I have a new hire starting in a few weeks who is an experienced Windows SysAdmin. I think he's fairly senior on the Windows side, with a pretty deep AD understanding and experience with Exchange 2007, 2010, and exchange migrations. He's done a little PowerShell but I suspect more of the "run this command to do this" variety then "write a script to do this" sort.

However, we are a mixed shop and (he knows this) I expect him to become a reasonably competent Linux SysAdmin over time. I'm looking for good starting points to bring him along. I have over ten years of Linux/UNIX experience, so it all sort of seems intuitive to me, but I've been thinking about the toolkit you actually need to be productive in the Linux CLI world. Just to be able to use the machines at all, off the top of my head...

  1. vi
  2. Basic CLI stuff -- move around, rename files, copy files, tar, gzip, changing passwords, finding relevant manpages, keep track of where you are, find things in your history, etc, etc.
  3. More advanced things that I take for granted but are actually pretty hard -- doing things with 'find', extracting relevant text via 'awk' and/or 'cut', knowing when to use 'grep' and when to use 'grep -e' or 'egrep'.
  4. Distribution specific stuff... compiling software, rpm, yum, apt-get, you name it.

This all seems pretty basic to me, but when I think back to 1995 when I was first learning my way, some of those things took me years to master.

So my question is -- where should I send him to pick up those skills? I'm not just thinking of classes, but rather also websites and books? Where do you all suggest as a starting point for picking up Linux skills?

closed as not constructive by Michael Hampton, HopelessN00b, Tim Brigham, sysadmin1138 Sep 5 '12 at 20:18

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The best way I learned Linux was being thrown into it. I was given a project on a non-production system which required learning many different steps both basic and advanced system administration work. From there I was able to use the wonderful world of Google to learn much of my tasking as well as reading "A Practical Guide to Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux" This was one of the most helpful books I came across.

Personally at this point it became what I was going to make of the learning experience. I may have spent more time than was needed to complete the project but the general point was the learning experience. This of course is my own opinioin, remember that people learn differently than others. Some can read a book and simply "get it" while others need to get their hands dirty to really learn. I highly recommend asking the individual how they best learn so you may set them up for success. You could also set him up with VMPlayer and load up a few different flavors of Linux which you may use in your area.


If he's experienced on the Windows side of things, then there's a chance that he's done a bit of Windows shell script (aka "batch" files), which are just as esoteric as the likes of Korn shell scripting, so don't under estimate his ability to switch platforms from a scripting / automation perspective.

Speaking from the position of someone who lives and breathes Windows Server, but does AIX/Linux support for standby purposes, the biggest challenges will be:

  1. File systems (LVM, inodes, blah, blah)
  2. Good old "vi". Though give him a copy of WinSCP and he'll be away ;-)
  3. SSH
  4. SED / AWK / GREP
  5. RPMs
  6. Problem analysis tools (equivalents of performance monitor, process explorer, process monitor, resource monitor)

Most of the other "mechanics" will be the same - I/O, systems management, alerting, processes, IP addressing, routing, blah, blah, will be the same.

Oh, and you need to show him the slash is the wrong way around! (hehe)

Finally, I still find my O'Reilly Linux in a Nutshell book a worthy reference. Plus, RedHat's sys. admins I and II courses are good (although, you may be using another variant).


I have played with Linux for years before taking my first Linux SysAd gig, but I was already a very experienced Windows SysAd, so I understand the troubles in taking the plunge.

The Advanced Bash Scripting Guide by Mendel Cooper is a great place to start.

If your shop has a preferred scripting language, get him in that, too.

A primer on SSH would go far (especially covering the use of keys), as well as a primer on the package manager of your distro.

Finally, an explanation of the different relationship between Windows machines to AD versus Linux machines and OpenLDAP could be helpful.

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