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Focusing on flaws

Advanced static analysis for testing embedded software. By Paul Anderson.

Advanced static analysis tools are a relatively new weapon in the continuing battle to improve software quality. These tools – sometimes called static testing tools – can find flaws that are hard to find using standard techniques.
Whilst these tools are good at finding serious errors – such as buffer overruns, null pointer dereferences and leaks – they can also find inconsistencies or contradictions in the code such as useless assignments and redundant conditions. This usually indicates that the programmer misunderstood something and correlates well with underlying bugs. Knowing about such issues can make writing tests easier. This can be done at compile time without requiring test cases or other additional input from the user. Although false positives are inevitable with this class of tools, the rate at which they occur is reasonable.
Use of these tools is rapidly becoming best practice for safety critical software development because the risk of failure is so high and because they are effective at lowering bug rates.

Paul Anderson

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