Saturday, February 20, 2010


One of my coworkers has recently reintroduced me to gdb. My previous experience is using it for a couple of fun labs in my junior-level architecture class at BYU. I admit, however, that after these labs I reverted to printfs (and the like) as my preferred debugging tool. Not sophisticated or elegant, but it gets the job done. Most of the time.

There are a lot of useful tools from my architecture class site. The class uses Computer Programming: A Programmer's Perspective as its main text. That book comes with many great resources, including the labs and a student page. One lab uses gdb to determine the inputs for which an unknown program is looking, and another uses it to exploit a buffer overflow bug. Pretty fun.

To get started with gdb, try some of these:

  • gdb program - this starts up gdb
  • set args args - allows you to set arguments for the program
  • r - runs the program in gdb
  • bt - prints out a stack trace from the current program location
  • print variable - print out the contents of a given variable or memory location
  • up # - move up the call stack
  • down # - move down the call stack

Of course, there is much more to gdb. A good place to look for additional information is GDB's website or its wikipedia article. To learn gdb, I suggest going to my architecture class' book's student page. It has links for tutorials and reference cards. It points to some high-quality resources compiled by Norman Matloff (professor at UC Davis whom I have never met but seems like an awesome guy).

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