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Motorcycle Diaries of a Linux Enthusiast

Some while ago I decided the time had come to leave my job as a Linux sysadmin and become self employed, taking on fixed term contracts with a variety of companies in the UK. Although I’d been a Linux sysadmin for the last five years or so (Windows sysadmin before that) I have no formal certifications to prove my competence but being certified would help me gain contracts. Checking out certification routes, and attendant costs showed that it would be best value to do the certification in India, and I’d get to visit India at the same time, something I’d long wanted to do. My son had done ten weeks voluntary work in India earlier in the year and came home enthusing about the country.

After checking around on the web I found IPSR who seemed to offer the best value and had won many awards from Red Hat. They were extremely helpful following my initial enquiry and helped me choose the best package and options for me. The package I chose included airport transfers, hotel, taxi between the hotel and the training centre, all lunches, training, training materials and exam fees plus an overnight trip on a houseboat in the Kerala backwaters and a two day chauffeur driven trip to Munnar in the Ghat mountains. I then planned to stay on for a further eleven days and do some motorcycle touring.

The training was excellent. It was a small class of just four, myself, two Saudis and a Kenyan. The Instructor, Mohsin, was very knowledgeable and had a way of explaining things so that they stuck in my brain and was happy to go over things a second time if we weren’t sure. He also encouraged us to help each other which is good as explaining something helps embed it in yourself.

Conversely, if a second person explains something in a slightly different way it can suddenly make sense. There was plenty of opportunity for putting theory into practice. Each class member had a desktop with a virtual machine configured on it which Mohsin could reconfigure to allow us to practice the concepts he had been teaching. Later on he configured many many faults on the virtual machines and we had to troubleshoot the faults and correct them. I have to say that some of the faults he set up were a little, shall we say, underhand and sneaky?!! Doing that did make us think ‘outside the box’ though, which was a good thing.

The Sunday before the exam we were allowed into the training centre to use the facilities to practice anything we were unsure of. Although I could have stayed longer I only went for just under two hours as I felt I’d mastered my weak points by then.

The exams themselves (I took two on the same day: RHCSA and RHCE) weren’t too bad. As they’re practical exams you have a pretty good idea of how you’ve done. If the question asks you to configure specific network settings and you check the settings and see that they’re what was asked for or you’re asked to set up a web server and you can access test web pages, you can be reasonably confident that you’ve done OK. Then it was just waiting. I got the result of my RHCSA exam that evening and found I’d passed.

The following morning I was collected from the hotel by my driver Baiju and taken to the Houseboat. Kerala houseboats are tea barges converted to take passengers and include air conditioned bedrooms. They have a two man crew: a captain and a cook. It was wonderful to sit on the open sided cabin and cruise gently through the backwaters. The food served was excellent and I really enjoyed every meal.

The only downside was that I didn’t have internet access to check on the result of my RHCE exam.

The following day we went for a short cruise whilst I had breakfast and during the cruise IPSR texted me to let me know that I’d also passed the RHCE exam. To say I was happy would be an understatement! Once we had docked I was collected by Baiju and we made the four hour journey to Munnar high in the Ghat mountains. On the first evening in Munnar I visited Kathakali and Kalaripayattu performances.

Kathakali is a highly stylized classical Kerelan dance-drama where the characters have elaborate and colourful make-up, fancy costumes and a range of stylised gestures backed by music and percussion. Kalaripayattu is a traditional Keralan martial art and is a very acrobatic and therefore spectacular to watch.

On the second day in Munnar we toured around the district visiting a tea museum, where I saw the tea production process, and then visited Mattupetty Dam and Echo Point, a place where the bay on the opposite shore of the lake produced by the dam causes echoes of loud noises. Echo point was a bit touristy, but it was interesting to see nevertheless.

Kichu from IPSR had arranged a motorcycle rental for me and on my return to Kochi took me to collect it. The following day I set out to visit the small village in Tamil Nadu where my son had done his voluntary work. The village was just over 300 Km / 180 miles from Kochi and I split the journey there by stopping overnight at Palakkad, visiting the famous fort whilst there.

The nearest large town to the village my son worked in is Sathyamangalam and I stayed there for two nights, meeting up with one of my son’s local friends, Gungadahr, the morning after I arrived. He acted as my guide all day, showing me the places he and my son had been whilst there before taking me back to his home where his mother had prepared a meal for us. A truly memorable day! For added interest I stayed a couple of nights in Thrissur on my way back to Kochi and explored the town whilst there.

In all I’ve been in India for a month and have enjoyed my stay here. IPSR have been wonderful throughout. Their friendly and helpful staff have not only got me through my RHCSA and RHCE exams but have also gone out of their way to help me with the ‘holiday’ part of my stay. If you’re thinking of undertaking Red Hat or Cisco training in India you would do well to come to IPSR.

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Chris Handy from the United Kingdom who visited IPSR solutions to undergo RHCE training and certification sharing experiences.

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