Monthly Aphorism: On Debugging

  • Whenever you find a problem, fix it

Mad Phil taught me an absolutely fundamental rule for debugging electronic gadgets: when you find something unexpected, it’s either:

  • part of the problem you’re trying to solve
  • another problem you haven’t discovered yet

In either case, ignoring evidence that something was just a little off or that you didn’t quite understand or that didn’t seem important was a sure recipe for missing the cause of the problem.

That algorithm could trigger a depth-first search that distracts you from the real problem, which was where Mad Phil’s magic came in: he knew where the problem was and simply carved his way through the underbrush toward it.