Opened 4 months ago

Last modified 11 days ago

#31506 new defect

Write up comprehensive advice to "Tor unexpectedly exited", and link to it from inside Tor Browser

Reported by: arma Owned by: tbb-team
Priority: Medium Milestone:
Component: Applications/Tor Browser Version:
Severity: Normal Keywords: BugSmashFund
Cc: ggus Actual Points:
Parent ID: Points:
Reviewer: Sponsor:

Description

We've been getting a steady stream of people who fail to run Tor Browser, who get the "Tor unexpectedly exited" error and they have no ideas what to do.

The internets are full of weird advices about what to do in this situation back in 2014, few of which apply now, so people hunting in google are unlikely to solve this on their own.

I think the advice differs depending on the OS -- on Windows, the first step is about disabling antivirus and firewall; on OS X, the advice is...about finding the old tor process and killing it? Or something else?

We should write up a comprehensive "what the error means, what to do, in what order" explanation, and stick it on support.torproject.org so people can find it and so we can point people to it. And then we should link to it from inside Tor Browser, when the thing goes wrong, so there is a canonical place for users to read what they should do.

(And longer term, we should improve the automated handling of this error inside Tor Browser, but that can come later.)

Child Tickets

Change History (12)

comment:1 Changed 4 months ago by arma

My first step here, rather than asking the tor browser devs to become tech writers, is to ask the tor browser devs: what should users actually do in these situations? Like, imagine one of us is on Windows and has this problem: what has gone wrong? What should they do?

comment:2 Changed 4 months ago by pili

Cc: ggus added
Keywords: docshackathon added

comment:3 Changed 3 months ago by ggus

Keywords: docshackathon removed

comment:4 Changed 3 weeks ago by brade

Having a complete tor log available to the user would be very helpful (#10603).

Here is a sketch to determine "what the user or app may have recently done":

  • Did the user manually edit torrc and introduce a syntax error? (#12501)
  • Is anti-virus software installed on the computer? (#19957, #22456, and probably others)
  • Is a leftover tor process running in the background?
  • Is the computer's date/time reasonably correct? (clock skew)
  • Did the user switch to/from "Offline" mode? (#9541) [I'm not sure that #9541 accurately describes the behavior of 9.0/9.5 builds.]
  • Did the computer just wake up from hibernation? (#24619)

comment:5 Changed 3 weeks ago by arma

I'll add another one to brade's list:

  • Does the user have a non-ascii character in their tor browser directory / path? (#10416)

comment:6 Changed 2 weeks ago by pili

ggus: do we have enough information here to write up an FAQ/Support portal answer?

Part 2 will be to link to this from Tor Browser

comment:7 in reply to:  6 ; Changed 2 weeks ago by gk

Replying to pili:

ggus: do we have enough information here to write up an FAQ/Support portal answer?

Part 2 will be to link to this from Tor Browser

How would that part help given that the users hitting that problem *fail to start* Tor Browser?

comment:8 in reply to:  7 ; Changed 2 weeks ago by arma

Replying to gk:

Replying to pili:

ggus: do we have enough information here to write up an FAQ/Support portal answer?

Part 2 will be to link to this from Tor Browser

How would that part help given that the users hitting that problem *fail to start* Tor Browser?

They're not failing to start Tor Browser. Tor Browser is failing to start Tor. When it happens, Tor Browser can point the user to some hints for what to try to fix, rather than just telling the user that it was unexpected.

comment:9 in reply to:  8 ; Changed 2 weeks ago by gk

Replying to arma:

Replying to gk:

Replying to pili:

ggus: do we have enough information here to write up an FAQ/Support portal answer?

Part 2 will be to link to this from Tor Browser

How would that part help given that the users hitting that problem *fail to start* Tor Browser?

They're not failing to start Tor Browser. Tor Browser is failing to start Tor. When it happens, Tor Browser can point the user to some hints for what to try to fix, rather than just telling the user that it was unexpected.

Yes, but it seemed to me Pili's idea was to write something up on our website (which we should do) and then *link* to it from the browser. I don't see how that second part should work given that the users encountering the problems we plan to write about don't have a functioning Tor Browser which could follow that link. So, we rather need to include help directly into Tor Browser (which reminds me at shipping the Tor Browser manual inside Tor Browser in particular for users that have trouble to get Tor Browser going, which we have tried to do for years now).

comment:10 in reply to:  9 Changed 2 weeks ago by pili

Replying to gk:

Yes, but it seemed to me Pili's idea was to write something up on our website (which we should do) and then *link* to it from the browser. I don't see how that second part should work given that the users encountering the problems we plan to write about don't have a functioning Tor Browser which could follow that link. So, we rather need to include help directly into Tor Browser (which reminds me at shipping the Tor Browser manual inside Tor Browser in particular for users that have trouble to get Tor Browser going, which we have tried to do for years now).

I'm happy with whatever form the solution takes as long as users are able to get some troubleshooting information for this error

comment:11 Changed 13 days ago by arma

Yep, I'm also flexible about how we make things better for the users.

That said, I'm not convinced that "include a url for a troubleshooting faq" is a terrible idea. When Tor Browser fails to work, people are already pulling up some other browser and popping in "Tor unexpectedly exited" to their favorite search engine and trying to troubleshoot. Giving them some hints about where to find good advice (or more specifically, which advice we think is worth following) is still a win, even if it doesn't help every user out there.

But yes, the long term plan seems like it should be some combination of shipping troubleshooting hints with the browser, plus changing the browser behavior to guide users toward making it work.

comment:12 Changed 11 days ago by mcs

Keywords: BugSmashFund added
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