In this post, we feature a comprehensive article on Useful Debugging and Troubleshooting Tips for Beginners.
There are three constants in life – death, taxes, and debugging codes. Plenty of programmers leave a mess of bugs when writing codes for new sling codes and features. But who cleans up the bugs?
It is a separate thing to write good code and an entirely different thing to debug the ugliest code you’ve encounter in your life. Nonetheless, debugging is a skill you can learn through constant practice and apply the correct techniques. Eventually, you will get the hang of it and who knows you might actually start enjoying it.
So here are some useful tips for beginners in troubleshooting bugs and system glitches.
Useful Debugging and Troubleshooting Tips
1. Change your mindset
It is all about mindset. Most programmers think that fixing bugs is a huge endeavor that could eat them alive. The only way to get around the problem is by taking a systematic approach – calm, consistent, persistent and persevering approach. You cannot just get in and get out but attacking the glitch from an analytical perspective and logical method instead of involving the emotions.
2. Clarify your definition of Debugging
How do you exactly understand ‘debugging’? To you what is debugging? Do you also consider debugging just merely using the debugger and that’s it? Well, you are very much mistaken at this point. Debugging has absolutely nothing to do with the debugger but has something to do more with identifying the root cause of the problem in the coding system, pointing out the probable grounds, analyzing out the hypothesis until the very source is found. When you do this, you will determine the cause of the bug and ensure that it will not happen once more.
3. Don’t use the debugger
The debugger should be at the bottom of your list of solutions. When you use the debugger at first sight of the problem, you are acknowledging that you don’t have any idea what is producing the problem and you are just going to run through the system using the debugger. It is like your car breaks down and you don’t know a thing about cars. You open up the hood, and you don’t even know what you are looking for.
A debugger is a wonderful tool that can help you in many sorts of codes, but it should not be your first resort. Many bugs can be solved without the help of the debugger.
4. Reproduce the error
The very first thing any sane programmer or developer should do is to reproduce the bug to determine if it is clearly a bug and that you are able to debug it. Most of the times, many code glitches can’t be reproduced; therefore, cannot be debugged. So, if you cannot reproduce the problem, there is no use to debugging it. If you can’t reproduce the bug yourself, go get help. If a tester indexed the bug, get the tester to reproduce it for you.
If the bug is recurrent, and cannot be reliably reproduced, this could mean that you don’t know the conditions required to replicate the problem. There is actually no such thing as a recurrent problem. If it is a bug problem, it can be reproduced, but you just have to figure out how.
Most developers skip this step because it entails sitting and thinking and not in action of solving the problem. However, thinking the thoroughly is an important step. Just sit and think about what could possibly be the origin of the problem. Analyze how the system is designed, its functions and the peculiar behavior you are experiencing.
This is a crucial step in identifying what to look for and what things to look at. This will eventually result in a different hypothesis that you should test out later. Browse through the source code to see more clues on how the system is designed to work. You should be able to come up with a few good hypotheses you can test on.
6. Test your hypotheses
Don’t use the debugger just yet. In this step, you need to do a unit test. Try to write a unit test to prove your hypotheses that could exploit the problem. If you are right and have identified the problem, you can fix it pronto. Now, you have a unit test in place to verify the fix and make sure it will not occur again. Try to reproduce the actual bug again to make sure it is completely fixed.
If you are wrong and the written unit test passes, you just disproved one of you hypotheses making the system stronger. Every time you write unit tests, you are eliminating possibilities of what causes the problem and would lead you closer to your goal of fixing the bug.
7. Check your assumptions
If all your hypotheses have been disproved, the next best thing you can do is to check your assumptions on how things are functioning. Normally, programmers think that code is working in a certain way or that some point its input or output must be a value.
The best thing to check your assumptions is to also do a unit test. Yes, more unit tests. Write particular unit tests that check apparent things that “have to be operational” along the flow of work of the issue you are attempting to debug. Setting up unit tests is like climbing a mountain and pegging anchors as you climb along.
To conclude, debugging takes a lot of practice, patience and above all critical thinking on figuring out what is causing the problem. More often than not, it is also essential to divide the code lines and examine each line by testing it in batches to determine which part is not working properly. It is often in this method that you discover which batch of codes are behaving erratically.
Remember that debugging is like software development – it is the combination of art and science. You can only get the hang of it by practicing and systematically and specifically debug not just play about the debugger.