Bug reporting guidelines

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How to help

Opening (and closing) bug reports on the Parabola Issue Tracker is one of many possible ways to help the community. However, poorly-formed bug reports can be counter-productive. When bugs are incorrectly reported, developers waste time investigating and closing invalid reports. This document will guide anyone wanting to help the community by efficiently reporting and hunting bugs.

See also: How to Report Bugs Effectively by Simon Tatham

1 Before reporting

Preparing a detailed and well-formed bug report is not difficult, but requires an effort on behalf of the reporter. The work done before reporting a bug is arguably the most useful part of the job. Unfortunately, few people take the time to do this work properly.

The following steps will guide you in preparing your bug report or feature request.

1.1 Search for duplicates

If you encounter a problem or desire a new feature, there is a high probability that someone else already had this problem or idea. If so, an appropriate bug report may already exist. In this case, please do not create a duplicate report; see #Following up on bugs instead.

Search thoroughly for existing information, including:

  • Parabola Issue Tracker: Your problem may have already been reported to Parabola developers. Duplicate bug reports are unhelpful and promptly closed. Search both recently closed bugs as well as open reports. Remember to mark 'Subject' and/or 'Description' under Filters, the bug title may not contain the text you're searching for.
  • Mailinglists: You problem may have been discussed in the mailing lists.

string=&project=1&status%5B%5D=closed&closedfrom=-1+week recently closed bugs] as well as open reports. Remember to mark 'search details' and/or 'search comments' under Advanced, the bug title may not contain the text you're searching for.

  • Google or your favorite search engine: Search using the program's name, version, and a relevant part of the error message, if any.
  • Upstream forum, mailing list and bug tracker: If Parabola is not responsible for a bug, it should be reported upstream rather than the Parabola Issue Tracker. Search both recently closed bugs as well as open reports. Bugs may have already been fixed in the program's development version.
  • Other distribution forums: The free software community is vast; Parabolaians are not the only users with ideas! Consider searching the

1.2 Upstream or Parabola?

Parabola is a GNU/Linux-libre distribution. Parabola developers are responsible for compiling, packaging, and distributing software from a wide range of sources. Upstream refers to these sources – the original authors or maintainers of software that is distributed in Parabola. For example, the popular Libreoffice web browser is developed by the Document Foundation.

If Parabola is not responsible for a bug, the problem will not be solved by reporting the bug to Parabola developers. Responsibility for a bug is said to lie upstream when it is not caused through the distribution's porting and integration efforts.

By reporting bugs upstream, you will not only help Parabola and Parabola developers, but you will also help other people in the free software community as the solution will trickle down to all distributions.

Once you have reported a bug upstream or have found other relevant information from upstream, it might be helpful to post this in the Parabola Issue Tracker, so both Parabola developers and users are made aware of it.

So what is Parabola responsible for?

  • Parabola Projects: ABS libre, your-freedom, Parabola Websites. If you have a doubt about if the project belongs to Parabola or not, display the package information (pacman -Qi package_name or using the website) and look at the upstream URL.
  • Packaging: Packaging basically consists of fetching the source code from upstream, compiling it with relevant options, making sure that it will be correctly installed on an Parabola system, and checking that the main functionality works. Packaging at Parabola does not consist of adding new functionality or patches for existing bugs; this is the job of the upstream developer.

If a bug/feature is not under Parabola responsibility, report it upstream. See also #Reasons for not being a bug.

1.3 Bug or feature?

something that should work but does not work, contrary to the developer's intentions.
something which software does or would do if somebody coded it.

1.3.1 Reasons for not being a bug

  • Something you would like a piece of software to do, which is not implemented by the upstream developers. In short: a new feature.
  • A bug already reported upstream.
  • A bug already fixed upstream but not in Parabola because the package is not up-to-date.
  • A package which is not-up-to-date. Use the Flag Package Out-of-Date feature on Parabola's packages website.
  • A package which does not use a community patch. Patches should be submitted upstream.
  • A package where non essential function X or function Y is not activated. This is a feature request.
  • A package which does not include a .desktop file or icons or other freedesktop stuff. This is not a bug if such files are not included in the source tarball, and this must be requested as a feature request upstream. If such files are provided by upstream but not used in the package then this is a bug.

1.3.2 Reasons for not being a feature

  • When it is a bug...
  • When it is not under Parabola responsibility to implement the feature, i.e. an upstream feature.
  • A package is not up-to-date. Use the Flag Package Out-of-Date feature on Parabola's packages website
  • A package which does not use a community patch. Patches should be submitted upstream.

1.4 Gather useful information

Here is a list of useful information that should be mentioned in your bug report:

  • Version of the package being used. Always specify package version. Saying "the latest", "todays", or "the package in extra" have absolutely no meaning. Especially if the bug is not about to get fixed right away.
  • Version of the main libraries used by the package (available in the depends variable in the PKGBUILD), when they are involved in the problem. If you do not know exactly what information to provide then wait for a bug hunter to ask you for it...
  • Version of the kernel used if you are having hardware related problems.
  • Indicate whether or not the functionality worked at one time or not. If so, indicate since when it stopped working.
  • Indicate your hardware brand when you are having hardware related problems
  • Add relevant log information when any is available. This can be obtained in the following places depending on the problem:
    • The systemd journal. If using syslog-ng, /var/log/messages contains logs related to kernel and hardware related issues.
    • ~/.local/share/xorg/Xorg.0.log or /var/log/Xorg.0.log or /var/log/Xorg.2.log or any Xorg like log files if video related problems (nvidia, ati, xorg...)
    • Run your program in a console and use verbose and/or debug mode if available (see your program documentation), and copy the output in a file. When running an application in a terminal make sure relevant information will be displayed in English so that many people can understand it. This can be done by using export LC_ALL="C". Example with a software named foobar from which you would like to have relevant information at runtime and provided that foobar has a --verbose option:
$ export LC_ALL="C"
$ foobar --verbose

This will affect only the current terminal and will stop taking effect when the terminal is closed.

If you have to paste a lot of text, like the output of dmesg, or a Xorg log, is it preferred to save it as a file on your computer and attach it to your bug report. Attaching a file rather than using a pastebin to present relevant information is preferable in general due to the fact that pastebined content may suffer by expired links or any other potential problems. Attaching a file guarantees the provided information will always be available.

  • Indicate how to reproduce the bug. This is very important, it will help people test the bug and potential patches on their own computer.
  • The stack trace. It is a list of calls made by the program during its execution, and helps in finding part of the program where the bug is located, especially if bug involves the program crashing. You can obtain a stack trace using gdb (The GNU Debugger) as explained in Debug - Getting Traces#Getting the trace.

2 Opening a bug

When you are sure it is a bug or a feature and you gathered all useful information, then you are ready to open a bug report or feature request.

2.1 Creating an account

You have to create an account on Parabola Issue Tracker. This is as easy as creating an account on a wiki and there is nothing particular to mention here.

2.2 Projects

Once you have determined your feature or bug is related to Parabola and not an upstream issue, you will need to file your problem in the correct project. Select the project in the projects overview. There are the following projects:

  • Branding - Anything related about branding Parabola!
  • Documentation -Anything related to writing documentation
  • Installation media - ISO images, installer, LiveCDs and scripts to prepare them.
  • Packages - For general use, post freedom issues, malfunctioning packages, problems and feature requests here.
  • pacman2pacman - Package downloader using torrents to share packages, lower mirror bandwidth use and improve reliability.
  • Servers - Servers used by the Parabola project and services provided by them, e.g. the tracker, wiki or mailing lists.
  • Software ports - Ports to other architectures, userland and kernels
  • Tools - Tools used by Parabola developers.

There is no place for reporting problems with packages in unsupported.

2.3 Summary

Please write a concise and descriptive Summary.

Here is a list of recommendations:

  • Do not name your report "pkgname is broken after the last update" - it is non-descriptive and "after last update" has no meaning in Parabola.
  • Start the Summary with package name enclosed in square brackets, e.g. "[pkgname] 3.0.5-1 breaks copy-paste feature". By naming reports this way you make it much easier for developers to sort reports by package names.
  • Do not write too much text in the Summary. Excessive text will not be visible in reports list.

2.4 Issue concern

The following issue concerns are differentiated (varry for different projects):

  • Bugs - Classical bug report, see bug.
  • Freedom issue - Issues related to potential nonfree software licenses.
  • Privacy issue - Issues concerning the user's privacy.
  • Porting - Issues related to porting the software to different computer architectures.
  • Feature request - Discussions about implementig/supporting new features. See feature.
  • Packaging request - If there is a package around that you would like to see supported by Parabola, you are encouraged to open a package request so that one of the Parabola contributors may pick it up and add it to [pcr].
  • Housekeeping - Long term issues related to the Parabola project.

2.5 Including relevant information

This is maybe one of the most difficult parts of bug reporting. You have to choose from the section #Gather useful information which information you will add to your bug report. This will depend on which your problem is. If you do not know what the relevant pieces of information are, do not be shy: it is better to give more information than needed than not enough.

A good tutorial on reporting bugs can be found at [1].

However, developers or bug hunters will ask you for more information if needed. Fortunately after a few bug reports you will know what information should be given.

Short information can be inlined in your bug report, whereas long information (logs, screenshots...) should be attached.

3 Following up on bugs

Do not think the work is done once you have reported a bug!

Developers or other users will probably ask you for more details and give you some potential fixes to try. Without continued feedback, bugs cannot be closed and the end result is both angry users and developers.

3.1 Watching

Watching a bug is important - you will receive an email when new comments are added or the bug status has changed. If you opened a bug, verify that the "Notify me whenever this task changes" checkbox is activated in order to receive such emails.

3.2 Answering additional information requests

People will take the time to look at your bug report and will try to help you. You need to continue to help them resolve your bug. Not answering to their questions will keep your bug unresolved and likely hamper enthusiasm to fix it.

Please take the time to give people more information if requested and try the solutions proposed.

Developers or bug hunters will close your bug if you do not answer questions after a few weeks or a month.

3.3 Updating the bug report when a new version of the related software is out

Sometimes a bug is related to a given package version and is fixed in a new version. If this is the case then indicate it in the bug report comments and request a closure.

3.4 Closing when solved

Sometimes people report a bug but do not notify when they have solved it on their own, leaving people searching for a solution that has already been found. Please request a closure if you found a solution and give the solution in the bug report comments.

3.5 More about bug status

During its life a bug goes through several states:

  • Unconfirmed - This is the default state. You have just reported it and nobody managed to reproduce the problem or confirmed that it is actually a bug.
  • Confirmed - The bug is confirmed but it has not been assigned to the developer responsible for the related software. It is usually the case when more investigation is needed to determine which software is responsible for the bug.
  • Assigned - The bug has been assigned to a developer responsible for the software involved in the bug. It does not mean that the developer will be the one who will fix the bug. It does not even mean that the developer will work on a solution. It just means that the developer will take care of the life cycle of the bug, including reviewing patches if any, releasing a fix and closing the bug when required. There is no point in contacting a developer directly to have a bug fixed more quickly, he/she will certainly not like it...
  • Information needed - The one who reported a bug is asked to provide more information or to try a proposed solution, but he/she did not give a feedback yet. However it is important that you watch the bug (see the #Watching section) as developers or bug hunters usually ask questions in the comments.
  • Forwarded upstream - The issue has to be forwarded to uptsream (see #Upstream or Parabola?).
  • Invalid - The bug is not a valid (see #Reasons for not being a bug).
  • Fixed - A solution has been found and released.

Some people are responsible for dispatching the bugs and change their status.

4 Acknowledgement

This wiki article is based on ArchWiki. We may have removed non-FSDG bits from it.