Using Linux to Teach Unix System Administration
There are several handicaps inherent in teaching a class in Unix administration in an academic environment. In order to learn to be an administrator you need to actually administer the system—you must have complete control of the box. In most colleges and universities this is an impossibility, given security concerns, administrative overhead for such a setup and the need to equip individual workstations with the Unix operating system. Those colleges having such a setup in place have found it inefficient—either the hours must be limited or the machines go unused outside of class hours.
I have been able to alleviate the above concerns by utilizing Yggdrasil Linux, with the added advantage that the students can take the operating system home, work with it and bring it back to class for labs or assignments. Yggdrasil Linux can be run entirely off CD-ROM and RAM, and it uses a single diskette for booting and data storage. The overhead for such a setup is the same as the normal maintenance costs for a PC; the only additional requirement being a CD-ROM drive, if one is not already installed on the system.
The College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois (the second largest community college in the U.S.) has offered classes in Unix administration since 1985, due to the close proximity of Bell Labs and the former Western Electric facilities. Initially, the students ran Minux on an 8086 PC, and the lab was entirely devoted to Unix.
This lab was dropped when the College obtained an AIX system, and as a result, the students no longer had a place to practice administering a Unix system. Over time, more and more restrictions were placed on access to administrative files or doing administrative type functions not requiring root access. At first, access to the AIX system was over a network using a boot disk and, more recently, using a menu selection in DOS and MS-Windows. The overwhelming majority of students in the classes are computer professionals. The prerequisites for this class include “Introduction to Unix”, which in turn requires knowledge of a programming language.
When I started teaching the Unix administration class about six years ago, we were using a four-year-old book which did not cover many of the current features of Unix. In addition, there was no easy way to conduct meaningful labs. I went through three more textbooks over the next five years while looking for a book that was relevant to the students. Most textbooks covered too many versions of Unix, which was confusing for many students.
My teaching options were:
Continue using the system as it existed and resign myself to the students being unable to practice administration.
Request that individual workstations be set up to run Unix. As this had not been done before, this option would have been difficult, as well as costly, to implement.
Investigate running Unix on a PC without affecting the current academic networking environment.
I felt the third option was the only viable one. There are several manufacturers of Unix or Unix-like operating systems for the PC, including SCO Unix and Solaris x86. However, none of them have the wealth of free software along with available source code that Linux has. In addition, there are no licensing or distribution restrictions on Linux other than the GNU-type copyrights. It is supported by many USENET newsgroups and many helpful people on the Internet.
Last year, in addition to AIX, I decided to give my students the option of running Linux from a CD-ROM—in fact, I encouraged it. I was not willing to require it until I saw the results of my experiment. It was an overwhelming success and most students welcomed running Linux at home, since it allowed them to do assignments without having to come to the campus except for class. Only one student had a PC at home without a CD-ROM drive, and he was able to come to campus to use a PC. Therefore, this solution did not prevent any students from doing their assignments.
This year I made running Linux a requirement and chose as the textbook Linux System Administrator's Survival Guide by Timothy Parker, Ph.D., published by SAMS. I chose this text over a number of other books because it covered most of the class topics, was easy to read and was easily supplemented. I have written a Lab and Projects manual that includes assignments in Linux, AIX and generic Unix. I am planning to expand it to a full-fledged text as time permits, using recommendations of my students and my experiences.
|Using Salt Stack and Vagrant for Drupal Development||May 20, 2013|
|Making Linux and Android Get Along (It's Not as Hard as It Sounds)||May 16, 2013|
|Drupal Is a Framework: Why Everyone Needs to Understand This||May 15, 2013|
|Home, My Backup Data Center||May 13, 2013|
|Non-Linux FOSS: Seashore||May 10, 2013|
|Trying to Tame the Tablet||May 08, 2013|
- Using Salt Stack and Vagrant for Drupal Development
- Making Linux and Android Get Along (It's Not as Hard as It Sounds)
- New Products
- Validate an E-Mail Address with PHP, the Right Way
- Drupal Is a Framework: Why Everyone Needs to Understand This
- A Topic for Discussion - Open Source Feature-Richness?
- Home, My Backup Data Center
- New Products
- Readers' Choice Awards
- RSS Feeds
- Automatically updating Guest Additions
34 min 52 sec ago
- I like your topic on android
1 hour 21 min ago
- Reply to comment | Linux Journal
1 hour 42 min ago
- This is the easiest tutorial
7 hours 57 min ago
- Ahh, the Koolaid.
13 hours 35 min ago
- git-annex assistant
19 hours 35 min ago
- direct cable connection
19 hours 57 min ago
- Agreed on AirDroid. With my
20 hours 7 min ago
- I just learned this
20 hours 12 min ago
20 hours 42 min ago
Enter to Win an Adafruit Prototyping Pi Plate Kit for Raspberry Pi
It's Raspberry Pi month at Linux Journal. Each week in May, Adafruit will be giving away a Pi-related prize to a lucky, randomly drawn LJ reader. Winners will be announced weekly.
Fill out the fields below to enter to win this week's prize-- a Prototyping Pi Plate Kit for Raspberry Pi.
Congratulations to our winners so far:
- 5-8-13, Pi Starter Pack: Jack Davis
- 5-15-13, Pi Model B 512MB RAM: Patrick Dunn
- Next winner announced on 5-21-13!
Free Webinar: Linux Backup and Recovery
Most companies incorporate backup procedures for critical data, which can be restored quickly if a loss occurs. However, fewer companies are prepared for catastrophic system failures, in which they lose all data, the entire operating system, applications, settings, patches and more, reducing their system(s) to “bare metal.” After all, before data can be restored to a system, there must be a system to restore it to.
In this one hour webinar, learn how to enhance your existing backup strategies for better disaster recovery preparedness using Storix System Backup Administrator (SBAdmin), a highly flexible bare-metal recovery solution for UNIX and Linux systems.