Re: Organized Linux QA?

From: Michael D. Crawford (
Date: Thu Jun 01 2000 - 00:42:07 EST

A few helpful folks have tentatively offered to host, a couple for the
development machine and also possibly pretty serious resources for a
production bug server.

There's a couple things I want to point out about this.

One thing is that by suggesting this I don't want to get in anyone's way
by introducing a bunch of big-company process. As was already pointed
out today there's no formal linux kernel team, you just subscribe to the
list and send your code and patches in.

If you've ever worked at a software company with a rigorous QA process,
there is some advantage to it in terms of tracking things and ensuring
fixes get done and stay fixed, but it also can be a bit of a headache as
you have to always check your bug lists and enter your comments and
resolutions and stuff, and there's committee meetings to determine bug
priorities and to make the decision to defer bugs and stuff. One of my
team members at Apple went to three or four meetings _a_day_, mostly
about bug tracking.

I think introducing _that_ here would be completely inappropriate.
- First, this is a volunteer effort. Volunteers don't want to be told
what to do.

- Second, the commercial linux vendors probably already have their own
bug databases and wouldn't want to be forced to duplicate the effort of
tracking a bug.

- Third, some developers don't have easy, frequent, inexpensive or any
internet access and so wouldn't be able to participate conveniently.

- And finally some hardware vendors are just starting to creep out from
under the thumb of Microsoft by tentatively posting drivers on their
websites for use "at your own risk", and we don't want to scare them
away by making them think they have to participate in a formal process
in order to be a useful part of the community.

But what I _do_ want to do is, make it easier to gather information for
developers, initially kernel and driver developers, by having a central
point for ordinary users to file bug reports. Now, anyone can just mail
a bug report to the list, but what I think _would_ help is to have easy
to use forms for a user to enter information in, so the developers can
both find out everything that is relevant, and also while researching a
bug you can find potential volunteers to help you beta test your new

I want this to be easy for a user to find and figure out. They
shouldn't need to know much to be able to locate the thing and file a
bug report. As I said a frequent user could have preset hardware
configs in the database and only have to file what is new.

I'm a pretty experienced programmer, and I've been using Linux for years
now, and I've been downloading and building release kernels from sources
for a few months. But I must say that downloading 2.4.0-test1 and
getting everything to work right was pretty painful (but not as bad as
installing NT on the same machine!). Part of what the site can do is
document what you need to do to set up a development kernel when you're
not a kernel hacker, and then provide simple ways to enter relevant
feedback when you have a problem.

Something that I think would be very useful to have as part of this, it
could be very simple, would be to write a tool that would probe the
hardware in various ways and then create an XML file that would contain
relevant hardware config information (PCI, PCMCIA and ISA device
identification, memory size and CPU type, motherboard, video and sound
chipset and so on). I think most of the info could be gathered from
user space with today's systems but there might be stuff that would
require a simple driver for.

(I've been using XML a lot lately and while I don't think it's
everything that people are promoting it for it is pretty cool for
structured data interchange. It really sucks for binary data though, or
random-access data editing a file in-place. The API's available for it
make programming with the files pretty easy.)

The other thing I want to point out is that it would be very important
for this to be very much a community effort. A couple of particular
vendors offered hosting, and I think it would be appropriate to
acknowledge contributions from vendors for things like hosting and
equipment and eventually development effort, but in part because of the
free software spirit of Linux and in part because some of the commercial
vendors who I'd want to participate by contributing bugs would have
competing interests with other vendors, it would be incredibly important
that this not be anyone's commercial package.

Not even mine. I registered the domain names "" and
"" in order to have an address for the thing, but if
this turns out to be a reality I think it would be appropropriate for a
nonprofit to be created that would hold the responsibility for it. I
suppose I'm getting a little grandiose in my goals here but I know that
there are a large number of Linux users out there and if every user who
knows how to config their own kernel files ten bugs this could turn out
to be a pretty massive database.


Mike Crawford
GoingWare Inc. - Expert Software Development and Consulting

   Tilting at Windmills for a Better Tomorrow.

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