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I really think a VM will open the doors to the means to different distributions at multiple times. But a real install will avail you to the experience at the hardware level along with chainloading then multiple installs can be gained. Your choice of hardware will dictate the configuration experience.
I must agree that to select a laptop would limit the configuration possibilities. You can install varied pieces or configure hardware to function differently with a Desktop than you can with a laptop.
You should look at selecting different distributions to mix and allow a overall experience which will afford benefits that are applicable to most of the GNU/Linux world. Learning the semantics of one will not afford you to the whole GNU/Linux world.
If you don't understand the hardware along with the software then you can only mimic. You need to delve into the relationship between the two in order to holistically control things.
As for certificates of any kind, to me they just show an achievement of a set term of things. I still remember from a old class "If you find something that is not right then jump into diagnosis of the task with logic and reason". I think that was from a old shop teacher back in High School. But the point is valid no matter where it originated.
Don't get me wrong here. I do believe in education and certification to justify ones achievements but certificates are not really necessary to resolve things. Sure one does spend time to understand and control said tasks but if you cannot get into the intrinsic aspects then no education or certificate can correct a problem. You need a open mind that can adapt to the situation to enable diagnosis thus understanding the problem to lead to a solution. If you don't understand something holistically then you will never get to the point of diagnosis to correct the error/problem.
I absolutely agree with the aspect of mixing software with hardware. That is essential to truly understanding a system and how it works. However if he wants to learn the basic, VM is a good solution. He can try several different distributions without needing to commit any hardware. When he is ready he can then purchase additional hardware. I just don't seen the sense in spending a few hundred dollars to try something and not know if it is the right thing for you. I suggest try it in a VM, and if you wish to pursue it then purchase hardware.
You don't need new hardware either, find an ld junk machine someone is getting rid of and use that. Colleges and Universities are always selling off old hardware cheap. There is a tech school near me that sells em by the pallet only. I can spend $100 and get 20 dead machines. Out of the 20 dead machine I can piece together probably 7 or 8 working machines and then sell the rest as parts. $100 for 7-8 dated working machines is not a bad deal.
If you want to talk about useless qualified people.... As a guy with a university qualification in computing (expandable into computer science with an additional year of study) and works with hardware and software. I'd say that a lot of qualifications out there are not worth the paper they are printed on. This far more applies to the MSCE since when you consider there are "training academes" that train people up for 3 months on how to pass the MSCE and then get a "technical job", the worth of the MSCE as a result is decremented and the ability of many of the people that go through these academes is usually worse then that of the average person on the street, in other words they actually make people worse... because they through out the quick answers they have been trained to and not always as open to investigating the real issue.
I believe Microsoft are now taking steps to creating a harder and more thorougher examination; potentially completely removing the old MSCE qualification because of these weaknesses that have crept into it. But even so, we got in one manager at one point responsible for HR and they turned to such a training academy to recruit new technicians, so far I think this has been the biggest mistake made so far. I believe we got 4 technicians, 1 didn't even last 2 weeks completely useless, knew nothing about computers and was unable to deal with anything windows related, let alone linux (what most datacenters generally deal with both... so yeah).
The second guy lasted a few months, my favorite one with him was he had to install 3 Windows servers, we have 3 pre-imaged automated discs that do most of the installation for you, all you have to do is select the partitions and afterwards configure the networking and RDP details... problem was he couldn't get RDP to look. When I came in the next morning he asked me to look at them, I asked him straight, had he enabled RDP and had he opened it within Windows Firewall. On all three machines, he had opened it on windows firewall... he hadn't enabled it tho, This guy passed the MSCE remember. The third lasted just a couple of months, can't recall much about him, the fourth actually knew about computers before he did the MSCE so he actually is still employed, I consider that an exception to the rule... Never employ people from training academes!
Anyways back to the RHCE, it is a much harder qualification and you will need a level of knowledge to pass it, that level of knowledge is going to be easier to obtain if you understand how hardware and software interact so knowing both I would say is far far preferable, in fact I think retaking the exam would cost more then building three or four cheap white boxes...
Last edited by r3sistance; 01-31-2010 at 11:00 AM.
That's one of the reasons in an earlier post I suggested a re-cycled system. You can get a machine at a cheap price from a disposal site.
At one time I would get these machines rebuild and place back into society by providing to people a machine that was usable & cheap. There's no reason to invest in a current hardware based machine to learn the ins and outs of GNU/Linux when a current or at least legacy that would meet the needs. Sure, if you are going to be compiling then a modern system would be the way but that's not the OP's goal at this time unless you wish to customize. But then you would first be concerned with how or why the hardware functions then how to stream line the kernel via customization. Just another point that one would attempt in the endeavor with a true GNU/Linux experience.