Debugging Simics -- on Simics


I often write and talk about how useful Simics is for debugging concurrency bugs and glitches in multithreaded and multicore systems. Recently, we had a case where we proved this on a very complex application, namely Simics itself. This nicely demonstrated both the recursive completeness of Simics, and its usefulness for conquering tricky bugs in complex software.

The beginning of this story is a bug in Simics, triggered by a certain Simics configuration. The Simics target is a Power Architecture machine, running some bare-metal test code testing the processor simulation. Occasionally, this setup would crash Simics, due to some bug in Simics or the models. It was a difficult bug to track down, as it only happened in one run out of 50 or so. When attaching a debugger to try to diagnose it, it invariably did not happen (a classic Heisenbug).

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