Words of advice for lazy Linux users

Learn to Search the Fucking Web (STFW) and Read the Fucking Manual (RTFM).

Now thats a terrible thing to say, especially to people that literally just stepped straight off the boat as it were. But now some rationalisation.

I’ve been annoyed recently by a few people who asked stupid obvious questions and displayed no effort to help themselves. Information that anyone could find out just by going to the website of the enormously well known software in qustion.

Sure, I’ve not been using Linux so long that I don’t remember my own mistakes, in fact I’m really happy to see they’re not archived any more. I certainly remember my early days when starting out with Linux seemed like staring up the North face of Everest, but having passed that stage I can tell you that there is no little secret that everybody else understands about Linux that you don’t. People that know a lot about how Linux works do so because they have read a lot.

Searching for answers to technical questions is hard when you don’t have the surrounding knowledge of the basic principles of what you have to do, but at least try. You can then say, “Aaah yes, I tried looking at that but couldn’t work out what it meant even after reading the man page, could you explain a little?” You are not expected to know the answers to everything. You are expected to try to help yourself before asking.

These incidents were different, this information was easy to find. Where do you download program xyz? What is the release schedule of distributor abc? Search the fucking web! One of these people is a very competent Linux user.

Now heres the thing. Learn how to help yourself, show some effort, show some etiquette and learn that subject headings like “Help me pleeeeeeeeease!” and “It doesn’t work!” mean nobody is going to help you because people get a lot of mail and they use the subjects to determine whether they can help you or not. If you get no answer it means nobody knows, it doesn’t mean you are getting ignored. Asking again means people might then start ignoring you. If you really need to ask again, do some more work on it yourself and leave it a few days before going back, apologising for repeat posting and explain that you have tried to solve it yourself by doing xyz but you really don’t understand what is wrong or how to fix it.

For a less crass and ill-tempered explanation of these ideas read

How To Ask Questions The Smart Way and

How to Report Bugs Effectively.

Seriously, these are the two most important things a Linux beginner can read. I learnt a lot from these and you learn how to get more help from people.

Next learn how to use google and the man command. To give you a head start, type

man man

at a command prompt.

Learn to do that and you’re already ahead of the game. Show some attempt to help yourself and people will be willing to help you because it shows you have tried to solve the problem yourself but it is beyond your skills. The contents of man pages may baffle the hell out of you for some time but at least you can show you tried and ask for someone to explain it to you.

Don’t forget to go back and thank the people that helped you when you fix something. A quick description of the solution and a thank you will do, it helps people close the issue psychologically.

Learn to trim replies to posts so that people don’t have to wade through acres of unnecessary quotes to read your single line reply. Write your comments below what you are commenting, not above. Top posting as it is called means that people won’t understand what you have written until they read what is below it and they will have to go back and read what was above it for it to make sense. Doing either of these will mean people will become less likely to read your mails as you are showing poor etiquette by making it hard work to help you. Don’t write single line “Yes I agree” posts. It wastes people’s time.

Don’t post anything other than text to a mailing list. Don’t post pages of code or output either. Put them on the web and post a link. Don’t ask people to mail you in private unless it is a sensitive matter and you have at least spoken before. Don’t email people privately with questions.

Also read a little about using the command line. If you can get your head around the ls, cd, mv, cp, man and su commands you are running on full steam. If you can get used to using bash file name autocompletion (type a few letters and use the tab button), command history (use the up and down arrow keys), and the difference between absolute file paths (starting at /) and relative paths (starting in your current directory) you are almost the master of your own universe.

Ok, I’m going to stop now or I could be here for days. Read the above 2 links it will really make a difference and stop you getting torn a new arsehole. Learn to search the web, learn to use man, show some willingness to help yourself, show some etiquette and show some gratitude.