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An Interview with Chuck Mead

Chuck Mead, the new president of Linux Professional Institute (LPI) was kind enough to spend time with us during Linux World Expo in San Francisco on August 27, 2001. Chuck is a leader in the Linux Community and a veteran in IT circles. He provided candid insights into the current status and future of Linux certification.
CM = Chuck Mead
LC = LinuxCertified

LC: Let me first start with congratulating you on your appointment as the president of LPI. When we talked to Dan York about one year ago, LPI was finishing up formation of Level 1 exams and starting on Level 2 exams. Can you comment on progress made during last year, and current state of affairs.

CM: Thanks! During the last year LPI has made tremendous strides. Recently we announced that our beta exam for Level 2 will be started in September. I'd like to send out some big time kudos to our Director of Exam Development, Kara Pritchard, and to our Psychometrician, Alan Mead (no relation by the way... though we are good friends). They've done a fantastic job planning and executing the development of Level 2 and they deserve to be congratulated! I'd also like to say a big thank you to all the volunteers from around the world who helped with Level 2, we really appreciate their hard work and we couldn't have done it without them!

It may seem like we bit off more than we could chew, but at the same time we've been finishing up Level 2 we've started updating Level 1 and we should be able to finish that before the end of the year as well. Our plans for Level 1 may have been a bit ambitious (grin) especially since we'd hoped to be finished by now but the work continues and now that Level 2 is in the can the Level 1 update should accelerate a bit. I need to send a big time thank you to Tom Peters for his work leading the Level 1 update. That's a role I had planned to take myself but Dan's leaving put me into a different pair of shoes! Tom stepped up and has done a marvelous job. Hey... since the Level 1 update is still ongoing let me give it a plug... anybody wanting to help out should contact I promise he's got work for anybody that wants to volunteer! :-) See the URL: for more information about what's happening.

LC: What is your current estimate of number of folks attempting LPI exams every month? Is LPI Level 1 gaining momentum?
CM: I am glad you asked that. During the middle of last spring I was concerned that demand might be leveling off but it wasn't so! Looking back at the last 3 months it's clear that demand for LPI's tests is increasing. Last month we delivered almost 700 exams, globally, and this month we're on track to exceed that mark by quite a bit. My goal for us is to be over a thousand a month in early 2002 and I think we're on track for that.

LC: Tell us more about LPI Level 2 exams. Who is the target for these exams?
CM: Okay... as it says on our web site at, the target for Level 2 must be able to do the following tasks:

  • Administers a small to medium-sized site: can plan, implement, maintain, keep consistent, secure, and troubleshoot a small mixed (MS, Linux) network.
  • LAN server (samba)
  • Internet Gateway (firewall, proxy, mail, news)
  • Internet Server (webserver, simple CGI)
  • Supervises 0 to some assistants
  • Advises management on automation and purchases

Don't take this as the "end all be all" for the target specification though. The serious student will want to make an examination of our Level 2 objectives: I know that page says it's a draft but the only thing that might change now is the numbering, the content is pretty well set, at this point.

LC: Will LPI offer specialist certifications in future, e.g. Linux security etc.?
CM:That's been our plan from the beginning... our intent for Level 3 has always been that it would consist of areas of specialization and I think what we've done and what we're planning, mirrors the career path of a typical Linux admin. Start out green and junior (LPIC1) while you learn from the older heads, advance into the middle of your career (LPIC2) as your skills mature and then later, whether you like it or not you become a bit of a gray beard (LPIC3) with specialized skills. We have some possible examples of what LPIC 3 may be like listed at so I'm not going to quote them, they're only examples but it's a safe bet that LPIC 3 will be a pair of very specialized exams.

LC: CompTIA is going to start offering Linux+ exam. Is this going to overlap with LPI level 1 exam?
CM: Now *that's* an interesting question! :-) I'm happy to answer it... We worked with Comptia for a long time to ensure that Linux+ did not overlap substantively with LPIC1 and I'm quite pleased to report that that's the way that it turned out. What we have in Linux+ is an excellent "beginning Linux" test and it also tracks perfectly as a feeder into LPIC1.

To give you a clearer picture of how long that effort took and how serious we were about making sure that Linux+ benefited the community, you have to understand that board members of LPI were having discussions with Comptia (and internal wrestling matches between LPI board members :-) all the way back in the spring and summer of 1999 so it's been a long haul for us. But... now that it's done I couldn't be happier about the way it's turned out!

LC: Is LPI continuing to get appropriate level of support from community and sponsors?
CM I think so. Economic reality has slowed financial sponsorships down to a trickle, but our supporters are still there for us and they've not wavered. We've done really well internationally and are continuing to grow around the world. We have a very active LPI organization in Japan (LPI Japan, Inc.) which is headed up by Gen Narui (Gen is also on the LPI, Inc. board) and it looks like we're about to have the same thing happening in China and Korea (ROK). There has been so much interest that it's really difficult to keep track of all the developments in real time. We have an international mailing list headed up by Greg Wright of Australia and he's been doing a great job promoting LPI and assisting all the people trying to build LPI organizations internationally. One place I'd like to see us do a better job of getting our message out is in Europe. At one time we seemed to have quite a bit of momentum there but over the last year or so things have slowed a bit. Any one from Europe interested in discussing how to promote LPI and/or how to develop an organization similar to LPI Japan should contact me at or Greg Wright at

One of the most difficult things for us is the regular care and feeding of our communication lines. We know LPI isn't always the top priority in people's days so we've been trying to come up with new ways to keep our community updated on our progress. We have a newsletter which we send out monthly (those wanting to subscribe should go here:

and subscribe to the lpi-announce mailing list) and we've recently set up a couple of sub-domains to try and help us do a better job of staying in touch... one of them is for our Alumni (LPIC1 or above; at and the other is of more general interest (

LC: Any advise for our students preparing for LPI exams?
CM: Uhm... yeah... study hard, because if you're just starting out with Linux these tests are very difficult. Oh... and they're not easy for the experienced hand either...

Oh... also... one of my pet peeves... there are people out there who take tests really well and might try to challenge our tests after doing some reading but never having any hands on experience...

Please... LPI is a non-profit for a reason... we didn't want to have to make money that badly... don't do it! A case in point was an email exchange I read yesterday where a person preparing to take our exams made it clear by their questions that they had never even installed Linux, much less tried to administer it. The respondent made it clear what they thought about that and so will I... it's silly. If you're a newbie and you want to take our tests, at least run Linux on a home system so you can get your hands on it! If you don't want to buy a boxed set you can download just about every version available from here:

LC: That is a great advise for our students! We thank you for your time and wish you and LPI best of future.
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