Run, break, study, re-run, dump. The 3G from GNU tool chain is here to make your life easier.

While gorging down your favorite snack, what tells your hands to stop before you die from overeating? Well thanks to our operating systems, we never need to check over our process queue to ensure everything is working smooth.

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So does this box thingy in our hands also needs a check over it’s workflow?

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Just a screenshot of my dramatic phone’s log file.

What stops them from *dying* from overeating? While diagnosing disorders in us doesn’t require anatomizing ourselves, in the IT world there are tools that can be used to troubleshoot or “Look What’s Inside?” any operating system and how process communication work.

*enter stage The 3G. Here’s a short bio for each:

gcc : the GNU project C and C++ compiler. Involves preprocessing, compilation, assembly and linking.
gdb : the GNU Debugger. Allows you to see what happens “inside” a program when it executes.
gcov : the GNU coverage testing tool. Helps you to discover untested parts of your code, helps you to analyze the number of times every line of your code is executed.

To know more about each of them, open your terminal, type man followed by any of them.

To investigate their business and their roles in systems development, we will now create a tiny subsystem of 2 processes communicating with each other.

I will summon the powers of IPC and SIGNALs to help me make them talk.

A brief little map of how I established communication:

  • Neighbour1 creates a shared memory segment and *invites* anyone willing to share the place with him(I have used ftok() to create the key, shmget() to get the memory, shmat() to attach a pointer which will point to the process id).
  • Neighbour2, knowing the address of neighbour1’s house, decides to live with him(I have used shmget() to get the memory of the previous process, shmat() to attach pointer to the previous process id, shmdt() to detach the pointer).

Read more about process communication and signal handling.

These are the neighbours we’ll be studying today. One annoys, while the other tries to calm things down and provides the user with 3 options:

The nextdoor neighbour annoys me. What should I do to him? Kidnap, kill or let him go?

Neighbour 1(annoying infinite looped process disturbing neighbour 2):

neighbour1.c

Neighbour 2(resolves by sending signals to neighbour 1):

neighbour2.c

Compile both the processes using gcc. Although, we will use different flags for each.
For process 1, we will analyze code coverage using gcov. Compile using:

$gcc -Wall -fprofile-arcs -ftest-coverage neighboour1.c -o neighbour1

For process 2, we will experiment and try changing the user input data in the course of execution process using gdb.(Wait. Is that possible?) Compile using:

$gcc -g neighbour2.c -o neighbour2

Alright! Now that our mini ecosystem is created, we employ the 3G to analyse what’s going on. Execute them to make them talk. You can either execute them in 2 different windows, or use the following to send neighbour1 to background and execute them simultaneously:

$./neighbour1 & ./neighbour2

Both of them should work. Now, what will a normal user do to a process annoying him? Kill? Kidnap? Let’s see:

user sending kidnap or kill instruction.

So we see process 2 ended up killing process 1. Although just before getting killed neighbour 1 dumped his execution logs. Let’s analyze that. Remember gcov? Next step:

$gcov neighbour1File 'neighbour1.c'
Lines executed:55.10% of 49
Creating 'neighbour1.c.gcov'
$cat neighbour1.c.gcov

What you now see is the number of times each line of code is executed/checked. Here’s a snippet for you to relate:

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neighbour1.c.gcov

Owkay..time for repentance. Now it’s time to employ gdb . Did you notice that the user opted to spare the life of his fellow neighbour.

Can’t he be let go once? A second chance? Why so cruel?

Suppose the user has the evil intention to always kidnap or kill or send corrupted data. So…can you check on the input data and change it while it gets executed? Of course input data is received, there shouldn’t be any way you can change values of variables while they’re still inside your process memory? However gdbcan do it for you! Here’s how:

code injection with gdb to change value of variables
  • Invoke debugging using gdb ./neighbour2 . Now we create 2 *stops* in the program where we can examine the value of the variables. Create breakpoints at the declaration and at the calling of find() .
  • Use command list or lto view the line numbers and break <line number> or b <line number>to set the breakpoints.
  • Now use run or rto start execution inside the debugger. The process will ask for an input as usual, enter a choice(This is the value we will attempt in changing).
  • When it reaches it’s 1st breakpoint, examine all the local variables using info locals . After that, enter continueto reach the next breakpoint.
Breakpoint 2, main (argc=1, argv=0x7fffffffddc8)
at neighbour2.c:67
67 i=find(randv, randt);
(gdb)info locals
pid = 8623
keygen = 1929685536
shmid = 20774943
shmptr = 0x7ffff7ff6000
i = 21845
randt = 2
randv = 0x555555757260
(gdb)continue
Continuing.
  • At the next breakpoint(which will be at the defination of find()), we examine the values again to ensure the input value(which is key=2 in our case)has been passed correctly. As the variables here are not local, we use info args :
Breakpoint 1, find (tree=0x555555757260, key=2)
at neighbour2.c:33
33 if (! tree)
(gdb) info args
tree = 0x555555757260
key = 2

Cool. So… neighbour1 is about to get killed. Can we save him?

  • We now attempt in changing the value of key. Follow:
(gdb) compile code key=3;
(gdb) continue
Continuing.
Breakpoint 1, find (tree=0x5555557572c0, key=3)
at neighbour2.c:33
33 if (! tree)
(gdb) info args
tree = 0x5555557572c0
key = 3
(gdb) continue
Continuing.

Welps! Using compile code we were successful to change the value of the input data. Guess who just got saved?

Sent SIGUSR2 signal to neighbour. Neighbour 8623 is spared

So there you go! Today we learnt how to analyze inter-process communication(and even change the messages) with the help of The 3G. Legends say that 3G is always around you. They're just a few commands away. Give them a call whenever you need ❤.
If you’re interested in further reading, these are some nice starting points:

Developer Student Club, HIT

Developer Student Clubs HIT, powered by Google Developers…

Divya Rachel Goswami

Written by

I read and write but never execute. A CS undergrad in cool pajamas. More active on twitter @rachejazz

Developer Student Club, HIT

Developer Student Clubs HIT, powered by Google Developers, is a non-profit community that seeks to inspire inquisitive minds in the field of technology. DSC provides opportunities where Developers, Designers, and Managers collaborate to build fun and socially-impactful projects.

Divya Rachel Goswami

Written by

I read and write but never execute. A CS undergrad in cool pajamas. More active on twitter @rachejazz

Developer Student Club, HIT

Developer Student Clubs HIT, powered by Google Developers, is a non-profit community that seeks to inspire inquisitive minds in the field of technology. DSC provides opportunities where Developers, Designers, and Managers collaborate to build fun and socially-impactful projects.

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