What is an FAQ? Where did it come from? Why is it here?

What’s up with the name?

  • Well, it came from an ex-girlfriend of mine who was quite technology-averse. One day, she asked what I was doing on the computer, and I answered, “I’m reading about GNU. It’s an OS and a concept.” She looked at me as if I had just landed from Mars and carried on with what she was doing. About a week later, I was back in front of the computer and she said, “Are you at that GNU pit site?” Where the “pit” part of it came from, I don’t know. But it stuck. She often referred to my computer activities as me working in the GNU pit. She’s come and gone but the reference to “GNU pit” has remained.

What’s the site about?

  • It’s about my experiences in the computing world, more particularly running a small VPS (Virtual Private Server) that I lease from the great people at Linode. It’s not the only company I’ve ever leased an VPS from but, hopefully it will be the last. I have no formal computer training, unless you consider a course in Fortran I took when I was in college back in 1978. Yes, I sat at a machine and punched code onto cards. I’ve learned everything I know by reading books, searching the internet, getting on mailing lists and learning from all the great people out there who willingly shared their knowledge with me. I’d heartily recommend LinuxChix and their mailing lists, particularly Newchix and Techtalk for answers to technical questions.

What’s the site format?

  • This site is Hugo-powered. That’s a CMS (content management system). It was on Drupal but that was overkill.
  • I envision it being a series of articles about various software used on my VPS and what I’ve learned about it that could hopefully help people just starting out. It’s those little “gotchas” that no one eve mentions that can sometimes make all the difference in the world. Oh, and perhaps a few articles on things I feel strongly about in the computing world will be interspersed among the technical articles, on topics such as netiquette, free software, finding answers, etc.

What do I recommend you do to learn more?

  • Read. Research. Read some more. Research some more. Read again. Research again. Read and research even more. Did I mention reading and research? I can hear you thinking, “Well that’s great. There’s so much stuff out there on the Internet! Where do I start? How do I research? What do I read?” These are important questions and will be addressed throughout the site. I couldn’t justify the answers with a quick paragraph here. I’ll put up a page or two specifically on how I research as well.

What are my Internet pet peeves (in relation to the available information on the Internet for software/hardware)?

  • Lack of dates on web pages: How the hell do I know when what I’m reading was written? It could have been written five years ago and things often change very rapidly with software. Take PHP-FPM, for example. It was an add-on for PHP. Now, it’s in the PHP distribution. Half of what I read when I was starting to learn about php-fpm ended up being irrelevant to php-fpm in it’s current form.
  • Lack of software version information: How am I supposed to know what you’re referring to?
  • Stale information: Big, big pet peeve for me. If you’re not going to put a date on it or reference a software version, take it off your site when it becomes irrelevant. Or at least archive it. Or put a note on the page that it’s out of date material. To me, people have a responsibility to maintain it if they’re going to post something on the internet. Same thing goes for mailing lists or forums. If you ask a question and eventually find an answer to it, provide that answer back to the people who were trying to help you. You’ll help someone else. I can’t count the number of times I was researching something and there was this great discussion about the problem on a mailing list or a forum and the last post was “Thanks guys. None of this has fixed it but you’ve given me some good info to go on. I’ll research t further and when I figure it out, I’ll let you know.” And then that person never posts about what happened. Did they give up? Did they find a solution? Did they scrap it and find something else that worked? Were they hit by a bus? Scooped up in an alien visitation and have yet to be returned?
  • Reinventing the wheel: In my former life, I’ve done a lot of work around efficiency and productivity. My view is that if you find a site that answers the question for you, then link to that site and give credit where credit is due.  Don’t repeat, verbatim, what was said.
  • Use of acronyms/initials without citing, in at least one place, what it stands for: Kind of speaks for itself. I can usually figure it out from the context but it doesn’t help me when I’m doing a search on the internet. I can get much more specific results putting in a key phrase, such as “Virtual Private Server” instead of “VPS”. And, for all the people out there who are just starting on their computing journey, it eases some of their confusion. Just something to consider when you’re putting information out there.
  • Oh, one other point. I am amazed at the number of people who assume that the gender of the people on forums and lists are male. Lots of women are out there, very knowledgeable and posting to mailing lists and forums and sites and, well, you get the idea. According to the CIA’s The World Factbook, there are roughly about 1.01 male(s) for every female (that’s about 50% for each (2012 estimate). Yes, I know that the use of “guys” has become a colloquialism for both males and females. But check out it’s origins. And, my observations over time have shown that in many cases, the use of guys really does mean “male”. Take this comment or leave it.