Firebug Research

From FirebugWiki
Revision as of 11:22, 11 November 2009 by Johnjbarton (Talk | contribs) (Locating Features in Source Code)

Jump to: navigation, search

Academic papers related to Firebug.

  • Please add to this bibliography.
  • Please add mini-review comments in italics with your signature. --Johnjbarton 21:55, 30 October 2009 (UTC)
  • Usually you can get copies of these papers by looking them up on Google Scholar
  • The funky @entries below are BibTex entries.
  • Often you can get the BibTex entries by looking up the title in Google then going to the ACM or IEEE sites where the document abstract, title, and bibtex entries are available but not the paper.

Other Lists of Debugging Papers

Sorry for incomplete formatting, I'll come back and clean up. --Johnjbarton 23:49, 30 October 2009 (UTC)


Domain-Specific Language Debuggers

As a specialized debugger, Firebug resembles debuggers for domain-specific languages\cite{Wu04DomainEclipse}. However, the breakpoints we introduce here support higher-level graphical and network abstractions, not higher-level source-code abstractions. Firebug has domain specific breakpoints but when they hit, you are in general purpose source code. On the other hand, the extensive integration of Javascript and HTML/CSS in the Document Object Model combined with Firebug's integration of debugger views and the Web page blurs the line. We think it unlikely that debugger generation techniques\cite{Wu05weavinga} could produce a Firebug-like user experience.

Framework for debugging domain-specific languages Full text PdfPdf (126 KB) Source ACM SIGSOFT Software Engineering Notes archive Volume 25 , Issue 1 (January 2000) table of contents Page: 45 Year of Publication: 2000 ISSN:0163-5948 Author Premkumar Devanbu University of California, Davis, CA

   author = {Hui Wu and Jeff Gray and Suman Roychoudhury and Marjan Mernik},
   title = {Weaving a Debugging Aspect into Domain-Specific Language Grammars},
   booktitle = {In SAC ’05: Proceedings of the 2005 ACM symposium on Applied computing},
   year = {2005},
   pages = {1370--1374},
   publisher = {ACM Press}
   title = {Debugging Domain-Specific Languages in Eclipse},
   author ={  Hui Wu and Jeff Gray   and       Marjan Mernik}

User Experience and Studies

Debugging and the Experience of Immediacy

Firebug provides good tools to master ``space, both the 2D space of the Web page and the interface to the network. Our breakpoints help connect these spatial dimensions to the source code that modifies them. But breakpoints are intrinsically ``at the wrong time: developers set them then run the program to hit them at a later time. This limits the kind of immediacy of debugging advocated by Ungar et al.\cite{Unger97Immediacy}.

title={ Debugging and the Experience of Immediacy },
author = {D Ungar and  H Lieberman and C Fry},
journal={Communications of the ACM },

Locating Features in Source Code

Understanding the implementation of a certain feature of a system requires to identify the computational units of the system that contribute to this feature. In many cases, the mapping of features to the source code is poorly documented. In this paper, we present a semi-automatic technique that reconstructs the mapping for features that are triggered by the user and exhibit an observable behavior. The mapping is in general not injective; that is, a computational unit may contribute to several features. Our technique allows to distinguish between general and specific computational units with respect to a given set of features. For a set of features, it also identifies jointly and distinctly required computational units.

   author = {Thomas Eisenbarth and Rainer Koschke and Daniel Simon},
   title = {Locating Features in Source Code},
   year = {2003}

Why are Human-Computer Interfaces Difficult to Design and Implement?

   author = {Brad A. Myers},
   title = {Why are Human-Computer Interfaces Difficult to Design and Implement?},
   institution = {},
   year = {1993}

User Studies

Architecture of a Source Code Exploration Tool: A Software Engineering Case Study

   author = {Timothy C. Lethbridge and Nicolas Anquetil},
   title = {Architecture of a Source Code Exploration Tool: A Software Engineering Case Study},
   institution = {},
   year = {1997}

We discuss the design of a software system that helps software engineers (SE's) to perform the task we call just in time comprehension (JITC) of large bodies of source code. We discuss the requirements for such a system and how they were gathered by studying SE's at work. We then analyze our requirements with respect to other tools available to SE's for the JITC task. Next, we walk through system design and the objectoriented analysis process for our system, discussing key design issues. Some issues, such as dealing with multi-part names and conditional compilation are unexpectedly complex. 1 Introduction The goal of our research is to develop tools to help software engineers (SE's) more effectively maintain software. By analyzing the work of SE's, we have come to the conclusion that they spend a considerable portion of their time exploring source code, using a process that we call justin time program comprehension. As a result of our analysis, we have developed a set of requirements..

An Exploratory Study of How Developers Seek, Relate, and Collect ...

Studies eclipse users debugging Java code.--Johnjbarton 22:31, 30 October 2009 (UTC)

Abstract: Much of software developers' time is spent understanding unfamiliar code. To better understand how developers gain this understanding and how software development environments might be involved, a study was performed in which developers were given an unfamiliar program and asked to work on two debugging tasks and three enhancement tasks for 70 minutes. The study found that developers interleaved three activities. They began by searching for relevant code both manually and using search tools; however, they based their searches on limited and misrepresentative cues in the code, environment, and executing program, often leading to failed searches. When developers found relevant code, they followed its incoming and outgoing dependencies, often returning to it and navigating its other dependencies; while doing so, however, Eclipse's navigational tools caused significant overhead. Developers collected code and other information that they believed would be necessary to edit, duplicate, or otherwise refer to later by encoding it in the interactive state of Eclipse's package explorer, file tabs, and scroll bars. However, developers lost track of relevant code as these interfaces were used for other tasks, and developers were forced to find it again. These issues caused developers to spend, on average, 35 percent of their time performing the mechanics of navigation within and between source files. These observations suggest a new model of program understanding grounded in theories of information foraging and suggest ideas for tools that help developers seek, relate, and collect information in a more effective and explicit manner.

   author = {Andrew J. Ko and Brad A. Myers and Senior Member and Michael J. Coblenz and Htet Htet Aung},
   title = {An Exploratory Study of How Developers Seek, Relate, and Collect Relevant Information during Software Maintenance Tasks},
   journal = {IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering},
   year = {2006},
   volume = {32},
   pages = {971--987}

An Examination of Software Engineering Work Practices

   author = {Janice Singer and Timothy Lethbridge and Norman Vinson and Nicolas Anquetil},
   title = {An Examination of Software Engineering Work Practices},
   year = {1997}

Breakpoints integrated with graphics

ZStep 95: A Reversible, Animated Source Code Stepper

   author = {Henry Lieberman and Christopher Fry},
   title = {ZStep 95: A Reversible, Animated Source Code Stepper},
   year = {}

Bridging the gulf between code and behavior in programming

   author = {Henry Lieberman and Christopher Fry},
   title = {Bridging the gulf between code and behavior in programming},
   booktitle = {CHI'95: Human Factors in Computing Systems},
   year = {1995},
   pages = {480--486},
   publisher = {ACM Press}

HotWire: a visual debugger for C++

We argue that visualization is essential in a modern debugger. Instead of inserting debug statements throughout the code, it should be possible to easily define visualizations while running the program under control of the debugger, resulting in what might be called "visual printf's". A visualization of a C++ program can provide exciting insights. Bugs that cannot be found that easily with non-visual techniques are now found, just by watching the visualizations. However, the mechanisms to define the visualizations should be easy to understand, easy to apply and cause only minimal overhead to the programmer (who is the end-user of the visual debugger). HotWire is not only equipped with a couple of standard visualizations, but also with a small declarative script language (using constraints) that can be used to define new custom visualizations. This paper addresses user interface aspects of debugging tools. Specifically, the user interface of HotWire, a debugger for C++ and SmallTalk on AIX and OS/2 is described.

author = {Laffra, Chris and Malhotra, Ashok},
title = {HotWire: a visual debugger for C++},
booktitle = {CTEC'94: Proceedings of the 6th conference on USENIX Sixth C++ Technical Conference},
year = {1994},
pages = {7--7},
location = {Cambridge, MA},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
address = {Berkeley, CA, USA},

Diff, Debugging with diffs

Guard: A Relative Debugger

   author = {Rok Sosic and David Abramson},
   title = {Guard: A relative debugger},
   journal = {Software Practice and Experience},
   year = {1997},
   volume = {27},
   pages = {94--21}

A signifcant amount of software development is evolutionary, involving the modification of already existing programs. To a large extent, the modified programs produce the same results as the original program. This similarity between the original program and the development program is utilized by relative debugging. Relative debugging is a new concept that enables the user to compare the execution of two programs by specifying the expected correspondences between their states. A relative debugger concurrently executes the programs, verifies the correspondences, and reports any differences found. We describe our novel debugger, called Guard, and its relative debugging capabilities. Guard is implemented by using our library of debugging routines, called Dynascope, which provides debugging primitives in heterogeneous networked environments. To demonstrate the capacity of Guard for debugging in heterogeneous environments, we describe an experiment in which the execution of two programs is compared across Internet. The programs are written in different programming languages and executing on different computing platform.

Isolating Cause-Effect Chains from Computer Programs

   author = {Andreas Zeller},
   title = {Isolating Cause-Effect Chains from Computer Programs},
   year = {2002}

Consider the execution of a failing program as a sequence of program states. Each state induces the following state, up to the failure. Which variables and values of a program state are relevant for the failure? We show how the Delta Debugging algorithm isolates the relevant variables and values by systematically narrowing the state difference between a passing run and a failing run---by assessing the outcome of altered executions to determine wether a change in the program state makes a difference in the test outcome. Applying Delta Debugging to multiple states of the program automatically reveals the cause-effect chain of the failure---that is, the variables and values that caused the failure.

Debugging with Dynamic Slicing and Backtracking

   author = {Hiralal Agrawal and Richard A. Demillo and Eugene H. Spafford},
   title = {Debugging with Dynamic Slicing and Backtracking},
   journal = {Software Practice and Experience},
   year = {1993},
   volume = {23},
   pages = {589--616}

this paper we present a debugging model, based on dynamic program slicing and execution backtracking techniques, that easily lends itself to automation. This model is based on experience with using these techniques to debug software. We also present a prototype debugging tool, SPYDER, that explicitly supports the proposed model, and with which we are performing further debugging research

Tracing-based Debugging

Omniscient Debugging

Dr. Dobb's article by Bil Lewis

Back to the Future: Omniscient Debugging

Guillaume Pothier, Éric Tanter, "Back to the Future: Omniscient Debugging," IEEE Software, vol. 26, no. 6, pp. 78-85, November/December, 2009.

Debugging is a tedious and costly process that demands a profound understanding of the dynamic behavior of programs. An omniscient debugger makes the task of tracking down the root cause of bugs straightforward by enabling programmers to seamlessly navigate a buggy program's execution history. So why don't we all have an omniscient debugger in our favorite development environment? Are the challenges of making omniscient debugging practical a definitive barrier to its adoption? This article describes TOD, a scalable omniscient debugger for Java. TOD is integrated into the Eclipse IDE and paves the way for practical omniscient debugging.

@article{ 10.1109/MS.2009.169,
author = {Guillaume Pothier and Éric Tanter},
title = {Back to the Future: Omniscient Debugging},
journal ={IEEE Software},
volume = {26},
number = {6},
issn = {0740-7459},
year = {2009},
pages = {78-85},
doi = {},
publisher = {IEEE Computer Society},
address = {Los Alamitos, CA, USA},

Design and Implementation of a Backward-In-Time Debugger

Christoph Hofer, Marcus Denker, Stéphane Ducasse: Design and Implementation of a Backward-In-Time Debugger. NODe/GSEM 2006: 17-32

Traditional debugging and stepping execution trace are well-accepted techniques to understand deep internals about a program. However in many cases navigating the stack trace is not enough to find bugs, since the cause of a bug is often not in the stack trace anymore and old state is lost, so out of reach from the debugger. In this paper, we present the design and implementation of a backward-in-time debugger for a dynamic language, i.e., a debugger that allows one to navigate back the history of the application. We present the design and implementation of a backward-in-time debugger called UNSTUCK and show our solution to key implementation challenges

   author = {Der Philosophisch-naturwissenschaftlichen Fakultät and Der Universität Bern and Christoph Hofer and Leiter Der Arbeit and Prof Dr and Stéphane Ducasse and Dipl. -inform Marcus Denker},
   title = {Implementing a Backward-In-Time Debugger},
   year = {}

Practical Object-Oriented Back-in-Time Debugging

          Adrian Lienhard, Tudor Gˆrba and Oscar Nierstrasz

Abstract. Back-in-time debuggers are extremely useful tools for identifying the causes of bugs. Unfortunately the “omniscient” approaches that try to remember all previous states are impractical because they consume too much space or they are far too slow. Several approaches rely on heuristics to limit these penalties, but they ultimately end up throwing out too much relevant information. In this paper we propose a practical approach that attempts to keep track of only the relevant data. In contrast to other approaches, we keep object history information together with the regular objects in the application memory. Although seemingly counter- intuitive, this approach has the effect that data not reachable from current appli- cation objects (and hence, no longer relevant) is garbage collected. We describe the technical details of our approach, and we present benchmarks that demon- strate that memory consumption stays within practical bounds. Furthermore, the performance penalty is significantly less than with other approaches.

author = {Lienhard, Adrian and G\^{\i}rba, Tudor and Nierstrasz, Oscar},
title = {Practical Object-Oriented Back-in-Time Debugging},
booktitle = {ECOOP '08: Proceedings of the 22nd European conference on Object-Oriented Programming},
year = {2008},
isbn = {978-3-540-70591-8},
pages = {592--615},
location = {Paphos, Cypress},
doi = {},
publisher = {Springer-Verlag},
address = {Berlin, Heidelberg},

A Dataflow Approach to Event-based Debugging

   author = {Ronald A. Olsson and Richard H. Crawford and W. Wilson Ho},
   title = {A Dataflow Approach to Event-based Debugging},
   journal = {Software - Practice and Experience},
   year = {1991},
   volume = {21},
   pages = {209--229}

This paper describes a novel approach to event-based debugging. The approach is based on a (coarsegrained) dataflow view of events: a high-level event is recognized when an appropriate combination of lower-level events on which it depends has occurred. Event recognition is controlled using familiar programming language constructs. This approach is more flexible and powerful than current ones. It allows arbitrary debugger language commands to be executed when attempting to form higher-level events. It also allows users to specify event recognition in much the same way that they write programs. This paper also describes a prototype, Dalek, that employs the dataflow approach for debugging sequential programs. Dalek demonstrates the feasibility and attractiveness of the dataflow approach. One important motivation for this work is that current sequential debugging tools are inadequate. Dalek contributes toward remedying such inadequacies by providing events and a powerful debugging language

Configuration Debugging as Search: Finding the Needle in the Haystack

   author = {Andrew Whitaker and Richard S. Cox and Steven D. Gribble},
   title = {Configuration Debugging as Search: Finding the Needle in the Haystack},
   booktitle = {In OSDI},
   year = {2004},
   pages = {77--90}

This work addresses the problem of diagnosing configuration errors that cause a system to function incorrectly. For example, a change to the local firewall policy could cause a network-based application to malfunction. Our approach is based on searching across time for the instant the system transitioned into a failed state. Based on this information, a troubleshooter or administrator can deduce the cause of failure by comparing system state before and after the failure. We present the Chronus tool, which automates the task of searching for a failure-inducing state change. Chronus takes as input a user-provided software probe, which differentiates between working and non-working states. Chronus performs “time travel ” by booting a virtual machine off the system’s disk state as it existed at some point in the past. By using binary search, Chronus can find the fault point with effort that grows logarithmically with log size. We demonstrate that Chronus can diagnose a range of common configuration errors for both client-side and server-side applications, and that the performance overhead of the tool is not prohibitive. 1


Selective capture and replay of program executions

In this paper, we present a technique for selective capture and replay of program executions. Given an application, the technique allows for (1) selecting a subsystem of interest, (2) capturing at runtime all the interactions between such subsystem and the rest of the application, and (3) replaying the recorded interactions on the subsystem in isolation. The technique can be used in several scenarios. For example, it can be used to generate test cases from users' executions, by capturing and collecting partial executions in the field. For another example. it can be used to perform expensive dynamic analyses off-line. For yet another example, it can be used to extract subsystem or unit tests from system tests. Our technique is designed to be efficient, in that we only capture information that is relevant to the considered execution. To this end, we disregard all data that, although flowing through the boundary of the subsystem of interest, do not affect the execution. In the paper, we also present a preliminary evaluation of the technique performed using SCARPE, a prototype tool that implements our approach

author = {Orso, Alessandro and Kennedy, Bryan},
title = {Selective capture and replay of program executions},
booktitle = {WODA '05: Proceedings of the third international workshop on Dynamic analysis},
year = {2005},
isbn = {1-59593-126-0},
pages = {1--7},
location = {St. Louis, Missouri},
doi = {},
publisher = {ACM},
address = {New York, NY, USA},

Replaying and isolating failing multi-object interactions

When a program fails, there are typically multiple objects that contribute to the failure. Our JINSI tool automatically captures the failure-causing interaction between objects and isolates a sequence of calls that all are relevant for reproducing the failure. In contrast to existing work, JINSI also isolates relevant interaction within the observed component and thus across all layers of a complex application. In a proof of concept, JINSI has successfully isolated the interaction for a failure of the COLUMBA e-mail client, pinpointing the defect: "Out of the 187,532 interactions in the addressbook component, two incoming calls suffice to reproduce the failure."

author = {Burger, Martin and Zeller, Andreas},
title = {Replaying and isolating failing multi-object interactions},
booktitle = {WODA '08: Proceedings of the 2008 international workshop on dynamic analysis},
year = {2008},
isbn = {978-1-60558-054-8},
pages = {71--77},
location = {Seattle, Washington},
doi = {},
publisher = {ACM},
address = {New York, NY, USA},

Digital Signatures for User Assurances

Cryptographic Verification of Test Coverage Claims Premkumar Thomas Devanbu, Stuart G. Stubblebine February 2000

IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering , Volume 26 Issue 2 Publisher: IEEE Press

Volume 72 , Issue 1-2 (June 2008) table of contents Pages 40-51 Year of Publication: 2008 ISSN:0167-6423 Authors Stoney Jackson Premkumar Devanbu Kwan-Liu Ma Publisher Elsevier North-Holland, Inc. Amsterdam, The Netherlands, The Netherlands



   Abreu, R., Zoeteweij, P. & van Gemund, A.J.C.
   An observation-based model for fault localization
   WODA '08: Proceedings of the 2008 international workshop on dynamic analysis
   ACM, 2008, pp. 64-70


   Arnold, M., Vechev, M. & Yahav, E.
   QVM: an efficient runtime for detecting defects in deployed systems
   OOPSLA '08: Proceedings of the 23rd ACM SIGPLAN conference on Object-oriented programming systems languages and applications
   ACM, 2008, pp. 143-162


   Burger, M. & Zeller, A.
   Replaying and isolating failing multi-object interactions
   WODA '08: Proceedings of the 2008 international workshop on dynamic analysis
   ACM, 2008, pp. 71-77


   Chern, R. & De Volder, K.
   Debugging with control-flow breakpoints
   AOSD '07: Proceedings of the 6th international conference on Aspect-oriented software development
   ACM, 2007, pp. 96-106


   Chilimbi, T.M., Liblit, B., Mehra, K., Nori, A.V. & Vaswani, K.
   HOLMES: Effective statistical debugging via efficient path profiling
   ICSE '09: Proceedings of the 2009 IEEE 31st International Conference on Software Engineering
   IEEE Computer Society, 2009, pp. 34-44


   Cristian Cadar, D.D. & Dawson Engler, S.U.
   KLEE: Unassisted and Automatic Generation of High-Coverage Tests for Complex Systems Programs
   OSDI 2008


   Czyz, J.K. & Jayaraman, B.
   Declarative and visual debugging in Eclipse
   eclipse '07: Proceedings of the 2007 OOPSLA workshop on eclipse technology eXchange
   ACM, 2007, pp. 31-35


   De Borger, W., Lagaisse, B. & Joosen, W.
   A generic and reflective debugging architecture to support runtime visibility and traceability of aspects
   AOSD '09: Proceedings of the 8th ACM international conference on Aspect-oriented software development
   ACM, 2009, pp. 173-184


   Ko, A.J. & Myers, B.A.
   Debugging reinvented: asking and answering why and why not questions about program behavior
   ICSE '08: Proceedings of the 30th international conference on Software engineering
   ACM, 2008, pp. 301-310


   Lefebvre, G., Cully, B., Feeley, M.J., Hutchinson, N.C. & Warfield, A.
   Tralfamadore: unifying source code and execution experience
   EuroSys '09: Proceedings of the fourth ACM european conference on Computer systems
   ACM, 2009, pp. 199-204


   Lencevicius, R., Hölzle, U. & Singh, A.K.
   Dynamic Query-Based Debugging of Object-Oriented Programs
   Automated Software Engg., Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003, Vol. 10(1), pp. 39-74


   Lencevicius, R., Hölzle, U. & Singh, A.K.
   Query-based debugging of object-oriented programs
   OOPSLA '97: Proceedings of the 12th ACM SIGPLAN conference on Object-oriented programming, systems, languages, and applications
   ACM, 1997, pp. 304-317


   Lewis, B. & Ducasse, M.
   Using events to debug Java programs backwards in time
   OOPSLA '03: Companion of the 18th annual ACM SIGPLAN conference on Object-oriented programming, systems, languages, and applications
   ACM, 2003, pp. 96-97


   Madanlal Musuvathi, S.Q. & Thomas Ball, Microsoft Research; Gerard Basler, E.Z.P.A.N.U. o.W.M.I.N.U. o.C.R.
   Finding and Reproducing Heisenbugs in Concurrent Programs
   OSDI 2008


   Navarro, L.D.B., Douence, R. & Südholt, M.
   Debugging and testing middleware with aspect-based control-flow and causal patterns
   Middleware '08: Proceedings of the 9th ACM/IFIP/USENIX International Conference on Middleware
   Springer-Verlag New York, Inc., 2008, pp. 183-202


   Pothier, G., Tanter, & Piquer, J.
   Scalable omniscient debugging
   SIGPLAN Not., ACM, 2007, Vol. 42(10), pp. 535-552


   Sapan Bhatia, Princeton University; Abhishek Kumar, G.I.M.E.F. & Larry Peterson, P.U.
   Lightweight, High-Resolution Monitoring for Troubleshooting Production Systems
   OSDI 2009


   Xu, G. & Rountev, A.
   Precise memory leak detection for java software using container profiling
   ICSE '08: Proceedings of the 30th international conference on Software engineering
   ACM, 2008, pp. 151-160


   Zeller, A.
   Why Programs Fail: A Guide to Systematic Debugging
   Morgan Kaufmann, 2005


   Zeller, A.
   Isolating cause-effect chains from computer programs
   SIGSOFT '02/FSE-10: Proceedings of the 10th ACM SIGSOFT symposium on Foundations of software engineering
   ACM, 2002, pp. 1-10


   Zeller, A. & Hildebrandt, R.
   Simplifying and isolating failure-inducing input
   #IEEE_J_SE#, 2002, Vol. 28(2), pp. 183-200