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Can't Code? Squash a Few Bugs - page 4

Bug Hunt

  • July 17, 2006
  • By Carla Schroder

If your bug report is ignored, there may not be a lot you can do. The devs may be overworked, or don't see it as serious enough to address, or are simply mean people who hate you. (This type of developer is a very tiny minority, but they do exist, and why they choose to support a product that is going to be used by other people is one of life's little mysteries.) Give it a couple of weeks, then try a polite reminder. Posting a duplicate report upstream (directly on the program's own bug-tracking system) might get quicker action.

Always be polite and factual. Most developers are polite and professional, but they are human and you will encounter the occasional dork. You'll score big credibility points by taking the high road.

Wish Lists

Many FOSS projects have wish lists. These are the places to post your suggestions for features and improvements.

No Whining

It takes a bit of work and care to write good bug reports. If you start feeling abused, just remind yourself how much work and resources went into all that great software that you are enjoying for free. And while you're at it, remember how unresponsive most commercial closed-source vendors are to bug reports, and how they are so encumbered with ridiculous EULAs and patents and DRM and NDAs that even if you have the resources to do so, you are prevented from fixing problems yourself. Rather like living in a house where you were not allowed to paint, or patch holes, or change lightbulbs, or remodel, or do anything except pay out money year after year to the builder just for the privilege of living there.

Share Tips and Howtos

A wonderful and easy way to support Free Software is to post tips and howtos somewheres. These don't have to be your life's work, but useful things you have discovered in your everyday work. For example, it might be that you figured out some advanced networking configuration options, or a quick OpenSSH tip, or learned some useful but little-known netcat options, or yet another way to filter Ethereal output to quickly home in on what you want to see. Put these on a blog, or post them in appropriate user forums, or anywhere Google can find them. Five minutes' of work translates into help for thousands of users.

Lawyers, Guns and Money

Well, probably not guns. But money is often welcome, or donations of hardware. In this era of attacking with armies of lawyers instead of guns, good legal assistance for warding off the greedy barbarian hordes is a very nice thing.

Resources

These horrid examples of bug reports are brought to you courtesy of Akkana Peck:

Example of a good bug report with a semi-happy ending:

This article originally appeared on Enterprise Networking Planet, a JupiterWeb site.

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