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Giving Back

Posted by daniel on August 19, 2003 at 10:59 AM PDT

Something goes wrong with an open source project that you're using - what do you do next? Maybe you write a nasty note to the newsgroup or quietly remove the software and go on with your life. What about taking a quick look to see if you can locate the source of your problem and suggest a fix.

This isn't for everyone, but I witnessed an almost perfect execution of what could be captured as the "Submit Fix to Open Source" pattern on a mailing list this morning. One user submitted a simple email with the subject line "maybe xxx bug?". The details are omitted in this retelling for obvious reasons.

His first sentence described the observable problem. He wrote "Variables set in the root page aren't visible to child pages ...". Next, he suggested the location of the error in the code saying "Seems to be this code in ...". He listed the 6 or 7 lines that he was suggesting might be the culprit and pointed out what, specifically, was wrong with the code noting that in a particular case the while loop exits without setting a variable. The email concludes with a suggestion for code that would fix the problem and a nice note about the software and how it is being used.

You can't always help out when you come across a problem. You may not have the time to run it down or isolate the problem in the first place. Even if you can locate the problem, you may not be able to suggest an appropriate change. If you can help with any of these activities, it will help make the code more robust for future users.

Less than an hour after the first email was sent, the maintainer of the code answered, "Thanks for you're keen observation. It is in fact a bug. I added a test to
reveal this symptom and your code modification does the trick!" Happy ending for everyone.

In today's featured Weblogs, Chris Adamson wonders what it takes for an application to feel like an application to an end user. In You Call That An Application, he notes that you can't just bundle up a double clickable jar side by side with other resources. He'd like something more like "an Application class or interface that gives us some kind of abstraction of behaviors like requestUserAttention() to bounce an icon or flash the task bar. The JVM then provides a platform-appropriate implementation, if any."

In the Also Today section, you can poke around in two very different Java APIs and play with two open source projects.. Check out the Java Speech APIs in this ONJava article that walks you through creating the VoicePad application that features speech synthesis of text. The Houston Java User Group is quite active. One subset has been working on the City Finder project in their J2ME study group. They have released their source code on their java.net project page along with a demo and documentation.

From the Java Today News Page, news editor Steve Mallett, has gathered the following News Headlines .

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