Monday, November 17, 2008

Erlang debugging tips

I've just started playing with Erlang so I have a lot to discover but so far I've found several things which help me to debug my programs:

  1. I tried to write my programs using OTP principles but the problem for me was that by default it often causes Erlang to hide most of the problems. The faultly process just get silently restarted by its supervisor or even worse - the whole application just exits with unclear "shutdown temporary" message. The solution is simple: start sasl application and it'll start logging all crashes. For development starting Erlang shell as erl -boot start_sasl does the trick.
  2. If you compile your modules with debug_info switch then you can use quite nifty visual debugger to step through your program. Quick howto: you open debugger window with Erlang console command im() and then you add modules for inspection via menu Module/Interpret. Then you can either add breakpoints manually or configure debugger to auto attach on one of conditions (say on first call). Instead of clicking menus you can also use Erlang console commands to control the debugger. See i:help().
  3. With command appmon:start() you can launch visual application monitor which shows all active applications. One particular useful thing is ability to click on application what shows a tree of processes it consist of. Then you can enable tracing of individual processes. When tracing is enabled it seems to be showing messages send or recieved by the traced process.