Problem Report Handling Guidelines

Dag-Erling Smørgrav

Hiten Pandya

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Abstract

These guidelines describe recommended handling practices for FreeBSD Problem Reports (PRs). Whilst developed for the FreeBSD PR Database Maintenance Team freebsd-bugbusters@FreeBSD.org, these guidelines should be followed by anyone working with FreeBSD PRs.


1. Introduction

Bugzilla is an issue management system used by the FreeBSD Project. As accurate tracking of outstanding software defects is important to FreeBSD’s quality, the correct use of the software is essential to the forward progress of the Project.

Access to Bugzilla is available to the entire FreeBSD community. In order to maintain consistency within the database and provide a consistent user experience, guidelines have been established covering common aspects of bug management such as presenting followup, handling close requests, and so forth.

2. Problem Report Life-cycle

  • The Reporter submits a bug report on the website. The bug is in the Needs Triage state.

  • Jane Random BugBuster confirms that the bug report has sufficient information to be reproducible. If not, she goes back and forth with the reporter to obtain the needed information. At this point the bug is set to the Open state.

  • Joe Random Committer takes interest in the PR and assigns it to himself, or Jane Random BugBuster decides that Joe is best suited to handle it and assigns it to him. The bug should be set to the In Discussion state.

  • Joe has a brief exchange with the originator (making sure it all goes into the audit trail) and determines the cause of the problem.

  • Joe pulls an all-nighter and whips up a patch that he thinks fixes the problem, and submits it in a follow-up, asking the originator to test it. He then sets the PRs state to Patch Ready.

  • A couple of iterations later, both Joe and the originator are satisfied with the patch, and Joe commits it to -CURRENT (or directly to -STABLE if the problem does not exist in -CURRENT), making sure to reference the Problem Report in his commit log (and credit the originator if they submitted all or part of the patch) and, if appropriate, start an MFC countdown. The bug is set to the Needs MFC state.

  • If the patch does not need MFCing, Joe then closes the PR as Issue Resolved.

Many PRs are submitted with very little information about the problem, and some are either very complex to solve, or just scratch the surface of a larger problem; in these cases, it is very important to obtain all the necessary information needed to solve the problem. If the problem contained within cannot be solved, or has occurred again, it is necessary to re-open the PR.

3. Problem Report State

It is important to update the state of a PR when certain actions are taken. The state should accurately reflect the current state of work on the PR.

Example 1. A small example on when to change PR state

When a PR has been worked on and the developer(s) responsible feel comfortable about the fix, they will submit a followup to the PR and change its state to "feedback". At this point, the originator should evaluate the fix in their context and respond indicating whether the defect has indeed been remedied.

A Problem Report may be in one of the following states:

open

Initial state; the problem has been pointed out and it needs reviewing.

analyzed

The problem has been reviewed and a solution is being sought.

feedback

Further work requires additional information from the originator or the community; possibly information regarding the proposed solution.

patched

A patch has been committed, but something (MFC, or maybe confirmation from originator) is still pending.

suspended

The problem is not being worked on, due to lack of information or resources. This is a prime candidate for somebody who is looking for a project to take on. If the problem cannot be solved at all, it will be closed, rather than suspended. The documentation project uses suspended for wish-list items that entail a significant amount of work which no one currently has time for.

closed

A problem report is closed when any changes have been integrated, documented, and tested, or when fixing the problem is abandoned.

The "patched" state is directly related to feedback, so you may go directly to "closed" state if the originator cannot test the patch, and it works in your own testing.

4. Types of Problem Reports

While handling problem reports, either as a developer who has direct access to the Problem Reports database or as a contributor who browses the database and submits followups with patches, comments, suggestions or change requests, you will come across several different types of PRs.

The following sections describe what each different type of PRs is used for, when a PR belongs to one of these types, and what treatment each different type receives.

5. Unassigned PRs

When PRs arrive, they are initially assigned to a generic (placeholder) assignee. These are always prepended with freebsd-. The exact value for this default depends on the category; in most cases, it corresponds to a specific FreeBSD mailing list. Here is the current list, with the most common ones listed first:

Table 1. Default Assignees - most common
TypeCategoriesDefault Assignee

base system

bin, conf, gnu, kern, misc

freebsd-bugs

architecture-specific

alpha, amd64, arm, i386, ia64, powerpc, sparc64

freebsd-arch

ports collection

ports

freebsd-ports-bugs

documentation shipped with the system

docs

freebsd-doc

FreeBSD web pages (not including docs)

Website

freebsd-www

Table 2. Default Assignees - other
TypeCategoriesDefault Assignee

advocacy efforts

advocacy

freebsd-advocacy

Java Virtual Machine™ problems

java

freebsd-java

standards compliance

standards

freebsd-standards

threading libraries

threads

freebsd-threads

usb(4) subsystem

usb

freebsd-usb

Do not be surprised to find that the submitter of the PR has assigned it to the wrong category. If you fix the category, do not forget to fix the assignment as well. (In particular, our submitters seem to have a hard time understanding that just because their problem manifested on an i386 system, that it might be generic to all of FreeBSD, and thus be more appropriate for kern. The converse is also true, of course.)

Certain PRs may be reassigned away from these generic assignees by anyone. There are several types of assignees: specialized mailing lists; mail aliases (used for certain limited-interest items); and individuals.

For assignees which are mailing lists, please use the long form when making the assignment (e.g., freebsd-foo instead of foo); this will avoid duplicate emails sent to the mailing list.

Since the list of individuals who have volunteered to be the default assignee for certain types of PRs changes so often, it is much more suitable for the FreeBSD wiki.

Here is a sample list of such entities; it is probably not complete.

Table 3. Common Assignees - base system
TypeSuggested CategorySuggested AssigneeAssignee Type

problem specific to the ARM® architecture

arm

freebsd-arm

mailing list

problem specific to the MIPS® architecture

kern

freebsd-mips

mailing list

problem specific to the PowerPC® architecture

kern

freebsd-ppc

mailing list

problem with Advanced Configuration and Power Management (acpi(4))

kern

freebsd-acpi

mailing list

problem with Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) drivers

kern

freebsd-atm

mailing list

problem with embedded or small-footprint FreeBSD systems (e.g., NanoBSD/PicoBSD/FreeBSD-arm)

kern

freebsd-embedded

mailing list

problem with FireWire® drivers

kern

freebsd-firewire

mailing list

problem with the filesystem code

kern

freebsd-fs

mailing list

problem with the geom(4) subsystem

kern

freebsd-geom

mailing list

problem with the ipfw(4) subsystem

kern

freebsd-ipfw

mailing list

problem with Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) drivers

kern

freebsd-isdn

mailing list

jail(8) subsystem

kern

freebsd-jail

mailing list

problem with Linux® or SVR4 emulation

kern

freebsd-emulation

mailing list

problem with the networking stack

kern

freebsd-net

mailing list

problem with the pf(4) subsystem

kern

freebsd-pf

mailing list

problem with the scsi(4) subsystem

kern

freebsd-scsi

mailing list

problem with the sound(4) subsystem

kern

freebsd-multimedia

mailing list

problems with the wlan(4) subsystem and wireless drivers

kern

freebsd-wireless

mailing list

problem with sysinstall(8) or bsdinstall(8)

bin

freebsd-sysinstall

mailing list

problem with the system startup scripts (rc(8))

kern

freebsd-rc

mailing list

problem with VIMAGE or VNET functionality and related code

kern

freebsd-virtualization

mailing list

problem with Xen emulation

kern

freebsd-xen

mailing list

Table 4. Common Assignees - Ports Collection
TypeSuggested CategorySuggested AssigneeAssignee Type

problem with the ports framework (not with an individual port!)

ports

portmgr

alias

port which is maintained by apache@FreeBSD.org

ports

apache

mailing list

port which is maintained by autotools@FreeBSD.org

ports

autotools

alias

port which is maintained by doceng@FreeBSD.org

ports

doceng

alias

port which is maintained by eclipse@FreeBSD.org

ports

freebsd-eclipse

mailing list

port which is maintained by gecko@FreeBSD.org

ports

gecko

mailing list

port which is maintained by gnome@FreeBSD.org

ports

gnome

mailing list

port which is maintained by hamradio@FreeBSD.org

ports

hamradio

alias

port which is maintained by haskell@FreeBSD.org

ports

haskell

alias

port which is maintained by java@FreeBSD.org

ports

freebsd-java

mailing list

port which is maintained by kde@FreeBSD.org

ports

kde

mailing list

port which is maintained by mono@FreeBSD.org

ports

mono

mailing list

port which is maintained by office@FreeBSD.org

ports

freebsd-office

mailing list

port which is maintained by perl@FreeBSD.org

ports

perl

mailing list

port which is maintained by python@FreeBSD.org

ports

freebsd-python

mailing list

port which is maintained by ruby@FreeBSD.org

ports

freebsd-ruby

mailing list

port which is maintained by secteam@FreeBSD.org

ports

secteam

alias

port which is maintained by vbox@FreeBSD.org

ports

vbox

alias

port which is maintained by x11@FreeBSD.org

ports

freebsd-x11

mailing list

Ports PRs which have a maintainer who is a ports committer may be reassigned by anyone (but note that not every FreeBSD committer is necessarily a ports committer, so you cannot simply go by the email address alone.)

For other PRs, please do not reassign them to individuals (other than yourself) unless you are certain that the assignee really wants to track the PR. This will help to avoid the case where no one looks at fixing a particular problem because everyone assumes that the assignee is already working on it.

Table 5. Common Assignees - Other
TypeSuggested CategorySuggested AssigneeAssignee Type

problem with PR database

bin

bugmeister

alias

problem with Bugzilla web form.

doc

bugmeister

alias

6. Assigned PRs

If a PR has the responsible field set to the username of a FreeBSD developer, it means that the PR has been handed over to that particular person for further work.

Assigned PRs should not be touched by anyone but the assignee or bugmeister. If you have comments, submit a followup. If for some reason you think the PR should change state or be reassigned, send a message to the assignee. If the assignee does not respond within two weeks, unassign the PR and do as you please.

7. Duplicate PRs

If you find more than one PR that describe the same issue, choose the one that contains the largest amount of useful information and close the others, stating clearly the number of the superseding PR. If several PRs contain non-overlapping useful information, submit all the missing information to one in a followup, including references to the others; then close the other PRs (which are now completely superseded).

8. Stale PRs

A PR is considered stale if it has not been modified in more than six months. Apply the following procedure to deal with stale PRs:

  • If the PR contains sufficient detail, try to reproduce the problem in -CURRENT and -STABLE. If you succeed, submit a followup detailing your findings and try to find someone to assign it to. Set the state to "analyzed" if appropriate.

  • If the PR describes an issue which you know is the result of a usage error (incorrect configuration or otherwise), submit a followup explaining what the originator did wrong, then close the PR with the reason "User error" or "Configuration error".

  • If the PR describes an error which you know has been corrected in both -CURRENT and -STABLE, close it with a message stating when it was fixed in each branch.

  • If the PR describes an error which you know has been corrected in -CURRENT, but not in -STABLE, try to find out when the person who corrected it is planning to MFC it, or try to find someone else (maybe yourself?) to do it. Set the state to "patched" and assign it to whomever will do the MFC.

  • In other cases, ask the originator to confirm if the problem still exists in newer versions. If the originator does not reply within a month, close the PR with the notation "Feedback timeout".

9. Non-Bug PRs

Developers that come across PRs that look like they should have been posted to FreeBSD problem reports mailing list or some other list should close the PR, informing the submitter in a comment why this is not really a PR and where the message should be posted.

The email addresses that Bugzilla listens to for incoming PRs have been published as part of the FreeBSD documentation, have been announced and listed on the web-site. This means that spammers found them.

Whenever you close one of these PRs, please do the following:

  • Set the component to junk (under Supporting Services.

  • Set Responsible to nobody@FreeBSD.org.

  • Set State to Issue Resolved.

Setting the category to junk makes it obvious that there is no useful content within the PR, and helps to reduce the clutter within the main categories.

10. Further Reading

This is a list of resources relevant to the proper writing and processing of problem reports. It is by no means complete.