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Mozilla Browser 0.9.3 Branched Buggy & Behind Schedule

Mike Angelo -- 1 August 2001 (c)

Webmaster´s Note: Mozilla Milestone 0.9.3 was released August 3, 2001. Please see our story, Mozilla Milestone 0.9.3 Browser-Suite Released, for download links and the details.

With more than 60 bugs still targeted to it, the upcoming Mozilla Milestone 0.9.3 edition was branched overnight from the main development-tree trunk -- behind schedule. Moreover, at the time of its branching Mozilla Milestone 0.9.3 had nearly 3,000 bugs by conservative estimates and some 14,000 bugs by less conservative estimates.

Mozilla pre-1.0 Milestone and daily development builds are available for the BSD, Linux, Macintosh, Microsoft Windows, OS/2, Sun, and several UNIX platforms. Source code is available if you want to custom compile your own Mozilla builds. However, at publication time only Linux, Macintosh, and Windows builds are available in the Mozilla Milestone 0.9.3 branch.

Netscape 6 and Netscape 6.1 are built on the basic Mozilla browser-suite prototype. The underlying Mozilla browser-suite is from where the bugs in Netscape 6 and Netscape 6.1 come. The Mozilla browser-suite is built on top of the cross-platform (XP) and open source Mozilla applications programming framework.

Of course, the lion's share of Mozilla developers are Netscape developers. So Netscape is just as responsible for the bugginess of the Mozilla and Netscape 6.x browser suites as is the Mozilla Organization.

Mozilla 0.9.3 was scheduled to have been branched last Friday (25 July 2001) and to have been released Monday (30 July 2001). However, Mozilla 0.9.3 was branched some five days late. Now final release of Mozilla 0.9.3 is past due. That's not surprising considering how buggy Mozilla is even at this time.

The June, Mozilla Organization's Mozilla Development Roadmap document shows that Mozilla 0.9.3 was scheduled for release on 30 July 2001 (please see Table 1). If the Mozilla developers work to fix all, or even close to all, the bugs targeted to Mozilla 0.9.3 before releasing it, it could take some time. However, if the Mozilla developers follow past practices, they will fix only some of these bugs. Then they will merely sweep the rest under the carpet, so to speak, by re-assigning the remaining bugs to other targets in order to try to maintain schedule.

Table 1. Mozilla Development Roadmap: June Revision

Milestone

Start

Freeze

Branch

Ideal Release

Actual Release

Mozilla 0.9.3

22-Jun-2001

25-Jul-2001

27-Jul-2001

30-Jul-2001

?

(Excerpted from Mozilla Development Roadmap, 11 June 2001 revision, The Mozilla Organization. Link in Resources section at end of this article.

  • Blocker - Blocks development and/or testing work.
  • Critical - Crashes, loss of data, severe memory leak.
  • Major - Major loss of function.
  • Normal - This is the run of the mill bug.
  • Minor - Minor loss of function, or other problem where an easy workaround is present.
  • Trivial - Cosmetic problem like misspelled words or misaligned text.
  • Enhancement - Request for enhancement.

From Help Using The Bugzilla Query Form. Link in Resouces section,

For example, yesterday morning there were some 152 assigned, new, or reopened bugs targeted to Mozilla 0.9.3. Four of these bugs were listed as blockers, sixteen as critical, thirty-five as major, eighty-nine normal, five minor, and three as enhancement.

In addition to the 152 bugs targeted to Mozilla Milestone 0.9.3, there were some 1,072 bugs targeted to 0.9.4, 47 bugs targeted to 0.9.5 and 1,696 bugs targeted to Mozilla 1.0 yesterday morning. That's a total of 2,967 bugs targeted to these four, work-in-progress, Mozilla releases. All those bugs went in to the Mozilla 9.3 branch.

Incidentally, yesterday morning there were some 4,750 bugs targeted to Future Mozilla releases. All those bugs went in to the Mozilla 0.9.3 branch too.

It appears some sweeping bugs under the carpet occurred yesterday afternoon. In the time span of a few meager hours or less, the bugs targeted to Mozilla 0.9.3 decreased by 93 bugs from 152 bugs to 59 bugs. Meanwhile, the number of bugs targeted to 0.9.4 increased from 1072 bugs by 78 bugs up to 1150 bugs. Taking the three 0.9.X Milestones together with Mozilla 1.0, after the Mozilla developers played that round of musical bug shuffling, there was a net gain of five bugs -- up from 2,967 bugs to 2,972 bugs.

Most all of those 2,972 bugs went into the Mozilla 0.9.3 branch. All the current bugs, regardless of what release to which they might be targeted, are in Mozilla. The bug targeting indicates by which edition of Mozilla those targeted bugs are supposed to be fixed. But they all are in Mozilla until they are fixed.

Another blatant example of sweeping bugs under the carpet might have occurred last week. On 24 July at 09:49 EDT there were 710 bugs targeted to Mozilla 0.9.3 and 261 bugs targeted to 0.9.4. Then miraculously on 25 July at 05:25 EDT, the number of bugs targeted to Mozilla 0.9.3 suddenly shrunk by 449 to 261 bugs. Meanwhile just as suddenly, the number of bugs targeted to 0.9.4 leaped by 531 bugs up to 792 bugs.
However, in many cases the bugs are merely swept under the carpet by being re-targeted to later Mozilla editions rather than being fixed. This sweeping bugs under the rug practice is in part why there now are so many bugs in Mozilla and Netscape 6.1. By not fixing bugs and continually re-targeting them to later Mozilla and Netscape releases, the Mozilla and Netscape developers have allowed such a huge number of bugs to pile up.

Of course some of these bugs are requests for enhancements or are trivial bugs. Moreover some of the more serious bugs, although serious, might occur only in rare circumstances.

The point here is that even though there might be lots of bugs in a program, they might not be very noticeable. Of course the fewer the bugs, the better.

The ultimate success or failure of a program is measured by user acceptance. If the overall user experience is a good one and the bugs do not interfere with the user experience, then even somewhat buggy software can be useful and usable.

Despite all the many bugs in Mozilla, the overall user experience generally is a good one. Mozilla is usable.

Nevertheless, that is no excuse to produce buggy software. And right now, Mozilla is very buggy software.

Frankly, we cannot understand why there are any trivial bugs (Cosmetic problem like misspelled words or misaligned text) at all in Mozilla – other than for laziness, poor craftsmanship, or poor quality assurance management. Not immediately fixing such trivial bugs is much like the contractor that does not paint the insides of closets and cabinets when building a house – poor craftsmanship.

Currently there are more than 400 new, re-opened, and assigned trivial bugs listed in Bugzilla. Additionally, there are more than 1000 minor bugs (Minor loss of function, or other problem where an easy workaround is present) listed in Bugzilla. These trivial and minor bugs ought to be cleaned up forthwith if they really are trivial and minor – or upgraded to more severe classifications if they are not.

That does not mean that fixing other bugs should be stopped in order to clean up the trivial and minor bugs. It does mean that the Mozilla Organization should focus and concentrate its full attention on clearing bugs – the trivial bugs and the more severe bugs. It should fix them, not hide them by sweeping them under the rug!

Even the rather conservative bug counting practices we use to track the Mozilla bugs yield high bug counts in Mozilla (nearly 3,000 bugs). That conservative bug estimate tallies only new, re-opened, and assigned bugs targeted to the 0.9.x Milestone builds and Mozilla 1.0. It does not include the 4,750 bugs targeted to future Mozilla releases. Nor does it include the bugs not targeted to any specific Mozilla Milestone or release.

All the targeted and not-targeted bugs, less requests for enhancements, is around 14,000 bugs. However, the broad-based Bugzilla query that yields that count can be misleading and likely is too high. That is why we use the more conservative, specific Bugzilla queries for our daily bug counts, which appear on the right-hand sidebar of the MozillaQuest Magazine front page, and when discussing Mozilla and Netscape 6.x bug counts in articles.

Incidentally, please check the MozillaQuest Magazine front-page (mozillaquest.com) sidebar every now and then for bug count updates and for Mozilla Milestone 0.9.3 progress updates.

Please see our article, Mozilla 0.9.2 Set for 25 June Release -- More Mozilla Roadmap Plan Changes and Chaos, for more information about the June 2001 Mozilla Development Roadmap and development schedule revisions.

If you never have tried the Mozilla browser suite, you can download and try Mozilla 0.9.2. Please see our article, Mozilla Milestone 0.9.2 Browser-Suite Released, for more information about 0.9.2 and for download links.

Or, you can grab a copy of the latest Mozilla 0.9.3 branch build from the Mozilla Organization FTP server. Don't forget to report any bugs you find to Bugzilla.

Stay Tuned.

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For more information about the Mozilla Organization, the Mozilla applications programming framework, and the Mozilla browser, please see:

Please do not forget to report bugs, problems, or suggestions for enhancements to Bugzilla.

For more information about the Mozilla Roadmap & Milestone Plan, please see:

Mozilla Development Roadmap

Copyright 2000, 2001 -- MozillaQuest -- Brodheadsville, Pa..USA -- All Rights Reserved


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