Evolution is da logic bomb

You know the story. Random crashes preventing you from reading your mail all morning. This time, though, there’s a twist (and a moral).

The twist is that instead of complaining on IRC – ok, I mean in addition to complaining on IRC – I actually ran the crashy bugger through valgrind, much like you would run a zombie head through a blender. Sifting through the resulting goop provided me with enough information to file patches for buffer overrun 1, buffer overrun 2 and bug of the theoretical variety. All three bugs have been around for a really long time (several years).

As for the moral:

1) Valgrind works extremely well these days, even on large and complex programs like Evolution. It is nothing short of a masterpiece. It did not interfere with operation apart from the expected slowdown, and pinpointed the bug I was looking for (and then some) in a matter of minutes. It is highly recommended that programs be valground regularly with a “typical use” regimen, even if they appear to work fine. At the very least, this should be on all maintainers’ pre-release checklists.

2) If you’re a programmer, and a particular program is misbehaving for you, take the time to actually look for the bug. Valgrind makes it easy, and you’ll find trivial bugs even in large and complex programs. So there’s no reason to be intimidated. Even if you can’t immediately say what’s causing the problem, valgrind logs make for valuable bugzilla attachments.

3) Valgrind’s performance isn’t too bad, but it’s still the best excuse today for getting a faster computer. Start using it so you can justify the expense.

4) With a little time investment, Evolution is totally salvageable. If you were thinking of giving up on it, don’t. Version 2.8 has a tri-pane mail view and global search, making it an awesome mailer.

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