During the time before and following Beta release I actually took some of my limited spare time and found and filed some bugs. A couple ended up as duplicates, of course. Any time you have a Linux distribution with millions of users you’re bound to have a few people running into the same problem. Hopefully one of them takes the time to file a bug, knowing that will help developers track down the problem, and make life better for their fellow users. It’s easy to say, “Well, I don’t need to file this, because someone other than me will get around to it.” But of course, if everyone says that, then no one files the bug and nothing gets better.
This time around I actually stumbled on some reasonably meaningful bugs. One of them was a problem in the kernel’s tg3 network interface driver. It apparently doesn’t affect too many models because only one other person has commented on the bug. But I still felt pretty good about reporting it, if for no other reason than it already generated a workaround and attention from kernel rocket scientist Chuck Ebbert, and hopefully the upstream Broadcom driver maintainers as well. That means my few minutes of effort will save other people hours of hair-pulling.
The point is not that somehow I’m special because of doing this — it’s just the opposite, I’m just like thousands of other Fedora users who can make a difference just by taking a few minutes to file bugs. Can we fix 100% of the bugs 100% of the time in Fedora? Probably not — but in my experience well-reported bugs do get attention and fixes.
But how to report a bug well? There’s an answer for that too — we have a bug reporting primer page on the wiki that shows how to make bug reports and feature requests. It outlines the steps to gather good information that will help your bug become actionable so it can be used more effectively to fix issues. Because we follow a policy of staying close to upstream projects, those fixes can benefit everyone — not hoarded just to make Fedora better, but shared with the community at large. That’s the whole idea on which free software is based.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that this late in the cycle there are probably not too many new issues that we can tackle before release of Fedora 12, but certainly any bug we can identify is something we can stomp out early. And it won’t be more than a few months before we’re ready to start trumpeting for testing and bug reporting for the next Fedora release. So why not try out the latest Fedora right now?
You can download the latest pre-release, Fedora 12 Beta, and then update to the newest packages, but I’m also a fan of just downloading the boot.iso for 32-bit or 64-bit architecture, and then installing straight from Rawhide, which is a big time saver. Since the Rawhide tree, our latest development branch, is getting pretty darn near release candidate state now, it’s a great way to preview the release. I personally keep a separate /home partition so installing a new release is easy.
On a personal note, this weekend at the FredLUG meeting we had several people wanting to test the latest Fedora on bare metal, so we had a mini-installfest. By far the most popular new features was the new b43-openfwwf package, which offers open firmware for a bunch of popular Broadcom wireless network cards. Without any of the pesky fwcutter nonsense, people were finding that their wireless “just works” in the Fedora 12 pre-release to a greater extent than ever. The package currently covers Broadcom 4306, 4311-rev01, 4318, and 4320 wireless, so if you’ve one of those, you’re in for a treat!