Friday, August 20, 2010

Open Source Immune Efficiency. A small bug can kill.

I have been using open source software for well over a decade and have noticed an alarming trend.
Many fine software packages which had multiple collaborators and countless hours work have been killed by a show stopping bug.

The most recent chich has come to my attention is Rhythmbox.

Rhythmbox is an excellent audio player program for linux which allows music to be put in a collection and arranged using playlists, sorted and various other nice features. I liked the way it worked and was happy.

In the last six months or so I have encountered a show stopping bug. It is the sort that can bring about the fall of a program. The sort of bug I am referring to is a finger pointing bug where nobody will accept responsibility. People say "It isn't my problem, blame package X". this continues until someone says "It's an upstream issue" and the bug never gets fixed in spite of multiple reports.

I can not use Rhythmbox anymore because there is a bug which causes a crash with certain container formats. Rhythmbox, dbus and GStreamer are all involved, but the buck seems to have been passed to saying it is a GStreamer upstream issue.
Go and have a hunt. this issue dates back more than a year. many people have dealt with it the same way I have. Grudgingly using another alternative.
if people are offered a choice between a program which should do what they want but breaks, or a suboptimal program which works, they will choose the latter.
if you need to move house, would you choose a moving van with a seized motor or a fully functional station wagon? Exactly.

Sure, in this case Rhythmbox breaks because GStreamer causes a segfault. Call me old fashioned, but we used to use input sanitization. At worst Rhythmbox should acknowledge the crash, and move on to the next file.
It's not even an error during playback. Just population of the collection.

One bug is killing this mighty beast. Much like many other packages which I can't remember specifics about anymore besides leaving a bad feeling when I try to recall them.

If you haven't tried Rhythmbox I still urge you to give it a try. You may not have any files which inflame this bug. If you liked the pre KDE4 Amarok, you'll probably like this.

That's my rant for today. Agree or disagree, that's what i think.

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