Following is a list of steps that can help you solve a problem without asking someone else for help. Depending on your understanding of and experience with the hardware and software involved, these steps may lead to a solution.
Most Linux distributions come with extensive documentation. Read the documentation on the specific hardware or software you are having a problem with. If it is a GNU product, use info; otherwise, use man to find local information. For more information refer to "Getting the Facts: Where to Find Documentation" on page 29.
When the problem involves some type of error or other message, use a search engine, such as Google (www.google.com) or Google Groups (groups.google.com), to look up the message on the Internet. If the message is long, pick a unique part of the message to search for; 10 to 20 characters should be enough. Enclose the search string within double quotation marks.
Check whether the Linux Documentation Project (www.tldp.org) has a HOWTO or mini-HOWTO on the subject in question. Search on keywords that relate directly to the product and your problem. Read the FAQs.
See Table B-1 for other sources of documentation.
Table B-1. Documentation
About the site
Creates standards for interoperability between open source desktop environments.
GNOME home page.
GNU manual on info.
Internet FAQ Archives
Searchable FAQ archives.
Instructions for using the info utility.
Red Hat Documentation and Support
This site has a search engine that looks through the Red Hat Knowledgebase to help answer your questions. The site also has links to online documentation for Red Hat products and a section named Quickhelp that links to common topics of interest.
Request for Comments; see RFC (page 898).
System Administrators Guild (SAGE)
SAGE is a group for system administrators.
The Linux Documentation Project
All things related to Linux documentation (in many languages): HOWTOs, guides, FAQs, man pages, and magazines. This is the best overall source for Linux documentation. Make sure to visit its Links page.
Use Google or Google Groups to search on keywords that relate directly to the product and your problem.
When all else fails (or perhaps before you try anything else) examine the system logs in /var/log. Running as Superuser, first look at the end of the messages file using the following command:
# tail -20 /var/log/messages
If messages contains nothing useful, run the following command. It displays the names of the log files in chronological order, with the most recently modified files appearing at the bottom of the list:
$ ls -ltr /var/log
If your problem involves a network connection, review the secure log file (some systems may use a different name) on the local and remote systems. Also look at messages on the remote system.
The /var/spool directory contains subdirectories with useful information: cups holds the print queues, mail holds the user's mail files, and so on.
If you are unable to solve a problem yourself, a thoughtful question to an appropriate newsgroup (page 841) or mailing list (page 841) can elicit useful information. When you send or post a question, make sure you describe the problem and identify the local system carefully. Include the version numbers of the operating system and any software packages that relate to the problem. Describe your hardware, if appropriate.
The author's home page ( www.sobell.com) contains corrections to this book, answers to selected chapter exercises, and pointers to other Linux sites.