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Hey, Don't Dump. Debug!

May 01, 2009, 19:46 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Martin Streicher)

"Out of curiosity, I also ask other coders about debugging techniques, and more often than not, I am surprised by the answer. Believe it or not, the vast majority relies on liberal "print" statements sprinkled throughout code. Of course, "print" takes many forms--dump pertinent data structures, emit trace statements to standard error, and log interim results in a separate file--and there are cases where these methods are mandated. Still, it puzzles me why more skilled developers do not use a debugger. Extensions to PHP allow for interactive forensics; Perl running within mod_perl supports debugging; and Ruby on Rails's Mongrel provides the -debugger option to interrupt execution and drop to a debug console. "In my Rails work, I use the debugger extensively. The debugger combines the power of the Rails console and the Interactive Ruby Debugger, irb, and peers into running code responding to incoming requests. Better yet, I can yield to the debugger console anywhere--in a controller, a view, a plug-in or helper. Within the debugger, I can inspect the stack, variables, the params hash, and more.

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