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Improving live debugging of concurrent threads through thread histories

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Leske Max, Chiçs Andrei, Nierstrasz Oscar,
Project Agile Software Analysis
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Science of Computer Programming
Volume (Issue) 161
Page(s) 122 - 148
Title of proceedings Science of Computer Programming
DOI 10.1016/j.scico.2017.10.005

Open Access

Type of Open Access Website


Concurrency issues are inherently harder to identify and fix than issues in sequential programs, due to aspects like indeterminate order of access to shared resources and thread synchronisation. Live debuggers are often used by developers to gain insights into the behaviour of concurrent programs by exploring the call stacks of threads. Nevertheless, contemporary live debuggers for concurrent programs are usually sequential debuggers augmented with the ability to display different threads in isolation. To these debuggers every thread call stack begins with a designated start routine and the calls that led to the creation of the thread are not visible, as they are part of a different thread. This requires developers to manually link stack traces belonging to related but distinct threads, adding another burden to the already difficult act of debugging concurrent programs. To improve debugging of concurrent programs we address the problem of incomplete call stacks in debuggers through a thread and debugger model that enables live debugging of child threads within the context of their parent threads. The proposed debugger operates on a virtual thread that merges together multiple relevant threads. To better understand the features of debuggers for concurrent programs we present an in-depth discussion of the concurrency related features in current live debuggers. We test the applicability of the proposed model by instantiating it for simple threads, local and remote promises, and a remote object-oriented database. Starting from these use cases we further discuss implementation details ensuring a practical approach.