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Review about Introduction to Linux class

I just finished a course on edX, “LFS101x Introduction to Linux” this evening. Although I have used Ubuntu for about 2 years, there are many holes to fill in to my Linux knowledge foundation, because I picked only things I needed to get my works done. They may not work best, but at least they do their jobs. I sought to patch my knowledge up to what others in the world do, so I enrolled this class. This is also the first class I took at edX seriously. Normally I go for Coursera or Udacity.

I had high expectation toward this course when Linux Foundation was going to boost up their Linux development by providing this class for free. They are people living behind the stage make all smart stuffs from tiny microcontrollers to a supercomputers running and in effective fashion.

Here is my comment when I saw Torvalds made a video inviting people to take the class.

My comment to Torvalds invitation

But my expectation quite dropped when the class started. And here goes the boring yet main point of this post.

  1. Inspire by an uninspired story. People from Linux Foundation shows large needs of kernel developers to join their force. Greg Kroah-Hartman keeps talking about how much he works to maintain Linux kernel source tree each as he was in many tech conferences. For me, it’s ok. I want to play with Linux internals before this class starting. But for others, this kind of story is too focused on themselves. I don’t find it inspiring to take this class after watching these videos. Anyway, I still thank to their efforts to put this course online for free.
  2. Course outline seems to be copied from an old Linux textbook. There are some chapters which are not relevant to be a single chapter anymore. For examples, they are graphical interfaces, printing and common applications. These are not important details in this computer age. It is better to mix them with other chapters and reorganize it. Jargon overruns in first chapters. The outline said so to have you understand how Linux works since it is powered in order as it does in real world. Isn’t it quite horrifying for a new learner starting from the complexity inside first instead of getting along with common use cases first.
  3. Text is the main medium of this course. If you are going to use Linux, you are going to read a lot of text. This might be a part of the training, but as a student from Coursera and Udacity. I considered this is not different from reading a series of blog posts about how Linux works. At least, they are aggregated in one place, not all over the Internet. They have about 5,000 kernel developers, but they pick only 18 people to speak “What are going to be taught?” in each chapter for 10 seconds each. I believe there is a bunch of people who can speak their minds talking about how great the Linux from inside is without a white board. Some companies or organizations can elaborate contents clearly and push into details effectively than it does.
  4. Most quizzes are matching correct command options. I cannot see any use of memorizing these command usages for the first time I saw. You burn it down in your head in short term memory for just a quiz, and you forget it in the next section. In real world, I always look into a command’s help or its man page before running it. For some times, I will eventually gain proficiency in using the command and will not have to look at references that often again.
  5. Try-it-yourself labs are just dumb string matching programs. They look fake. They are slow. They are not flexible. You cannot do workaround. You cannot view a command’s usage from its help option. You cannot explore current working environment. You can type only a command being asked you to do. And, an extra spacebar even gives you wrong answer. I cannot understand why these smart people cannot have someone create a cool experimenting website like Codecademy or Udacity. I also cannot understand why do they even need to host on Amazon cloud server.
  6. Lab manuals are made with Microsoft Word. File names of lab handouts are very obvious that it is made by a proprietary software. It’s not that I don’t like Microsoft, but this is a Linux class. It is better to show how awesome it is. (They renamed files already. Keep it quiet.)

But in the end, these are just my opinions. I appreciate all hard work behind that made this happening online. I hope Linux Foundation will take care these issues to improve their class.

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