Developer Tools

Ben Goodger one of the lead developers at Mozilla Foundation makes some good observations about developer tools.

He’s certainly not alone – in 1998/99 when I was working at Be I would frequently hear screams of anguish from Scott Barta who at that time was working on the BeOS browser (NetPositive). At the time probably one of the largest and most complicated pieces of layered software (applications) running on BeOS.

Good debuggers are really hard to find on the open source or even ‘new’ platforms. Today since there are almost only two compilers in the world – MS and GNU – everyone else is using the GNU tools and by association gdb. When a request is then made for a more friendly debugging environment everyone simply wraps gdb.

Why ?

Mac OS X/XCode does it, Linux does it, BeOS did it and so on. Even Codewarrior on Mac OS X does it – in spite of the fact that Metrowerks wrote one of the better GUI debugging environment in Mac OS 9

I’ll admit I’m not enough of a debugger expert to know why – but is it really so hard ? If you actually talk to engineers at Apple working on the larger projects they’ll admit to actually using the gdb command-line debugger most of the time, and NOT using the GUI.

This could be because they’re more productive that way based on experience, but at the same time I have to think that they (or some of us) could be even more productive if the UI lived up to it’s potential (ie. was as good as MS Visual Studio).

Sometimes I wonder if Apple really cares about this – they’re trying hard to improve it, but how much of the problem is really caused by talking to/through gdb ?

Posted under Work

This post was written by awk on January 31, 2005

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