In this week's peek inside the Linux.com discussion forums, we find some advice on safely updating your Linux distribution, and how the GRUB and LILO bootloaders differ, along with a primer on the built-in tools that you can use to get more out of forum participation (hint: look in the top right corner of each page).
In the New to Linux forum, berger15 is worried about what will happen when the advertised support period of his Linux distro ends. "Will I need to 'upgrade' to a newer distribution? ... If so, will I be risking all my data on the HDD? If not, then ... what?"
Reader Jim explained that most Linux distros -- including Ubuntu, which berger15 is considering -- allow you to update your system in place, without wiping the entire hard disk clean as in a Windows reinstall. Proopnarine adds that it is a good idea to create a separate disk partition for the /home directory, so that your personal files are unaffected by upgrades or even reinstallations on the system partition.
Also on the installation front, user wlreed asks how to configure the GRUB bootloader to boot into Linux distros that are designed to work with LILO, a competing bootloader. Shashank Sharma and Anthony Robbins both replied with advice on how to compose correct entries in GRUB's menu.1st file. If you want to try multiple Linux distros on the same hard drive, take a look.
Finally, Penguin earns this week's Distinguished Forum Poster Emeritus award. Having spent enough time in the forums to appreciate the frequency of "which distro should I use" questions, Penguin put together a pre-emptive guide for future distribution-selection-advice-seekers. If you are new to Linux and can't decide which distribution to try, read Penguin's advice.
It's like cardio for the little gray cells: unanswered questions
If you're an experienced Linux user, pre-install questions may not pose much of a challenge to you. Luckily there are still plenty of mysteries to be found.
For example, if you read both English and Mandarin, grosser schwanz could use your help. He is trying to set up his Linux system to work with Chinese keyboard layouts -- smart Pinyin in particular. If you have experience with Pinyin or other layout variants, please visit the thread to share it.
Or, if programming is your thing, user astella needs some help with POSIX threads (pthreads). It is a detailed issue, so if you have pthread wisdom you will want to read the entire topic, but the basic question is whether using sig_atomic_t data will cause a race condition.
Know your forum features: monitoring threads the easy way
The final point in last week's forum guidelines was a reminder to be patient when waiting for others to reply to your question. Don't bump your thread by replying to it yourself; doing so will remove its unanswered status and a knowledgeable reader might overlook it.
The flip side of that advice is the "View unanswered topics" link at the top of the forum index page and at the top of each individual forum. Click on that link to see only those posts that are still waiting for an answer. If you are looking for a way to be useful, browsing the unanswered posts is the quickest way to find someone you can help.
There are more options to help streamline your visit. The top right corner of forum index page has a link that will show you all of the threads started since your last visit. The individual forums each have an RSS feed you can subscribe to in the feed reader of your choice.
And don't forget that you can subscribe to individual threads, to receive notification when there is a new post. If you are awaiting an answer, subscribing to your own thread saves you the trouble of remembering to check it every day.