I have finally found some time to write a bit about the GCC Developer’s Summit 2008, which happened one month ago in Ottawa, Canada (well, I didn’t really find time, since it’s past 1:30 AM now but still…).
In summary, I had a blast there! I was in last year’s summit and enjoyed it and learned a lot from it. But this time I already knew GDB people and they knew me, and I am involved in a couple of current developments and have more experience with the project, all of which made some difference. And everybody there is very friendly, of course, even if they never heard of you before. In fact, Ian Taylor in his welcome presentation urged people to be friendly to newcomers since GCC and the GNU toolchain need new blood.
There was a good number of GDB-related events: a GDB talk and two debugging information talks, a debug information BoF, an informal GDB get-together and a GDB BoF. Unfortunately I know squat about GCC internals (I intend to learn more about it, but didn’t have a chance yet) so the two debugging information were above my head, and I absorbed little. The GDB talk was interesting but since I follow the GDB mailing lists I already knew most of what was presented.
The debug information BoF was interesting, especially since the discussion didn’t focus so much on the two competing approaches to improve debug information (which was the original point of the BoF), but mostly on what should be expected from debug information generated by GCC (i.e., what a debugger should be able to do with it, especially at higher optimization levels), and how its quality can be tested in the GCC testsuite.
The most interesting events for me were of course the GDB get-together and the GDB BoF. The former was a table reserved for us at lunch one day (thanks for organizing this, Joel Brobecker!) where folks interested in GDB would get to see each other faces and talk about random stuff (GDB-related or not). It was fun, and we were able to throw some ideas around about things such as conversion of the GDB repository from CVS to Subversion, the patch review process, and even about rewriting GDB in C++ (which is a hot thread in the GDB mailing list today!). I have a picture of the event:
If you follow the link you can see the notes with the name of each person in the photo above.
The GDB BoF was very interesting, and it felt weird to be at the front (thanks for inviting me Daniel!) discussing current GDB issues with Daniel Jacobowitz, Tom Tromey, Pedro Alves (the other people at the front) and the other GDB maintainers and developers in the room.
We nailed down some pending issues that were being discussed in the mailing list at the time regarding Python scripting support (man, it’s so much easier to decide things face to face rather than by e-mail!), and also discussed a bit of reversible debugging, multithreading GDB itself, GDB scalability, what to do regarding the next release (in a nutshell: wait about a year from the last release so that all the cool stuff which is being worked on right now gets in and settle down), moving the bugs database from GNATS to bugzilla (thanks for doing this Tromey!) etc.
Also after the BoF Pedro Alves gave a very good improvised tutorial on the GDB event loop which he has been studying for the past few months. It felt like cheating, to get all that knowledge in what, half an hour? Thanks so much Pedro, it was awesome.
And of course all the interaction with the people who were there, like Joel Brobecker (playing tennis is more serious than I thought!), Gaius Mulley (Pink Floyd!), Anmol Paralkar, Ramana Radhakrishnan and many others (I don’t even try to enumerate, just a random sample).
I shared a suite in Ottawa with David Edelsohn and Kenneth Zadeck, which was an interesting thing in itself. Heading back to the hotel felt like going to an extended GCC summit. I almost learned something about GCC internals (SSA, LTO, register allocation) and also had very interesting conversations in general.
And of course my one week of backpacking in Canada after the summit, which was another blast.