Bugs, bugs and more bugs

December 12, 2010 by
Filed under: Development, Linux, Projects, Ubuntu 

Lately, I’ve come to realize more and more that bug handling in open source, and specifically in Ubuntu has dramatically declined in efficiency. For years I’ve been extremely satisfied with using Linux because it’s bug free, there has simply not been any serious bugs that I’ve run into. In the last weeks, I’ve run into several more or less serious bugs in Ubuntu, which got me looking at how the bug handling is done.

First off, a few weeks ago, I ran into a bug with Ubuntu 10.10 Ubiquity (the Live CD installer) where I accidentally marked my old /home drive as ext4 when it was ext3 (but not to reformat it). The installer complied happily, and set it up as ext4, but once it got back online, the harddrive was completely wiped. No warning, no nothing. I started looking around, after a while I’ve found several reports on the same matter on launchpad.  For example this and this.

This lead me to take a look at Ubiquity’s other bugs in launchpad, and it’s not very promising. The main installer of Ubuntu 10.10 has 1528 Open bugs as of writing this, of which 846 bugs are new, 35 bugs are marked High importance — and the bugs I found (dare I say, they seem Critical to me, are still not marked with any importance at all). Only 12 bugs are marked as having a patch.

Fine, maybe this is not the poster child of open source. However, the last few days I’ve been severely annoyed by the password popup which is misbehaving. I enter the password, and hit enter (or hit the Authenticate button) and the password field disappears, but the rest of the dialog stays up, and nothing works in it. The only thing you can do is to kill it with the x button. When you do this, you get authenticated…

Since I’m not sure exactly how the authentication is performed in Ubuntu for the update manager etc, I decided to check the update-manager package for Ubuntu on Launchpad. What do I see, if not another package with gigantic mass of bugs filed, but noone dealing with them. 1017 Open bugs, 520 of those are New and 15 marked as High importance. This bug I’ve been having has been reported all over the net, but noone seems to be dealing with it and it isn’t really reported in launchpad. Some computers has it, some doesn’t. It’s nowhere near a critical bug, or even a high importance one, but it’s annoying none the less and it looks extremely crude and comes off giving a fairly unstable feeling.

All this being said, I am wondering how bug handling is done, and how it should be managed on “aggregate” projects such as Debian and Ubuntu. I think the idea is really nice, having upstream bug trackers for each package in the project, but maybe we are spreading too thin having several bug trackers for each minor project? Also, how do we as “normal” users know which package is the reason for the error? I am not so sure it is really the update-manager that is the error in this case, it might as well be some completely other thing behind all that dbus stuff etc. Ie, what is the point of me filing bug reports if I’m not sure they wind up in the right place, or are at all looked after?

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