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Abstract

Debugging real systems is hard, requires deep knowledge of the target code, and is time-consuming. Bug reports rarely provide sufficient information for debugging, thus forcing developers to turn into detectives searching for an explanation of how the program could have arrived at the reported failure state. This thesis introduces execution synthesis, a technique for automating this detective work: given a program and a bug report, execution synthesis automatically produces an execution of the program that leads to the reported bug symptoms. Using a combination of static analysis and symbolic execution, the technique “synthesizes” a thread schedule and various required program inputs that cause the bug to manifest. The synthesized execution can be played back deterministically in a regular debugger, like gdb. This is particularly useful in debugging concurrency bugs, because it transforms otherwise non-deterministic bugs into bugs that can be deterministically observed in a debugger. Execution synthesis requires no runtime recording, and no program or hardware modifications, thus incurring no runtime overhead. This makes it practical for use in production systems. This thesis includes a theoretical analysis of execution synthesis as well as empirical evidence that execution synthesis is successful in starting from mere bug reports and reproducing on its own concurrency and memory safety bugs in real systems, taking on the order of minutes. This thesis also introduces reverse execution synthesis, an automated debugging technique that takes a coredump obtained after a failure and automatically computes the suffix of an execution that leads to that coredump. Reverse execution synthesis generates the necessary information to then play back this suffix in a debugger deterministically as many times as needed to complete the debugging process. Since it synthesizes an execution suffix instead of the entire execution, reverse execution is particularly well suited for arbitrarily long executions in which the failure and its root cause occur within a short time span, so developers can use a short execution suffix to debug the problem. The thesis also shows how execution synthesis can be combined with recording techniques in order to automatically classify data races and to efficiently debug deadlock bugs.

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