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Help is always at hand on the Internet, particularly for problems concerning open-source software. Wait a moment before you hit the Send button, however. No matter how intractable your installation, configuration, or programming problem might seem, chances are you are not alone. Someone will have already answered your question.

When you hit a brick wall, your first recourse should be to the official PHP site at http://www.php.net/, particularly the annotated manual at http://www.php.net/manual.

If you still can't find your answer, don't forget that the PHP site is searchable. The advice you are seeking might be lurking in a press release or a frequently asked questions file. Another excellent and searchable resource is the PHP Builder site at http://www.phpbuilder.com.

Still no luck? You can search the mailing list archives at http://www.php.net/search.php. These archives represent a huge information resource with contributions from many of the great and the good in the PHP community. Spend some time trying out a few keyword combinations.

If you are still convinced that your problem has not been addressed, you may well be doing the PHP community a service by exposing it.

You can join the PHP mailing lists at http://www.php.net/mailing-lists.php. Although these lists are often high volume, you can learn a lot from them. If you are serious about PHP scripting, you should certainly subscribe at least to a digest list. Once subscribed to the list that matches your concerns, you might consider posting your problem.

When you post a question, you should include as much information as possible (without writing a novel). The following items often are pertinent:

  • Your operating system

  • The version of PHP you are running or installing

  • The configure options you chose

  • Any output from the configure or make commands that preceded an installation failure

  • A reasonably complete example of the code that is causing problems

Why all these cautions about posting a question to a mailing list? First, developing research skills will stand you in good stead. A good researcher can generally solve a problem quickly and efficiently. Asking a naive question on a technical list often involves a wait rewarded only by a message or two referring you to the archives where you should have begun your search for answers.

Second, remember that a mailing list does not offer technical support as a right. No one is paid to answer your questions. Despite this, you have access to an impressive resource of talent and knowledge, including that of some of the creators of PHP itself. A good question and its answer will be archived to help other coders. Asking a question that has been answered several times just adds more noise.

Having said this, don't be afraid to post a problem to the list. PHP developers are a civilized and helpful breed, and by bringing a problem to the attention of the community, you might be helping others solve the same problem.

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