[Desktop12.10-Topic] Awareness of existing user configurations in software feature upgrades

Shahar Or mightyiampresence at gmail.com
Wed Apr 4 20:30:09 UTC 2012

Dear Friends,

There is a problem, in my opinion, a conceptual one, with user
configurations -those that are in home directories-, and, well, their
software's upgrades.

In some scenarios, this problem, which I will better define below,
causes crashes. In others, it causes missing features in the software.

I'm sure that there are many problems that this can cause and indeed
causes in practice. I have personally experienced bugs that arise from
this issue and I won't be surprised if every single one of you had
such encounters, as well.

I'll give you the most common proof of this problem. Do you ever get
the feeling that if you'll make a new user account for yourself then
everything is going to be so much nicer in your UX? I bet that KDE
users are jumping up and down within themselves now because in KDE
there's so much configuration options that this is exacerbated.

Let me give you one recent example[1], which is such a serious one,
albeit in a non-critical software, but it stands in it's own right.
(Please note that I've not tested this one yet but it does demonstrate
one aspect of the problem and even if it turns out to be a different
bug, it would demonstrate the idea.)

And do you ever get the feeling that there are too many configuration
files in your home directory, anyway? "Did I really create all that
configuration datum?" I ask myself.

And let me ask you another thing to demonstrate the issue. The
commonality of it. Have you ever fixed a bug in a software, or rather,
worked around it, by removing it's configuration entirely? Does the
phrase 'rm -r .config/<rampant-software>' look familiar?

Here's another example which I solved quite exactly in this way[2].
Worked around, rather.

I'm not a software developer. I'm an avid user of Ubuntu and a Free
Software Ideologist. I won't tell you, developers how to write your
software, or, rather, our software.

I'm just here to point out something that's been bothering me (us, I
hope) for a while and I hope that we can start to put an end to this
at the current development cycle and that it would make a standard and
echo this standard outside into the Free Software Stratosphere.

So, I suggest two things as a start. One, is to find a pattern in
this, or a pattern of patterns because this is a multifaceted problem.
And to be precise, I'm not talking about system software
configurations, like in '/etc'. I'm only talking about what's inside
our homes.

In order to find patterns, I suggest that we first start to tag these
bugs as 'configuration-upgrade' such as in this list[3].

Then, we can categorize them according to the type of mistake that was
made by the developer ("oh my gosh, he didn't really say that!"). We
need to admit that there's a problem here, OK?

For this purpose, I've made the Wiki page ConfigurationUpgrade[4]. In
it, I'm currently writing some more guidelines which I'm making up.

This research will help bring the awareness of the subject into the
God-given, electronic minds of the developers.

The second thing that I suggest is testing, testing and you know what
else. Testing. The fact that so many of these bugs "get away with it"
and flow into our releases is staggering. Perhaps "after-upgrade"
testing and not only ISO testing is required.

Please chime in with your thoughts but keep in mind that there might
be some old configuration files lurking, so be careful!

Thanks and Blessings,

  1. https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/byobu/+bug/973638
  2. https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/unity-2d/+bug/963125
  3. https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+bugs?field.tag=configuration-upgrade
  4. https://wiki.ubuntu.com/ConfigurationUpgrade

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