Synchronet - Technical Support


Support is on a Voluntary Basis

Just as Synchronet is developed by volunteers, it is supported by volunteers.

No one is obligated to help anyone else with Synchronet. However, Synchronet sysops, users, and (especially) its developers, are usually very interested (and often feel compelled) in helping other sysops, users, and developers understand and overcome technical issues, of all kinds, related to Synchronet. These "support-givers" are strictly volunteers, spontaneously giving of their free time, to help others enjoy Synchronet as much as possible.

The primary Synchronet support-giver is also the primary developer and author of this document, Rob Swindell (AKA digital man). Generally speaking, the information provided by me can be trusted to be the most accurate and researched. I do my best to provide complete and accurate answers to questions, and no one is more intimate with the inner-workings of Synchronet than I. However, I discourage direct e-mail support as we want others to be able to learn from the questions and experiences of others, as well as give an opportunity for other Synchronet support-givers to field questions as much as possible.

Where to Find Support

  1. Documentation (RTFM)
    If you already have Synchronet installed, then read the files or perform a text search in the Synchronet docs directory. The official web-site also includes the documentation files and is searchable online (thanks to Google).

    If you haven't already, read the HTML Sysop Documentation. It is somewhat out-dated at this time (updated as of v3.00c-Win32), but still contains most of the relevant information needed to configure and run a Synchronet v3 BBS.

    Read the answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs).

    Many Synchronet documents were written by different people at different times during the 10-year history of Synchronet and are of a different style and quality.

    If you have trouble understanding a portion of a document, try reading the rest of the document to put it in context, or re-read the portion out-loud to yourself, a friend, or family member (which forces you to slow down your reading, hopefully).
     
  2. Discussion Groups
    There are a number of Synchronet-related discussion groups that are very active and you can anticipate a response quickly.
    They include:


    Before posting a message on one of these discussion groups, it is expected that you will first search through the previously posted messages for messages related to the issue you have questions about. Your question may have already been answered recently. Several times even.

    If you post a message, it is expected that you will read any replies to your message and post a reply with answers to any follow-up questions from support-givers or the results of any suggested actions by support-givers. More details about the recommended content of your message will follow later in this document.

    You can access the main Synchronet support discussion groups, that are gated between DOVE-Net, USENET, and FidoNet, on Vertrauen via HTTP, NNTP, Telnet, or Gopher. You will need to create and login with a valid user account (e.g. not Guest/Anonymous) in order to post messages.
     
  3. Real-time Chat / Instant Messaging
    Unfortunately, there is no permanent record of the support given in Internet Relay Chat (IRC) or Instant Messaging (IM), so there is little chance of anyone else benefiting from the support given there. Also, you have to consider yourself lucky to find a knowledgeable support-giver available for chat at the exact time you need help. For these reasons, it is preferred that you use a discussion group for support questions.

    Synchronet Inter-BBS Instant Messaging technology is in its infancy at this time and requires direct real-time one-on-one communication between you and a support-giver of your choosing using a fairly cumbersome user interface. It's best to not use Synchronet's IM technology for technical support at this time. Synchronet support-givers are generally not reachable using other Instant Message technologies.

    The best place to find instant answers to questions is in the #bbs or #synchronet channels on the BBSnet IRC server: irc.thebbs.org:6667 or the new Synchronet IRC network at irc.synchro.net:6667.

How to Ask Questions

  1. Be polite.
    Remember, we're just volunteers, so be nice. Don't be demanding, rude, hostile, or inconsiderate.
    This isn't to say we require excessive use of "please and thank you", just don't abuse us.
     
  2. Use proper spelling and grammar.
    I (and most, if not all, Synchronet support-givers) speak English and unfortunately, only English. If you do not have command of the English language, please do your best to learn from previous questions/answers from others before posting a message that will likely be difficult for support-givers to comprehend.

    Many people don't find it necessary to type messages in complete sentences or use proper punctuation, but that can make it difficult for a reader to understand exactly what you're asking. If getting a complete and accurate answer is important to you, don't be lazy when typing your question. Example: Questions should end in a question-mark (?).
     
  3. Don't be emotional.
    There is no point to starting off a question by explaining how frustrated or pissed-off you are, or explaining how helpless you feel. The issue is (or had better be) a technical one, not an emotional one, so it's best to just leave emotions out of it completely.
    If you feel the necessity to express emotion, use common emoticons. :-)
     
  4. No threats.
    Threatening to shut-down your BBS or delete the software ("rm -rf sbbs") if you don't receive immediate help with some problem is less likely to motivate Synchronet support-givers than simply describing the problem in detail.

    Synchronet support-givers are generally much more interested in solving a real technical problem than they are worried about making sure Synchronet continues to consume disk space and CPU cycles for some whiny system operator.
     
  5. Be patient.
    Remember that this is a hobby for us too and we may not read or reply to messages right away, for a variety of reasons. There is no point expressing how "urgent", "critical",  or "important" your question or problem is; we reply to all messages when we read them and have an answer or follow-up question of relevance. Sometimes networked discussion groups do not work 100% correctly, a message is dropped or held in a queue for an excessive period of time. If you do not get a reply to your message within 5-7 days, post the same message again, perhaps adding a comment explaining that you have not seen a reply. If you don't get a reply within 5-7 days after that, try posting the same message in a different Synchronet-related discussion group. You will get an answer.
     
  6. Give complete, detailed information.
    If you're getting an error message of any kind, post the exact, complete error message from a screen capture, or copy/paste from a log file (e.g. data/error.log). Don't forget to edit-out any passwords or other sensitive information from logs or screen captures.

    Include the frequency of the problem (e.g. only once, every time, intermittently).

    The exact steps required to reproduce a problem can be extremely helpful in finding the root cause/solution to a problem.

    Specify what version and revision of Synchronet you're running (e.g. "v3.10L-win32"). It is often helpful to know what operating system version and/or distribution you're using (e.g. "Windows XP Pro" or "RedHat Linux 9").

    Details about your computer (brand, model, CPU type, speed, hard disk or RAM size) are rarely useful in determining the cause of any Synchronet-related problem. These details are best left out unless specifically asked for by a support-giver.

    The more complete the information you provide in your initial question, the more likely you are to get a complete and accurate answer to your question without requiring follow-up questions/answers.
     
  7. Stay on-topic.
    Try to keep your questions to one issue per message thread/topic/subject. This makes it easier to follow-up on later and keep the thread focused on solving one particular issue.

    Post any follow-up messages by replying to your original message or a reply from a support-giver (i.e. do not start a new topic for a follow-up message). Do not change the message subject when replying to a support message.

    Please do not mix "suggestions" with "support questions", if you can help it.
     
  8. Answer any follow-up questions asked of you.
    This may be the most important suggestion I can make. When a support-giver replies to your message with one or more questions, answer each and every question completely. Nothing frustrates me more than trying to help someone that has no problem asking questions but will not answer any questions asked of them.

    Quote the pertinent parts of previous messages when replying. (i.e. when posting an answer to a question, be sure to quote the original question as well).
     
  9. Share the final results for others to learn from.
    When you've taken any recommend actions, don't forget to post a follow-up message with the results of those actions.
    If you see someone else asking the same question later, don't hesitate to become a support-giver yourself and tell them of any solutions or results you've encountered yourself.
     
  10. Read other articles on how to get good technical support from volunteers.
    How to Ask Questions The Smart Way
    How to Report Bugs Effectively

Examples of Bad Support Questions

"hey man my bbs took a crap again."

Thank You

Thank you for taking the time to read this document. And thanks in advance for taking into consideration the recommendations made here for getting good technical suport in the future. As a nod to support-givers, include a "Huzzah!" in support messages (subject or body). This single word will let us know that you've read this document and agree to the principles out-lined here, and it just might give your support question a little boost in priority (no promises). For those who haven't bothered to read this document, let them wonder aloud what this secret handshake is all about. ;-)

Copyright 2009 Rob Swindell
 $Id: support.html,v 1.7 2009/01/31 21:27:29 rswindell Exp $