Conference paper

Striking a New Balance Between Program Instrumentation and Debugging Time

Although they are helpful in many cases, state-of-the-art bug reporting systems may impose excessive overhead on users, leak private information, or provide little help to the developer in locating the problem. In this paper, we explore a new approach to bug reporting that uses partial logging of branches to record the path leading to a bug. We use static and dynamic analysis (both in isolation and in tandem) to identify the branches that need to be logged. When a bug is encountered, the system uses symbolic execution along the partial branch trace to reproduce the problem and find a set of inputs that activate the bug. The partial branch log drastically reduces the number of paths that would otherwise need to be explored by the symbolic execution engine. We study the tradeoff between instrumentation overhead and debugging time using an open-source Web server, the diff utility, and four coreutils programs. Our results show that the instrumentation method that combines static and dynamic analysis strikes the best compromise, as it limits both the overhead of branch logging and the bug reproduction time. We conclude that our techniques represent an important step in improving bug reporting and making symbolic execution more practical for bug reproduction.

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