Candidate: Zhiqing Liu
Advisor: Jack Schwartz

Lazy SETL Debugging
with Persistent Data Structures

2:00 p.m., Monday, November 21, 1994
12th floor conference room, 719 Broadway


Debugging tools have been traditionally difficult to use, particularly in accumulating and exploring program runtime information. This dissertation addresses these issues by proposing a lazy debugging approach, which postpones investigation of debugging hypothesis until complete runtime history is available. This approach encourages a systematic way of debugging and supports many high-level debugging facilities. Recent advance in persistent data structures reduces the time and memory space overhead incurred in recording and storing execution events drastically, and also makes the overhead easily manageable.

To demonstrate this approach, a visual SETL debugger prototype has been designed and implemented based on D. Bacon's SETL translator. This debugger has a persistent runtime system designed using the persistent data structures of the node splitting type, developed by Driscoll, et al. It can efficiently record changes in program execution state under different recording granularities, along with supporting normal SETL executions. Users of this debugger are provided with a graphical interface, which supports many powerful tools, such as forward/backward control/data breakpoints, interactive variable printing, program animation, and re-execution from an recorded execution moment.

A strong set of conclusions can be drawn from an evaluation of the debugger's performance and usability issues, as well as the limitations and open questions of this debugging approach.