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Table of contents

  1. Course Description
  2. Administrivia
    1. Enrollment
    2. Communication
    3. Lecture
    4. Lab Assignments
    5. Live Labs
    6. Grading
  3. FAQ
    1. Will the DeCal be offered next semester?
    2. I don’t want units / wasn’t accepted / am not a student. Can I audit this course?
    3. I’m stuck on a lab/concept! Where can I find help?
    4. I have another question!
  4. After this Course

Course Description

This course covers the basics of setting up and administering a production-quality Linux server environment. By the end of this course, we expect that you will…

  • be comfortable using GNU/Linux
  • understand how different parts of the OS work together, e.g. init, processes, daemons, filesystems, etc.
  • understand basic networking on Linux
  • have a good sense about maintaining system security
  • understand system administration essentials
  • get a practical taste of what sysadmins do in industry.

While we expect many students will have a CS background, the only real prerequisite is a desire to learn about new and unfamiliar technologies, which is a critical skill for sysadmins. This course is designed to introduce new users to Linux, as well as give more experienced users a taste of what Linux is capable of!



This is a 2 unit DeCal. Since it is a DeCal, the course is P/NP. You must complete Lab 0 to apply. If you are selected for the course, we will send you a course enrollment code.


Official course communications will primarily be sent via email (through Ed announcements), and mirrored on the front page of the course website.

There are several ways you can get in contact with course facilitators:

  1. Make a post on Ed. (best for conceptual/debugging/content help)
  2. Send a message to #decal-general (or as a private message to a facilitator) either on Slack or Discord. (best for realtime communications)
  3. Email (best for prospective students and matters that need to go on official record)


Lectures for this course are synchronous (see the weekly schedule on the home page for the time and location). We will do our best to provide recordings at the beginning of each week as well. There will be 10 total required lectures for each track, as well as one optional guest lecture.

A short participation assignment (vitamin) will be released every week with some questions to check your understanding on lecture and reading. We require 5 out of 10 of the vitamins to be completed, and if you compete all 10, we will grant you 1 lab drop.

Lab Assignments

The primary assignment in this course will be weekly lab work. Labs are designed to be be significantly hands-on. You will be working on real systems, configuring and fixing things, setting up services, and so on.

Each lecture corresponds with a lab and will be releasedon Sundays.

Each lab will be due by the Saturday, 11:59pm PST after the lab section unless otherwise stated.

You must complete 10 labs to receive credit for taking the course. The late due date for labs is 2 weeks after the original due date. You may submit up to 2 labs late throughout the semester without penalty.

If you need to request an excused lab extension or drop, please fill out this form. Doing so will not affect your two unexcused late labs.

You are highly encouraged to look over the lab, and try to start it, before coming to live lab sections each week. This will allow you to better utilize the help of the facilitators.

Live Labs

During lab sections, facilitators will be able to give additional information, and hold office hours to answer any questions that may arise. Lab sections will be held in the OCF lab (171 MLK, click here for directions).


The following are required to receive credit for the course:

  • 10 completed lab assignments
    • Lab assignments are graded on completion, not correctness. Blank or otherwise extremely low-effort submissions (i.e. no visible attempt at answering the questions asked) will be considered incomplete.
  • At least 5 completed participation assignments (vitamins)
    • If you complete all 10 of the vitamins, we will grant you 1 lab drop.


Will the DeCal be offered next semester?

Most likely. We are aiming to offer the decal every semester! You can check announcements or reach out to the decal committee over discord/slack.

I don’t want units / wasn’t accepted / am not a student. Can I audit this course?

We are working hard to get all of our materials online this semester for everyone to access! Feel free to view our lectures or complete any of the labs on your own. (You will need your own Linux VM though- you can install one locally or get one from a provider such as DigitalOcean.)

I’m stuck on a lab/concept! Where can I find help?

The best way to get support with course content is to ask during scheduled lab times. If you need help at another time, feel free to ask on Ed, on our Slack channel at #decal-general, or on our Discord channel. Logistics questions are best suited for email (

I have another question!

Email us at

After this Course

There’s no substitute for real-world experience. If you’d like to get experience in a low-risk but real-world setting, consider joining the OCF as a volunteer staff member. There, you’ll be able to put the things you learn in this course to use, and help other students while you’re at it. Best of all- there’s no application process! Just drop by and say hi :)

Weekly staff meetings are held Wednesdays at 8pm at the OCF lab.