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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Dynamic Analysis Techniques for Effective and Efficient Debugging

  • Author(s): Wang, Yan
  • Advisor(s): Gupta, Rajiv
  • Neamtiu, Iulian
  • et al.

Debugging is a tedious and time-consuming process for software developers. Therefore, providing effective and efficient debugging tools is essential for improving programmer productivity. Existing tools for debugging suffer from various drawbacks -- general-purpose debuggers provide little guidance for the programmers in locating the

bug source while specialized debuggers require knowledge of the type of bug encountered. This dissertation makes several advances in debugging leading to effective, efficient, and extensible framework for interactive debugging of singlethreaded programs and deterministic debugging of multithreaded programs.

This dissertation presents the Qzdb debugger for singlethreaded programs that raises the abstraction level of debugging by introducing high-level and powerful state alteration and state inspection capabilities. Case studies on 5 real reported bugs in 5 popular real programs demonstrate its effectiveness. To support integration of specialized debugging algorithms into Qzdb, a

new approach for constructing debuggers is developed that employs declarative specification of bug conditions and their root causes, and automatic generation of debugger code. Experiments show that about 3,300 lines of C code are generated automatically from only 8 lines of specification for 6 memory bugs. Thanks to the effective generated bug locators, for the 8 real-worlds bugs we have applied our approach to, users have to examine just 1 to 16 instructions. To reduce the runtime overhead of dynamic analysis used during debugging, relevant input analysis is developed and employed to carry out input simplification and execution simplification which reduce the length of analyzed execution by reducing the input size and limiting the analysis to subset of the execution. Experiments show that relevant input analysis based input simplification algorithm is both efficient and effective -- it only requires 11% to 21% test runs of that needed by standard delta debugging algorithm and generates even smaller inputs.

Finally, to demonstrate that the above approach can also be used for debugging multithreaded programs, this dissertation presents DrDebug, a deterministic and cyclic debugging framework. DrDebug allows efficient debugging by tailoring the scope of replay to a buggy execution region and an execution slice of a buggy region. Case studies of real reported concurrency bugs show that the buggy execution region size is less than 1 million instructions and the lengths of buggy execution region and execution slice are less than

15% and 7% of the total execution respectively.

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