Gecko assertions

Assertions frequently help me find bugs that would be difficult to catch otherwise. I've filed 479 bugs on assertion failures, excluding bugs that also causes crashes or hangs, and 223 of those have already been fixed. (Thanks to Brendan, I can safely file bugs when I see assertion failures, knowing that my bugs aren't invalid.)

Many assertion failures indicate that assumptions were violated in a relatively harmless way, merely causing incorrect layout or slow performance in an edge case. But sometimes they indicate the presence of a bug that could lead to a serious memory safety violation. For example, "ASSERTION: Some objects allocated with AllocateFrame were not freed" in the FrameArena destructor has helped find dozens of bugs that lead to leaks and/or dangling pointers.

Gecko developers have added many useful assertions lately, and it looks like more are on the way. Regression tests for assertions are improving, too.

I have a list of assertions that I ignore during automated testing. Whenever a developer fixes a bug on that list, I remove the bug and the corresponding assertion from the file, so if I hit the assertion again after that point, I'll notice it.

In addition to helping to catch bugs, assertions also serve as "living documentation" about the code's invariants. We notice if they become out of date, unlike Wiki pages and comments. In my dream world, assertions would also serve as waypoints for an automated theorem prover ;)

One Response to “Gecko assertions”

  1. Taras Says:

    While I’m not a big fan of theorem proving C++, me and Benjamin made big plans for plugin-enabling gcc so we can enforce usage of various APIs with JavaScript checks(some derivative of dehydra).