, which I upgraded to have a double speed CD-ROM. Here in Germany dial up and downloads were very expensive, so the CD-ROM became my means to get my first Linux distribution. It was a magazine cover CD-ROM containing a DOS-bootable archive with Linux (something around Linux 1.0ish, I forgot), running the UMSDOS file system, ca. 20 MBytes. That was 1994. I played around with it for some time, until I bough

  • About 15 years ago i just started installing it and using it for various tasks. In a smaller company this is a very easy thing to get away with, and I've spent most of my career in Small/Medium businesses. Many of which were in startup mode and saving money was an easy sale. What makes you a professional is when you've started to break things, or see things fall apart and you can fix it.

    The hardest part about Linux (or at least was) is that you'd have to cash the checks you were writing, no blaming micro

  • by penguinbrat ( 711309 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @03:46PM (#41131155)
    It's the 'foot in the door' - once your on this side of it, it's up to what you do with it.. Once your in, script your job to make life easier for you, while also doing everything 100% with out failure (assuming your scripts aren't full of bugs) - you will get promoted into another position - or simply ensure that you keep your job. If you don't get promoted, jump jobs - its basically ALL experience that gets you the higher end positions, nothing else, certs help with the bigger companies, smaller ones (where I prefer) want experience more than anything. Jumping jobs, ensures you get the varied experience. Multiple steady jobs as a sys admin, could land you the Sr Sys Admin in a smaller company.

    Also, don't stop with just installing systems on new hardware, thats easy - try to get your hands on the 'old' stuff that barely works, and I'm talking Pentiums - nothing in the last decade. back when I was a teenager, my mom was given around a dozen plus systems for a project she was working on, she tasked me with seeing what worked and what could be done with them. I was able to get around 7 systems fully working, only some had no drives. Between them all, I got into networking (obviously), diskless nodes, DNS, various services, the kernel/modules/configurations, etc.., etc.. Because the amount of resources I had to work with was very limited, I had to really do my homework to get everything going AND usable. A few years later, my first 'good' job I scored because I knew what some strange boot codes from LILO were when simply no one else did, and I could get the critical systems going again (I was contract initially) - I only knew that info from the countless issues I ran into on that old hardware, and getting it all working.

    When it comes to your employer verifying that you can walk the walk, and not just talk the talk - it's done one of two ways, and sometimes both - they will either verify from word of mouth (previous employer/references) or during your 30 day/3month 'probation' period.
  • You want to know how people started so I'll tell you. In the early 1980s I got a 300 baud modem. I began calling Bulletin Boards Systems. One of them was a board with a private section which I gained access to after chatting with the sysop. It had "codez" that I could make free phone calls with.

    I got busy in the mid-1980s, but in 1989 I began calling BBS's again. I started calling boards with h/p sections, or totally h/p boards. One one of them I mentioned the dialup to a local university, and what I

    • "I'm interested in what practical steps I can take to build meaningful skills that an employer can verify, and will find valuable."

      I have been on many interviews for Unix sysadmin jobs, and have conducted many, many interviews for Unix sysadmin positions over the years.

      People fall under a Gaussian distribution on an interview. A few people know almost nothing (we try to screen them out with phone interviews), a few people knock every question out of the park, and most people are in that big chunk in the mi

      • "Can you explain in detail what a sticky bit is? And how it would work if someone throws different scenarios at you? Or how inode permissions on a directory work given different scenarios? How well can you explain what an inode is? Can you explain in detail a Linux machine booting up? From the reset pin being activated on the processor, to how it gets to BIOS at FFFF:0000h and beyond that? Is the processor running in protected or real mode when that happens? Do you know what kind of electrical signal is sen

        • by br00tus ( 528477 )

          I have been involved with Linux for more than 15 years and have written device drivers as well as having rolled my own distributions on numerous occasions. Your questions are absurd. Nobody cares if the reset is active high or low, and how it gets to the BIOS address at FFFF:0000, nor does it matter that the processor is in real mode at that time, especially since you are assuming an x86 architecture when Linux supports more than 30 processor architectures. Unless you are hiring someone to work on the Linux boot code for an x86 system and/or design a motherboard for same your questions are ridiculous and you are missing out on highly qualified help.

          You seem to be missing the point. I did not say this is a good list of questions, or the main things you need to know on an interview. Booting is just an example, I could ask for detail on other things. I said if I tell someone "Tell me how a Linux system boots in as much detail as you possibly can" and they give an answer like this, they're very likely to get hired. If they say "BIOS runs POST, the bootloader starts, and eventually init runs", then great, you've given me the same answer as the past do

          • "You seem to be missing the point."

            Nowhere in your original post do you make the point you just made, so that is probably why I missed it ;-)

            We certainly see things differently. The best answer, as far as I am concerned, is that I haven't had a need to look at the inticate details of the boot code since I spend my time solving problems that haven't already been solved.

  • by Paracelcus ( 151056 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @03:50PM (#41131183) Journal

    So after the plastic mannequins posing as managers discovered that "Lye-nux" was in use by some enterprise that they read about in some shiny trade publication and was therefor "sexy", I was anointed "project leader" to build and configure a mail server and a separate file server.

    I used retired machines (lots to choose from), (if I remember correctly) a Slackware 6 CD, and did what they wanted, when I was called into a meeting and asked how much I would need to buy the equipment and software I told them that it was done and ready to begin testing whenever they wanted.

    This really pissed them off, (not to have to spend huge sums of money) they felt cheated somehow and after I had successfully demonstrated that the setups I created worked reliably management decided to scrap "Lye-nux" and spend $500,000 on high end Sun equipment instead!

    • by seifried ( 12921 )
      Well downtime for example, if our mail server was hosting say 5,000 users that means a few hours of downtime would easily run you $500,000 in costs, so hosting it on a cheap server/etc with no backup/fail over would be a really bad idea. Ditto for the file server, did it have backups? What happened it if crapped out and all the data went byebye? Sometimes spending money up front is a lot cheaper than using some cheap and having to spend a lot more money later.
  • Your most important asset is curiosity. Without that, you won't get very far. You also need a very diverse set of skills. That's pretty much how I got to where I am now, and I've been a Linux IT professional since 1998. Knowing your hardware, ability to build and deploy stable server systems with the right Linux distribution, and finally learning how Linux works and why. Just installing Ubuntu is not enough, you need to objectively pick the right tool for the right job. Some days its CentOS, other day

  • I started my career as a Windows NT and AIX admin, but my customers and clients decided to switch to x86 servers running Red Hat Linux to cut their software license costs.

    My boss at the time asked me if I heard of Linux. I said that I did, so he declared me an "expert" to our clients and had me building servers with it a few days later.

    Fortunately, Linux and AIX are somewhat similar so the learning curve wasn't all that steep.

  • As an ex hardware guy I don't have any software degree or certifications. I used to buy Redhat releases on floppy back when I had dial-up and install them on my second PC. Learned all about networking, DNS, DHCP, etc. from howtos - which were always out-of-date even then. Anyway, last two jobs have been increasingly Linux and now I'm a full-time kernel hacker. The best source of information for what I work on now is the mailing lists and LWN. Buy a subscription.

  • Started out on Amiga, loved the CLI. Used to write fancy startup.s scripts and all sorts of glorius 90s eyecandy. Tried Red Hat 6.2 back in the days, didn't work very well. Went to computer engineering classes, learned Solaris. Got pretty familiar with Linux development trough DJGPP and all that. Cygwin, etc. Years went, tried version 4 or 5 of Ubuntu. Went to more school, learned Mandriva/Mandrake. Using different Ubuntu distros at home. Was at 8.10 when I got 'professional'. Work used Windows XP workstati
  • I installed Linux first back in 1993; the Uni I was attending had some Unix boxes and I liked it so much I tried out Linux myself (slackware, on floppies no less).

    Anyway, there are a couple of things that I think make you a professional:

    • Know the system in and out, and a bit beyond that. Don't just shove in a Ubuntu/Debian/Slackware/Redhat CD and hit "graphic install". For example, know how the installer works, figure out the boot loader works, what /sbin/mount does and what to do when you end up with a rea
  • by honestmonkey ( 819408 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @04:33PM (#41131461) Journal
    By asking questions on Slashdot, of course. Yeesh.
  • (I'm coming at this from a developer's perspective, so a sysadmin perspective may be different.)

    To be sure, Linux isn't the only Unix, and you can do this to an extent on Windows. (Much more if you install Python or Ruby on Windows.)

    But Linux tends to have the state of the art in Unix tools, from the various scripting languages to the various development tools and languages. And because they're so good, it does encourage this idea that things should fit into a larger system, that you're not making "apps" or

  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @04:40PM (#41131503)
    A "freelance IT consultant" is a guy who plays WoW 24/7 with breaks to answer the door for pizza deliveries or go fix friend's computers in exchange for chee-toes. Get a job. Somewhere. Anywhere. Be a server admin at a company. Yes, that means you'll likely have to do windows. When the time comes for a big server expense, honestly and impartially present Windows vs Linux. I.e. For an email upgrade, a Linux server with Outlook enabled email (no changes on the desktop) and spam filter, vs MS Exchange with a commercial spam filter. $20,000 + $2000 per year for one, and $0 for the other, with no changes to the desktops, and poof, you are now a Linux admin. Do that for a year after the change, get your coworkers skilled up, then look for a job with more admin work. You want to be a Linux professional, but don't know what you want to do with it. That's strange to me. That's like saying "I want to use a screwdriver for a living, but don't know what I want to do with it." Plumber, framer, electrician are all vastly different and all use screwdrivers regularly. Decide what you want to do, the more specific the better, then read all the openings for that job and see what they are looking for. Then do it. It may take 20 years, but it's not hard. Well, it was for me because I gave up on mine. There was only one job on the planet that did exactly what I wanted, and it has low turnover, so the only reliable way for me to get that one job would have been murder, which wasn't a career path I wanted.
  • Back when I was in high school and using Win 3.1.1 on top of DOS 5, I came across a new copy of OS/2 Warp at a local computer shop, heavily discounted. I used it through my first year of college, where I got more and more into using Unix-related software under OS/2, thanks to the great porting work done by the community. I was regularly using vi, Apache, Perl, etc all directly under OS/2.

    In school I used everything from DEC Unix (DEC OSF/1 on Alphas) to HP-UX on HPPA RISC boxes to, eventually, Linux, most

  • If a new hire has a degree or certification.... "We won't hold that against you.". You can't pick the majority of skills via any courses or degree's its basically trial by fire. Expect not to know stuft, always be humble & don't be afraid to ask for help.
  • Started a job where I would eventually need to do Linux sysadmin, I'd only started fooling around with Linux at home shortly before. I took an introductory course but am self-taught otherwise. Now all my computers except my gaming PC run GNU/Linux - including my phone.

  • I started working with UNIX in college in 1979. Version 5. Every job I after that was on some *IX platform. Learning to admin these things was seat-of-the-pants. Early jobs, I was the programmer and admin. At Y2K, rather than pay the outrageous price for a Y2K compliant upgrade, the company I was working for switched to linux platforms. After the programming jobs were outsourced, I was able to shift to an admin position. There was never any formal training or certification.
  • I "cut" my teeth on Bell Labs Unix, beginning with Version 5 in the universities (circa 1974). Migrated through most of the Research versions of Unix and BSD's. Played with the PWB line of Unix, which sorta led to System V, but hated them compared with the BSDs. So it was natural to stick with the BSDs (and SunOS 4.X and now FreeBSD) rather than jump to Linux.

    Back when I was deciding between the free Unixes, not only was it more natural to choose FreeBSD, but at least back then, Linux was a mess in terms of documentation and consistency of the distribution(s). I chose FreeBSD and never looked back.

    ... which isn't to say that I *don't* use Linux, of course I do, hard to avoid, between Android, Tomato, webOS and just times when Linux has better driver support, etc. But by in large, still a BSD guy...

  • My advice to you is avoid Linux training courses that have a published failure rate and a high cost of retaking the exam.

    Back in 2000, having had experience being a system manager for the now long gone Hewlett Packard MPE and MPEix systems and having installed and used several early Linux distributions, I decided to take the Red Hat CNE one week certification course.

    I failed the final CNE exam and the result was a half assed resume entry and a blow to my career energy. Computers are fun and interesting, and

  • by hoggoth ( 414195 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @06:08PM (#41132047) Journal

    Dear Slashdot,

    I have become proficient in the use of a "Hammer" and I'd like to know how to become a Hammer professional. I use a hammer on a daily basis. I can't believe that making furniture is the only job available, although I would be open to that. What areas of Hammer usage have other people experienced, and what has been your experience as a hammer professional?

  • I grabbed a PC that wasn't doing anything, loaded my favourite distro (Slackware) on it, plugged it in to the network, and showed that it could do useful things at an interesting price compared to the Sun hardware we mainly used at the time.

    Now we use Linux for all new development. The suits insist on RedHat for product stuff. So be it. We use CentOS for development. My personal box remains Slackware.


  • I started using Linux at 17 or so (asj introduced me to it), connected to the Internet via dialup and realized that if I could connect to systems on the Internet they could connect to me (using SLIP/etc I had an actual IP). So I started learning about security, but basically no documentation/etc. existed back then (this would be 18 years ago). So I started keeping notes, back then stuff like disabling stuff in /etc/inetd.conf (remember that file?) was serious high end security, and using tcp_wrappers was Ma

  • I became a computer system engineer. I work with whatever is needed for the job. Solaris, HP-UX, Windows, Linux whatever the job requires.

  • Personally, I got my start as an "IT Manager" for a small company and often needed to solve problems where I had hardware, but no software with zero budget. This was web servers (Apache) and a file server (Samba). From there, I used it for personal projects by renting an unmanaged server and doing everything on the CLI.

    I got a bit lucky in that a short term contract at a major company involving both Windows and Linux servers got my foot in the door there and now I'm on the project team for rolling out new L

  • This was back in the days of Kernel Version 0.99. Believe it or not at THAT time (1993) you had basically very few choices in OS on servers. You could use some proprietary Unix (like Hitachi) but only on that OEM's hardware. You could use Netware of course, and you could use one of a very short list of other *nixes (Xenix being one of the major ones IIRC. Linuxware was also just then appearing). I recall my first commercial use was setting up machines for a guy to run a course on TCP/IP since there really w

  • I started using Linux in 1994 on my computer as a teenager. I got my first job doing tech support for a now-defunct dot-com commercial Linux distribution. As I was totally incompetent at talking to clients and stuff, they moved me to R&D. The bar was really low back then - my interview consisted pretty much of "Can you install Linux? Cool, can you start tomorrow?". The salary was low but who cares. I had what I would later find out to be the experience of a lifetime as I went to work with some amazing,

  • I started out as a Unix sysadmin (professionally) in 1986/1987, initially with a Sun 386i workstation (but running a network whose core was a PDP 11 and a Sun 4/110 server, with various Sun 3's and an early SGI box), but grew with the network until it spanned some forty systems, mostly Suns but with a mix of SGIs (including a big SGI refrigerator compute server -- 220S?), Sparcstations, ELCs and SLCs, and the rebuilt Sun 4/310 which was eventually replaced with a Sparc Ultra server. Somewhere around 1993
  • by Rozzin ( 9910 ) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @07:57PM (#41132631) Homepage

    How did you conquer the catch-22 of needing experience to get the position that gives you the experience to get the position?

    Wait, you're talking about needing to get the job before you can get Linux experience? The first thing you need to understand is how silly that statement is; we talked about this in my local LUG, a few months back, and one of the other guys summarised pretty aptly:

    Even recent graduates have no excuse to not show some kind of
    experience. Except for the hardware, all the pieces are freely
    available, and with a bit of creativity/networking/paying attention
    you can even come up free hardware. (I'd be willing to bet an old
    computer (or sufficient parts to reconstitute same) that a request
    sent to this list by a resource-starved student looking for free
    hardware to use for learning would turn up more than one offer.)

    So, when we hire, that's what we look for: experience that actually you can get in your spare time.

    My own response to the question [gmane.org] was longer and provides more specific suggestions.

  • Way back when, I worked as a CAD operator on an Intergraph graphics workstation. UNIX based. The other guys I worked with had no interest in taking on the System Admin responsibilities so I said I would do it. Having never used UNIX before I had a lot to learn. So I broke open the books, on my own time, and had the good fortune of having a friend that taught me a lot. I started off writing simple shell scripts then moved on to other things. I won't bore you with all the details but basically, the key to get

  • I owe everything to Windows.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.