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Your bug reports play an essential role in making the binary utilities
Reporting a bug may help you by bringing a solution to your problem, or
it may not. But in any case the principal function of a bug report is
to help the entire community by making the next version of the binary
utilities work better. Bug reports are your contribution to their
In order for a bug report to serve its purpose, you must include the
information that enables us to fix the bug.
If you are not sure whether you have found a bug, here are some guidelines:
If a binary utility gets a fatal signal, for any input whatever, that is
a bug. Reliable utilities never crash.
If a binary utility produces an error message for valid input, that is a
If you are an experienced user of binary utilities, your suggestions for
improvement are welcome in any case.
A number of companies and individuals offer support for GNU
products. If you obtained the binary utilities from a support
organization, we recommend you contact that organization first.
You can find contact information for many support companies and
individuals in the file `etc/SERVICE' in the GNU Emacs
In any event, we also recommend that you send bug reports for the binary
utilities to `firstname.lastname@example.org'.
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 assume that some details do not matter. Thus, you might
assume that the name of a file you use in an example does not matter.
Well, probably it does not, but one cannot be sure. Perhaps the bug is
a stray memory reference which happens to fetch from the location where
that pathname is stored in memory; perhaps, if the pathname were
different, the contents of that location would fool the utility into
doing the right thing despite the bug. Play it safe and give a
specific, complete example. That is the easiest thing for you to do,
and the most helpful.
Keep in mind that the purpose of a bug report is to enable us to fix the bug if
it is new to us. Therefore, always write your bug reports on the assumption
that the bug has not been reported previously.
Sometimes people give a few sketchy facts and ask, "Does this ring a
bell?" Those bug reports are useless, and we urge everyone to
refuse to respond to them except to chide the sender to report
To enable us to fix the bug, you should include all these things:
The version of the utility. Each utility announces it if you start it
with the `--version' argument.
Without this, we will not know whether there is any point in looking for
the bug in the current version of the binary utilities.
Any patches you may have applied to the source, including any patches
made to the
The type of machine you are using, and the operating system name and
What compiler (and its version) was used to compile the utilities--e.g.
The command arguments you gave the utility to observe the bug. To
guarantee you will not omit something important, list them all. A copy
of the Makefile (or the output from make) is sufficient.
If we were to try to guess the arguments, we would probably guess wrong
and then we might not encounter the bug.
A complete input file, or set of input files, that will reproduce the
bug. If the utility is reading an object file or files, then it is
generally most helpful to send the actual object files, uuencoded if
necessary to get them through the mail system. Making them available
for anonymous FTP is not as good, but may be the only reasonable choice
for large object files.
If the source files were produced exclusively using GNU programs
gas, and/or the GNU
ld), then it
may be OK to send the source files rather than the object files. In
this case, be sure to say exactly what version of
whatever, was used to produce the object files. Also say how
gcc, or whatever, was configured.
A description of what behavior you observe that you believe is
incorrect. For example, "It gets a fatal signal."
Of course, if the bug is that the utility gets a fatal signal, then we
will certainly notice it. But if the bug is incorrect output, we might
not notice unless it is glaringly wrong. You might as well not give us
a chance to make a mistake.
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 utility is out of synch, or you have encountered a bug in
the C library on your system. (This has happened!) Your copy might
crash and ours would not. If you told us to expect a crash, then when
ours fails to crash, we would know that the bug was not happening for
us. If you had not told us to expect a crash, then we would not be able
to draw any conclusion from our observations.
If you wish to suggest changes to the source, send us context diffs, as
diff with the `-u', `-c', or `-p'
option. Always send diffs from the old file to the new file. If you
even discuss something in the
ld source, refer to it by context,
not by line number.
The line numbers in our development sources will not match those in your
sources. Your line numbers would convey no useful information to us.
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.
This is often time consuming and not very useful, because the way we
will find the bug is by running a single example under the debugger
with breakpoints, not by pure deduction from a series of examples.
We recommend that you save your time for something else.
Of course, if you can find a simpler example to report instead
of the original one, that is a convenience for us. Errors in the
output will be easier to spot, running under the debugger will take
less time, and so on.
However, simplification is not vital; if you do not want to do this,
report the bug anyway and send us the entire test case you used.
A patch for the bug.
A patch for the bug does help us if it is a good one. But do not omit
the necessary information, such as the test case, on the assumption that
a patch is all we need. We might see problems with your patch and decide
to fix the problem another way, or we might not understand it at all.
Sometimes with programs as complicated as the binary utilities it is
very hard to construct an example that will make the program follow a
certain path through the code. If you do not send us the example, we
will not be able to construct one, so we will not be able to verify that
the bug is fixed.
And if we cannot understand what bug you are trying to fix, or why your
patch should be an improvement, we will not install it. A test case will
help us to understand.
A guess about what the bug is or what it depends on.
Such guesses are usually wrong. Even we cannot guess right about such
things without first using the debugger to find the facts.
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