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Joined: 13 Jul 2002
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Location: Huddersfield UK

PostPosted: Mon Jul 22, 2002 9:03 am    Post subject: HOWTO: How To Find Help Reply with quote

HOW-TO: How to Find Help

Many a time in this Linux forum of ours you will hear a shout of RTFM! Many Linux Gurus get RTFM rage as new users assume that they are some kind of helpline. There is a reason for this, nearly all of the Linux and Unix tools feature a lot of documentation. This is great for the user, as it means you dont have to wait for a more experienced Linux user to help you :)

This post aims to provide a selection of links to manuals of all sizes and shapes, so that the user does not have to search for them (god forbid the new Linux user having to find the manuals themselves:

The man command

How to use man

Now our first useful resource is the man command, this is used in the following way:

man <package name>

It can be executed by any Linux user at all ;) Now, man is a command that formats and shows the manual pages for a particular tool, useful huh? Now, man can be used very easily, sometimes however I have people asking me how to exit man, this is very easy, use
q <enter>

Pressing the down arrow lets you proceed onto the next page, the man pages typically list all the command line switches of the tool, as well as some interesting configuration information.

To test this command out type:

man man

Now, read on down, this is the full manual page for the man command, it should be split in nice easy to read sections. This is one of the most useful commands on Linux :)

When to use man

The time when it is ideal to use man is if you have a question such as What is foo-bar and how do I use it? or I wonder if foo-bar can do blah-de-blah. Since all the functions are listed under the man page then you can use its wealth of resources, as well as read the short description of the function. Also the man page should be used as the first resource before starting to look elsewhere.

Internet Resources

General Problems

LinuxQuestions - This is one of the largest Linux specific forums on the internet, you should NOT automatically think that because these are forums then you should post your question, you shouldnt. This forum has the search feature enabled.So, head right up to the search feature and start searching. Some tips for searching are:

  1. Use booleans, AND, OR etc.
  2. Make your search as specific as possible
  3. Search for only words over two (2) characters long
  4. Do not search for "linux" or other such generic terms

There are thousands of posts at the site, most of your problems should be covered here. If they're not then :eek:

Google - Linux - The little known Linux section of google. This site covers many areas of the Linux online world and there will be some matches for your search. Follow the same searching tips as above. (You can also resort to the standard google search if you are having no luck, make sure, however that you do include the word "linux" in the search.

Next stop, New York, well - almost, actually now the chances are that your software will be listed on freshmeat/sourceforge. Do a search here for the package name, if it is found then try clicking on the "Project Homepage" link, or the Docs link if there is one; have a thorough read of these and see if your problem is listed as a bug, if it is then there isnt much you can do about it, until the next version comes out :(

Also, if there is a a SourceForge link check that they dont have a forum such as the KICQ projects here. Have a read around here, this will most likely be where the developers help out.

Another place to go will be , or even better down the nav-bar on the left is a documentation link, have a look, have a read and see whether your problem is listed there. If it isnt then you have two options:

OcUK Linux Forum - We're happy to help if you have read the manuals and have tried to research your problem. Make sure your post includes:

  1. The version of the software
  2. Your current distro
  3. How you installed (i.e. via RPM [urgh evil!] or via .tar.gz [use the source luke!]
  4. The exact error message that was given when your program crashed/the problem occured. If you have a random crash problem, try running from the terminal (xterm, konsole, gnome-terminal) to see this error.

If we dont know the answer or you would prefer not to ask @ OcUK then try the aforementioned LQ Forums, or the forums of your chosen package.

Also, check distro-specific forums such as The Gentoo Forums. Forums such as these have extensive search features, and often have the developers/gurus of that particular distro on them :)

Another valuable resource is IRC (internet relay chat). The best IRC server for help I find is: Here there are many channels such as #gentoo and #fluxbox etc. There is also a general Linux channel @ #linux.

If you have BitchX the IRC client then use this:

$ BitchX
/nick <your nickname>
/join #<chosen channel>

Because Linux is free, there are only a limited amount of help sources, the software you install requires some work from YOU the user to get working. The many helplines that can be found for Windows dont exist for Linux and therefore you need to try to help yourself before asking frantically.

Linux requires you to put effort in to make your system work properly, I tweak and change my current Gentoo system frequently - and I know I will never have it perfect. If you want a system that works out-of-the-box and you dont want to put any effort in at all - then go back to WIndows and format every 3 months :roll: . The OpenSource community requires both developers and users to put effort it..

Enjoy your Linuxing... :)

/edit - I've written this, and read over it and it sounds like a rant, it isnt a rant, its a guide for new Linux users, a guide to show people HOW to look for their own information, so that they can try to help themselves. I've picked out what I think are the most helpful guides on the internet and elsewhere for you to use. Please dont take it as a rant. If you think there are any more useful sites on the internet/resources please PM me and I'll add them to the guide :D

Hope you find this guide interesting:

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