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Ubuntu Hacks by Bill Childers, Kyle Rankin, Jonathan Oxer

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Hack #2. Get Help

Find out where to get more help on using Ubuntu. Forums, Wikis, IRC chat rooms, and a built-in help system stand at the ready.

Everybody needs a place to turn to when he gets stuck. One of the nice things about Ubuntu Linux is the amount of help you can receive, if you know where to look. The development team at Canonical has put together an excellent support infrastructure that includes both free and nonfree support solutions.

Web-Based Documentation

Your first stop on the support train should be the Ubuntu Support page at http://www.ubuntulinux.org/support. This page contains links for all the currently possible support methods, both official and unofficial, paid-for and free.

Of course, Ubuntu has excellent documentation. The official documentation effort at http://help.ubuntu.com has both a Quick Tour section and a comprehensive Start Guide. The Quick Tour page is a great flyer that advertises the high points of Ubuntu and shows off some screenshots, while the Start Guide is more of an overall how-to document.

The next place to visit if you're stuck should be the Ubuntu Wiki (https://wiki.ubuntu.com). The Wiki is extremely comprehensive and is constantly updated by Ubuntu users and developers. As a result, it's typically more up-to-date than the official documentation. One of the side benefits to the Ubuntu Wiki is the Laptop Testing area at https://wiki.ubuntu.com/LaptopTestingTeam. If you're about to install Ubuntu on a laptop, you might want to see if your model is on that page, since the Laptop Testing Team puts all its installation notes and tweaks on that area of the Wiki. It might save you a lot of work and could very well help you get a troublesome feature like wireless or power management working correctly under Ubuntu Linux.

Interactive Help and Support

If you have a question that you can't find the answer to, you can ask it in either the Ubuntu Forums or the Ubuntu IRC chat room. The Ubuntu Forums at http://www.ubuntuforums.org provide a nearly real-time support venue that you can also search. Odds are, if you're having a problem, someone else has already had that problem and asked for help on the forums. If you have a more urgent issue, or just want instant gratification, you can ask for help in the IRC chat room. The IRC room is located on the freenode network (irc.freenode.net), and it's called #ubuntu. If you've never used IRC before, just click on the Applications menu, select Internet, and launch Xchat. (If you don't see Xchat on the menu, go to System→Administration→Synaptic Package Manager [Hack #55] and install xchat-gnome.) Log in to irc.freenode.net and join the #ubuntu channel. Once you're online, ask your question, but be sure to provide as much detail as possible for the people in the room. Please note that most of the people there are volunteers who are contributing to the Ubuntu effort by trying to offer support, so be friendly and be prepared to answer questions that anyone in the room may ask in return, since they may need more information to figure out your issue. You might want to lurk in the channel for a while and read the messages that scroll by to get a feel for the tone and flow before you ask your question.

A lot of the work that makes Ubuntu what it is happens on mailing lists. There's a comprehensive list of mailing lists at https://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo; you can either search the archives of these lists, or you can add yourself to them and post your question there. If you choose to post a question to one of these lists, please show proper etiquette and ensure your question is targeted at the correct mailing list. As with IRC, it's worth spending some time to get familiar with the mailing lists: read some older posts and responses, and pay attention to which questions get answers and which ones don't.

Traditional Pay-per-Incident Support

If you can't get a solution to your problem through the aforementioned free methods, there's always paid-for support through Canonical and other organizations. The page at http://www.ubuntu.com/support/supportoptions/paidsupport details the various options open to you for paid support. If you're considering using Ubuntu in a corporate environment, you should become familiar with this page.


If you purchase paid-for support from Canonical, you'll get a service-level agreement that guarantees you a response within a reasonable time frame, as well as direct access to the core Ubuntu developers, which is something that the free support does not offer.

Whatever your need, the Canonical team and the larger Ubuntu community should have it covered. The support community is widespread, knowledgeable, and ready to help, so don't let a snag in your installation damage your Ubuntu experience!

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