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Debian Developer's Reference - Handling Bugs
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Debian Developer's Reference
Chapter 10 - Handling Bugs

10.1 Monitoring bugs

If you want to be a good maintainer, you should periodically check the Debian bug tracking system (BTS) for your packages. The BTS contains all the open bugs against your packages.

Maintainers interact with the BTS via email addresses at bugs.debian.org. Documentation on available commands can be found at http://www.debian.org/Bugs/, or, if you have installed the doc-debian package, you can look at the local files /usr/share/doc/debian/bug-*.

Some find it useful to get periodic reports on open bugs. You can add a cron job such as the following if you want to get a weekly email outlining all the open bugs against your packages:

     # ask for weekly reports of bugs in my packages
     0 17 * * fri   echo "index maint address" | mail request@bugs.debian.org

Replace address with you official Debian maintainer address.

10.2 Submitting Bugs

Often as a package maintainer, you find bugs in other packages or else have bugs reported to your packages which need to be reassigned. The BTS instructions can tell you how to do this.

We encourage you to file bugs when there are problems. Try to submit the bug from a normal user account at which you are likely to receive mail. Do not submit bugs as root.

Make sure the bug is not already filed against a package. Try to do a good job reporting a bug and redirecting it to the proper location. For extra credit, you can go through other packages, merging bugs which are reported more than once, or setting bug severities to `fixed' when they have already been fixed. Note that when you are neither the bug submitter nor the package maintainer, you should not actually close the bug (unless you secure permission from the maintainer).

10.3 Responding to Bugs

Make sure that any discussions you have about bugs are sent both to the original submitter of the bug, and the bug itself (e.g., 123@bugs.debian.org).

You should never close bugs via the bug server `close' command sent to control@bugs.debian.org. If you do so, the original submitter will not receive any feedback on why the bug was closed.

10.4 When bugs are closed by new uploads

If you fix a bug in your packages, it is your responsibility as the package maintainer to close the bug when it has been fixed. However, you should not close the bug until the package which fixes the bug has been accepted into the Debian archive. Therefore, once you get notification that your updated package has been installed into the archive, you can and should close the bug in the BTS.

If you are using a new version of dpkg-dev and you do your changelog entry properly, the archive maintenance software will close the bugs automatically. All you have to do is follow a certain syntax in your debian/changelog file:

     acme-cannon (3.1415) unstable; urgency=low
       * Frobbed with options (closes: Bug#98339)
       * Added safety to prevent operator dismemberment, closes: bug#98765,
         bug#98713, #98714.
       * Added manpage. Closes: #98725.

Technically speaking, the following Perl regular expression is what is used:


The author prefers the (closes: Bug#XXX) syntax, since it stands out from the rest of the changelog entries.

If you want to close bugs the old fashioned, manual way, it is usually sufficient to mail the .changes file to XXX-done@bugs.debian.org, where XXX is your bug number.

10.5 Lintian reports

You should periodically get the new lintian from `unstable' and check over all your packages. Alternatively you can check for your maintainer email address at the online lintian report. That report, which is updated automatically, contains lintian reports against the latest version of the distribution (usually from 'unstable') using the latest lintian.

10.6 Reporting lots of bugs at once

Reporting a great number of bugs for the same problem on a great number of different packages — i.e., more than 10 — is a deprecated practice. Take all possible steps to avoid submitting bulk bugs at all. For instance, if checking for the problem can be automated, add a new check to lintian so that an error or warning is emitted.

If you report more than 10 bugs on the same topic at once, it is recommended that you send a message to debian-devel@lists.debian.org describing your intention before submitting the report. This will allow other developers to verify that the bug is a real problem. In addition, it will help prevent a situation in which several maintainers start filing the same bug report simultaneously.

Note that when sending lots of bugs on the same subject, you should send the bug report to maintonly@bugs.debian.org so that the bug report is not forwarded to the bug distribution mailing list.

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Debian Developer's Reference

ver. 2.11, 08 April, 2002
Adam Di Carlo, current maintainer aph@debian.org
Christian Schwarz schwarz@debian.org
Ian Jackson ijackson@gnu.ai.mit.edu