Monday, January 31, 2011

"Socialism" is the opposite of Capitalism

Anyone who uses the phrase "socialism" as a slur, or "knows" taxes are destructive to "growth", should be forced to discover how contrary their opinions are to established fact in most other developed countries.

It drives me so mad the hear the talking heads spend so much more time on rhetoric when the answer to their questions are only a plane ride (or an internet click) away.

The fact is I've lived in a number of these places, and seen directly how public policy affects peoples' daily lives; and all the number quoting of right-wing think-tanks doesn't remove the fact that societies that work towards social justice and equality are simply better places to live in all regards.

If the US has been successful at creating a dynamic, competitive economy, it's because of hungry, driven immigrant entrepreneurs; not any of the usual right-wing canards.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

User-space C++ application tracing on Fedora using Systemtap

Ever since DTrace came out I realized how much that was what I really wanted to do whenever my program was doing something other than what I assumed it was doing. "Tracing" -- I want that.

Debugging is fine; but you need to have debug symbols, you need to pick the right spot in the code to break at, you have to keep manual track if you're tracing a long-running execution, and real-time applications may not play nice when paused for arbitrary periods. Often I would want to not follow a thread of execution up and down its call stack -- rather I'd be interested in the "cross-cutting concerns" -- how a certain variable changes over time.

DTrace will never be coming to my favorite platform (GNU/Linux), but there is a similar library called SystemTap for Linux, which has had the Linux kernel instrumented for a while, but just recent has allowed tracing in user-space programs. I think you will need Fedora 14 to run user-space traces; at least that is what I am using. With the appropriate setup you can start tracing your own C++ applications without modifying the source.

SystemTap uses "static" (preprocessor macro-based source code) probes that are compatible with DTrace; so if you decide to mark-up your source with these macros (as Java, Python, MySQL, et al. are) you can use DTrace or SystemTap depending on your platform. These probes are turned into no-ops when not in use, so they are very fast. However the usage that I am interested in is ad-hoc tracing for the purpose of debugging or simple profiling. Thankfully for this case all you need is debug symbols.

Once you have SystemTap installed, and your program compiled with symbols, you can write your custom probes. The syntax of the probes is beyond our scope, but you can read about it here. Instead I will post a simple "hello world" demo as follows:

#include < iostream >
#include < vector >

using namespace std;

namespace Baz
struct Foo
int i; int n; float f;

Foo() : i (0), n (0), f (3.14) {}
Foo(int a, float b) : i (a), n (0), f (b) {}
Foo(Foo const &c) : i (c.i), n (c.n), f (c.f) {}
~Foo() {}

int dolart () { f += i; f /= 3.14; return 0; }
int dofizz (int a) { n = a; i += n; return n; }

int main()
vector < int > test;
vector < Baz::Foo > list;

for (int i=0; i<5; ++i)
test.push_back (i);
list.push_back (Baz::Foo (i, 1.1));

vector < Baz::Foo >::iterator i = list.begin();
vector < Baz::Foo >::iterator e = list.end();

for (int n=0; i != e; ++i)
i->dolart (), i->dofizz (++n);

return 0;

And if we use the following "tapset" on the code

global lart_count
global fizz_count
global push_back_count

probe process("a.out").function("Baz::Foo::do*").return
{ if ($return == 2) printf("Foo returned 2!\n"); }

probe process("a.out").function("Baz::Foo::dolart")
{ ++lart_count; }

probe process("a.out").function("Baz::Foo::dofizz")
{ ++fizz_count; }

probe process("a.out").function("vector < * >::push_back")
{ ++push_back_count; }

probe process("a.out").function("main").return
printf("dolart was called %d times.\n", lart_count);
printf("dofizz was called %d times.\n", fizz_count);
printf("vector::push_back was called %d times.\n", push_back_count);

And run it as follows:

$ g++ -g test.cpp
$ sudo stap probe.stp -c ./a.out

Then we should get the following result:

Foo returned a 2!
dolart was called 5 times.
dofizz was called 5 times.
vector::push_back was called 10 times.

A couple issues I noticed
  • You must run this as root. This is because stap has to compile and load a kernel module that has enormous power to probe your system.
  • Seems to run a bit slow on the simple example. This could be one-time start-up due to compiling a kernel module, or it could be a real-time overhead of not using the cheaper static probes.
  • It seems to spew a lot of strange mangled C++ names for an unknown reason.
  • Constantly respecifying process("a.out") seems redundant. There's probably a way to get around this overhead.