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Defensive Programming and Exceptions
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  1. Defensive Programming and Exceptions How to Design Error Steady Code Ivaylo Bratoev Telerik Corporation www.telerik.com

  2. Defensive Programming Using Assertions and Exceptions Correctly

  3. Protecting from invalid input • “Garbage in, garbage out.” – NO! • Garbage in - nothing out, error message out or no garbage allowed in • Check the values of all data from external sources (a user, a file, internet, etc.)

  4. Protecting from invalid input • Check method preconditions – parameters, object state • Check method postconditions – what is guaranteed to the caller string Substring(string str, int startIndex, int length) { REQUIRE(str != NULL); REQUIRE(startIndex >= str.Length); REQUIRE(startIndex + count > str.Lenght); string result = … ENSURE(result.Length == length); } preconditions main logic postconditions.

  5. Assertions • A statement placed in a program to indicate that must always be true at that place • Failed assertion indicates a fatal error in the program (usually unrecoverable) • Assertions should fail loud void GetAvarageStudentGrade() { Debug.Assert(studentGrades.Count > 0, “student grades are not initialized”); return studentGrades.Avarage(); }

  6. Assertions • Assertions are used during development , they are removed during production compilation • Use assertions for conditions that should never occur • Avoid putting executable code in assertions • Won’t be compiled in production. Better: assert PerformAction() : “Couldn't perform action” bool actionedPerformed = PerformAction(); assert actionedPerformed : “Couldn't perform action”

  7. Assertions • Use assertions to document preconditions and postconditions that must be true • For highly robust code, assert, and then handle the error anyway • Assertions check for bugs in code private Student GetRegisteredStudent(int id) { Debug.Assert(id > 0); Student student = registeredStudents[id]; Debug.Assert(student.IsRegistered); }

  8. Error Handling Techniques • How do you handle errors that you do expect to occur? • Depends on the situation. Examples: • Return a neutral value • Return the same answer as the previous time • Log a warning message to a file • Return an error code • Call an error processing method/object • Display an error message • Shutdown

  9. Robustness vs. Correctness • How will you handle error while calculating single pixel color in a computer game? • How will you handle error while calculating single pixel color in a X-Ray software? • Correctness - never returning an inaccurate result. • Robustness - always trying to do something that will allow the software to keep running.

  10. Error handling strategy • Choose your error handling strategy and follow it consistently • Strongly consider using exceptions

  11. Exceptions • Exceptions are a specific means by which code can pass along errors or exceptional events to the code that called it. • Methods throw exceptions: public void ReadInput(string input) { if(input == null) { throw new ArgumentNullException(“input”); } }

  12. Exceptions • Use try-catch block to handle exceptions: void playNextTurn() { try { … readInput(input); … } catch(ArgumentNullException e) { console.printLine(“Hello from catch!”); } } Exception thrown here Code here won’t be executed

  13. Exceptions • Use finally to execute code even if exception occurs (not supported in C++): • Perfect place to perform cleanup for any resources allocated in the try block. void playNextTurn() { try { … readInput(input); … } finally { console.printLine(“Hello from finally!”); } } Exception thrown here Code here is always executed

  14. Exceptions • Use exceptions to notify other parts of the program about errors that should not be ignored • Throw an exception only for conditions that are truly exceptional • Should I throw an exception when checking for user name and password? • Don’t use exceptions as control flow mechanisms

  15. Exceptions • Throw exceptions at the right level of abstraction class Employee { … public TaxId getTaxId() throws EOFException { … } } class Employee { … public TaxId getTaxId() throws EmployeeDataNotAvailable { … } }

  16. Exceptions • Use descriptive error messages • Incorrect example: • Example: • Avoid empty catch blocks throw new Exception("Error!"); throw new ArgumentException("The speed should be a number " + "between " + MIN_SPEED + " and " + MAX_SPEED + "."); try { … // lots of code … } catch(Exception ex){ }

  17. Exceptions • Always include the exception cause when throwing a new exception try { WithdrawMoney(account, amount); } catch (DatabaseException dbex) { throw new WithdrawException(String.Format( "Can not withdraw the amount {0} from acoount {1}", amount, account), dbex); } We include in the exceptions chain the original source of the problem.

  18. Exceptions • Catch only exceptions that you are capable to process correctly • Do not catch all exceptions • Incorrect example: • What about OutOfMemoryException? try { ReadSomeFile(); } catch { Console.WriteLine("File not found!"); }

  19. Exceptions • Have an exception handling strategy for unexpected/unhandled exception: • Consider logging (log4net, log4j, log4cplus). • Display to the end users only messages that they could understand or

  20. Assertions vs Exceptions • Exceptions are announcements about error condition or unusual event • Inform the caller about error or exceptional event • Can be caught and application can continue working • Assertions are fatal errors • Assertions always indicate bugs in the code • Can not be caught and processed • Application can’t continue in case of failed assertion • When in doubt – throw exception

  21. Assertions vs Exceptions string Substring(string str, int startIndex, int length) { if (str == null) { throw new NullReferenceException("Str is null."); } if (startIndex >= str.Length) { throw new ArgumentException( "Invalid startIndex:" + startIndex); } if (startIndex + count > str.Length) { throw new ArgumentException("Invalid length:" + length); } … Debug.Assert(result.Length == length); } Check the input and preconditions. Perform the method main logic. Check the postconditions.

  22. Error Barricades • Barricade your program to contain the damage caused by errors • Behind the barricade is “safe” area - data is valid • Validate data crossing the boundary • Consider same approach for class design • Public methods validate the data • Private methods assume the data is safe • Consider using exceptions for public methods and assertions for private

  23. Debugging Aids • Don’t automatically apply production constraints to the development version • Be willing to trade speed and resource usage during development • Introduce debugging aids early • Make errors obvious during development • Asserts should abort the program • Unhandled exceptions should not be hidden • Plan for removing debugging aids

  24. Being Defensive About Defensive Programming • How much defensive programming to leave in production code • Remove code that results in hard crashes • Leave in code that checks for important errors • Log errors for your technical support personnel • See that the error messages you leave in are friendly • Too much defensive programming is not good – strive for balance

  25. Defensive Programming ? Questions? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? http://academy.telerik.com