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Geodesic Seeks More Linux Believers - page 2

Meeting Geodesic

  • April 10, 2002
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

Linux user Artifact Entertainment has licensed Great Circle and Geodesic Runtime for "Horizons," a forthcoming interactive fantasy game for thousands of simultaneous users.

Another Linux customer, Foveal, is now using Geodesic's tools to help clean up the frame-grabbing software it produces for its multi-camera video system, Auto Auditorium. Foveal's owner, Mike Bianchi, says he learned about Geodesic from a magazine article in January.

"I threw Geodesic at the code. Everything it found was a real bug, and some were bugs that mattered," according to Bianchi.

Bianchi says he previously looked at eFence and Rational's Purify product. "EFence, though, uses a different model. It doesn't have a runtime. Purify is supposed to be good, but it doesn't come in a Linux form. I've been a UNIX programmer since the seventies. It's in my spine."

Other existing Linux debugging tools include Boehm GC, for garbage collection, and Insure++ from Parasoft.

Spertus acknowledges that Geodesics tools won't fix all programming errors. "Geodesic Runtime recognizes common program errors such as memory leaks and buffer overloads, and automatically corrects them as they're running. It's ideal for the systems administrator who doesn't want to get a call at 3 am telling him an application has crashed," he contends.

Great Circles drills down deeper. "When there's an error, most developers would like to go back, see where they are, and clean up their source code. You can give your app to a testing team. While the application is running, they can use Great Circles to go in and look at the source code."

A third tool, Geodesic Analyzer, is available as a free download. "Analyzer monitors the application while it's running, and sees whether the app has any of the types of errors we can help with," according to Spertus.

Launched in 1996 by Spertus and co-founder Charles Fiterman, Chicago-based Geodesic now has about 30 employees. "We were systems programmers, and we wanted to produce powerful tools for writing better applications," Spertus asserts.

Why the company name? At the time, Spertus had recently left a university graduate program in math. "In mathematics, a geodesic line is the shortest path between two points. On a sphere, the geodesic lines form 'great circles,' by the way."

Before co-starting Geodesic, Spertus co-authored a Linux-like OS called Coherent. "Timing is everything in this industry," he recalls. "I wrote a C compiler in conjunction with that which was then sold on the Linux OS."

Geodesic's software could hardly be called inexpensive. Pricing starts at about $300 for a one-year license to $700 for a perpetual license. The tools might not constitute a magic bullet, either.

"The tools could run faster. Also, they identify what the trouble is, but not necessarily the precise spot in the code where the problem is occurring. That'd probably be too good to be true," according to Bianchi.

Still, though, Bianchi is mainly impressed. "Geodesic actually clobbered a memory leak that needed to be fixed for the system to work. You may not see a memory leak unless you run a program for a long time, or unless you look very closely at it. Geodesic also creates a memory model, which is used in the run time," Bianchi says.

"Bugs being social creatures, they tend to accumulate in hives. So Geodesic's tools might find not just a bug that'd stop you right away, but also another bug that'd hit you later," adds the Linux developer.

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