Replaying and Isolating Failure-Inducing Program Interactions
by Martin Burger

Saarland University, June 2011.

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Abstract

A program fails. What now? A programmer must debug the program to fix the problem, by completing two fundamental debugging tasks: first, the programmer has to reproduce the failure; second, she has to find the failure cause. Both tasks can result in a tedious, long-lasting, and boring work on the one hand, and can be a factor that significantly drives up costs and risks on the other hand. The field of automated debugging aims to ease the search for failure causes. This work presents JINSI, taking a new twist on automated debugging that aims to combine ease of use with unprecedented effectiveness. Taking a single failing run, we automatically record and minimize the interactions between objects to the set of calls relevant for the failure. The result is a minimal unit test that faithfully reproduces the failure at will: 'Out of these 14,628 calls, only 2 are required'. In a study of 17 real-life bugs, JINSI reduced the search space to 13.7 % of the dynamic slice or 0.22 % of the source code, with only 1 to 12 calls left to examine - a precision not only significantly above the state of the art, but also at a level at which fault localization ceases to be a problem. Moreover, by combining delta debugging, event slicing, and dynamic slicing, we are able to automatically compute failure reproductions along cause-effect chains eventually leading to the defect - both efficiently and effectively. JINSI provides minimal unit tests with related calls which pinpoints the circumstances under which the failure occurs at different abstraction levels. In that way, the approach discussed in this thesis ensures a high diagnostic quality and enables the programmer to concentrate on automatically selected parts of the program relevant to the failure.

BibTeX Entry

@phdthesis{burger-phd-2011,
    title = "Replaying and Isolating Failure-Inducing Program Interactions",
    author = "Martin Burger",
    year = "2011",
    month = jun,
    school = "Saarland University",
}

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