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Core dumps in Fedora

This post will demonstrate a way of obtaining and examining a core dump on Fedora Linux.

A Core file is a snapshot of working memory of some process. Normally there’s not much use for such a thing, but when it comes to debugging software it’s more than useful. Especially for those hard-to-reproduce random bugs. When your program crashes in such a way, it might be your only source of information, since the problem doesn’t need to come up in the next million executions of your application.

The thing is, creation of core dumps is disabled by default in Fedora, which is fine since the user doesn’t want to have some magic file spawned in his home folder every time an app goes down. But we’re here to fix stuff, so how do you turn it on? Well, there’s couple of thing that might prevent the cores to appear.

Correct Permissions

First, make sure that the program has writing permission for the directory it resides in. The core files are created in the directory of the executable. From my experience, core dump creation doesn’t work on programs executed from NTFS drives mounted through ntfs3g.

ulimit

This is the place where the core dump creation is disabled. You can see for yourself by using the ulimit command in bash:

astro@desktop:~$ ulimit -a
core file size (blocks, -c) 0
data seg size (kbytes, -d) unlimited
scheduling priority (-e) 0
file size (blocks, -f) unlimited
pending signals (-i) 15976
max locked memory (kbytes, -l) 64
max memory size (kbytes, -m) unlimited
open files (-n) 1024
pipe size (512 bytes, -p) 8
POSIX message queues (bytes, -q) 819200
real-time priority (-r) 0
stack size (kbytes, -s) 8192
cpu time (seconds, -t) unlimited
max user processes (-u)
1024 virtual memory (kbytes, -v) unlimited
file locks (-x) unlimited

To enable core dumps set some reasonable size for core files. I usually opt for unlimited, since disk space is not an issue for me:

ulimit -c unlimited

This setting is local only for the current shell though. To keep this settings, you need to put the above line into your ~/.bashrc or (which is cleaner) adjust the limits in /etc/security/limits.conf .

3. Ruling out ABRT

In Fedora, cores are sent to the Automatic Bug Reporting Tool – ABRT. So they can be posted to the RedHat bugzilla to the developers to analyse. The kernel is configured so that all core dumps are pipelined right to abrt. This is set in /proc/sys/kernel/core_pattern . My settings look like this

|/usr/libexec/abrt-hook-ccpp %s %c %p %u %g %t %h %e 636f726500

That means, that all core files are passed to the standard input of abrt-hook-ccpp. Change this settings simply to “core” i.e.:

core

Then the core files will be stored in the same directory as the executable and will be called core.PID.

4. Send Right Signals

Not every process termination leads to dumping core. Keep in mind, that core file will be created only if the process receives this signals: - SIGSEGV - SIGFPE - SIGABRT - SIGILL - SIGQUIT

Example program

Here’s a series of steps to test whether your configuration is valid and the cores will appear where they should. You can use this simple program to test it:

/* Print PID and loop. */

#include <stdio.h>
#include <unistd.h>

void infinite_loop(void)
{
    while(1);
}

int main(void)
{
    printf("PID: %d\n", getpid());
    fflush(stdout);

    infinite_loop();

    return 0;
}

Compile the source, run the program and send a signal like following to get a memory dump:

gcc infinite.c
astro@desktop:~$ ./a.out &
[1] 19233
PID: 19233
astro@desktop:~$ kill -SEGV 19233
[1]+ Segmentation fault (core dumped) ./a.out
astro@desktop:~$ ls core* core.19233

Analysing Core Files

If you already have a core, you can open it using GNU Debugger (gdb). For instance, to open the core file, that was created earlier in this post and displaying a backtrace, do the following:

astro@desktop:~$ gdb a.out core.19233
GNU gdb (GDB) Fedora (7.3.1-47.fc15)
Copyright (C) 2011 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
Reading symbols from /home/astro/a.out...(no debugging symbols found)...done.
[New LWP 19233]
Core was generated by `./a.out'.
Program terminated with signal 11, Segmentation fault.
#0 0x08048447 in infinite\_loop ()
Missing separate debuginfos, use: debuginfo-install glibc-2.14.1-5.i686
(gdb) bt
#0 0x08048447 in infinite\_loop()
#1 0x0804847a in main () (gdb)

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