The confusing variety of documentation sources exists for many reasons. For
example, info is supposed to replace man, but man
hasn't disappeared yet. However, it's nice to know that so much documentation
So where to look for help? Here are some suggestions:
Use the man pages and the -help or -h option to get a quick
summary of a command's syntax and options. Also use man if a program doesn't
yet have an info page.
Use info if a program has info documentation.
If neither of those works, look in /usr/doc/packagename.
/usr/doc/packagename often has Debian-specific information,
even if there's a man page or info page.
Use the HOWTOs for instructions on how to set up a particular thing or for information
on your particular hardware. For example, the Ethernet HOWTO has a wealth of
information on Ethernet cards, and the PPP HOWTO explains in detail how to set
Use the Debian Documentation Project manuals for conceptual explanations and
If all else fails, ask someone. See section A.1.3 on page .
Using man pages is discussed above in section 5.1 on page .
It's very simple: press the space bar to go to the next page, and press q
to quit reading. Using info, viewing files in /usr/doc, and
asking for help from a person are all discussed in the remainder of this chapter.
info is the GNU documentation viewer. Some programs provide documentationin info format, and you can use info to view that documentation.
You can start up the viewer by simply typing info, or by supplying
a topic as well:
You can also bring up the information on info itself, which includes
a tutorial, like so:
Now, you may navigate with these keys:
Move the cursor around the document
Select the menu item that's at the cursor
Move ``up'' in the document
Move to the next page
Move to the previous page
Search for something
Go to a specific page
You might notice that the top line of the screen indicates the next, previous,
and ``up'' pages, corresponding nicely to the actions for the n,
p, and u keys.
In addition to their books, the Linux Documentation Project has made a series
of short documents describing how to set up particular aspects of GNU/Linux.
For instance, the SCSI-HOWTO describes some of the complications of using SCSI
- a standard way of talking to devices - with GNU/Linux. In general, the HOWTOs
have more specific information about particular hardware configurations and
will be more up to date than this manual.
There are Debian packages for the HOWTOs. doc-linux-text contains the
various HOWTOs in text form; the doc-linux-html package contains the
HOWTOs in (surprise!) browsable HTML format. Note also that Debian has packaged
translations of the HOWTOs in various languages that you may prefer if English
is not your native language. Debian has packages for the German, French, Spanish,
Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Swedish and Chinese versions of the HOWTOs.
These are usually available in the package doc-linux-languagecode,
where languagecode is fr for French, es
for Spanish, etc. If you've installed one of these, you should have them in
/usr/doc/HOWTO. However, you may be able to find more recent versions
on the Net at the LDP homepage.
The correct place to ask for help with Debian is the debian-user mailing
list at email@example.com. If you know how to use IRC
(Internet Relay Chat), you can use the #debian channel on irc.debian.org.
You can find general GNU/Linux help on the comp.os.linux.* USENET
hierarchy. It is also possible to hire paid consultants to provide guaranteed
support services. The Debian website
information on many of these resources.
Again, please do not ask the authors of this book for help. We probably
don't know the answer to your specific problem anyway; if you mail debian-user,
you will get higher-quality responses, and more quickly.
Always be polite and make an effort to help yourself by reading the documentation.
Remember, Debian is a volunteer effort and people are doing you a favor by giving
their time to help you. Many of them charge hundreds of dollars for the same
services during the day.
Read the obvious documentation first. Things like command options and what a
command does will be covered there. This includes manpages and info documentation.
Check the HOWTO documents if your question is about setting up something such
as PPP or Ethernet.
Try to be sure the answer isn't in this book.
Don't be afraid to ask, after you've made a basic effort to look it up.
Don't be afraid to ask for conceptual explanations, advice, and other things
not often found in the documentation.
Include any information that seems relevant. You'll almost always want to mention
the version of Debian you're using. You may also want to mention the version
of any pertinent packages: The command dpkg -lpackagename
will tell you this. It's also useful to say what you've tried so far and what
happened. Please include the exact error messages, if any.
Don't apologize for being new to Linux. There's no reason everyone should be
a GNU/Linux expert to use it, any more than everyone should be a mechanic to
use a car.
Don't post or mail in HTML. Some versions of Netscape and Internet Explorer
will post in HTML rather than plain text. Most people will not even read these
posts because the posts are difficult to read in most mail programs. There should
be a setting somewhere in the preferences to disable HTML.
Be polite. Remember that Debian is an all-volunteer effort, and anyone who helps
you is doing so on his or her time out of kindness.
Re-mail your question to the list if you've gotten no responses after several
days. Perhaps there were lots of messages and it was overlooked. Or perhaps
no one knows the answer - if no one answers the second time, this is a good
bet. You might want to try including more information the second time.
Answer questions yourself when you know the answer. Debian depends on everyone
doing his or her part. If you ask a question, and later on someone else asks
the same question, you'll know how to answer it. Do so!