A Brief Guide to Skolelinux Bug Reporting

One of Free Software's greatest strengths is that it is generally a community effort. Most people don't work on the code but that is not to say that ordinary users play no role in development. One of the most important tasks which these regular users play is in reporting bugs. A few developers can fix bugs but often finding them is a much bigger task. So, if you see something wrong or a useful function missing, it is very important that you play your part and report the bug!

This short text is intended to help people file bug reports on Skolelinux and Debian-edu software in the right way and in the right place so that the most is made of their valuable contribution.

When filing bug reports there are a few simple things to bear in mind:

In summary, the trick is to report in the right place and in a very clear and detailed way so that developers know exactly what's going on and can attempt to recreate your situation. If this seems complicated, don't worry, you can always ask advice on one of the mailing lists if you're unsure.

Check if it's already reported

The first thing to do is to check if the bug is already a known one. If it is, you might still have some information to add: a different piece of hardware; an extra error or perhaps a possible trigger for the problem. You can even just post that you see the bug too. When it gets fixed, it'll be helpful to have several people to check the fix works. You should add yourself to the email list for the bug so that you are part of the discussion and get notified of any fixes.

To check if your bug exists, you search the bug database for keywords associated with your bug and read the descriptions thrown up to see if they match your problem. There are two places to search (explained later). They are the Debian and Skolelinux databases.

Reporting in the right place

Skolelinux software comes from two sources. The main one is the main Debian repository. Some other software may come from Skolelinux's own repository. As there are two sources for the software, one must report bugs back to the correct source of that software.

So how the **** do I tell where it came from?

If the problem is with Debian software, you should post the problem to the Debian Bug Tracking System. If it is Skolelinux-specific software, you should report the bug to the Skolelinux Bugzilla.

If you are unsure which database to post to, it's perfectly reasonable to ask on the mailing lists. Note also that if you have never posted to these databases before you must register for an account, but this is a very quick and simple process.

Giving the right information

So, you're now posting a new bug (or adding information to an existing one). You need to give the right information to give the developers the best chance of identifying and fixing the problem. Remember that your goal is to help the developers to quickly recreate the bug on their computers so must be clinically accurate.

Here are a few things to focus on:

Give any other information you feel is relevant. In particular, if the bug seems sudden and was not always there, think about what has recently changed. Did you upgrade software recently, install something new, change the hardware, have a power-cut causing the system to go down unexpectedly?

So what now?

You've made your bug report. You can feel a little pride that you've made a very tangible contribution to the project. Now you wait to hear news, it could be very quick or it might be a long time. You may well be asked to provide more specific details (you did add yourself to the email list, right?) or to try reproducing the bug with some change or other. Respond to such requests as quickly and clearly as possible. Unfortunately some bugs can take quite a long time to fix, so don't expect results overnight. Bug fixing is usually a hard, thankless and frustrating task.