CompTIA Linux+: Open-Source Stepping-Stone
With its 2004 revision scheduled to launch by April 2005, the CompTIA Linux+ certification has matured into a potent validation of Linux expertise for desktop support technicians, help-desk staff and junior-level systems administrators. CompTIA Linux+ tests for the equivalent of six to 12 months of practical experience with the leading commercial Linux applications from Red Hat, SUSE, Mandrake and Turbolinux. This means that the Linux+ exam covers approximately 90 percent of the everyday problems, issues and applications that IT professionals routinely encounter with commercial Linux applications.
CompTIA Linux+ was launched in 2001, designed to validate the equivalent of six months of Linux experience. Work began in late 2003 for a revision scheduled to debut in late 2004 or early 2005. Job-task analysis showed that Europe and North America had grown closer in application needs. The emphasis on hardware in North America, for example, had decreased dramatically. At the same time, there was a corresponding increase in the need for security expertise. Feedback also indicated that employers were becoming more interested in a certificate that could validate six to 12 months of Linux experience. Employers said that a more advanced certification would help them screen for the kinds of expertise they needed most. More than 75 percent of the exam was revised, with significant changes to exam domains. (See Figure 1.)
The installation domain tests the knowledge and skills needed to determine installation methods, select appropriate settings, protocols, software packages and validate correct performance. This domain covers activities related to the initial installation of the operating system. Candidates should be familiar with settings used by installers on the major packages. They also must be familiar with systems and peripherals (as well as their modules and utilities) used on 32-bit and 64-bit x86-based PCs and servers. Requirements for the installation domain include:
- Identify all system hardware required and check compatibility with Linux distribution.
- Determine the appropriate method of installation based on environment and what software, services and multimedia options should be installed.
- Identify the purpose of the Linux machine based on predetermined customer requirements.
- Partition according to pre-installation plan using FDISK.
- Configure file systems, a boot manager and peripherals, as necessary.
- Manage packages after installing the OS.
- Select appropriate networking configuration and protocols, and appropriate installation parameters.
Linux+ candidates must be able to demonstrate proficiency in everyday management of Linux-based clients and basic management of server systems. The technician with one year of experience is expected to be able to fully support, maintain and troubleshoot Linux-based desktop systems. Server management questions will focus on day-to-day server operation and basic administration. Some of the requirements for the management domain include:
- Use CLI commands to create, manage and modify files and directories.
- Execute searches using find and grep.
- Perform and verify backups and restores.
- Access and write data to recordable media.
- Manage run levels and system initialization from CLI and configuration files.
- Differentiate core processes from non-critical services.
- Repair packages and scripts.
- Monitor and troubleshoot network activity.
- Perform remote management and NIS-related domain management.
- Create, modify and use basic shell scripts.
- Use CLI utilities to create, modify and delete user and group accounts, and to manage mail queues.
This domain requires basic knowledge and skills to configure system settings, network services and access rights. Candidates must be able to configure files routinely used on client systems, such as mtab, fstab, hosts, resolv.conf and inittab. Candidates need to identify which files are used to configure common server applications, but are not required to configure them. As they are often used on clients, some knowledge of Samba and HTTP service configuration is required. Using compilers is not required, but candidates should understand basic Makefile structure. Candidates must identify settings for the x86 and XWindow system and utilities that are used in configuration. Some of the requirements for the configuration domain include:
- Configure client network services and settings, and basic network services.
- Implement basic routing and subnetting.
- Configure the system and make file changes to support compiling applications and drivers.
- Configure files that are used to mount drives or partitions.
- Implement DNS.
- Configure a NIC from a command line.
- Configure printing and apply printer permissions.
- Configure the XWindow system.
For the security domain, the candidate should be able to describe common security terms and practices, as well as implement security options on client systems. The ability to configure security-related files is required. Candidates are not expected to create security policies, but must know which practices are commonly used and understand the issues that practices protect against. Some requirements for the security domain include:
- Configure security environment files.
- Implement appropriate encryption configuration, and basic iptables/ipchains.
- Detect symptoms that indicate a machine’s security has been compromised.
- Identify different Linux intrusion detection systems.
- Implement security auditing for files and authentication.
- Identify whether a package or file has been corrupted or altered.
- Set password policies to match security requirements.
- Identify security vulnerabilities within Linux services.
For this domain, candidates must understand the types of written documentation that best cover work performed. Candidates must identify information that should be recorded for an installation or change in configuration. In addition, they must be able to use system-generated files to monitor or diagnose systems. Some requirements for the documentation domain include:
- Establish a system performance baseline.
- Create written procedures for installation, configuration, security and management.
- Document installed configuration.
- Use systems logs and application logs to troubleshoot errors.
- Access system documentation and help files.
Basic Linux Hardware
The hardware domain tests knowledge related to typical Linux client and server systems. Candidates must be able to identify and describe components used in a 32-bit or 64-bit x86 client computer or laptop. They also must identify corresponding driver modules and common utilities used to configure or troubleshoot them. Proprietary hardware is not included in this domain. More detailed knowledge of ATAPI, SCSI, USB and RAID devices is expected. Some requirements for this domain include:
- Describe common components and resources.
- Diagnose hardware issues using Linux tools.
- Identify and configure removable system hardware.
- Configure advanced power management and Advanced Configuration and Power Interface.
- Identify and configure mass storage devices and RAID.
Wrapping Up Linux+
The Linux+ exam has approximately 90 questions and must be completed within 90 minutes. Detailed information on training, courseware, exam domains and exam registration and prices can be found at www.comptia.