DustMite - Code Minimizer

Posted: 2013-06-13 - Link

Yesterday I discovered DustMite, a source code minimizer tool for D.

What’s a source code minimizer? It’s a program that takes some source code, and automatically removes lines, or even whole files from the source while maintaining some invariant (e.g. it still builds, or still gives a particular output). The usual use case is to produce a minimal reproduction test case for a bug, which is exactly what I used it for.

I had a problem in a medium-sized D project where anytime I had some sort of compile-time error, such as a typo in a variable name, DMD (the D compiler), would spew out pages and pages of false errors, triggered by some other module in my codebase. The errors were completely irrelevant. This was quite annoying because it made it difficult to see the actual error. So, like a good programmer, I decided to file a bug report.

Step one in filing a good bug report is to create a minimal test case. I tried to do this manually by pulling out what seemed to be the relevant parts of the code that would reproduce the error, but I couldn’t get it to happen. I could easily and consistently reproduce the bug in the full codebase, but the project is about 10,000 lines of code, so minimizing it manually from there would be very time consuming.

I’d heard about DustMite on the forums, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Installing was easy enough.

% git clone https://github.com/CyberShadow/DustMite.git
% cd DustMite
% dmd dustmite.d dsplit.d
% ln -s ~/DustMite/dustmite ~/bin

Next step was to prepare the project for minification. All you need to do is make a full copy of the codebase, and remove any unnecessary files (e.g. object files, data files – anything not needed for reproduction).

Next you need to devise a test command. This is a command that should return 0 if the bug is still present, and non-zero otherwise. For example, suppose we had this (trivial) program:

import std.stdio;
import std.string;

string world() { return "world!"; }

void main()
	write(", ");

I’ve got an obvious bug here in that hello() is undefined. Trying to compile this gives Error: undefined identifier hello. If we wanted to minimize this then we need a command, which, when run, will return 0.

Compiling and greping for the error would be perfect for this.

% dmd test.d 2>&1 | grep -q "undefined identifier hello"
% echo $?

This runs the compiler (dmd test.d), redirects the error messages to stdout (2>&1) then pipes the result (|) to grep, which searches for that string without producing output (-q = quiet). grep returns 0 if it finds anything, and 1 otherwise.

The DustMite wiki provides a list of useful test scripts.

Finally, we just run DustMite with that test command.

% dustmite testdir 'dmd test.d 2>&1 | grep -q "undefined identifier
None => Yes
############### ITERATION 0 ################
[  0.0%] Remove [] => No
[  1.6%] Remove [0] => No (cached)
[  3.3%] Remove [01] => No
[ 82.4%] Remove [000001] => No (cached)
[ 88.2%] Remove [000000] => No (cached)
[ 94.1%] Remove [0000000] => No (cached)
Done in 36 tests and 10 secs and 165 ms; reduced version is in

And checking testdir.reduced/test.d confirms that the source has been reduced.

% cd testdir.reduced
% cat test.d
void main()

For my project, DustMite took 8 minutes, and reduced roughly 10,000 lines of code down to about 10, and perfectly reproduced the issue. The problem I was having trying to reproduce manually was that the repro required that you pass the files in a specific order to the compiler, and it also required an extra file that seemingly has nothing to do with the issue. I don’t think I would have ever minimized it without DustMite.