Debugging the Ecl

Bit of Background

There are two types of errors that can arise and three main methods of dealing with these. These are listed below for reference.

Error Types

Error Handling Techniques


Assert and Abort Macros are typically undesirable for a library. Often a library user will want to recover from errors and handle them using whatever mechanisms their application is using. A good example of this (that I'm currently using with the ecl) are RoS nodes. Errors need to be caught and the program gracefully exited from the RoS node network.

Return Codes/Flags are used in alot of places, for example, posix uses them to regular effect. They do have the drawback of leaving objects in a zombie state when things go wrong and its up to the user to make sure they diligently check after each operation that everything is still ok. This is alot of programming work. I find it also actually requires alot of programming to ensure the classes behave correctly and avoid problems when in zombie states - this uses alot of if conditionals throughout the program, so sometimes is not quite as costless as you imagine.

Exception Handling when used with care and in the right places provides a much easier and cleaner solution. However, they do slow the program down, particularly for oft used checks (range errors on containers). In embedded systems and games this is often avoided for the cost it imparts.

What the ECL Does for Debugging

In every case, more information on the error handling method used for a given class will be given in that class's documentation. However, in general, ecl adheres to the following guidelines:

Fast Code Blocks

For functions that are typically used within a fast code block, particularly inside a control loop, debug mode provides many warning/error exception handlers that are turned off in release mode. See below for details on how to switch the ecl between debug and release modes.


Code that is often associated with configuration and initialisation will use exceptions in both debug and release modes. See the ecl_exceptions package for more details.

This includes many of the RAII style constructors that that open devices, configure mutexes etc. For control programs, this stage of the program's lifecycle places a greater emphasis on stability, getting things going right rather than speed and as a consequence, the cost of the stack unwinding is largely irrelevant. For functions that are typically nested inside a control loop, exception handling is enabled only in debug mode.

Memory Debugging Under/Overruns

The biggest problems with alot of c-style code occur with arrays which are typically plagued by buffer overflow (underrun or overrun) problems. Currently, the ecl has a mechansim to check for this if ecl's array types (ecl_containers) are used in conjunction with a predefined macro and manual code checks for overflows. See the documentation for ecl_containers for more information.

Detailed Notes

Debug Mode

For example, a debug build might look like:

  g++ -lecl_devices -o hello hello.cpp

Debug mode includes alot of warnings and error handlers for such things as invalid constructor configurations, out of range container warnings, etc.

Release Mode

For example,

  g++ -DNDEBUG -lecl_devices -o hello hello.cpp

Author(s): Daniel Stonier (
autogenerated on Thu Jan 2 2014 11:11:33