New stuff on the Net for nix

When you do get an answer from a forum or an expert site, it's bound to be more useful than the information you retrieve from a knowledge base site such as About.com, EHow.com or MyHelpDesk.com. With a knowledge base, you don't have to wait for someone to reply, but the search itself takes time and the answers you're looking for aren't always there. When we searched with keywords like taskbar and margins, the three knowledge bases let us down more often than they hit the mark.

Some sites that we don't cover are useful but charge for information: ExpertCity.com (www.expertcity.com), for example, claims that it can respond almost immediately as well as provide more than one solution. Xpertsite.com (www.xpertsite.com) - which is in the process of rebranding itself as AskMe.com - and Service911.com (www.service911.com) both offer a +mix of free and fee-based services. These two sites were being revamped as of press time; the new versions should be available by the time you read this. AskMe.com claims its fee-based service can deliver a faster response from an expert. Yet another group of sites, which includes ExpertsExchange.com (www.expertsexchange.com), uses a point system to ration the number of questions you can ask.

In a nutshell: if your hardware or software vendor fails to provide prompt, reliable advice, third-party tech-support sites offer a helpful alternative, though some of them exhibit minor quirks.

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