April 25, 2019

Can't Code? Squash a Few Bugs

Bug Hunt

  • July 17, 2006
  • By Carla Schroder

The strength of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is its openness and transparency, and community support. Anyone can contribute, not just elite coders with lush geekbeards and ratty sandals. So what can a non-coder do?

One of the reasons Free Software is so high-quality is anyone can report bugs and submit patches. Even if you can't fix bugs, reporting them is valuable. Every Linux distribution has a bug tracker, and so do most individual programs. Submitting a bug report usually means following a particular protocol, and using the appropriate bug-tracking tool.

There are wrong ways to report a bug:

  • "ur proggie sux. crashed on me this morning while i was doin my homewrk."
  • "it doesn't work. fix it."
  • Whine in all the wrong places, like IRC and unrelated forums
  • Report your own error as a bug

The right way is to first find the approved mechanism for reporting a bug. Bugzilla is a popular bug-reporting and tracking tool, used by major FOSS projects like Mozilla, Red Hat Linux, KDE, Gnome, and the Linux kernel. Ubuntu uses Launchpad, which is their own proprietary bug-tracking/project-hosting/meeting planner tool. The bug-reporting component is called Malone. Whatever bug-tracking system is used, you'll probably have to register a user account and log in.

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