Originally Published: Tuesday, 11 January 2000 Author: Tim Conrad
Published to: learn_articles_support/Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Getting Help with Linux

One of the things people point out as a downside to Linux is the lack of official support. While this may be true to a certain extent, I have discovered, at least in my opinion, that the support offerings for Linux often exceed those of commercial products. The great thing about most Linux support offerings is the price: free. However, it can take some footwork to find.

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I know I prefer to find out how to fix a problem by myself, so I'm going to mention web-based resources first.

Somewhere along the line, people decided to start writing HOWTO's for Linux. These documents are probably the best places to check when you're seeking information. The HOWTO's cover pretty much anything one would want to do with Linux. One of the more important HOWTO's would be the Hardware HOWTO, especially for those of you that are new to Linux. The Hardware HOWTO lists most of the hardware supported under Linux, and to some extent how well the support is. As a general rule of thumb, if the Hardware HOWTO says something isn't supported, it won't work. Watch for the date the HOWTO was written on, as they can become outdated.

If you are curious about installing Linux on a laptop, the Linux on Laptops page is the bible on this topic. It contains links to pages that conatain information about running Linux on specific laptops. I have found this site to contain excellent information on the setup and use of Linux on various laptops.

Another question that I see quite often is asking which cards are supported under XFree86, a free implementation of the X Window System, under Linux. On the XFree86 project website there is a list of cards that are supported with the various XFree servers. However, some cards are supported by other means, such as the popular Neomagic chipset for laptops, and the XFCom server.

Solutions to a problem may also be found at your local or online bookstore. Remember, Linux is UNIX-like, and virtually any book that deals with UNIX may contain useful information. These books probably won't have information about things like device drivers, however, they are a great place to learn about administrating a UNIX system, especially for those new to the *nix world. I highly recommend anything O'Reilly publishes.

Yet another invaluable resource in the quest for answers is Internet Relay Chat (IRC). It's a good place to find answers to problems from real, live people.

Any mention of IRC wouldn't be complete without a quick lesson on nettiquette; so here it is. First off, don't talk in ALL CAPS, it's considered yelling. Flooding your question, or asking the question 10 times in a row, won't render results either. If a question is asked and no one immediatly responds, give it 5-10 more minutes, and ask the question again.

If help from IRC is being attempted, there are some things that you should know about your Linux system:

  1. Which distribution, and version of that distribution? (i.e. RedHat 4.2, Debian 2.2)
  2. What kernel version? (i.e. 2.2.10, 2.0.36 (type uname -r will tell you the kernel version))
  3. Did you compile the kernel yourself? (If you don't know the answer to this, the answer is probably no. )
  4. Knowing your hardware will help with some problems (what video card you have, what network card, etc).
  5. If something is all of a sudden not working properly on your system, knowing what you have recently changed will also help.
If you are new to irc, the IRC Help page can be of some help. Most Linux systems come with an irc client.

There are also commercial support options available for Linux. If the 'official' versions of many of the major distributions are purchased, they come with installation support. This installation support only covers basic installation, and nothing else, and typically only lasts 60-90 days.

Additionally, some companies provide commercial support for Linux, regardless of distribution. Among them are Linux Support Services and LinuxCare. One of the benefits of these services is they also offer support by phone.

I hope this guide aids in the quest to find the answer to your Linux questions.

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