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Date:      Sun, 20 Oct 1996 17:02:02 -0700 (PDT)
From:      Greg Lehey <grog>
Subject:   How to get best results from FreeBSD-questions (new version)
Message-ID:  <>

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How to get the best results from FreeBSD questions.

Last update 17 October 1996.

This is a regular posting to the FreeBSD questions mailing list.  If
you got it in answer to a message you sent, it means that the sender
thinks that at least one of the following things was wrong with your

- You left out a subject line, or the subject line was not appropriate.
- You formatted it in such a way that it was difficult to read.
- You asked more than one unrelated question in one message.
- You sent out a message with an incorrect date, time or time zone.
- You sent out the same message more than once.
- You sent an 'unsubscribe' message to FreeBSD-questions.

If you have done any of these things, there is a good chance that you
will get more than one copy of this message from different people.
Read on, and your next message will be more successful.



I:    Introduction
II:   How to unsubscribe from FreeBSD-questions
III:  How to submit a question to FreeBSD-questions
IV:   How to answer a question to FreeBSD-questions

I: Introduction

This is a regular posting aimed to help both those seeking advice from
FreeBSD-questions (the "newcomers"), and also those who answer the
questions (the "hackers").

       Note that the term "hacker" has nothing to do with break-
       ing into other people's computers.  The correct term for
       the latter activity is "cracker", but the popular press
       hasn't found out yet.  The FreeBSD hackers disapprove
       strongly of cracking security, and have nothing to do with

In the past, there has been some friction which stems from the
different viewpoints of the two groups.  The newcomers accused the
hackers of being arrogant, stuck-up, and unhelpful, while the hackers
accused the newcomers of being stupid, unable to read plain English,
and expecting everything to be handed to them on a silver platter.  Of
course, there's an element of truth in both these claims, but for the
most part these viewpoints come from a sense of frustration.

In this document, I'd like to do something to relieve this frustration
and help everybody get better results from FreeBSD-questions.  In the
following section, I recommend how to submit a question; after that,
we'll look at how to answer one.

II:  How to unsubscribe from FreeBSD-questions

When you subscribed to FreeBSD-questions, you got a welcome message
from Majordomo@FreeBSD.ORG.  In this message, amongst other things, it
told you how to unsubscribe.  Here's a typical message:

  Welcome to the freebsd-questions mailing list!
  If you ever want to remove yourself from this mailing list,
  you can send mail to "Majordomo@FreeBSD.ORG" with the following command
  in the body of your email message:
      unsubscribe freebsd-questions Greg Lehey <>
  Here's the general information for the list you've
  subscribed to, in case you don't already have it:
  FREEBSD-QUESTIONS               User questions
  This is the mailing list for questions about FreeBSD.  You should not
  send "how to" questions to the technical lists unless you consider the
  question to be pretty technical.

Normally, unsubscribing is even simpler than the message suggests: you
don't need to specify your mail ID unless it is different from the one
which you specified when you subscribed.

If Majordomo replies and tells you (incorrectly) that you're not on
the list, this may mean that you have changed your mail ID since you
subscribed.  In this case, you do need to tell Majordomo the correct
name, and that's when the welcome message from Majordomo comes in
handy.  If you have not kept it, all is not lost.  Send a message to
majordomo asking for the list of the members of the group.  In the
text of the message, write:

  who freebsd-questions

The names returned in the list are not all individual mail IDs: you'll
see a number of names like:

If you're on one of these lists, you'll have to figure out which one
it is and get your name taken off that one.  If you're not sure which
one it might be, check the headers of the messages you receive from
freebsd-questions: maybe there's a clue there.


If you've done all this, and you still can't figure out what's going
on, send a message to Postmaster@FreeBSD.ORG, and he will sort things
out for you.  DON'T send a message to FreeBSD-questions: they can't
help you.

III:  How to submit a question

When submitting a question to FreeBSD-questions, consider the
following points:

1.  Remember that nobody gets paid for answering a FreeBSD question.
    They do it of their own free will.  You can influence this free
    will positively by submitting a well-formulated question supplying
    as much relevant information as possible.  You can influence this
    free will negatively by submitting an incomplete, illegible, or
    rude question.  It's perfectly possible to send a message to
    FreeBSD-questions and not get an answer.  In the rest of this
    document, we'll look at how to get the most out of your question
    to FreeBSD-questions.

2.  Not everybody who answers FreeBSD questions reads every message:
    they look at the subject line and decide whether it interests
    them.  Clearly, it's in your interest to specify a subject.
    "FreeBSD problem" or "Help" aren't enough.  If you provide no
    subject at all, many people won't bother reading it.  If your
    subject isn't specific enough, the people who can answer it may
    not read it.

3.  Format your message so that it is legible, and PLEASE DON'T
    SHOUT!!!!!.  We appreciate that a lot of people don't speak
    English as their first language, and we try to make allowances for
    that, but it's really painful to try to read a message written
    full of typos or without any line breaks.

    A lot of badly formatted messages come from bad mailers.  The
    mailers in the Microsoft world are frequent offenders.  If at all
    possible, use a UNIX mailer.  If you must use a mailer under
    Microsoft environments, make sure it is set up correctly.  Try not
    to use MIME: a lot of people use mailers which don't get on very
    well with MIME.

4.  Make sure your time and time zone are set correctly.  This may
    seem a little silly, since your message still gets there, but many
    of the people you are trying to reach get several hundred messages
    a day.  They frequently sort the incoming messages by subject and
    by date, and if your message doesn't come before the first answer,
    they may assume they missed it and not bother to look.

5.  Don't include unrelated questions in the same message.  Firstly, a
    long message tends to scare people off, and secondly, it's more
    difficult to get all the people who can answer all the questions
    to read the message.

6.  Specify as much information as possible.  This is a difficult
    area, and we need to expand on what information you need to
    submit, but here's a start:

    - If you get error messages, don't say "I get error messages", say
      (for example) "I get the error message 'No route to host'".
    - If your system panics, don't say "My system panicked", say (for
      example) "my system panicked with the message 'free vnode
    - If you have difficulty installing FreeBSD, please tell us what
      hardware you have.  In particular, it's important to know the
      IRQs and I/O addresses of the boards installed in your machine.

7.  If you do all this, and you still don't get an answer, there could
    be other reasons.  For example, the problem is so complicated that
    nobody knows the answer, or the person who does know the answer
    was offline.  If you don't get an answer after, say, a week, it
    might help to re-send the message.  If you don't get an answer to
    your second message, though, you're probably not going to get one
    from this forum.  Resending the same message again and again will
    only make you unpopular.

To summarize, let's assume you know the answer to the following
question.  You choose which of these two questions you would be more
prepared to answer:

Message 1:
Subject: (none)

I just can't get hits damn silly FereBSD system to workd, and Im really good at this tsuff, but I have never seen anythign sho difficult to install, it jst wont work whatever I try so why don't y9ou guys tell me what I doing wrong.


Message 2:
Subject: Problems installing FreeBSD

I've just got the FreeBSD 2.1.5 CD-ROM from Walnut Creek, and I'm
having a lot of difficulty installing it.  I have a 66 MHz 486 with 16
MB of memory and an Adaptec 1540A SCSI board, a 1.2GB Quantum Fireball
disk and a Toshiba 3501XA CD-ROM drive.  The installation works just
fine, but when I try to reboot the system, I get the message "Missing
Operating System".


IV: How to answer a question

Before you answer a question to FreeBSD-questions, consider:

1.  A lot of the points on submitting questions also apply to
    answering questions.  Read them.

2.  Has somebody already answered the question?  The easiest way to
    check this is to sort your incoming mail by subject: then
    (hopefully) you'll see the question followed by any answers, all

    If somebody has already answered it, it doesn't automatically mean
    that you shouldn't send another answer.  But it makes sense to
    read all the other answers first.

3.  Do you have something to contribute beyond what has already been
    said?  In general, "Yeah, me too" answers don't help much,
    although there are exceptions, like when somebody is describing a
    problem he's having, and he doesn't know whether it's his fault or
    whether there's something wrong with the hardware or software.  If
    you do send a "me too" answer, you should also include any further
    relevant information.

4.  Are you sure your answer is correct?  If not, wait a day or so.
    If nobody else comes up with a better answer, you can still reply
    and say, for example, "I don't know if this is correct, but since
    nobody else has replied, why don't you try replacing your ATAPI
    CD-ROM with a frog?".

5.  Don't do a group reply; lots of people send messages with hundreds
    of CCs.  Unless there's a good reason to do otherwise, just reply
    to the person and copy FreeBSD-questions.

6.  Trim the original message to the minimum, and use some technique
    to identify which text came from the original message, and which
    text you add.  I personally find that prepending "> " to the
    original message works best.  Leaving white space after the ">"
    and leave empty lines between your text and the original text both
    make the result more readable.

    Most mailers change the subject line on a reply by prepending a
    text such as "Re: ".  If your mailer doesn't do it automatically,
    you should do it manually.

    If the submitter didn't abide by format conventions (lines too
    long, inappropriate subject line), *please* fix it.  In the case
    of an incorrect subject line (such as "HELP!!??"), change the
    subject line to (say) "Re: Difficulties with sync PPP (was:
    HELP!!??)".  That way other people trying to follow the thread
    will have less difficulty following it.

    In such cases, it's appropriate to say what you did and why you
    did it, but try not to be rude.  If you find you can't answer
    without being rude, don't answer.

    If you just want to reply to a message because of its bad format,
    just reply to the submitter, not to the list.  You can just send
    him this message in reply, if you like.

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