Please Report Bugs Upstream

This applies to all Linux distributions, I am not trying in any way to pick on Ubuntu. They are just keeping statistics in a way I can put some numbers behind my rant.

Many were excited when Ubuntu announced they were going to fix at least one hundred little bugs called papercuts that will help improve the overall Linux experience.  Here is a simple suggestion that will also lead to at least 100 extra bugs fixed over the next six months:  Report your bugs upstream!

There are at least ~800 known bugs in Ubuntu where it is confirmed the bug is related to upstream but nobody has taken the time to notify upstream about it.   People triaging the bug reports say “this bug also effects upstream project X” but it is never actually reported to upstream.  I’m guessing that list would be over 1000 if all such bugs that have slipped through the cracks were accounted for.

Now, assuming each  major Linux distribution has hundreds of bugs where the bug triager knows it is an issue with upstream but fails to report it, if all these bugs would get reported I am sure an extra 100 bugs will get fixed over the next six months because of simple things like this.

The developers behind the major Linux distributions are great, but more bugs will get fixed if upstream is involved.  Now, “to put my money where my mouth is”, I spent several hours this weekend submitting some if these bugs upstream.  I’m sure I didn’t do a perfect job, but at least upstream now knows about these bugs and some have already been confirmed by upstream and work has begun fixing them.  It was that easy.

So there you go. There’s my formula to get an extra 100 bugs fixed over the next six months.  It is as simple as: Report your bugs upstream!

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14 Comments on “Please Report Bugs Upstream”

  1. foo Says:

    Despite Fedora’s rhetoric, you are equally bad at this, Hans de Goede in particular.

  2. G-man Says:

    It’s plain stupid people not notifying upstream. If upstream can fix this the bugs will not be submitted again on other distros.

    And foo: Lame!

  3. mdz Says:

    There is definitely great value in tighter communication between distributions and upstream projects where bugs are concerned. I wish it were so simple as “report bugs upstream”, but it isn’t.

    Quite a lot of upstream projects do not want end users to do this (the Linux kernel and OpenOffice.org come to mind as ones you probably use). Because they can’t be sure whether the problem is specific to a distribution or not, they prefer to only accept bugs from people who have built the software themselves (or in the oo.o case, use a blessed binary build!).

    The irony, of course, is that if the bugs remain in distribution bug trackers, instead of upstream bug trackers, it becomes a lot harder to establish whether the bug is specific to the distribution or not. The easiest way to confirm this is through independent reports from users running different distributions, and if the bug reports are scattered between different bug trackers, the pattern is much less obvious than if they are all in an upstream bug tracker.

    I would love to see more bugs go upstream. We’ve even built tools for Ubuntu which could make this automatic. Passing bugs upstream is the easy part. Agreeing with (thousands of) upstreams about how and when it’s appropriate is the hard part.

  4. Joseph Smidt Says:

    @foo:
    I did not claim anywhere that Fedora was superior to Ubuntu or anyone else in this regard. I said I was using Ubuntu as an example only because they had numbers I could work with.

    @mdz
    Your right, Ubuntu has done good work trying to get upstream reporting as automatic/straightforward as possible. This is to be applauded. Again, I am sorry if Ubuntu was felt singled out by my post for they shouldn’t be.

  5. Tom Says:

    3 words:

    distributed bug tracking

    and another 8 words:

    treat every distro specific patch as a bug

    If every distro would adhere to those 11 words we would be in a much better world, because there would be less patches because maintaining them would require more energy and bugs and code would live in synergy.

    Sad thing is we are at least 3 years away from something remotely similar.

  6. mdz Says:

    There is more to this than can be summed up in a few words. It is not a simple problem to solve.

    Distribution developers know better than anyone the costs involved in carrying distro-specific patches, and that the fewer there are, the better. The fact that they exist anyway indicates that there is a more subtle problem at work here. :-)

    That said, there are steps which could be taken (both upstream and in distributions) which would improve things. I don’t think we’re likely to see a sea change, though, until there is a common understanding on both sides.

    Linux Plumbers might be a good opportunity for a group discussion on it…

  7. Joseph Smidt Says:

    @mdz
    I really appreciate your comments and can tell you have lots of wisdom in this regard. Man, if you could get a discussion at Linux Plumbers on this I think you would do the Linux community a *HUGE* service. To me, it’s little things like this that will end up making all the difference.

  8. effiejayx Says:

    I speak as a new contributor to Ubuntu and we are very much encourage to participate with upstream. if you need examples of tools that help, check out this bug with “Bug watcher Updater” that keep track of this bug after I report them in the different BTS ( Debian BTS and SorceForge) https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/tsclient/+bug/63412.

    Also the reference from someone using fedora lets me know that it is safe to do a package upgrade for tsclient, eventhough upstream still lists the latest as UNSTABLE. So, high five to that fedora user.

  9. Joseph Smidt Says:

    @effiejayx:
    That’s the type of bug reporting I like to see. Even the patch was sent upstream. :) Great work.

  10. oiaohm Says:

    Solution is not just reporting upstream.

    Distrobutions are poor at working with each other as well. This is a complex design problem.

    Bug trackers were not created to cope with decentralized world that Distrobutions create.

    If there was some way to have a unified bug tracker. That could cross reference all distrobutions with the same bug this could be highly useful. Somethings this would point out the source of the defective patch.

    Design this is a major problem.

  11. darkhole Says:

    I really like this idea.. But, I don’t like to have all this big amount of accounts for every bug report site..
    Sourceforge
    Fedora
    Launchpad
    Debian
    Mozilla
    Gnome
    KDE
    Independence..
    etc..

    I don’t like this.. Maybe we must think in one “super big” directory with all this bugs in FLOSS.

    PDT: Now I have a Launchpad account.. But I created it because it was a requisite to be a member of my Ubuntu Local Team….

  12. Rufus Polson Says:

    Hmmm . . . I’m no programmer so I’m probably far out in left field here. But I’d say . . .
    OK, no matter how the “lots of bug trackers” problem is tackled it will be very very hard. However, I don’t think “One super-big directory” is the way to go. Maybe something more along the lines of the decentralized/distributed version control systems.

  13. Mekk Says:

    Well… I think whoever wants to work fixing bugs, should be supported and praised, wherever he or she does it.

    I reported plenty of bugs, issues and improvement suggestions upstream in the past. Some bugs I reported back in early 2000-s still can be found in KDE, Gnome, Evolution, Mozilla and other bugzilla’s. Some were closed without being solved or tested (for example KDE guys thrown away plenty of bug reports because KDE4 is new and old bugs are no longer relevant). Some happened to be revived many years after being reported (like https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=225680 from 2003 which found developer interest when Chrome arrived)

    That’s also understandable, people have limited time. Especially to fix bugs they can’t easily reproduce.

    The questions whether it is better to report bug to Ubuntu, or to – say – Gnome team should in fact be rephrased as which of these teams is more likely to take a look.

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