Lynda Linux Essential Commands (Ubuntu) course

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The Lynda platform, which is owned by business networking website LinkedIn, hosts dozens of Linux-related courses, including the Linux Foundation Certified System: Essential Commands (Ubuntu) course.

The course focuses on mastery of the basic commands involving administration of the Ubuntu OS, one of the most popular flavours of Linux.

LFCS: Essential Commands (Ubuntu) is authored by Scott Simpson, who has also designed a number of Linux courses pertaining to system maintenance, building a home server and file sharing. 

Given that the Linux Foundation is willing to offer many training guides for free, there might not seem to be much reason to pay to access the Lynda online platform to take this course.

The rebuttal to this is that the course offered by the Linux Foundation closest to this one is not free. Currently it costs $299 (around £230) to train as an administrator directly with the Linux Foundation, making Lynda’s Essential Commands (Ubuntu) much better value for money.

How much does this course cost exactly? To access it, you first must subscribe to Lynda. There’s a basic and premium price plan. Premium subscribers can store course materials offline, as well as download practice materials. Subscriptions are either annual ($300 for the year – around £230) or monthly ($29.95 per month – around £23). Whichever option you choose, there’s a 10-day free trial.

Note that Lynda.com estimates that the Essential Commands (Ubuntu) course takes just over two hours to complete, so if you’re only interested in the one course, you can theoretically subscribe and cancel your subscription within the trial period.

Unlike many of the other training courses we’ve recently reviewed, the instructor has chosen to focus on one Linux OS only. The selection of OS is logical, as Ubuntu is widely considered as an excellent choice for beginners. Virtually all the commands mentioned will work on any Debian-based distribution of Linux in any case.

The course is divided into three broad chapters. The instructor begins by explaining that he is using Ubuntu 16.04 in a virtual machine and will show you how to do the same. There’s also a guide to creating some practice files to work with, meaning there’s no need to download anything separately from the Lynda website.

Lynda itself gives the course a very concise and compact look and feel. The topics covered are neatly laid out on the left-hand side, with an icon next to each section to show videos you’ve already viewed. There’s also a ‘notebook’ tab to record observations as you progress, as well as a scrolling transcript below each video if you prefer to read ahead. 

Chapter one begins by talking about Linux file systems, such as ext4, and explaining them in the context of file systems familiar to Windows and Mac users. 

The rest of the chapter is devoted to installing Ubuntu. The very first section focuses on using a USB stick to create a bootable installation of Ubuntu, using either the Windows program Rufus or the ‘dd’ command on the Mac/Linux command line. 

The next section of the chapter discusses installing Linux over a network. As this course is targeted at system administrators, this knowledge is essential in order to quickly and easily install Ubuntu on multiple machines using a tiny network installer image, such as Ubuntu’s MinimalCD which is only around 40MB in size.

Having discussed PXE (Pre-boot Execution Environment) the section simply advises the reader to look online for guides on how to do this, as it’s outside the scope of the course. Sadly no links are provided to any of these online guides or Ubuntu’s own network installation software.

The first chapter does redeem itself somewhat by then covering how to install Ubuntu on a virtual machine. This will allow you to experiment with Ubuntu safely without interfering with your own system. The chapter ends by explaining how to switch between the console and GUI on boot, as well as detailing how to find system documentation.

Chapter two focuses on working with files in the Terminal. It begins with an excellent 10 minute video explaining the Linux file system and providing some information on file types. There’s also a highly useful section on working with text files specifically using the ‘Nano’ and ‘Vim’ editors. This is a very wise inclusion as both programs are routinely used to modify configuration files, so are essential for any would-be Linux administrators.

The following sections provide detailed explanations on how to compare text and non-text files, archive and decompress data, as well as changing files from within programs.

Chapter three is designed to give users a basic knowledge of security and administration. While the material itself is clear enough, there doesn’t seem to be any logical order to the topics covered. First, there’s a seven minute video on file permissions, then two shorter videos on managing the root account and installing software respectively. Given that one of the most common administrative tasks when setting up a new system is to download new apps, it might make more sense to Linux newcomers if these videos were in reverse order.

The final sections focus on accessing the command line remotely via SSH as well as transferring files. The instructor recommends connecting via SSH whenever possible so you become used to managing machines remotely. Again, this seems to be so important, it’s hard to understand why it wasn’t included earlier in the course, but that said, the explanation is easy to follow and all the advice is sound.

Final verdict

Lynda hosts a number of courses aiming to help folks master Linux, besides Essential Commands (Ubuntu). This means that the platform is unlikely to offer great value for money if you only want to do this one course, though as we’ve discussed above you can choose to complete it during the 10-day free trial, then cancel your subscription (effectively paying nothing).

One major advantage of the course itself is that by focusing on one distribution, the instructor can provide some specific examples and commands for Debian-based distros such as using APT to install software. Given that Ubuntu is available as both a desktop and server edition, there’s no reason why budding administrators can’t use it. 

The course does assume some basic knowledge of Linux – for instance the section on APT assumes you’re familiar with the concept of software repositories. If you have subscribed to Lynda, however, there are other Linux courses as mentioned, including an absolute beginner’s guide.

This is also true for the first chapter which provides varying levels of detail for installation depending on the method you choose. The instructions for using Ubuntu with VirtualBox are extremely detailed, whereas the section on physical installation doesn’t cover how to copy an ISO to an installation medium.

The section on network installation provides an excellent summary, but if you need help with actually putting this into practice, you’ll have to find this elsewhere. Fortunately, Lynda does have an instruction video on how to install CentOS 7 via a ‘net install’ CD.

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