Subject: a tool free software developers need
From: Tom Lord <>
Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2002 12:33:53 -0800 (PST)

Here's a more concrete example of something to build as part of a
transition to a business "B" world.

Lately, I'm getting bug reports that are very platform and
configuration specific.  These aren't necessarily obscure systems --
more like "RedHat 7.2 with Bash 2.05a.0 and gawk 3.0.6" or "Solaris
mumbledefoo on an Ultrasparc" -- but they are different from the
systems I have and at this stage, I usually can't reproduce the bugs
reported on the machines I have.

Sometimes the bug reporter is willing to act as a (very low bandwidth,
very high level) remote debugger; sometimes not.  Sometimes they have
the skill for that; sometimes not.

I could go a lot faster if I could get as accurate a description of
the platform as possible, fire off an email to a friendly platform
farm, and get back a reservation:


	You have a 3 hour reservation on at 3am 
	on 2002-02-16.  Your ssh key is attached.

Presumably "test235" would be freshly loaded with a
closest-available-approximation of my platform spec when I log in, and
would be re-loaded after I leave.

The platform farm would also be handy if I could automate my end --
simply have it pick release candidates from my repository and run a
test suite, mailing me the results on a number of platforms.  There
doesn't have to be just one platform farm: it might make good sense to
build a P2P network so that trusted volunteers from all over can throw
machines into the pool.

Implementing tools like that would also make it more likely that
various projects would raise the priority of beefing up their test
suites -- because there'd be a direct pay-off for doing so.  It would
be an opportunity to widely deploy (de facto) standardized frameworks
for building, testing, and installing packages.