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How to Report Problems and Get Personal Help
We try to react to help requests and trouble reports as quickly as we can. Whether you just need an explanation, or whether there's an actual problem with the system, we want to hear from you, and we want to make it work for you. If we can fix the problem, fine. If we can give you a workaround, fine. If we can't fix it now, we can at least explain what is happening and tell you when we will fix it.

Still, when you have a question, please try this help system, and the man files, first. There are a lot of answers there. And some things that look like system problems are just weird Unix features. When you know the magic words to type, everything is fine . . . and there are a lot of magic words in our help system.

There are two reasons that we really hope you'll try the online help first. If the answer is right there, well, that saves you a phone call, and it saves us some time. That's not a bad thing.

On the other hand, if the answer is NOT there, we need to know so we can put it in! This help system was created painfully, one question at a time, and we'll hack on it forever. If you have a problem and can't find the answer yourself, that's two problems for us to fix, and we want to hear from you. When we ask "Did you try the help system?" we're not picking on you - we're trying to improve our service.

Okay, I Really Need Help. Now What?

First - if it's a real emergency, feel free to phone. There is always someone on duty at the office. The office number is 512-462-0999. If you are in Houston, you can save the long distance charge by calling us at: 1 (800) 294-6266. If it's less urgent, you can do one of two things. You can post to one of our help conferences. This may get you an answer from a staff member, or one of our fellow users, or both. It's a good way to start a discussion if your question is general.

If you have a specific question, or if you just don't want to start a discussion, you can also get an answer via e-mail. Send the mail to This is not one person; it's a mail- handling system. This is monitored by several different Responsible People . . . one of whom will jump on it, and notify the others. You should get an automated acknowledgement almost immediately, and a real response within three days at the most. That's a worst-case, assuming that your question arrives right AFTER a batch is processed, AND that it's a technical question, AND that the usual techie for such questions is taking a day off. If you do not get an immediate acknowledgement OR if you don't get an answer in 3 days, e-mail a copy of your question to and mention that you did not get a response through the normal channels.

The Perfect Trouble Report

When you are reporting a problem, please be as descriptive as possible. Include anything that could conceivably be relevant, such as date and time of the problem, what software you were using, which of our machines you were using and in what subdirectory, and so on. If you can tell us the exact error messages you got, wonderful! If you can send us a capture buffer showing what happened to you, wonderful!

Also, tell us who you are and where you're sending from. If we get three mail problems in an 8-hour day, and they're all from Boston, that's very diagnostic.

Remember . . .

We really want to make this system as friendly and useful as possible. Every time you report a problem, you're doing us a favor. We can't fix them all right away, but we DO want to hear about them.

Last revised August 29, 2000