My friend Matt and I have shared a number of stories regarding our frustrations with reporting bugs to Ubuntu. He recently wrote an overview of his experiences — Why I’ve stopped reporting bugs to Ubuntu — which was linked to by OSNews. The comments there are mostly level and reasonable, but some people are missing the focus of his statement. He’s not whining “fix my bug!”, he’s drawing attention to the methodology used to process bugs.

Matt and I have been involved with the free software movement for the last decade. One of the consequences of using software developed by people in their spare time is that bugs and emails can be ignored for long periods of time (e.g., forever). After almost 10 years, and a bunch of our own software projects, I like to think we’ve developed reasonable expectations for how things work (and don’t work).

When I report a bug to Ubuntu I often include a debdiff (package patch). In other words, I’m not just whining about bugs, I’m fixxing them! This is because one of my day jobs is sysadmin for Mosuki. Every Ubuntu upgrade released has had problems of varying severity and it’s my job to patch the relevant packages and get them into our development apt repostory. I was annoyed by this process for a while, but I’ve come to accept it as the trade-off for getting a new stable set of software every 6 months (which we’ve come to rely on). This means, every Ubuntu release I find and fix a bunch of Ubuntu bugs.

There are many reasons I use free software, but in the end, I want to give back to the community. For me, this means creating debdiffs of my work and submitting it to Launchpad. There’s little practical benefit I receive from doing this.1 But I believe in free software; I want to make my work available to others and I want to make Ubuntu a better distribution.

Simply, it comes down to this: If my work is ignored, then what is the purpose of doing the work? If the Launchpad bug tracker is not an adequate mechanism for getting my fixes into Ubuntu, then why should I use it? I’m jumping through their hoops for their own good, not mine.

To reap the benefit of my work without waiting for Ubuntu, add the Devsuki apt repository to your /etc/apt/sources.list and decide you trust my work (or inspect the changes I’ve made):

deb gutsy main
deb-src gutsy main

  1. Of course, I’d rather the packages be officially fixed rather than in my own repository, but that’s about it. ↩︎