How do you keep your Linux skills strong?

With so many options to choose from, there's no excuse for not keeping your skills fresh.
189 readers like this
189 readers like this
How Linux became my job

No matter how experienced you are, if you don't make an effort to keep your skills sharp and pay attention to changes in the tools you use, you're going to miss out.

Whether you're a Linux beginner or a seasoned pro, it's important to take the time to regularly learn and practice. And while there are tons of great options for keeping your Linux experience fresh, your skills aren't going to magically improve themselves. You've got to do the work.

So what's your preferred method of learning? Take the poll, but let us know in the comments below, too.

Are you a book learner? Is reading documentation your thing, or perhaps websites like this one with how-tos and tutorials? If you have access to them, training and certification resources can be enormously helpful, too.

Whatever your preference, let us know why it's your favorite. And happy learning!

Tags publishes stories about creating, adopting, and sharing open source solutions. Follow us on Twitter @opensourceway.


Pretty much all of the above, but I learn the most when I am teaching others. When I wrote courses and taught them in the classroom I learned because I needed to research questions the students would bring up in class. And there were always questions I could not answer.

Now, I learn the most when writing books. I had to do an immense amount of research for my book, "The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins," which will be out this autumn. I am already deep into research for my next book and I am learning even more.

You are never too old to learn new things.

THIS! All of the above as well as teaching. I REALLY miss teaching on a daily basis, standing in front of a room full of blank stares when you see it... the almost physically visible lightbulb flash over someones head like in a cartoon. They got it! Not only is that one of the most rewarding experiences ever, but you know that you are about to have to step up your game because they are going to be coming at you hard & heavy with questions. I have never learned more, worked harder or been more rewarded in anything I have ever done than when I was teaching.

It is harder for me to keep my skills strong since I'm in management but as soon as I get home, I'm working through projects or digging into something new on my home lab. Whether I am implementing something from an article on or elsewhere on my RSS feed, working examples from a book, watching YouTube videos or just tinkering, continuous practice & learning is the only way to stay sharp. Especially when it's not your day job anymore.

In reply to by David Both

I work at a web hosting company and we usually uses a lot of online sources (and resources), but there I'm stuck on our customers. But now I'm focusing for CompTIA Linux+ (which is the same exam as LPIC), but reading sites like the had taught me a lot, and still teaches, about the GNU/Linux and Unix-like systems.
One day I intend to do as David : teach others to keep learning, refreshing and improving my knowledge and skills.

I learned most of what I knew about Linux from breaking my computer. Thankfully, I do that a little bit less these days.

You sir have hit upon the #1 way to learn. Ask "what happens if I do..... Ooops curse, then fix it. Amazing what you can learn this way.

In reply to by Ben Cotton

Whatever it takes. Since I really just use Linux for my own benefit, I don't take courses, work towards certification, or practice in a lab. To me, the most important part of learning is to have some project that will require some new skills, or taking what skills I have to a higher level. I think retention of what you learn is much better when you complete some task that needs the new information.
Something else I've learned is to make my own resources, usually web pages and/or ebooks. This is especially useful when it took me a long time to find what I needed, and even more so when what I found wasn't quite right and needed tweaking.

Working my tail off!

Having a home lab is essential.
Rent some VPN instances and do pro-bono work. Host websites and email lists for non-profits. There's nothing like being on the hook to keep the services running to keep the skills sharp.

I use all of these methods, because while reading a book is great, you only ever REALLY learn by "doing" for example. I've been using Linux since 2002 / '03 and had NEVER touched vim or nano. Ever. Because to my infantile mind...gEdit....Mousepad.....Xed.....ANYTHING was better to use because it was easier. But then I signed up for the Linux Academy, and took their LPIC course (to start toward certification and which I hope will lead to RHCSA certification.) and now?...after actually USING these apps and discovering the ease of use with which I can manipulate files....from .conf files to .sh files...I think I would have had a harder time if all IU did was read about them. It was in the labs where I had to actually open and DO things with these apps that helped to build my confidence with them. SO yeah...I think a healthy mix of all these types of methods will help to turn you into a more seasoned and well informed Linux Admin.

Just my two cents....

Really, all of the above are used, but the question is "what's your top way" and there can only be one top way. For me, I learn best by doing, so I'll read a post somewhere about something new, read a bit of online documentation to get a starting point, then bring it up in my lab to tinker and play with. At least in my lab, when it all comes crashing down around me, all that's lost is time, but I learn a valuable lesson through that crash and investigation.

I loved technologies ever since I got my first PC back in 2001. It was so exciting to learn, write and execute the program thinking that something is going to happen. Since I was bitten by technology bug and wanted to learn every technologies, it was internet that helped me a lot.

I use all the above methods, depending on what I'm doing. I have two
main motivators: user groups/conferences and itches.

I have given presentations at several conferences and local user groups.
In the process of preparing my presentation I will dig into the topic and
learn if there are newer/better ways. Often this leads to a path of discovery
and the adoption of new skills. And of course I learn a lot by attending
sessions presented by others!

In addition, I like to scratch my own itches. I wanted to learn about BackupPC
and set up a nice backup solution. Then I wanted to learn about virtual-
ization and now have a kvm solution. The next itch was to have a file-
system on redundant hardware, and kvm runs on gluster. I won't even
mention all the scratching I've done with shell scripts and Ansible.

So I'm thinking that "scratching an itch" is my real top method of improving
my Linux skills.

Not specific to learning but for any dev training I use Lynda iphone app which I can listen to while commuting to work. And when at home I use the same app to stream it on my Roku ultra and Sony 4K TV 55”. Additionally I like volunteering to help solve problems on StackOverflow even with unfamiliar topics if curious about them and want to learn it.

Funny. I don't try to keep up with fancy new stuff instead I try to learn those I haven't learned yet. Otherwise, I'd be catching a bullet in mid-air, which is impossible ie., Linux tools are constantly updated. One day we're satisfied with package maintained software, next day we have flatpak and now we have snap store (That must drive developers crazy on which to choose).
So I'm taking it slow, learn the ones I haven't even if they are too old and outdated.

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