Linux Academy: Linux Essentials course review

Get to grips with the basics of Linux

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Our Verdict

This course offers some smart videos but there’s not really enough to justify the hefty price tag.

For

  • Videos are well thought out
  • Make notes on each page as you progress
  • Subscription fee grants access to many other courses

Against

  • Subscription fee is high if you only want one course
  • Training is mostly videos, so you must take your own notes
  • Connecting to Lab servers can be tricky for new users

The Linux Academy is an online platform offering access to dozens of Linux-related courses. This Linux Essentials course has been put together by the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) and can be accessed via the Linux Academy website.

Registration requires a valid credit card and will give you a free 7-day trial to take the Linux Essentials course, or any one of the dozens of Linux-related training programmes available via Linux Academy. After this your card is billed $228 (around £180, AU$310) per year for access to all courses. 

The LPI has developed a series of Linux Certification programmes for those who are either interested in a career in Linux, or need Linux skills in their current job. 

The LPI further claims to have an excellent Pro Developer Certification program and anyone who passes the Linux Essentials 40 question exam in under an hour can go on to gain further LPI qualifications.

The course is delivered by Systems Infrastructure Security Engineer Stephen Smith, who narrates the 75 videos which cover the essentials of Linux. The stated aim of the course is to give you a basic knowledge of Linux-compatible hardware, the concepts behind open source, as well as teaching you how to navigate the Linux desktop and command line.

The total running time of all the course videos is around 14 hours, although you will need extra time to prepare for the final exam. As you progress through each section, you can click on the hand 'notes' tab to record your observations – there's also a downloads tab so you can access practice files.

In total there are five main topic areas. The first section concentrates on the Linux community and answers some common questions for those considering a career in Linux. 

This is an excellent and essential part of any introduction to Linux, as the instructor talks a little about the history and philosophy of the OS, which may be unfamiliar to people who've always paid for commercial operating systems.

This initial section also covers how to install Linux using the Academy's servers as well as how to set up CentOS 7 in a virtual machine – which allows you to practice using Linux without wiping your existing system.

The second topic focuses on finding your way around a Linux system, chiefly by using the desktop. This contains a very brief overview of the graphical interface but also takes some time to talk about open source software. This is a top-notch section, given that while most users are familiar with free apps, most of these aren't truly open source. It also discusses the concept of the GPL License which requires developers to make the source code of programs they write available, so they can be updated and improved.

The third section is called the ‘Power of the Command Line’ and is the most heavily weighted topic on the course, given the amount of material covered. It consists of a series of videos demonstrating everything from simple commands in the Terminal to much more complex operations. The first videos show how much easier it can be to use the command line for daily tasks such as finding your current directory with 'pwd'.

This topic goes on to show users where they can go to get help by using 'man' pages as well as how to search for, edit, create and delete files. There's also an easy to follow overview of how to extract and compress files.

The fourth section targets the Linux OS itself. This is ideal for would-be network administrators as it contains a rundown of how the internet, network routing, DNS and default gateways work. The section then goes on to explain about network configuration in a Linux-specific environment.  

This topic also covers some advice on Linux hardware as well as how to choose a distro that's right for you (discussing, for example, whether you need a desktop machine or a server). There's a brief summary of the lifecycle of Linux distributions to help you decide. The LPI has a vendor-neutral policy towards operating systems, and true to its word, there doesn't seem to be any bias towards any one flavour of Linux.

The final topic focuses on security and file permissions. This covers subjects such as super users versus regular users, file permissions and symbolic links. As these are less likely to be familiar to former PC or Mac users, placing them at the end of the course is a wise choice.

The course instructor recommends answering the mini-quiz sections in each topic as you progress through the material. Ideally you should be achieving 100% for each of these questions before taking the exam itself.

Final verdict

The Linux Academy has an all-or-nothing approach to its courses. Anyone willing to pay the $228 (around £180, AU$310) annual subscription fee (or $29 per month – around £23, AU$39) can theoretically become certified in any number of Linux platforms such as Red Hat or OpenStack.

However, if you are only interested in one course such as the one we are reviewing here, the price is very steep compared to other alternatives. That said, if you provide a valid credit card number you receive seven days of free access to the entire Linux Academy platform, so you could do the course for free during this time, then cancel your subscription.

Although the course is delivered as a series of videos without any text, you can make notes on each page as you progress. It's also very easy to download supplementary material. Another extremely useful addition on the main course page is a study sheet and Linux Essentials Command Line cheat sheet for quick reference during the exam. 

For those willing to pay the subscription fee, there's even a Course Scheduler tool which allows you to manage when you'll undertake training on Linux Academy. This is particularly useful if you want to continue with your LPI certification beyond Linux Essentials.