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


Errm, first a delicate point. Many times 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's a netiquette faux pas; it tends to get on the regulars nerves and
will get you flamed. It's much like switching a light switch on and off
would tend to get on the nerves of the people in the room! Just 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. These
groups include at least:

alt.test gnu.gnusenet.test misc.test

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


You may notice that we get several hundred 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.

It's in your interest to reduce the amount of reading they have to do.
Often, you can get an answer a lot faster without posting your question
at all! Before you post, you should try:

a) Reading the manual for your system.

Some day you may 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

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.
You are not alone in the universe! Other people use the same software
as you. Other people buy 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 good idea to let "linux" be the first of

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 much, perhaps part of Linus "World
domination" plan, who knows.;)

If you are unsure, use 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 said implicitly 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).


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

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?".


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

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


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 <>, wrote:

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 correct.

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.


"The Usenet Newbie Project"

"ESR's Howto ask smart questions":

"Advanced Usenet Usage"

"Netiquette Guidelines RFC1855"


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
If you like to drop me a mail, remove "www." and put my first name
before the .