⌚ March 6, 2012
Are you studying to take the CompTIA Linux+ Powered by LPI exam? If so, then the Linux+ Guide to Linux Certification from Course Technology will help increase your knowledge since it covers most of the exam objectives.
There are two versions of this study book: The older second edition (2006, green cover) and the newer third edition (2011, orange cover). Both books are nearly identical, so this review applies to both editions.
While the 2nd edition covers the older CompTIA Linux+ exam, the 3rd edition covers the material needed to pass the new CompTIA Linux+ Powered by LPI exams (LX0-101 and LX0-102). I had the opportunity to read through the Linux+ Guide to Linux Certification 3rd Edition and compare it to the 2006 Linux+ Guide to Linux Certification 2nd Edition to find out what differences exist between the two books and to determine if the 3rd edition is worth the high retail price.
First of all, these are textbooks. Each chapter is followed by a chapter summary, a glossary of terms, quizzes, and practice exercises. The solutions for the quizzes are not contained in the books. Instead, they are provided in a supplemental teacher’s package purchased separately.
There are about fifteen chapters covering a range of topics related to using Linux from the command line. Chapter one begins by introducing Linux, and successive chapters progress the reader through installation, usage, and eventually conclude with Linux networking knowledge.
Included with the second edition book is a CD-ROM package containing Fedora Core 2 that the examples in the book are based on. While Fedora Core 2 may have been fine at the time the second edition was published in 2006, it is horribly outdated today and seems difficult to use compared to today’s distributions. The 3rd edition includes Fedora Core 13, which is much easier to use.
Topics are presented clearly, but heavy focus is given to the command line. As a result, these are not books for those who are completely new to Linux or for those who only feel comfortable using a GUI (graphical user interface). Exam books of this nature will scare the casual Linux user away due to the emphasis on the inner workings of Linux and the detailed commands. However, for those who are comfortable with Linux and wish to rise to the level of a power user, then these books make a great introduction – even if not studying for an exam. They provide a solid foundation upon which to build.
The book quality is good. Binding is tight, but not too tight, so the book opens easily. This does tend to create spine creases, but if cared for, then this should not be an issue.
Each is a standard-size paperback book measuring about 3.5 inches thick with a full-color cover and black and white pages. The pages are a bit on the heavy side so the opposite page contents barely show show through. The page weight also allows light highlighting without seeping through the pages.
The first burning question to answer is “What is the difference between the second and third editions?”
Not much. I read the 3rd edition alongside the 2nd edition book and found the 3rd edition to be practically identical to the 2nd edition but reprinted in an orange and yellow cover. Some material was removed from the 3rd edition and a few new topics were added, but in the end, I felt like I was reading the exact same 2nd edition all over again.
Both books contain the chapter summaries and the key term reviews, which I enjoy, because they make reviewing easier without having to reread the entire chapter. However, from chapter one, it is apparent that the 3rd edition is mostly the same book as the 2nd edition. Here is a list of a few of the changes made to the 3rd edition:
3rd Edition Changes
- Gone is the chapter about basic computer hardware.
- Chapters often contain a few minor updates up to 2010. For example, chapter one updates the Linux usage statistics up to 2010 and kernel 2.6.35.
- Ubuntu is mentioned but no details are given since this is intended to be a distribution-neutral study guide.
- The much improved Fedora Core 13 is used for practice examples and demonstrations instead of the older and much more frustrating Fedora Core 2 used in the 2nd edition.
- Linux examples show Fedora Core 13 installed inside VirtualBox.
- Virtual machines (including VirtualBox) are mentioned.
- GPT (GUID Partition Table) is mentioned for hard drives larger than 2TB. This was absent from the 2nd edition.
- NTP (Network Time Protocol) is introduced. This, too, was absent from the 2nd edition.
- There is additional SCSI information describing SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) and iSCSI.
- Compiz and the desktop cube are shown when discussing window managers.
- ext4 is discussed whereas the 2nd edition stopped at ext3.
- The 3rd edition includes a good introduction to the LVM (Logical Volume Manager).
Small changes like these and many more are sprinkled throughout the 3rd edition, but the bulk of the material remains the same as the 2nd edition. It felt like 95% of the book was repeated verbatim, and much of the older material, such as how to format a floppy from the command line and detailed usage of the compress and cpio commands, was still included. Even many of the diagrams and examples are the same and those seen in the 2nd edition.
On the other hand, something I especially liked was the inclusion of the Logical Volume Manager not found in either the 2nd edition or The Complete Guide to Linux System Administration book. LVM commands and their examples are shown in detail.
“Should I purchase this book? Would this help me pass the Linux+ exam?”
In my opinion, both editions are good books and will help prepare you for the CompTIA Linux+ Powered by LPI exam, but there are a few issues to be aware of.
1. Too Steep Too Soon. For a book aimed at a new Linux user who knows little to nothing about Linux, this is steep book to handle. The content becomes too involving too soon. After a basic introduction to computers and Linux installation, the helpless newbie is plunged into the obscurities of the command line.
2. Exclusive focus on the command line. Most people learning Linux are coming from a GUI world, so complete immersion in the command line may not be the best introduction to Linux. One chapter introduces the GUI, but it goes into detail about window managers and X instead. While most books introducing Windows do their best to make Windows as easy as possible to assimilate, the Linux+ Guide to Linux Certification plunges immediately into the command line and system adimistration.
3. Outdated Linux Distribution for the 2nd edition. The 2nd edition book ships with Fedora Core 2, which I found to be extremely frustrating to use compared to the simplicity of modern distributions, such as Ubuntu. I scrapped Fedora Core 2 and used Ubuntu instead for the practice exercises. The result was much more user-friendly, but how many new Linux students will know to do this?
The 3rd edition utilizes the better Fedora Core 13, but even now, there are more user-friendly distributions available. I would recommend using the latest Ubuntu or Linux Mint instead of the bundled Fedora Core distributions. Take note, however, that if you choose to do this, some examples might not work completely due to distribution differences.
4. Some of the content seemed outdated when used with modern Linux distributions. For example, a number of examples describe how to use /etc/inittab to configure system runlevels, but Ubuntu 10.10 gives a “No such file or directory” message for /etc/inittab.
5. Outdated Commands. A number of obscure topics and commands are covered in great detail such as the mt command for handling magnetic tape, cpio, and formatting a floppy disk from a command line. Naturally, these commands are covered since they appear on the Linux+ exam, but I have never found a need for them in real life. If you need to use commands such as these, then these books will make excellent reference material. Otherwise, better commands, such as rsync and mdadm, will make your life easier, but they are not covered in either book.
Despite these issues, these are still worthwhile books. Linux remains Linux, so a number of basic issues, such as file permissions, never become outdated. Here are a few features I enjoyed:
1. No prior knowledge is assumed, so concepts are presented in a most basic way and then built upon to more advanced topics.
2. Terms are printed in bold. This makes it easy to spot terms when skimming through the pages for review.
3. Pictures illustrate topics such as file permissions and hard drive partitioning for better understanding.
4. A glossary at the end of each chapter makes it simple to review key terms without having to read through the chapter again.
5. A variety of topics are presented without being overwhelmed by any one. Topics are touched upon rather than delving into great detail. The result is an overall knowledge of Linux rather and an in-depth understanding of each concept and each command’s inner workings.
“If I already have the second edition, do I need the third edition too?”
In my opinion, no. The 3rd edition is practically the same book as the 2nd edition, so if you already have the 2nd edition, then there is little need to purchase the 3rd edition. Judging from the content of the 3rd Edition, the new Linux+ Powered by LPI exam apparently has not changed much from the earlier Linux+ exam, so if you already have the 2nd edition and are staying up to date with the Linux world, then you could study that and probably still do well on the exam. Using Linux everyday is what will help you the most.
After completing either book, you will feel that you have just scratched the surface of what is possible with Linux. Many topics deserve books of their own, and other topics felt as if more explanation could have been given. The Complete Guide to Linux System Administration, also by Course Technology, fills in these gaps by covering topics in greater detail that were only skimmed over in the Linux+ Guide to Linux Certification.
To get the most out of either edition, it helps to have prior Linux experience. I would recommend reading the Linux Phrasebook by Scott Granneman first for a simpler and more fun explanation of the command line, and then move into the Linux+ Guide to Linux Certification.
Are you studying for Linux+ certification and want the latest Linux+ study guide? Then, by all means, purchase the Linux+ Guide to Linux Certification Third Edition (2011). However, if you already have the Linux+ Guide to Linux Certification Second Edition (2006), then I see little need to purchase the 3rd edition because the lack of new material hardly justifies the expense.
No matter which edition you choose, the Linux+ Guide to Linux Certification only scratches the surface of what is possible with Linux.