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Help Wanted -- Article Ideas

Answers to these questions should be sent directly to the e-mail address of the inquirer with or without a copy to Answers that are copied to LG will be printed in the next issue in the Tips column.

Before asking a question, please check the Linux Gazette FAQ to see if it has been answered there.

 Fri, 31 Mar 2000 20:57:04 -0000
From: The Strangemores <>

Do you know what the Linux kernel split is? If so, can you tell me about it?


 Sat, 01 Apr 2000 01:03:33 -0600
From: Randall E. Cook, Sr. <Randy@MNCom.Net>
Subject: Help in setting up Red Hat as a dial-up server

I have searched and searched for 2 months now and can not get any info on how to set up a server for customers to dial into and access the internet with mail accounts and such. I have been to every news group and discussion I can find. No one will give any information on how to set this up. The ONLY help or answer I get is...:"why do you want to be an ISP, they are to expensive to set up?" Please have a "How-To" for the beginner to set up an ISP for the first time?

Thanks in advance.

 Sun, 02 Apr 2000 15:37:16 -0500
From: Dan Stroock <>
Subject: linux and DHCP

I have been trying, without success, to hitch my Linux box to a Linksys Etherfast cable router. I set networking configuration to use DHCP, but my machine does not get the information which it needs. Has anyone got a HOWTO page or other source of information about this sort of thing?

 Sun, 2 Apr 2000 23:31:20 +0100
From: andrew sprott <>
Subject: sharing filesystems


i have tried searchin your site for 'share', 'sharing filesystem' etc., but nothin came up. basically, i've got 6 networked machines, half of which can't take a full installation of suse 6.3. what i want to do is export the installation on a 20.4gb disk to the other machines. so say, most of /etc can be shared by the other machines.

the thing is how can linux be installed on the other machines without doin a seperate install that takes up all disk space on the local machines. has anybody tackled this and wrote about it? the thing that appeals to me is the prospect of simply loggin onto any machine and access my usual apps and data etc.

 Sun, 02 Apr 2000 22:55:05 -0200
From: Rakesh Mistry <>
Subject: Swing on Linux


I am having trouble installing Swing1.0.3/1.1.1 on my RH6.0 system. I have managed to setup jdk117_v3 successfully sometime ago.

I have unzipped the tar.Z and placed it in /usr/local/lib/jdk117_v3/swing-1.0.3/ directory. I have added this path to my CLASSPATH. I have also added it to a SWING_HOME variable as well as added a JAVA_HOME variable.

However, everytime I try and compile a java program which tries to import a swing package, I get the following error : Package javax.swing not found in import.
import javax.swing.*;
       ^ Superclass JFrame of class SwingUI not found.
class SwingUI extends JFrame 
                      ^ '(' expected.
        panel.setLayout(new BorderLayout);
3 errors

I have copied this code straight out of a java tutorial.

Any help would be greatly appreciated !!!

 Mon, 03 Apr 2000 17:16:28 +0200
From: Silvia Scarpetta <>
Subject: linux and win2000

I have updated winNT to windows2000, and LILO is not able to boot either linux or win2000 , any more (before I had winNT and Linux on the two harddisks and it works!)

I mean LILO starts but when I says to boot windows2000 it says:

NTLDR is missing.
Anyone knows if win2000 has been made in order to not to be compatible with Linux? is there a way to solve the problem?

I tryed to do again

(in case the MBR was damneged) but it did not work either.

 Wed, 05 Apr 2000 10:53:22 PDT
From: Paul Grainger <>
Subject: Interfacing with Novell Netware

Hi there, can you help me with tips on how to interface to a Novell Netware network (3.12 bindery). I am currently running Mandrake 7 and have a 3 Com ethernet adapter (which Linux seems to be able to auto-configure). Whenever I try to configure my card the system requests IP addresses, which is not relevant in this instant. I know that IPX support is provided but what are the steps required to enable use of file and print services on the network? Thanks in anticipation of your help,

 Thu, 6 Apr 2000 23:16:16 +0200
From: Andrea <>
Subject: LILO

Hi , I 'm a new user of Linux (Great!!) and I have a little problem:

I have 2 HD , the 1st SCSI with Win 98 and th 2nd EIDE with Red Hat 6.1.

I can't start windoze from LILO , (the machine does nothing)and I must switch the boot from BIOS. Could you tell me please , how to solve this little problem ?

 Wed, 12 Apr 2000 13:42:43 +0200
From: Otto Wyss <>
Subject: More than one keyboard with different layout

Sorry I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask, please tell me the right place if I'm wrong.

I have 2 keyboards connected to my PC, one is a old AT-serial keyboard and the other an USB-keyboard with Win98 key assignment. Now I'd like to modify the keymap so I could use the new Command("Windows")-key. Unfortunalty this conflicts with the old keyboard (which I still need in case of an emergency). I have to install 2 different keymaps, each one for each keyboard. but currently the kernel (2.2.14) only allows for one keyboard.

My wish for enhancement: Keyboards should be implemented as ordinary devices in the kernel (like mouses), so an arbitrary count of keyboards where possible. Keymaps, kbdrates, etc. should be attached to keyboard devices as well.

 Tue, 11 Apr 2000 17:47:22 EDT
From: <>
Subject: shell scripting in a "C++" based shell

I recently read your article about the basic scripting commands in the April issue. However, the bash system and i are like oil and water, because i am more familiar with programing in "C++" After some searching I was able to find some incredibly informative manuals that also contained cdrom packages with libraries, patches and other assorted tools to help learn how to script some of the varieties of "C" based shell. Soon enough, my happiness was brought to a skreaching halt when i glanced down at some of the prices. So I was writing to ask if maybe in your next issue, you could follow up the scripting article with some basic commands in "ksh" or "zsh," or just inform me of any manuals published within a reasonable price range. Thanks

The author Ben Okopnic <> writes:

My current goal in writing the column is to concentrate on "bash" until I feel that my readers, by following the column, have reached a high enough level of proficiency that they would be interested in other options - and those may include a look at other shells. Unfortunately for your requirements, this isn't likely to happen for quite a long while. Do be aware, though, that unless you get into somewhat deep scripting stuff (co-processes, async pipelines, etc.), there isn't _that_ much difference between, say, "ksh" and "bash": "ksh" is actually a superset of "sh" which is bash-compatible, and "bash" incorporates a number of "ksh" and "csh" features.

Since I don't know what your level of general scripting/shell expertise may be, let me toss in a perspective from my own experience: the first shell that I ever used was "sh", and it was nothing short of a battle to produce my first script, simple as it was. Later, in my rather brief flirtations with other shells, I found that learning their specific syntax was an *incremental* task - I had already learned 90+% of what I needed to write scripts for them via my experience with "sh". You too may find that it isn't only "bash" that is problematic: there is a learning curve associated with any shell - they all have their quirks. I'm certainly not trying to talk you into switching your shell preference, but you should realize that there's a "cost" associated with entering the "shell game" - and the type of shell is, in my opinion, largely irrelevant to that "cost".

Given the nature of Linux, you'll find that the information that is freely available is copious and of high quality. This implies that any commercially available material will be a) _outstanding_ in quality (this is certainly true in my experience), and b) relatively expensive, since "quality costs". My suggestion for you is to study the free material, look for info on the Net (e.g., "ksh keybindings (vi keys)" in The Answer Guy's column, issue 51 of LG, has some good pointers), and study other people's "zsh"/"ksh" scripts (hint: use AltaVista's Advanced search to look for "#!*/bin/[kz]sh".)

By the time you exhaust those resources, you should either feel justified in your purchase of those "expensive" books - or you may decide that you've lerned enough that you don't need them after all.

 Wed, 12 Apr 2000 14:40:44 -0700
From: Anderson, Randy (FRM) <>
Subject: adding pseudo devices in a sunos 4.1.4 environment..

hi, my sunos kernel is already configed for 256 pseudo devices. my users complain about running out of them often...i know they are not using even a fraction of that number, so what gives?? do i need to add /dev device files? recompile the kernel (GENERIC) again??? help!

thanks for any assistance..

 Fri, 14 Apr 2000 11:14:17 -0500
From: David K. Daniels <>
Subject: Is There a Version of PC/NFS for Linux?

I have the O'Reilly book "Managing NFS and NIS" and there is a section in the back of the book called PC/NFS describing a Unix utility that enables a PC DOS machine to access a Unix machine using the NFS file system as an extended DOS file system. I am wondering if there is a Linux version of this available?

I would like to be able to run a Linux server on a TCP/IP network and have the capability of booting a PC using DOS and map a drive letter to the file system running on the Linux server for the purpose of using a utility called "Ghost" and make a ghost image of the DOS/Windows drive and drop it on the Linux server for storage.

Any information or pointers would be appreciated.

 Sat, 15 Apr 2000 00:02:45 +0530
From: US Mohalanobish <>
Subject: SiS6215C graphics adapter card

Can anybody help me make my SiS6215c graphics card deliver a resolution more than 640x480 in Linux? On Windows, I get resolutions as high as 1024x768 with 256 colors or 800x600 with 16bit colors.

 05 Apr 2000 09:19:10 +0200
From: Andrés Hortigüela García <>
Subject: Graphics card question (Spanish)

Necesito un driver para la tarjeta gráfica integrada en placa base con chipset Intel 810, para configurar mi Linux (EsWare - Red Hat 6.0)

¿Me podéis ayudar? ¿Donde lo puedo obtener?

Muchas gracias, ... Andrés.

 Fri, 14 Apr 2000 11:50:22 -0700
From: Ahmad <>
Subject: How to hack a proxy dear sir we are in bad need for a program to pass the firewall because our server is filltering the most of hackers sites and all the free Email. your prompt positive reply is highly appreciated thanks, best regards.

 Sun, 16 Apr 2000 14:39:06 -0400
From: Robin and David Pickens <>
Subject: Downloading X11/ XF86 upgrades

I am new to the alternative OS world of Linux. I recently purchased a (old) beginners version of Caldera Linux 1.3 and, through much frustration on my part as well as the tech reps at Mandrake, have come to realize that my computer's on- board video card is too modern for the XF86Setup v. 3.3.2. I discovered (I think) that XF86Setup v. 3.3.6 is the updated one which supports my card (a Trident Blade 3D/ MVP4). I went to the XF86 web site to download the proper files and uncovered a plethora of files and folders that have left me rather confused as to which ones to use. Can anybody tell me which ones (specifically) from that site to download or, direct me to another mirror site with a bit less confusing archives and easier to follow guidelines for acquiring these most needed programs? P.S. I have looked through "" and could only find version 4.0 of XF86 for Trident Blade cards. The tech rep at Mandrake said 4.0 would probably not help me. Any further assistance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, David P.

 Mon, 17 Apr 2000 15:34:34 +0530
From: Prakash Nair <>
Subject: Switching from Xchange Server To Linux

Hello.. I hope u can help me with this. We have MS Exchange server with 400 users.We would now like to switch to linux as the mail server(remove Xchange server). How could this be done?

Pl. help as this is to be done urgently.

 Mon, 17 Apr 2000 14:39:39 -0700
From: Chetan Gadgil (Work - Linux) <>
Subject: Porting to a new language

I am interested in porting Linux to "Indic (Indian)" languages. Is there a good place to start? Could anyone please provide a brief outline of how a port to a new language/script is done?

Does Linux use GNU/gettext for the locale specific languages?

 Tue, 18 Apr 2000 04:18:11 -0700 (PDT)
From: Phil Coval - <>
Subject: is Debian deadbian ?

When next debian is out ?

i've seen on magazine that it will be out in a few weeks that was on jannuary 2000 ? the site isnt updated

Whats the matter ?

 Tue, 18 Apr 2000 09:32:26 -0500
From: Mark Contatore <>
Subject: Compaq help

I recently acquired a Compaq ProSignia 300, it has the on board NCR53C810 SCSI controller. I have been totally unsuccessful in installing RedHat Linux 6.2, the system indicates the driver is incorrect . I am asking for anyone with the experience of a successful install on this platform to please help!

 Wed, 19 Apr 2000 14:50:52 +0200
From: Joseph Simushi <>
Subject: LAN Administrator Books.

Help me with information as regards where I can find the above books or if you offer some, please send me some on the address below.


Simushi Joseph
LAN Administrator
PULSE Project
P.O. Box RW 51269
Tel: 295642 (W), 250236 (H)

 Wed, 19 Apr 2000 15:23:27 +0100
From: Stephen Wileman <>
Subject: linux courses / books

I am IT teacher being asked a lot of questions to do with the linux operating systems in particular Linux Red Hat 6 and above.

Please could you help with any suggestions on a good basic book or material which I could use to help my students out with their problems or a any recognised Linux professional qualifications I can undertake to aid my own understanding of the Linux / Red Hat operating system?

 Wed, 19 Apr 2000 20:28:49 -0700 (PDT)
From: Venkat Rajagopal <>
Subject: Command line editing


I have been trying to set command line editing (vi mode) as part of my bash shell environment and have been unsuccessful so far. You might think this is trivial - well so did I.

I am using Red Hat Linux 6.1 and wanted to use "set -o vi" in my start up scripts. I have tried all possible combinations but it JUST DOES NOT WORK. I inserted the line in /etc/profile , in my .bash_profile, in my .bashrc etc but I cannot get it to work. How can I get this done? This used to be a breeze in the korn shell. Where am I going wrong?

 Thu, 20 Apr 2000 21:59:27 +0200
From: Matej Cepl <>
Subject: Other markup languages - LG #27


I have found your article on "markup languages and lout" on the website of Linux Gazette. Thank you for it -- as beginer in lout (and emigre from LaTeX), I have greatly appreciated it your open attitude towards something different than TeX.

However, I would be very interested in other articles from series -- on TeX and troff. When I tried to found them on LG site, I have not found either of them. Are they presented anywhere on the Web? If so, would you be so kind and send me URL, please?

Have a very nice day

Matej Cepl

 Thu, 20 Apr 2000 16:37:53 -0700
From: Martin Perry <>
Subject: Screen Dump of Linux

I am writing to request a screen dump picture of what Linux looks like when it is running.

I am currently doing a HNC in Business Information Technology and I have got to give a presentation on Linux in a weeks time and would like to put a screen dump on the OHP for people to see. From what I understand it can either look like windows or the Mac equivalent.

I have been searching for days to find this on the net with no luck as yet.

Sorry for any inconvience.

Maria Perry.

[I think several distributions have such images on their web sites, usually in a section called "Screenshots". Go to, "How to Get Linux" and follow the links from there.

Also, the GUI interfaces (KDE and GNOME) and window managers have screen shots on their web sites, to give you a preview of what the program will look like.,,,,, etc. -Ed.]

 Fri, 21 Apr 2000 11:41:19 +1000 (EST)
From: Russ Pitman <>
Subject: BU backup utility

This was the subject of an excellent article in Issue 32 of the Gazette.

My only hard copy is missing and the site ( is not reachable. Also mail to is undeliverable.

Web searching has not, for me, found any other address for bu so I came here hoping that the Gazette can help.

Does any one know where a copy of Vincent Stemens 'bu' can be obtained. Thanks for your time.

 Fri, 21 Apr 2000 00:21:56 -0700
From: MVE <>
Subject: Please Help

Please help me. I am at my wits end.

I have VERY recently installed Linux, so I am very new to all of this, and pehaps I am going about this the wrong way. I want to install Oracle8i on my system. ALL the information says I have to install a JRE (JRE 1.1.6v5) in order to get Oracle to work. (NOT JDK...JRE).

I CAN NOT find it for the life of me!!!! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not send me to They do not have it either. Do not send me to Sun, because they do not have it either. Nor does Susie, nor does Red Hat...NOBODY!! I can NOT find it. What is up with this??? Is this usual? Why would a company sell me an operating system (I know, it's free), and the SAME company (Mandrake) sell me the Oracle81 program, and NOT include it in their package??? (They don't have JRE 1.1.6v5 either)!

Where can I find it???? I am becoming very discouraged with all the support I have heard about concerning Linux...(there doesn't seem to be ANY).

 Fri, 21 Apr 2000 03:30:51 -0700 (PDT)
From: belahcene abdelkader <>
Subject: troubling with ftp , telnet

hi, someone can help me! I have a lab with several PCs, pentium II, running under linux redhat 6.0. The installation is complete on each one, with ftp, http, telnet etc.... The ping is correct for all machines. I can use internet with netscape from each one. I use one machine as server with proxy. Clearly : I have machine 1 with proxy package, this machine is connected to internet via modem, the machines 2 and 3 are connected in LAN and can access to internet via machine 1. My probleme is: when I want to get file from one machine in another, via ftp, the system refuse with non permission. Sometimes it is possible in one sens and not in the other. I have the same probleme with telnet. I have login and passwd in all the machines and i can enter as root. Thank you.

 Fri, 21 Apr 2000 18:48:03 BST
From: Ben Parsons <>
Subject: Help with email

Hello. I've only just really started out with linux Mandrake (call it redhat) and I wanted to know if I can get my hotmail email into say, Pine or Elm, I looked through all the docs but it dosen't mention it and in any case I don't know where to start. Cheers in advance to anyone who can help.

 Tue, 25 Apr 2000 00:36:59 +0200
From: Gonzalo Aguilar <>
Subject: XFree 4.0 and internationalization

Hello, I'm an Spanish linux user and XFree 4.0 is having problems with the "special characters" of my keyboard.

I cannot write letter with "´" on the top (is very important for my languaje) or cannot put "¨" also.

Those work after in XFree 3.3.5 but now...

Do you know any tips on this. Nobody seems to know cause a lot of people has the same problem. Thanks

 Tue, 25 Apr 2000 10:43:12 +0200
From: Dominic STEUR <>
Subject: GUI

Hello, I am kind of a beginner in the linux world and I have little knowledge about unix and even less about linux. I have installed the Linux Redhat 6.1 recently, and that went quite smooth, it is on an intel machine with now a lilo boot and a win2000 boot menu, in which I can choose 98 or 2000. Here comes my problem: when booting the linux i end up in the bourne-shell login screen, but this is not quite what I had in mind for interface... i had performed the gnome workstation installation, so it should end up in a x-windows environment if I am correct. When i did an upgrade installation, it became clear that there were no interface ( or similar) packages installed, so I selected the lot of them and installed it. But after rebooting the bourne-shell was back, and I am at a loss. It probably is a stupid problem with a simple solution (I hope), but I fancy some help.

 Tue, 25 Apr 2000 18:19:37 +0100
From: <>
Subject: A Problem

Dear Editor,

My name is Saqib Shaikh and I live in the UK. I have been reading Linux books for a few years now, and decided to put my knowledge into practice. I got out my CD of Slackware 3.6, and my old computer. My computer's specifications are: 486, 33 mhz processor, 4 MB RAM, 80 MB hard drive. The Slackware guide said that 4 MB was enough RAM, so gave it a go. I made the boot and root floppies. I inserted the boot floppy, powered up, inserted the root floppy when asked. It stood there, blank screen, doing nothing. I thought on such an old computer it must just be taking its time. 25 minutes later I pressed ctrl+alt+del. This has resulted in my computer, whenever turned on, giving the error "Cannot find ROM basic"!. It does not even check the floppy disk. One last thing to mention is that before starting the install I used fdisk to remove all partitions, and used fdisk /mbr to remove the mbr. I would be extremely greatful for your help. I do not mind throwing the computer away, but rather would like to learn the cause for the future.

REgards, Saqib Shaikh

 Tue, 25 Apr 2000 18:19:37 +0100
From: Linux Gazette <>

I want to take backup on HP 5GB Dat Drive. Could u please help me any body how to configure it. Thanks in advance.

[I inadvertently cut off the querent's name and e-mail address. Please send answers to the Gazette. -Ed.]

 Tue, 25 Apr 2000 18:19:37 +0100
From: Linux Gazette <> The following questions received this month are answered in the Linux Gazette FAQ:

 Wed, 26 Apr 2000 10:52:35 +0800
From: Kana Krishna <>

My name is Kanagaraj and I'm from Malaysia . Currently I'm doing my degree in Computer Science in a local university here . I need help in creating a script that can log into telnet or ftp server ( with user name and password ) to copy a file(log file) and send it to a pc that is connected to the network . What I really need to do is :-

  1. Telnet a site with its password and user name.
  2. From there , ftp another site (with password and user name).Get a log file and send it through both the servers again to a pc that is connected to the network

I need the automate the process by scripting for one of my projects and I'm really having a tough time doing it . I'm have to connect using MS-Dos enviroment. As I was looking for some information or somebody to help me , I found your e-mail address in one of the web sites . It would nice if you could help me .Bye

 Wed, 26 Apr 2000 18:42:50 -0400
From: Aurelio Martínez Dalis <>

My Name is Aurelio Martínez, from Venezuela, Latin America. I speak english just a little, and I am a Linux begineer. I would like to know if exists any other video system for linux other than X11, free or comercial, under development or stable. Can you help me ? Thanks.

 Fri, 28 Apr 2000 14:42:50 -0400
From: Roland Glenn McIntosh <>
Subject: Two problems - change password with Eudora, how to APOP?

I'm using the IMAP package, whichever version comes with Red Hat Linux 6.2. I'd like to be able to change my mail password on the server from the client, using Eudora's "change password" feature.

I'd also like to be able to use APOP authentication, though I haven't seen how to set this up anyplace on the server side. Please help!

 Fri, 28 Apr 2000 15:05:17 -0700
From: Julio <>
Subject: leading distributions

hello there folks,

thank you for the quality publication

would you please help me find information on the leading distributions of Linux?

I have looked everywhere I can think of, including linuxorg, linux this and linux that. Also IDC and IDG., cnet...

where o where can I find a simple explanation of the top distributions, what is their market share, how many copies each has sold and if it is broken down by continent then all the better.

sorry to bother you but after 3 days of fruitless searching, I just came to the conclusion that I should start asking people who are likely to know

I am another new convert - I am having a dual processor Linux machine built as I type this and will deep six Windows for good. Finally. And good riddance.

please help if you can, even if you don't know that answer, please direct me to somebody that does know the answers to the above questions.

thanks for your help,

General Mail

 Mon, 3 Apr 2000 23:27:54 -0400
From: Pierre Abbat <>
Subject: Best Linux and BestCrypt

Best Linux is at Technology Center Hermia, Tampere. BestCrypt is by Jetico, which is on Hermiankatu, Tampere. Any connection?


 Tue, 11 Apr 2000 15:23:46 GMT
From: Harry <>
Subject: Good work.


I read the Linux Gazette regularly, but I hadn't read it for the few months just passed. I read the new cartoon Helpdex, and really liked it. So much in fact that I decided it was worth e-mailing you to tell you that I think it's a great addition to a great 'Zine.

Keep up the good work.

 Mon, 24 Apr 2000 17:45:25 GMT
From: Michael Williams <>
Subject: Newbie installation tips and reorganizing the tech support columns

[These are excerpts from a long conversation. My proposal is near the end. Readers: please send in your suggestions or offers to help! -Ed.]

How about setting up a regular section where people email their problems with setting up Linux, especially on a machine that already runs windows (along with the solutions of course). I'm suggesting this because of the problems that I found when installing Linux - I believe that this is a major factor in stopping people from using the operatins system. It wouldn't be immediate, but I would be happy to put it all together if you would just mention it in the next issue.

Your humble Editor wrote:

How would this be different from the Mailbag/2-cent Tips and The Answer Guy? Do you wish the installation questions moved all together under their own heading? Or what is it you're looking for?

Michael responded:


1. It is different from the answer guy/2 cent tips as it allows the readers to offer their solutions for problems. As good as he is, the answer guy cannot answer every problem that may arrise simply because of the range of hardware available. If enough people responded, it would end up as a pretty comprehensive list of problems that may arrise during the Linux installation. I see your point, it is fairly similair to two cent tips. However, it would be purely based around installation issues.

2. Yes, I believe that the installation issues should be moved under a seperate heading. This is by far the most difficult/traumatic part of Linux (in my view), especially when there's another OS involved (ie windows). This put me off installing Linux for almost two whole years. Those were two wasted years - there should definately be a comprehensive and detailed guide to installing Linux (yes, I know they do exist, but I haven't seen any that allow user contribution on this scale).

Your magnificent Editor wrote:

You are very right about people putting off installing Linux because of potential installation problems, and how this is "wasted time" when they could be learning the OS. Unfortunately, even the most comprehensive book will not cover all situations.

I'm cc'ing Jim Dennis and Heather Stern (the Answer Guy and HTML Gal) and Margie Richardson (the Ruler of the Gazette) to get their input on this.

A good portion of our questions are indeed first-time user issues, and another good portion deals with adding hardware. I'm unsure whether trying to separate those questions out would be worthwhile. The thing is, the technical details regarding first-time installation also come back when you add new hardware, install Linux on `a different computer, etc.

Would you be interested in coordinating the installation- and hardware- related questions in the Mailbag and 2-Cent Tips?

You could also build something like a knowledge-base index based on subject with links to the letters, if you're ambitious. This would be something to help newbies find the information they need.

The LG FAQ also has a section for questions that come up so frequently (like Winmodems) that Jim, Heather and I get tired of repeating them, so we just point people to the FAQ. If you'd like to augment that section of the FAQ, it might help some readers. (Now if readers would only realize the FAQ exists. It seems that links on every page and even a link in the blurb about how to submit a question doesn't help....)

Heather Stern chimed in:

Also with many querents it's not clear if they'd fall into the space of "first tine user" - they didn't say, so we'd be presuming to say so. And a very experienced person is often new to the one aspect they're asking about.

The readers already are supposed to be putting forward their own problems and solutions with 2cent Tips; but we're getting an increase of people sending raw Tips to The Answer Guy, usually inspired by a previous letter in his column.

My personal inclination would lean toward, if Michael's willing to coordinate it, sprouting Tips (short answers only), Answer Guy, and the Clueful Hoard (i.e. answerguy like answers from the readership, to technical questions to the Mailbag) into its own meta-section, with the FAQ and/or sorted best answers prominently bulleted below these. For such an endeavor I'd be happy to throw together some extra graphics, and send him the current edition of the AnswerGuy preprocessing script, with some docs on how to use it effectively :)

This would mean some things that presently get pubbed as Tips, and some messages that come to The Answer Guy, would be moved to the Clueful Hoard.

Jim had originally (way back in the teen issues) figured the Answer Guy would someday become an Answer Gang. This is one way to do it. Another way to do it would be to turn Answer Guy into a moderated list where the querent gets a consensus or best answer from the Gang. I have on occasion piped in an editorial comment as well...

It's hard to tell who uses Past Answers since if they got their answer, they generally don't email us...

I made an attempt at sorting Past Answers into topics and Michael, you're welcome to look at them, even, to become their maintainer (I'm usually a month or two behind on them), and for the FAQ too. Deciding on where to split the topics can be difficult, even if you're willing to link a question multiple times. It's behind (3 months I think ;P) but -All- the answers the Answer Guy wrote up to the last maintenance visit I made to them, are in the Past Answers.

Your all-around good guy Mr Editor wrote:

I'm hearing lots of good suggestions. Let's think about it for a month before deciding what to do. We have two requests: (1) giving Linux newbies better access to information about configuring their hardware, and (2) a general reorganizing of the tech support columns.

It's clear that the Answer Guy column is better organized than the Mailbag/2-Cent Tips in regard to finding the messages that deal with your question, so I'd like to consider moving all the tech support questions to that framework. The Mailbag would then be just for general mail (which usually means mail about the Gazette), and 2-Cent Tips would be for standalone tips: nifty shell scripts, cool .bashrc settings, etc. (I really enjoy doing the standalone tips, so nobody's taking that part away from me. :)

Heather responded:

Michael wrote:
How about creating a regular section entirely devoted to newbie's? It would almost be like a 'sub magazine' in its own right, with its own sections. To go into more detail.... and (multilingual)--both aimed at newbies--already exist.
It would be split up into 5 seperate sections:

1. Distrubution Reviews (which would have an archive of distribution reviews as well as new ones)

Just another article type, really.
2. A newbie version of the answer guy (all newbie questions would go here)

The Answer Guy is popular because he is (1) an ordinary person answering ordinary people and (2) he will chase down a lot of weird answers (his experience can lead him to give much better than a newbie knows to ask for).

I think it is harmful rather than helpful to suggest that newbies should somehow get shoved into a corner (what, they're not "allowed" to speak to the answer guy? the same one who actually -answers- when he gently flames the poor weener who is not quite on-topic, or has asked in a creatively misunderstanding way? I don't think so) And lest you suggest that I have no experience with them... I teach on Mondays, to a few people who are newbies to Linux and computers themselves at the same time. If you'd be assuming that they even know what an A: is... you'd do them a terrible disservice.

I have no objections to a transformation into a Answer Gang (multiple gurus in the column, maybe more bubble types?) or a Clueful Hoard (someone edits answers from the multitude into a similar column, while the wizardly Answer Guy answers his as well) but I have a *serious* objection to completely restructuring the whole webzine.

3. Reader's Tips (this is basically my original idea, concentrating mainly on installation and compatibility issues. It too would have an archive section split up into easily findable topics)

Tips already exists as a column. If you're interested in becoming a maintainer for it that would probably be great.

4. Programming for Newbies (programming is an -extremely- important part of Linux. It would not concentrate on more complex and specific issues. It would deal with more general and introductory topics and contain links to reference material.

This could easily become a longterm column of its own, the transformation of one unfamiliar with programming into a script wizard and junior programmer. Good idea.

5. Feature artical (each month it would contain a different feature e.g setting up Linux under windows etc....)

You're welcome to contribute ordinary articles to the Gazette during any month whatsoever, and if you can encourage others to do so also, more power to you.

Didn't we used to have a "weekend mechanic" section?

Of course, I would be happy to moderate and design this with a little help. It would not be a huge, certainly not the size of the magazine itself. If you want to encourage people to use Linux and get the most out of it, a section like this would be great. I know it is a lot more than I originally suggested, but I for one certainly believe it would be a good idea.

On the one hand I want to encourage the enthusiasm. On the other, I'd like to note, it's a lot of work merely to corrdinate the answerguy letters into one column. I think at one point it was about half the work in the whole magazine, and that I took it over from Marjorie both made TAG look better, and allowed Marjorie some breathing room to make the Gazette better. I do not honestly believe that one person can do all of this that you describe without ramping up to it. Though you claim it'd be smaller than the zine, it sounds bigger than the early issues of it, and Marjorie had her hands full every month back then too.

Take over the FAQs and Past Answers and mush them together nicely, or start writing articles regularly. Heck, if you can manage to do both of those every month without going completely bonkers, maybe a "section for newbies" will be completely and utterly unnecessary, because they will tend to find what they are looking for.

Michael wrote:

I would be happy to help out in any way that I can, just tell me what to do :-). Your comments were justified - it would involve a huge remake of the overall layout and a considerable ammount of work. Thanx for your time :) (No hard feelings by the way).

Your Editor, who rode his bike to work and enjoyed the sunshine, wrote:

Heather wrote:
I think it is harmful rather than helpful to suggest that newbies should somehow get shoved into a corner

I agree with Heather here. Everybody is a veteran at some things and a newbie at others.

Here's a proposal:

  1. Create a topic index covering both articles and tips
  2. Answer Guy -> Answer Gang/Clueful Hoard
  3. All tech support questions/answers -> Answer Gang/Clueful Hoard
  4. Have more articles and series like the Weekend Mechanic

Now to elaborate.


This would help newbies (and veterans) find the articles/letters relevant to their problem. We'd have to decide on categories (e.g., Network/PPP, Hardware/Video Cards, XWindows).

The back end for this is partially covered: each article and TAG answer already has its own URL, and some tips (not in recent issues) have their own anchor links as well. Somebody just needs to categorize the items and create the entry links in the index. For tips without their own anchor link (=all the recent issues), we'd just have to link to the page.

If we can build a framework that allows contributions from home, then readers can submit, say, a text file containing all the index entries for issue X (category, link title, URL), and a script can merge these into the index. I can categorize the articles for each current issue, and the Answer Gang can do the same for the tips, and volunteers can do the back issues gradually one by one.

#2 -- Answer Gang/Clueful Hoard

We need to get more people working on this before we all get burned out.

Heather, can you and Jim propose some logistics on how we could coordinate keeping the Gang together and getting each question to the Hoard and moderating the answers? We first need to know what needs to be done, then we can figure out who will do what.

#3 -- Moving the tech support letters/tips

This will have to wait until the Answer Gang is ready to take it on.

#4 -- More articles/series

This will take care of itself as potential authors propose things. We can list in the Mailbag what series are missing and desired.

This could easily become a longterm column of its own, the transformation of one unfamiliar with programming into a script wizard and junior programmer. Good idea.
We have two articles this issue on shell scripting. If the authors would like to put their heads together, perhaps they can come up with some ideas and manpower for a series or two. Programming of course covers several areas: shell, scripting languages (Python, Perl, etc.), C-like languages, assembly/low-level stuff, and others. One series would be able to cover probably only one of those.
Didn't we used to have a "weekend mechanic" section?
We did, but the author John Fisk is no longer available. If somebody wishes to revive it, that would be great.

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Published in Issue 53 of Linux Gazette, May 2000
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