At the start of my Linux journey, I needed a lot of help. Whether I choose a laptop with a Broadcom Wi-Fi card or accidentally deleted a drive / partition, I was constantly looking for a solution. What I never understood was that if Linux was all about control, why did I feel so out of control of my system? If you feel the same way, then we’re here to help you learn how to become your own Linux technical support assistant and solve (or at least start to solve) your own Linux technical issues.
A quick warning
I know that for more advanced Linux users this will all be well known. However, I urge you to remember the first time you encountered a problem in Linux. It probably wasn’t that easy to fix, and I’m sure you’ve found a more experienced user to take you under their wing. Instead of making fun of the simplicity, offer assistance to new users trying to orient themselves.
Familiarize yourself with the terminal
While Linux desktop environments are really great, a lot of them lack the built-in tools to really look at your system under the hood. This leads many Linux users to the terminal. Fear not, because once you get comfortable, Terminal will become your friend and you will wonder what you did without it.
Most Linux programs and commands have a
--help integrated option. It is rare that you will meet one without
--help or something very similar. If you’re trying to figure out what arguments a command needs to run it the way you want it to, try:
Read the (Man) ual
One of the first things I do when working with a new tool is to review
man, or man pages, for this program. They are almost always helpful in giving you some really useful information about the program and will usually give you a bunch of in-depth information on the different options available. Here is a sample command below:
The following image shows the output.
You can see the detailed description of
apt, which is really helpful in understanding exactly what you are doing. The manual page for
apt also groups command options, such as options for
purge, which all have to do with installing or removing packages.
One of the great tools built into Linux is
apropos, which lets you search all available commands to find a string you enter. You can run the command below:
The following image shows the output.
apropos is a great way to extract a bunch of commands that you can use for a particular purpose and get a quick summary of that command.
Another useful command line tool is
htop. As discussed in our article on Four of the Best System Monitors for Checking System Resources in Linux,
htop is a great lightweight tool that will help you determine what is using the most CPU or RAM power on your system. It’s great to find out of control processes that are slowing down your system or things lurking in the background that you might not remember installing and running. Most major distributions have htop in their repositories:
Then just run the command from the terminal:
You will get output that looks like the following image.
If there was something that was consuming a large amount of system resources, you would be able to see it and use one of the kill commands to end this process.
Usually, if you have a question, someone else has asked it as well. Whether it’s an installation error, kernel panic, or something in between, a quick internet search will often give you the answers you’re looking for.
Below are some great places to find information about your issues.
The Wiki Arch
Whether or not you are an Arch Linux user, I would bet that the Arch Wiki would be helpful to you. They’ve done a great job putting together information that benefits Linux users through the distribution lines I recommend Arch Wiki to people looking to learn more about almost anything.
StackExchange / Forums
More precisely, the StackExchange Unix and Linux and AskUbuntu. These are great places that you’ll often see pop up when you’re looking for something. There are all kinds of one-off questions and answers on StackExchange that will give you great troubleshooting steps.
Most Linux distributions also have their own forums to help their users. Just do a quick search, and you can find it for your distro.
There is a rather funny saying: read the manual. Basically, it’s a way for more advanced users to tell new users to read the documentation and fix the problem on their own first. You can either check the “/ usr / share / doc /” directory for some common tools or go to the project website.
As you can see, troubleshooting is about having information. If you want to post on a forum for help, make sure you have logs and pictures. It is important to be able to provide other users with as much information as possible. Also, if it is a hardware issue, be sure to include the specific device (s) you are working with, as this will make it easier for someone who has worked with that hardware to help you.
Now that you know how to be your own Linux tech support, be sure to check out some of our more common troubleshooting articles, such as setting up Bluetooth in Linux, resolving the no route to host error, or the touchpad problem not working.
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