A Web-Based Linux Training Course

The president of Future Technologies describes his FTLinux Course training program for Linux.

Some time ago, I heard that success in mathematics means being able to formulate a good question and answer it. When I decided to write a book for Linux, the question I proposed was, “What is the best way to teach Linux to novice Linux users?” My answer was to write a course in Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML). HTML is cross-platform, so the course can be read on any PC: Windows, Macintosh, OS/2, BeOS, UNIX and Linux. HTML is the most-used language on the Web, where Linux users generally go to download software, browse and consult resources.

I also include the man2html program, so customers can:

  • learn Linux in a nice environment, such as a web site

  • browse Linux files on the Linux file system

  • consult Linux man pages

  • move quickly through the course

  • go directly to the Web or FTP site to browse for information or download software

My intention for this course was to support as many languages as possible. I regularly speak Spanish, Italian and English, so it was natural for me to write the course in these languages. Demand for German Linux technology is high from a commercial and a technical point of view, and France moved to Linux some months after the rest of Europe, so I also include these languages. Our contract with ADC Japan (http://www.adc.co.jp/) allows us also to include Japanese. Future languages will probably be Portuguese, Turkish, Hebrew and Chinese, but this will depend on the market.

The Project

I drew on my twenty years in computer science and my various technical jobs with UNIX to write this course. I organized the project into the following sections:

  • BASE: dedicated to new Linux users

  • WebMaster: for HTML programmers, webmasters and web-server installers

  • X Window: dedicated to X Window System users and programmers; also Tcl/Tk and Java X techniques

  • System Integrator: how to integrate MS Windows, Macintosh and other operating systems in Linux networks

  • System Administrator: the specific role of the system administrator in companies, includes in-depth shell programming

  • Programming: for C/C++ programmers, also network programming techniques

The BASE course was originally written for Caldera OpenLinux in Italian. I started to write it for OpenLinux 1.0 in 1997, slowly. The course has been updated to 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.2 and now 2.3. The first edition, FTLinuxCourse 1.0 for OpenLinux 1.3, was released in Italy for the Italian market in December 1998. In February 1999, we released the version for the U.S. market.

The Red Hat course was written directly in English, then translated into Italian. The latest version, 2.3, covers the latest Red Hat, SuSE and LinuxPPC distributions.

I have developed some useful shells and samples that are included in the FTContribs directory. I also contacted O'Reilly & Associates to include all the examples from the O'Reilly book series in the BASE CD-ROM. My friends at Xi Graphics gave me authorization to include the latest AX and LX demo.

In addition to the 40MB of coursework (excluding the course material in PostScript and Adobe PDF formats), there are 10MB of shells, TeX, LaTeX and PiCTeX examples available, our contributions in the FTContrib, plus more than 250MB of ExternalContribs, including examples from books (such as the O'Reilly series and others), articles from the Web, Netscape checkers, RFC and other software.

The product is continuously updated and includes Linux news, free software and more. The latest decision was to include the Linux OS itself.

The WebMaster course is new and important. It includes HTML programming and Internet web-server installation.

The X Window System was created in 1984. After several years of use on expensive UNIX workstations, Linux helped move X to the desktop. Today, for less than $80 US, it is possible to design and write X programs. Understanding and learning how to program X can be hard work. The X Window course covers many topics including C/C++, Tcl/Tk and Java programming, from the command line or by using builders such as dtbuild or KDevelop.

Why a Training Product for Linux?

Linux is free. People can download it off the Internet or install it from a CD-ROM. Each distribution includes a manual that explains Linux installation duplication. Users will then need a way to enter the Linux universe and learn the commands, how to search files, how to change the resource on an X application, how to create users, how to run a program in the background, etc. To supply tutorials for this method was the main reason I wrote the course.