Facebook tool could help devs pinpoint elusive memory leaks

Infer is a free static analysis debugger Facebook has used internally and has now released as open source

Facebook's Infer can highlight errors in the source code of a program, and prompt the developer to fix them.

Facebook's Infer can highlight errors in the source code of a program, and prompt the developer to fix them.

To help developers find hidden errors in their programs, Facebook has released as open source a tool that it uses to debug millions of lines of its own code.

The software, called Infer, could be useful to organizations and individuals building mobile and desktop apps and could use extra help debugging, said Facebook developer Peter O'Hearn, one of the tool's creators.

Infer is a static program analyzer. Static analyzers do not test programs by running them. Instead, they mathematically examine the code for all the possible ways it could run, flagging incorrect or unfinished bits.

Infer is particularly well-suited for applications too large to be understood by any one programmer, O'Hearn said. It separates an application into a set of smaller parts so they can be examined more easily. It also remembers which parts of the application it has already analyzed, and doesn't re-check them unless they have been modified.

Facebook has used Infer to inspect Facebook Messenger and Instagram, as well as its apps for the Android and iOS platforms.

Static analysis tools are not new. Companies such as Coverity, Parasoft, and Black Duck, among others, all offer commercial static analysis debuggers.

Infer's obvious advantage over these products is that it's free. It also is particularly well adapted to sniffing out memory leaks and null pointer access, both of which can be elusive to track down and are a predominant source of app crashes.

The current version can examine code written in C, Objective-C and Java. The Infer team hopes that, by open sourcing the software, others will add support for more languages.

Work on Infer started in Monoidics, which was founded in 2009 and purchased by Facebook in 2013. In addition to O'Hearn, Facebook developers Cristiano Calcagno and Dino Distefano also contributed heavily to Infer.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Development toolsapplication developmentsoftwareFacebook

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?