O’Reilly LPI Linux Certification in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition
Review by Steve Carter June 2012
I used to design computer courses and write course manuals so I have read a lot of computer books. To my mind computer books fall into two categories; the easily read introductory guide and the daunting over 500 page Bible. This book falls between the two. It is a framework guide to Linux usage/administration but due to only being 500 pages most subjects are explained briefly. For example in LPIC-1 the student must demonstrate editing with the vi editor. This is covered in only 3 pages. O’Reilly do a 500 page bible to vi alone. That said I found the 75 pages dedicated to basic commands really useful.
This book is designed for someone who wants to attain a Linux Professional Institute Certificate. The certification system was established in 1999. There are three levels of certification (Junior, Advanced and Senior) and this book takes you up to Advanced. The Senior level has a corporate enterprise angle and requires some years of experience. The three levels are also designated as LPIC-1 LPIC-2 and LPIC-3. Indeed since the book was printed in 2009 (3rd Edition) O’Reilly have brought out two newer guides now renamed LPIC. A lot of the changes are changes in emphasis as the tests have tried to keep up with technology.
Anyone considering certification will have their own personal reasons for choosing whether to go down the Red Hat, Comp TIA (Linux+) or whatever route. I just need to tell you that this book covers both Red Hat and Debian methodologies. There is no mention of SUSE, Novell, Ubuntu or live disks.
Personally I have little interest in the certification aspect but I was curious to test my self taught knowledge against the standard. Being a hardware guy I sailed through the first 60 pages covering hardware and installation. I did learn a bit as it is nicely structured. The next much larger section covers the command line and it was a learning experience to realise how many gaps there are in my knowledge. There are many commands I had never even heard of and to learn the associated switches to make the commands work requires quite a bit of playing around. The book teaches a few command line switches but not quite enough to rely on this book alone to pass the exam.
This book does provide a good roadmap to learn from. It is not a straight road but weaves around a lot. There are examples given plus a good Questions section with brief answers. Obviously one cannot learn Linux simply by reading about it; a lot of practice is also required. This book is eminently readable with good concise explanations. The pages are edge marked to easily find sections. I often found myself using this especially as the book is in two halves. 1 in front and 2 behind. I needed two bookmarks as the questions the student is required to perform are at the end of each half not after each chapter which I would have preferred.
The first half of the book teaches you the nuts and bolts of a standalone installation. The second half expands your horizons with a lot of networking and digs deeper into X windows, users, accounts and permissions. Script creation is also required learning at this level.
I think this book is great for anyone who has played around with Linux and wants to go up to the next level. It covers the command line pretty well or at least well enough to pass a basic exam. At 500 pages it is not a big book given the breadth of material it covers. It is 1 inch thick so easy to carry around and not daunting to dip into. That said I discovered that the 2nd edition from 2006 is nearly 1000 pages and had five authors. O’Reilly dropped one for the 3rd Edition (2010). I would love to see the older editions just out of interest but if you want to pass the LPI exam you will need an even more up to date edition than this one.