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Welcome to Beginner Boost!#

Welcome to the annual SKILSTAK Beginner Boost!

Since 2020, our community has come together every year to do a series of extremely casual live streams and videos to help beginners get started with Linux with an emphasis on command-line and terminal user interface skills (and land lucrative jobs that requires or benefits from them). As masters and padwans, we begin on Star Wars day, May the 4th at 11:11:11 but anyone can follow along from previous years or join in the middle and catch up by watching videos and asking questions in our Discord.

What is the format of the video sessions?#

Each week we do one 2-3 hour session with occasional breaks ask informal questions and rest a bit. Each week a YouTube video is posted so it can be paused, sped up, and followed. Sometimes the community will add chapters as well (feel free to volunteer).

The flow of the video content is just Rob doing stuff and talking about it along the way, occasionally taking live questions. Chat is never included in the videos but can be followed by those participating live. When following YouTube videos those learning can still ask questions in the Discord where the community can help and Rob can occasionally follow up.

When are they?#

Check for times. Even though they are live on Twitch every week (usually at the same time) anyone can follow along through the YouTube videos and Discord as well. People from all around the globe regularly participate (and we thank you).

What is needed to participate?#

Boosts are always free (although donations, subs, and tips are appreciated and motivating). You will need a secure Internet connection, a capable computer with minimal admin permissions and skills for installing stuff into that computer. (Windows and Mac administration is not covered by the Boost.) Here are the specs for your main computer:

  • Win/Mac/Linux
  • 4 Core (CPU)
  • 8 GB Memory (RAM)
  • 100 GB Free HD

This computer will be a reliable place from which to participate and onto which you will install a minimal Linux virtual machine.

Beginning in 2024 you will also need a minimal additional computer on which to install Linux "on metal" (a real machine in addition to your virtual one).

Why every year?#

We do the Boost every year mostly because technology is advancing at an exponential pace. There is something substantially new every single year. A key skill as a technologist is being able to distinguish the trends from the long-term changes and invest our previous learning time on what matters. Working in tech is not unlike betting on stocks, you pick the right tech to master at the right time and you can win big, or you can quickly become irrelevant and get "down sized." Therefore, having a Boost every year allows the community to contribute their observations about what is current and—most importantly—relevant.

The Surfer Analogy

Surfing requires a well-developed ability to see the ocean's minor undulations in the distance and predicting which will crest at the optimal time. As the wave takes more form, a skilled surfer will know when to start paddling in order to match the speed of the wave. If they take too long they won't be moving fast enough to catch it, too fast and they might overshoot it. When the wave crests the surfer can then stand on the board and ride it to glory before hopping off and paddling back out to sea to watch for the next one.

Such is the life of a good technologist. Paddling equates to learning the technology as it forms and producing proof you have mastered it. Standing up on the board is like landing a lucritive tech job having prepared in advance and being one of only a few who can demonstrate mastery. Surfers wipe out, miss waves, or, on occasion, have sharks take bites out of them. Surfing is inherently risky and demands constant focus and fitness. Those who opt for tech careers commit to a similar lifestyle with its constant learning demands and very real risks. Tech jobs are not for everyone, but for many the continual challenge is exactly what they crave.

Boost is not a course#

The Beginner Boost is not a course. There is no syllabus, no certificate, no credential, no proof you did anything except your own work, notes, and knowledge. There's barely a schedule and and outline and we change that organically as we go through it.

Start thinking like a hacker

Most people need to get the old, broken ideas about learning out of their heads and start learning and thinking like a "hacker." People who require the on-a-plate, tell-me-what-to-do form of education generally do very poorly in tech careers. We'll talk more about that during the Boost itself when we discuss the nature of true learning.

What will we learn?#

Because the Boost is a live, crowd-sourced, learning event, the content is always very organic and changes based on what makes sense as we encounter it. Each year is different. (See the Overview for that specific year.)

How-to (recipe) format#

Content is organized into questions and answers. This provided better searchability, review, and is consistent with popular "recipe" book organization used by O'Reilly and others over the years. Taking notes in this fashion is also more flexible because each question and answer can be reorganized as the learner finds most sensible later.

This is also the basis of learning like a hacker, or a magician for that matter. Each "trick" (or task) is captured with its steps. These tricks can then be combined in different ways. In a very real sense, learning this way is much like writing code for your own brain, each task is a subroutine.

The Boost learning model, therefore, is designed to help you program your own brain to be able to do things much like an AI or software application. In fact, the only difference is that in order to write the code into your brain you have to repeat the steps of any task over and over to create those neural pathways, which is exactly what modern AI training does.

Targeted careers#

When deciding what to include we like to keep a list of typical job titles you might see out there that either require or strongly benefit from the skills, knowledge, and abilities covered by the Boost—Security Analyst (the fastest growing tech career) being chief among them.

  • Security Analyst (Hacker)
  • Site Reliability Engineer (SRE)
  • Cloud Native Engineer
  • Machine Learning Engineer
  • Systems Engineer
  • Platform Engineer
  • Infrastructure Engineer
  • DevOps Engineer
  • Software Developer
  • Computer Scientist
  • Computer Engineer
  • Robotics Engineer
  • Rocket Scientist
  • Physicist
  • Astronomer
  • Any other career involving science and technology

Check out the Bureau of Labor and Statistics technology careers

The US BLS updates an annual collection of statistics related to career growth, demand, and pay. It's definitely worth checking out.

Take particular note of the Job Outlook indicating how fast the demand for each career is growing. For example, demand for Information Security Analysts (hackers) is growing by 35%, one of the fastest growing professions of all outpacing the next fastest growing tech career by 10% (Software Developers, 25%)! Beginner Boost skills are absolutely essential for any career in the Information Security industry and will give any Software Developer a solid advantage over all the rest.

Learn to be a Linux user first (not admin)#

Most of the resources about Linux available on the Internet, free and paid, all suffer from the same frustrating flaw: they cover too much assuming the person learning Linux wants to be able to administer a Linux system rather than just benefit from using it.

The Boost content is constantly being simplified and revised with one specific question in mind: Does a Linux user need to learn this? The result is simplified content that doesn't go into unnecessary rabbit holes. For example, a machine learning engineer or student using an assigned Linux user account never needs to understand how to create, modify, and delete users and groups on the system. Instead, learning how to co-exist safely with other users on a multi-user system is a more valuable use of time for an absolute beginner.

Linux learning never ends#

One of the best (and some would say worst) things about Linux is that no one ever learns it all. There is always some tip or tweak or new technique. Learning to use Linux is just the first step. Most of the careers listed above will require further learning skills that build on your new Linux user skills. This is why during the Boost you not only learn the basics of the Linux terminal command line but are also encouraged to learn to organize and design your own autodidactic learning plans. This specific skill is more important than all the others—especially for those seeking careers as knowledge workers of any kind.

How do we learn this in the Boost? By example. When we need to do a bit of research and learning we do it together using the best methods and tools available to any knowledge worker. The Linux terminal command line is objectively the fastest human-computer interface possible for knowledge work. As you master just-in-time learning (or learning at the speed of knowledge workers) then during and after the Boost you can take better control of your own learning plan tailored to your specific needs and goals.

Copyright © 2013-2023 Robert S. Muhlestein Content released under the Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND), code released under the Apache 2.0.

Contributors and project participants implicitly accept the Developer Certificate of Authenticity (DCO) giving over all intellectual property rights to the copyright owner and asserting that they have legal permission to do so.

"SKILSTAK", "SKILSTAK Beginner Boost", "SKILSTAK Boost", “Beginner Boost” and “Boost” are legal trademarks of Robert S. Muhlestein but can be used freely to refer to the this project without limitation. To avoid potential developer confusion, intentionally using these trademarks to refer to other projects—free or proprietary—is prohibited.

The reason for “no derivatives” CC requirement is to preserve the consistency of opinions throughout the content since attribution is required. Without it, forks with changed opinions and resource listings could be purposefully or accidentally taken as the opinions of the original author. This is simply too dangerous to allow. The “no derivatives” clause protects against the inevitable “consensus” problem that plagues community-created content. That said, please reach out by email if you have questions about contributing and collaborating.

Last update: 2023-07-22