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First stops on the road to free support

Where do IT professionals find open source support? Well, Google is the first place most start, but there are any number of other sites that offer help.

Forget calling an 800 number. Google is the first place to go when your IT shop has a Linux and/or open source software (OSS) technical question, according to a survey of 20 IT professionals who use free support options regularly.

Every IT pro surveyed uses Google to find free support resources. "Put your error message into Google, and you will be surprised to see how well it goes in solving your exact problem," said Andrew Bartlett, network administrator for Hawker College, Hawker, Australia, and Samba Team's manager of authentication subsystems.

Other than googling, IT pros used these resources -- listed alphabetically -- most often:

Books: Mentioned frequently were how-to books from the following publishers: O'Reilly; Prentice-Hall; and Addison-Wesley.

Blogs or Weblog sites: In Google, search under "Linux blogs." For a definition of blog, check For an example of a weblog, check out this blog site. Software Engineering Institute's center of Internet security expertise.

Discussion Forums: There are many. Some examples cited were Gentoo Linux; JustLinux;;;; OSForge; and .lTbDaURRBBx.2@.1dcfd17c!viewtype=&skip=&expand=">

IRC:-- A real-time, casual chat group that usually provides speedy feedback from experienced users.

Linux Distribution and Open Source Application Software Sites: In most cases, some free support services are offered by the product developers/vendors. Examples include Debian; Apache Software Foundation; and Samba.

Linux Documentation Project>: A loosely-knit team of volunteers stocks LDP's library of Linux tips, guides, HOWTOs, and FAQs.

Mailing lists: Most open source applications and Linux distributions have mailing lists. To find the lists, go to the home page for the product in question. Examples of product mailing lists: Samba; and

Usenet:: Usenet is a collection of user-submitted notes or messages on various subjects that are posted to servers on a worldwide network. Each subject collection of posted notes is known as a newsgroup. Via newsgroups, IT pros can get direct answers to questions and read entries to learn from other users' experiences. It can be difficult, however, to choose effective search terms to find correct information, especially if you are a novice. offers a Usenet Info Center and Google Groups offers technology newsgroups, too.


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