Version: $Id: intro,v 2.3 1993/09/01 23:41:53 tmatimar Exp $
Comp.unix.questions is one of the most popular and highest volume
newsgroups on Usenet. This article is a monthly attempt to remind
potential posters about what is appropriate for this newsgroup.
If you would like to make any suggestions about the content of
this article, please contact its maintainer at
Many FAQs, including this one, are available on the archive site
rtfm.mit.edu in the directory pub/usenet/news.answers.
The name under which a FAQ is archived appears in the "Archive-Name:"
line at the top of the article. This FAQ is archived as
Companion articles include the answers to some Frequently
Asked Questions. You may save yourself a lot of time by reading
those articles before posting a question to the net.
If you have not already read the overall Usenet introductory material
posted to "news.announce.newusers", please do. Much of this article
overlaps with the common sense guidelines posted there.
Should I Post My Unix Question to the Net?
Often the answer is "No, you can get an answer a lot faster without
posting a question." Before you post, you should try -
o Reading the manual for your system. Some day you may encounter
the phrase "RTFM", which stands for "Read the Fine Manual"
(except 'F' doesn't really stand for "Fine"). If you ask
someone a question and they tell you to RTFM, it's an
indication that you haven't done your homework. For instance,
if you are having trouble removing a file whose name begins
with a "-", check the man page for "rm". It might tell
you what you need to know.
When people use terminology like "read(2)", they are referring
to the "read" man page in section 2 of the manual (which you
would see by using "man 2 read").
o Finding a knowledgeable user at your site. Many sites have
at least a few Unix experts who will be happy to help you
figure out how to remove a file whose name begins with "-".
Many larger sites, particularly universities, may even have
paid consultants whose job is to help you with Unix problems.
Check with them first.
o Find a good introductory book on Unix. There are plenty of
such books available, and you will save yourself a lot
of trouble by having one handy and consulting it frequently.
(Question 1.5 in the companion articles will let you know
where you can find a list of good Unix and C books.)
Please remember that the comp.unix.* newsgroups are read by over 80,000
people around the world, and that posting a question to this group will
cost a lot of time and money by the time your article is distributed to
Asia, Australia, Europe (west and east), Africa, the middle east,
and all corners of North, South and Central America.
Also, some people receive these newsgroups as part of a mailing list
rather than a newsgroup. If you're one of these people, please don't
send a "Remove me from this list" or "UNSUBSCRIBE" message to the
wrong place. Take the time to figure out where you're getting this
stuff from, and send your request to the mailing list maintainer, *not*
to the list or newsgroup itself! Ask your local postmaster for help.
(One of the answers in the companion articles deals with the details of
the mailing list.)
To Which Newsgroup Should I Post My Question?
The choice of newsgroup is harder than it used to be. In the old days,
you just had to choose between "comp.unix.questions" and
"comp.unix.wizards". Now there are a variety of more specific groups.
Choose one of the following groups carefully. If you aren't sure where
your question belongs or if your question is not specific to some
particular version of Unix, try "comp.unix.questions". Many
knowledgeable Unix wizards read that group and will be able to help you.
Here are the capsule descriptions of various groups you might consider
(extracted from a monthly posting to "news.announce.newusers")
comp.unix.questions General questions from UNIX users and sys admins.
If your question isn't a really good match for one of
the groups below, post it here.
news.answers Repository for periodic USENET articles. (Moderated)
This article is crossposted there.
Do not try to post here unless you're
posting a list of FAQ's and their answers.
comp.unix.shell Using and programming any UNIX shell.
comp.lang.c Discussion about C.
comp.sources.unix Postings of complete, UNIX-oriented sources. (Moderated)
comp.std.unix Discussion for the P1003 committee on UNIX. (Moderated)
comp.unix Discussion of UNIX* features and bugs. (Moderated)
comp.unix.admin Administering a Unix-based system.
comp.unix.aix IBM's version of UNIX.
comp.unix.amiga Unix on the Commodore Amiga
comp.unix.aux The version of UNIX for Apple Macintosh II computers.
comp.unix.bsd Discussions relating to BSD UNIX.
comp.unix.internals Discussions on hacking UNIX internals.
comp.unix.large UNIX on mainframes and in large networks.
comp.unix.misc Various topics that don't fit other groups.
comp.unix.msdos MS-DOS running under UNIX by whatever means.
comp.unix.programmer Q&A for people programming under Unix.
comp.unix.sysv286 UNIX System V (not XENIX) on the '286.
comp.unix.sysv386 Versions of Unix (not Xenix) on Intel 80386-based boxes.
comp.unix.ultrix Discussions about DEC's Ultrix.
comp.unix.xenix.misc General discussions regarding XENIX (except SCO).
comp.unix.xenix.sco XENIX versions from the Santa Cruz Operation.
comp.unix.wizards In-depth discussions of advanced unix topics.
People should not post to this group unless they
have used unix as a user, sysadmin and know details
of the kernel, and how different unix kernels differ.
In other words, don't post to comp.unix.wizards.
What Information Should I Include?
It's hard to include too much information. There are hundreds of
different Unix systems out there, and they all have less in common
than you might think. If you have a problem and are posting an
article, please be sure to mention:
o A descriptive subject line. Many people will decide whether
to read your article solely on the basis of the subject line,
so it should be a good statement of your problem.
NOT GOOD GOOD
"Help" "How do I sort a file by line length?"
"Csh question" "csh dumps core when I use '$<'"
o What computer you are using, and what specific version
of the operating system it uses. For instance,
SunOS 4.0.1, Sun 3/50
4.3BSD-tahoe, Vax 11/780
o If possible, the *exact* text of any error message you
may have encountered.
"I can't print this file" "When I type 'lpr Filename', I get
lpr: Filename: File too ugly to print
What does this mean? It isn't in
the man page. This is using
Mueslix 9.3 on a Fax 68086502"
It's a good idea to post unrelated questions in separate articles,
so that people can keep different discussions separate. It's also
a *very* good idea to include a line or two like this:
"Please mail your answers to me and I'll summarize what I get
and post the results to comp.unix.questions."
This prevents many identical responses from different users to the
same question from clogging up the newsgroup. And make sure
you really summarize what you get - don't just concatenate
all the mail you've received.
It's also a good idea to read comp.unix.questions for at least a couple
of weeks after you post your article to see what followup articles
Should I Post an Answer to a Question?
It's very tempting to post an answer to a question you read on the net,
especially when you think "Aha, finally - a question I can answer!"
Consider though that when a simple question is asked, such as the
sort about to be answered below, many other people around the
world already know the answer and may be posting their own reply.
In order to avoid dozens of replies to simple questions, please
wait a day or so and see if anyone else has already answered
the question. If you have something special to contribute, please
do so, but make sure you're not duplicating something someone else has
You should feel free to reply to any question >by email<. Even if
the user gets 200 responses to his question, at least the load on the
rest of the net is minimized.
What About Posting Source Code?
Posting small amounts of example code is fine (use comp.sources.unix to
distribute complete programs) - but please make sure that your code
runs (or at least compiles) properly. Don't just type it in while
editing your posting and hope it will work, no matter how sure you are
that it will. We all make mistakes.
What About Those People
Who Continue to Ask Stupid or Frequently Asked Questions
In Spite of The Frequently Asked Questions Document?
Just send them a polite mail message, possibly referring them to this document.
There is no need to flame them on the net - it's busy enough as it is.
Ted Timar - tmati...@empress.com
Empress Software, 3100 Steeles Ave E, Markham, Ont., Canada L3R 8T3