Memory Debugging Tools
The gdb debugger has been extended with new commands that make it easier to track down and fix excessive memory usage within programs and libraries.
This functionality was created by Fedora contributor David Malcolm, and we believe it is unique to Fedora.
- Name: Dave Malcolm
- Email: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Targeted release: Fedora 14
- Last updated: 2010-09-15
- Percentage of completion: 95%
- C++ support ought to work, but I disabled it (in 0.5) due to a gdb bug; need to doublecheck status of that, and if it's fixed to re-enable it
- I need to blog about this and write better docs
DONE: Preparing upstream project for initial launch: https://fedorahosted.org/gdb-heap/
Initial version of code uploaded
The new "gdb-heap" package adds a new "heap" command to /usr/bin/gdb.
The command allows you to get a breakdown of how that process is using dynamic memory.
It allows for unplanned memory usage debugging: if a process unexpectedly starts using large amounts of memory you can attach to it with gdb, and use the heap command to figure out where the memory is going. You should also be able to use it on core dumps.
We believe this approach is entirely new, and is unique to Fedora 14.
Benefit to Fedora
This feature could be of great use to developers and system administrators: it provides a new way of analyzing how a process uses memory, without requiring advance planning.
It is unique to Fedora (it makes heavy use of the gdb/python integration we have in Fedora), and was developed by a Fedora contributor (who is a Red Hat engineer).
Code is isolated, as an extension to gdb, written in Python.
- I'm tracking development of the code in the upstream tracker here:
- Package the code in RPM form, add it to Fedora
- Ensure that it's available without the user needing excessive configuration; ideally, if the rpm is installed, then you get the command automagically
- Add it to comps so that it's suggested for installed by default if gdb is installed.
How To Test
No special hardware is needed.
You will need to install the gdb-heap package (not yet packaged)
- Pick a process on your system (either as root, or one of your own processes)
- Use "gdb attach PID" to connect to it
python import heapto register the "heap" command
- Use the "heap" command and its various subcommands (as described on the upstream website)
- Ensure that all results look correct, and that there are no Python tracebacks within gdb.
Ideally the amount of "uncategorized" data should not be a substantial proportion of the overall size of the dynamically-allocated memory; if it is, then that may be a bug.
Ideally the command should not take too long to run. The more blocks of memory that are "live" within a process, the longer it will take to analyze the usage. Crude timings suggest it can analyze about 5000 allocations per second, so if you have a process with 300,000 allocations, it could take a minute to analyze them.
Having attached to a process with gdb:
[david@fedora-14] $ gdb attach $(pidof -x name-of-program)
you should be able to use the "heap" command to get a breakdown of how that process is using memory:
(gdb) heap Category Count Allocated size --------------------------------- ----- -------------- PyDictEntry table 129 522,640 python str 3,903 300,016 python tuple 1,419 112,464 uncategorized data (4128 bytes) 19 78,432 python dict 238 68,544 python wrapper_descriptor 828 66,240 uncategorized data (592 bytes) 90 53,280 string data 41 46,336 python code 360 43,200 python function 347 41,640 python builtin_function_or_method 355 25,560 (snipped)
There are numerous subcommands. heap is integrated into gdb's tab-completion, so that you can see the available commands with the TAB key:
(gdb) heap [TAB pressed] all diff label log sizes used
The precise subcommands are still in flux. Refer to the upstream documentation for more information.
There's a baseline of functionality that I'm developing on top of Fedora 13's gdb.
The gdb-heap code peeks around inside the internals of the glibc heap implementation, violating encapsulation (rather by definition for a debugger), so if that changes, corresponding changes will need to be made to gdb-heap.
Some features require additional work in gdb, which I've filed RFE bugs for. Naturally this will require coordination with gdb to ensure that they land in Fedora 14:
- RHBZ #610241: RFE: please expose "info symbol ADDRESS" in the python API
- RHBZ #610249: RFE: notification about changes in the inferior process
None necessary, simply remove the package
- See above, and at the project's website.
- The gdb debugger has been extended with new commands that make it easier to track down and fix excessive memory usage within programs and libraries. This functionality was created by Fedora contributor David Malcolm, and we believe it is unique to Fedora 14.