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Re: Unix administrator

On Fri, Jun 29, 2001 at 07:47:44AM -0500, Chris Parker wrote:
> Student here from a micro$oft school of thought and sick of it.  What
> do I need to read...study to gain the honor of a unix admin.?  Is
> athere any good online classes or tutorials that i should check into? 

Install a free Unix-like operating system on your computer and play with

More verbosely: install some version of Linux.  I would suggest one of the
less "newbie friendly" distributions, such as Debian or Slackware.  Or you
might want to go with OpenBSD, FreeBSD or NetBSD (which are like Linux in
that they are free Unix-like OSes, but they are from a different "school"
of Unix, but still equally useful for learning Unix administration).

I would recommend getting an old PC to try this on.  You should be able to
pick up a 486 or early Pentium for not much money.  This hardware will be
fine for playing with Linux and learning about it.

Once you get the system installed, start making the computer useful.  The
following are some typical tasks that a Unix admin should probably know
how to do:

	- set up X
	- configure and use network devices: ethernet, serial analog modem,
	- install and use a printer
	- download a program's source code, compile it, and install it on your
	  system (i.e., do *not* use the system's package management tool to
	  install software)
	- configure system services, especially common ones such as:
		- FTP (e.g. proftpd)
		- a web server (e.g. Apache)
		- a mailer (e.g. postfix, or sendmail if you're brave)
		- secure shell (e.g. OpenSSH)
	- familiarize yourself with shell scripts (and maybe perl
	  scripts)---at *least* enough that you can understand what's going on
	  in them (and that's a bare minimum)
	- configure and recompile your kernel

Keep in mind, that once you do these things in Linux, it doesn't mean you
can do it immediately on any flavor of Unix (because they all have varying
degrees of difference).  But you will develop a "Unix intution"; i.e.,
you'll understand the rationale behind the design of a Unix system.

Keep in mind, when doing any of the tasks listed above, do *not* use any
kind of auto configuration tool, such a Linuxconf.  If you do, it's
cheating, and you won't really learn anything about what's going on in
your system.

Once you can do the things I listed above, you should be comfortable
enough with a Unix-like operating system that you can come up with your
own admin tasks, such as setting up a LAN (with Linux *and* Unix clients),
setting up a firewall, perhaps running a small dial-in ISP, etc.

> Also what would be a good route to take for a beginner programming? 

Everyone seems to have their own thoughts on this, all are valid.  My idea
is for you to download the source code to a program that you like, but
lacks the features that you want.  Read through the code to figure out how
the original program works, then try to add your desired functionality.

A major drawback to this approach, however, is that you might pick up some
sloppy coding practices from the original programmer :)  But there's
plenty of well-written open source software, though.

> Hopefully the Debian gurus will reply.

In my opinion, Debian is a good choice of distro for a newbie who wants to
be a Unix admin.

Good luck!


Matt Garman, garman@uiuc.edu
"I'll tip my hat to the new constitution, Take a bow for the new revolution
 Smile and grin at the change all around, Pick up my guitar and play
 Just like yesterday, Then I'll get on my knees and pray..."
            -- Pete Townshend/The Who, "Won't Get Fooled Again"

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