: Embedded Linux Primer: A Practical, Real-World Approach

13.5.2. Examining Debug Info Using readelf

13.5.2. Examining Debug Info Using readelf

One of the more useful features of readelf is to display the debug information contained in an ELF file. When the -g compiler flag is issued during a compilation, the compiler generates debug information in a series of sections within the resulting ELF file. We can use readelf to display these ELF section headers within the ELF file:

$ ppc-linux-readelf -S ex_sync | grep debug
[28] .debug_aranges PROGBITS 00000000 000c38 0000b8 00 0 0 8
[29] .debug_pubnames PROGBITS 00000000 000cf0 00007a 00 0 0 1
[30] .debug_info PROGBITS 00000000 000d6a 00079b 00 0 0 1
[31] .debug_abbrev PROGBITS 00000000 001505 000207 00 0 0 1
[32] .debug_line PROGBITS 00000000 00170c 000354 00 0 0 1
[33] .debug_frame PROGBITS 00000000 001a60 000080 00 0 0 4
[34] .debug_str PROGBITS 00000000 001ae0 00014d 00 0 0 1

Using readelf with the --debug-dump option, we can display the contents of any one of these .debug_* sections. You will see how this information can be useful in Chapter 14, "Kernel Debugging Techniques," when we discuss the challenge of debugging optimized kernel code.

Debug information can be very large. Displaying all the debug information in the Linux kernel ELF file vmlinux produces more than six million lines of output. However daunting it might appear, having at least a familiarity with debug information will make you a better embedded engineer.

Listing 13-16 is a partial listing of the contents of the .debug_info section from a small example application. For space considerations, we have shown only a few records.

Listing 13-16. Partial Debug Info Dump

$ ppc-linux-readelf -debug-dump=info ex_sync
1 The section .debug_info contains:
2
3 Compilation Unit @ 0:
4 Length: 109
5 Version: 2
6 Abbrev Offset: 0
7 Pointer Size: 4
8 <0><b>: Abbrev Number: 1 (DW_TAG_compile_unit)
9 DW_AT_stmt_list : 0
10 DW_AT_low_pc : 0x10000368
11 DW_AT_high_pc : 0x1000038c
12 DW_AT_name :
../sysdeps/powerpc/powerpc32/elf/start.S
13 DW_AT_comp_dir : /var/tmp/BUILD/glibc-2.3.3/csu
14 DW_AT_producer : GNU AS 2.15.94
15 DW_AT_language : 32769 (MIPS assembler)
...
394 <1><5a1>: Abbrev Number: 14 (DW_TAG_subprogram)
395 DW_AT_sibling : <5fa>
396 DW_AT_external : 1
397 DW_AT_name : main
398 DW_AT_decl_file : 1
399 DW_AT_decl_line : 9
400 DW_AT_prototyped : 1
401 DW_AT_type : <248>
402 DW_AT_low_pc : 0x100004b8
403 DW_AT_high_pc : 0x10000570
404 DW_AT_frame_base : 1 byte block: 6f (DW_OP_reg31)
...
423 <2><5e9>: Abbrev Number: 16 (DW_TAG_variable)
424 DW_AT_name : mybuf
425 DW_AT_decl_file : 1
426 DW_AT_decl_line : 11
427 DW_AT_type : <600>
428 DW_AT_location : 2 byte block: 91 20 (DW_OP_fbreg: 32)
...

The first record identified by the Dwarf2[87] tag DW_TAG_compile_unit identifies the first compilation unit of this PowerPC executable. It is a file called start.S, which provides startup prologue for a C program. The next record identified by DW_TAG_subprogram identifies the start of the user program, the familiar function main(). This Dwarf2 debug record contains a reference to the file and line number where main() is found. The final record in Listing 13-16 identifies a local variable in the main() routine called mybuf. Again, the line number and file are provided by this record. You can deduce from this information that main() is at line 9, and mybuf is at line 11 of the source file. Other debug records in the ELF file correlate the filename via the Dwarf2 DW_AT_decl_file attribute.

You can discover all the details of the Dwarf2 debug information format via the reference given in Section 13.7.1 at the end of this chapter.


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