|GNU Octave Manual Version 3|
by John W. Eaton, David Bateman, Søren Hauberg
Paperback (6"x9"), 568 pages
RRP £24.95 ($39.95)
D.5 How to Report Bugs
Send bug reports for Octave to one of the addresses listed in D.4 Where to Report Bugs.
The fundamental principle of reporting bugs usefully is this: report all the facts. If you are not sure whether to state a fact or leave it out, state it!
Often people omit facts because they think they know what causes the problem and they conclude that some details don't matter. Thus, you might assume that the name of the variable you use in an example does not matter. Well, probably it doesn't, but one cannot be sure. Perhaps the bug is a stray memory reference which happens to fetch from the location where that name is stored in memory; perhaps, if the name were different, the contents of that location would fool the interpreter into doing the right thing despite the bug. Play it safe and give a specific, complete example.
Keep in mind that the purpose of a bug report is to enable someone to fix the bug if it is not known. Always write your bug reports on the assumption that the bug is not known.
Sometimes people give a few sketchy facts and ask, “Does this ring a bell?” This cannot help us fix a bug. It is better to send a complete bug report to begin with.
Try to make your bug report self-contained. If we have to ask you for more information, it is best if you include all the previous information in your response, as well as the information that was missing.
To enable someone to investigate the bug, you should include all these things:
- The version of Octave. You can get this by noting the version number that is printed when Octave starts, or running it with the ‘-v’ option.
- A complete input file that will reproduce the bug. A single statement may not be enough of an example--the bug might depend on other details that are missing from the single statement where the error finally occurs.
- The command arguments you gave Octave to execute that example and observe the bug. To guarantee you won't omit something important, list all the options. If we were to try to guess the arguments, we would probably guess wrong and then we would not encounter the bug.
- The type of machine you are using, and the operating system name and version number.
The command-line arguments you gave to the
configurecommand when you installed the interpreter.
- A complete list of any modifications you have made to the interpreter source. Be precise about these changes--show a context diff for them.
- Details of any other deviations from the standard procedure for installing Octave.
- A description of what behavior you observe that you believe is incorrect. For example, "The interpreter gets a fatal signal," or, "The output produced at line 208 is incorrect." Of course, if the bug is that the interpreter gets a fatal signal, then one can't miss it. But if the bug is incorrect output, we might not notice unless it is glaringly wrong. Even if the problem you experience is a fatal signal, you should still say so explicitly. Suppose something strange is going on, such as, your copy of the interpreter is out of synch, or you have encountered a bug in the C library on your system. Your copy might crash and the copy here would not. If you said to expect a crash, then when the interpreter here fails to crash, we would know that the bug was not happening. If you don't say to expect a crash, then we would not know whether the bug was happening. We would not be able to draw any conclusion from our observations. Often the observed symptom is incorrect output when your program is run. Unfortunately, this is not enough information unless the program is short and simple. It is very helpful if you can include an explanation of the expected output, and why the actual output is incorrect.
- If you wish to suggest changes to the Octave source, send them as context diffs. If you even discuss something in the Octave source, refer to it by context, not by line number, because the line numbers in the development sources probably won't match those in your sources.
Here are some things that are not necessary:
- A description of the envelope of the bug. Often people who encounter a bug spend a lot of time investigating which changes to the input file will make the bug go away and which changes will not affect it. Such information is usually not necessary to enable us to fix bugs in Octave, but if you can find a simpler example to report instead of the original one, that is a convenience. Errors in the output will be easier to spot, running under the debugger will take less time, etc. Most Octave bugs involve just one function, so the most straightforward way to simplify an example is to delete all the function definitions except the one in which the bug occurs. However, simplification is not vital; if you don't want to do this, report the bug anyway and send the entire test case you used.
- A patch for the bug. Patches can be helpful, but if you find a bug, you should report it, even if you cannot send a fix for the problem.
|ISBN 095461206X||GNU Octave Manual Version 3||See the print edition|