Saturday Oct 04, 2008

Apple updates DTrace... again

Back in January, I ranted about Apple's ham-handed breakage in their DTrace port. After some injured feelings and teary embraces, Apple cleaned things up a bit, but some nagging issues remained as I wrote:

For the Apple folks: I'd argue that revealing the name of otherwise untraceable processes is no more transparent than what Activity Monitor provides — could I have that please?

It would be very un-Apple to — you know — communicate future development plans, but in 10.5.5, DTrace has seen another improvement. Previously when using DTrace to observe the system at large, iTunes and other paranoid apps would be hidden; now they're showing up on the radar:

# dtrace -n 'profile-1999{ @[execname] = count(); }'
dtrace: description 'profile-1999' matched 1 probe

  loginwindow                                                       2
  fseventsd                                                         3
  kdcmond                                                           5
  socketfilterfw                                                    5
  distnoted                                                         7
  mds                                                               8
  dtrace                                                           12
  punchin-helper                                                   12
  Dock                                                             20
  Mail                                                             25
  Terminal                                                         26
  SystemUIServer                                                   28
  Finder                                                           42
  Activity Monito                                                  49
  pmTool                                                           67
  WindowServer                                                    184
  iTunes                                                         1482
  kernel_task                                                    4030

And of course, you can use generally available probes to observe only those touchy apps with a predicate:

# dtrace -n 'syscall:::entry/execname == "iTunes"/{ @[probefunc] = count(); }'
dtrace: description 'syscall:::entry' matched 427 probes

  pwrite                                                           13
  read                                                             13
  stat64                                                           13
  open_nocancel                                                    14
  getuid                                                           22
  getdirentries                                                    26
  pread                                                            29
  stat                                                             32
  gettimeofday                                                     34
  open                                                             36
  close                                                            37
  geteuid                                                          65
  getattrlist                                                     199
  munmap                                                          328
  mmap                                                            338

Predictably, the details of iTunes are still obscured:

# dtrace -n pid42896:::entry
dtrace: error on enabled probe ID 225607 (ID 69364: pid42896:libSystem.B.dylib:pthread_mutex_unlock:entry):
  invalid user access in action #1
dtrace: error on enabled probe ID 225546 (ID 69425: pid42896:libSystem.B.dylib:spin_lock:entry):
  invalid user access in action #1
dtrace: 1005103 drops on CPU 1

... which is fine by me; I've got code of my own I should be investigating. While I'm loath to point it out, an astute reader and savvy DTrace user will note that Apple may have left the door open an inch wider than they had anticipated. Anyone care to post some D code that makes use of that inch? I'll post an update as a comment in a week or two if no one sees it.

Update: There were some good ideas in the comments. Here's the start of a script that can let you follow the flow of control of a thread in an "untraceable" process:

#!/usr/sbin/dtrace -s

#pragma D option quiet

	trace("this program is already traceable\\n");

/self->level < 0 || self->level > 40/
	self->level = 0;

	this->p = ((dtrace_state_t \*)arg0)->dts_ecbs[arg1 - 1]->dte_probe;
	this->mod = this->p->dtpr_mod;
	this->func = this->p->dtpr_func;
	this->entry = ("entry" == stringof(this->p->dtpr_name));

	printf("%\*s-> %s:%s\\n", self->level \* 2, "",
	    stringof(this->mod), stringof(this->func));

	printf("%\*s<- %s:%s\\n", self->level \* 2, "",
	    stringof(this->mod), stringof(this->func));

Saturday Jun 07, 2008

Apple updates DTrace

Back in January, I posted about a problem with Apple's port of DTrace to Mac OS X. The heart of the issue is that their port would silently drop data such that certain experiments would be quietly invalid. Unfortunately, most reactions seized on a headline paraphrasing a line of the post — albeit with the critical negation omitted (the subject and language were, perhaps, too baroque to expect the press to read every excruciating word). The good news is that Apple has (quietly) fixed the problem in Mac OS X 10.5.3.

One issue was that timer based probes wouldn't fire if certain applications were actively executing (e.g. iTunes). This was evident both by counting periodic probe firings, and by the absence of certain applications when profiling. Apple chose to solve this problem by allowing the probes to fire while denying any inspection of untraceable processes (and generating a verbose error in that case). This script which should count 1000 firings per virtual CPU gave sporadic results on earlier revisions of Mac OS X 10.5:

	@ = count();


On 10.5.3, the output is exactly what one would expect on a 2-core CPU (1,000 executions per core):

  1  22697                         :tick-1s 

  1  22697                         :tick-1s 

On previous revisions, profiling to see what applications were spending the most time on CPU would silently omit certain applications. Now, while we can't actually peer into those apps, we can infer the presence of stealthy apps when we encounter an error:

	@[execname] = count();

	@["=stealth app="] = count();

Running this DTrace script will generate a lot of errors as we try to evaluate the execname variable for secret applications, but at the end we'll end up with a table like this:

  Adium                                                             1
  GrowlHelperApp                                                    1
  iCal                                                              1
  kdcmond                                                           1
  loginwindow                                                       1
  Mail                                                              2
  Activity Monito                                                   3
  ntpd                                                              3
  pmTool                                                            6
  mlb-nexdef-auto                                                  12
  Terminal                                                         14
  =stealth app=                                                    29
  WindowServer                                                     34
  kernel_task                                                     307
  Safari                                                          571

A big thank you to Apple for making progress on this issue; the situation is now much improved and considerably more palatable. That said, there are a couple of problems. The first is squarely the fault of team DTrace: we should probably have a mode where errors aren't printed particularly if the script is already handling them explicitly using an ERROR probe as in the script above. For the Apple folks: I'd argue that revealing the name of otherwise untraceable processes is no more transparent than what Activity Monitor provides — could I have that please? Also, I'm not sure if this has always been true, but the ustack() action doesn't seem to work from the profile action so simple profiling scripts like this one produce a bunch of errors and no output:

/execname == "Safari"/
	@[ustack()] = count();

But to reiterate: thank you thank you thank you, Steve, James, Tom, and the rest of the DTrace folks at Apple. It's great to see these issues being addressed. The whole DTrace community appreciates it.

Friday Jan 18, 2008

Mac OS X and the missing probes

As has been thoroughly recorded, Apple has included DTrace in Mac OS X. I've been using it as often as I have the opportunity, and it's a joy to be able to use the fruits of our labor on another operating system. But I hit a rather surprising case recently which led me to discover a serious problem with Apple's implementation.

A common trick with DTrace is to use a tick probe to report data periodically. For example, the following script reports the ten most frequently accessed files every 10 seconds:

	@[args[2]->fi_pathname] = count();

	trunc(@, 10);
	trunc(@, 0);

This was running fine, but it seemed as though sometimes (particularly with certain apps in the background) it would occasionally skip one of the ten second iterations. Odd. So I wrote the following script to see what was going on:

	@ = count();


What this will do is fire a probe at 1000hz on all (logical) CPUs. Running this on a dual-core machine we'd expect to see it print out 2000 each time. Instead I saw this:

  0  22369                         :tick-1s 

  0  22369                         :tick-1s 

  0  22369                         :tick-1s 

  0  22369                         :tick-1s 

  0  22369                         :tick-1s 

  0  22369                         :tick-1s 

  0  22369                         :tick-1s 

  0  22369                         :tick-1s 

Kind of bizarre. The missing tick-1s probes explain the values over 2000, but weirder were the values so far under 2000. To explore a bit more I performed another DTrace experiment to see what applications were running when the profile probe fired:

# dtrace -n profile-997'{ @[execname] = count(); }'
dtrace: description 'profile-997' matched 1 probe

  Finder                                                            1
  configd                                                           1
  DirectoryServic                                                   2
  GrowlHelperApp                                                    2
  llipd                                                             2
  launchd                                                           3
  mDNSResponder                                                     3
  fseventsd                                                         4
  mds                                                               4
  lsd                                                               5
  ntpd                                                              6
  kdcmond                                                           7
  SystemUIServer                                                    8
  dtrace                                                            8
  loginwindow                                                       9
  pvsnatd                                                          21
  Dock                                                             41
  Activity Monito                                                  45
  pmTool                                                           52
  Google Notifier                                                  60
  Terminal                                                        153
  WindowServer                                                    238
  Safari                                                         1361
  kernel_task                                                    4247

While there's nothing suspicious about the output in itself, it was strange because I was listening to music at the time. With iTunes. Where was iTunes?
I ran the first experiment again and caused iTunes to do more work which yielded these results:

  0  22369                         :tick-1s 

  0  22369                         :tick-1s 

  0  22369                         :tick-1s 

  0  22369                         :tick-1s 

So what was iTunes doing? To answer that I again turned to DTrace and used the following enabling to see what functions were being called most frequently by iTunes (whose process ID was 332):

# dtrace -n 'pid332:::entry{ @[probefunc] = count(); }'
dtrace: description 'pid332:::entry' matched 264630 probes

I let it run for a while, made iTunes do some work, and the result when I stopped the script? Nothing. The expensive DTrace invocation clearly caused iTunes to do a lot more work, but DTrace was giving me no output.
Which started me thinking... did they? Surely not. They wouldn't disable DTrace for certain applications.

But that's exactly what Apple's done with their DTrace implementation. The notion of true systemic tracing was a bit too egalitarian for their classist sensibilities so they added this glob of lard into dtrace_probe() -- the heart of DTrace:

#if defined(__APPLE__)
         \* If the thread on which this probe has fired belongs to a process marked P_LNOATTACH
         \* then this enabling is not permitted to observe it. Move along, nothing to see here.
        if (ISSET(current_proc()->p_lflag, P_LNOATTACH)) {
#endif /\* __APPLE__ \*/

Wow. So Apple is explicitly preventing DTrace from examining or recording data for processes which don't permit tracing. This is antithetical to the notion of systemic tracing, antithetical to the goals of DTrace, and antithetical to the spirit of open source. I'm sure this was inserted under pressure from ISVs, but that makes the pill no easier to swallow. To say that Apple has crippled DTrace on Mac OS X would be a bit alarmist, but they've certainly undermined its efficacy and, in doing do, unintentionally damaged some of its most basic functionality. To users of Mac OS X and of DTrace: Apple has done a service by porting DTrace, but let's convince them to go one step further and port it properly.

Saturday Oct 27, 2007


It's been more than a year since I first saw DTrace on Mac OS X, and now it's at last generally available to the public. Not only did Apple port DTrace, but they've also included a bunch of USDT providers. Perl, Python, Ruby -- they all ship in Leopard with built-in DTrace probes that allow developers to observe function calls, object allocation, and other points of interest from the perspective of that dynamic language. Apple did make some odd choices (e.g. no Java provider, spurious modifications to the publicly available providers, a different build process), but on the whole it's very impressive.

Perhaps it was too much to hope for, but with Apple's obvious affection for DTrace I thought they might include USDT probes for Safari. Specifically, probes in the JavaScript interpreter would empower developers in the same way they enabled Ruby, Perl, and Python developers. Fortunately, the folks at the Mozilla Foundation have already done the heavy lifting for Firefox -- it was just a matter of compiling Firefox on Mac OS X 10.5 with DTrace enabled:

There were some minor modifications I had to make to the Firefox build process to get everything working, but it wasn't too tricky. I'll try to get a patch submitted this week, and then Firefox will have the same probes on Mac OS X that it does -- thanks to Brendan's early efforts -- on Solaris. JavaScript developers take note: this is good news.


Adam Leventhal, Fishworks engineer


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