Bug: Unusable key

gabriel rosenkoetter gr at eclipsed.net
Mon Feb 9 20:06:31 CET 2004

On Mon, Feb 09, 2004 at 10:41:28AM -0800, Steve Butler wrote:
> There are so many different reasons why a Public key might not be usable.
> Trying to address them in an elegant error message will lead to frustration
> for both the developers and the consumers.  It's that odd time when none of
> the "suggestions" apply that will lead to further calls to refine the error
> message (make it more verbose).

I really don't like this extremist, all or nothing approach. It's
very easy for that error message to cite a few of the *probable*
reasons (expired, revoked, maybe a subkey) and save the user time in
figuring out what broke. It's really just not necessary to cover all
the bases for the error messages to be qualitatively better.

> Perhaps the appropriate solution is to dedicate a web page to "What makes a
> Public Key Unusable" and include a reference to that page in the error
> message.  Or put it in the FAQ.

Or, heaven forfend, in the man page. Not that anyone reads those any

> Now, this next suggestion may be a little far out, but if the web page or
> FAQ numbered the different conditions, then the error message could say:
> Public Key Unusable -- Found:
> a) 20 occurrences of condition 1455;
> b) 15 occurrences of 2822;
> c) 1,459 occurrences of 1299

Heh, well, again, there's a kernel of truth in that joke. I'm
disinclined to solutions that involve delivering the documentation
separate from the software, though more words and some rudimentary
command explanations that would bloat the man page unnecessarily
would do well in an online FAQ.

On Mon, Feb 09, 2004 at 09:44:02PM +0100, Adrian 'Dagurashibanipal' von Bidder wrote:
> IMHO the first item should focus on accuracy, and is the task of commandline 
> gnupg, while the second item is best left to the programmers of MUAs and 
> other gnupg-using software.

Unfortunatley gpg(1) *qualifies* as "other gnupg-using software", so
its error output does need to be made more useful by that standard.

gabriel rosenkoetter
gr at eclipsed.net
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