Posted by Steve on Tue 26 Jul 2005 at 22:47
There are times when you need to fix something, or get something done, and don't know where to start. Thankfully there are several forms of support available to the Debian user, here we'll give a brief list of some of the options.
The Debian project itself is a great source of help for many many problems, both those things which might well be package bugs, and general issues.
There are several immediately available places to look for assistance if you do need it:
Many common questions on specific packages will be documented in the packages documentation - usually located via /usr/share/doc/packagename.
For example if you're interested in making mailman work with exim4 you can find instructions in the file /usr/share/doc/mailman/README.EXIM.
Other Debian documentation can be found online, including several complete manuals and guides. The Securing Debian Manual, for example, should be compulsory reading for newcomers to server administration.
Whilst it's hard to justify relying upon IRC in a business context that doesn't mean that it's not useful.
The main channel to try initially would be the #debian channel, although there are other more general Linux channeles which might also prove useful to explore.
The Debian Bugtracking System (BTS) is a very useful resource, both for reporting bugs and for querying currently known bugs.
If you have a problem with accomplishing a given task which you believe should work then the first thing I'd recommend you do is query the BTS to see if this is an issue which has been reported previously.
The BTS allows developers and users to comment on open issues, and to provide followup details. It's an underutilised resource for detecting problems. (Although perhaps understandably, sometimes there is a big timelag between reporting and having something fixed).
Debian has a huge array of mailing lists, and with readers active around the globe timezones are pretty much irrelevent. It's very common for a reported problem to be solved by a helpful reader in a few hours or less.
The real key to using the Debian mailing lists is to give as much information as possible, and to make sure you have a well chosen subject line. ESR's How to ask questions the smart way is a worthy primer in that regard.
The Debian mailing lists are listed upon the site, along with a brief description of what appropriate questions may be posted there.
Whilst there isn't an official searching facility you can search them:
Most people should probably start by consulting the debian-user mailing list, although avoid subscribing if you can't deal with a lot of mail.
There are also times when you might consider paying for support. This can often be negotiated on a per-incident basis, although there is nothing stopping you from paying a monthly/yearly retainer if that is how you prefer to operate.
The Debian Consultants list details hirable consultants from around the world - and if you don't like any of those you can pay me ;)
In addition to the options listed above there are also several community resources which have been created by volunteers.
These include the website you're currently viewing and other more established sites such as:
Together these resources allow a wide range of Debian support issues to be solved in a timely and trouble-free manner.