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Entry  25 Nov 2004, chris pearson, Forum, use of assert in mhttpd 
    Reply  14 Dec 2004, Konstantin Olchanski, Forum, use of assert in mhttpd 
Message ID: 177     Entry time: 14 Dec 2004     In reply to: 176
Author: Konstantin Olchanski 
Topic: Forum 
Subject: use of assert in mhttpd 
>    We've had mhttpd aborting regularly since upgrading from midas-1.9.3.  This
> happens during elog queries, and is due to an elog file that was incorrectly
> modified by hand.

(sorry for delayed reply, for reasons unknown, I did not get an email notice when this was posted)

Yes, I agree, error handling in midas elog code is insufficient (note missing error checks for
read() and lseek() system calls). Anything but "perfect" elog files would cause funny errors and

>  The modification to the file occurred 6 months ago.
>    el_retrieve(midas.c:15683) now has several assert statements, one of which
> aborts the program on reading the bad entry.

I added those to fix problems with "broken last NN days" and with infinite looping in the elog code
that we observed in TWIST.

You are welcome to replace the assert() statements with proper error handling. I used to have some code
that could report the filename of the bad elog file. Can we also report the exact file location for broken

Please send me the diff, I will commit it to midas cvs.

>    Why is assert used, instead of an error return from the function (if
> necessary), and maybe an error message in the log file?  Assert statements are
> often removed, using NDEBUG, for normal use.

I use assert() in several ways:

0) I want a core dump each time X happens. (This is the only reasonable action when facing memory/stack
corruption. The problems in the elog code were stack corruption).
1) "I am too lazy to write proper error handling code" so I just crash and burn. This includes the
case where "proper error handling" would be "too invasive".
2) the error is too bad (or too deep) and there is no reasonable way to recover. Print an error message
and dump core (for later analysis). I sometimes use "cm_msg(); abort()". (assert is "printf("error"); abort()")

Please refer to literature for philosophic discussions on uses of assert() (Argh! Stefan will have my
head again!), but I will mention that "abort() early, abort() often" I find very effective. BTW, this technique
is heavily used in the Linux kernel (oops(), bug(), panic()) with some good effect, too.

>    The problem elog entry had one character removed, so end-of-file came before
> the end of the message.  This could probably occur without the file being
> altered, if the disk containing the elog fills.

Yes, I think you are right. In TWIST, we have seen disk-full conditions break both elog and history.

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