Category: Insight

Something you have not known before

Make it Fail

(David J. Agans)

The quote is from Dave’s book Debugging: the 9 indispensable rules for finding even the most elusive software and hardware problems, which I recommend to everybody who has to debug a technical artifact.

Surprise, Surprise!

The featured image of this post is by Albert Guillaume – Gils Blas, 24 d├ęcembre 1895, Public Domain, Link

When you develop a tool for a protocol that is undocumented, it is not surprising that you will encounter situations you will not have be anticipated. And this was exactly what I experienced developing the hardware debugger dw-link, which connects debugWIRE MCUs to the GDB debugger. Although a substantial part of the debugWIRE protocol has been reverse engineered, I encountered still plenty of surprising situations: Split personality MCUs, stuck-at-one bits in program counters, secret I/O addresses, half-legal opcodes, and more.

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Debugging a Debugger With Itself

The featured image of this post is is a comic from xkcd.com.

The above xkcd comic, which is titled Debugger, alludes to the concern that when you try to apply a particular method to itself, you might not get what you asked for. Turing’s Halting problem is a very famous example of this, i.e., you cannot algorithmically decide whether an algorithm terminates on an input. So, does that issue apply to debuggers as well? In particular, I asked myself whether it makes sense to debug the hardware debugger I am developing with itself.

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Link-Time Optimization and Debugging of Object-Oriented Programs on AVR MCUs

The featured image of this post is based on a picture by TheDigitalArtist on Pixabay.

Link-time optimization (LTO) is a very powerful compiler-optimization technique. As I noticed, it does not go very well together with debugging object-oriented programs under GCC, at least for AVR MCUs. I noticed that in the context of debugging an Arduino program, and it took me quite a while to figure out that LTO is the culprit.

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