Hiding Non-standard C Keywords for Off-Target Testing

Some silicon vendors extend the C language so the programmers can easily interact with the silicon. Using these extensions tie production code to the silicon vendors compiler and consequently the code can only run on the target system. This is not a problem during production, but is a problem for off-target unit testing.

The good news is that we may be able to get around this problem without having to change production code, one of our goals when adding tests to legacy code.
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#include Test Double

It’s day one of adding tests to your legacy C code. You get stopped dead when the compiler announces that the code you are coaxing into the test harness can’t be compiled on this machine. You are stuck on the Make it compile step of Crash to Pass.

Moving your embedded legacy C code (embedded C code without tests) into a test harness can be a challenge. The legacy C code is likely to be tightly bound to the target processor. This might not be a problem for production, but for off-target unit testing, it is a big problem.

For C we have a limited mechanisms for breaking dependencies. In my book, I describe at length link-time and function pointer substitutions, but only touch on preprocessor stubbing.

In this article we’ll look at #include Test-Double as a way to break dependencies on a problem #include file.

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Spying on Embedded ‘asm’ directives

Sometimes embedded developers have to use inline assembler instructions to get better control of the processor, or to improve performance. How should we deal with those when we’re doing TDD and testing off the target?

What’s the problem? The embedded asm statements cause compilation errors if the assembler instructions are not part of the off-target test platform instruction set. Also some of the instructions might not be legal in the test environment. This article shows how to insert a test double for the asm directives with gcc and CppUTest.

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Legacy Code Change – a Boy Scout Adds Tests

Here is a legacy code change policy for a team adopting TDD that has a legacy code base:

  • Test-drive new code
  • Add tests to legacy code before modification
  • Test-drive changes to legacy code

Refactoring without tests is dangerous; with all the details we must keep straight, a mistake is easy to make. How many code reviews have you been in where the recommended design changes are not made because “we already tested it”? You avoid the change because it’s dangerous to change code without tests. So, the Boy Scout adds tests too. For more on Boy Scouts, see previous post.

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Crashing Your Way to Great Legacy C Tests

Adding tests to legacy C or C++ code can be a challenge. Code not designed to be tested won’t naturally be testable. Dependencies will be unmanaged and invisible. Getting that first test written will hurt, a lot. Don’t despair! The first test is the hardest, but subsequent tests are much easier.

Knowing what to do and what to expect, when you start adding tests to your legacy code, can ease the journey. This article will give you an idea of what to expect when getting that first bit of C or C++ into the test harness.
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