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tnishiok
Flight Engineer
Flight Engineer
  • 1,447 Views

Why is the ISO image necessary for the remote exam in Red Hat?

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Hi,

I am a newcomer to RHLS who recently passed the RHCSAv9 remote exam using an ‘older PC’. Like other newcomers, the Exam ISO did not boot on my new PC, which has an AMD Radeon 680M iGPU. As a workaround, I used an old Intel NUC7i7DNHE (8th GEN Intel CPU + iGPU) to take the remote exam. BTW RHEL9 can boot up on my Radeon 680M system with the graphical support. So I used the Intel NUC merely for taking the exam.

Now, I'm curious about the reasons behind using an ISO image that depends on hardware. Prior to the RH exam, I took the Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) exam hosted by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) as part of the Linux Foundation. Their exams are also performance-based and only provided as home-based remote exams.

However their system is entirely Web-based, allowing you to take the exam on your own operating system (Win/Mac/Ubuntu) as long as it has a web browser and Internet connection. Theoritically their exam system would work on any modern OS running on any hardware (at least x86_64 and aarch64). In fact, I took the CKA exam on my ARM M2-based MacBook. Therefore, I'm interested in understanding the advantages of using the Exam ISO.

Any your insights are appreciated.

CKA Exam: System Requirements

Regards,
Toshi

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Fran_Garcia
Starfighter Starfighter
Starfighter
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While I don't have the details, I understand the rationale at the time was:

- Preserving exam integrity with the same assurance as if the exam was done in-person (which was the "normal state of affairs pre-covid"). Also match the exam experience that people had when taking solo Kiosk-mode exams. (Kiosk-mode exams are exams that can be taken on-demand in designated testing facilities). Exam integrity includes verifying exam's taker with a valid Goverment ID, as well as ensuring no prohibited actions occur during the exam (eg cheating).

- As such, the home exam-taking process inherited many of the requirements and development process of the Kiosk mode: only a few certified laptop models where in use, external webcams, no extra USB devices, room verification with a proctor, etc. This process was adapted/scaled to be done from home in a variety on hardware, not necesarily certified by Red Hat.

 

Other exams providers make you install software in your computer to perform that integrity assessment, and that was not the path chosen by Red Hat. I don't know where the future heads, but by now I believe that is due that the exam ISO operating system is refreshed for newer hardware - it was reasonable a couple of years ago, but it's starting to show its age.

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Fran_Garcia
Starfighter Starfighter
Starfighter
  • 1,430 Views

While I don't have the details, I understand the rationale at the time was:

- Preserving exam integrity with the same assurance as if the exam was done in-person (which was the "normal state of affairs pre-covid"). Also match the exam experience that people had when taking solo Kiosk-mode exams. (Kiosk-mode exams are exams that can be taken on-demand in designated testing facilities). Exam integrity includes verifying exam's taker with a valid Goverment ID, as well as ensuring no prohibited actions occur during the exam (eg cheating).

- As such, the home exam-taking process inherited many of the requirements and development process of the Kiosk mode: only a few certified laptop models where in use, external webcams, no extra USB devices, room verification with a proctor, etc. This process was adapted/scaled to be done from home in a variety on hardware, not necesarily certified by Red Hat.

 

Other exams providers make you install software in your computer to perform that integrity assessment, and that was not the path chosen by Red Hat. I don't know where the future heads, but by now I believe that is due that the exam ISO operating system is refreshed for newer hardware - it was reasonable a couple of years ago, but it's starting to show its age.

tnishiok
Flight Engineer
Flight Engineer
  • 1,421 Views

Thank you, Fran. Your comments brought to light a significant drawback of web-based exam systems. These systems systematically collect the examinee's system information as an anti-cheating measure. For instance, they ensure that only one active monitor is present, require you to agree to share your desktop screen (which is occupied by the browser window in fullscreen mode during the exam), and monitor running processes to trigger an alert if any irrelevant application is activated during the examination. I don't recall their system requesting elevated privilege access, but it undoubtedly monitors your system.

So, if you're highly sensitive to security and unwilling to disclose any system information to others, using a Live USB might be a safer option.

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tnishiok
Flight Engineer
Flight Engineer
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For those encountering difficulties booting the Live Exam ISO image:

Regrettably, the current workaround seems to involve preparing an older PC to take the remote exam if the Live image fails to boot. While it might be inconvenient to purchase an older PC—especially if RHEL9 boots up perfectly on your current system like it does on mine—it appears to be the most effective solution at present.

You may naturally be curious about the system requirements for this 'older PC'. Although I don't work for Red Hat, I'd venture to guess that anything up to an Intel 10th Gen CPU + iGPU should function adequately. The root of the problem lies in the lack of GPU support in the older Linux Kernel-5.8.15, which is bundled in the Exam ISO based on Fedora 33. This kernel version was released in October 2020, the same year Intel launched its 11th Gen CPU, Tiger Lake. While Tiger Lake might work, it's safer to use a slightly older model. I can personally confirm that the NUC with an 8th Gen CPU + iGPU works.

One crucial point to note is that the Live image might still fail to boot even if the standard Fedora 33 Workstation boots in graphical mode on your system. The standard Fedora image has a software rendering mode using LLVMpipe, which can display the GUI even if the Kernel lacks the necessary GPU driver. I suspect the Live Exam ISO either lacks this software renderer or it has been deliberately disabled.

I hope this information proves helpful to some of you.

Regards,
Toshi

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