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Using USEnet to Obtain Troubleshooting Help
One excellent, free resource available to anyone with Internet access is USEnet, sometimes better known as "net news" or "newsgroups". USEnet is a system that allows people to post messages to various bulletin-board areas called newsgroups, where others can read and respond to them. There are thousands of different newsgroups, covering virtually any topic that's of interest to people.
USEnet is a great resource for troubleshooters because it allows you to post your specific problem and in many cases obtain specific answers, instead of trying to adapt generic answers to your particular situation. There are very few problems that you are likely to encounter that have not been seen by someone out there before. In many cases you can get the answer that you need fairly quickly, and there is no cost (other than your regular cost for internet access, whatever that may be.) Very often I find superb technical help on the newsgroups, and I return the favor by helping others when I can.
There are some disadvantages to using USEnet for technical support. The first is that anyone can answer a question; the reply you get could be the work of an accomplished PC expert, or a bigmouth who is trying to show off and really doesn't know what he is talking about (and these can be rather convincing, so it's not always easy to tell.) You have to be careful about what you read and how much of it you choose to believe. The other main problem is the time lag: posted messages take time to propagate to other sites, so you need to look at technical help on USEnet as an issue that is going to take hours or days, not minutes.
Many newsgroups, especially those that discuss a particular technical topic, have found that over the months and years many, many people ask the same questions over and over again. To save themselves from having to answer them many times, they put these frequently-asked questions (and their answers) into a FAQ list. (This is often just called a "FAQ".) FAQs are very useful technical resources.
One superb resource that I make frequent use of is a Web site called DejaNews. Technically of course this is a web site, but it is dedicated to allowing you to do searches of USEnet postings, to allow you to find the information you need rapidly across many different groups instantly. It's a fantastic tool that I use on a daily basis.
Note: If you have not used
USEnet before, I would strongly recommend that you read and follow the recommendations in this section,
which provides guidelines for new readers and posters to USEnet. If you just jump in
without knowing what you are doing, chances greatly increase that you will end up annoying
people instead of encouraging them to help you.
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