Although, as I said, there is no such thing as a free lunch, you can get pretty close sometimes. For about less than a $30 start-up fee and about $10-$20 a month, you can get support that is comparable to the tech support of a software vendor. The only problem is that it might be several hours (rarely longer) before you get an answers. I am talking here about things like mailing lists, forums on company web sites and so forth.
If your problem is general, such as getting DNS to work, or you need help with a shell script, this is not a bad place to start. Despite the delays that are caused by the very nature of this media, responses are fairly quick. Unless your system has crashed and you are loosing thousands of dollars an hour, this is an excellent source of information.
One valuable source are the USENET newsgroups. To gain access, however, you need a “news feed,” that is, some other site that will provide you with the newsgroups, because USENET uses “store and forward.” Turn around time can be days, depending on where you get your feed. Compuserve, on the other hand, stores all of its messages in a central location. The minute your message is posted, it is available for everyone. Talk to your ISP about finding a news server.
Mailing lists are another way of getting information. The difference between lists and newsgroups is that you receive all of the messages posted to the list. Therefore, you need to be careful about what you subscribe to. I subscribe to just a few and I have hundreds of messages a day to wade through. With many, you can subscribe directly from the Internet.
Throughoutthis site, I made references to several other works that I feel would be very helpful if you want to learn more about a particular subject. Aside from books, many magazines provide useful information. One of my favorite magazines is the aptly named Linux Magazine. In addition to English, it is available in a number of other languages.
Another place to check is the Internet. Unfortunately, its hard to be more specific than that. Thousands of resources are out there for every conceivable topic. Most major computer companies have a Web site. Often all you need is to add “www.” to the company name to get access to the Web page. I have done this to get to Intel (www.intel.com), Conner (www.conner.com), and even CNN (www.cnn.com). Here you can get product information, as well as press releases. Many of these sites have links to other sites, so it’s easy to bounce from site to site.
Also, several search engines have already done a lot of research for you. The one I use most frequently is Google. There is also a special search function just for Linux information. Here, you can input search strings to help you find what you are looking for. If you input a phrase that’s fairly common, you can end up with thousands of matches, so it often takes a lot of practice. Yahoo, which also links to other search engines, breaks down the information by category, which makes browsing easy. However, it sometimes makes searching a little more difficult if you are not sure how Yahoo categorizes the information.