Making debugger in Golang (part II)

Michał Łowicki
Jul 3, 2017 · 5 min read

During the first part we’ve bootstrapped development environment and made a simple program (tracer) which stops child process (tracee) at the very beginning and then continues it execution together with showing its standard output. Now it’s time to extend its basic capabilities.

Usually debuggers allow to single-step through debugged program. It can be done using ptrace PTRACE_SINGLESTEP request which tells tracee to stop after execution of single instruction:

package mainimport (
"flag"
"log"
"os"
"os/exec"
"syscall"
)
func main() {
flag.Parse()
input := flag.Arg(0)
cmd := exec.Command(input)
cmd.Args = []string{input}
cmd.Stdout = os.Stdout
cmd.Stderr = os.Stderr
cmd.SysProcAttr = &syscall.SysProcAttr{Ptrace: true}
err := cmd.Start()
if err != nil {
log.Fatal(err)
}
err = cmd.Wait()
log.Printf("State: %v\n", err)
wpid := cmd.Process.Pid
pgid, err := syscall.Getpgid(cmd.Process.Pid)
if err != nil {
log.Panic(err)
}
err = syscall.PtraceSetOptions(cmd.Process.Pid, syscall.PTRACE_O_TRACECLONE)
if err != nil {
log.Fatal(err)
}
err = syscall.PtraceSingleStep(wpid)
if err != nil {
log.Fatal(err)
}
steps := 1
for {
var ws syscall.WaitStatus
wpid, err = syscall.Wait4(-1*pgid, &ws, syscall.WALL, nil)
if wpid == -1 {
log.Fatal(err)
}
if wpid == cmd.Process.Pid && ws.Exited() {
break
}
if !ws.Exited() {
err := syscall.PtraceSingleStep(wpid)
if err != nil {
log.Fatal(err)
}
steps += 1
}
}
log.Printf("Steps: %d\n", steps)
}

Building and output looks like this (number of steps can vary between each calls):

> go install -gcflags="-N -l" github.com/mlowicki/hello
> go install github.com/mlowicki/debugger
> debugger /go/bin/hello
2017/06/09 19:54:42 State: stop signal: trace/breakpoint trap
hello world
2017/06/09 19:54:49 Steps: 297583

First part is the same as in our initial program from previous post. What is new is the use of syscall.PtraceSingleStep. It stops tracee (hello in our case) after execution of single instruction.

Option PTRACE_O_TRACECLONE has been also set:

PTRACE_O_TRACECLONE (since Linux 2.5.46)
Stop the tracee at the next clone(2) and automatically start tracing the newly cloned process...

(http://man7.org/linux/man-pages/man2/ptrace.2.html)

Thanks to that our debugger knows when new thread has been started and can step through it as well so the number of steps at the very end is a sum of executed instructions across all processes.

Number of instructions may seem pretty huge but it contains among others initialization of the whole Golang runtime (libc initialization should be known to those with C experience). We can prepare very simple program to check that our counting works fine. Let’s create src/github.com/mlowicki/hello/hello.asm:

section .data
msg db "hello, world!", 0xA
len equ $ — msg
section .text
global _start
_start:
mov rax, 1 ; write syscall (https://linux.die.net/man/2/write)
mov rdi, 1 ; stdout
mov rsi, msg
mov rdx, len
; Passing parameters to `syscall` instruction described in
; https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/X86_Assembly/Interfacing_with_Linux#syscall
syscall
mov rax, 60 ; exit syscall (https://linux.die.net/man/2/exit)
mov rdi, 0 ; exit code
syscall

Inside the container let’s build our “hello world” program and see how many instructions we’ll count there:

> pwd
/go
> apt-get install nasm
> nasm -f elf64 -o hello.o src/github.com/mlowicki/hello/hello.asm && ld -o hello hello.o
> ./hello
hello, world!
> debugger ./hello
2017/06/17 17:58:43 State: stop signal: trace/breakpoint trap
hello, world!
2017/06/17 17:58:43 Steps: 8

It looks good since we get the exact number of instructions inside hello.asm.

So far we’ve learned how to stop the program at the very beginning, step through it instruction by instruction and track its processes / threads. Now it’s time to set trap at desired place and inspect state of the process like variable values.

Let’s start with some basics. We have a function main from our hello.go:

package mainimport "fmt"func main() {
fmt.Println("hello world")
}

How to set a trap at the beginning of this function? Ultimately our program after compilation and linking is a set of machine instructions. How to express that we want to set a breakpoint at particular place in the source code having only cooked binary (stuffed with instructions only CPUs understand)?

LineTable

Golang has built-in support to access debug information contained in Go binaries. The struct which maps program counter (PC) to line number and vice versa is called LineTable. Let’s see it in action:

package mainimport (
"debug/elf"
"debug/gosym"
"flag"
"log"
)
func main() {
flag.Parse()
path := flag.Arg(0)
exe, err := elf.Open(path)
if err != nil {
log.Fatal(err)
}
var pclndat []byte
if sec := exe.Section(".gopclntab"); sec != nil {
pclndat, err = sec.Data()
if err != nil {
log.Fatalf("Cannot read .gopclntab section: %v", err)
}
}
sec := exe.Section(".gosymtab")
symTabRaw, err := sec.Data()
pcln := gosym.NewLineTable(pclndat, exe.Section(".text").Addr)
symTab, err := gosym.NewTable(symTabRaw, pcln)
if err != nil {
log.Fatal("Cannot create symbol table: %v", err)
}
sym := symTab.LookupFunc("main.main")
filename, lineno, _ := symTab.PCToLine(sym.Entry)
log.Printf("filename: %v\n", filename)
log.Printf("lineno: %v\n", lineno)
}

If we pass as an argument to above program something like:

1 package main
2
3 import "fmt"
4
5 func main() {
6 fmt.Println("hello world")
7 }

then it gives expected result:

> go install github.com/mlowicki/linetable
> go install — gcflags=”-N -l” github.com/mlowicki/hello
> linetable /go/bin/hello
2017/06/30 18:47:38 filename: /go/src/github.com/mlowicki/hello/hello.go
2017/06/30 18:47:38 lineno: 5

ELF stands for Executable and Linkable Format. It’s among others a format of executables:

> apt-get install file
> file /go/bin/hello
/go/bin/hello: ELF 64-bit LSB executable, x86-64, version 1 (SYSV), statically linked, not stripped

ELF file consists of sections and we’re using three of them: .text, .gopclntab and .gosymtab. The first one contains machine instructions, 2nd one maps instruction counter to source code lines and the last one is a symbol table.


In following story we’ll learn how to set a trap at desired place to make more practical use of LineTable and will see how to inspect program’s state.

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golangspec

A series dedicated to deeply understand Go’s specification and language’s nuances

Michał Łowicki

Written by

Software engineering manager at Facebook, previously Opera, never satisfied.

golangspec

A series dedicated to deeply understand Go’s specification and language’s nuances

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