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emacs / admin / emacs-pretesters

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Here are the guidelines for being an Emacs pretester.
If you would like to do this, say so, and I'll add you to
the pretest list.


		  Information for Emacs Pretesters

The purpose of Emacs pretesting is to verify that the new Emacs
distribution, about to be released, works properly on your system *with
no change whatever*, when installed following the precise
recommendations that come with the Emacs distribution.

Here are some guidelines on how to do pretesting so as to make it
helpful.  All of them follow from common sense together with the
nature of the purpose and the situation.

Please save this file, and reread it when a new series of pretests
starts.

* Get the pretest from gnu/emacs/emacs-MM.NN.tar.gz and
gnu/emacs/leim-MM.NN.tar.gz on alpha.gnu.org.

* After a few days of testing, if there are no problems, please report
that Emacs works for you and what configuration you are testing it on.

* If you want to communicate with other pretesters, send mail to
emacs-pretesters@gnu.org.  I don't use that mailing list when I send
to you because I've found that mailing lists tend to amplify random
noise into long discussions or even arguments, and that can waste a
lot of time.  But when you have a reason to ask other pretesters for
help, you can do it that way.

* It is absolutely vital that you tell me about even the smallest
change or departure from the standard sources and procedure.

Otherwise, you are not testing the same program that I asked you to
test.  Testing a different program is usually of no use whatever.  It
can even cause trouble if you fail to tell me that you tested some
other program instead of what I am about to release.  I might think
that Emacs works, when in fact it has not even been tried, and might
have a glaring fault.

* Don't use a site-load.el file or a site-init.el file when you pretest.
Using either of those files means you are not testing Emacs as a typical
site would use it.

Actually, it does no harm to test Emacs with such customizations *as
well as* testing it "out of the box".  Anything you do that could find
a bug is useful, as long as you make sure I know exactly what you did.
The important point is that testing with local changes is no
substitute for testing Emacs exactly as it is distributed.

* Even changing the compilation options counts as a change in the
program.  The Emacs sources specify which compilation options to use.
Some of them are specified in makefiles, and some in machine-specific
configuration files.  They also give you ways to override this--but if
you do, then you are not testing what ordinary users will do.
Therefore, when pretesting, it is vital to test with the default
compilation options.

(Testing with a different set of options can be useful *in addition*,
but not *instead of* the default options.)

* The machine and system configuration files of Emacs are parts of
Emacs.  So when you test Emacs, you need to do it with the
configuration files that come with Emacs.

If Emacs does not come with configuration files for a certain machine,
and you test it with configuration files that don't come with Emacs,
this is effectively changing Emacs.  Because the crucial fact about
the planned release is that, without changes, it doesn't work on that
machine.

To make Emacs work on that machine, I would need to install new
configuration files.  That is not out of the question, since it is
safe--it certainly won't break any other machines that already work.
But you will have to rush me the legal papers to give the FSF
permission to use such a large piece of text.

* Look in the etc/MACHINES file.

The etc/MACHINES file says which configuration files to use for your
machine, so use the ones that are recommended.  If you guess, you might
guess wrong and encounter spurious difficulties.  What's more, if you
don't follow etc/MACHINES then you aren't helping to test that its
recommendations are valid.

The etc/MACHINES file may describe other things that you need to do
to make Emacs work on your machine.  If so, you should follow these
recommendations also, for the same reason.

* Send your problem reports to emacs-pretest-bug@gnu.org, not
bug-gnu-emacs.

Sometimes I won't know what to do about a system-dependent issue, and
I may need people to tell me what happens if you try a certain thing
on a certain system.  When this happens, I'll send out a query.

* Don't delay sending information.

When you test on a system and encounter no problems, please tell me
about it right away.  That way, I will know that someone has tested
Emacs on that kind of system.

Please don't wait for several days "to see if it really works before
you say anything."  Tell me right away that Emacs seems basically to
work; then, if you notice a problem a few days later, tell me
immediately about that when you see it.

It is okay if you double check things before reporting a problem, such
as to see if you can easily fix it.  But don't wait very long.  A good
rule to use in pretesting is always to tell me about every problem on
the same day you encounter it, even if that means you can't find a
solution before you report the problem.

I'd much rather hear about a problem today and a solution tomorrow
than get both of them tomorrow at the same time.

* Make each bug report self-contained.

If you refer back to another message, whether from you or from someone
else, then it will be necessary for anyone who wants to investigate
the bug to find the other message.  This may be difficult, it is
probably time-consuming.

To help me save time, simply copy the relevant parts of any previous
messages into your own bug report.

In particular, if I ask you for more information because a bug report
was incomplete, it is best to send me the *entire* collection of
relevant information, all together.  If you send just the additional
information, that makes me do extra work.  There is even a risk that
I won't remember what question you are sending me the answer to.

* When you encounter a bug that manifests itself as a Lisp error,
try setting debug-on-error to t and making the bug happen again.
Then you will get a Lisp backtrace.  Including that in your bug report
is very useful.

* Debugging optimized code is possible, if you compile with GCC, but
in some cases the optimized code can be confusing.  If you are not
accustomed to that, recompile Emacs without -O.  One way to do this is

    make clean
    make CFLAGS=-g

* If you use X windows, it is a good idea to run Emacs under GDB (or
some other suitable debugger) *all the time*, at least while
pretesting.

Then, when Emacs crashes, you will be able to debug the live process,
not just a core dump.  The `pr' command defined in src/.gdbinit is very
useful in this case for examining Lisp_Object values as they would
appear in Lisp.

If you can't use `pr' because Emacs has got a fault already, or
because you have only a core dump, you can use `xtype' to look at the
type of a value, and then choose one of the other commands `xsymbol',
`xstring', `xcons', `xvector' and so on to examine the contents.

I myself *always* run Emacs under GDB so that I can debug conveniently
if the occasion arises.

* To get Lisp-level backtrace information within GDB,
look for stack frames that call Ffuncall.  Select them one by one in GDB
and type this:

   p *args
   pr

This will print the name of the Lisp function called by that level
of function calling.

By printing the remaining elements of args, you can see the argument
values.  Here's how to print the first argument:

   p args[1]
   pr

If you do not have a live process, you can use xtype and the other
x...  commands such as xsymbol to get such information, albeit less
conveniently.

* Even with a live process, these x...  commands are useful for
examining the fields in a buffer, window, process, frame or marker.
Here's an example using concepts explained in the node "Value History"
of the GDB manual to print the variable frame from this line in
xmenu.c:

		  buf.frame_or_window = Fcons (frame, prefix);

First, use these commands:

    cd src
    gdb emacs
    b xmenu.c:1209
    r -q

Then type C-x 5 2 to create a new frame, and it hits the breakpoint:

    (gdb) p frame
    $1 = 1077872640
    (gdb) xtype
    Lisp_Vectorlike
    PVEC_FRAME
    (gdb) xframe
    $2 = (struct frame *) 0x3f0800
    (gdb) p *$
    $3 = {
      size = 536871989,
      next = 0x366240,
      name = 809661752,
      [...]
    }
    (gdb) p $3->name
    $4 = 809661752

Now we can use `pr' to print the name of the frame:

    (gdb) pr
    "emacs@steenrod.math.nwu.edu"

* The Emacs C code heavily uses macros defined in lisp.h.  So suppose
we want the address of the l-value expression near the bottom of
`kbd_buffer_store_event' from keyboard.c:

      XVECTOR (kbd_buffer_frame_or_window)->contents[kbd_store_ptr
						      - kbd_buffer]
       = event->frame_or_window);

XVECTOR is a macro, and therefore GDB does not know about it.
GDB cannot evaluate   p XVECTOR (kbd_buffer_frame_or_window).

However, you can use the xvector command in GDB to get the same
result.  Here is how:

    (gdb) p kbd_buffer_frame_or_window
    $1 = 1078005760
    (gdb) xvector
    $2 = (struct Lisp_Vector *) 0x411000
    0
    (gdb) p $->contents[kbd_store_ptr  - kbd_buffer]
    $3 = 1077872640
    (gdb) p &$
    $4 = (int *) 0x411008

* Here's a related example of macros and the GDB `define' command.
There are many Lisp vectors such as `recent_keys', which contains the
last 100 keystrokes.  We can print this Lisp vector

p recent_keys
pr

But this may be inconvenient, since `recent_keys' is much more verbose
than `C-h l'.  We might want to print only the last 10 elements of
this vector.  `recent_keys' is updated in keyboard.c by the command

  XVECTOR (recent_keys)->contents[recent_keys_index] = c;

So we define a GDB command `xvector-elts', so the last 10 keystrokes
are printed by

    xvector-elts recent_keys recent_keys_index 10

where you can define xvector-elts as follows:

    define xvector-elts
    set $i = 0
    p $arg0
    xvector
    set $foo = $
    while $i < $arg2
    p $foo->contents[$arg1-($i++)]
    pr
    end
    document xvector-elts
    Prints a range of elements of a Lisp vector.
    xvector-elts  v n i
    prints `i' elements of the vector `v' ending at the index `n'.
    end

* To debug what happens while preloading and dumping Emacs,
do `gdb temacs' and start it with `r -batch -l loadup dump'.

If temacs actually succeeds when running under GDB in this way, do not
try to run the dumped Emacs, because it was dumped with the GDB
breakpoints in it.

* If you encounter X protocol errors, try evaluating (x-synchronize t).
That puts Emacs into synchronous mode, where each Xlib call checks for
errors before it returns.  This mode is much slower, but when you get
an error, you will see exactly which call really caused the error.

* If the symptom of the bug is that Emacs fails to respond, don't
assume Emacs is `hung'--it may instead be in an infinite loop.  To
find out which, make the problem happen under GDB and stop Emacs once
it is not responding.  (If Emacs is using X Windows directly, you can
stop Emacs by typing C-z at the GDB job.)  Then try stepping with
`step'.  If Emacs is hung, the `step' command won't return.  If it is
looping, `step' will return.

If this shows Emacs is hung in a system call, stop it again and
examine the arguments of the call.  In your bug report, state exactly
where in the source the system call is, and what the arguments are.

If Emacs is in an infinite loop, please determine where the loop
starts and ends.  The easiest way to do this is to use the GDB command
`finish'.  Each time you use it, Emacs resumes execution until it
exits one stack frame.  Keep typing `finish' until it doesn't
return--that means the infinite loop is in the stack frame which you
just tried to finish.

Stop Emacs again, and use `finish' repeatedly again until you get back
to that frame.  Then use `next' to step through that frame.  By
stepping, you will see where the loop starts and ends.  Also please
examine the data being used in the loop and try to determine why the
loop does not exit when it should.  Include all of this information in
your bug report.

* If certain operations in Emacs are slower than they used to be, here
is some advice for how to find out why.

Stop Emacs repeatedly during the slow operation, and make a backtrace
each time.  Compare the backtraces looking for a pattern--a specific
function that shows up more often than you'd expect.

If you don't see a pattern in the C backtraces, get some Lisp
backtrace information by looking at Ffuncall frames (see above), and
again look for a pattern.

When using X, you can stop Emacs at any time by typing C-z at GDB.
When not using X, you can do this with C-g.

* Configure tries to figure out what kind of system you have by
compiling and linking programs which calls various functions and looks
at whether that succeeds.  The file config.log contains any messages
produced by compilers while running configure, to aid debugging if
configure makes a mistake.  But note that config.cache reads:

# Giving --cache-file=/dev/null disables caching, for debugging configure.

or more simply,

rm config.cache
./configure

* Always be precise when talking about changes you have made.  Show
things rather than describing them.  Use exact filenames (relative to
the main directory of the distribution), not partial ones.  For
example, say "I changed Makefile" rather than "I changed the
makefile".  Instead of saying "I defined the MUMBLE macro", send a
diff.

* Always use `diff -c' to make diffs.  If you don't include context, it
may be hard for me to figure out where you propose to make the
changes.  So I might have to ignore your patch.

* When you write a fix, keep in mind that I can't install a change
that *might* break other systems without the risk that it will fail to
work and therefore require an additional cycle of pretesting.

People often suggest fixing a problem by changing config.h or
src/ymakefile or even src/Makefile to do something special that a
particular system needs.  Sometimes it is totally obvious that such
changes would break Emacs for almost all users.  I can't possibly make
a change like that.  All I can do is send it back to you and ask you
to find a fix that is safe to install.

Sometimes people send fixes that *might* be an improvement in
general--but it is hard to be sure of this.  I can install such
changes some of the time, but not during pretest, when I am trying to
get a new version to work reliably as quickly as possible.

The safest changes for me to install are changes to the s- and m-
files.  At least I know those can't affect most systems.

Another safe kind of change is one that uses a conditional to make
sure it will apply only to a particular kind of system.  Ordinarily,
that is a bad way to solve a problem, and I would want to find a
cleaner alternative.  But the virtue of safety can make it superior at
pretest time.

* Don't try changing Emacs *in any way*  unless it fails to work unchanged.

* Don't even suggest changes to add features or make something
cleaner.  Every change I install could introduce a bug, so I won't
install a change during pretest unless I see it is *necessary*.

* If you would like to suggest changes for purposes other than fixing
user-visible bugs, don't wait till pretest time.  Instead, send them
after I have made a release that proves to be stable.  Then I can give
your suggestions proper consideration.  If you send them at pretest
time, I will have to defer them till later, and that might mean I
forget all about them.

* In some cases, if you don't follow these guidelines, your
information might still be useful, but I might have to do more work to
make use of it.  Unfortunately, I am so far behind in my work that I
just can't keep up unless you help me to do it efficiently.

Some suggestions for debugging on MS Windows:

    Marc Fleischeuers, Geoff Voelker and Andrew Innes

To debug emacs with Microsoft Visual C++, you either start emacs from
the debugger or attach the debugger to a running emacs process.  To
start emacs from the debugger, you can use the file bin/debug.bat.  The
Microsoft Developer studio will start and under Project, Settings,
Debug, General you can set the command-line arguments and emacs'
startup directory.  Set breakpoints (Edit, Breakpoints) at Fsignal and
other functions that you want to examine.  Run the program (Build,
Start debug).  Emacs will start and the debugger will take control as
soon as a breakpoint is hit.

You can also attach the debugger to an already running emacs process.
To do this, start up the Microsoft Developer studio and select Build,
Start debug, Attach to process.  Choose the emacs process from the
list.  Send a break to the running process (Debug, Break) and you will
find that execution is halted somewhere in user32.dll.  Open the stack
trace window and go up the stack to w32_msg_pump.  Now you can set
breakpoints in emacs (Edit, Breakpoints).  Continue the running emacs
process (Debug, Step out) and control will return to emacs, until a
breakpoint is hit.

To examine the contents of a lisp variable, you can use the function
'debug_print'.  Right-click on a variable, select QuickWatch, and
place 'debug_print(' and ')' around the expression.  Press
'Recalculate' and the output is sent to the 'Debug' pane in the Output
window.  If emacs was started from the debugger, a console window was
opened at emacs' startup; this console window also shows the output of
'debug_print'.  It is also possible to keep appropriately masked and
typecast lisp symbols in the Watch window, this is more convenient
when steeping though the code.  For instance, on entering
apply_lambda, you can watch (struct Lisp_Symbol *) (0xfffffff &
args[0]).


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