HOWTO: Ask (and Answer) Questions

Version 25

    Introduction

    Hi! If someone has directed you at this document, chances are you've  just asked a question, but have not supplied enough information for us  to be able to help you. We'd like

    to help, but we can't see your computer so we're relying on you

    to provide all the information we need to figure out what the problem  is. This document will give an overview of the sort of information we  typically need. If you're not sure how to get some piece of information,  ask.

     

    Much of these suggestions apply (directly or indirectly) to other areas of life, too

     



    Disclaimer: This is a personal document and is not official or endorsed  by VMware. Feedback, suggestions, and edits are welcome. Please use the  comments below only for things specific to this document; general questions are better off in the discussion section.

    So You Have a Question...

    Do Some Research

    Before you report a problem, be sure that you've read the release notes, the FAQ, the unofficial FAQ,  searched the forums, and searched the internet. You might find the  answer is readily available - searching first gets you the answer faster  and keeps the forums less cluttered, making it easier to find things in  the future. If you haven't taken the effort to look for a solution  yourself (however briefly), why should we make the effort to help you?

    People may assume you're familiar with A Beginner's Guide to VMware Fusion.  While you're waiting for a reply, consider reading it (if you haven't  done so already) - there's a lot of generally useful information.

    Tell Us What's Going On

    Once you've done some preliminary searching and determined that it's not  an easily-available solution, it's question time. It's important that  you give as much information as you can so others can diagnose what's  wrong. Remember that what may be obvious to you, sitting in front of  your computer, may not be obvious to someone far across the internet.

    As an analogy, if you were to walk up to a stranger and say "I went to  the store and bought a book but the red button doesn't work", they're  probably going to stare at you blankly. Aside from the weirdness of  being accosted by a stranger (okay, the analogy's not great), they're  probably going to need to know which store you went to, what book you got, what the red button is, and why you think it doesn't work. And why a book has a button. If you can't or  won't provide this context, it's doubtful you'll have much success (in  our analogy, remember that the person you're asking can't see the book,  the store, or anything else except what you're +saying+).

    Or if you're into webcomics, Wellington Grey puts it this way: The Trouble With Tech Support

    Also keep in mind that there are many (I'd estimate around 100-200)  posts per day - it's important to convey your situation clearly and  quickly, since this lessens the work that others have to do. Personally,  if it takes 17 exchanges to extract necessary information, I'm going to  be... less happy.. than if the information had been there upfront. A  few exchanges is OK if you forgot some information or don't know how to  get it, but please try.

    It may also help to say what task you're trying to do in general, rather  than what specifically isn't working - someone may be able to point out  that you're overlooking a simple alternative.

    Information to Include

    This is not an exhaustive list of useful information - if you have more  details that you think are relevant, be sure to include them too. These  lists assume you have a specific question - obviously the ground rules  are different if you have a general question.

    Unless you have a good reason to believe something is not relevant, always include all of the following information with an initial request for help:

    • Build number. You can find this information under VMware Fusion > About
    • What sort of Mac you have (e.g. Mac Pro, MacBook, etc.)
    • What the problematic behavior is and what causes it
    • If there are any conditions where it does work
    • How often you see the problem (e.g. all the time, sometimes, rarely, etc.)
    • Has it previously worked in the same setup (e.g. same virtual machine, same computer), and if so, what has changed since then
    • How experienced with OS X you are, and comfortable you are with the  command line (things can go a lot faster if you know what you're doing,  but if you don't say, we have to assume you need lots of hand-holding)


    If you're having problems with a guest, include:

    • Guest operating system e.g. "Windows XP Pro (German)" or "Ubuntu  7.04 64-bit". Be sure to include details (e.g.  Home/Pro/Business/Ultimate/etc., 64-bit vs 32-bit, language, etc.) when  applicable.
    • Whether you have installed VMware Tools, and if so, which version
    • Whether this is a Boot Camp virtual machine
    • Where the virtual machine came from (created in Fusion, created in some other VMware product and copied over, imported from some other format, etc.)


    If you're having problems with an application in a guest, include:

    • The application name and version
    • If practical (e.g. freeware, shareware, demos), where others can download a copy to reproduce the problem


    If you're having display problems (e.g. glitches in 3D), include:

    • What graphics card the Mac has
    • What version of OS X you're running


    If you're seeing an error message, include:

    • Where the error message is coming from (e.g. an application in the guest, the guest itself, OS X, etc.)
    • The exact text of the error message. A transcription is  preferred (to save space, and images aren't included in email  notifications), but even a screenshot is better than "it said there was  some problem with some file I don't remember"


    If you're having network problems, include:

    • Network type (e.g. NAT, Bridged, or Host-only)
    • Guest network information (Windows: ipconfig /all in a command prompt, Linux/OS X: ifconfig -a in a terminal window)
    • Host network information (run ifconfig -a in a Terminal window)


    If you're having trouble printing, include:

    • What printing method you're using (e.g. direct USB connection, network printing, Thinprint a.k.a. driverless passthrough)


    If you're having problems with a USB device, after you make sure the device is connected to the virtual machine and the guest OS recognizes it, include:


    For a Fusion UI crash (e.g. if you restart Fusion, open your virtual machine and it comes up instantly), include:

    • /Users/${USER}/Library/Logs/VMware Fusion/vmware-vmfusion-0.log (and others, if there are any)


    For OS X kernel panics, include:

    • /Library/Logs/panic.log


    If you're having Boot Camp preprocessing errors, include:

    • /Users/${USER}/Library/Application Support/VMware Fusion/Virtual Machines/Helper/naos-1.0.vmwarevm/vmware.log


    If you're having VMware Importer errors, include:

    • /Users/${USER}/Library/Logs/VMware Importer/import.log
    • /Users/${USER}/Library/Application Support/VMware Fusion/Virtual Machines/Helper/naos-1.0.vmwarevm/vmware.log


    For a guest Blue Screen of Death, include:

     

    Etiquette and General Notes

    Do make the subject of a  thread descriptive and concise. A good guideline is: If someone were to  read just the subject, would they know roughly what your question is  about? Also, since most posts are questions, it's redundant to say  "HELP!!!" or similar in the subject (or really, anywhere).

    Do be polite. As far as I  know, nobody's being paid to hang out on these forums and answer  questions - it's all fellow users volunteering their time and  experience. (Not that being rude is OK even if this was someone's  job...)

    Do your best to make your  questions easy to understand. Write in complete sentences, avoid  1337-5p34k, and generally use all those pesky things you learned in  school. If you're not sure of terminology, say so. If you're a not  fluent in English, note it (so that we can be understanding).

    Do be generous in your  assumptions. Most people are trying to help, and if they keep asking the  same question (e.g. "How is your disk formatted") despite your answers,  it's possible you're not actually answering the question. If you don't  know how to do something, ask!

    Don't use ALL CAPS or lots of  punctuation!!!1! - this is annoying and makes posts harder to read.  Personally, I prefer responding to questions which don't annoy me and  are easy to understand.

    Don't blindly chime in with just  "Same for me!" Sometimes there are multiple causes with the same  symptoms, so at best it's not helpful and at worst it confuses the  issue. At the very least, specify any differences (for example,  Fusion 1.0 vs. 1.1rc, Leopard vs. Tiger, mini vs. Mac Pro, etc.) and  possibly do this even if you do have the same setup so that others know  you haven't forgotten this. This is especially true if the original  problem has been solved -- if you really are seeing the same problem,  the same solution should work for you. If it doesn't, chances are you're  not actually having the same problem.

    Don't post the exact same  question in a multiple places. If your question is answered in every  place (unlikely), it creates unnecessary clutter and duplication. If  it's not answered in every place (likely), it makes it very difficult  for later users to determine if your question ever got answered. It also  scatters effort of people who are trying to help.

    Don't use terminology or  abbreviations you're not completely sure of; even then, be aware that  context matters. For example, BT might mean "BlueTooth" to you, but to  someone else it might mean VMware's "Binary Translation" technique.  "VRAM" might make sense to you as "Virtual RAM", but most people would  think "Video RAM". Being explicit helps people understand what you're  talking about, which is necessary for them to help you. If you're  confused about terminology, see Glossary of Virtualization (and Computing) Terms.

    Don't upload huge files unless  absolutely necessary. For example, if you need to show the contents of a  dialog box, take a picture of just the dialog box, not your entire  desktop. If you must show the entire desktop, briefly check for smaller  formats - for example, for large, complex images, jpg is usually smaller  than the default png of Grab or Finder.

    Don't say "the latest version"  if someone asks you what version you're using. Imagine the confusion  that would result if you (or the reader) was not aware that the latest  version is 3.4 rather than 1.7! Do take the time to find out the  exact version you're using. If you can't determine this (e.g. how do you  check or specify the patch level of Windows?), say how you determined  that you're using the latest version (e.g. "I went to windowsupdate.com  and saw no updates").

    After your question is completely answered (not just responded  to), it's nice to recognize useful contribution with "correct" or  "helpful" points (you can only give one per post). These points affect  user rankings, which can be seen as a very rough guide to people who post a lot of answers to a lot of questions. Note this is not a perfect guide - some people with low rankings are very  useful/knowledgeable and may contribute in ways that don't generate  points, or just don't post as often.

    Users with the VMware-three-boxes icon http://communities.vmware.com/images/status/statusicon-vmware.gif are VMware employees, and probably know what they're talking about


     

    Answering Questions

    These are some guidelines I go by, and are mostly common sense. They are  of course not binding, just what I consider to be good practice.

    People may have "silly" questions, but they may only be "silly" because  you've done something a thousand times already and it's second nature to  you. Remember that this may be someone's first time with  virtualization, a Mac, or even computers in general. On the other hand,  people may know exactly what they're doing (and/or know more than you)  and may have found an obscure bug.

    Some people get confused by the "~" abbreviation for the home directory.  I've found that spelling out the entire path (i.e. "/Users/${USER}/")  causes less confusion than using the abbreviation (i.e. "~/").

    If you're repeatedly asking a question and the other person isn't  answering (or is answering a different question), perhaps they don't  understand the question. Try rephrasing it or giving directions for how  to obtain the answer you need.

    English is not every person's primary language. Try to be forgiving,  especially if someone points out they're a non-native speaker.  Corrections are good, though - they help clear up ambiguities and can  help the other person learn.

    If you can (and have time), explain why things work the way they do,  rather than just jotting down a quick fix. Education sets proper  expectations, demystifies computers/software, and just generally seems  like a good idea. It may also help you understand things better - as the  saying goes, you don't fully understand a thing until you teach it to  someone else. That said, sometimes all someone wants is a quick answer.  Also, a quick answer is probably better than no answer at all.

    If you find yourself answering the same question again and again,  consider turning the answer into a document (or adding to one of the existing ones). This will save you typing and hopefully make it easier for people to locate answers.

    If someone posts the same question in multiple places, try to pick one  place to answer it (preferably the place that makes sense, and where  other people have answered). If necessary (e.g. it's been a while and  this hasn't been fixed), let a moderator know about the duplicates so  they can be deleted. The forum software allows moderators to delete  threads, but not merge them - if everyone keeps the content in a single  thread, the duplicates can be removed, but if useful content is  scattered between duplicates, I (at least) would be more hesitant to  delete them.

    Simply posting a link to this document might be seen as unfriendly.  Here's some boilerplate text you could use (modify as appropriate):

    Hi, welcome to the forums! We'd like to answer your  question, but there just isn't enough information in your post to be  able to do this. Please take a look at
    HOWTO: Ask (and Answer) Questions
    and follow up with details about your situation.