Alpha and Omega

More experimental software exploits.

I spent 2-3 hours last night troubleshooting a crash in the latest nightly (an alpha or beta version that is built from the code base each evening) version of Firefox.

I went to when looking around for some screen shots of how the IRC client used to look in the previous version (was helping someone on IRC to make the current version look more like the older version) it turns out some Javascript (code that runs on your browser to make things dynamic.)

What did this get me by running the nightly and finding a bug and reporting it. Not much, surely the bug would have been discovered before live without me. But this is just the inverse of the poison vial in the river. If all of us who test out software thought that same way, that it would be found before release so why bother even using a alpha/beta/rc piece of software and reporting bugs, it would increase the burden on the developer and allow for more edge case bugs to slip through.

If you have the time and the will, I recommend that you use beta software, just be sure you are willing to go to their website and file a bug report if/when it crashes or glitches or whatever else.

Tips for filing bug reports though, attempt to reproduce the bug, if you can, then give the full reproduction steps in the bug report, if not, say that you couldn’t reproduce it, just because you can’t doesn’t mean that the developer wont have an idea of why it happened and be able to force the bug to show its face.

Make sure you are up to date, if you are running a beta version that is 2-3 versions old, the first thing the developer is going to say is ‘can you reproduce it in the most recent version?’

And last but surely not least, at least give it a half assed attempt at searching their bug database to see if the bug has already been posted, if it has, and you have similar reproduction steps then add them in the comment (or if you can reproduce but the original bug poster can’t) along with any other information you have. If the bug is in there, but you have vastly different reproduction steps, then post in a separate bug report.

Hopefully this will encourage some of you to run beta software, and help the developers while you are at it.

Note: The bug reporting tips apply to release software as well. If the program has a website, look for a bug database (may be labeled as known issues) if they don’t have a bug database, find the contact email address and send them the bug report via email (even if you think it is common enough for others to have already reported it)

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