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Friday, July 6, 2007

Debugging

Debugging is a very important task for every programmer, because an erroneous program is often useless. Languages like C++ and Assembler are very challenging even to expert programmers because of failure modes like buffer overruns, bad pointers or uninitialized memory. A buffer overrun can damage adjacent memory regions and cause a failure in a totally different program line. Because of those memory issues tools like Valgrind, Purify or Boundschecker are virtually a necessity for modern software development in the C++ language. Languages such as Java, PHP and Python protect the programmer from most of these runtime failure modes, but this may come at the price of a dramatically lower execution speed of the resulting program. This is acceptable for applications where execution speed is determined by other considerations such as database access or file I/O. The exact cost will depend upon specific implementation details. Modern Java virtual machines, for example, use a variety of sophisticated optimizations, including runtime conversion of interpreted instructions to native machine code (see HotSpot).

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