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Debugging C++ with less pain

by Leandro Lucarella on 2010- 05- 14 23:52 (updated on 2010- 05- 14 23:52)
tagged c++, debug, en, gdb, python, stl - with 0 comment(s)

It turns out GDB 7.0+ can be extended through Python scripts, for instance, to add pretty-printers. And it turns out GCC 4.5 comes with some good pretty-printers for GDB.

Do you want to see the result of that combination?

$ cat -n p.cpp
     2  #include <string>
     3  #include <vector>
     4  #include <map>
     6  int main()
     7  {
     8          std::string s = "hello world";
     9          std::vector<std::string> v;
    10          v.push_back(s);
    11          v.push_back("nice");
    12          std::map<std::string, std::vector<std::string> > m;
    13          m[s] = v;
    14          v.push_back("yeah");
    15          m["lala"] = v;
    16          return 1;
    17  }
$ g++ -g -o p p.cpp
$ gdb -q ./p
(gdb) break 16
Breakpoint 1 at 0x400f86: file p.cpp, line 16.
(gdb) run
Starting program: /tmp/p

Breakpoint 1, main () at p.cpp:16
16              return 1;
(gdb) print m
$1 = std::map with 2 elements = {
  ["hello world"] = std::vector of length 2, capacity 2 = {"hello world", "nice"},
  ["lala"] = std::vector of length 3, capacity 3 = {"hello world", "nice", "yeah"}

Nice, ugh?

The only missing step is configuration, because most distribution don't do the integration themselves yet (or don't have packages with the scripts).

Here are 3 quick steps to make it all work:

$ mkdir ~/.gdb # can be stored anywhere really
$ svn co svn:// ~/.gdb/python
$ cat << EOT > ~/.gdbinit
import sys
sys.path.insert(0, '/home/$HOME/.gdb/python')
from libstdcxx.v6.printers import register_libstdcxx_printers
register_libstdcxx_printers (None)

That's it!

If like to suffer once in a while you can get the raw values using /r:

(gdb) print /r m
$2 = {_M_t = {
    _M_impl = {<std::allocator<std::_Rb_tree_node<std::pair<std::basic_string<char, std::char_traits<char>,
std::allocator<char> > const, std::vector<std::basic_string<char, std::char_traits<char>, std::allocator<char> >,
std::allocator<std::basic_string<char, std::char_traits<char>, std::allocator<char> > > > > > >> =
{<__gnu_cxx::new_allocator<std::_Rb_tree_node<std::pair<std::basic_string<char, std::char_traits<char>, std::allocator<char>
> const, std::vector<std::basic_string<char, std::char_traits<char>, std::allocator<char> >,
std::allocator<std::basic_string<char, std::char_traits<char>, std::allocator<char> > > > > > >> = {<No data fields>}, <No
data fields>},
      _M_key_compare = {<std::binary_function<std::basic_string<char, std::char_traits<char>, std::allocator<char> >,
std::basic_string<char, std::char_traits<char>, std::allocator<char> >, bool>> = {<No data fields>}, <No data fields>},
_M_header = {
        _M_color = std::_S_red, _M_parent = 0x6070b0, _M_left = 0x6070b0,
        _M_right = 0x607190}, _M_node_count = 2}}}

Looks more familiar? I guess you won't miss it! =P

Life in hell

by Leandro Lucarella on 2009- 09- 06 21:24 (updated on 2009- 09- 06 21:24)
tagged asm, benchmark, d, debug, dgc, dgcbench, dil, en, gc, gdb, naive, statistics - with 0 comment(s)


Long post ahead =)

As I said before, debug is hell in D, at least if you're using a compiler that doesn't write proper debug information and you're writing a garbage collector. But you have to do it when things go wrong. And things usually go wrong.

This is a small chronicle about how I managed to debug a weird problem =)

I had my Naive GC working and getting good stats with some small micro-benchmarks, so I said let's benchmark something real. There is almost no real D applications out there, suitable for an automated GC benchmark at least [1]. Dil looked like a good candidate so I said let's use Dil in the benchmark suite!.

And I did. But Dil didn't work as I expected. Even when running it without arguments, in which case a nice help message like this should be displayed:

dil v1.000
Copyright (c) 2007-2008 by Aziz Köksal. Licensed under the GPL3.

  help (?)
  compile (c)
  ddoc (d)
  highlight (hl)
  importgraph (igraph)
  python (py)
  settings (set)
  statistics (stats)
  tokenize (tok)
  translate (trans)

Type 'dil help <subcommand>' for more help on a particular subcommand.

Compiled with Digital Mars D v1.041 on Sat Aug 29 18:04:34 2009.

I got this instead:

Generate an XML or HTML document from a D source file.
  dil gen file.d [Options]

  --syntax         : generate tags for the syntax tree
  --xml            : use XML format (default)
  --html           : use HTML format

  dil gen Parser.d --html --syntax > Parser.html

Which it isn't even a valid Dil command (it looks like a dead string in some data/lang_??.d files).

I ran Valgrind on it and detected a suspicious invalid read of size 4 when reading the last byte of a 13 bytes long class instance. I thought maybe the compiler was assuming the GC allocated block with size multiples of the word size, so I made gc_malloc() allocate multiples of the word size, but nothing happened. Then I thought that maybe the memory blocks should be aligned to a multiple of a word, so I made gc_malloc() align the data portion of the cell to a multiple of a word, but nothing.

Since Valgrind only detected that problem, which was at the static constructor of the module, I though it might be a Tango bug, so I reported it. But it wasn't Tango's fault. The invalid read looked like a DMD 1.042 bug; DMD 1.041 didn't have that problem, but my collector still failed to run Dil. So I was back to zero.

I tried the Tango stub collector and it worked, so I tried mine disabling the collections, and it worked too. So finally I could narrow the problem to the collection phase (which isn't much, but it's something). The first thing I could think it could be wrong in a collection is that cells still in use are swept as if they were unused, so I then disabled the sweep phase only, and it kept working.

So, everything pointer to prematurely freed cells. But why my collector was freeing cells prematurely being so, so simple? I reviewed the code a couple of times and couldn't find anything evidently wrong. To confirm my theory and with the hope of getting some extra info, I decided to write a weird pattern in the swept cells and then check if that pattern was intact when giving them back to the mutator (the basic GC can do that too if compiled with -debug=MEMSTOMP). That would confirm that the swept memory were still in use. And it did.

The I tried this modified GC with memory stomp with my micro-benchmarks and they worked just fine, so I started to doubt again that it was my GC's problem. But since those benchmarks didn't use much of the GC API, I thought maybe Dil was using some strange features of making some assumptions that were only true for the current implementation, so I asked Aziz Köksal (Dil creator) and he pointed me to some portion of code that allocated memory from the C heap, overriding the operators new and delete for the Token struct. There is a bug in Dil there, because apparently that struct store pointers to the GC heap but it's not registered as a root, so it looks like a good candidate.

So I commented out the overridden new and delete operators, so the regular GC-based operators were used. But I still got nothing, the wrong help message were printed again. Then I saw that Dil was manually freeing memory using delete. So I decided to make my gc_free() implementation a NOP to let the GC take over of all memory management... And finally all [2] worked out fine! =)

So, the problem should be either my gc_free() implementation (which is really simple) or a Dil bug.

In order to get some extra information on where the problem is, I changed the Cell.alloc() implementation to use mmap to allocate whole pages, one for the cell's header, and one or more for the cell data. This way, could easily mprotect the cell data when the cell was swept (and un-mprotecting them when they were give back to the program) in order to make Dil segfault exactly where the freed memory was used.

I ran Dil using strace and this is what happened:

 (a)  write(1, "Cell.alloc(80)\n", 15)        = 15
 (b)  mmap2(NULL, 8192, PROT_READ|PROT_WRITE, ...) = 0xb7a2e000
 (c)  mprotect(0xb7911000, 4096, PROT_NONE)   = 0
      mprotect(0xb7913000, 4096, PROT_NONE)   = 0
      mprotect(0xb7a2b000, 4096, PROT_NONE)   = 0
      mprotect(0xb7a2d000, 4096, PROT_NONE)   = 0
 (d)  mprotect(0xb7a2f000, 4096, PROT_NONE)   = 0
      mprotect(0xb7a43000, 4096, PROT_NONE)   = 0
      mprotect(0xb7a3d000, 4096, PROT_NONE)   = 0
      mprotect(0xb7a6b000, 4096, PROT_NONE)   = 0
 (e)  mprotect(0xb7a73000, 4096, PROT_NONE)   = 0
 (f)  mprotect(0xb7a73000, 4096, PROT_READ|PROT_WRITE) = 0
      mprotect(0xb7a6b000, 4096, PROT_READ|PROT_WRITE) = 0
      mprotect(0xb7a3f000, 4096, PROT_READ|PROT_WRITE) = 0
 (g)  mprotect(0xb7a3d000, 4096, PROT_READ|PROT_WRITE) = 0
      --- SIGSEGV (Segmentation fault) @ 0 (0) ---
      +++ killed by SIGSEGV (core dumped) +++

(a) is a debug print, showing the size of the gc_malloc() call that got the address 0xb7a2e000. The mmap (b) is 8192 bytes in size because I allocate a page for the cell header (for internal GC information) and another separated page for the data (so I can only mprotect the data page and keep the header page read/write); that allocation asked for a new fresh couple of pages to the OS (that's why you see a mmap).

From (c) to (e) you can see a sequence of several mprotect, that are cells being swept by a collection (protecting the cells against read/write so if the mutator tries to touch them, a SIGSEGV is on the way).

From (f) to (g) you can see another sequence of mprotect, this time giving the mutator permission to touch that pages, so that's gc_malloc() recycling the recently swept cells.

(d) shows the cell allocated in (a) being swept. Why the address is not the same (this time is 0xb7a2f000 instead of 0xb7a2e000)? Because, as you remember, the first page is used for the cell header, so the data should be at 0xb7a2e000 + 4096, which is exactly 0xb7a2f000, the start of the memory block that the sweep phase (and gc_free() for that matter) was protecting.

Finally we see the program getting his nice SIGSEGV and dumping a nice little core for touching what it shouldn't.

Then I opened the core with GDB and did something like this [3]:

Program terminated with signal 11, Segmentation fault.
(a)  #0  0x08079a96 in getDispatchFunction ()
     (gdb) print $pc
(b)  $1 = (void (*)()) 0x8079a96 <getDispatchFunction+30>
     (gdb) disassemble $pc
     Dump of assembler code for function
     0x08079a78 <getDispatchFunction+0>:  push   %ebp
     0x08079a79 <getDispatchFunction+1>:  mov    %esp,%ebp
     0x08079a7b <getDispatchFunction+3>:  sub    $0x8,%esp
     0x08079a7e <getDispatchFunction+6>:  push   %ebx
     0x08079a7f <getDispatchFunction+7>:  push   %esi
     0x08079a80 <getDispatchFunction+8>:  mov    %eax,-0x4(%ebp)
     0x08079a83 <getDispatchFunction+11>: mov    -0x4(%ebp),%eax
     0x08079a86 <getDispatchFunction+14>: call   0x80bccb4 <objectInvariant>
     0x08079a8b <getDispatchFunction+19>: push   $0xb9
     0x08079a90 <getDispatchFunction+24>: mov    0x8(%ebp),%edx
     0x08079a93 <getDispatchFunction+27>: add    $0xa,%edx
(c)  0x08079a96 <getDispatchFunction+30>: movzwl (%edx),%ecx
     (gdb) print /x $edx
(d)  $2 = 0xb7a2f000

First, in (a), GDB tells where the program received the SIGSEGV. In (b) I print the program counter register to get a more readable hint on where the program segfaulted. It was at getDispatchFunction+30, so I disassemble that function to see that the SIGSEGV was received when doing movzwl (%edx),%ecx (moving the contents of the ECX register to the memory pointed to by the address in the register EDX) at (c). In (d) I get the value of the EDX register, and it's 0xb7a2f000. Do you remember that value? Is the data address for the cell at 0xb7a2e000, the one that was recently swept (and mprotected). That's not good for business.

This is the offending method (at dil/src/ast/Visitor.d):

Node function(Visitor, Node) getDispatchFunction()(Node n)
    return cast(Node function(Visitor, Node))dispatch_vtable[n.kind];

Since I can't get any useful information from GDB (I can't even get a proper backtrace [4]) except for the mangled function name (because the wrong debug information produced by DMD), I had to split that function into smaller functions to confirm that the problem was in n.kind (I guess I could figure that out by eating some more assembly, but I'm not that well trained at eating asm yet =). This means that the Node instance n is the one prematurely freed.

This is particularly weird, because it looks like the node is being swept, not prematurely freed using an explicit delete. So it seems like the GC is missing some roots (or there are non-aligned pointers or weird stuff like that). The fact that this works fine with the Tango basic collector is intriguing too. One thing I can come up with to explain why it works in the basic collector is because it makes a lot less collections than the naive GC (the latter is really lame =). So maybe the rootless object becomes really free before the basic collector has a chance to run a collection and because of that the problem is never detected.

I spent over 10 days now investigating this issue (of course this is not near a full-time job for me so I can only dedicate a couple of days a week to this =), and I still can't find a clear cause for this problem, but I'm a little inclined towards a Dil bug, so I reported one =). So we'll see how this evolves; for now I'll just make gc_free() a NOP to continue my testing...

[1]Please let me know if you have any working, real, Tango-based D application suitable for GC benchmarks (i.e., using the GC and easily scriptable to run it automatically).
[2]all being running Dil without arguments to get the right help message =)
[3]I have shortened the name of the functions because they were huge, cryptic, mangled names =). The real name of getDispatchFunction is _D3dil3ast7Visitor7Visitor25__T19getDispatchFunctionZ19getDispatchFunctionMFC3dil3ast4Node4NodeZPFC3dil3ast7Visitor7VisitorC3dil3ast4Node4NodeZC3dil3ast4Node4Node (is not much better when demangled: class dil.ast.Node.Node function(class dil.ast.Visitor.Visitor, class dil.ast.Node.Node)* dil.ast.Visitor.Visitor.getDispatchFunction!().getDispatchFunction(class dil.ast.Node.Node) =). The real name of objectInvariant is D9invariant12_d_invariantFC6ObjectZv and has no demagled name that I know of, but I guessed is the Object class invariant.

Here is what I get from GDB:

(gdb) bt
#0  0x08079a96 in getDispatchFunction ()
#1  0xb78d5000 in ?? ()
#2  0xb789d000 in ?? ()
Backtrace stopped: previous frame inner to this frame (corrupt stack?)

(function name unmangled and shortened for readbility)

Debug is hell

by Leandro Lucarella on 2009- 05- 04 03:24 (updated on 2009- 05- 04 03:24)
tagged d, debug, dgc, dmd, en, gold, ldc, parental advisory, rant, tango - with 8 comment(s)


Rant ahead.

If Matt Groeing would ever written a garbage collector I'm sure he would made a book in the Life in Hell series called Debug is Hell.

You can't rely on anything: unit tests are useless, they depend on your code to run and you can't get a decent backtrace ever using a debugger (the runtime calls seems to hidden to the debugger). I don't know if the last one is a compiler issue (I'm using DMD right now because my LDC copy broken =( ).

Add that to the fact that GNU Gold doesn't work, DMD doesn't work, Tango doesn't work [*] and LDC doesn't work, and that it's already hard to debug in D because most of the mainstream tools (gdb, binutils, valgrind) don't support the language (can't demangle D symbols for instance) and you end up with a very hostile environment to work with.

Anyway, it was a very unproductive weekend, my statistics gathering code seems to have some nasty bug and I'm not being able to find it.

PS: I want to apologize in advance to the developers of GNU Gold, DMD, Tango and LDC because they make great software, much less crappier than mine (well, to be honest I'm not so sure about DMD ;-P), it's just a bad weekend. Thank you for your hard work, guys =)

[*]Tango trunk is supposed to be broken for Linux