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RE: meaningful error messages in http

From: Curley, John <John.Curley_at_windriver.com>
Date: Wed, 8 Dec 2010 00:26:47 +0000

-----Original Message-----
From: Johan Corveleyn [mailto:jcorvel_at_gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2010 12:36 PM
To: Nick Stokes
Cc: Andy Levy; users_at_subversion.apache.org
Subject: Re: meaningful error messages in http

On Tue, Dec 7, 2010 at 9:18 PM, Nick Stokes
<randomaccessiterator_at_gmail.com> wrote:
... SNIP ...
> No. I did not propose that.  The question was simple: Is there way to
> customize error messages from httpd server (akin to customizing logs in
> apache as in http://tinyurl.com/svn-apache-logs)?  When users see "Server
> sent unexpected return value..." they assume there is something wrong with
> the server itself, despite the keyword "Forbidden" that follows. Besides,
> there is the redundant/misleading/irrelevant-for-client stuff there
> (OPTIONS, MKACTIVITY, repos ID).  e.g. svnserve error messages are much
> better.

Yes, I completely agree.

It's not about the server sending better messages, but about the
client (or client library or whatever) to transform that error message
into something meaningful for the user. The svn client knows what
operation the user is trying to execute, so it should be able to
formulate something sensible in the context of that operation.

Moreover, one would expect these kinds of error message to be exactly
the same regardless of the underlying protocol or server type (unless
it's some kind of protocol-specific error, like e.g. SSL handshake
failure or something (which should also be made into user-sensible
error messages, but might not be generic over all protocols)).

I don't know if there is already an issue for this in the issue
tracker, but regardless ... maybe we could have a useful discussion on
this mailing list about what the error messages should say

What would be most helpful for the user, in a concise and to-the-point
way, concrete enough yet not too extremely technical, maybe giving
some hints about what could be the cause, ... in all kinds of use


----------------- My Response ------------------
I partially agree with Johan and Nick.
Being able to customize the messages would be good. 403 seems like a generic "did not work" code. However, I think in this case, one would need to add more Apache/SVN error codes. Having a (I am making this up) 403.1 - repository not found, 403.2 - authentication failed, et cetera, may be helpful.
Where I disagree is in a secure environment. You probably do not want to acknowledge server names, or repository names if someone is  snooping around.
Maybe that might be a difference between http: and https:. Just a thought.
Happy Holidays,
Received on 2010-12-08 01:27:31 CET

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