Why Programs Fail, 2nd Edition

A Guide to Systematic Debugging

Why Programs Fail, 2nd Edition,Andreas Zeller,ISBN9780123745156


Morgan Kaufmann



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The award-winning guide to faster and easier debugging is now updated with the latest tools and techniques.

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Key Features

*The new edition of this award-winning productivity-booster is for any developer who has ever been frustrated by elusive bugs

*Brand new chapters demonstrate cutting-edge debugging techniques and tools, enabling readers to put the latest time-saving developments to work for them

*Learn by doing. New exercises and detailed examples focus on emerging tools, languages and environments, including AGITAR, FindBUGS, Python and Eclipse.


This book is proof that debugging has graduated from a black art to a systematic discipline. It demystifies one of the toughest aspects of software programming, showing clearly how to discover what caused software failures, and fix them with minimal muss and fuss.

The fully updated second edition includes 100+ pages of new material, including new chapters on Verifying Code, Predicting Erors, and Preventing Errors. Cutting-edge tools such as FindBUGS and AGITAR are explained, techniques from integrated environments like Jazz.net are highlighted, and all-new demos with ESC/Java and Spec#, Eclipse and Mozilla are included.

This complete and pragmatic overview of debugging is authored by Andreas Zeller, the talented researcher who developed the GNU Data Display Debugger(DDD), a tool that over 250,000 professionals use to visualize the data structures of programs while they are running. Unlike other books on debugging, Zeller's text is product agnostic, appropriate for all programming languages and skill levels.

The book explains best practices ranging from systematically tracking error reports, to observing symptoms, reproducing errors, and correcting defects. It covers a wide range of tools and techniques from hands-on observation to fully automated diagnoses, and also explores the author's innovative techniques for isolating minimal input to reproduce an error and for tracking cause and effect through a program. It even includes instructions on how to create automated debugging tools.

The text includes exercises and extensive references for further study, and a companion website with source code for all examples and additional debugging resources is available.


Computer programmers, software developers, analysts and testers

Andreas Zeller

Andreas Zeller is a full professor for Software Engineering at Saarland University in Saarbruecken, Germany. His research concerns the analysis of large software systems and their development process; his students are funded by companies like Google, Microsoft, or SAP. In 2010, Zeller was inducted as Fellow of the ACM for his contributions to automated debugging and mining software archives. In 2011, he received an ERC Advanced Grant, Europe's highest and most prestigious individual research grant, for work on specification mining and test case generation. His book "Why programs fail", the "standard reference on debugging", obtained the 2006 Software Development Jolt Productivity Award.

Affiliations and Expertise

Saarland University, Saarbruecken, Germany

Why Programs Fail, 2nd Edition

Amended Table of Contents
The * denotes additions/changes for the proposed second edition. For brevity, second-level sections are omitted from the list. Please note that there are also recurring end-of-chapter sections: Concepts, Tools, Further Reading, and Exercises.

Table of Contents
* Include a list of "How To's" as indicated in appropriate chapters
About the Author
* What's new in the second edition

1 How Failures Come to Be
1.1 My Program Does Not Work!
* New section "Facts on Bugs" - highlighting recent empirical findings
1.2 From Defects to Failures
1.3 Lost in Time and Space
1.4 From Failures to Fixes
1.5 Automated Debugging Techniques
1.6 Bugs, Faults, or Defects?
* New section "Learning From Mistakes" - pointing to the later chapter

2 Tracking Problems
2.1 Oh! All These Problems
2.2 Reporting Problems
2.3 Managing Problems
2.4 Classifying Problems
2.5 Processing Problems
2.6 Managing Problem Tracking
2.7 Requirements as Problems
2.8 Managing Duplicates
* New section "Collecting Problem Data" - laying the foundation for later investigation
2.9 Relating Problems and Fixes
2.10 Relating Problems and Tests
* 2.9 and 2.10 will be merged into a new section "A Concert of Activities", focusing on integrated environments like Jazz.net

3 Making Programs Fail
3.1 Testing for Debugging
3.2 Controlling the Program
3.3 Testing at the Presentation Layer
3.4 Testing at the Functionality Layer
3.5 Testing at the Unit Layer
3.6 Isolating Units
3.7 Designing for Debugging
* Expand on "design for diagnosability", esp. for embedded systems
3.8 Preventing Unknown Problems
* This section will be deleted and replaced with a whole new chapter 18

4 Reproducing Problems
4.1 The First Task in Debugging
4.2 Reproducing the Problem Environment
4.3 Reproducing Program Execution
4.4 Reproducing System Interaction
4.5 Focusing on Units
* Expand reflecting latest research results

5 Simplifying Problems
5.1 Simplifying the Problem
5.2 The Gecko BugAThon
5.3 Manual Simplification
5.4 Automatic Simplification
5.5 A Simplification Algorithm
5.6 Simplifying User Interaction
5.7 Random Input Simplified
5.8 Simplifying Faster

6 Scientific Debugging
6.1 How to Become a Debugging Guru
6.2 The Scientific Method
6.3 Applying the Scientific Method
6.4 Explicit Debugging
6.5 Keeping a Logbook
6.6 Debugging Quick-and-Dirty
6.7 Algorithmic Debugging
6.8 Deriving a Hypothesis
6.9 Reasoning About Programs

7 Deducing Errors
* This chapter will be renamed to "Tracking Dependences"
7.1 Isolating Value Origins
7.2 Understanding Control Flow
7.3 Tracking Dependences
7.4 Slicing Programs
7.5 Deducing Code Smells
* Move to new chapter 11 "Verifying Code"
7.6 Limits of Static Analysis
* Move to new chapter 11 "Verifying Code"

8 Observing Facts
8.1 Observing State
8.2 Logging Execution
8.3 Using Debuggers
8.4 Querying Events
8.5 Visualizing State

9 Tracking Origins
9.1 Reasoning Backwards
* Update with recent commercial tools
9.2 Exploring Execution History
9.3 Dynamic Slicing
9.4 Leveraging Origins
* Expand to use latest tools by Ko et al. as well as Gupta et al.
9.5 Tracking Down Infections

10 Asserting Expectations
10.1 Automating Observation
10.2 Basic Assertions
* Explain "design by contract" and its principles
10.3 Asserting Invariants
* Expand on integrating contracts with inheritance
10.4 Asserting Correctness
10.5 Assertions as Specifications
10.6 From Assertions to Verification
* Move to its own chapter "Verifying Code"
10.7 Reference Runs
* Move to "Verifying Code"
10.8 System Assertions
10.9 Checking Production Code
* Expand discussion; consider checking preconditions only

* New Chapter 11 Verifying Code, Why does my Code smell?
* Highlight tools like FindBUGS
* Defects as Abnormal Behavior
* Discuss work by Engler et al.
Assertions as Specifications
From Assertions to Verification- moved from 10.6
* Show the integration of ESC/Java and Spec# (with demos)
Reference Runs0 moved from 10.7
* Limits of Static Analysis

12 Detecting Anomalies
12.1 Capturing Normal Behavior
12.2 Comparing Coverage
12.3 Statistical Debugging
* Include and reflect recent work
* Integrate machine learning approaches
* Refer to the iBugs library
12.4 Collecting Data in the Field
12.5 Dynamic Invariants
* Discuss the AGITAR tool
12.6 Invariants on the Fly
12.7 From Anomalies to Defects

13 Causes and Effects
13.1 Causes and Alternate Worlds
13.2 Verifying Causes
13.3 Causality in Practice
13.4 Finding Actual Causes
13.5 Narrowing Down Causes
13.6 A Narrowing Example
13.7 The Common Context
13.8 Causes in Debugging

14 Isolating Failure Causes
14.1 Isolating Causes Automatically
14.2 Isolating versus Simplifying
14.3 An Isolation Algorithm
14.4 Implementing Isolation
14.5 Isolating Failure-inducing Input
14.6 Isolating Failure-inducing Schedules
14.7 Isolating Failure-inducing Changes
* Update to recent tools and screenshots
14.8 Problems and Limitations

15 Isolating Cause-Effect Chains
15.1 Useless Causes
15.2 Capturing Program States
15.3 Comparing Program States
15.4 Isolating Relevant Program States
15.5 Isolating Cause-Effect Chains
15.6 Isolating Failure-inducing Code
15.7 Issues and Risks
* Discuss how to recreate state via method calls
* New project in Python

16 Fixing the Defect
16.1 Locating the Defect
16.2 Focusing on the Most Likely Errors
16.3 Validating the Defect
16.4 Correcting the Defect
16.5 Workarounds
16.6 Learning from Mistakes
* This becomes its own chapter 17

* New chapter 17 Learning from Mistakes
*17.1 Measuring effort and damage We want to know how much effort and cost went into each problem
*17.2 Leveraging software archives Collect data from problem and change databases; access more of them
*17.3 Mapping errors Which components have had the most errors in the past? Demonstrate using Eclipse and Mozilla data
*17.4 Predicting errors Which components will have the most errors in the future?
*17.5 What is it that makes software complex? Complexity of code; lack of quality assurance; changing requirements... and how to measure this
*17.6 Digging for more data Goal-Question-Metric approach; experience factory
*17.7 Continuous Improvement Space Shuttle Software

* New chapter 18 Preventing Errors
18.1 Keep Things Simple General principles of good design and coding
18.2 Know what to do Pragmatic specification (design by contract, assertions)
18.3 Know how to check General principles of quality assurance
18.4 Learn from mistakes As laid out in (new) Section 16; integrated with earlier principles
18.5 Improve process and product- keep on challenging yourself

Appendix: Formal Definitions
A.1 Delta Debugging
A.2 Memory Graphs
A.3 Cause-Effect Chains


Quotes and reviews

Praise from the experts for the first edition:

"In this book, Andreas Zeller does an excellent job introducing useful debugging techniques and tools invented in both academia and industry. The book is easy to read and actually very fun as well. It will not only help you discover a new perspective on debugging, but it will also teach you some fundamental static and dynamic program analysis techniques in plain language."
-Miryung Kim, Software Developer, Motorola Korea

"Today every computer program written is also debugged, but debugging is not a widely studied or taught skill. Few books beyond this one present a systematic approach to finding and fixing programming errors."
-James Larus, Microsoft Research

"From the author of ODD, the famous data display debugger, now comes the definitive book on debugging. Zeller's book is chock-full with advice, insight, and tools to track down defects in programs, for all levels of experience and any programming language. The book is lucidly written, explaining the principles of every technique without boring the reader with minutiae. And best of all, at the end of each chapter it tells you where to download all those fancy tools. A great book for the software professional as well as the student interested in the frontiers of automated debugging."
-Walter F. Tichy, Professor, University Karlsruhe, Germany

"Andreas Zeller's Why Programs Fail lays an excellent foundation far practitioners, educators, and researchers alike. Using a disciplined approach based on the scientific method, Zeller provides deep insights, detailed approaches, and illustrative examples."
-David Notkin, Professor Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington
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