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industrial strength bug zapping!

I’ve been using open source software for well over 10 years. Here are some stories of times when I’ve had brief interactions with communities regarding “bugs”.

Back in 2001, I tried to submit a “bug report” to the php project – I had discovered that in certain cases a function worked slightly different than advertised. My report was dismissed with an RTFM and flagged as “Bogus”. I was a bit put-off by their response, as I had RTFM (and demonstrated that clearly in my report.) The problem with my report is that I was complaining about an edge case that wasn’t really a bug. It just wasn’t worth their time to really understand what I was getting at.

In 2003, I submitted a bug report to the dosbox project – I discovered several games that I wanted to work with the software that didn’t. I offered my help in fixing the bug. My report was greeted with open arms, my offer to help fix the bug lead the maintainers to give me tips on how to troubleshoot the issue. Not being an accomplished ASM debugger I wasn’t able to get very far in my work. They saw that I had given it “the ol’ college try” and were happy to fix it for me. (I decided to sweeten the deal for them with a small donation to the project.)

Earlier this year, I had some trouble with rsync. I was losing connections part way through the backups. I realized that it probably wasn’t an issue with rsync but with my connections. I read over all the help information and found nothing addressing my issue on the rsync website. After talking with a few of my sysadmin contacts, they were able to help me track the issue down to a problem with my ssh setup (which was using default settings.) I was then able to write up an informative message to the rsync mailing list suggesting an addition to their FAQ which I felt would save people in similar situations hours of research. They updated the FAQ with the information I provided.

A bit later in this year, I submitted a small patch to rsync fixing a trivial problem with building in a certain hosting environment. This message went ignored. Since it was a one line fix for a problem which likely only happens to me, it seems that may have been the right response on their part. (Especially since, thinking over it, my patch may very well be the wrong thing to do for most environments.)

All that to say, from my experience it really seems that the more I put into reports and patches the more likely I am to see results and a positive response.*

*read this if you haven’t: How to Report Bugs Effectively

One Response to “industrial strength bug zapping!”

  1. Akash Says:

    Great link to reporting bugs effectively! Had a user call in saying something “didn’t work” yesterday – in viewing her session, I noticed she was not launching the right program.