Super User: a tech Q-and-A site that really works

Super User: a tech Q-and-A site that really works

Summary: I've been spending an inordinate amount of time lately at a new tech Q&A site that you probably haven't heard of. It has a clean, intuitive UI and a community that seems to work. And it's just uncool enough (I mean that in a good way) that it has an excellent chance to stay useful for a long time.

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I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time lately at a relatively new tech Q&A site called Super User.

You probably haven’t heard about it. If you follow all the cool geek sites, it’s been drowned out by the sonic boom of hype about Quora, a new Q&A site that the alpha geeks can't stop talking about. It’s made up of a few good ideas, wrapped up in a big mess of a user interface, with most of the problems that attend suddenly being popular among all the Kewl Kids.

Super User, by contrast, has a clean, intuitive UI and a community that seems to work. That’s not surprising, as it’s part of the Stack Exchange network, in which Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky introduced the Q&A framework for developers. Stack Exchange, which was founded in 2008, has been expanding steadily in the past few months. And it’s just uncool enough (I mean that in a good way) that it has an excellent chance to stay useful for a long time.

My experience at Super User yesterday was a textbook example of how effective a good community can be. I have a Dell Latitude XT2 Tablet PC that is an ideal traveling companion. Lately, though, I had begun experiencing mysterious video corruption issues, with fonts and boxes scrambled and unreadable. The problem went away with a simple screen refresh (by moving the active window, for example), but it was still annoying.

I did a pretty thorough local troubleshooting (drivers up to date? anything in Event Viewer?) with no success. I went to the Microsoft KnowledgeBase and to the Dell Community forums, which also turned up no useful results. (They might be there, but if so my search Ninja skills were lacking.) I didn’t bother with Google or Bing, where I know the signal-to-noise ratio is just depressing.

So I went to Super User, searched for Dell Latitude XT2 graphics corruption, and got this page (from September 2009) as the top result: Display glitches in Windows 7 on Dell Latitude XT2. And lo and behold, the answers included a specific fix: go into the BIOS and disable  Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d). (That was supported by a link to a post on Intel’s discussion forums.) That rang a bell, as I had indeed enabled VT support for this machine when I did a clean install after updating the firmware on the SSD last month.

With that fix made, I rebooted and the video issue was completely gone. Because I’m not running Windows Virtual PC on this notebook (at least not now), there’s no noticeable effect on performance, either.

After that success, I spent a fair amount of time going through all the threads that were tagged with Windows 7, where I found some fascinating questions, some with answers, others without. Unlike at Quora, I can imagine contributing a meaningful and accurate answer here and not worrying about it being voted up or down because I’m not as popular as some social media superstar.

Super User, like all the Stack Exchange sites, is free. And it’s not all about code: there are Stack Exchange sites for amateur and professional cooks, photographers, and writers alongside those for Ubuntu users, Android enthusiasts, and Web designers. The full list is here.

Highly recommended, and worth supporting. Just don’t tell the Kewl Kids.

Topics: Operating Systems, Browser, Dell, Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Software, Windows

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17 comments
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  • Thanks for this web site "heads up"

    This site is not just for "something is broke .. can anybody help?" A quick overview showed a good number of "helpful hints" on how to perform some action as well.

    Good Stuff.
    kenosha77a
  • White noise processes generated from computers

    <i>I didn?t bother with Google or Bing, where I know the signal-to-noise ratio is just depressing.</i>

    Classic.
    klumper
    • RE: Super User: a tech Q-and-A site that really works

      Ironic. Also, self-defeating. 'Cause Superuser results are prevalent on Google.
      rseiler
      • It's the signal to noise ratio that's self defeating

        Everyone knows a few pearls can be unearthed now and again using the old SE "trawler" approach, as long as you're willing to accept a dose of, well, self imposed pain. But any way you slice it, wading and clawing through cyber landfills like Google or Bing to find pay dirt invariably transforms minutes into hours.

        Tell me otherwise.
        klumper
  • RE: Super User: a tech Q-and-A site that really works

    One of superuser.com's elder siblings is the rather fine stackoverflow.com - a Q&A site for developers. These days it's my first and invariably only port of call.
    simonneedham
    • RE: Super User: a tech Q-and-A site that really works

      @simonneedham

      Totally agree. Stack overflow has been a great resource for me.
      mep01378
  • Classic

    Classic info from top to bottom!
    charleyj98
  • Windows Users...

    ...need all the help they can get.
    james347
    • Yes, thank goodness...

      @james347

      Thank goodness there are no Stack Exchange forums for Linux or Unix or Apple or Android or any of the other alternatives. If that were true you would have to say they need all the help they can get...

      Oh. Wait...
      Ed Bott
  • RE: Super User: a tech Q-and-A site that really works

    looking t "SuperUser", it looks like a clone of the Q&A site "Lockergnome".
    Warinpiece
  • RE: Super User: a tech Q-and-A site that really works

    @Warinpiece

    The lockergnome site appears to have been launched about [7 months ago](http://lockergnome.net/questions/30475/when-was-lockergnome-s-q-a-site-launched). As the article mentions Stackoverflow was launched in 2008. lockergnome appears to be one of the many [stackoverflow clones](http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/2267/stack-overflow-clones).

    Lockergnome also seems to miss some of the key points that superuser, and other sites in the Stackexchange sites aim at. A stackexchange site is focused on a specific topic. The lockergnome site mentions you can as 'whatever is on your mind' in their FAQ.
    zoredache
  • RE: Super User: a tech Q-and-A site that really works

    I don't know if I like that others can modify your information. At least if your name stays on it.

    I've been a member of Experts-Exchange.com for several years and found them to be very helpful.
    TBone2k
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