July 31, 2017
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Linters in the modern sense generally refer to programs which check code for potential errors (or even just style errors) in a static context (without running the code). Potential such errors might include syntactic errors, “variables being used before being set, division by zero, conditions that are constant, and calculations whose result is likely to be outside the range of values representable in the type used.” [Wikipedia]
The name comes from a program called Lint that performed this function for C code, but has since become a more general term.
Linting can be helpful for debugging interpreted languages like Python, since they don’t have a compilation phase where things like syntactic errors would be caught.
July 18, 2017
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In software testing, differential testing is the method of giving semantically identical input to multiple different implementations of the same program and looking for where, if at any point, these implementations differ in output. Such a difference would obviously indicate a problem in one or more of the implementations.
As with any testing method that uses a select few inputs out of an often infinite input space, there are various ways of selecting which inputs to use, each with their advantages and disadvantages. One can select inputs completely randomly — known as unguided testing — or use techniques such as evolutionary guidance to make the selection of inputs more likely to detect possible bugs.