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*DocIndex - Troubleshooting

Principles Of Troubleshooting

* 1) Don't Panic!
* 2) Look For the Obvious First!
* 3) Listen to Your Computer!
* 4) You are not alone!
* 5) Don't reinstall - fix it!
* 6) If you don't like it...

Related Resources:

Shooting trouble - not the Windows way
Troubleshooting and Your Mental State

Revision / Modified: Oct. 02, 2001
Author: Tom Berger


* First principle: Don't panic!

If something doesn't work as you have expected it to, there is a reason for it. Computers are too dim to be malevolent. Calm down, take a deep breath and think about what you have done, what you expected the computer to do and what the computer actually did.

If it's possible and the problem seems very complicated, turn off the computer and go for walk, have a coffee or something else. I know too many people who get a kind of mental spasm when they are confronted with a problem. Trying to solve the problem in such a state of mind usually makes thingsworse.

* Second principle: Look for the obvious first!

Given the mind-boggling dimness of computers, chances are that your electronic counterpart just didn't get it. Look for typos in the command's name, in the path name, in the file name. Computers take everything literally, that is letter by letter. Take into account that GNU/Linux distinguishes between capital letters and small letters. If it's a hardware matter, check connections, cables etc.

Check the available documentation. Maybe you are using the wrong tool for the job? Maybe you don't handle it correctly? Check online resources, too.

* Third principle: Listen to your computer!

Although he is very dim, he is clever enough to find out for you what's going wrong. Error messages are the single most important thing when it comes to troubleshooting. Often they will give you quite good hints where to look.

Always write down error messages or pipe them to files. If you can't figure it out on your own, these messages will be of vital importance for anyone who wants to help you.

* Fourth principle: You are not alone!

Nowadays there are millions of GNU/Linux users all around the world. And only a minority of them are semi-gods ;). And even they weren't born as such. Your problem has already occurred and been solved. If you don't find out, somebody else has done or will do so. So, ask.

Keep in mind that no one - apart from the official support staff, that is ;-) - is obliged to answer your questions. But there are things you can do to help raise your chances of getting answers.

* Fifth principle: Don't reinstall - fix it!

Some operating systems hide their internal structure from their users. So if something goes fundamentally wrong, they often leave you with only one 'choice': to reinstall them and hope that this will solve your problem. If not, well, tough luck.

We don't do that. All configuration files are meant to be understandable and changeable by a savvy user. Furthermore GNU/Linux is highly modularized and scalable. A working GNU/Linux system fits on a single 3,5'' floppy disk. Add another, and you can even use X. If you can't be bothered with editing files by hand, there are graphical tools and suites like the Mandrake Control Center, Webmin or Linuxconf which are provided to help you.

If you have to reinstall, reinstall components, not the whole system!
You can compile everything yourself, change the source code, apply fixes easily, use RPMs from other distributions etc. Of course this requires quite some knowledge but there ain't no such thing as a free lunch and there are people out there willing to help you...

* Sixth principle: If you don't like it...

...leave it. It's no use getting evangelical about which operating system or distribution is the 'best', especially it doesn't make one a better or worse person. You may also perfectly well use different operating systems for different tasks (I am still using MS-Windows as my playstation). With programs like VMWare you may even use themwithin other systems.
Likewise 'distribution wars' are quite silly. It's GNU/Linux. If you know how to handle it, you'll get along with every distribution.

However you can do (almost) everything within GNU/Linux, and you can do everything that's possible in GNU/Linux with Mandrake Linux, it may just take some more effort, though judging from my experience it often takes less ...

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