Last updated: Sat May 15 23:46:06 2004
ArchLinux has a growing repository of packages available via pacman. The distribution prides itself on high quality packages. At the moment, the Developer to User ratio is very high. Most people who use ArchLinux want to help out in it's development. Unfortunately, as ArchLinux grows in popularity, the User count (e.g. people who don't want to participate in development) will increase dramatically. Combined with the growing number of packages in the repositories, Arch developers will have a hard time keeping the package quality high.
Currently, once a package has made it into the official repositories, the developers rely on users filing bug reports and flagging packages. Once this has been done, the package maintainer will independently test and update the package. This system relies on the notion that users will be willing to file bug reports and help out in other small ways. MS Windows and other distributions have showed us that most users will not be willing to help out in the slightest.
The solution to maintaining high quality working packages is to get a dedicated group of people to consistently test and review packages and provide feedback to the developers. These testers do not have to be particularly skilled, they only have to have devotion to making Arch Linux better. The goal of this project is review and test packages currently in the repositories. We want to make sure they work, build correctly, and are up to date.
There are no initial requirements for you to help out. If you want to help make ArchLinux better, but aren't a great programmer or don't have lots of free time, this project is for you. The packages listed at the top of the page were randomly generated. Simply test these in any way you feel comfortable. Some examples are simply downloading them (via pacman -S) and seeing if they work. Other ways include trying to build them via ABS and seeing if there are any errors or the easiest way, going to the program's homepage and seeing if there is a newer version out.
If you think a package is broken or will not build, file a bug report at http://bugs.archlinux.org/. If someone has already filed the same bug report, please add a comment to it confirming that you have the same error.
If a package is out of date, but works, please flag the package via the web interface on the Arch Linux homepage.
This project is very new, but we have some lofty goals. If you like the ideas presented here, please help us out.
Our goal is to eventually provide the Arch Linux developers with a network of people who will test any packages the developer requests. Unfortunately, bugs that exist will not be reproducible on every setup. For a package to be tested properly, it has to be run on many machines, not just the developer's. If a developer is having trouble fixing a package or determining if a bug does exist, we would like him to be able to enlist the Package Reviewer's help.
With a group of dedicated testers, the ArchLinux developers and maintainers can be much more ambitious in their goals. They will be able to roll out bigger and better tested packages for everyone. New systems can be implemented without worrying about destabilizing the distribution. Once we get official approval, we would like to provide many ways for the developers to contact the Testers. This could be through a mailing list or a developer edited webpage. Some sort of system could also be implemented that keeps track of the number of times a package has been tested and the outcome (e.g."works here").
To help encourage participation, we would like to implement some sort of rewards system, where testers who test/flag/report the most packages get some sort of recognition. This would be much further down the road though. This could be abused and cause testing quality to go down, so it's on the "maybe" list.
Q: What is your affiliation with ArchLinux?
A: We are an unofficial project without developer approval. This is sort of a beta test to prove to the developers that this system could be an asset.
Q: What is your affiliation with the Trusted User Repository (TUR) System?
A: The goal of the TUR system is to test packages that have not yet made it into the official repositories. Once the packages have made it into the official trees, there is no further, periodic review. This project attempts to fill that need.
Q: If there are no skill requirements, how do you know the packages will be tested properly?
A: In the Open Source tradition, we rely on "many eyes" to test the package. The hope is that 20 testers will be able to spot a bug or mistake quicker than one skilled person (who is subject to disappearing, getting busy, etc).
Q: Why can't I just do this on my own? I could just pick a random package myself.
A: Although this seems to make sense, in reality people get overwhelmed. In a repository of thousands of packages, users will not know where to begin. This project attempts to either say "here are some packages you could test" or eventually "the developers really want you to help test this package".
Q: This sounds a whole lot like the Bug Teams for KDE and GNOME. Is it a coincidence?
A: That's very astute of you ;-). This project has the same goals. We are attempting to provide some dedicated testers to a huge project (in this case, a distribution).
My name is Ben Mazer, and I am one of the Trusted Users. I maintain a TUR and test the INCOMING system. I am not a developer. I usually go by the alias, "contrasutra".
You can contact me at: [email protected] or through the ArchLinux forum or IRC channel. I would really appreciate your feedback.