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Re: Thinking about devoting a serious part of my life to linux...

Hi there,

On Tue, 4 Sep 2007 blues wrote:

> I would really love to become a good sys admin; linux is very
> interesting to me as a popular alternative to the crap business
> model of MS.....

Whatever you think about the way it does things, Microsoft is one of
the most successful companies that the world has ever seen.  Business
world-wide has a truly enormous investment in Microsoft products and
in the vast majority of business settings you can hardly avoid dealing
with them.

Your evaluation of a "crap business model" tells me that you know
nothing about business, and you won't get far with businesses if you
start by telling them that they invested in crap.  In your post you
mention 'corporate network'; it might not be what you want to do, but
it will help a lot if you first figure out what businesses do and how
they do it.  Only then will you be more than accidentally useful to a
business.  If you learn well, you might even succeed in one yourself.
There's a lot more to it than the tools and the products.

> i like the idea of using free software to monitor and protect a
> network, and I hope to make a career out of it...does anyone have
> any tips as to what i should concentrate on?

Read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read.  Then read some more.
Learn how to write English properly.

Build your own computers from components.  Learn about drivers for the
various bits of hardware.  Learn the differences between BSD and SystemV.
Learn about packet filtering.  Learn about 'bash' and 'vi'.  Personally
I don't use vi unless it's unavoidable, but it's all you'll have on many
a system, so you need to be able to cope.  Learn how to get a bash prompt
on a Windows box and an Explorer window on a Linux box - both remotely.
Look at system logs.  Play around with SAMBA, CUPS and sharing printers.
Learn how to use a number of email and Web clients, office productivity
tools like word processors and spreadsheets.  Get to know about viruses
and all sorts of other malware.  Become a security expert.

Read as much as you can, particularly "The C Programming Language", by
Brian W Kernighan and Dennis M Ritchie, and all the O'Reilly books you
can get your hands on: http://www.oreilly.com/store/complete.html

Here's a selection from our bookshelf.  Even though we have quite a
few on machine-readable media, and some are available free online, my
wife and I have two printed copies of several of them.  That's great
because we can read them by candle light if there's a power cut, and
somehow my tired old eyes find a book much easier than the screen.

"Learning the bash Shell"
"Learning the vi Editor"
"Learning GNU Emacs"
"Essential System Administration"
"TCP/IP Network Administration"
"IP Routing"
"DNS and BIND"
"Network Troubleshooting Tools"
"Managing & Using MySQL"
"Programming Perl"

I've read all these from cover to cover - some twice, that last one
even three times - and yet still find myself going back to them.

Even thoguh I haven't even mentioned Apache just these few books will
set you back quite a few ($currency_unit)s, so your friends and family
need never again wonder what to buy for your birthday.  You'll have
had several more of those before you're anything remotely resembling
an experienced system administrator.  Incidentally I have absolutely
no affiliation with O'Reilly, and I can't remember the last time that
my business sold a book.  I've found that not all O'Reilly books are
really _great_ value, but I always learn something useful from them -
definitely more than enough to cover the cost.

> Is debian a good distro to learn if I want to one day run a
> corporate network?

No.  Most of the Linux/FreeBSD/OSX/Solaris/Whatever products have much
in common and once you're familiar wiith one you'll be fairly familiar
with the others, but you'll probably find the differences frustrating.
Slackware is commonly percieved to be a distribution used by those who
understand the internals and is probably a good one to learn with, but
from that point of view there are others, such as Linux From Scratch,
which might be better.  They may need more work.  RedHat Enterprise is
probably the top dog in the serious corporate environment.  Debian is
great if you want the easy life and a lot of packages.  But it does
take control, and it hides a lot of what's going on behind the GUI and
the automation.  Use something that doesn't by default start up a GUI.
Compile and install everything from the sources, and configure it all
yourself.  This is what the people producing the distributions do, and
most of them ultimately work with the same sources.  Until you're very
comfortable rolling your own packages from sources, avoid apt, dpkg,
rpm, swaret, yum and all the other package managers.  Google to find
out what went wrong.  Read "How to ask questions the smart way" and
join a few mailing lists.  I don't mean to imply that your post was
especially badly worded but it could have been, er, more professional.
If you want to be useful in a corporate setting you will need to work
on that.  And you'll need to look comfortable wearing a suit, even if
you've cycled in.

Oh, yes.  Don't forget to read as much as you can.



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