2. When to Submit a Problem Report

There are many types of problems, and not all of them should engender a problem report. Of course, nobody is perfect, and there will be times when what seems to be a bug in a program is, in fact, a misunderstanding of the syntax for a command or a typographical error in a configuration file (though that in itself may sometimes be indicative of poor documentation or poor error handling in the application). There are still many cases where submitting a problem report is clearly not the right course of action, and will only serve to frustrate both the submitter and the developers. Conversely, there are cases where it might be appropriate to submit a problem report about something else than a bug—an enhancement or a new feature, for instance.

So how does one determine what is a bug and what is not? As a simple rule of thumb, the problem is not a bug if it can be expressed as a question (usually of the form How do I do X? or Where can I find Y?). It is not always quite so black and white, but the question rule covers a large majority of cases. When looking for an answer, consider posing the question to the FreeBSD general questions mailing list.

Some cases where it may be appropriate to submit a problem report about something that is not a bug are:

A bug that cannot be reproduced can rarely be fixed. If the bug only occurred once and you can not reproduce it, and it does not seem to happen to anybody else, chances are none of the developers will be able to reproduce it or figure out what is wrong. That does not mean it did not happen, but it does mean that the chances of your problem report ever leading to a bug fix are very slim. To make matters worse, often these kinds of bugs are actually caused by failing hard drives or overheating processors — you should always try to rule out these causes, whenever possible, before submitting a PR.

Next, to decide to whom you should file your problem report, you need to understand that the software that makes up FreeBSD is composed of several different elements:

Then, ascertain whether the problem is timely. There are few things that will annoy a developer more than receiving a problem report about a bug she has already fixed.

If the problem is in the base system, first read the FAQ section on FreeBSD versions, if you are not already familiar with the topic. It is not possible for FreeBSD to fix problems in anything other than certain recent branches of the base system, so filing a bug report about an older version will probably only result in a developer advising you to upgrade to a supported version to see if the problem still recurs. The Security Officer team maintains the list of supported versions.

If the problem is in a port, note that you must first upgrade to the latest version of the Ports Collection and see if the problem still applies. Due to the rapid pace of changes in these applications, it is infeasible for FreeBSD to support anything other than the absolute latest versions, and problems with older version of applications simply cannot be fixed.

All FreeBSD documents are available for download at http://ftp.FreeBSD.org/pub/FreeBSD/doc/

Questions that are not answered by the documentation may be sent to <freebsd-questions@FreeBSD.org>.
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