Support groups are a dialog, not a single-shot question-answer forum. If someone posts an insufficient question, or seems to be missing the fundamental factors while asking a high-level question, I've got no problem saying "repost with more detail". I do this routinely. I've even created a couple of scripts to snarf relevent system information. Likewise, I'll suggest that an question appears to be aimed at solving some more fundamental problem
It's also a problem I've seen with many different types of software, and other, support columns. The problem is essentially this: you're dealing with someone not only doesn't know how to accomplish a desired task, but probably has little idea as to what that task, or its alternatives and implications, are. They also have to realize that they are the person in front of the system, with the most information about its current state. The rest of the world may have much more general knowledge on the subject, but without accurate and pertinant data, its value is low.
If the original poster can't be bothered to follow up with the required information, I'll drop it (hey, it's not my problem). The first part of problem resolution, however, is identifying where the problem is. This in itself is a non-trivial task.
Typical incomplete questions, off the top of my head:
- My system hangs on booting. Followup questions: where does it hang, what's on the screen, does it reboot, provide a prompt, respond to any inputs (including keyboard LEDs or network status lights if a NIC is present)?
- How do I get Linux to log in and run program. You don't. Refer to /etc/init.d/ (Debian and derivatives) or /etc/rc.d/init.d (Red Hat and derivatives) and the SysV init process.
- X Windows doesn't work -- I get a blank screen with a checkered background and a big X. X did work, you now either need to start a window manager or try one of your three (yes, three) mouse buttons to see if you've already got one started.
A personal favorite, paraphrased:
- I've installed Linux and started it, now it's giving me a line that looks like "[root@localhost:~]# ". Do I need to enter a registration number?. Reinstall Windows. Now.
Online user-based support isn't for everyone. Computers are complex devices, Linux is a relatively complex OS -- though you can get up and running with relatively little experience or knowledge. My line is: Linux has a steep learning curve, but a high payoff function. If the user is not interested in making the investment, they won't see the reward. This is OK. There is a rich stock of "dumb user" tech support humor. It has some basis in fact.
And finally, some spot-on, solid advice on how to report bugs was posted by Jeff Covey at Freshmeat in his February 26, 2000 article How to Report Bugs Effectively. Read it, and refer newbies to it.
 Specifically, a kernel-bug reporting script, available on request.
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.