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Debugging: The 9 Indispensable Rules for Finding Even the Most Elusive Software and Hardware Problems

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2002

    Belongs on every programmer's bookshelf

    David Agans does a great job of explaining how to approach debugging as a science rather than an art. If you're a novice programmer, you'll find a wealth of distilled knowledge here that would take many years to acquire on your own. While experienced programmers may consider most of the rules to be obvious, that doesn't mean they're common practice. I've been debugging for more than 20 years, and still learnt some useful new tricks. Rule 3 ("Quit thinking and look") is a particularly good one to keep in mind. Peppered throughout the text are a large number of war stories from the author's own experience with embedded systems. As well as illustrating how to (and more commonly, how not to) approach a particular problem, these are all well written and often entertaining. Some of my favourites: how wearing the wrong shirt to work caused a new video compression chip to crash; a vacuum cleaner that made the house lights flash on and off; a noisy read/write line that led a junior engineer to mistakenly redesign an entire co-processor memory circuit; the well pump that wasn't broken; and the self-test feature on an old Pong video game. Although most examples are hardware related, the approach described can be applied to almost any problem; indeed, several of the examples used have nothing to do with computing. This is not a large book, but it's well laid out, easy to follow, and doesn't talk down to the reader. It's also packed with enough meat to satisfy the hungriest of programmers. Highly recommended.

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