A major component of a cross-platform toolset is the bug reporting and tracking system (which I refer to as a “bug system” here for brevity). A bug system is used by developers and testers to report defects and issues encountered during the software development and testing phases of a project. In general, a bug system should allow the reporter to specify the problem encountered, identify the context or state of the system at the time the bug was discovered, and list the steps required to reproduce the bug. The bug system also must allow for the tracking of any issues it contains. In terms of tracking, bugs generally go through the following states:
In addition, a bug can be in the reopened state, an indication that a once-veriﬁed bug has resurfaced in testing after originally being veriﬁed by QA.
Finally, a bug system should allow someone to specify the relative priority of bugs ﬁled against a product. Initially, this will be the person ﬁling the bug, but ideally, it is done in a “triage” session, with participation of the following teams: development, QA/test, and product management. Tracking priorities is not easy, it takes discipline for people to sit down for an hour or two and grind through a list of bugs, but doing so allows developers to prioritize their work, and allows those who are making ship/no-ship decisions the opportunity to objectively decide what state the project is in.
When it comes to cross-platform development, you should always look for a couple of attributes and features when selecting a bug system for use in your project.Accessibility
Perhaps the most important cross-platform attribute you should look for when selecting a bug system is accessibility. In a cross-platform development project, everyone will have his or her preferred development platform (see Item 1). For some developers, it will be Mac OS X, and for many it will be Windows. If the bug system is not accessible to everyone on the team via their native platforms, it risks not being used by those who would rather not boot into one of the operating systems that the bug system does support. Therefore, the bug system itself needs to be cross-platform. And, it must support all of your tier-1 platforms.
These days, by and large, the accessibility requirement is best met by using a Web-based bug system. Web browsers are available for every platform, including PDAs and mobile phones. Bug reporting/tracking systems based on LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) or Java/JSP are available.Ability to Track Platform-Speciﬁc Bugs
In some cases, a bug will be reproducible on all platforms, and in other cases, only a subset of the supported platforms will exhibit the given problem. It is critical that the platforms affected by the problem be tracked. The bug system should allow the person ﬁling the bug, or even someone updating the bug at a later time, to specify the platform(s) affected by any given bug. Doing so will allow someone searching the bug database to specify a subset of the supported platforms as search criteria (for example, “ﬁnd all assigned Linux bugs”). By specifying the platforms as part of the search criteria, platform specialists will be able to quickly identify bugs that affect their platform, and management will be able determine the number of open (and resolved) issues on a per-platform basis.Bugzilla
Most of my experience with bug reporting systems has been with a bug tracking system named Bugzilla—yet another result of the Netscape/Mozilla project. Bugzilla is implemented as a Web application, allowing the database to be viewed from any platform that supports a Web browser. Bugzilla has been in active development for years, and is used by hundreds of organizations. Because Bugzilla originated during the development of the cross-platform Netscape/Mozilla system (it replaced a Netscape-internal bug system in use during the development of the 4.x browser called bugsplat), it has always supported cross-platform development directly.
Installing Bugzilla is pretty straightforward, and is well documented. A basic installation of Bugzilla can be done in about an hour, depending on your setup. (That was my experience on a stock Red Hat Fedora Core 4 system, and your results may vary.)
The following instructions are based on a Fedora Core 4 setup, using Apache and MySQL. (The default versions of Apache, Perl, and MySQL that come with FC4 are suitable for use with Bugzilla 2.22.)
Visit www.bugzilla.org, and download the latest stable release (2.22 as of this writing) onto the Linux machine that you will use to host the Bugzilla server. Then:
The next step is to install required Perl modules. To do this, enter the following:
# perl -MCPAN -e 'install “Bundle::Bugzilla"'
You may be prompted for inputs. If so, just take whatever default responses are offered. To validate that the required modules are installed, issue the following (as root):
# cd /var/www/html/bugzilla
When that completes, you need to rerun checksetup once again:
# perl checksetup.pl
This will create a ﬁle named localconﬁg. To conﬁgure Bugzilla to work with MySQL, follow the instructions at www.bugzilla.org/docs/2.22/html/ conﬁguration.html#mysql. Finally, rerun checksetup.pl one last time. The checksetup.pl script will create the Bugzilla database and prompt you for information needed to set up an administrator account in the Bugzilla database. Following this, you should be able to use the following URL to access bugzilla from your local Web browser:
If you have any problems with these instructions (or have a setup that differs from mine), refer to ﬁle://var/www/html/bugzilla/docs/index.html for help.
After you have installed Bugzilla, you need to add products to the bug database, and modify the list of platforms (hardware and operating systems) that can be speciﬁed when bugs are ﬁled in the database. To do this, log in as the administrator; you should see a screen similar to the one shown in Figure 3-1.
In the bottom half of Figure 3-1, there is a link labeled Products. Clicking that link takes you to a screen on which you can enter the name and attributes of a product. Enter the product name and a description, accept defaults for the remaining ﬁelds, and click the Add button. You should get something like Figure 3-2.
The next step manages the list of supported operating systems. To view the list, click the Field Values link (visible in Figures 3-1 and 3-2). Then, click the OS link in the resulting page, and you should see the list of supported operating systems (All, Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Other, as in Figure 3-3). By clicking the operating system names to edit them, change the value Windows to Windows XP, the value Mac OS to be Mac OS X 10.4, and the value Linux to be Fedora Core 4. I personally think it is better to be ﬁne-grained when it comes to the list of operating systems; Linux, for example, is far too vague to be truly useful. You can also add or remove operating systems using the provided controls.
To modify the list of supported hardware, click the Field Values link again, click the Hardware link on the resulting page, and then modify the list of supported hardware types so that it is consistent with your supported hardware platforms. Again, being ﬁne-grained can help in diagnosing problems. For example, instead of Macintosh, you might add choices based on type and CPU (for example, PowerBook and MacBook).
Returning to the cross-platform issues of platform and hardware, let’s see how they are speciﬁed by ﬁling a bug against Trixul. One problem with Trixul is that under Microsoft Windows XP, the layout engine is built as an executable, whereas on all other platforms, the layout engine is built as a shared library that is then linked to a small executable. The reason for this bug (I believe) is a difﬁculty with linking a mixed (native and Common Language Infrastructure [CLI]) .NET application to a shared library using Visual Studio .NET 2003.
To ﬁle this bug, I logged on to Bugzilla, clicked the Enter a New Bug Report link, ﬁlled out the form as shown in Figure 3-5, and then clicked Commit.
Notice how I selected Windows XP in the OS ﬁeld, and PC (Intel Pentium 4) in the Platform ﬁeld.
Platform-speciﬁc bugs can be easily located using the search feature of Bugzilla. To do so, visit the main Bugzilla page and click the Search Existing Bug Reports link. The resulting page allows you to specify a wide variety of search criteria, including the OS and Platform ﬁelds. Figure 3-6 illustrates a search of all open bugs ﬁled against both Fedora Core 4 and Windows XP on the Pentium 4 platform.
If you like, you can copy and paste the URL of the search result page into a Web page or e-mail, and use that as a quick way to ﬁnd all bugs related to a speciﬁc platform/operating system combination. When using Bugzilla I generally make a Web page consisting of links to all queries that I consider essential for the project I am working on; clicking a link is much easier than revisiting the Bugzilla search page and reentering all the parameters of the desired query each time I go to look at my list of bugs.
That’s pretty much it for Bugzilla. Using the general guidelines I just provided, it is fairly easy to set up and maintain a database that is capable of helping you ensure that platform-speciﬁc issues are tracked accurately.
Please check back for the next part of the series.
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