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How can you support

How can you support I'm often asked how "students" of the LinuxUpskillChallenge course can support it, or show their appreciation... Patreon? No, I don't need the money, and the project itself has only minimal costs for website etc.  My small team are happy to pay for this for now. Spreading the word The major way you can help is by "spreading the word" so that as many people as possible are aware of the course. It's not always the best option - but at the moment most people are unaware that it even is an option. It's also the case that the more we have signed up for each class, the more interesting, dynamic and informative the comments in the subreddit are. Send them to: Join "the team" The course material itself is a bit of a living document, needing a  constant stream of small tweaks and updates. Developing a "Part II" will take a lot of discussion and work. Managing the s
Recent posts

I wrote a "bot" in Python!

I'd always planned to write a bot to automate posting the daily lessons for - but for a long time I just didn't have the energy. However, over the last three weeks I've put the effort in and now got it "working". (See auto-luc repo in my GitHub). Will need to test and polish, but very happy to have got it to where it is.

"Succession planning" for the LinuxUpskillChallenge"

The current "Linux Upskill Challenge" course was designed as a commercial course, and was run that way from its launch eight years ago. As outlined in my recent "Health status" post here, I've now pivoted to a not-for-profit approach running on Reddit ( r/linuxupskillchallenge ). This has been pretty successful so far, but it depends on a level of care from me that's not sustainable long term. (I get monthly visits from a palliative care nurse, have a Do Not Revive notice on my refrigerator - you get the picture!) So I need some little helpers, to fill the following roles: Posting the daily lesson If the lesson hasn't been posted by me before 12:07 am UTC, then assume I'm not able to - and someone else will need to do so. The source of the lessons is in publicly available in my  Github, so anyone can do this, and it will appear at the top on the topics when viewed in "New" order. If you're a "Moderator", you can and sh

Health status

My health is not the best. Two and a half years ago I was diagnosed with myeloma after finding myself suddenly very breathless when doing strenuous exercise. The myeloma had in turn caused amyloidosis - which in its turn had severely affected my heart, causing heart failure. Not cool. Two years ago, after six months of prep chemo I had an autologous bone marrow transplant. Now, two years on, and I'm doing pretty well all considered. I'm not disabled in any way really - apart from not being able to easily walk more that about 500m! However, I don't have sufficient heart capacity to cope if I were to be hit by a bad flu or COVID-19... As you can imagine, I'm keeping pretty strictly to the lockdown procedures...

Linux Upskill Challenge

This has now been running for three months! Some background: Last year I had great plans to re-purpose my  Linux sysadmin beginners course as a paid product marketed to IT managers. The plan was for them to use this to train, but also evaluate, their staff. I still think the concept was sound - but it did require a full-on "funnel" process to get in a steady flow of new participants, and there was quite a bit of infrastructure needed to get it fully automated. However, late last year I got a bit of a "rude awakening" from a doctor regarding my health - and so I've "pivoted" to simply providing the course as a not-for-profit service. It has a website at: . ...but the course is mainly run via a "subreddit" on That might seem a bit odd, but it has some advantages: * There are already some very active related subredits (r/linuxnoobs, /r/li

CHCon 2018 slides: "'White Hat Phishing', lessons learnt"

This was a great con, really well run, and the organisers really looked after the speakers!   Had some good feedback and conversations about my talk  - and  I've now made the slides available here .  

Jumping into the Digital Ocean!

Just a week away from the next  c ourse  - and this time the servers will be hosted with Digital Ocean . Lovely simple setup and almost unbeatable prices. Performance isn't a big factor for the course, but that looks as if should also be very good. During this week I'll be cranking up a few test servers and testing my pre-course deployment scripts - it's important that everything very closely matches the course notes. Amazon ECS was great fun last time round, and worked well, but for this sort of course where servers are running for a month with minimal load it's prohibitively expensive. The course has been $49 but I've now dropped that right down the price I used in beta testing - $25!  At that price its clearly a good deal, so I've made sure that numbers are limited to 200 learners because any more would make the new Zendesk -based forums a little chaotic.   

Planning a move to the cloud

The experience of setting up dozens and dozens of VPS servers individually by hand (for the first "test run" course) was "interesting", and only served to encourage me to move in a direction which I'd always looked to do eventually - the cloud. Frankly the manual process works OK it's just that it's Not Fun and it doesn't scale very well. For my course case it's already clear that several hundred small servers will be needed, so automation is a must. In theory it's probably possible to automate the purchase and provisioning of traditional VPSs, but it's not an option with, and of course there may be underlying physical limitation to just how much they can quickly setup. My feeling is that I'll retain the current class set of server at VolumeDrive, but work to be able to add in further sets via (probably) Amazon's AWS. If provisioning is done right they should all work much the same, with some simple scripts us