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<title>Online Troubleshooting Resources HOWTO
<author>Howard Mann, <tt/
<date>v0.5, 18 September 1999
<abstract>This document will direct Linux users to resources available on the Internet
that provide access to a vast amount of Linux-related information useful in troubleshooting
problems. </abstract>
<p>The traditional means of troubleshooting computer-related problems involves consulting
user's manuals, books, friends - probably enticed with goodies - and, when all the former do not
yield a solution, calling the technical support service of the vendor of the product in question.
And, we all know pleasant and reliably efficacious the latter stratagem is. Unfortunately, this is
the norm in the sphere of commercial proprietary products.
In contradistinction, Linux, and related distributions, utilities and applications software, has
largely been developed according to the <url url="" name="Open Source">
model, wherein developers have used electronic communication over the Internet - typically in the
form of publically-accessible Mailing Lists- to collaborate with their peers in the refinement of
the associated source code. Such collaboration has also traditionally involved the online
publication of user's manuals, lists of Frequently-Asked-Questions ( FAQ's ) , knowledge bases,
release notes, formal guides such as this document (HOWTO's) and tutorials. In addition, users
often assist others through the forum of Usenet and other newsgroups and the posted messages are
readily accessible in the form of searchable archives. These linux-related newsgroups are
renowned for their high level of user participation. In significant measure, Linux may be
considered a product of the Internet.
Considered together, these resources enable access to a large, ever-expanding factual database, and
my intent is to encourage and direct the reader to utilize these repositories when faced with an issue not
addressed in the documentation that is included with each distribution of Linux. Linux veterans who assist
newcomers through the forum of Usenet soon become aware of the frequency with which certain technical
questions are repeatedly posted - questions the answers to which are readily available in one or more of
the existent online repositories. So, to diminish the likelihood of being "flamed" in response to your posted
question on Usenet or irc , read further!
Armed with a browser, Linux users may rapidly become adept at troubleshooting their systems. The
key is knowing how and where to look. My objective is to guide the user - particularly the Linux
newbie - in this quest.
<sect1>Document updates
<p>The latest version of this document will always be available at <url
url="">, my website for Linux newbies.
<sect1>Copyright and License
<p>Copyright (c) 1999 , by Howard Mann.
This document is governed by the provisions of the LDP Copying License, the terms of which are
detailed here:<url url="">
<sect1>Feedback and Corrections
<p>I always welcome feedback and constructive criticism.In particular, I wish to be notified about
any errors in this document and resources deserving of mention, but not presently covered herein.
In anticipation, Thanks.
<sect>HOWTO's and mini-HOWTO's
<p>These documents are associated with the <url url="" name="Linux
Documentation Project">. There is an <url url=""
name="Index page"> that I suggest you bookmark in your browser.
These HOWTO's are written by Linux users and are periodically updated by the authors. Many authors
provide the latest version at a personal website and a hyperlink to the latter is typically provided
in the document . This version may be newer than that available at the <bf>LDP</bf> website.
The document may be published online before its inclusion into the <bf>LDP</bf> database.
Note also that other HOWTO's are available, the authors of which have not submitted them to the
<bf>LDP</bf>. It is definitely worthwhile trying to find these using an Internet search engine as I
describe in a subsequent section.
These documents are particularly useful when you decide to provide or access a new service
with your Linux system, or when you embark on a technically complex project. For example, you may
have the option of accessing the 'net with an <bf>ADSL</bf> or <bf>Cable Modem</bf> service -
excellent guides are available in the form of HOWTO's.
In addition, authors often include references and links to sites that they have found useful. You
may find the information you need at one of these hyperlinked sites rather than in the HOWTO
itself. For example, I found <url url="" name="Linux
Network Drivers"> , the primary site for information about Network Interface Card drivers , in the
<bf>Ethernet HOWTO</bf>.
<sect>Frequently-Asked-Questions ( FAQ's)
<p>A list of FAQ's is a traditional accompaniment to Linux-related applications, utilities, and the
like. An FAQ is typically provided online by the developer/s of the product in question, and
enterprising users sometimes host an "unofficial" FAQ as well. Search for the latter with an
Internet search engine.
The FAQ is the first document to peruse when troubleshooting a particular application. In addition,
FAQ's exist for Linux distributions, window managers, and the so-called desktop environments ( KDE
and Gnome ).
For Linux newbies, I provide links to three FAQ's that collectively address <it>many</it> of the
questions posted to the Usenet newsgroups :
<item>The Linux FAQ at <url url="">
<item>The XFree86 X - Window System FAQ at <url url="">
<item>The Linux Kernel mailing list FAQ at <url url="">
<sect>Online Support Sections
<p> These sections are typically found at the websites of Linux distributions, and often contain a
variety of helpful documents with information not easily encompassed within a FAQ. Look for
sections with one or more of the following titles:
<item>Installation Support
<item>Knowledge or Solutions Databases.
<item>Tips and Tricks
<item>Errata, Fixes and Updates
<item>White Papers
<item>Technical Guides
<item>Hardware Guide or Compatibility List
<item>Security Information
Some websites provide a site search engine that will facilitate your quest for a solution.
If you have a problem with a newly installed distribution, look here first as bugs and their fixes
are typically posted here. You may find a detailed guide that will help you accomplish a task such
as upgrading your kernel or the version of the XFree86 X - Window System you are using.
I recommend you spend some time at the website familiarizing yourself with what is available.
<sect>Usenet Newsgroup Archives
<p>The ability to search for and retrieve information from archived posts to the linux-related
(Usenet) newsgroups represents a powerful means of troubleshooting in Linux.
Search engines permit one to search the archives by stipulating the forum, keywords, authors,
dates, language and combinations thereof. Because the number of linux-related newsgroups is large,
the likelihood of finding useful information is high.
I would like to relate a brief anecdote to demonstrate the efficacy of this approach. The first
time I attempted to build a kernel, I was presented with this error message when I
invoked a "make" command:
make[1]: as86: Command not found
make[1]: *** [bootsect.o] Error 127
make[1]: Leaving directory `/usr/src/linux/arch/i386/boot'
make: *** [zImage] Error 2
I had no idea what <bf>as86</bf> was, but I entered it as the keyword in the <bf>SUBJECT</bf> field
of the Power Search utility at <bf></bf> ( see below) , and was presented with a large
number of posts from folks who had encountered the same problem. Respondents had provided the
reason and solution: I did not have an assembler/linker necessary to create machine code, and the
<bf>bin86</bf> package provided it. I downloaded and installed a RPM package of the latter and was
on my way. This entire process took about 10 minutes ( I do have an ADSL connection to the
'net ! ) .
There are two websites that provide access to Usenet archives using a search engine as described in
the following sections.
<sect1>Power Search at
<p>This is the pre-eminent site for all things Usenet, and the <bf>Power Search</bf> utility is at :
<url url="">. Spend some time at this site learning how to use the
search engine effectively, including an appreciation of the
<url url="" name="Search Language "> nuances. In
particular, note the value of using the <bf>wildcard</bf> symbol. You will be repaid time and again
for your efforts. I typically enter the following for a "routine" search:
LANGUAGE : English
SUBJECT : try different keywords, thinking of a subject line you would use for a post.
FORUM : *linux* or comp.os.linux.*
There is another nice interface to the <bf>Power Search</bf> utility at :
<url url="">. Customize this page to your liking ( I
like the " DejaClassic" option ), and then choose " Save Settings."
You may also be interested in using the <bf>DejaSearch utility</bf>, available at : <url
url=""> , that will print out the retrieved posts in one
HTML file for your perusal. By using this, you will not have to page back and forth in your
<sect1> (CNET Linux Help)
<p>This is a relatively new site with many of the same features as It has "basic" and "advanced"
search options. The latter does not have as many options as the <bf>Power Search </bf>feature at It has a nice one-click option whereby one may view one's own posts and associated
replies. It is found at : <url url="">
<sect>Internet Search Engines
<p>I frequently use a Search Engine to retrieve helpful or necessary information from the 'net.
These engines catalogue pages from commercial, personal and academic websites, as well as Mailing
Lists and the like.
Of course, there are a large number of available Search Engines, and I suggest you try several
before giving up on a particular quest. Research has shown that any one of them catalogues but a
small portion of existent web pages. It is worthwhile becoming very familiar with the operational details
of at least one non-directory engine to maximize the efficiency and efficacy of your search
efforts. You probably already have a favorite - I like <bf></bf>, and will discuss it in
a little more detail.
<p>This engine has several novel features that are described at :
<url url="">. In particular, the engine often returns the most
useful pages first ; in fact, I have often found that the first listed page contains the
information I need. Because it caches web pages, it is relatively fast at displaying requested
items. It has a so-called <bf>GoogleScout (TM)</bf> feature that provides additional relevant links
with each item returned.
In addition, it has a specialized Linux search engine at : <url url="">
that I use as my primary Internet search tool. It searches the database of linux-related pages at
<bf></bf> further promoting search efficiency. Try it- I am confident you will bookmark
it immediately.
<sect>Mailing List Archives
<p>As you might expect, there are a very large number of linux-related Mailing Lists that enable
developers and users to communicate and collaborate on projects. These Lists cover every
conceivable aspect of Linux, from the technical arcana of kernel development to the relatively
unfocused discussion of issues at the newbie level. Subscribers to a particular Mailing List are
generally very knowledgeable in the List's topic, and detailed and useful information is often
retrievable. The communications are publically accessible through Internet search engines and in the
form of online Mailing List Archives. You will typically see archived pages when you conduct a
search using an Internet search engine.
Not all Mailing Lists are associated with an online archive, but this is increasingly the
case. Similarly, not all archives have an associated search engine.
Initially, try locate the Mailing List Archive you are interested in by typing a keyword/s and
"mailing list archive" in an Internet search engine.
For a listing of linux-related Mailing Lists, peruse websites such as the <bf>Linux Resource
Exchange</bf> at : <url url=""> and the <bf>Linux Online
Mailing Lists</bf> at: <url url="">.
You may also find Mailing List archives at the following locations :
<item>The website of the distribution of Linux you use.
<item>The website/s of the Window Manager and/or Desktop Environment you use.
<item>The website dedicated to the application or project in question.
<item><bf>The Mail Archive </bf>at : <url url="">
<item><bf>Mailing List Archives</bf> at :
<url url="">
<item><bf>Linux Mailing List Archives</bf> at :
<url url="">
<item><bf>Tux Mailing List Archives</bf> at :
<url url="">
This is not a complete listing of archives and you may find additional sites with an Internet
search engine. But, this should certainly get you going.
<sect>Online User's Manuals
<p>Some of the major Linux distributions and Window Managers/Desktop Environments publish their
user's manual online. If the entire manual is not online, installation and configuration guides are typically
found at the relevant website . This also applies to major applications like the
<bf>Gimp</bf> ( GNU Image Manipulation Program).
So, for those users who do not have the printed manual, a wealth of installation and configuration
guidance is generally available online.
<sect>Online Unix Tutorials
<p>As Linux is a Unix-like operating system, a general familiarity with fundamental Unix concepts
such as the Unix directory hierarchy and file permissions is essential. Fortunately, there are many
Unix tutorials online that collectively cover everything a user might need to know to use Linux. I
suggest you bookmark the following as an online reference library :
<item>A large well-organized reference at :
<url url="">
<item>Unixhelp at <url url="">
<item>Unix is a Four Letter Word... at
<url url="">
<sect>Miscellaneous Resources
<p>In this section, I provide a number of links to websites that I have found useful while learning
to use Linux. This is an eclectic collection, but keep these handy.
<sect1>Release Notes and Available Documentation related to the XFree86 X - Window Server.
<p>This documentation accompanies each version of XFree86, and is available at:
<url url="">. Whenever you have trouble with your X environment, peruse the
notes applicable to your videocard/chipset. These typically provide details about the configuration
of the X - window system relative to your card, and will enumerate any "options" you have to
include in the <tt>XF86Config</tt> file that governs X.
<sect1>GNU Texinfo pages
<p>A great collection of pages is available at :
<url url="">. Included are links to pages on the
<item><bf>Bash </bf> - The Bourne-again shell
<item><bf>Configure </bf> - used when compiling programs from source code
<item><bf>G++ </bf> - the GNU C++ compiler
<item><bf>Gcc</bf> - the C compiler
<item><bf>Libc</bf> - the GNU C library
<item><bf>Make</bf> - a program for directing recompilation
Note that some of these are included in the "docs" that come with Linux distributions. In general,
these are detailed technical documents of particular interest to developers. However, if like me,
you are not a programmer, you may peruse the introductory sections of these documents to get
insight, for example, into those <tt>configure</tt>and <tt>make</tt> commands you use when
installing applications from source code.
<sect1>GNU Software and Manuals
<p>Many important programs that are frequently utilized by the Linux user are GNU utilities - for
example, the <bf>tar</bf> (archive) and <bf>gzip</bf> ( compression ) programs. Descriptions of
these programs are located at :
<url url=""> and online manuals
for many of these are found at : <url url="">.
These manuals typically provide a lot more information than is found in the corresponding
<bf>man</bf> page on your system. For example , compare the <bf>man</bf> page and online manual for
the <bf>tar</bf> utility.
<sect1>Glossary of Linux-related terms
<p>This online guide at :<url url=""> has a nice collection of
terms and definitions, sorted alphabetically. Go here if you encounter a term that you have not
seen before or do not understand.
<sect1>An online dictionary of computer and technology terms
<p>The <bf>Webopedia</bf> website at : <url url=""> consists of a large
online dictionary of computer-related terms and a search engine that provides links to documents
that discuss each item in more detail. For example, I used this site to learn the differences
between <bf>ISA</bf> and <bf>PCI</bf> buses.
<sect1>A detailed Guide to Personal Computers
<p>The Topic Index to this voluminous hardware guide at :
<url url=""> will give you a great idea of the contents of this
website. I used it quite frequently when first installing Linux and configuring the X Window
System. I learnt a lot about videocards and monitors, including the concepts of screen resolution,
color depth etc., useful when troubleshooting X - display problems.
<sect1>Gary's Encyclopedia
<p>Gary Momarison's website at <url url=""> contains a
very large number of sorted Linux-related links. You may use the "find" function in your browser to
find links in a particular category. Peruse this website to appreciate what it has to offer.
<sect>Concluding Comments
<p>If you are a Linux newbie, you may want to create a <bf>Troubleshooting</bf> folder in your
browser's bookmark list, into which you put the hyperlinks I have included in this document, as well
as those pertinent to the distribution of Linux and the Window Manager/Desktop Environment you
As you use these links , you will quickly become adept at troubleshooting online.
Cheers and happy searching !