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Getting your problem solved at is hard work

Jun 26, 20034 mins
Enterprise Applications

* What's up with Novell's TIDs and Knowledgebase?

Last issue, I chuckled over some recent Novell press releases, but today I really want to rant about something.

Over the years, I’ve used Novell’s Knowledgebase at least weekly and usually daily to find information about problems and their solutions. Back in the late 198Os, Knowledgebase was built on a product called “TextWare” and was distributed on floppy disks. Today, Knowledgebase is available online. In either case, the knowledge is contained in what are called Technical Information Documents (TID).

First, back in the late 80s, TIDs were frequently long, chatty articles. They discussed Novell technologies and offered overviews of implementation and use. That function was moved into Novell’s AppNotes publications (, which are still delightful and informative to read.

This left TIDs to cover mostly explanations of error conditions. That’s still commendable, and for many years it was done well, but unfortunately this is no longer the case.

The search engine, for example ( has been changed, remodeled, tweaked and “improved” so often (sometimes daily, it seems) that you can no longer be certain what might turn up when you enter search terms. I’ve come to rely on Google to do a better job of searching Novell’s site than Novell’s own search engine does. For example, to search for TIDs about logon scripts and drive mappings, I’d go to Google’s search page and enter: “login script” MAP

(including the quotes) into the search box. Try it!

The TIDs, themselves, have also gotten less useful. Some are simply poorly written, some are totally irrelevant and some simply duplicate information from the documentation. Take, for example, TID #10062794 (last updated Feb. 3, 2003) entitled “How to Map a Drive.” Go ahead – take a look at it. I’ll wait.

You should have learned: “Use MAP to map drives and search drives to network directories. The recommened [sic] way to map a drive in a NetWare 5.x environment is:

MAP drive letter:=.servername_volumename.context: “

Is there anyone who didn’t already know that? Yet someone at Novell got credit for writing this “technical information” document.

At least #10062794 had actual information in it. Take a look at #10081149 (helpfully entitled “General Issues”) or #10066210 (called “NetWare 6 Migration Wizard 6”). Both are simply lists of links to other TIDs! Evidently even Novell thinks the search engine is so bad and so slow that it will helpfully provide you with search results in a semi-permanent collection. (The “General Issues” one, by the way, refers to iFolder issues. I think.) What a powerful indictment of the entire Knowledgebase structure.

When you go to the Knowledgebase search page, by the way, you are offered a link to the Novell Natural Language Search (NLS) page ( Resist! While it does suggest that the Knowledgebase search isn’t the right tool for you (see “indictment” above) NLS has, if possible, even more flaws  – and still turns up the same sorry TIDs. Well, not all of them. When I enter the search query “How do I map a drive in a login script” the NLS returns the 10 top answers, but good old TID #10062794 (“How to Map a Drive”) isn’t one of them! Nor do any of the 10 “solutions” actually tell me how to map a drive.

Navigating Novell’s TIDs, Knowledgebase and Natural Language Search can be more frustrating than the problems they’re supposed to solve. My suggestion is to liberally use the feedback links and the “reader rating” button on each document to tell Novell exactly how you feel. Then head over to the Support Forums ( where you can actually get your problem solved.

FLASH! Late last week, Novell was honored by Association of Support Professionals (ASP) as having one of the top 10 Web support sites in the industry. I wasn’t able to get the scores in time for this newsletter, but evidently the ASP people gave great emphasis to the support forums and downplayed the problems of the Knowledgebase.