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LPI exam 102 prep, Topic 108: Linux documentation

Junior Level Administration (LPIC-1) topic 108

Ian Shields, Senior Programmer, IBM developerWorks
Ian Shields
Ian Shields works on a multitude of Linux projects for the developerWorks Linux zone. He is a Senior Programmer at IBM at the Research Triangle Park, NC. He joined IBM in Canberra, Australia, as a Systems Engineer in 1973, and has since worked on communications systems and pervasive computing in Montreal, Canada, and RTP, NC. He has several patents and has published several papers. His undergraduate degree is in pure mathematics and philosophy from the Australian National University. He has an M.S. and Ph.D. in computer science from North Carolina State University. Learn more about Ian in Ian's profile on developerWorks Community.
(An IBM developerWorks Contributing Author)

Summary:  In this tutorial, Ian Shields continues preparing you to take the Linux Professional Institute® Junior Level Administration (LPIC-1) Exam 102. In this fourth in a series of nine tutorials, Ian introduces you to Linux® documentation. By the end of this tutorial, you will know how to use and manage local documentation, find documentation on the Internet, and use automated logon messages to notify users of system events.

View more content in this series

Date:  20 Sep 2006
Level:  Intermediate PDF:  A4 and Letter (478 KB | 21 pages)Get Adobe® Reader®

Activity:  20411 views

Internet documentation

This section covers material for topic 1.108.2 for the Junior Level Administration (LPIC-1) exam 102. The topic has a weight of 3.

In this section, learn how to find:

  • Online documentation
  • Newsgroups
  • Mailing lists

Online documentation

In addition to the documentaiton on your system, there are many online sources of documentation and help.

The Linux Documentation Project

The Linux Documentation Project is volunteer effort that is putting together the complete set of free Linux documentation. This project exists to consolidate various pieces of Linux documentation into a location that is easy to search and use.

The LDP is made up of the following areas:

are subject-specific help, such as the Linux IPv6 HOWTO.
are longer, in-depth books, such as Introduction to Linux - A Hands on Guide.
are Frequently Asked Questions, such as the Linux Documentation Project (LDP) FAQ.
man pages
are help on individual commands, as you used in the previous section of this tutorial.
Linux Gazette
is an online magazine, currently available in English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

The examples here take you to the multiple-page HTML versions of the documentation. You will find most articles come in several formats, including single-page HTML, PDF, or plain text, among others.

The LDP also has links to information in languages other than English.

The LDP site is well laid out with excellent navigation. If you aren't sure which section to peruse, you can take advantage of the search box, which helps you find things by topic.

If you'd like to help the LDP with Linux documentation, be sure to consult the LDP Author Guide.

Distributor Web sites

Web sites for the various Linux distributions often provide updated documentation, installation instructions, hardware compatibility/incompatibility statements, and other support such as a knowledge base search tool. Some of these are:

  • Redhat Linux is a large distributor of enterprise Linux products based in the United States.
  • SUSE Linux was founded in Germany and is now owned by Novell.
  • Asianux is an Asian Linux distributor, founded by Haansoft,Inc., Red Flag Software Co., Ltd., and Miracle Linux Corporation.
  • Turbolinux is headquartered in Japan but distributes outside Asia as well.
  • Yellow Dog Linux from Terra Soft Solutions is a distribution for Apple PowerPC®-based processors, and embedded processors based on PowerPC and Cell processors.
  • Linspire is a desktop version of Linux that can be found on some preloaded systems.
  • The Slackware Linux Project by Patrick Volkerding has been around since 1993 and aims to be the most "UNIX®-like" Linux distribution out there.
  • Debian GNU/Linux was started in 1993 as a distribution that was created openly, in the spirit of Linux and GNU.
  • Ubuntu Linux is a relatively new distribution of Linux based on Debian. It focuses on ease-of-use and has related projects, Kubuntu (a version using the KDE desktop), Edubuntu (designed for school environments), and Xubuntu (a lightweight version using the Xfce desktop environment).
  • Gentoo Linux is a distribution that can be automatically optimized and customized for just about any application or need. Packages are distributed as source and built to suit the target environment.
  • Mandriva is a distribution featuring ease-of-use. The company was formed from the merger of several open source pioneers such as Mandrakesoft in France, Conectiva in Brazil, Edge IT in France, and Lycoris in the US.

You can find summary information on and links to a large number of Linux distributions at Tabular information on each distribution tells you what levels of which major packages are included in each version, when the version was released, and much other useful information.

Hardware and software vendors

Many hardware and software vendors have added Linux support to their products in recent years. At their sites, you can find information about which hardware supports Linux, software development tools, released sources, downloads of Linux drivers for specific hardware, and other special Linux projects. For example:

Open source projects

Many open source projects have home pages where you will find information on the project. Some projects are sponsored by a foundation such as the Apache Software Foundation. Some examples are:

A large number of open source projects are hosted on These are grouped into categories such as clustering, database, desktop, financial, multimedia, security, and so on. Project pages include links for downloading, bug reporting, user forums, and a link to a project's home page (if available) where you will usually find more information about the project.

Other resources

Another great place for Linux information is the IBM developerWorks Linux zone, the home of this tutorial as well as many other fine articles and tutorials for Linux developers.

Many print magazines also have online sites, and some news sites exist only on the Web. Some examples are:


Internet newsgroups are, more accurately, a form of discussion lists. They grew out of bulletin boards, which were an early means of sharing information, usually over a dial-up link. Newsgroups use a protocol called Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP), which is defined in IETF RFC 997 (February 1986).

To participate, you use a news reader, which is also known as an NNTP client. There are many Linux clients including evolution, gnus, pan, slrn, thunderbird, and tin. Some of these use a text-mode interface, and some are graphical. The main advantage of a newsgroup is that you take part in the discussion only when you want to, instead of having it continually arrive in your in-box.

Usenet is the largest source of newsgroups. There are several major categories, such as comp for computing, sci for scientific subjects, and rec for recreational topics such as hobbies and games. Computing is further categorized into subjects, and these are still further categorized, so the newsgroups of primary interest to Linux users start with comp.os.linux. You can browse a list on the LDP site.

Your Internet Service Provider probably mirrors a range of newsgroups, although news articles may not be retained for a very long period, particularly for active newsgroups. Several newsgroup providers offer a paid service that may provide longer retention, faster access, or a wider selection of newsgroups.

Figure 6 shows the comp.os.linux tree as carried on one ISP, using Mozilla's Thunderbird as a newsreader. You subscribe to newsgroups, and your newsreader displays only the subscribed groups. Subscribed groups are shown here with a checkmark.

Figure 6. Subscribing to comp.os.linux.* newsgroups
Subscribing to comp.os.linux.*  newsgroups

Newsgroup discussions are often archived. A popular newsgroup for many years was Deja News. When it finally ceased, the newsgroup archives were acquired by Google and reintroduced as Google Groups.

More recently, various Web-based forums have arisen. These typically function in a way quite similar to newsgroups, but require only a browser and no configuration. An example is the Linux tech support forum on IBM's developerWorks Web site where you can ask questions about this series of tutorials along with other topics.

Mailing lists

Mailing lists provide probably the most important point of collaboration for Linux developers. Often projects are developed by contributors who live far apart, possibly even on opposite sides of the globe. Mailing lists overcome time zone differences and thus provide a method for each developer on a project to contact all the others, and to hold group discussions via e-mail. One of the most famous development mailing lists is the Linux Kernel Mailing List.

Mailing lists allow members to send a message to the list, and the list server then broadcasts the message to all members of the group. Individual members do not need to know the e-mail addresses of every member of the group, and they do not need to maintain lists of current members. To avoid a flood of messages from busy lists, most lists allow a user to request a daily digest or single message containing all the list postings for the day.

In addition to development, mailing lists can provide a method for asking questions and receiving answers from knowledgeable developers, or even other users. For example, individual distributions often provide mailing lists for newcomers. You can check your distribution's Web site for information on the mailing lists it provides.

If you took the time to read the LKML FAQ at the link above, you might have noticed that mailing list subscribers often don't take kindly to questions being asked repeatedly. It's always wise to search the archives for a given mailing list before writing your question. Chances are, it will save you time, too. And, speaking of archives, these are often mirrored in multiple sites, so use the closest mirror, typically one in your country or continent.

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Zone=Linux, Open source
TutorialTitle=LPI exam 102 prep, Topic 108: Linux documentation