Glenn Ammons, David Mandelin, Rastislav Bodík, and James R. Larus
Program verification tools (such as model checkers and static analyzers) can find many errors in programs. These tools need formal specifications of correct program behavior, but writing a correct specification is difficult, just as writing a correct program is difficult. Thus, just as we need methods for debugging programs, we need methods for debugging specifications.This paper describes a novel method for debugging formal, temporal specifications. Our method exploits the short program execution traces that program verification tools generate from specification violations and that specification miners extract from programs. Manually examining these traces is a straightforward way to debug a specification, but this method is tedious and error-prone because there may be hundreds or thousands of traces to inspect. Our method uses concept analysis to automatically group the traces into highly similar clusters. By examining clusters instead of individual traces, a person can debug a specification with less work.To test our method, we implemented a tool, Cable, for debugging specifications. We have used Cable to debug specifications produced by Strauss, our specification miner. We found that using Cable to debug these specifications requires, on average, less than one third as many user decisions as debugging by examining all traces requires. In one case, using Cable required only 28 decisions, while debugging by examining all traces required 224.
In Proceedings of the 2003 ACM SIGPLAN Conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation
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