Open Source

Open source depends upon your bug reports

Jack Wallen explains why it is important for open source users to participate in the process of filing bugs and supplying important information to developers.

Over the weekend I did an update on my Elive Compiz powered main PC. I didn't realize it at the time but the update was actually an upgrade (I ran the update via Syanptic not apt-get, otherwise I would have known) and I wound up running the unstable version. This unstable version had some issues with some of the aspects that drew me to the distribution in the first place. No longer did the 3D cube work. Shading windows up and down was now an exercise in patience; there were issues with drop shadows; and opacity was having issues of its own. Of course these are all minor in the grand scheme of things. I could still get my work done, but it wasn't the same.

After this happened I poked around the system a while to see if I could figure it out. I couldn't. So I checked the Elive Forums and didn't find anything. So I posted my information to the forums, knowing the developers read and replied to many of the posts. After that was over, I headed to the Elive Bug Tracking page to see if anything had been posted. Sure enough my issue had already been reported as a bug. But instead of going off happily, waiting for said bug to be squashed, I decided to help out and post any information I could that might help the developers solve the problem. After all, I use the software and would like the issue to be resolved as quickly as possible.

All I needed to do was open up a terminal window and copy the contents of my ~/.xsession-errors into a comment on that particular bug (after logging in of course). I've done my part to help take care of this bug. Of course I will do more if needed. And had the bug not been reported, I would have done so. Why? Because I feel it's my duty, as a long-time user of open source software, to help in any way I can. And one of the best ways users can help is by reporting bugs (or adding helpful information to already reported bugs).

To that end I thought it would be helpful to list the bug tracking tools for all the major distributions and desktops.

Now when you go to report bugs there is a tool you might want to take advantage of. I was made aware of it after reporting my bug to Elive. The text I copied was rather lengthy and I had no idea there was a tool made for such a purpose. A pastebin Web site (such as Pastebin) allows you to submit a snippet of code (or output from a command) and it will give you a file back which you can paste on a bug reporting tool. This keeps threads on bugs more compact so developers do not have to scroll and scroll to get to helpful information. The Pastebin site in particular offers a ton of different syntax highlighting to make your bug reporting even easier.

I know there are a lot of people out there who are more than willing to help with bug reporting. A number of those people are open source users. To those people who are not the type that would report (or help with) a bug, I ask you, is it too much to give back a scrap of information that might help your favorite open source software improve?

Do your open source community a favor and start helping to squash bugs as they come up. Open source software will be better for it and you will have done a good deed.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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