Linux Certification for the Software Professional

A discussion of the need for certification and a proposal from Sair, Inc. for a Linux certificate program.
Examination Topics

A working draft of a comprehensive outline of the proposed certificate material is at http://www.linuxcertification.org/. Although the outline may be missing a given topic or detail, a surprising amount of information must still be covered. Given the large amount of Linux system information that exists, we have yet to define the exact breadth versus depth of the exam. For example, it is assumed in the study guides that the student already understands basic operating system concepts such as memory and process management, interprocess communication, file management, device drivers, system abstractions, network layers and so on. A separate section devoted to these concepts may have to be developed in the future.

Candidates will need additional background study material to support the “narrow” study guides. Currently, we are employing existing Linux texts to provide background and related details for the Linux certificate topics. In the future, we will integrate other on-line documents into the study guide through either cross reference or additional independent study guides. This means that, at least initially, the Linux student will require a larger textbook library than that required for other certificates. (See the web site for a suggested reading list of background texts.)

Existing study guides (with background text references) are being refined and more are being developed. They can be reached from the “study guide” hyperlinks in the working draft outline, for example at http://www.linuxcertification.org/introqa.html. These guides are in the form of essay questions followed by answers.

Exam Administration

Members of the Linux community would clearly like to take certification exams on the Web. (See http://www.linuxjournal.com/HyperNews/get/certification.html.) Unfortunately, no straightforward method exists for user validation (fraud prevention) over the Web. Assuming the Linux certification process becomes a self-sustaining enterprise, we will be developing fraud-proof technology for web-based exams. Until that time, we will use traditional testing methods and environments. Initial tests will be based upon “book knowledge”, while advanced tests may include hands-on demonstrations. Assuming enough interest, book knowledge tests can be given in commercial testing centers such as Sylvan Prometric. Testing on advanced material and hands-on demonstrations will be made available as the need arises.

Milestones for the Linux Certificate

These items need to be completed:

  • Solicit community comments. (Initial outline at http://www.linuxcertification.org/.)

  • Complete development of study guides, using selected background texts and on-line material as reference. (Initial study guides are hyperlinked at http://www.linuxcertification.org/.)

  • Use community comments and Board recommendations to improve study guides.

  • Upon completion of the first study guide, accept candidates for the certificate.

  • Based upon interest, schedule tests while study guides for each area are developed.

  • Upon completion of all study guides, schedule final tests and begin awarding certificates.

  • Begin active consulting with State Boards concerning Linux and its relationship to licensing.

  • Develop continuing education credits and courses.

Conclusion

In planning for the future, we are developing a Linux Certificate now. We want the certificate to be truly representative of the Linux community, and your comments are essential in helping us achieve that representation. We believe certification has significant mutual benefits for employers and employees and will become a key tool for managers as Linux software is brought into corporate and government environments.

As more and more independent professional programmers integrate Linux software into their standard contract programming, we will be promoting Linux as core knowledge in the State Board of Professional Engineers licensure process.

Resources

Acknowledgments

Dr. P. Tobin Maginnis (tm@sairinc.com) is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Mississippi and the President of Sair, Inc. His areas of specialization are operating systems, networking, distributed operating systems and multimedia. See http://www.cs.olemiss.edu/~ptm/ for more information. As President of Sair, Inc., Dr. Maginnis supervises a programming shop that provides custom programmed software solutions to clients in the Chicago area. See http://www.sairinc.com/ for more information.

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