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Looking for Linux Help When You've Lost Your Way?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the assistance-needed dept.

Education 85

ChesireKat asks: "I'm interested in knowing where people go for their Linux help/questions/needs. It seems that most IRC users will laugh at you, kick you, or just make you feel stupid because you're not quite as smart as they are ( is pretty good, they are usually willing to help). Forums are nicer about it, but most of the time, no one quite knows. Man pages always work, but it so time consuming, and sometimes after hours of searching, your still just as clueless as when you started. I'm interesting in knowing where other people find answers to the questions you just can't seem to figure out."

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Mailing lists (2, Informative)

rf0 (159958) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731772)

Most distributions have mailing lists that you can subscribe to ask questions. You will normally get a reply of a pointer to somewhere better to get help. Some lists allow you to post even if you don't join. Just asked to be CC'd



Re:Mailing lists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5742024)

Of course a lot depends on the mailing list, and the Distro of Linux as some are set up more for the non geek and others are the alpha geek only. Compare Mandrake (non-geek), and Yellow Dog (Uber geek).

The Linux Documentation Project (3, Informative)

Naerbnic (123002) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731781)

The Linux Documentation Project is one of the best sources for general Linux help. It has a list of tutorials, called HOWTO's, which explain how do to almost anything, from setting up a web server, to getting a mouse wheel to work under X windows. If you're having a problem, chances are many other people have had the same problem, and at least one of them have written a HOWTO for your particular situation. Their website is here []

Is it really so bad? (3, Informative)

Otter (3800) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731787)

It seems that most IRC users will laugh at you, kick you, or just make you feel stupid because you're not quite as smart as they are...

Is it really so bad? I'm on OPN (or whatever it's called now, freenode?) generally, and while questions frequently don't get answered, I rarely see abuse. Same for mailing lists or Usenet. Usenet is a frequently overlooked resource that has the added bonus of being easily searchable for future people with the same issue.

Frankly, the highest percentage of stupid, abusive people I see is here.

Re:Is it really so bad? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5731857)

Frankly, the highest percentage of stupid, abusive people I see is here.

That means so little coming from someone as fucking stupid as you.

Re:Is it really so bad? (1)

bklock (632927) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732505)

It may be better now, but back around 1997 - 1998 I used to hang out on a linux related irc channel and would sometimes answer peoples questions about how to set up httpd or configure the system, etc.

On at least half a dozen occasions, some newbie would ask "how do i do foo", and invariably the answer would come back from someone or other

"su to root, cd to / and do rm -rf *"

The first few times I saw this, I thought it was just a joke, and that everyone knew better than to do this but after a few minutes, the question asker would be off the channel and never heard from again.

I started warning people against this when I saw it, but usually it would be too late by the time I saw what was going on.

Re:Is it really so bad? (1)

travail_jgd (80602) | more than 11 years ago | (#5734174)

"Is it [IRC] really so bad?"

Unfortunately, yes, it's still that bad. My girlfriend needed some help with grub on Red Hat 7.3 that I couldn't answer. Together we figured out what she needed to ask, got a rough idea of what she was looking for, and then she asked on IRC.

The answers she got -- on several servers -- were laughable. The alpha geeks told her to uninstall Windows, stop using Red Hat, go back to Windows, switch to Slackware, and (my favorite) RTFM.

She eventually got the answer -- from an old friend of hers who knows Linux. IRC was worse than useless to her, and apparently to any newbie that pops in.

Re:Is it really so bad? (1)

tzanger (1575) | more than 11 years ago | (#5768489)

IRC was worse than useless to her, and apparently to any newbie that pops in.

I dunno about that -- #linuxhelp on freenode is pretty decent, as is #freeswan, #kernelnewbies, #perl and #openembedded (for ipsec, kernel-specific stuff, Perl and anything OpenZaurus, respectively). I think that by far the problem is the attitude of the people asking. I hang out in those channels semi-frequently and over and over again I see people come in and ask questions that could have been answered by practically putting the exact question into Google or pulling up the man page on the program they're asking about.

Free help is very intolerant of stupidity. Helping someone out is not a problem, but if the stupid shit won't even try to help themselves they will be mocked. I don't think I've ever had trouble with IRC if I had taken even cursory steps to narrow the problem down.

Free help is also very intolerant of people who demand that they be helped. Go buy the boxed set of RedHat or Suse and demand that the paid tech support staff there help you.

Actually that brings me to another point: If you are a newbie, go to #distroname (#redhat, #debian, #gentoo, #suse, etc.) -- they seem to be far more tolerant of cluelessness and the don't know where to start-types. Except #slackware -- if you're running Slack they expect a lot more from you (which to me is a good thing, it's not a handholding distro). Conversely, if you really need to get technical, seek out a Slackware user. a good 75% of the time they're the ones answering the really odd questions anyway.

spot on! (0, Offtopic)

Hemorrhoids (665147) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731794)

It seems that most IRC users will laugh at you, kick you, or just make you feel stupid because you're not quite as smart as they are

wow, you sure got that right! people never stop laughing at me and make me feel stupid because i'm not quite ass smart as they are

mailing lists (1)

CableModemSniper (556285) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731817)

Have never failled to save the day when I've run out of non-interactive resources. (2, Informative)

aspjunkie (265714) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731819)

I've had pretty good experience with [] . Turn on reply notification and you'll get an email as soon as someone replies to your topic. I was amazed on several occasions where someone would post an answer, or at least suggestions within a couple minutes.. works great for anything i've asked about.

*i have no affiliation with, i just find them very useful for questions when i'm at my wits end looking through man pages and a hefty googling. (1)

ChesireKat (601712) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732361)

I checked it out, thanks- it looks like that will really help :)

4 things I do. (2, Insightful)

4of12 (97621) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731820)

general Google searching.

focussed Usenet group searching via Google groups especially (eg,: Has anyone gotten oddball video card X to work?).

LDP. Howto's, mini-howto's. Often the general category has specific mention of caveats and gotchas that commonly plague people.

User manuals that came with your distro.

Bleat to a more knowledgeable local user, if they exist. Don't worry too much about imposing because sooner or later someone else will come to you asking for help. But, as with the newsgroups, it looks better to your local guru if you have a concise question and researched the problem fully, showing your wounds proving that you've already crawled over the broken glass of the TFM.

Re:4 things I do. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5732171)

"it looks better to your local guru"

And keeping the gurus happy is what it's all about, right?

Re:4 things I do. (1)

CallMeCal (580303) | more than 11 years ago | (#5733146)

Amen on Google. It really helps one do focused problem-solving.

There's no substitute for reading the LDP materials, howtos and readmes, along with building a library of good books.

The Web sites maintained by organizations supporting various pieces of software are also essential.

Google is at its strongest in troubleshooting a specific error. I just key in the error message (or selected portions) along with my distribution name and version. Almost invariably I find several mailing list posts addressing that problem and its solution.

The signal-to-noise ratio is better for some software than for others. I run majordomo and on a couple of occasions have had configuration struggles that led to error messages. When I ran Google searches on those error messages, I got dozens of hits from lists that were misconfigured and were outputting those error messages to their archives. I also found the solutions; I just had to winnow through a lot more chaff to find the wheat.

Re:4 things I do. (1)

Cpyder (57655) | more than 11 years ago | (#5734644)

Good points, but I'd try them in a different (reversed) order.. You'd be surprised how informative some Fine (that's what the F in RTFM is for, by the way) manuals are. If you don't buy boxed distros or don't download the documantation cd's, you can still browse most manuals at the website of your favourite distributions. As many have pointed out, LDP [] is a fine resource as well.

Just my 0.02 of course...

Documentation and community (2, Interesting)

innerFire (1016) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731840)

I do not trust Linux man pages or HOWTOs. I have had bad luck with them, in several Linux distributions. For correct (and correctly spelled) documentation, look at OpenBSD [] . Once you've had high-quality documentation, you won't want to go back.

What you have to do is find yourself a good community. A good community is not free; you have to help build it by making contributions of your own.

If you need help with a specific application, try the mailing list(s) dedicated to that particular application. I have had good luck on the Samba mailing lists, for example.

If it's for a business and you simply can't figure it out, just buy a support contract from Red Hat. That's what they exist to do.

Re:Documentation and community (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732569)

Except that if I want to learn how to use, say, iptables, OpenBSD documentation isn't going to help. If the same software works on both OpenBSD and Linux, chances are the documentation for it is identical anyway.

If you find Linux documentation that's misspelled (it can't be worse than what's typical for Slashdot), contact the maintainer and let them know.

A good community isn't free? In what sense?

Re:Documentation and community (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5733258)

How is this offtopic? Sometimes the way that things get modded around here is very interesting. I once read an article at about how Lowtax of somethingawful fame had hacked the perl slashcode and would every once in a while come in here with mod priveleges and just really screw things up. For those who don't know, Lowtax hates slashdot.

Re:Documentation and community (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5736029)

For correct (and correctly spelled) documentation, look at OpenBSD.

If OpenBSD's documentation is anything like FreeBSD's, I'll take Linux HOWTOs any day of the week.

I had the (mis)opportunity of learing FreeBSD earlier this year, and I was amazed at how utterly useless their documentation is.

Linux HOWTOs tend to be task-oriented (ie - to get result X, you use these series of commands), while the FreeBSD docs tend to be more like "this is command Y - here are it's flags." - which are utterly pointless because they don't tell you why you need the flags.

Re:Documentation and community (0)

Xsh-II (659557) | more than 11 years ago | (#5752187)

As a wise man once said - "Documentation is like sex, when its good, it's very very good, and when it's bad, its better than nothing". Oh, and The Open Directory Project [] can be helpful when looking for links for help.

Not zealotry, I swear. (4, Informative)

handsomepete (561396) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731841)

#gentoo on freenode
Gentoo Forums []

Not dicks. Helpful. Usually you'll get your question answered in no time flat.

Re:Not zealotry, I swear. (1)

GimmeFuel (589906) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731887)

Absolutely. The Gentoo forums and channel have the best ratio of real help to "read the fscking man page you fscking idiot" that I've seen in any Linux group. Also worth mentioning is alt.os.linux.gentoo.

Re:Not zealotry, I swear. (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732181)

That's probably because they have smarter users.
The dumb rude questions I've seem in other channels sometimes... jeez. Us helpers have no problem with people not knowing - but for christ sake don't demand and get rude, and then wonder why irc seems to be full of only people who are rude back.

Re:Not zealotry, I swear. (1)

N1KO (13435) | more than 11 years ago | (#5739666)

I disagree, i've seen some newbie questions asked in the gentoo forums, the people who answer are always polite.

I've gotten the impression that when someone asks a question in #linux on a random network its usually the debian users who answer in an elitist tone (I'm not saying all debian users are that way, maybe its just the assholes that go on irc).

Ditto. (1)

amarodeeps (541829) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732076)

I've always found the Gentoo folks to be really helpful. I wouldn't crapflood them though, the signal to noise ratio is pretty low, so let's keep it that way. But those are nice folks, very knowledgeable in general, and helpful. Of course if your problem is specific to Gentoo you might have better luck.

Re:Not zealotry, I swear. (1)

duggy_92127 (165859) | more than 11 years ago | (#5734547)

Gentoo Forums []

I was about to post exactly that. Whether or not you run Gentoo, the people who do generally know their stuff, and there is probably little that you can run into that they haven't already. Search for what you're looking for, and it's probably already been discussed and solved. If not, ask about it, and you're likely to get a bunch of helpful replies in less than an hour.

I've solved many, many a problem on those boards, and gotten many an idea on how to approach other problems. Highly recommended.


have some real irc friends.. (2, Interesting)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731849)

.. and ask from them, if they know that you're not ignorant idiot, or feel like they shouldnt yell it to you, they'll help. especially if you're trying to do something meaningful like installing linux, instead of asking where you could warez the latest windows and office.

_before_ you ask anything, USE GOOGLE! learn to look for information with google, if you got a problem chances are that 20+ people have had it before and looked for help already.

read howto's, they explained everything needed already 5 years ago so i find it hard to believe they wouldnt have enought information today for solving all common 'problems'.

the reason why people can get very pissed fast on irc is that they get very frustated when very many people come to ask simple things they could have gotten the answer with simple google search, and, often the best answer you can give them is to point them at a page you get with simple google search(person z comes to channel and asks how to set finnish characters on linux, you do a quick search and point them to finnish-howto, you get quite fast pissed off thinking that why didnt mr. z type it into google and save both his and your time).

Re:have some real irc friends.. (1)

ChesireKat (601712) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732425)

True, which like i said, that IRC does help out a lot usually. But what happens when you've googled, man page'd and checked howto's? Yeah, that that another user posted does help though I've heard good things

Where to look (2, Insightful)

wpc4 (169892) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731896)

The first place I look is There is so much information there that normally can fix whatever I have broken. As for IRC, check out a very friendly helpful network.

Re:Where to look (1)

an_mo (175299) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732371)

Is this post 2 years old? Dude, deja was bought by google and is now []

Re:Where to look (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732555)

True. However, for many oldtimers, they never fixed their bookmark for Dejanews [] which still functions.

Re:Where to look (1)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 11 years ago | (#5735934)

Honestly, who's still using the SAME computer and browser as they were 3 months ago. All the OS and browser updates after all those years and didn't manage to mangle the links?


usenet (2, Insightful)

MrResistor (120588) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731910)

comp.os.linux is a good place to start for general Linux questions. alt.linux.suse is a good if you happen to be a SuSE user. If your question is about a specific app, there's likely a group dedicated to it, like comp.protocols.smb for samba.

The Linux Documentation Project is sometimes good, But I often find the info I get there to be either out of date or too specific to a setup that isn't mine.

If I really want to know an app/language/whatever I pony up for the relevant O'Reilly book(s).

brute force (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5731916)

on most things I just play with it until I figure
it out. I must've spent nearly 3 weeks working with openldap when I first started trying to learn it a little over a year ago.

I've never gone to irc for linux help(though I'm on irc everyday). I have participated on mailing lists for several years but in my early days most of what I learned I learned the old fashioned way, brute force.

At times it was painful, and sometimes frustrating but I always figured it out. Start out small, I wouldn't reccomend attacking some big project if your a newbie.

shit I don't think it was till about 6 years after I started using linux/unix that I really dug into sendmail's configuration(I had managed sendmail systems for years but never really spent much time in the .mc or compiling it etc). Same goes for BIND.

My early days of use I couldnt' get Xfree86 workin('95-96 era) so I bought a copy of AcceleratedX. in the meantime I spent weeks/months at the console w/o X running on a dozen different VTs doing stuff. Learned sooooooooooooo much. But it takes time.

I have a strong history of using DOS so I was quite comfertable at the command line, even though DOS is nothing like linux. perhaps people without such experience fair much worse when trying to dig into linux.

I remember back in my DOS days when my HD failed, I set the system up to use a ramdrive and was able to continue using the system for basic things(even win3.1) while I waited for a replacement, of course each time I rebooted I had to reinstall everything...

if you do join a mailing list be sure to research your problem as best you can, and be as specific as possible, use an informative subject line to get best results. And don't bitch if nobody responds, try again in a week, word the question differently.

If you really want to learn linux I reccomend slackware(or perhaps gentoo though I've never tried gentoo). I ditched slackware myself when debian 2.0 came out in 1998, haven't used it since but it was a great system to learn on. I specifically chose it over redhat at the time because people said it was harder to learn, less hand holding. been using debian ever since(all my systems run woody, no sarge or sid here)

Google is your friend (1)

olrs (534447) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731950)

As in all things Ask Slashdot related, once again google is your friend. In this case more specificaly google groups: []

I've always had good luck there, most of the questions you're likely to have will have already been answered, you just have to sift the newsgroups a little.

Books! (1)

Eneff (96967) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731959)

They're often thought of as old fashioned, but O'Reilly's (and other) books are what I will turn to first.

Most of the time, I don't get good answers from the traditional help channels because if I'm asking it, it's probably not obvious.

The bigger problem, as I see it, is that intermediate users run up against limitations in the tools we use, and don't know quite how to chain the tools together just yet.

Re:Books! (1)

SN74S181 (581549) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732659)

Part of the appeal of NetBSD for me is that it more closely follows the arrangement documented in the O'Reilly manuals. In particular, X configuration (I have all eight volumes of the O'Reilly X set). I am old fashioned that way, but I have all the docs for what I want to do. I even scraped up a full BSD 4.3 Manual set on eBay awhile back.

Re:Books! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5733281)

Yes, investment in a few good books is worth it's weight in gold. Good books are expensive so really research before you start building your library. As an example: I am an admin on a small network. 2 domains, NT server 4.0 on the 5 servers and Win2k workstation on the ~300 workstations. We also have 2 Redhat 7.1 boxes running Apache. To deal with these I have 1 introductory linux book, 2 intermediate level linux books, 2 generic unix books and a big phat book on apache. 99.9% of all problems/questions that arise can usually be found answered in one of these books.

Do not underestimate the power of books, a good book can save you hours of surfing newsgroups, messageboards and man pages.

Look local (1)

photon317 (208409) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731968)

If you're into Linux, but you're not a self-contained guru, then it would behoove you to make some local connections. Attend users' groups, find people through networks of office-mates, whatever works (try local 2600 meetings even, although they're filled with losers you might stumble on some rare diamonds in the rough there). Find and befreind some local gurus - they probably won't mind you taking em out for a beer to discuss a technical problem with them.

Find a LUG. (3, Informative)

reaper20 (23396) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731972)

Find a LUG, you can learn more listening to experienced admins than from sitting in IRC all day or pouring over tons of lists. Plus its nice to know a group of people locally that can always save your ass in case you do something stupid. IRC and lists are horrible to get _detailed_ help with. You'll spend 60 minutes explaining your problem over IRC and then you'll get a half dozen opinions. Having real people troubleshoot your system and teaching how it all works is the best way to learn. Sure they'll have a half dozen opinions too but at least in person people can show you things they can't over IRC.

Our LUG has regular installfests and it's not uncommon for people to bring their machines in if they want to do something complicated. Plus LUGs are good places to network professionally, trade hardware, and meet new people.

Btw, MDLUG [] if you're in the Detroit area, stop by our table during Penguicon [] in May.

Re:Find a LUG. (1)

reaper20 (23396) | more than 11 years ago | (#5731982)

Bah, my bad ... Penguicon [] .

Most Common Sources (1)

Tolchz (19162) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732042)

Check the manpages first, they answer a lot of questions

Next check /usr/share/doc/programname or wherever your distribution stores the documentation for installed programs.

Then check the website of the program, most have at least some sort of online documentation and if you are lucky you will find a web accessible mailing list archive.

If you still have no answer try searching Usenet from Google. If you happen to run into a strange error message you should probably skip the other steps and try this one first for the quickest answer.

Then try searching the web with Google.

If you still don't have luck try the irc channel for the program you are using or distribution you are using, be sure to mention what you have learned so far when you ask your question.

Something like:
I am having a problem with foobar. When I <explain what you are doing> it does this <explain symptom> I read in the man page about feature XXX but it doesn't work in my case because of YYY. I also read about using ZZZ on the FAQ but that doesn't solve my problem either. Is there anything that I am missing ?

By the time you check man pages, program website, Usenet, and Google you can solve pretty much any problem you encounter. You probably won't have to resort to IRC. (1)

Y Ddraig Goch (596795) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732058)

I'll probably get shot for this, but if you go to their comments section and ask intellegently you'll usually get an answer. Also you can get a few laughs reading the comments.

redhat forum?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5732122)

I agree, it's hard to find info sometimes. What happens is you have a problem, and yep, sure enough a thousand other people have a problem, and that's what you find, people asking for help, but very few *good* answers. IRC is sort of limited, the answer might take several long paragraphs, and you feel like a lamer joining a channel and asking, it's mostly dismal results anyway and then you get penetration attempts as soon as you log in to one, the last thing a newb needs. For instance I just spent a few days trying to fix an install of RH 8.0, just could NOT get online with it, wouldn't see my modem except one time, tried tweaking all the files I could find, went through the wvdial man pages, and nada. Gave up. Googled for literally hours and hours over three days total on my old slow laptop. Went back to 7.2, what a waste of time should have left it alone. Same exact ancient modem worked fine on win 95a, 95b, 98, 98se, me, mac 7.0, 7.5, 8.1, Rh 7.1 and 7.2. all of those. 8.0 NO. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Bogusness. The seven series is a nice series, never had any problems with it really, but I had the 8.0 disks, and that was the second go around with them, just figured the second time I could figure it out. Nope, no luck. Now I am chicken to try 9.0, guess I'll hold out to whatever release uses the new 2.6 kernel, whenever that happens. That'll be redhat 15 or something. /rant

Anyway, are there any forums specifically for redhat? Not news lists, online forums? Redhats online manuals just tell you howto get stuck near as I can see, the fill in the blank GUI and click here click there is easy enough to figure out on your own, it's when that stuff DOESN'T work that you need help. I guess if you started with linux way back, ran the command line forever it's easier, but jumping into it semi cold can be frustrating.

Google baby!! (2, Informative)

BFedRec (257522) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732134)

I hit google, I've been on a contract for the last two years that has really let my skills fall. So I google, when I need help, or when friends need help. Tis very easy to just throw in your basic info, be it sound card model numbers and linux or modules.conf, or video drivers or whatnot, and it will almost always pull up enough info to get you going. Combine google with Tabbed browsing... just right click and open in tab the first 5-8 entries that look promising, and you've usually got an answer pretty quickly.

Do your research first (2, Insightful)

mcgroarty (633843) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732192)

Most of the users who seem to take a lot of abuse come in for quick answers without having done any of their own research.

Ask an intelligent question and include a little about what you've tried or where you've looked thus far. If you're utterly lost and don't even know where to begin, ask for pointers to things you can read, don't ask for the quick answer.

Any geek worth his DSL line respects and likes helping a body who's making a good and honest effort. But if you come in wanting others to do more work than you've already done on your own, then it's good, honest fun to toy with you a little.

As a bonus: if you take a little abuse without going all non-linear and share a laugh with folks after, you'll probably still get your help in the end. :-)

Deja, note Google... (1)

(H)elix1 (231155) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732196)

Well, OK - Google did buy [] , but I find the newsgroups to be packed with info. If I'm stumped, I'll usually find many others have asked the same question. Once in a while you might even get an answer (grin). is great for website info, but don't forget about the newsgroups - even if all you have at work is a browser!

read read read (1)

inflexion (3981) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732237)

I taught myself linux by reading everything I possibly could whether or not it related to my current project at the time. The best place to start is with all of the major HOWTOs and man pages. After that, start buying oreilley books on relevant subjects and read them cover to cover. You shouldn't look for easy answers from IRC/forums because you'll never learn anything except how to solve one specific problem that way.

IRC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5732309) #bludgeon is the best place to ask for help. Run by geeks for geeks.

IRC (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732353)

When I'm looking for technical help, I usually try (formerly As long as you aren't obnoxious, people will generally help you.

Don't ask, "can I ask a question?" Don't assume that people are obligated to help you. Don't assume that people are deliberately ignoring you if you don't get an answer - it could mean that nobody there at the moment knows, so they're all just waiting for someone who does know to give an answer. If you know what you're doing and someone treats you like a newbie, don't take it personally - they don't know you.

Re:IRC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5733066)

I must say is quite a good way to go, they generally know what they are talking about - I agree with the author on that point.

Re:IRC (1)

brad-x (566807) | more than 11 years ago | (#5739498)

Gee, you're not a troll at all!

Why do I get the feeling askslashdot is being abused in order to get people to visit an IRC network? :P

Help is a Google Away at Debian-User (2, Interesting)

dan.hunt (613949) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732385) contains a archive of lots of common problems and the fix. This is where I go, but I use Debian GNU/Linux.

I for some reason have better luck restricting my search to the mailing list of my prefered distribution. Your mileage may vary.


LUGs (2, Interesting)

jtnix (173853) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732434)

Someone already mentioned a Detroit Linux Users Group, there are hundreds throughout the US and the World. Do a search on Google with your state and locality and LUG in the search bar and you will likely come up with something. I found the one here in Maine to be very professional, enlightening and friendly with zero troll factor and some excellent monthly meeting topics and presentations (even though I have yet to hit a meeting, I've read the ace notes posted online)

Here's a starter link: Linux User Groups listing at []

Just Pretend (1)

orthogonal (588627) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732482)

Go onto a linux channel on IRC, and....

Pretend you're a girl.

After they get over their shock, you'll have half a dozen acne-face geeks knocking over their Mountain Dew, pot-bellies a-jiggling to write you your own kernel.

especially if you say that guys who live in their mothers' basements are "way cool".

Re:Just Pretend (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732511)

Pretend you're a girl.

She is a girl. Good advice, though!

Re:Just Pretend (2, Funny)

ChesireKat (601712) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732551)

PFFT, You know i'm just pretending :-[ But dont tell anyone else that... :-[


Re:Just Pretend (1)

ChesireKat (601712) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732540)

Damn, you figured me out. :-[ Just... dont tell anyone else. I'm on IRC with the nick "Miss Kat" -- what they dont know will help me ;) Oh, and living in your mother's basement kicks ass... cool and damp, perfect for computers. =)

Re:Just Pretend (1)

orthogonal (588627) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732610)

Damn, you figured me out. :-[ Just... dont tell anyone else. I'm on IRC with the nick "Miss Kat"

She talked to me!

A real girl!

And I didn't have to use Mom's credit card!

a/s/l? Can I write you a kernel? Do you like to go to Star Trek conventions? Wanna see my collection of Spider-Man comix?

Re:Just Pretend (1)

ChesireKat (601712) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732691)

Pfft, Star Trek. :O Spider Man? hrm.. you better clean up that moutain Dew you just spilled :-\

Look ma! its a _REAL_ girl!

Re:Just Pretend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5733319)

Whuta' bitch! Why is it that geek girls always suck so bad? Really, all the girls that I see hanging at the comic/anime shop near my house suck arse. The girls at the indy music store down town all kick ass though!

Re:Just Pretend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5734525)

I know a girl that's intelligent, funny, beautiful, she loves Star Trek and physics, AND she is actually my friend. I actually know her. Sometimes I don't think it can be true. I hope I wont wake up and realize it's not.

Re:Just Pretend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5732544)

Fucking STUPID SLUT Ass Whore BITCH!

Re:Just Pretend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5733135)

Pretend you're a girl.Naaa. I'd still just hack her box and steal her porn....

Re:Just Pretend (1)

thejackol (642922) | more than 11 years ago | (#5741998)

I *am* a girl, you insensitive clod!

Hours? Bah! (1)

bellings (137948) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732498)

The people who actually know how to find the answers to most Linux questions have spent literally thousands of hours looking at man pages, reading source code, searching the net for documentation, pouring through mailing lists, reading big thick books cover to cover, and lots of other tedious and boring shit that noone with a life would ever bother to do.

But the real problem is that Linux gurus are not gurus because they know how to answer questions. Linux gurus are gurus because they know how to ask questions. Answering a question is often trivial. Discovering the real question is often very hard. After spending literally thousands of hours learning how to ask "what is the proper question" most people are very short tempered when they come across someone who says "I can't bother to spend an hour reading -- just tell me the answer."

The other problem you have is that the people who can answer most Linux questions don't generally hang out on IRC. Which means, of course, that the people who do hang out on IRC are always rude little shitheads whenever anyone asks them a question because...

Actually, that's a perfect example of the sort of question that answers itself, once you've found the proper question.

Re:Hours? Bah! (1)

4of12 (97621) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732549)

The people who actually know how to find the answers to most Linux questions have spent literally thousands of hours looking at man pages

Sigh, sadly, it's true.

A long time ago I spent more hours than some felons serve behind bars, reading the fscking man pages to some 4.2BSD flavor.

man -k somestring

It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it.

Re:Hours? Bah! (1)

Loosewire (628916) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732611)

I will answer peoples questions (not specifically linux ones) but i do get angry when i tell someone how to find an answer and they say "oh just tell me how to do it" . Often reading through things i find out new things, ie reading through man shutdown to find out how to shutdown and reboot and also happend to find out how to shutdown at a specific time.

Rename Ask Slashdot (1)

BoneMarrow (577933) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732606)

I think its time 'Ask Slashdot' was renamed 'Too lazy to Ask Google'

Re:Rename Ask Slashdot (1)

Mage Powers (607708) | more than 11 years ago | (#5733068)

but this person doesn't seem to know about google!

Lots of valid commentary/explanation.... (2, Informative)

MaggieL (10193) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732671)

...on this phenomenon at How To Ask Questions The Smart Way [] by ESR and Rick Moen

My 2c (2, Informative)

Isomer (48061) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732677)

IRC's good if you can find a small channel. The larger the channel, the more people they get abusing the channel and the more harsh the rules and the more likely you are to get kicked. The trick is finding a small channel full of people that are interested in the area you are having trouble with. Also, when asking questions, state the full question in as few lines as possible. Saying "is it all right to ask a question?" just adds to the noise in a channel.

I find the local LUG lists a great place to start when asking for help. They often have very experienced people that are around for helping you. In particular, if you screw it up beyond all recognition, they're close enough that you can ask if they can come and fix the problem.

Google for your problem. Learning how to use google effectively to find answers to your problems is great time saver. Searching for "apache won't work" doesn't get you very far but "apache: can not bind to port 80" is likely to get a much better response out of google.

Look for documentation projects that try and help people out. My personal favourite is the Waikato Linux Users Group wiki [] which tries to encampus as much information about linux as it can. It's an excellent place to go and create a page asking a question and have several knowledgable people wiki'ing the answer, and then having it available for everyone else to find when *they* have the same issue.

ask Slashdot (1)

BroadbandBradley (237267) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732856)

Where else?

here's what I do: (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5732987)

I just post an Ask Slashdot asking where I can find help, then I sneak my questions into the comments by posting AC.

Works every time!

PS: Anybody know how I can set up a static host route on my usb0 connection that comes up whenever I plug in my zaurus? Thanks!

On Asking Questions (2, Informative)

Euro (40585) | more than 11 years ago | (#5732997)

Okay, some of the following might sound blatantly obvious, but I just thought it might be worthwhile to mention some things that should be kept in mind when asking things from geeks.

First of all: most of the time the trouble isn't that people aren't willing to help. Instead, the problem lies in the fact that people asking things are not asking the right questions (which is most of the time because they have been lazy and not done the basic stuff like reading the tutorials or FAQs). People do not like to act as helpdesks, but they DO generally like to help out.

It sounds obvious, but before even considering asking a question from someone, do your research first. Really! It can be a pain, it can be time-consuming, but people can tell if you haven't read up on the subject (and consequently feel like you are trying to use them as helpdesks). It also is good for the future: you might read something that is not entirely relevant for the current task at hand but is just the ticket for some future problem. Read the documentation (even if a README file is all there is, read it). Do the basic Google searches (I find pasting error messages to a Google Groups search sometimes does wonders). Read some tutorials on the matter. If you are trying to set up NFS you will want to know how the damn thing is ultimately supposed to work. In fact, do the reading even before you start to fiddle around with anything new. This might seem elementary, but I've seen SO MANY people just jumping right into configuring a new piece of software of which they do not even grasp the basic concepts and then complain because it doesn't work.

If something isn't working and, play around. Consider what might be causing the error or malfunction. Make up theories: "it doesn't compile because my libsuchandsuch is of a wrong version", "the error on startup is because the program cannot connect to the database", "it seems it cannot find the config file although it is there". When asking your questions, you might even want to present these theories so the people considering your question can see that you have actually thought about the problem.

Be specific. Know the versions and flavors of your programs, compilers, kernels and daemons (and be sure to mention the relevant ones of these when asking your question!). Ask yourself what it is you are actually doing: you are not "configuring Apache" you are "setting up an HTTP server". You are not "trying to build a firewall", you are "trying to block all TCP connections from".

Make (at least mental) notes of the things you have tried and how they have changed the symptoms. Even if it doesn't seem like much to you that an error message changes if you fiddle with a configuration option, a guru might know exactly what is going on from that simple piece of information. If you are asking your question in a real-time discussion (IRC, telephone, face-to-face etc) have these notes handy so that you can provide more information if the person you are asking from needs it. Do not dump all of it on them at once.

Of course, if you are posting to a forum or the Usenet, observe the netiquette. Do not assume that your question will be answered. Your question might generate a lot of discussion, but you might still be without an answer to your question. Do not despair. Fiddle around with the problem some more and try to find more clues as to what is going on, then post a new question with the new information.

Do not just barge into a discussion forum, a Usenet group or IRC channel (etc) and immediately fire away your question. Lurk around for a while. Participate in the discussion. Know the people on the list/group/forum/channel. People like to help their acquaintances, but someone random just asking a question is easily overlooked, especially if the forum has been around for a long time.

If you actually get an answer to your question and it solves your problem, great! But do not forget the community that gave you the answer: make further use of the notes you have accumulated and whip up a web page with a summary of your experience and post the URL to the fora you got the answer from! If you do not feel you are up to that much, at least say thank you and tell the people who gave you advice that their answers helped you.

I've personally found that no matter what the forum, following these guidelines will really get you good answers. But more importantly, I've found that if I actually spend some time in research mode I more often than not do not even have to ask the question (and I've learned a lot that way, too!).

Hm, reading what I wrote I realize that I probably haven't answered the actual question at all. But, that's how it goes. :-)

Mod parent up (0, Offtopic)

chrestomanci (558400) | more than 11 years ago | (#5736304)

That was informative. Moderators, please give him one of your mod points. Thanks.

Not to sound repetitive... (1)

Wolfger (96957) | more than 11 years ago | (#5733108)

But I think all my suggestions were already posted:

1: Find your local LUG
2: I don't care if it's tedious, RTF Man pages!
3: Google.
4: Forums like JustLinux (formerly LinuxNewbie)
5: IRC isn't all that bad. Change servers and find a decent channel filled with helpful people. (1)

sawanv (551336) | more than 11 years ago | (#5734063)

I post on and usually have my first reply within an hour. Greap first and you'll almost always come up with something. Assuming you are using Gentooo....why arent you? (;

debian-user (1)

davincile0 (168775) | more than 11 years ago | (#5734066)

Works every time. Not running Debian? Well, you should be. ;-)

Proper Googling (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 11 years ago | (#5737108)

A lot of people state that you should use google, but the problem is not in using google, but using it correctly.

Firstly... I'd recommend linux google [] for linux specific questions.

Next, what are searching for? For example, if it's a samba-related error message:
+Samba +"snippet of error message"
will usually get you along the right track. If you find a discussion thread, note the name of the thread, back out to the main discussion, and follow the thread from the beginning.

If it's a more generalized question, try searching for a faq or howto:
+Samba +smbmount +howto
FAQ's will cover most of your common problems, and if it's a widely-used package and not a really odd or specific issue, the problem is quite often in a FAQ

I'm sure there are some guides to googling around, but I can't think of any links off the top of my head (perhaps I could google it).

Also, much as I hate to say it, you can find a lot of people who are "in the know" in various language/package/etc specific sites... but some get annoyed if you ask a bunch of OT questions. For perl and related, try perlmonks [] - sometimes I've gotten away with semi-related questions as well (webserver, etc). for Linux help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5737820)

This is clearly an advertisement for a struggling IRC network. It's quite the sophomoric network. Not many things can be said about NullNet being that it's not really a network of any substance. After doing a /ctcp version of the 13 users (2 of which are bots), there are only 3 running a form of Linux. Now if these people were Linux guru's, wouldn't they all be running Linux? Also, I would like to add that most of the users are in the age group of 13 to 18 (most towards the lower end). Now is this a place for Linux help. I personally don't think so. Why not go to freenode or any other IRC network where you know you can get help? It's a disgrace. for Linux help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5741561)

yes, i agree, much unlike

Linux questions on IRC, I'd rather be crusified (1)

ProzacGod (549519) | more than 11 years ago | (#5743751)

I'm not a newbie. I've been around the linux scene for a while, no I'm not a seasoned veteran. I do have my set of 'battle scars'. But what infuriates me more than anything is when I get into an IRC channel and ask a smart question, is that everyone treats you like your dumb. I'm sorry I'm currently running 2.4.20 kernel with (hacked version of ..) linux ABI running SCO binaries and preemptive patch, I also upped my HZ in "param.h" to 1000 for that added kick.

I currently have a server in my bedroom running custom software that controlls my bedroom lights, my stereo and my main PC. .. from anywhere in the world. It's also setup with a video capture card and streams my satellite to the rest of the computers on the network! Yet they make fun of me like I'm stupid? This is incredibly infuriating.. (I'm not gloating here I'm validating my position)

Then when I get a complicated question, or a I have a set of Ideas that have no question and when I have exhausted all of my resources, I finally break down to go to IRC, and hardly ever get much from there.

I will give you the information that I have used in the past that helps me out.

if you need to change a .conf file, and need to know settings.

"man xxxx.conf" - Some people don't know that man pages contain that information, I didn't at one point and it doens't mean I'm dumb.

"Google groups" - Searching for your .conf file on google groups is very helpful! Also, goto the homepage of the software you are configuring and read the FAQ. I know this is the usual RTFM .. but my problem in the past is I would RTFM if I knew what FM to read...

If you are looking for some new software try search strings in google groups that might come across some software.. like I'm looking for some voicemail software for linux...

"Linux answering machine." "Voice modem daemon" "Fax daemon" ... etc.

I have found several packages and haven't decided on any yet :P.. but at least i have got some options now.

Just remember the information is out there, how do you think the pundants got it. And no matter how you word your question, people on IRC will be mean. Always make sure that you have the right channel too, #linuxhelp,#linuxnewbies is better on most servers than just plain #linux. I have gotten answers. I think I've given more answers than I've recieved.

And as always if you have a question and you happen to see me on IRC ... PM me I'll be glad to help :P


How to ask... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5752133)

I'm still a newbie but I've used almost a dozen distros (right now with slack9). And it always comes down to, how the hell am I going to do this, where do I begin?

Some of the places I've used is: (just searching for the error finds answers) (formally (not exactly helpful all the time, but helpful with the simple things I forget)

Man pages (eh.. yeah, sometimes... usually a last resort)

docs (first thing I usually hit, be it the one that came with the program or the developers website, but sometimes it comes down to, "i need more examples".)

IRC (I've asked once, and never again, full of people who refuse to answer or ignore you, and usually arbitrary answers, I've only got one useful resopnse. Usually a place where people think they can get their answers right away.)

Friends (helpful, but usually aren't as knowledgeable on what you're looking for).

Trial and error (eh... happens, staring at the screen, trying new things, then suddenly it works, some problems are usually simple but require a lot of annoying reading, but you sure as hell won't forget it).

Most of the time, in forums and irc, I just post what happened and ask where can I start looking. Usually, people aren't as helpful as the community thinks they are. I've gone to the forums at and they've been very helpful, plus their "MVPs" have their own sites full of howtos and a search.
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