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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ - Getting support for Debian GNU/Linux
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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ
Chapter 11 - Getting support for Debian GNU/Linux

11.1 What other documentation exists on and for a Debian system?

  • Policy manual documents the policy requirements for the distribution, i.e. the structure and contents of the Debian archive, several design issues of the operating system, as well as technical requirements that each package must satisfy to be included in the distribution.

    Get it from the debian-policy package, or at ftp://ftp.debian.org/debian/doc/package-developer/policy.html.tar.gz.

  • Documentation on installed Debian packages: Most packages have files that are unpacked into /usr/doc/PACKAGE.
  • Documentation on the Linux project: The Debian package doc-linux installs all of the most recent versions of the HOWTOs and mini-HOWTOs from the Linux Documentation Project.
  • Unix-style `man' pages: Most commands have manual pages written in the style of the original Unix 'man' files. They are referenced by the section of the 'man' directory where they reside: e.g., foo(3) refers to a manual page which resides in /usr/share/man/man3/, and it can be called by executing the command: man 3 foo, or just man foo if section 3 is the first one containing a page on foo.

    One can learn which directory of /usr/share/man/ contains a certain manual page by executing man -w foo.

    New Debian users should note that the 'man' pages of many general system commands are not available until they install these packages:

    • man-db, which contains the man program itself, and other programs for manipulating the manual pages.
  • GNU-style `info' pages: User documentation for many commands, particularly GNU tools, is available not in `man' pages, but in `info' files which can be read by the GNU tool info, by running M-x info within GNU Emacs, or with some other Info page viewer.

    Its main advantage over the original `man' pages are that it is a hypertext system. It does not require the WWW, however; info can be run from a plain text console. It was designed by Richard Stallman and preceded the WWW.

Note that you may access a lot of documentation on your system by using a WWW browser, through `dwww' or `dhelp' commands, found in respective packages.

11.2 Are there any on-line resources for discussing Debian?

Yes. In fact, the main method of support Debian provides to our users is by the way of email.

11.2.1 Mailing lists

There are a lot of Debian-related mailing lists.

On a system with the doc-debian package installed there is a complete list of mailing lists in /usr/share/doc/debian/mailing-lists.txt.

To subscribe to debian-X (for X in announce, user, etc.), send mail to debian-X-request@lists.debian.org with the word "subscribe" in the Subject: header. If you have a forms-capable World Wide Web browser, you can subscribe the mailing lists using the WWW form. You can also un-subscribe using a WWW form.

The list manager's e-mail address is listmaster@lists.debian.org, in case you have any trouble.

Archives of the Debian mailing lists are available via WWW at http://lists.debian.org/. What is the code of conduct for the mailing lists?

When using the Debian mailing lists, please follow these rules:

  • Do not flame; it is not polite. The people developing Debian are all volunteers, donating their time, energy and money in an attempt to bring the Debian project together.
  • Do not use foul language; besides, some people receive the lists via packet radio, where swearing is illegal.
  • Make sure that you are using the proper list. Never post your (un)subscription requests to the mailing list itself[1]

11.2.2 Maintainers

Users can address questions to individual package maintainers using email. To reach a maintainer of a package called xyz, send email to xyz@packages.debian.org.

11.2.3 Usenet newsgroups

Users should post non-Debian-specific questions to one of the Linux USENET groups, which are named comp.os.linux.* or linux.*. There are several lists of Linux Usenet newsgroups and other related resources on the WWW, e.g. on the Linux Online and LinuxJournal sites.

11.3 Is there a quick way to search for information on Debian GNU/Linux?

There is a variety of search engines that serve documentation related to Debian:

  • Google Groups: a search engine for newsgroups.

    For example, to find out what experiences people have had with finding drivers for Promise controllers under Debian, try searching on the phrase Promise Linux driver. This will show you all the postings that contain these strings, i.e. those where people discussed these topics. If you add Debian to those search strings, you'll also get the postings specifically related to Debian.

  • Any of the common web spidering engines, such as AltaVista or Google, as long as you use the right search terms.

    For example, searching on the string "cgi-perl" gives a more detailed explanation of this package than the brief description field in its control file.

11.4 Are there logs of known bugs?

The Debian GNU/Linux distribution has a bug tracking system (BTS) which files details of bugs reported by users and developers. Each bug is given a number, and is kept on file until it is marked as having been dealt with.

Copies of this information are available at http://www.debian.org/Bugs/.

A mail server provides access to the bug tracking system database via e-mail. In order to get the instructions, send an e-mail to request@bugs.debian.org with "help" in the body.

11.5 How do I report a bug in Debian?

If you have found a bug in Debian, please read the instructions for reporting a bug in Debian. These instructions can be obtained in one of several ways:

  • By anonymous FTP. Debian mirror sites contain the instructions in the file doc/bug-reporting.txt.
  • On any Debian system with the doc-debian package installed. The instructions are in the file /usr/doc/debian/bug-reporting.txt.

You can use the packages bug or reportbug that will guide you through the reporting process and mail the message to the proper address, with some extra details about your system added automatically.

If you want to mail the report with a MUA, send a message to submit@bugs.debian.org, first line of which containing a line like

     Package: packagename

(replace "packagename" with the name of the package). The rest of the message should contain the description of the bug (please make it moderately detailed), Debian release you are using, and versions of that and relevant packages.

Expect to get an automatic acknowledgement of your bug report. It will also be automatically given a bug tracking number, entered into the bug log and forwarded to the debian-bugs-dist mailing list.

If one were to identify a bug that was common to many programs, then rather than entering dozens of very similar bug reports, one might prefer to send individual bugs to maintonly@bugs.debian.org (instead of the submit@... address) to reach only the respective package maintainers, and then send a summary report to debian-devel and/or debian-bugs-dist mailing lists.

Additionally, there exists a Debian package checker, called Lintian, which is designed to mechanically check Debian packages for policy violations and common packaging errors. Thus, if you detect a bug in a package which is likely to appear in other packages too, it might be better to get in contact with the Lintian maintainers at lintian-maint@debian.org so that a new check is written for Lintian instead of reporting the bug directly. This will most likely prevent the bug to appear in future versions of the package again, or in any other package of the distribution.

You can also use quiet@bugs.debian.org, to submit bug reports to the BTS only, without having them sent either to debian-bugs-dist or to the maintainer. This `quiet' address is used very rarely, e.g. when you want to send some minor data to your report, that should just be recorded in the log, or when you want to record something in the BTS log but you already sent it to the maintainer.

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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ

version 3.0, 30 April 2002
Authors, Section 15.1