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Getting help with Linux

Since Linux is an independent happening - no ZDNet Logocompany or sole entity owns what is essentially a continually growing resource, free for all humanity - this tangle of information can be confusing. But don't fret and don't be discouraged. First, understand that no matter what your skill level, you're not alone. And remember, help is always available. In fact, one of the strengths of the free software movement is that you don't have to wait on a tech support line, or rely on anyone business (and local business hours) for help - individuals and companies all over the world can provide all levels of support.

There are four basic routes to getting help with Linux; the one you choose for any particular problem will depend on what that problem is. These routes, almost always, overlap, and eventually you'll probably have dealt with all four in varying degrees. They are:

*     Books and media

*     Internet

*     Regional user groups

*     Consultants

If you already have a computer you want to run Linux on, and you're ready to begin fiddling with the hardware settings, then this is a good place to begin. Books are also the best desktop reference to keep handy when you need quick information (and you can take them along when you're away from a computer). For beginners, a good book is quite a deal because it often comes bundled with a Linux CD-ROM.

Note, however, that like any other popular subject, the mileage of any given Linux book will vary. They range from excellent ones of which a shopworn copy is an absolute must for every Linux guru's lair, to those that contain inaccuracies and typos. This same warning also applies to the many Linux CD-ROMs available.