Freedom, Community & Sustainability

[VIDEO] Ubuntu Tutorial 3 - Troubleshooting & getting help (beginner)

December 4, 2011 -- William
Last modified on February 2015
Duration: +- 30 minutes

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#3-Ubuntu troubleshooting & getting help
    1 – Solve most computer problems easily
    2 – System monitor & synaptic package manager
    3 – Ubuntu offline help
    4 - Ubuntu official book
    5 -  AskUbuntu
    6 -  UbuntuForums
    7 – IRC channels
    8 – Launchpad answers
    9 – Report a bug in Launchpad
    10 – Professional support

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Welcome to the third tutorial about the Ubuntu desktop 11.10 for beginners. In this tutorial we will see how to troubleshoot your system and how to find help. This tutorial is divided in 10 short videos to cover the basics of how to solve problems on your computer. It goes from the easy steps that you can do yourself up to specialised and professional support. Hover the mouse over the main video to see all the other videos of this tutorial and click on one of them to jump directly to it. Pause the video if you need some time to practice, otherwise all videos will be played one after the other.
Check out our website Idilix.net for a written transcript and detailed information about these and other tutorials. We would also enjoy to have your feedback about these tutorials in the comments. We hope to read from you soon and thanks for watching this tutorial.

1 – Solve most computer problems easily

The best advice to troubleshoot any electronic device is quite simple: turn it off and start over again. This will solve a lot of problems a computer may have. If you remember only one thing from this tutorial, remember this: turn off and start over.
If the problem you are having comes from just one application then you can just quit and restart that given application. If your system is having problems restart your computer. Remember that when you force quit an application you will loose unsaved changes so it's a good idea to start small  and escalate from there if the problem persists. The more you understand how computers work, the more you will be able to spot the possible origin of a problem.
To give you a general blueprint of this method, start troubleshooting by reloading the file you are working on. If nothing changes, quit and re-launch the software you are using. If the problem is still there, restart your computer. If it didn't help, try un-installing the application and installing it again. If none of this solved your problem, you will need more specific help and we will see how during this tutorial.
On Ubuntu you can install and uninstall programs using the software centre. We have seen on the first tutorial how to install software, now to un-install, open Software Centre and click the Installed tab at the top. Search for the software you want to uninstall and click “Remove”.

Next we will see how to have more control over the processes and packages with system monitor and synaptic package manager.

2 – System monitor and synaptic package manager

When an application is not responding and you are not able to quit it normally you can use the system monitor to shut it down.
In principle the system monitor is there just to give you information about your computer. On the system tab you can see basic information about the operating system and the hardware, on the resources tab you can view a live graph of the usage of your CPU, your RAM memory and your network, on the file system tab you can view your hard disk. On the processes tab you will see all the software that is running on your computer, their status and how much CPU and memory they are using. When an application is stuck you can search in this list the process that is “not responding”. To quit it, right click on its line and chose “stop process” or, to force quit it, chose “kill process”. As soon as the process disappears from this list you can relaunch your application and it should be working as it was before. If you accidentally quit an important application, restart your computer and all software will be up and running again. The only risk of quitting applications from the system monitor is to loose unsaved changes of your files.
The Synaptic Package Manager is used to remove and install packages. All software in your system is made of  packages and you can check here what packages are installed and mark them for removal or re-installation. Only use this if you could not remove a package using the Software Centre as explained in the previous video. Removing useful packages can badly break your system so only do it if you feel confident about what you are doing.

On the next video we will talk about getting more specific answers with Ubuntu offline help.

3 – Ubuntu offline documentation help

Ubuntu comes with a very good documentation that can be very helpful to either learn how to use or  troubleshoot  your desktop. To access it you can click on your desktop (just to be sure that you will access the desktop menu) and then click on Help > Ubuntu help. Otherwise you can type help in the  dash home.
The first screen displays a series of common topics and sub-topics that you can browse like an internet browser. The arrow icons and the breadcrumbs that appear on top will help you navigate through the guide.
Most of the help will teach you how to use your system and provide useful tips to optimize your work-flow but it also provides some troubleshooting.
If you know exactly what you want you can type it on the search-bar and go to directly to it. If you type troubleshoot for example you can have an idea of how to handle some problems that might appear.
The Ubuntu Desktop Guide, or Help, might be a bit limited but it's a good place to start because it is simple and straight to the point. The same help is also available online at help.ubuntu.com. This help is a wiki provided under a free license and you can help improving it if you feel like.

Next we will see more off-line help with the Official Ubuntu Book.

4 - Ubuntu official book

The Official Ubuntu Book is a great resource to learn about Ubuntu and it's community. It is a concise and extensive documentation that is particularly helpful if you feel more comfortable with books rather than computers. Even if you are comfortable with computers and searching help online, this book is a good reference to understand in detail how Ubuntu works.
In this book you will find information about the Ubuntu history and philosophy written by prominent figures of the community, including Mark Shuttleworth himself. Then there are complete guides about installation and usage of the Ubuntu Desktop and Server, basic and advanced tips on how to use your system (including the KDE version Kubuntu), a large chapter about support an typical problems, an explanation about how the Ubuntu community works and other interesting and useful documentation.
This book is under a Creative Commons license and you can preview it online typing “Safari official Ubuntu book” in your favourite search engine. A registration is required to read the full content of the book or you can order it online or buy it in your local store.

Next we will see the online help site Ask Ubuntu.

5 -  AskUbuntu

AskUbuntu.com is Q&A website and it's the perfect place to start asking questions and finding answers quickly.
At the top right hand side of all pages a search bar will help you find the questions that were already asked and hopefully also answered. On the results page you will see that at the left of every question a green circle with a number in it will indicate that the question is answered. The number indicates how many answers this question has. A grey circle indicates that somebody answered but the problem was not solved. If no answer was provided yet the circle will be orange and the number zero will be in it.
To ask a question you just have to click the button “ask question” on the header of any page. Enter a specific question in the title and use the text box below to explain it in details if needed. The tags fields is required to help categorize, organize and find questions and answers easily. Enter the software that is causing you trouble, or just the first letters and a drop down window will appear. Click on the most appropriate tag and start over to enter more tags.
At the bottom you need to provide some information before posting your question. Once this is done you will receive “badges” and “reputation” according to your activity in the site and the votes that other users give to your questions or answers. Asking a good question is as important as providing helpful answers. The more reputation you have the more privileges you will have in the site including the right to vote and the ability to enter a chat. If you can't find your answer here or if it doesn't fit your needs keep watching.

Next we will talk about the UbuntuForums.

6 -  UbuntuForums

UbuntuForums.org is probably the best place on Internet to get in touch with other Ubuntu users and share experiences. The forum has a very active community and a wide variety of subjects are discussed. On the main page you can see that the forum is not only about getting help, it will also host discussions about design, accessibility, gaming and many other things. The main difference with askubuntu is that, as a forum it allows back and forth discussions for troubleshooting more complex problems. I highly recommend to register clicking on the link at the top left hand side of the page. It only takes a minute and it's well worth it.
Once logged in you can start searching what you need help with or explore the categories. To start a new thread, chose a category from the main page and click on the button “New Thread” at the top. Check if a similar thread has not been created yet and start creating your own thread. At the bottom of every thread page there is a “Reply” button and a “quick reply” area to join the conversation.

There are many other websites that can be very useful like ubuntuguide.org, ubuntux.org or linuxquestions.org. The most important one is certainly a search engine. There you can find content in any public forum or website. The Ubuntu Forums is probably the best choice if you use Ubuntu but you should definitively take a look at what other forums have to offer.

Next we will talk about IRC channels.

7 – IRC channels

IRC (or Internet relay chat) are chat rooms for real-time text messaging. There are many chat rooms for Ubuntu, you can view the complete list on https://wiki.ubuntu.com/IRC/ChannelList. The #ubuntu-beginners room is made specifically to provide support for beginners, we will see how to connect to this chat room although you can connect to most rooms that are in the list if you want to.
You can access it with your browser or with a chat client. On a browser go to webchat.freenode.net, chose a username, type #ubuntu-beginners in the channels field, enter the CAPTCHA and connect. You will see on your browser all the messages that are posted on this room in real-time. Be polite and patient and ask help for the problem you are facing. Someone will probably reply and provide some support. Never ask questions on two channels at the same time to avoid cluttering rooms and upsetting those who help you.
To connect with a Chat client, open empathy then go to the edit menu, then accounts, click on the plus button at the bottom of the left column (or use the wizard that will pop up if this is the first time that you are using empathy). Choose IRC from the protocol drop down list, chose the FreeNode network, enter a nickname and log in. Then on the room menu click join, choose the IRC account you just created and type #ubuntu-beginners in the room field. Once you have joined the room and the chat window is active, go to the menu “Conversation” and check “Favourite chat room” to find this chat room easily whenever you need it.

Next we will see other ways to find help online.

8 - Launchpad answers

Launchpad is much more than a questions and answers site. It is in Launchpad that most of the collaborative work of Ubuntu and other Free Software projects happens so it's good to get familiar with launchpad. The advantage of Launchpad answers over other websites is that many times the people involved in developing a software can be answering your question. The help provided in Launchpad answers is often quite fast and can be very technical. By using launchpad you are also helping developers track the problems that users face using their software.
Start opening the page answers.launchpad.net and typing your question. If you know the name of the software that is causing you difficulties you should enter it in the field below. There's a little trick to find the exact project name. Click on (Choose...), enter the name of the software and chose the appropriate project from the list that will appear and then click on search. If you're lucky the question was already asked and answered. Try to read the most relevant result (or make another search if no result appear) and see if it answers your question. If not, a button at the top right-hand corner of the page will allow you to ask a new question. Click on the button “ask a question”, login or create a new account if you need to and type a summary of the problem. A list of possible answers will be displayed, check this list before continuing. All these precautions are taken to avoid duplicate questions. In case none of the answers of the list satisfy you, scroll down and enter a detailed and clear description of the problem you are having. Once you are finished, post the question and be ready to receive by mail a notification from launchpad. Sometimes people might contact you to ask more details about the problem before being able to answer.

On the next video we will see how to file a bug using launchpad.

9 – File a Bug in Launchpad

If you are still having problems after going through all these steps you are probably facing a bug. In this case the best thing to do is to report the bug and hope that a developer addresses the issue soon. The official documentation for reporting bugs is available at help.ubuntu.com/community/ReportingBugs. In this tutorial we will follow roughly the same steps described by the Contributors to the Ubuntu documentation wiki.
So, if you have followed this tutorial from the beginning you have already tried getting help at askubuntu, ubuntuforums, IRC channels and Launchpad answers. I will assume that you are sure the problem is a bug and that you already have a launchpad account. Before reporting the bug, make sure that it has not been reported yet going to bugs.launchpad.net and making a quick search. If the bug has been reported click on the green line that says “This bug affects x people...” and say that it affects you too. If not, follow these three easy steps:
1. Determine the right package that is causing you problem. If the program is running use the system monitor as described in the second video of this tutorial to find the ID of the process. If it's not running use the main menu to find the package name as described in the seventh video of the second tutorial.
2. To gather all necessary information with Apport type Alt+F2 then type “ubuntu-bug [and the name or ID of the package that you found on step 1]”. Apport will collect the necessary information needed by the developers and upload it directly to launchpad. A browser window will open with a launchpad bug report page containing the information you provided. Once again launchpad will show you similar bugs to avoid duplicate bug reports.
3. Enter a brief and clear description of the bug in the summary field and a detailed description in the “Further information” field. It is important to know what were the steps that led to the bug, what was the expected behaviour and what happened instead and finally, if the bug happened just once or if it happens every time. Click the appropriate checkbox if the bug is a security vulnerability, enter the tags to help people find the bug report and attach a file if needed.
Once ready, click on “Repport bug” and you're done. It's likely that the BugSquad will contact you to ask some precisions or to ask more information in case something is missing. You will receive e-mail notifications of what happens next.
There are other ways to report a bug. Check out the page help.ubuntu.com/community/reportingbugs for other methods.

Next we will talk about professional support.

10 – Ubuntu professional support

I couldn't finish the tutorial about troubleshooting and getting help without mentioning ways to get professional support. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, provides professional support for a reasonable price. Check their website shop.canonical.com and choose Training, Advantage or home support at the bottom of the left menu. For about the same price of the cheapest Windows 7 license, you can have almost two years of dedicated professional support from Canonical.
The great thing about Free and Open Source Software is that anybody can work with it. When searching for commercial support your options are not limited to the company that releases the software. More companies that offer local support around the world are listed in the ubuntu site itself at webapps.ubuntu.com/marketplace. The diversity of support offers is a great way to maintain low prices and high quality services. You can certainly find other local companies near you that can provide support.

We have finished the third tutorial about troubleshooting and getting help. Thank you for following this tutorial and visit our website idilix.net for more information about Free Communal and Sustainable technologies.


Submitted by silvertwilight (not verified) on
Just found these on Youtube. This is an excellent series to view if you just installed Ubuntu 11.10. The narrator is very clear and steady in the sequences presented. Highly recommended.

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