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The RHCE Experience
by Jeff Dean | Pages: 1, 2, 3


Overall, I see the RHCE program as thorough, detailed, and concise, but not overly difficult. To their credit, Red Hat doesn't

As a hiring manager I would look on the RHCE certificate as a significant positive indicator of performance ability.
use tricks to mislead students, even on the debugging portion of the exam where subtle problems could have been inserted. The exam ensures that RHCEs are competent, informed, and thoughtful system administrators. As a hiring manager (which I've been) I would look on the RHCE certificate as a significant positive indicator of performance ability.

On the other hand, I was disappointed by a few aspects of the program. Although printing with lpr was touched upon briefly in unit 6, no printer was available in the classroom and no labs touched on printing. This could be considered an omission since printing is an important part of Linux deployment in corporate environments. Likewise, no modems or phone lines were available to experiment with PPP (admittedly, this would be a hassle for Red Hat to administer). Another missing feature was the availability of a true Windows system to verify the Samba configurations used in the labs. We were able to check operation using Samba's native tools and the Linux log files, but for Samba there's nothing like having a Windows box around to be sure.

RHCE Exam -- Shortcomings

• No printer was available to test printer deployment skills.

• No true Windows system was available to verify Samba configurations.

• Red Hat offers no formal ongoing relationship with their RHCEs, as Microsoft tries do with MCSEs.

My biggest concern with the RHCE program has nothing to do with the presentation or the exam, but with the RHCE's subsequent relationship with Red Hat. As promised, I was given proof of my certification, including a unique number I may give to prospective employers wishing to confirm my status. However, beyond that certificate I haven't heard anything from Red Hat. After going through the stress and cost of attending the RHCE course and exam, I hoped that I would be able to form a unique relationship with Red Hat, Inc., including RHCE-only information and perhaps a subscription to Red Hat software releases. By direct comparison, many MCSEs enjoy free one-year subscriptions to TechNet, a value larger than the costs of their exams. By ignoring their RHCEs, Red Hat is missing an opportunity to organize some of their best advocates in the field.

Recommendations for success

Here are a few thoughts on how to succeed with the RHCE program, for both training/exam and exam-only options:

  • Arrive familiar with all of the prerequisite topics. If you don't have direct experience in an area, do some reading and experimentation before the test.
  • Arrive having already compiled and installed a custom kernel. I can't emphasize this enough. If you're not already familiar with building and installing a kernel, read through the Kernel-HOWTO article and practice.
  • Take a laptop and work at night. Better yet, take two! As crazy as this may sound, you'll get far more out of working in the evenings on a PC at the hotel than you will from socializing. If you can manage two laptops and a crossover Ethernet cable, you can experiment with shared services. Since you may not have Internet access in class, you'll need your modem too.
  • Spend some time breaking and fixing a test system. Play with LILO configuration, force boot failures, force X failures, practice the use of single-user mode, and use boot floppies. If you can dream up a scenario to break your system, by all means try it and find a solution. Practice like this is extremely important, because you're probably used to installing Linux and running it -- fixing it may be a new area.

You or your employer will be spending a lot of money for your RHCE certification, so anything you can do to maximize your chances for success will probably be worth doing.

Next month

In next month's article, we'll take a closer look at the LPI's General Linux I Exam T1a. I took T1a in January, but still haven't heard my results. For those of you considering the LPI exams, note that the LPI has some freebies for the first 300 examinees.

Pages: 1, 2, 3

Jeff Dean is an engineering and IT professional who is currently writing a Linux certification handbook for O'Reilly and Associates.

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