Thursday, November 02, 2006

Deb Help Me Now

Our last best hope for docs
There is a vast array of documentation installed with your typical Linux distribution. There are the ancient and venereal - uh, venerable - manpages, which are kind of like the Vorlons of documentation (<-- obscure Babylon 5 reference). There are the more recent info pages, which are kind of like that fake Vorlon in that episode with the fake Vorlon in it.

Finally, there are all of the others - html docs, changelogs, readme files, plus of course, The Oracle and that annoying brat who bends spoons.

Traditionally manpages are accessed via the "man" command. To find out more about "man", type "man man" at a command prompt. Info works kinda the same. (Type "man info" to read the manual for "info"). And, yes, in case you're wondering, "man" is short for "manual".

The third group (html, changelogs, etc) are not so easy to access. Firstly you need to find out where they are, then load them in the appropriate application. Actually, first you need to know that they exist, but let's not get all pedantic now. None of this is difficult, of course; in Debian, for example, you can just type "dpkg -L <Package Name>" to see the locations of all files installed by a particular package.

Still, it would be nice to have all of this stuff in one place. And, of course, since this is Debian, somebody has already thought of that. More than one someone, in fact...

Enter the dhelp
dhelp is a command line program that pulls all of that other stuff together. Install dhelp via Synaptic, or by typing "apt-get install dhelp". Typing "dhelp <Package Name>" searches the documentation for the package mentioned, then launches your browser to display the results. If you are not in X, it will use a text mode browser, such as lynx. Typing "dhelp" on its own will show you an index of available documention, organized by section.

Now this is pretty neat, but it gets better. If you also install the info2www and man2html packages dhelp can also display manpages and info pages, although these also require a web server be installed. (apache or httpd).

All available documentation via one interface? That's pretty neat.

dwww is much the same as dhelp. dwww is prettier, but will always require Apache. If you don't mind having another daemon running on your system, install dwww instead.

This dwww addon is a browser based frontend to the package manager. It allows dwww to display full details of packages.

This paragraph is the summary. See, I am really good at writing stuff.


madcap said...

Weren't the man pages verbose enough? Now u want me to read everything else that I was busy pretending doesnt even exist?

Ben said...

Yes I do. No need to thank me.

Lorraine said...

nothing happened

Ben said...

You're probably holding your mouth wrong.

Lorraine said...

Ben, that's just nasty.

Ben said...


Lorraine said...

I don't know of any woman who wouldn't be hurt being told she's holding her mouth wrong

Ben said...

It's a local thing.

Are you Local? (<-- Obscure "League of Gentlement" reference)

Lorraine said...

That's....probably nasty