Help With Linux IT Support
You're running Linux. Something breaks. Now what? Where can you find Linux IT support? Well, there are a few places to go and things you can do to speed the process along.
October 30, 2012
Forums Provide Linux IT Support
Any of the Linux distributions I've used have a corresponding forums where people can get help, read distro related news, share stories, or what have you. These are my first stop when something is broken. I don't think I've EVER been the first person to have a problem, and can usually find a post from someone else having the same trouble as me on message boards.
There are a few general Linux boards on the internet. While I do land on them sometimes, the vast majority of fixes I've found were on distro-specific message boards.
Linux IT Support from IRC Chat Rooms
Just like most distributions have message boards, so too do they have corresponding IRC chat rooms. But beware if you have not done your homework first. Many chat room residents get pretty miffed when folks come in with that they think are stupid questions that could have been answered with a little reading on the questioner's part.
How much flak you get will depend on which irc room you're in. Ubuntu (and derivatives) are pretty family friendly. But I once watched a pretty severe and profanity laced tongue lashing in another distribution's room, all for the user coming in with a question they could have found easily on the message boards. I can only hope that there were no blind people present with their screen reading software running.
These chat rooms I speak of are generally found in irc.freenode.net. For specific application support, you may have to get on a different network to find the official irc room.
Not all Linux distributions come with an IRC client installed. I recommend XChat. It's available for any RedHat, Slackware, or Debian base Linux distro I've ever used.
Phone a Friend!
You MUST know SOMEONE, don't you? Long distance tech support is typically painful to some degree. While Linux is easy to administer remotely via the command line, most of a user's problems are something the support person needs to see. Even if ssh were the answer, there are often firewalls and routers between the support person and the one in trouble. Without punching holes through all of these ahead of time on port 22, logging in remotely is a real pain. Not something the average user will know how to do. The same is true for VNC type applications. With those you can see, but still require the hole (this time on port 5900) through firewalls, routers, and maybe DLS modems.
What I've found lately is a little app called TeamViewer that allows VNC-like remote viewing and control, without the firewall hassle. It's similar to Adobe Connect, join.me, and GoToMeeting, which are all Windows based remote viewing/support applications. Teamviewer works in Linux though, and flawlessly as far as I can tell. It's free for personal use. While I don't use it on any kind of a regular basis, I should still send them a check one of these days. I don't need a whole license, but I don't want to just be a freeloader either…
Don't Google It
I must say that Google is getting less and less useful to me for support related queries. I'm either shown old stuff (a Ubuntu 6.04 fix may not work on a 12.04 problem) or just completely irrelevant results. You'll have better luck on a message board's search tool.
So don't despair if you get into some hot water. There are ways to get Linux IT Support without hefty monthly fees and contracts. If all else fails, you can drop me a line and we'll see if we can get you up and running.
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Give a rundown of what kind of trouble you're having, and we'll see if we can help.