Crash Reporting Redux

Posted in Camino, Software at 1:58 am by

As we move ever-closer to the release of Camino 2, I wanted to revisit the subject of crash reporting. A few years ago, I wrote about crash reporting and how to help fight crashes with Talkback, our decrepit crash-reporting system from the early years of this century. I realized a few months ago that if you started using Camino around or after the release of Camino 1.0, there’s a good chance you’ve never seen Talkback, since part of its decrepit nature was its PPC-only binary, and Camino 1.0 coincided with the beginning of the transition to Intel-based Macs. Now that Camino 2 includes modern crash reporting based on Google Breakpad (tip o’ the hat to mento for bootstrapping modern open-source crash reporting), users with Intel Macs may be experiencing Camino crash reporting for the first time, so it’s a good time to revisit what you should do to help us find and fix crashing bugs.

Like Talkback before it, the Breakpad-based Camino Crash Reporter collects data about your crash and, when you agree, sends the data to Mozilla servers, where we (the Camino team) get to see the information in aggregate (and non-personal information in individual crash incidents).

How crash reporting works in Camino 2

If Camino crashes, the Camino Crash Reporter pops up and asks you to add a comment and then to report the crash:

Camino Crash Reporter

When you restart Camino, you can visit about:crashes to find the report ID for the crash you just experienced and even see the processed report.


The about:crashes page contains a list of report IDs for crash reports you’ve submitted successfully to Mozilla’s crash collection servers. If you click on the report ID, you can see the processed report for your crash. Not all reports are processed immediately, so you may see a “processing” screen at first:

The report is being processed

Once processing is complete, you can see the full report for your incident on crash-stats:

Incident Report

How you can improve the chances of your crash being fixed (and how to improve your crash report)

We hope that you’ll never have to use the new crash reporting in Camino 2, but if you do, following these simple steps will make your report as useful as possible and improve the chances of the crash you experienced getting fixed.

When you experience a crash, the most important thing you can do is to allow the Camino Crash Reporter to submit your report to us. If we don’t know a crash is happening, there is a zero percent chance that we will be able to fix it (if you’re happy seeing the same crash over and over, then don’t feel the need to submit a crash report ;-) ). Many times we’re able to discover and fix crashes just from the aggregate data generated from users submitting crash reports to us.

Second, when you submit your report, please add a comment! We know that crashing is frustrating and disrupting, and it is tempting to just press Submit (or even Cancel) and get back to what you were doing. However, while the computer-generated data that is submitted in the crash report tells us “what” is happening, it often is insufficient to allow us to fix the problem, and comments can help bridge that gap. When you add a comment, please be reasonably descriptive when telling us what actions you might have performed just before Camino crashed. As you can see in the sample crash above, I listed a number of specific steps that I performed just before Camino crashed.

In addition to providing a comment, if you are comfortable providing the URL you were viewing when Camino crashed (and you know, or can look up in History, what that URL was), include it in your comment, too. While Camino attempts to collect the URL you were on when Camino crashed, the URL is not displayed with your crash report for privacy reasons and is not readily available to anyone. As I mentioned several years ago, a good comment and a URL can be the difference between a frustrating crash and a fix. Unfortunately, only a few reports out of every hundred currently include a comment, so there are many opportunities to understand and fix crashes that are currently being lost.

Finally, if you experience what you think might be the same crash, over and over—either whenever you visit a certain site you crash, or performing the same series of actions on a variety of sites leads to a crash—please file a bug. While aggregate crash data can help us discover crashes, especially those that don’t otherwise seem to have a pattern, this data is no substitute for a bug report from someone who is actually seeing the crash frequently. Sometimes specific crashes can still get lost in aggregate data, and filing a bug report on a crash that’s plaguing you can bring it to our attention.

When you file your bug report, please be sure to include the report IDs of incidents of this crash. To get the report ID, type about:crashes in Camino’s location bar and press Return. Camino will display a list of crash reports you have submitted and their corresponding report IDs (a long string of letters and numbers). Copy the crash report ID corresponding to the crash you are reporting and paste the ID into your bug report, adding bp- to the beginning of the pasted string. For example, a crash report id of 0c24401b-93b6-4f7e-bcf7-8e4062091108 should become bp-0c24401b-93b6-4f7e-bcf7-8e4062091108 in your bug report, and Bugzilla will then link that string to your crash report. (Please do not paste entire crash reports into the “Comments” field of the bug report.) Then, please be willing to answer questions and perform some tests as we work to understand and fix the crash you’ve reported in the bug.

Finally, when filing a bug or making a comment in a crash report, please don’t berate us. We know you’re upset that Camino crashed on you, and we’re just as upset, but yelling at us doesn’t help. Also, since at least one-third of crashes we see are caused by third-party software (for example, browser plug-ins, third-party hacks, or even fragile parts of Mac OS X itself), you might be yelling at the wrong party anyway.

In summary:

  1. Any crash report you submit is better than no report at all, so please always allow Camino Crash Reporter to do its job.
  2. The more information you provide in your crash report (comment or URL), the more useful your report is to the developers.
  3. For crashes you can reproduce or see over and over, reports filed with Camino Crash Reporter are no substitute for an actual bug report (with crash report IDs).
  4. Please be polite and civil in your comments and bug reports; we’re all working towards the same goal here (Camino not crashing on you).

All of which is a long way of saying “you could be the key to fixing the crash that is annoying you.” ;-)

Please enjoy Camino 2 (due out “real soon now”), and don’t fear the Camino Crash Reporter; it’s only trying to help.


  1. User Grav­atarozten said,

    11.10.09 at 2:18 pm

    Great post! In many parts of the crash report processing system it checks for comments and treat those crashes differently (processing policy, priority in UI display, etc).

  2. User Grav­atarSmokey said,

    11.10.09 at 2:34 pm

    Thanks, ozten. I wasn’t aware the presence of comments could affect processing policy, too; that’s good to know. If only we’d get more users submitting comments. ;-)

    In the case of this sample crash, I did still get the the processing screen for a couple of refreshes despite the comment, but I also forgot to check the server load at the time to see if it seemed heavy. I think usually when I submit a report with a comment, I’m able to see the processed incident by the time I relaunch, so my money is on a heavy server load when I submitted the sample crash for this post.

    Keep up the good work on the webtool side of things! :-)

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