[lldb-dev] [LLVMdev] Runtime introspection of "Release Mode" programs using LLVM or LLDB

Greg Clayton gclayton at apple.com
Mon Nov 3 09:54:13 PST 2014

> On Nov 3, 2014, at 7:19 AM, Jonathan Roelofs <jonathan at codesourcery.com> wrote:
> On 10/29/14 7:54 PM, Kenneth Camann wrote:
>> Hi everyone,
>> I'm working on a library for runtime introspection of C++ programs, for
>> example, getting stack traces, decorating logs with source file
>> information, etc. It currently uses LLVMObject and LLVMDebugInfo.
>> There's a feature I want to add, but it requires that I understand where on
>> the stack local variables are located.
>> For this to work on x86-64, I would need to do whole "virtual unwinding"
>> thing, i.e., create a library that can understand the DWARF call frame
>> information. This is something that I do not want to do myself, because I
>> would never have the resources to maintain it. LLVM and or LLDB must have
>> code for doing this already though.
> You can probably find what you need in libunwind/libcxxabi. See: http://mentorembedded.github.io/cxx-abi/abi-eh.html
> Cheers,
> Jon
>> In fact, since this sort of dynamic inspection is kind of like debugging, I
>> originally thought LLDB would work better in the first place. I actually
>> tried early on to use LLDB, but I gave up quickly. The API seems to be
>> designed so that you must always attach one process to another, using an
>> operating system facility like ptrace.

Yes, the LLDB API is currently very debug centric and we haven't spent any time trying to allow simple process inspection.

>> That is not really compatible with the idea of the program inspecting
>> _itself_, although I think there is definitely a place for that, e.g.
>> portable stack traces, source info without the need for __FILE__ and
>> __LINE__ boilerplate, etc.

Once inspection is in LLDB, it should be able to inspect itself as well as any other process.

>> Does LLDB support anything like this, and I just didn't find it?

LLDB is a debugger first and foremost and there has be zero time invested in trying to make it inspect processes. 

>> Or going
>> another route, is there any plan for the DWARF classes in LLVMDebugInfo to
>> ever support APIs for understanding the call frame info?
>> If neither, any advice on what I should do?

So important questions is: do you only want to read DWARF unwind info?

If the answer is yes, you can modify the DWARF classes in LLVMDebugInfo. But one thing that LLDB API does do is it abstracts you from the debug info and runtime info. One example is the compact unwind info in MacOSX and iOS binaries. It replaces 99% of the EH frame info from the .eh_frame section, or .debug_frame which for most compilers is just an exact copy of the .eh_frame. 

Exposing the unwind info isn't currently done, but wouldn't be hard to do as we internally have that information, it just isn't exposed via the public API.

So a few things to stress:
1 - I would love to have a process view mode in LLDB where we don't attach for debugging
2 - We can and should expose unwind info in an agnostic way that doesn't limit itself to just one format

If you end up thinking of working on LLDB, let me know and we can help guide your work and monitor your progress, we all will be happy to help.


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