Some people say you can live without a debugger. May be, proper logging and and tests definitely reduce number of times when you need to launch it, but I sometimes find myself using debugger a lot, for example, when developing very new code. One way how I design my classes is by writing a very limited number of test cases and make them green – during such time I’m shaking up internal code organization a lot and it does not make much sense to put it under extensive tests. I feel like a painter creating a quick sketch. Painters create sketches to quickly get an idea what works and what does not – before starting to work on big picture, so I am doing very similar thing except that code is somewhat more precise than pencil - when code does not work nothing could be said about it, it just does not work. And to make it work I use debugger heavily on that stage.

I am using rdebug and I find some annoyances:

  • While localizing and fixing bug I place debugger() calls which I have to clean before I decide to run code in normal mode without debugger. Periodically I forget to clean them up and my tests fail when I expect them to pass. That could be easily fixed, by putting in test_helper.rb:
unless Object.const_defined?(:Debugger)
  def debugger
    puts "debugger()..."

This way I’m just observing on every test run that I forgot to delete some debugger() calls, and could postpone finding and deleting all of them until next commit to VCS.

  • I use blankslate gem to have a class with almost no methods. Such technique is described in Best Ruby Practices book by Gregory Brown as kind of replacement of Ruby 1.9’s BasicObject. But it is hard to debug such class, the first error you are going get if you put debugger() call in some of its method will be: undefined local variable or method `debugger’ You may unhide it:

and immediately get another error while trying to inspect your objects: #inspect, #to_s, #methods, etc. are all hidden, and it is annoying to reveal them in debugger. So I decided to simplify my life a bit by making ancestor class run–time dependant:

Base = ? Object : BlankSlate) do

Yes, I risk to be caught by some method names conflict troubles, after all what was the reason to use BlankState? – so this is sort of compromise.

  • While debugging I very frequently specify particular test I investigate, just to avoid unneeded breakpoints and to get faster to interesting moment. So, to say to Test::Unit that I am going to run some test blabla I need to separate -n blabla option by double dash --, and that also annoys me, but just a little, so I have not tried to find a workaround yet.