A new reader? Welcome to alt.os.linux, read this first if you're new here (FAQ)

From: bi-weekly (alt.os.linux-FAQ_at_www.heiming.de)
Date: 03/12/05

Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2005 01:10:14 +0100

New reader? Great! Welcome! Here's how to make best use
of this newsgroup and get yourself a slice of the best help
available. Now read on ...

                    TESTING YOUR CONNECTION

Errm, first a delicate point. Often users accessing a forum
like this for the first time don't realize that posts don't
show up immediately, certainly not for several minutes, and
maybe not for some hours. In the old days, it took as long
as the camel bearing the news took! So they tend to post
"test" messages. Please don't!

It really is a netiquette faux pas; it gets on the regulars
nerves and will get you flamed. It's much like switching a
light switch on and off would get on the nerves of the people
in the room!

Just sit back and wait for the post to show up, or be subtle
enough to post something that at least looks like a sensible
post, not just a "hello, testing, testing"! And if you
really want to post "testing, testing" messages, post to the
approved test group next door or above in the news hierarchy.
Those groups include at least:

         alt.test gnu.gnusenet.test misc.test

By all means, experiment and test - in the proper place.

                            YOUR POST

You may notice that we get many hundreds of posts a week here.
That's a lot of posts, and a lot of reading for the people
who read these groups, who, after all, are the people who are
going to answer your questions. So it's in your interest to
reduce the amount of reading they have to do. Often, you can
get an answer faster without posting your question at all!
Before you post, you should try:

a) Reading the manual for your system.

Some day you will encounter the phrase "RTFM", which stands for
"Read the Fine Manual" (except 'F' doesn't really stand for
"Fine"). If you ask someone a question and they tell you to
RTFM, it's an indication that you haven't done your homework
and you should look harder (or for the first time!) at the
material they indicate.

By the way, when these people use terminology like "read(2)",
they are referring to the man page in section 2 of the manual
which deals with the "read" command, and you would access this
page by the command "man 2 read", typed at a command line. Yes,
there is a command line. Let's not go through that just now ...

By the way, regular posters use a lot of acronyms. "BTW" means
"by the way", BTW.

b) Searching the archives.

Your question almost certainly has already been answered in the
past, because you are not alone in the universe! Other people
have used the same software as you. Other people have bought
the same hardware. Go here, fill in the search field with
likely words, hit return and see what comes up:


What? No answer? You're ET. Naw ... you need to practice using
search engines. Use words that are likely to get a response,
and repeat the search refining each time the keywords you use
until you get just the responses you want. It's a very good
idea to let "linux" be the first of them! For example

         linux mandrake faq

should pull up references to this faq.

Still no success? OK. Then you're down to

c) Posting on the newsgroups.

To which newsgroup should you post?

A comprehensive overview of 159 Linux newsgroups:


Don't ask why there are so many. Perhaps it's part of Linus'
"World domination" plan. Who knows ;)!

If you are unsure, try in comp.os.linux.misc or alt.os.linux
and with a little luck, some wizard will answer your question
or/and direct you to the proper place.

How should you post? Here is what the technical experts want
to see;

i) data, data and data, but not your impressions. That is,
no "narrative description" but instead an exact reproduction,
by copy and paste with the mouse, of each and every datum that
you are basing your ideas of what is going on on. Do not trust
yourself to type! Use the mouse. You will miss data of great
significance to others that will mislead (and annoy!) them,
such as a space, a capital letter, a digit instead of a
letter, etc. etc.

ii) This is already implied by the above, but include debug
logs or/and full error messages (repeat, the originals, not
hand copies). Do not "attach" them! Include them in-line
in the text because people need to see them simultaneously
with your commentary, and in the context of your narrative.
Post a reasonable amount of those logs (rows <= 25).

ii) Again, this got implied above, but it's worth emphasizing.
Use ASCII (text) only! Don't use HTML or add any vcards or
alike. Please use a maximum line width of 65-72 (characters),
except where the log line or error message you quote is longer
(it shouldn't usually be), in which case preserve it exactly
in preference to confusing the issue by adding your own line
breaks, no matter how long it is.

                    USEFUL SUBJECTS

The Subject: line of an article is what will first attract
people to read it, if it's vague or doesn't describe what's
contained within, no one will read the article. They have
better things to do with their life.

However, Subject: lines that're too wordy tend to be irritating.

For example:

Good Subject:
        "xinetd failure MDK 8.0, error:"cps time argument not
        a number"

Good Subject:
        "bind 9.0 RH7.3 fails to cache multiple cnames"

Bad Subject:
        "Can't dial to Internet!!! Pulling my hair apart,
        nothing works! HELP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Bad Subject:
        "HELP!!!! Ftp doesn't work for me at all, how come

Simply put, try to think of what will best help the reader
when he or she encounters your article in a newsreading
session. Also think about who you want to answer. Do you want
a psychiatrist? No? Then avoid "HELP !!!!" as a subject
line. If you want an expert in oracle databases, then post
"oracle vX.Y on RH7.2. How assign passwd?".

And don't forget - the subject line is NOT part of the article,
no more than the title of a newspaper article is part of
the newspaper article. So don't be shy about repeating the
subject in the article as the first line. It costs you a cut
and paste with the mouse, and saves everyone else an "eh,
what's 'e on about"? Not everyone reads the subject before
reading the article, and even those who do may only be able
to see the first 40 characters or so of your elegant title.


This is a bit boring, but you really do want to know this.
Put it down in your "advanced posting techniques" file.
Let's go ... Now, the "Newsgroups:" line on your posting isn't
limited to containing just one group, an article can be posted
in a list of groups. For instance, the line

        Newsgroups: alt.os.linux,comp.os.linux.setup

posts the article to both the groups alt.os.linux and
comp.os.linux.setup at the same time. More accurately, it
makes the same article accessible from both these different
newsgroups. This is called "cross-posting". It's usually safe
to cross-post to up to three or four groups. To list more than
that is considered excessive and annoying and will earn you
some heat. Let's not get into why. But it's not as annoying as
"multi-posting", which is posting copies of the same article
to several different newsgroups, and you should more readily
be able to imagine why that's likely to win you undying flames.

Anyway, to summarize, cross-posting is infinitely better than
multi-posting, but don't cross-post to more than three or
so groups.

It's strongly suggested that when an article is cross-posted
then a "Followup-To:" header field be included. It should
name the group to which all additional discussion should be
directed to. For the above example, this might be:

        Followup-To: comp.os.linux.setup

which would make all followups automatically be posted to
just comp.os.linux.setup, rather than both alt.os.linux and

Why would anyone be cross-posting (or multi-posting, owww!) in
the first place? Presumably because that way they think
they'll get a bigger audience and therefore more answers.
Unfortunately, this is on the way to being about as clever
thinking as posting a spam mail to the whole of hong kong
asking for help with the problem would be. Enough said?

How far along the way on that particular road to infamy you
get depends on whether you cross-posted or multi-posted, and
how many groups you did it to, and whether you at least set
a Followup-To. If in doubt, don't do it at all. And if you're
reading this, you are in doubt, so please don't!

                    REPLYING & QUOTING & TRIMMING

When following up to an article, many newsreaders provide the
facility to quote the original article with each line prefixed
by > , as in

In article <1232@foo.bar.com>, sharon@foo.bar.com wrote:

>> I think that basketweaving's really catching on, particularly
>> in Pennsylvania. Here's a list of every person in PA that
>> currently engages in it publicly: [..]

This example began to quote a horribly long article, but broke
off and indicated the missing text with ellipses "[..]". That's
excellent posting technique! I.e.

  When you quote another person, edit out whatever isn't
  directly relevant to understanding your reply.

Please, please, remember to do that.

This gives the reader of the new article a perfect idea of
exactly what points you were addressing. By including the
entire article, you'll only annoy your readers, assuming you
get any! Who knows what your "yes, I agree" is referring to
if you quote all 100 lines of the original text! Maybe you
are agreeing that hanging is too good for shoplifters. Maybe
you are agreeing that it's a good morning.

Now here's another part of good posting technique:

  Always put your response below and between the quoted text!

That means, as you read through the text you are replying to
in your editor, you remove the bits you are not interested
in commenting on, then when you come to a bit you want to
comment on, you leave the relevant sentence in place, add an
empty line, and write your comment right below it, then leave
another empty line.

Then you carry on through the rest of the text. You
left the quote and your comment nicely framed and easily
comprehensible. Even more importantly, you let somebody new
come in and comment on your comment while keeping the framing

Why NOT "top post"? Well, here are some answers:


In this editor's opinion, you have to understand that you are
not writing a business letter to another company's lawyers,
which is about the only real life situation in which you will
affix the entire previous conversation to the end of your reply!
If you think so, then you are mistaking the nature of the medium
you are in - we likely already have access to your previous
post, thanks to the wonders of electronics, but we might not
be bothered to go and look at it or might have forgotten it
and its detail, so we appreciate a little orienting context in
just the right place, but please not the whole flipping thing.

                    MORE INFO

"The Usenet Newbie Project"

"ESR's Howto ask smart questions"

"Advanced Usenet Usage"

"Netiquette Guidelines RFC1855"

"Tips on USENET's comp.* Newsgroups"


This "FAQ" (published under GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE) has
been assembled/rewritten from various online sources, it does
not claim to be complete, see URLs above, just a quick start.

Special thanks for additional hints, that have been included to:

Bill Unruh, Bit Twister, Sybren Stuvel, Peter Karlsson and

Peter T. Breuer (Complete revision 03/2003)

Have a lot of fun...

Michael Heiming Netiquette 2004-07#1

If you can't avoid to drop me a mail, remove "www." and put my 
first name before the @.