Introducing automatic crash reporting in Edgy
martin.pitt at ubuntu.com
Mon Aug 14 08:26:31 BST 2006
Hello Ubuntu developers,
with today's ubuntu-meta change (which added the 'apport-gtk' package
to ubuntu-desktop), Edgy now has automatic crash reporting  . It is
not yet quite as automatic as it could be, since we do not yet have a
proper bug reporting tool, but it should already help developers to
track down crashes more efficiently:
* It intercepts crashes right when they happen the first time, which
spares long sleepless nights for trying to reproduce the crash.
* The generated reports contain stack traces, a core dump, names and
versions of the affected package and all of its dependencies,
information about the OS, /proc, and runtime status. See the spec
 for details. This should reduce the bug report ping-pong for
common missing information.
These reports are supposed to be attached to bug reports.
What happens on a crash due to a segfault, FPE, bus error, and similar
abnormal program terminations:
* The kernel picks up the uncaught crash signal and calls 'apport'.
* The apport backend collects useful information and generates a
report in /var/crash/.
* update-notifier picks up the new report and calls apport-gtk, which
informs the user about the new crash report and offers to file a
bug. This currently spawns the Malone bug page for the affected
package (in the future this will call our bug reporting tool).
* The user then decides whether he wants to file a (public or
private) bug, add the report to an already existing one, or
to discard the report since it might contain sensitive information.
If a program crashes that does not belong to the current user session,
no notification happens at the moment. However, if you notice crashes,
there should still be a report in /var/crash/ (owned by the user of
the crashed process).
apport only generates reports for programs that belong to an installed
In general, the backtraces in the generated reports will not have
debug symbols. There is another specification  which, when fully
implemented, will provide the debug symbols for all packages on a
publicly accessible place in the form of 'ddebs (debug .deb packages).
Until Launchpad supports them natively, we will soon have an
intermediate solution for publishing them (they are already generated
on the buildds, but currently thrown away).
However, many packages already have a -dbg package, and you can also
rebuild a package locally with 'pkg-create-dbgsym' installed to get
Once you have the debug symbols installed on your box, you can flesh
out the backtraces of an apport report with a tool that is also
shipped in the apport package:
apport-retrace <crash report>
This tool has some options to display the stack trace on stdout
instead of modifying the report (-s) and to remove the core dump from
the report to save space (-c). Please see
for some details.
In the (distant) future, this process should be automated on some
* Crashes in Gnome programs are currently intercepted by libgnomeui
and bug-buddy. This is being worked on, so that apport will be used
for Gnome as well.
* If you configured your browser to open new pages in new tabs
instead of new windows, and you already have an open browser window
on a different virtual workspace, then you will not see anything
happen when the bug reporting dialog opens and asks to file a bug.
I do not see an easy solution for this which does not override the
Gnome configuration. Suggestions welcome.
* While apport collects data, the crashed application is frozen for
quite a long time. This is on the TODO list already.
Suggestions, critics, bug reports, and other feedback is welcome!
Please use our bug tracker  where appropriate, or mail
ubuntu-devel at lists.ubuntu.com for feature discussions.
Thanks for your attention,
Martin Pitt http://www.piware.de
Ubuntu Developer http://www.ubuntu.com
Debian Developer http://www.debian.org
In a world without walls and fences, who needs Windows and Gates?
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