Using ccspy for C/C++ Project Setup

Analyzing C/C++ projects with Sonargraph is always a bit more difficult due to the huge variety of different compilers and environments. We recently added a new import wizard that should simplify the process.

For a successful analysis of a C/C++ projects Sonargraph must be able to emulate the compiler you are using and also needs to know which source files are part of the project and the compiler options used for each source file, mostly the -I options for include directories and the -D options which influence conditional compilation.

The first part is solved by a so called “compiler definition”. Sonargraph comes with predefined compiler definitions depending on your platform. If your compiler is not among them you can always create a new compiler definition (menu File / New / Configuration). You can also manage your compiler definitions in the Sonargraph preferences. The main job of a compiler definition is to define the location of implicit include directories (for standard headers like stdio.h) and to define all predefined macros of your compiler platform.

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Discovering Software Rot

Since I have seen some announcements about talks targeting the German Corona Warn App, I was interested to see, what kind of information I could extract with Sonargraph.

The project is still pretty young, but maybe, there is already some structural erosion happening? (Spoiler: There is!)

This blog post is about the setup of the analysis-pipeline consisting of Sonargraph-Build and Sonargraph-Enterprise that allowed me to analyse 24 versions (1.4.0 to 2.9.0) of the CWA-Server project and investigate metric trends.

The execution is implemented in Java and published as a new repo “Sonargraph-Build Batch“. If anybody is interested in analyzing past versions of a project with Sonargraph, “Sonargraph-Build Batch” can serve as a starting point.

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Recently Added Usability Improvements

During the last months we released a couple of major features in Sonargraph that allowed easier interaction like the ‘Architectural View’ and improved the interpretation of results like the ‘System Diff’, ‘Quality Gates’ or ‘Issue Ranking’.  We have described the power of these features in individual blog posts.

Some implemented improvements are less obvious, but nevertheless can have a big impact while working with Sonargraph.

This blog post highlights four hidden gems that the casual Sonargraph user might not know about:

  1. Improved issue to resolution matching
  2. Filtering in tables
  3. Visualizing cycle croups in Exploration view
  4. Passing selection between Sonargraph and Eclipse IDE
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Identify the Most Relevant Issues to Fix

Using Sonargraph to analyse a large code base usually reveals a lot of issues. The “System Diff” helps to keep the quality level by highlighting new and worsened issues as described in a previous blog post. But up to now there has been no recommendation about which of the already existing issues should be fixed first.
The new “Ranking” view available in Sonargraph 11.5 does exactly that and this blog post describes how it works.

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Motivation for Code Quality

The main idea behind Sonargraph has always been to provide a tool that eases the creation and maintenance of high-quality software. For any serious project that must live longer than a couple of months, it is actually cheaper to spend a part of your resources to keep your software constantly at a good level of quality than using all your time to create new features. Martin Fowler explains this very well in his article “Is High Quality Worth the Cost?”. The bottom line is, that apart from the very early development stages, high-quality software is actually cheaper to develop, because it allows adding new features at almost constant speed, whereas it becomes more and more time consuming to add new features into a code base with low quality. According to our experience the most successful teams spend about 15% to 20% of their time on code hygiene.

We at hello2morrow believe that a consistent architecture is a fundamental part of software quality. When we use the term “architecture”, we think of it in terms of the IEEE 1471 standard:

“The fundamental organization of a system embodied in its components, their relationships to each other, and to the environment, and the principles guiding its design and evolution.”

This blog post describes why architectural design as an activity is needed, why conformance checks need to be done automatically by a tool and how Sonargraph supports you as a developer and architect during these activities.

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Efficiently Track the Quality of a Code Base

Sonargraph offers a wide range of checks for different aspects of software quality: Architecture, metric thresholds, cyclic dependencies, duplicate code, etc.
When Sonargraph gets introduced for software projects that have been developed a couple of years, chances are high that hundred’s of issues are reported. But getting flooded with issues and sifting through them at regular intervals is neither efficient nor really helpful. Instead, you want to get a quick overview whether or not the quality is going into the right direction.

And this is where quality gates come into the game: they allow focussing on the information important to you.

This blog post details how this functionality is implemented in Sonargraph.

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Visualizing an Architecture Aspect as a UML Component Diagram

Sonargraph’s domain specific language (DSL) to describe architecture aspects is very powerful. An architecture aspect consists at least of 1 top-level architecture file that has been added to the architecture configuration and is checked automatically. Such a top-level architecture file can include other architecture files reusing common definitions. With our latest release (11.4.0) we complemented the strictly text based representation of architecture aspects with a UML component generator.

A generated UML component diagram complements in several ways our text based architecture aspects:

  • It is a commonly accepted form of communicating architecture definitions
  • It shows the resulting architecture aspect event if it is spread over several files in 1 diagram
  • It can be used to cross-check the underlying text based architecture aspect (i.e. are the resulting restrictions the intended ones?)
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Analyzing Software with Advanced Visualizations

I thought I’d use our new 3D city view visualizations to have a closer look at Apache-Cassandra, a very popular and successful open source project that implements a NoSql database. I know from previous analysis runs of the same software that it already had problems with structural erosion. Years ago I analyzed Cassandra 1.2.6 and found pretty big cycle groups for Java files as well as for packages. Maintainability Level was only 9.4% (everything under 50% is concerning) while the metric “Propagation Cost” has a value of 62%. That means that every change will affect 62% of all code directly or indirectly which also is not a good thing because it significantly increases the chance of regression bugs.

477 Java files form a beautiful big ball of mud in Cassandra 1.2.6

Before you say “this image is useless, you cannot see anything there” let me tell you that I agree. The point is to make sure that your software never ends up in that situation. This big cyclic conglomeration is making it close to impossible to modularize Cassandra or to put any kind of architectural model on top of it.

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Design Architecture Improvements using Sonargraph’s Architectural View

In the last couple of months we added support for the interactive modeling of architectural aspects in Sonargraph. Whilst our architecture DSL is tremendously powerful, there are situations where the new interactive modeling via the Architectural view is more appealing.

The Architectural view is is ideal for exploring architecture, designing architectural aspects and simulation of code refactorings on existing (even unfamiliar) code bases. Its power is derived from the unique combination of code exploration, architecture definition, simulation of code refactorings and visual feedback of architectural issues in real time.

For this blog post I chose FreeMind as example project, a freely available software written in Java offering a user interface based on Swing/AWT. The hypothetical task at hand is to see what needs to be done to implement another user interface based on let’s say SWT. The author of that popular free mind-mapping software probably never envisioned this requirement, but we have all seen frameworks come and go, so this is not a far-fetched requirement and is obviously not limited to SWT. I picked the software solely as an example to demonstrate how Sonargraph’s Architectural view helps to prepare the existing code base for such a task.

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