Fosdem O'Reilly
2005 Edition Free and Open Source Software Developer's European Meeting


2005-02-14 - Andreas Zeller


An interview conducted by FOSDEM & the LinuxFR readers
FOSDEM - First and traditional question: please present yourself !

Andreas Zeller - I am a 39-year old male from Germany. I like to program, to talk, to write, and to walk around. I have become a computer science professor in order to do all this as part of my job.

FOSDEM - How did you both start working on ddd ?

Andreas Zeller - In my diploma thesis, I wrote a package for visual editing of programs. Two years later, I found that this package might be cute for visualizing data structures. So, I assigned my student, Dorothea Lutkehaus, the task of building a debugger front-end with data visualization. When she demonstrated her final work, we found it real cool. So Dorothea and I spent another few months on polishing and making it available.

FOSDEM - ddd is often used thru GUI. Is there plan to add a "native" GUI to ddd or will it stay what it is : a "simple" debugger ?

Andreas Zeller - DDD is a GUI for GDB and other command-line debuggers, and I think it does a good job on harnessing the 200+ basic GDB commands. Personally, I am shifting away from interactive debugging tools; it is my goal to make debugging as automatic as possible.

FOSDEM - Don't you think that a part of the debugging job should be made at compile time, as now computing power cost is very low ?

Andreas Zeller - Our current computing power makes it feasible to run a huge number of tests and analyses, which is great for automatic diagnoses. In the time it takes you to hit a "Step" button, the computer can already carry out hundreds of tests.

FOSDEM - What amount of work should go into programming assertions, and what amount can be left to automatic debuggers like askIgor ?

Andreas Zeller - I think that assertions (or specifications in general) are the best way to debug programs, simply because they force you to think about what is correct and what not, and because they are persistent. However, no specification can protect you against surprises, and this is where automated diagnosis tools are handy.

FOSDEM - What do you expect from your FOSDEM talk ?

Andreas Zeller - To have fun, and to enlight people about debugging. Not necessarily in that order.


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