Archive for the ‘Generative Debugging’ Category

Software Diagnostics Services

Friday, July 13th, 2012

For some time I was struggling with finding a good name for memory dump and software trace analysis activities. The name Memoretics I use for the science of memory dump analysis (that also incorporates software traces) seems not so good to describe the whole practical activity that should be transparent to everyone in IT. Fortunately, I timely understood that all these activities constitute the essence of software diagnostics that previously lacked any solid foundation. Thus, Software Diagnostics Institute was reborn from the previous Crash Dump Analysis Portal. This institute does pure and applied research and scientific activities and in recent years was funded mainly from OpenTask publisher and recently from Memory Dump Analysis Services. The latter company also recognized that the broadening of its commercial activities requires a new name. So, Software Diagnostics Services was reborn:

The First Comprehensive Software Diagnostics Service

- Dmitry Vostokov @ + -

2012 is The Year of Software Trace Analysis

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

The number of software trace analysis patterns approaches the critical mass of 50 and we have decided to focus on software tracing and logging in the forthcoming year. Some books on tracing including Volume 7 of Memory Dump Analysis Anthology will be published by OpenTask during that year and our efforts will be to further advance software narratology, software trace linguistics, and software trace analysis in the context of memory dump analysis, generative debugging and modeling software behavior.

- Dmitry Vostokov @ + -

Software Problem Description Language (Part 1)

Friday, November 11th, 2011

One of the new initiatives for 2012 is the development of SPDL (Software Problem Description Language). Its purpose is automatic generation of a software troubleshooting tool(s) based on the description of a problem. Here software problem means a post-construction problem as outlined in Introduction to Pattern-Driven Software Problem Solving. The tool construction will utilize an expanded set of DebugWare and Workaround patterns together with the refind version of RADII software development process. This will also provide necessary effectiveness, efficiency and enhanced problem solving capabilities to existing TaaS (Tools as a Service) implementations that are limited in the number of tools they offer.

- Dmitry Vostokov @ + -

Forthcoming Volume 6 of Memory Dump Analysis Anthology

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

The new 6th volume contains revised, edited, cross-referenced, and thematically organized selected blog posts about memory dump and software trace analysis, software troubleshooting and debugging written in November 2010 - October 2011 for software engineers developing and maintaining products on Windows platforms, quality assurance engineers testing software on Windows platforms, technical support and escalation engineers dealing with complex software issues, and security researchers, malware analysts and reverse engineers. The sixth volume features:

  • 56 new crash dump analysis patterns including 14 new .NET memory dump analysis patterns
  • 4 new pattern interaction case studies
  • 11 new trace analysis patterns
  • New Debugware pattern
  • Introduction to UI problem analysis patterns
  • Introduction to intelligence analysis patterns
  • Introduction to unified debugging pattern language
  • Introduction to generative debugging, metadefect template library and DNA of software behaviour
  • The new school of debugging and trends
  • .NET memory dump analysis checklist
  • Software trace analysis checklist
  • Introduction to close and deconstructive readings of a software trace
  • Memory dump analysis compass
  • Computical and Stack Trace Art
  • The abductive reasoning of Philip Marlowe
  • Orbifold memory space and cloud computing
  • Memory worldview
  • Interpretation of cyberspace
  • Relationship of memory dumps to religion
  • Fully cross-referenced with Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, and Volume 5

Product information:

  • Title: Memory Dump Analysis Anthology, Volume 6
  • Author: Dmitry Vostokov
  • Language: English
  • Product Dimensions: 22.86 x 15.24
  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Opentask (December 2011)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-908043-19-1
  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Opentask (January 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-908043-20-7

Back cover features 3d memory space visualization image created with ParaView.

- Dmitry Vostokov @ + -

Crossdisciplinary Memoretics as Interdisciplinary Science

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Memoretics as a science of memory snapshots borrows many ideas from the following disciplines (the list is not exhaustive):

  • Troubleshooting and Debugging
  • Intelligence Analysis
  • Critical Thinking
  • Forensics
  • Linguistics
  • Archaeology
  • Psychoanalysis
  • History
  • Mathematics: Sets and Categories
  • Literary Criticism and Narratology

It also contributes many ideas back. The following diagram depicts such an interaction:

- Dmitry Vostokov @ + -

User Interface Problem Analysis Patterns (Part 1)

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

As a part of unified debugging pattern and generative debugging approach we extend software behavior analysis patterns such as memory dump and software trace analysis with UI abnormal behaviour patterns. Here by abnormality we mean behavior that users should not encounter while using software. Typical example is some error message or GUI distortion during execution of a functional use case. Such patterns will extend software behavior analysis pattern language we use for description of various post-construction software problems.

The first pattern we start with is called Error Message Box and we link it to Message Box and Self-Diagnosis memory analysis patterns. You can download x86 and x64 modeling examples from this location:

When we start the application it shows a message box:

We then launch Task Manager and find the window:

Then we save a crash dump using right-click context menu:

When we open the process memory dump we see this stack trace:

0:000> ~*kL

.  0  Id: d30.71c Suspend: 0 Teb: 000007ff`fffdd000 Unfrozen
Child-SP          RetAddr           Call Site
00000000`002ff1e8 00000000`77837214 user32!ZwUserWaitMessage+0xa
00000000`002ff1f0 00000000`778374a5 user32!DialogBox2+0x274
00000000`002ff280 00000000`778827f0 user32!InternalDialogBox+0x135
00000000`002ff2e0 00000000`77881ae5 user32!SoftModalMessageBox+0x9b4
00000000`002ff410 00000000`7788133b user32!MessageBoxWorker+0x31d
00000000`002ff5d0 00000000`77881232 user32!MessageBoxTimeoutW+0xb3
00000000`002ff6a0 00000001`3ffa101d user32!MessageBoxW+0×4e
00000000`002ff6e0 00000001`3ffa1039 UIPMessageBox!bar+0×1d
00000000`002ff710 00000001`3ffa1052 UIPMessageBox!foo+0×9
00000000`002ff740 00000001`3ffa11ea UIPMessageBox!wmain+0×12
00000000`002ff770 00000000`7770f56d UIPMessageBox!__tmainCRTStartup+0×15a
00000000`002ff7b0 00000000`77942cc1 kernel32!BaseThreadInitThunk+0xd
00000000`002ff7e0 00000000`00000000 ntdll!RtlUserThreadStart+0×1d

We see there that foo function called bar function which displayed the message box. In real scenarios function name could me more meaningful and give a clue for troubleshooting and debugging in addition to message text:

0:000> ub 00000001`3ffa101d
00000001`3ffa0fff add     byte ptr [rax-7Dh],cl
00000001`3ffa1002 in      al,dx
00000001`3ffa1003 sub     byte ptr [rbp+33h],al
00000001`3ffa1006 leave
00000001`3ffa1007 lea     r8,[UIPMessageBox!__mnames+0×28 (00000001`3ffa83c8)]
00000001`3ffa100e lea     rdx,[UIPMessageBox!__mnames+0×38 (00000001`3ffa83d8)]
00000001`3ffa1015 xor     ecx,ecx
00000001`3ffa1017 call    qword ptr [UIPMessageBox!_imp_MessageBoxW (00000001`3ffa71d8)]

0:000> du 00000001`3ffa83c8
00000001`3ffa83c8  “Problem”

0:000> du 00000001`3ffa83d8
00000001`3ffa83d8  “We have a problem!”

- Dmitry Vostokov @ + -

Metadefect Template Library (Part 0)

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

To model software behavior at application and system levels, test generative debugging scenarious and construct software defects using metaprogramming I started working on MdTL (Metadefect Template Library). Its consists of C++ templates for structural and behavioral patterns. The simplest examples include Threads<Spike> and Spike<Thread>. The template classes can be more complex, of course, utilizing the full power of C++, STL, and existing libraries like Boost. The unique and novel feature of this library is the inclusion of dual classes of behaviour such as Leak<>, Deadlock<>, Overflow<>, Residue<>, Exception<>, Contention<>, etc. parameterized by various structural memory classes like Process<>, Thread<>, Heap<>, Stack<>, Region<>, Buffer<>, etc. MdTL also includes classes to model software tracing and this will be used for simultaneous software trace and memory dump analysis case study in the forthcoming presentation. I also plan to extend this metaprogramming approach in the future to model malware analysis patterns by introducing Metamalware Template Library (MmTL).

Forthcoming parts will introduce template classes and examples.

- Dmitry Vostokov @ + -

The New School of Debugging: What’s New

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

The New School of Debugging places pattern-driven memory and software trace analysis as a solid foundation for any debugging methodology, processes, tools and techniques. Unified Debugging Patterns and Generative Debugging Framework are additional features of the new school. To highlight its essentials I’ve created this draft diagram:

- Dmitry Vostokov @ + -

Just In Time Crash Analysis Report (JIT CAR)

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Imagine a pattern-driven crash analysis report (car) when you need it: at the very moment of a crash, just in time! And the car drives you to a problem resolution. Imagine also a periodic pattern-driven just-in-time memory space analysis (JIT MSA) that provides you instant intelligent reports on what’s going on inside memory while your application, service or system is running! This is a forthcoming optional client side part of CARE (Crash Analysis Report Environment) which is being developed by Memory Dump Analysis Services engineering team under the leadership of Alexey Golikov. Combined with generative debugging techniques both client and server parts form a complete unique enterprise crash and hang analysis solution suitable for development and production environments. Stay tuned for further exciting updates.

PS. The car drives on a road to the first fault software problem solving.

- Dmitry Vostokov @ + -

Generative Debugging (Part 0)

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Followed by my search for a periodic table of software defects I came up with a novel approach called Generative Debugging partially borrowed from principles and parameters generative linguistics framework. For debugging and post-construction software problem solving purposes we have Behavioral Principles and Structural Parameters. The parameters allow us to describe existing and even generate new software defects (I’m also considering Structural Principles and Behavioural Parameters but whether this is fruitful needs to be explored and seen. We may also consider the name “generative debugging” as a “naming” counterpart to software construction problem solving called generative programming. So the former could also be used to generate problem solutions faster in automatic fashion. Both, in the future, may be combined into a unified generative software problem solving.

As a first example, consider an application functional hang with a thread blocked by a pending I/O request packet (IRP). It is composed from general behavioral principle of blocked (or unresponsive) activity and structural parameters including Thread and IRP.

In the following parts many software incidents will be explored from this generative perspective.

- Dmitry Vostokov @ + -