[svlug] Where do I start debugging core dumps?

Robert Freiberger rfreiberger at gmail.com
Thu Nov 1 12:10:44 PST 2012

Thank you everyone for the help!

I'm going to read up more about the tools and seems like I also need to
know how to dig further in the logs. The problem I see is at work, they use
custom kernels and apps, so often it's a more difficult process to search
for the issue in house. Also found a book, which seems like it's covering
the majority of debugging.


Something I'm also working on is making core dumps. I tried the C example
in the e-mail thread provided which made a core file in /tmp. Then I
followed the other instructions which helped me get a basic strace of the
faulty C app.

This really helps me get started and I hope to continue, I assume the more
complex the application, the more information left in the core dump from

Also I heard that crash is better tool to use than gdb? I rather get used
to the default set of tools that I find on most machines, not something I
would have to install.


On Wed, Oct 31, 2012 at 9:56 PM, Akkana Peck <akkana at shallowsky.com> wrote:

> Dan Mashal writes:
> > Don't try to debug core dumps unless you are deving.
> I strongly disagree. If you have a program that's crashing
> repeatedly, you can help the developers a lot by filing a bug
> and including a stack trace of where it's crashing. It may be
> a crash that they can't reproduce, so without your stack trace
> it'll be impossible for anyone to fix it. You can even read it
> yourself, without being a programmer -- the important thing is
> ** Don't Panic **.
> (I'm assuming here we're actually talking about core dumps. As
> Marco mentioned, a kernel crash is a different thing, but that
> doesn't leave a core file and isn't debugged with gdb.)
> If you find a core file sitting in a directory and aren't sure
> where it came from, you can find out with the "file" command.
> For instance, I seem to have one in my home directory right now:
> $ file core
> core: ELF 32-bit LSB core file Intel 80386, version 1 (SYSV), SVR4-style,
> from 'xchat'
> Now that I know it's from xchat, I can find out where xchat is:
> $ which xchat
> /usr/bin/xchat
> and then I can use gdb to get a stack trace:
> $ gdb /usr/bin/xchat core
> GNU gdb (Ubuntu/Linaro 7.4-2012.04-0ubuntu2) 7.4-2012.04
>   ... (lots more boring startup chatter edited out) ...
> Core was generated by `xchat'.
> Program terminated with signal 11, Segmentation fault.
> #0  0xb35ba3a5 in _gperl_remove_mg () from /usr/lib/perl5/auto/Glib/Glib.so
> (gdb) where
> #0  0xb35ba3a5 in _gperl_remove_mg () from /usr/lib/perl5/auto/Glib/Glib.so
> #1  0xb35ba46f in ?? () from /usr/lib/perl5/auto/Glib/Glib.so
> #2  0xb6d72cf3 in g_datalist_clear () from
> /lib/i386-linux-gnu/libglib-2.0.so.0
> #3  0xb718ec8e in ?? () from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgobject-2.0.so.0
> #4  0xb74918c4 in ?? () from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgtk-x11-2.0.so.0
> #5  0xb75a4777 in ?? () from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgtk-x11-2.0.so.0
> #6  0xb73eab34 in ?? () from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgtk-x11-2.0.so.0
> #7  0xb779ec27 in ?? () from /usr/lib/libsexy.so.2
> #8  0xb718f288 in g_object_unref ()
>    from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgobject-2.0.so.0
> #9  0xb71905cf in g_object_run_dispose ()
>    from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgobject-2.0.so.0
> #10 0xb749272e in gtk_object_destroy ()
>    from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgtk-x11-2.0.so.0
> #11 0xb739c36b in ?? () from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgtk-x11-2.0.so.0
> #12 0xb73d7837 in gtk_container_foreach ()
>    from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgtk-x11-2.0.so.0
> #13 0xb73d89fe in ?? () from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgtk-x11-2.0.so.0
> #14 0xb718c1ec in g_cclosure_marshal_VOID__VOID ()
>    from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgobject-2.0.so.0
> #15 0xb71892fd in ?? () from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgobject-2.0.so.0
> #16 0xb718a3d2 in g_closure_invoke ()
>    from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgobject-2.0.so.0
> #17 0xb719bfa3 in ?? () from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgobject-2.0.so.0
> #18 0xb71a42dc in g_signal_emit_valist ()
>    from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgobject-2.0.so.0
> #19 0xb71a4453 in g_signal_emit ()   from
> /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgobject-2.0.so.0
> #20 0xb7491981 in ?? () from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgtk-x11-2.0.so.0
> #21 0xb75a7e34 in ?? () from /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libgtk-x11-2.0.so.0
> #22 0xb71905c7 in g_object_run_dispose ()
> ---Type <return> to continue, or q <return> to quit---
> Now, this may not mean much to you, and it's true that unless you're
> an xchat (or glib or gobject) developer, you still won't know why
> it's crashing.
> But that's okay! Don't panic! Because this is still a perfectly
> good stack trace that you can paste into a bug report ... and then
> someone who IS a developer might be able to look at it and say "Oh!
> That place where we're calling _gperl_remove_mg() from
> g_datalist_clear() -- look, we're not checking the return value to
> make sure it succeeded!" (Or whatever.)
> The important thing is that you type "where" in response to the gdb
> prompt to get a stack trace. (When you're done, "quit" quits gdb.)
> If you want to learn to read stack traces yourself, "Don't panic"
> applies again. It looks like gobbledygook but you can usually figure
> some things out.  The first line in the stack trace is the place
> where the crash actually occurred. The second line is the place that
> called that, and so forth up the chain. In this case, I don't know
> much about xchat code but it looks pretty clear that it's crashing
> because of something to do with perl ... xchat isn't written in perl
> but some of its plug-ins are, so it's probably something to do with
> a plug-in. So I've already learned quite a bit, without knowing
> anything about xchat's code or eve having the source code on my system.
> I have a talk on this, "Bug Fixing for Everybody (even if you're
> not a programmer!)" that I gave at a couple of conferences several
> years ago.  I'd be happy to present it at SVLUG some time if there
> are enough people interested.
>         ...Akkana
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Robert Freiberger
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