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Debugging Kernel Problems

Intended Audience

Kernel developers and experienced system adminstrators. The tutorial assumes a good working knowledge of UNIX systems administration and the C programming language. A knowledge of kernel internals will be helpful, but is not essential. Depending on prior experience, participants will learn to locate and either fix or report kernel bugs.

Description

This tutorial will show debugging techniques on live systems. The operating system for most of the tutorial will be FreeBSD, but it will explain the (relatively small) differences in NetBSD and OpenBSD. The course material, over 100 pages long, is a draft of a forthcoming book on the subject.

Topics

  • How and why kernels fail.
  • Understanding log files: dmesg, /var/log/messages.
  • Using common tools for debugging a running system: ps, netstat, top.
  • Building a kernel with debugging support: the options.
  • Preparing for dumps: dumpon, savecore.
  • Demonstration: panicing and dumping a system.
  • Preliminary dump analysis (non-technical, without sources).
  • The assembler-level view of a C program.
  • Introduction to the kernel source tree.
  • Analysing panic dumps with gdb (technical).
  • On-line kernel debuggers: ddb, gdb.
  • Remote debugging with gdb, using serial lines, Ethernet and FireWire.
  • Debugging a running system with gdb.
  • If time permits, a demonstration of some of these topics on NetBSD and OpenBSD systems.

speaker: Greg Lehey

location: Simard 422

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