Daily Archives: January 7, 2010

Delivery!

My Nokia N900 porta-puter arrived today.  I look forward to playing with it, and being able to compute whilst out in the hills!  The more pressing question: will it take the place of the MacBook for things like FOSDEM weekend?

The delivery tracking system said it was out for delivery on Tuesday and Wednesday as well as today, but got delayed due to the weather.  I guess the delivery man is covering very much smaller areas than usual.  Fortunately I was at home to take delivery.

Also took delivery of better headphones, which I used today to listen to the radio on the e71 whilst out walking.  Not as comfy as I’d hoped from the picture, but still good to have.

Bugs, support and confusion

Someone recently reported a build problem as a “bug” in apache bugzilla: he’s been unable to build with LDAP support.  Setting aside the obvious workaround (use a ready-built distro package), what can we say?

(a) It’s probably user error rather than a bug.
(b) But only probably … it’s possible there’s a perfectly good LDAP install which the build scripts should have found.  General-purpose build scripts are notoriously tricky: that’s why commercial vendors wimp out and only ever support selected platforms/distros.
(c) It’s not clear whether the problem arises from the user’s OS/distro or from something he’s done, though it looks like the latter.
(d) We should also consider the possibility of a documentation bug.  That is to say, something that’s not a bug but where we could/should provide more helpful docs.

These are issues that need sorting out in a support forum.  Bugzilla is not supposed to be a support channel, and most of us are reluctant to let it be used as one (and may get shirty if you try).  Apache provides an official support mailinglist and there’s a semi-official IRC channel at Freenode, either of which would be a good start.  A common approach to “bugs” like this is to close them, with an invitation to re-open if they turn out to be (or reveal) an actual bug after working through what the user has really done.

In this case, I didn’t close it, but I did try to point the user at a support forum.  And then came the bombshell:

I have tried to ask for help and have placed a couple of questions on http://www.apache.com/forums/modules/installing-enable-authnz_ldap-module/ and got no response. If there are better forums please could you let me know where these are?

He’s gone to some third-party site that purports to provide a forum, and unsurprisingly come away empty-handed!  The usual response to that is dismissive: WTF does the luser expect from $random-probably-clueless-bod?  But in this case the domain is called apache.com and appears to be about apache.  Perhaps that makes our user’s confusion an understandable mistake?

Well, up to a point.  Apache.com does have a disclaimer (albeit only at the bottom after scrolling down a great deal of page).  And the user has found our bugzilla, which is unambiguously apache.org.  Hmmm, perhaps Bugzilla itself could use a bit more Help information, about where to seek help (the existing Help is only for Bugzilla itself).  A simple pointer to look for latest versions, project documentation, and support fora at [project-name].apache.org might avoid some confusion.