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Would you do that to a doctor? "Doctor, I need a prescription for Hydroyoyodyne." People know not to say that to a doctor: you describe the symptoms, the actual discomforts and aches and pains and rashes and fevers, and you let the doctor do the diagnosis of what the problem is and what to do about it. Otherwise the doctor dismisses you as a hypochondriac or crackpot, and quite rightly so. It's the same with programmers. Providing your own diagnosis might be helpful sometimes, but always state the symptoms. The diagnosis is an optional extra, and not an alternative to giving the symptoms. Equally, sending a modification to the code to fix the problem is a useful addition to a bug report but not an adequate substitute for one.

If you are asked for extra information, don't make it up! Don't skip any diagnostic steps you're asked to perform, because they will [hopefully] lead to a solution. Using your intelligence to help the programmer is fine. Even if your deductions are wrong, the developer should be grateful that you at least tried to make their life easier. But report the symptoms as well, or you may well make their life much more difficult instead.

"that's funny, it did it a moment ago"

Say "intermittent fault" to any developer, and watch their face fall. The easy problems are the ones where performing a simple sequence of actions will cause the failure to occur. They can then repeat those actions under closely observed test conditions and watch what happens in great detail. Sadly, too many problems simply don't work that way: there will be programs that fail once a week, or fail once in a blue moon, or never fail when you try them in front of the programmer but always fail when you have a deadline coming up.

Most intermittent faults are not truly intermittent. Most of them have some logic somewhere. Some might occur when the machine is running out of memory, some might occur when another program tries to modify a critical file at the wrong moment, and some might occur only in the first half of every hour!

If you can reproduce the bug but the programmer can't, it could very well be that their system and your system are different in some way and this difference is causing the problem. For example, a program whose window curled up into a little ball in the top left corner of the screen, and sat there and sulked. But it only did it on a user's 800x600 screen; it was fine on the developer's 1024x768 monitor.

The developers will want to know anything you can find out about the problem. Try it on another machine, perhaps. Try it twice or three times and see how often it fails. If it goes wrong when you're doing serious work but not when you're trying to demonstrate it, it might be long running times or large files that make it fall over. Try to remember as much detail as you can about what you were doing to it when it did fall over, and if you see any patterns, mention them. Anything you can provide has to be some help. Even if it's only probabilistic (such as "it tends to crash more often when Emacs is running"), it might not provide direct clues to the cause of the problem, but it might help the programmer reproduce it.

Most importantly, the programmer will want to be sure of whether they're dealing with a true intermittent fault or a machine-specific fault. They will want to know lots of details about your system, so they can work out how it differs from theirs. A lot of these details will depend on the particular tool, but one thing you should definitely be ready to provide is the version number. The version number of the program itself, and the version number of the operating system, and probably the version numbers of any other programs that are involved in the problem.

"so i loaded the disk on to my windows ..."

Writing clearly is essential in a bug report. If the programmer can't tell what you meant, you might as well not have said anything. Be specific. If you can do the same thing two different ways, state which one you used. "I selected Load" might mean "I clicked on Load" or "I pressed Alt-L". Say which you did. Sometimes it matters. Be tersely verbose - explain everything you did, but use bullet points if possible, rather than prose form. Give more information rather than less. If you say too much, the programmer can ignore some of it. If you say too little, they have to come back and ask more questions.

Be careful of pronouns. Don't use words like "it", or references like "the window", when it's unclear what they mean. Consider this: "I started FooApp. It put up a warning window. I tried to close it and it crashed." It isn't clear what the user tried to close. Did they try to close the warning window, or the whole of FooApp? It makes a difference. Instead, you could say "I started FooApp, which put up a warning window. I tried to close the warning window, and FooApp crashed." This is longer and more repetitive, but also clearer and less easy to misunderstand.

Read what you wrote. Read the report back to yourself, and see if you think it's clear. If you have listed a sequence of actions which should produce the failure, try following them yourself, to see if you missed a step.

Summary

The first aim of a bug report is to let the programmer see the failure with their own eyes. If you can't be with them to make it fail in front of them, give them detailed instructions so that they can make it fail for themselves. In case the first aim doesn't succeed, and they can't see it failing themselves, the second aim of a bug report is to describe what went wrong. Describe everything in detail. State what you saw, and also state what you expected to see. Write down all error messages, especially if they have numbers in them.

When your computer does something unexpected, freeze. Stop, Drop, and Roll . Do nothing until you're calm, and don't do anything that you think might be dangerous.

By all means try to diagnose the fault yourself if you think you can, but if you do, you should still report the symptoms as well.

Be ready to provide extra information if the asked for it. If it isn't needed, it wouldn't be asked for. The developers aren't being deliberately awkward. Have version numbers at your fingertips, because they will probably be needed.

Write clearly. Say what you mean, and make sure it can't be misinterpreted.

Above all, be precise. Programmers like precision.

Questions & Answers

anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
research.net
kanaga
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
Bharti
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
Daniel
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
Maciej
characteristics of micro business
Abigail
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Anassong
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
NANO
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
s.
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
Tarell
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
Damian
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
Tarell
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
Virgil
is Bucky paper clear?
CYNTHIA
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
NANO
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Harper
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
s.
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
SUYASH Reply
for screen printed electrodes ?
SUYASH
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
Ebrahim
or in general
Ebrahim
in general
s.
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
tahir
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
Cied
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
China
Cied
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
Porter
many many of nanotubes
Porter
what is the k.e before it land
Yasmin
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
Cesar
I'm interested in nanotube
Uday
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Debugging and supporting software systems. OpenStax CNX. Aug 29, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11350/1.2
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