/ Arch Linux

Electron Abacus Troubleshooting Etiquette

There are tons of reasons why something doesn't work. This isn't hyperbolic, it's a fact of nature.

The issue is that everyone has a different configuration of hardware that comprises their electron abacus, and those differences can wreak havoc at different levels depending on their combination and what you're running on it.

All hope isn't lost if you're having an issue, but it does mean that you'll need to provide a bit more information than you may be used to.

Categories of Helpfulness

After an eternity assisting folks, I've gleaned a few things that massively speed up helping people out with technical issues. I created two categories and placed what helps and what doesn't help into those categories. Now, these are centered around Arch Linux, but I have a feeling that they'll help with other things.

Things that are Helpful

  1. Log files. Log files are really, really helpful. Modern computers get pissed off on occasion. They may yell at you, or tell you that you're not a good person, but at the end of the day they end up writing about it in their journal.

    Dear journal,

    It was another sad day. I ran out of space again on /dev/sda and I tried to tell my friend but he wasn't listening so I got angry that I had to turn everything off...

  2. Your configuration. Again, it's almost impossible to figure out what you've got going on if you're not giving out the details of the machine that's having issues. If xorg continuously crashes, I really need to know which camp your computer sits in. Are you an AMD fan? Are you more into nvidia? Did you hook up an old Riva TNT card because it would be so hipster to do so? That bit of knowledge saves time because I don't have to play twenty questions over the internet which sucks.

  3. Use an online pastebin-esque site. Copy your configuration files and error messages to sites like this. It makes things easy, and they're naturally very good at accommodating large text files because their very existence is based around it. It facilitates me being able to search through them quickly and it doesn't absolutely destroy the conversation that happens to be taking place by putting up a literal wall of text.

  4. Use the Internet. It's rare that someone hasn't been down the road you're currently on before. If you can, take a trip to the Wiki and look around. Also, Google can help out tremendously with your issues. A few minutes of research can save quite a bit of time in narrowing down where the issue might be.

Things that are Not Helpful

  1. Bitching. Yes, I know you're frustrated and maybe three shades of pissed off, but I'm not the guy who broke your shit. Actually, there's a good chance that I'm at home drinking a beer and just happened across your post. People tend to help out more if your post doesn't scream "prepare to be completely annoyed." The overall balance is: will be more annoying to track down the problem or talk to the person with the problem.

  2. Screenshots of error logs. You do get points for posting the error log, and then lose all of them immediately. There are a few select exemptions for this one, but the majority of the time it's just not something you should do. Either use something like pastebin, GitHub's gists, or just ask. There will be at least seven people with nine different ideas of where you should post your logs to. Remember, I can't search a png.

  3. More bitching. Sorry, had to hit this again. Didn't have enough bold on the first one. Yes, it's fun, but only when you're the one doing it. Everyone else isn't a fan.

Are there more things that I can add to categories? Yes. The major takeaway is that these are general guidelines, and they'll help out more than you know.