Please read all of this answer before posting. I know it's a bit long, but you may be about to make a fool of yourself in front of 50,000 people and waste hundreds of hours of their time. Don't you think it's worth spending some of your time to read and follow these instructions?
If you think an answer is incomplete or inaccurate, please e-mail David Merrill. See Asking Questions and Sending Comments.
Read the appropriate Linux Documentation Project books. Refer to Where Is the Documentation?.
Linux has so much in common with commercial unices, that almost everything you read there will apply to Linux. The FAQ's, like all FAQ's, be found on ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/ (the firstname.lastname@example.org can send you these files, if you don't have FTP access). There are mirrors of rtfm's FAQ archives on various sites. Check the Introduction to *.answers posting, or look in news-answers/introduction in the directory above.
Check the relevant HOWTO for the subject in question, if there is one, or an appropriate old style sub-FAQ document. Check the FTP sites.
Try experimenting - that's the best way to get to know Unix and Linux.
Read the documentation. Check the manual pages (type man man if you don't know about manual pages. Also try man -k subject and apropos subject. They often list useful and relevant, but not very obvious, manual pages.
Check the Info documentation (type F1-i, i.e. the F1 function key followed by "i" in Emacs). This isn't just for Emacs. For example, the GCC documentation lives here as well.
There will also often be a README file with a package that gives installation and/or usage instructions.
Make sure you don't have a corrupted or out-of-date copy of the program in question. If possible, download it again and re-install ityou probably made a mistake the first time.
Read news:comp.os.linux.announce. It often contains very important information for all Linux users.
Only if you have done all of these things and are still stuck, should you post to the appropriate news:comp.os.linux newsgroup. Make sure you read the next question first. "( What to put in a request for help. )"
Please read the following advice carefully about how to write your posting or E-mail. Making a complete posting will greatly increase the chances that an expert or fellow user reading it will have enough information and motivation to reply.
This advice applies both to postings asking for advice and to personal E-mail sent to experts and fellow users.
Make sure you give full details of the problem, including:
What program, exactly, you are having problems with. Include the version number if known and say where you got it. Many standard commands tell you their version number if you give them a --version option.
Which Linux release you're using (Red Hat, Slackware, Debian, or whatever) and what version of that release.
The exact and complete text of any error messages printed.
Exactly what behavior you expected, and exactly what behavior you observed. A transcript of an example session is a good way to show this.
The contents of any configuration files used by the program in question and any related programs.
What version of the kernel and shared libraries you have installed. The kernel version can be found by typing uname -a, and the shared library version by typing ls -l /lib/libc*.
Details of what hardware you're running on, if it seems appropriate.
You are in little danger of making your posting too long unless you include large chunks of source code or uuencoded files, so err on the side of giving too much information.
Use a clear, detailed Subject line. Don't put things like "doesn't work", "Linux", "help", or "question" in it — we already know that. Save the space for the name of the program, a fragment of an error message, or summary of the unusual behavior.
Put a summary paragraph at the top of your posting.
At the bottom of your posting, ask for responses by email and say you'll post a summary. Back this up by using Followup-To: poster. Then, actually post the summary in a few days or a week or so. Don't just concatenate the replies you received, summarize them. Putting the word "SUMMARY" in your summary's Subject line is also a good idea. Consider submitting the summary to news:comp.os.linux.announce.
Make sure your posting doesn't have an inappropriate References: header line. This marks your article as part of the thread of the article referred to, which will often cause it to be junked by readers, along with the rest of a boring thread.
You might like to say in your posting that you've read this FAQ and the appropriate HOWTO'sthis may make people less likely to skip your posting.
Remember that you should not post E-mail sent to you personally without the sender's permission.
Try to find the author or developer of whatever program or component is causing you difficulty. If you have a contact point for your Linux distribution, you should use it.
Please put everything in your E-mail message that you would put in a posting asking for help.
Finally, remember that, despite the fact that most of the Linux community are very helpful and responsive to E-mailed questions, you're likely asking for help from unpaid volunteers, so you have no right to expect an answer.