This is a follow-up question from an attendee of a recent TDD for Embedded C++ training course.
What exactly is a person’s responsibility for unit testing when they go into existing untested code?
Like all good questions in software development, the answer is “it depends”.
Maybe you read Part 1 of this article. If you did you’ll know it concerns adding tests to legacy code (legacy code is code without tests). You will also know that the code has file scope functions and data that we want to test directly.
My opinion on accessing private parts of well designed code, is that you do not need to. You can test well design code through its public interface. Take it as a sign that the design is deteriorating when you cannot find a way to fully test a module through its public interface.
Part 1 showed how to
#include the code under test in the test file to gain access to the private parts, a pragmatic thing to do when wrestling untested code into a test harness. This article shows another technique that may have an advantage for you over the technique shown in Part 1. Including the code under test in a test case can only be done once in a test build. What if you need access to the hidden parts in two test cases? You can’t. That causes multiple definition errors at link time.
This article shows how to create a test access adapter to overcome that problem.
And a Happy Leap Year Bug
It’s a new year; last year was a leap year; so the quadrennial reports of leap year bugs are coming in. Apologies are in the press from Apple, TomTom, and Microsoft. Trains we stopped from running in China. Somehow calling them glitches seems to make it someone else’s fault, something out of their control. How long have leap years been around? Julius Caesar introduced Leap Years in the Roman empire over 2000 years ago. The Gregorian calendar has been around since 1682. This is not a new idea, or a new bug.
I’m going to try to take one excuse away from the programmers that create these bugs by answering a question that comes up all the time, “How do I test static functions in my C code?”
I’m in agreement with Robert Glass when he says “100% test coverage is insufficient. 35% of the faults are missing logic paths.” It’s not controversial, but I’d like to give my perspective on it.
If you have an automated unit test suite, low code coverage is an indication that you need more tests. Unfortunately, high code coverage does not tell you if you have enough tests or the right tests. Adding to Robert Glass’ observation, executed code is not necessarily tested code. Imagine a test case that runs through many lines of code, but never checks that they are doing the right thing. At best this is the “I don’t have any bad pointers” test.
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.
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
My last article featured a hand crafted a spy to monitor
asm directives. Now let’s use CppUMock (the mock support companion CppUTest) to create a mock version of
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.
In Jeff Langr’s blog, Jeff responded to an assertion (from someone Jeff calls Schmoo) that writing tests after developing a unit of production code takes less time than using TDD to create production code and its tests. For starters, I am happy the discussion is about when to write the unit tests and not if.
I think a model would help us talk about this issue. It would be great to have some real numbers in the model; that will be hard. But for starters let’s look at a model. Maybe then someone can figure out how to put some numbers to the model.
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.