Creating a Linux Certification Program, Part 3 LG #35

The Linux certification saga continues. In my October article, I outlined why I thought Linux needs a certification program and what I thought the major characteristics of such a program should be. In my November article, I described what efforts were already underway toward Linux certification, provided pointers to resources on the Web, and explained how people could become further involved. With this article, I would like to relay the current status of our discussions, and provide additional pointers to information and resources.

Specific topics in this article are:

If you have any questions about this article or the other articles, please feel free to contact me by email at or visit my list of certification pointers at

Status of « linux-cert » discussion list

In last month’s article, I mentioned a « linux-cert » mailing list that was established to host further discussions on creating a Linux certification program. That list is operational and has had a strong volume throughout the last month. There has truly been too much discussion to adequately summarize, although the points of consensus mentioned below should give you a flavor of the list. People have been contributing from all around the world and it has been great to be a part of it all!

If you would like to subscribe, send a message to:    with the message:

       subscribe linux-cert Messages to the discussion list are sent to « »  

The list is intended for people who *want* to build a certification program.  This is not another place to discuss whether or not a Linux certification program *should* exist… subscribers to the list agree that, yes, we want a Linux certification program – now let’s discuss how best to build one.

We now have two sites that are hosting web-based archives of the mailing list where you can view what has been discussed on the « linux-cert » list. Dave Sifry at Linuxcare set up our primary archive at his site. You can see every message from the beginning of the list at:

Or you can view just November’s postings at:

Bruce Dawson also set up a second site to see the messages (albeit over a slower connection) at:

Thanks are due to both Dave and Bruce for setting these archives up.

Please visit the archives, see what we’re up to, and join in our efforts.

New List – « linux-cert-announce »

After we set up the « linux-cert » list, I had several people contact me and say that they were interested in staying up on what was going on with Linux certification, but didn’t want to subscribe to a high-volume mailing list. To address this concern, we have now established a second list, « linux-cert-announce », which will be a very low volume list (probably only a few postings per month). We will only send occasional status reports and announcements to this « announce » list. It is a moderated list with a limited number of possible senders, so there will be no extra traffic or spam.

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If you would like to subscribe to this list, send a message to: with the message:

       subscribe linux-cert-announce

in the message body. Thanks again to Dave Sifry at Linuxcare for setting up this second list.

Note that if you subscribe to « linux-cert », you do not need to also subscribe to « linux-cert-announce ». Any message sent to « linux-cert-announce » will automagically be sent to the « linux-cert » mailing list.

So… subscribe to « linux-cert » if you want to be involved with the ongoing discussions and receive a strong volume of email, subscribe to « linux-cert-announce » if you only want to get occasional updates on the current status of certification discussions and plans.

Linux Training Alliance

In order to promote the teaching of classes in Linux, I am organizing an alliance of training centers who either are currently or are planning to teach Linux classes. We now have a web site located at:

The goals of the organization and Web site include:

  • to provide a central place on the Internet where potential students can learn about available Linux training resources
  • to publicize the classes of those training centers currently offering Linux training
  • to be a resource for other training centers that want to start teaching Linux classes
  • to promote the ongoing efforts to create a Linux certification program
  • to prove to courseware publishers that if they create Linux courseware there would be centers who would potentially purchase their materials
  • to provide another way to combat the argument made against Linux that « there is no support »

If you are interested in Linux training, please visit the site and let me know what you think (it’s pretty basic so far).

If you are affiliated with a training center (loosely defined as a corporate training center, college, university or basically anyone else currently teaching Linux) and would like to be listed on the site (and join the LTA), please contact me at

If you are an freelance/contract instructor who would be available to teach classes in Linux, of if you have developed courseware in Linux that would be available to other training centers, please contact me as I would like to publicize your contact information as well.

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Points of Consensus from the « linux-cert » discussion list

Our discussion on the « linux-cert » mailing list has been quite involved and detailed with numerous points being debated quite intensely at times (check out the archive mentioned above). In recent days, I have asked the list to approve a number of « Consensus Points » that I have summarized from the ongoing discussions. Realizing that we will not always be able to reach consensus on every issue, we are working out a method of voting. In the meantime, I have been trying to collect the points on which we do all agree. The process is continuing as this article is being written, but so far the following points have been agreed upon:

  • The cost of attaining Linux certification shall be as low as possible. Costs of exams shall be targeted at only that needed to cover delivery of the exam, with perhaps a slight portion helping to offset development of the exam.
  • Whatever mechanism we develop for delivering Linux certification must be global in scale. People in any nation must be able to take exams toward certification.
  • The Linux certification program will consist of multiple levels. For instance, after perhaps 1 or 2 exams, someone becomes a « Linux Certified Professional ». After 2 or 3 more, one becomes a « Linux Certified Administrator », etc. (Note that we have NOT agreed upon names.)

Additionally, the following points appear headed toward consensus (but have not, as of 11/25/98, been approved by the group):

  • The Linux certification program will employ standardized multiple-choice exams for at least the entry and perhaps middle certification levels. The highest certification level will involve either a hands-on or oral exam of the candidate. The exact mechanism for the upper level test will be determined by a working group.
  • Linux certification exams will initially be developed in the English language. Exams in other languages will be made available as soon as possible depending upon financial and conversion support.
  • The core Linux certification program will be distribution-neutral. Distribution differences will be addressed through a required distribution-specific exam or other mechanism developed by a working group.

We did not reach consensus on another point, and there are a number of other items which we cannot yet agree upon.

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If you are interested in being part of this process, please join the « linux-cert » mailing list mentioned above and visit the web archives to see what has already been discussed.

Working groups close to formation

In the process of debating these consensus points, several participants have suggested we form smaller « working groups » to refine specific subjects and report back to the larger group. It looks at this point that at least one group will be launched to develop some proposals for naming conventions (i.e. « Linux Certifed Professional »? « Linux Certified Engineer? » etc.) and also to explore some possible options for the non-computer-based test for the highest level of certification. Other groups will also be launched as our efforts continue.

If you are interested in being involved with this working group, please join the « linux-cert » mailing list mentioned above.

Final Thoughts

This past few weeks on the mailing list has been quite an interesting one. The global scale of this project has brought in a wide variety of contributors and made for interesting discussions. It’s been a great group of people to work with and I look forward to our evolving discussions and plans.

Along the way, we also discovered another group coordinated by Evan Leibovitch from the Canadian Linux User’s Exchange (CLUE) that had been discussing Linux certification since earlier this year. Evan and I have now been working together to combine the expertise from both groups and it has been a great experience – look for more exciting news and opportunities to come soon!

Please join us on the list(s) and let’s make this happen!

Dan York is a technical instructor and the training manager for a technology training company located in central New Hampshire. He has been working with the Internet and UNIX systems for 13 years. While his passion is with Linux, he has also spent the past two-and-a-half years working with Windows NT. He is both a Microsoft Certified System Engineer and Microsoft Certified Trainer and has also written a book for QUE on one of the MCSE certification exams. He is anxiously awaiting the day when he can start teaching Linux certification classes. He can be contacted electronically at

Linux Certification Part #1, September 1998
Linux Certification Part #2, October 1998

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