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25.3 Debugging Optimized Code

Since the compiler generates debugging tables for a compilation unit before it performs optimizations, the optimizing transformations may invalidate some of the debugging data. You therefore need to anticipate certain anomalous situations that may arise while debugging optimized code. This section describes the most common cases.

  1. The "hopping Program Counter": Repeated 'step' or 'next' commands show the PC bouncing back and forth in the code. This may result from any of the following optimizations:

  2. The "big leap": More commonly known as cross-jumping, in which two identical pieces of code are merged and the program counter suddenly jumps to a statement that is not supposed to be executed, simply because it (and the code following) translates to the same thing as the code that was supposed to be executed. This effect is typically seen in sequences that end in a jump, such as a goto, a return, or a break in a C switch statement.

  3. The "roving variable": The symptom is an unexpected value in a variable. There are various reasons for this effect:

    In general, when an unexpected value appears for a local variable or parameter you should first ascertain if that value was actually computed by your program, as opposed to being incorrectly reported by the debugger. Record fields or array elements in an object designated by an access value are generally less of a problem, once you have ascertained that the access value is sensible. Typically, this means checking variables in the preceding code and in the calling subprogram to verify that the value observed is explainable from other values (one must apply the procedure recursively to those other values); or re-running the code and stopping a little earlier (perhaps before the call) and stepping to better see how the variable obtained the value in question; or continuing to step from the point of the strange value to see if code motion had simply moved the variable's assignments later.

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