Ubuntu considering critical bugs an „invalid“ bug?

I just discovered that bug report over at Ubuntu.
Short summary:
They have a script in upstart which is not meant to be run manually and if you do it will erase your whole file system. Additionally it seems that the fact that you shall not run that script is not communicated anywhere.

That alone isn’t the most spectacular about it. Bugs happen. Whats spectacular about it is how a Canonical employee and member of the TechBoard (for people who don’t know it: The people who decide about the technical direction Ubuntu takes) handles that bug. One quote of him to reflect it all:

Sorry, the only response here is „Don’t Do That Then“

So what we have here is a classical case of bad programming. The problem in question is that the script expects a certain environment variable to be set. Fair enough. However it does not check if its set at all and instead of failing or using a sensible default it simply sticks to undefined behaviour. What we have here is a classical programming mistake every beginner tends to do. People who start programming often forget (or don’t know) that every external value we rely on must be considered untrustworthy. Therefore a good practice is to check those values.

In this case someone decided that this is useless because they suffer from the wrong assumption that nobody ever calls it manually and the other wrong assumption that caller of the scriptwill always set the environment variable correctly. This is a double-fail.

Now the developer in question does not accept that (someone else indicated why the behaviour of the script is dangerous), he simply says that the bug is invalid. Thats really a pity.

13 Gedanken zu „Ubuntu considering critical bugs an „invalid“ bug?“

  1. Hi Patrick,

    I don't want to take the side of Scott, but mostly people who don't know anything do the "wrong" things.

    On the other side, don't take such things personally. Sometimes people have bad days…

    Anyways, as upstart is still in development, there is more room for improvement.

  2. Wishlist is still awfully weak for this problem. My biggest concern is not the bug itself, but the developers defensive response. Yes, upstart's in development, but is it being developed with an eye towards making 'pilot error' less likely, and less rather than more destructive?

  3. @mdzlog: actually, the attitude in your response is what "the stink" is all about.

    This is a highly critical issue. Other than the mythical "permanently bricks hardware" bug, the bug class "you lose _all_ data" is the more dire bug which can exist.

    Especially since this is a trivial fix, there is only _one_ possible response a maintainer may send. And that is "I am sorry, new package is uploaded."

  4. Note that some of the confusion arises because Launchpad can be a bit "surprising" in that a bug can have multiple tasks.

    For Upstart bugs, I use the Upstream "upstart" list to track them – not the Ubuntu package bug pages.

    However to move a bug from the Ubuntu package to the Upstream, you have to mark it as Invalid – this confuses people

  5. In said comment, he conveniently side-steps the real issue. That a "don't do that then" is in no way appropriate or even remotely acceptable.
    He screwed up and tells the rest of the world it's their fault.

    Anyway, none of this affects me so as the actual technical problem is fixed apparently, simply dropping this seems the be the appropriate course of action.

  6. Sadly, this seems to be more and more common for the handling of Ubuntu bug reports. I could list many other similar cases. This attitude needs to be publicized so something may be done about it, otherwise this will someday bite Ubuntu (and innocent users) big time.

    You know what's really bad? It's nearly impossible for someone who doesn't know who's who to find out the right contacts for discussing this problem. Just go to the Ubuntu wiki and try to find out who to contact for issues within the project.

    It just seems like Ubuntu is getting too top-heavy for its own good.

  7. Wishlist is still awfully weak for this problem. My biggest concern is not the bug itself, but the developers defensive response. Yes, upstart's in development, but is it being developed with an eye towards making 'pilot error' less likely, and less rather than more destructive?

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