Hex Rays
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Testing debuggers

Software programs must be tested before put in use. When there is a single program, things are relatively simple. Running it on multiple platforms is more challenging because it requires testing all of them. But the real nightmare starts when there are multiple programs running on multiple platforms and going to a high abstract level is not an option.
This is the case with IDA debuggers. The current version supports five different variants: Win32/Win64/WinCE/Linux/iMac but the upcoming v5.3 adds Symbian and iPhone to the list.
We can not use a high level language for debuggers because the very nature of the information is low level: bits and bytes, registers and memory cells. The core of the debugger operates with some abstractions but this does not make it really impervious to low level details: each platform has its peculiarities. It is more of a disadvantage than a bonus: changing anything in debugger core could introduce a bug in any of the supported platforms, something hard to reproduce and fix.
Given all the above, we decided to spend some time on a test system. And here is the result: custom made, hardcore command line, user agnostic (or unfriendly?) but it does the job. It generates megabytes of logs and can check all debuggers: local or remote, 32 or 64 bit, single or multithreaded.

One more thing I wanted to tell you: we have the iPhone debugger ready for beta testing. It was a hard job to create it, especially with the broken ptrace on iPhone. I’m still curious to know more about its implementation and limitations…
If you want to participate in beta testing of the iPhone debugger, just send us a message.

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