Debugging: The 9 Indispensible Rules for Finding Even the Most Elusive Software and Hardware Problems (Chapter 5, Part 3 of 3)

Planet Analog Editor's note: I am very pleased to present two chapters of this book by David J. Agans, with the permission of the publisher, the American Management Association.
Let's be honest and brutal : Debugging is the most challenging of all engineering skills. It's hard to teach, interdisciplinary, usually self-taught through the hard road of experience (sometimes guided by a mentor or senior engineer–though it is rare to find one who has the time, these days), and yet it is the skill which distinguishes the seasoned, valued member of the team from just another hot-shot “designer,” and actually lets you release the product and get it out the door. As one of my mentors often said, “any engineer can design, but few can debug.”

So when this book came in the mail, I had two thoughts:

  • Clearly, this is the best book on the subject I have ever seen (a small joke, because it was the only book I had ever seen that went beyond just software debugging)
  • What could a book published by the American Management Association possibly, even remotely have to offer to real, hands-on engineers on the subject? It might have the usual vague guidelines such as: have a plan, take notes, don't be overly optimistic, do some out-of-the-box thinking, assume little or nothing, and so on–useful guidelines, to be sure, but they are also pretty well known to any engineer with even a small amount of experience.

Well, in a word: I was very wrong . This is a great book. Clearly written by an experienced EE, it looks at both software and hardware debugging issues and approaches.

Formal courses about debugging are usually too vague, filled with high-level advice, or too focused on specific “war stories” of past elusive bugs and how they were found and overcome. These may make a good or even entertaining read, but they offer little in the way of building an organized strategy and its tactics. This book, in contrast, is a solid course in this critical subject.

We are presenting Chapters 4 and 5, each in three parts, one part per week. For logistical reasons, and due to the tutorial nature of the book, we are posting it on our TechOnline site as part of our technical paper library, as follows:

  • Chapter 4, Part 1: click here
  • Chapter 4, Part 2: click here
  • Chapter 4, Part 3: click here
  • Chapter 5, Part 1: click here
  • Chapter 5, Part 2: click here
  • Chapter 5, Part 3: click here

Note : to see the entire Table of Contents, or for information on ordering the book, click here.

I hope you'll find these two chapters worth your time. I certainly did–and I wish I had it “back in the day”, as they say!

Bill Schweber , Planet Analog Editor

0 comments on “Debugging: The 9 Indispensible Rules for Finding Even the Most Elusive Software and Hardware Problems (Chapter 5, Part 3 of 3)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.