Getting Help

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There are several sources of help at CISE, but not all are appropriate for all types of problems.

System Problem

Problems with CISE computers or operating systems or any problem which is affecting the department (or a class) in general should be reported to the system staff.

Please use the mailing list to report a problem to the systems staff.

Please use the following guidelines when submitting problems:

  • Make sure that the problem is appropriate to report. If a piece of software installed by the staff is malfunctioning, or if there is a problems with your account, or a problem with a computer malfunctioning, it should be reported here. Problems of a type described above should not be reported to the system staff unless it has been determined that the problem is caused by a problem with the computer.

All problem reports must include the following information:

  1. An accurate description of the problem, not just a vague "there's a problem" message. For example, the following two reports illustrate the difference:

    I am having problems reading my email

    compared to:

    I use Thunderbird to read email. I tried to get new mail, but it didn't show any new messages. I sent myself a simple test message 5 minutes ago, but it hasn't shown up, so I know there is new email there. I'm reading on the machine sun114-11. No error message showed up... it just acted as if there was no new email.

    The only thing systems staff could do with the first report is to respond with a question about what happened. With the second report, they could probably pinpoint and fix the problem.

  2. The User ID you used to log in.
  3. The name of the computer you were logged into. Please provide the hostname and location.
  4. The full text of any error messages that occured.
  5. The date and time that you received this error. This information will help systems staff search the log files.
  6. A telephone number at which we can contact you if we have further questions.

Problems related to course materials

All questions regarding course materials and assignments must be directed to the course instructor or TAs. Questions of this nature may not be directed to the consultants or system staff as we are unable to determine what it is appropriate to answer, and what is expected to be determined by the student.

Problems using a certain piece of software

If you need help using a certain command or program at CISE, it is generally your responsibility to learn how to use the software, and should not be addressed to the CISE consultants or system staff. Several sources of help are available to you though.

Many UNIX commands have online documentation. See the CISE software help page for information.

CISE maintains a fairly good library available at the consult desk in CSE 114. Ask a consultant for help on finding and borrowing books from this library. These include books on many programming languages, security, databases, etc., and are available to CISE students to check out for a limited time. The Marston Science Library occupying the other half of the CSE/Marston complex has books on every computer subject imaginable.

Perhaps the best resource is the web itself. Search indexes (like Google) or master indexes (like Yahoo) will allow you to find information on practically every computer topic. Use of these resources will help you grow into a computer scientist.

Problems in programs written by students

One of the most common types of problems reported to the CISE consultants are of the form: my program isn't working.

The bulk of these questions are the responsibility of the student to solve. Unfortunately, the resources available to the department do not allow the system staff the time necessary to debug problems of this nature.

Most problems have an accompanying error message. The first thing that every CISE student should do is to try to understand the problem. The web will be of help here. Most errors can be solve using only the error message and a quick web search.

Class TAs may be of help in solving this type of problem. In addition, web pages about the programming language and web search engines will be useful in tracking down the problem.

The only time when it is appropriate to report this type of problem to the system staff is when the problem is a result of problems with the machine or operating system.