Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

A teacher asked me If I could talk about my job as a linux sysadmin in his class. The course is called "Introduction to Operating systems" and i've been given 45 minutes to talk. The students are beginning their second year, so they've had a bit of experience with programming in different languages.

What i'm like to do is show a series of hands-on examples of the kinds of things I do on a regular basis. I've already got a few ideas jotted down, but I'm afraid that they might be either too advanced or too simple for the students to appreciate. Another concern is that a topic might be too long to explain and use too much time overall.

Here are a few ideas :

  • Program deployment using version control (git in my case)
  • filtering apache logs using grep, awk, uniq, tail
  • A couple of bash scripts that i've made for various stuff on servers
  • live montitoring (htop, iotop, iptraf)
  • creating databases and assigning roles in mysql/postgresql

So, are these ideas any good ? Do you have better ideas ? are the ideas too simple and should I go for more "advanced" stuff ?


locked by HopelessN00b Jan 21 '15 at 22:51

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. This question and its answers are frozen and cannot be changed. More info: help center.

closed as primarily opinion-based by HopelessN00b Jan 21 '15 at 22:51

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

What level of education? University, High School, ...? – Andrew Nov 17 '11 at 3:41
What are these students studying? If you know what they're trying to wrap their heads around in class we can help you pick out things to show them that illustrate those concepts at work in the real world. – voretaq7 Nov 17 '11 at 16:22

Show them the Ted Stevens "Series of Tubes" talk.

Pass around a piece of paper and have the students each write down an interesting host on the internet.

Walk them through dns lookup, ping, traceroute, whois, nmap, mtr, geolookup and other tools for a few hosts. Ask them for tools they are familiar with.

Just did this at my office a week or so ago. Big hit.

Always fun to relate an abstract concept to a real-life thing – Mark Henderson Nov 17 '11 at 3:51
throw in a couple of application possible in future using the new technologies, It gives the audience somehitng to think about. – whizkid Nov 17 '11 at 5:56
If you show them the Ted Stevens talk you also have to show them – voretaq7 Nov 17 '11 at 16:20

I've been teaching courses and giving lectures for a long time so what I'm going to suggest here is based on a lot of that experience. in particular, students respond to something exciting something new. Ask the teacher if the students have been exposed to Linux. I think that you want to divide your presentation up into into 2 parts. one where you are showing them something new, keep it to no more than 2 new concepts. In the 2nd part where you engage them in an interactive way and then expose them to nuances of the subject. For example just showing someone regular expressions is quite powerful and you can show it in context of maintaining and going through system logs etc..

another possibility could be to show them processes the concept of process IDs userids and how UNIX is different from Windows in that respect.

It really does not matter which topic you to choose, you just have to relate it to something interesting for the students. For instance just scheduling a cron job can be very interesting to send out an SMS.

If you engage them in setting up a Web server. So that they know how to setup a Web server. for example you could introduce him to the LAMP stack.

a very cool thing to do would be to show them how to set it up in a virtual machine so that they can Download their own copies of their favorite Linux environment and play with it themselves.

talk to the teacher, maybe he can help you by distributing network installable versions of this your favorite distribution.

Just whatever you do engage them somehow in the process because if you do that you will be successful. Don't try to show too many things, because 1) that is difficult to deal with 2) you will want to make sure you don't lose your audience and 3) it leaves very little time for you to do questions and answers.

all the best, have fun, and Break a leg!


I usually prefer to err on the side of "too advanced" than "too simple". It's the safer option, especially when speaking to students.

Besides what you and the other commenters here have already suggested, I would also add something you find interesting and/or exciting about being a sysadmin. A big part of my job at the moment is protecting the system my developers have made against all the spammers and scammers who would abuse it for their own profit. This isn't everyone's cup of tea but I really enjoy it. Find what you enjoy about your job and make sure that is part of your talk. Maybe it's finding ways to improve the efficiency of some part of your system or tracking down some bug that was causing downtime and fixing it.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.