Examining LPI Certification
Certification has become a hot commodity in the administrative world, thanks in large part to the MCSE program from Microsoft and the CNE program from Novell. In the Linux world, most vendors have joined to endorse the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) certification.
A fairly new program, LPI certification is planned to comprise three levels of expertise (I through III), but only Level I is currently available, with the other two coming shortly. Although all the questions are multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blank, Level I expects you to be comfortable at the command line, know the key commands and tasks for basic administration, and be able to install the operating system on a single machine.
The Level II plateau will expect you to have knowledge pertinent to administering a medium-sized network and managing others. You will be expected to know how to interact with Samba, Web servers, firewalls, and mail/news/proxy servers.
The Level III plateau will expect you to know how to design solutions for multiple sites, supervise, consult, and work within given constraints. The areas of specialization at Level III include interaction with other operating systems, databases, scripting, and so on.
The Components of Level I
Two exams comprise the Level I certification:
101: General Linux I
102: General Linux II
Neither of the Level I exams are overly specific to an operating system; therefore, you are not put at a tremendous disadvantage for knowing Caldera over Debian, for example. A few cases expect you to have knowledge of one vendors offerings, but they are the exception to the rule. Indeed, the primary goal of the Linux Professional Institute and their certification program in particular is to stress the core skills and knowledge that carry across all vendor platforms.
Exam 101: General Linux I
The General Linux I exam addresses the following major categories:
GNU and UNIX Commands
Devices, Linux File Systems, Filesystem Hierarchy Standard
Boot, Initialization, Shutdown, Run Levels
Each of these categories is further subdivided and weighted (1 to 8), with 1 being minor (expect fewer questions) and 8 being major (expect more questions). Table 1 shows the divisions and weighting of each section.
Due to space constraints, we cannot examine every objective, but looking at those that are weighted the highest on the exam (5 and above), there are five objectives that merit attention:
Process Text Streams Using Text Processing Filters This requires knowledge of the following tools: cut, expand, fmt, head, join, nl, od, paste, pr, sed, sort, split, tac, tail, tr, and wc. Noticeably absent (and frighteningly so) are cat and uniq.
Create, Monitor, and Kill Processes This objective expects knowledge of how to move jobs between the foreground and background, and interact with them using the commands bg, fg, jobs, kill, ps, and top.
Maintain the Integrity of Filesystems This requires you to know the commands df, du, and fsck. You must know how to check free space, monitor inodes, and fix minor filesystem problems. Expect to know how to find bad blocks and mark them. Interestingly, this objective started out in the 102 exam and moved to here.
Use and Manage Local System Documentation This area focuses on the /usr/doc subdirectory and the man command. Although heavily weighted, the topic is a simple one.
Manage Users and Group Accounts and Related System Files This topic can be somewhat OS-specific. The main focus is on the /etc files (passwd, group, etc.), and commands/files include gpasswd, group, groupadd, gshadow, passwd, shadow, useradd, and userdel.
Exam 102: General Linux II
The General Linux II exam addresses the following major categories:
Hardware and Architecture
Linux Installation and Package Management
Text Editing, Processing, Printing
Shells, Scripting, Programming, Compiling
As with Exam 101, each category is further subdivided and weighted, though this time the scale is from 1 (minor) to 10 (major). Table 2 shows the divisions and weighting of each section.
As you can see from Table 2, the following subobjectives have a weight of five or higher:
Make and Install Programs from Source This topic focuses on GNU packages. You are expected to know the variables and parameters of Makefile as well as the commands gunzip, make, make install, and tar.
Use Debian Package Management This objective involves all the files beneath the /var/lib/dpkg subdirectory. The commands/tools to know are: alien, apt, aptget, dpkg (command-line version), and dselect (GUI version).
Use Red Hat Package Manager (rpm) This involves only two commands: grep and rpm. Do not be fooled by the small number of utilities, however, for you are expected to know all the features and functionality of rpm.
Customize or Write Simple Scripts This area concentrates on the Bourne (sh) and Bourne Again (bash) shells. You should know the basics of the scripting language, such as how to call the correct interpreter, set and see variables, and do conditional operations.
TCP/IP Troubleshooting and Configuration This is the big one: if you dont know this topic, dont attempt this exam. Lumped within this subobjective is every conceivable concept known to TCP/IP, including manual configuration (IP addressing, subnets, gateways, etc.) and automatic configuration (DHCP). You should know all the files and utilities involved, including dhcpd, hostname, hosts, ifconfig, netstat, networks, ping, route, and traceroute.
Configure and Manage inetd and Related Services This topic is truly intertwined with the TCP/IP subobjective above. You need to know how to offer basic network/Internet services, use tcpwrappers, interact with ftp and telnet, and allow/deny hosts.
Operate and Perform Basic Configuration of Sendmail This topic is self-explanatory. The commands to be familiar with are mailq, newaliases, and sendmail.
Signing Up for the Exams
The LPI certification exams currently are available through VUE (Virtual University Enterprises) at a cost of $100 each. You can start the registration process at:
or you can look for the testing center closest to you at:
An Alternative: Red Hat
One of the differentiating features between Red Hat and most other Linux vendors is that Red Hat does not endorse LPI, choosing instead to offer both a training and a certification program. What distinguishes Red Hat from most others (including LPI) is that while they rely upon multiple-choice exams to certify an administrator/engineer, Red Hat requires the passage of a supervised hands-on lab. To add some perspective, the knowledge considered necessary to pass the LPI Level I exam is roughly equivalent to the knowledge considered necessary to meet Red Hats prerequisites. To become a Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE), you must take prerequisite courses through Red Hat or one of its Certified Training Partners. These training partners are Global Knowledge Network:
and IBM Global Services:
Or, you must have the experience necessary to meet the objectives for the following three courses:
Introduction to Red Hat Linux I, II
Red Hat Linux System Administration I, II
Red Hat Linux Networking and Security Administration
Each class is four days in length, and most classes include one hands-on workstation per student. (Note that in some cases the introduction and systems administration classes can be broken into two segments, each lasting two days.) Classes are held by Red Hat in Durham, North Carolina, and around the country by Global Knowledge. The prices of the three classes through Red Hat are $1998, $2098, and $2198, respectively (slightly higher at Global Knowledge). After completing these classes, you are expected to have a mastery of the following topics:
Basic network security
Basic TCP/IP networking
Networking concepts and technology
UNIX systems administration
With this knowledge, you can go on to take course number RH300: RHCE Training and Certification Course, or choose simply to take the exam. RH300 is a five-day course, which includes the hands-on exam, and is currently available for $2498. If you already know the requirements and do not want to take the class, you can opt for the one-day hands-on lab, for $749.
During the actual exam/lab, you are expected to set up and administer a server, with measured criteria including security and network services. A proficiency in troubleshooting and diagnostics is also required, as well as a mastery of the common administrative tools. The required overall passing score is 80 percent, with the score within each category not being able to fall below 50 percent. There is no immediate feedback; you learn whether you passed through email.
Web Sites to Know
Linux Professional Institute: www.lpi.org
LPI Glossary of approved terms: www.lpi.org/p-glossary.htm
Red Hat Training and Certification: www.redhat.com/products/training.html
The following questions, aimed at Exam 101 objectives, test your knowledge. The answers appear at the end of the article.
1. Which of the following will represent the output of the following command: echo "alpha-beta" | sed 's/-.*$//'
2. You wish to create a file named log to which the output, and any standard error from the who -z command will go. The syntax to perform this operation is:
A. who -z > log
B. who -z 2> log
C. who -z >&1 log
D. who -z 2>&1 > log
3. The value of the ABC variable has been set to SEAN. What will the output be of the following command: echo '$ABC'
4. Mary wants to view all but the first three lines of the warehouse file. The command to use to perform this operation is:
A. head -3 warehouse
B. head +3 warehouse
C. tail -3 warehouse
D. tail +3 warehouse
5. Steven needs to kill a runaway process immediately, without regard to other processes. Using the kill command, the option for immediate termination is:
Answers to Sample Questions:
About the Author
Emmett Dulaney is the co-author, with Vijay Sankar, of Integrating UNIX and NT Technology: The Definitive Guide (ISBN: 1-882419-84-7), published by 29th Street Press. One of the original authors of Inside Unix and several related titles, he is currently working on the LPI Level I Exam Cram for Coriolis. A founder of D S Technical Solutions, he can be found on the Web at: http://www.CertificationCorner.com, or reached through email at: email@example.com.