Debugging HPX applications#

Using a debugger with HPX applications#

Using a debugger such as gdb with HPX applications is no problem. However, there are some things to keep in mind to make the experience somewhat more productive.

Call stacks in HPX can often be quite unwieldy as the library is heavily templated and the call stacks can be very deep. For this reason it is sometimes a good idea compile HPX in RelWithDebInfo mode, which applies some optimizations but keeps debugging symbols. This can often compress call stacks significantly. On the other hand, stepping through the code can also be more difficult because of statements being reordered and variables being optimized away. Also, note that because HPX implements user-space threads and context switching, call stacks may not always be complete in a debugger.

HPX launches not only worker threads but also a few helper threads. The first thread is the main thread, which typically does no work in an HPX application, except at startup and shutdown. If using the default settings, HPX will spawn six additional threads (used for service thread pools). The first worker thread is usually the eighth thread, and most user codes will be run on these worker threads. The last thread is a helper thread used for HPX shutdown.

Finally, since HPX is a multi-threaded runtime, the following gdb options can be helpful:

set pagination off
set non-stop on

Non-stop mode allows users to have a single thread stop on a breakpoint without stopping all other threads as well.

Using sanitizers with HPX applications#


Not all parts of HPX are sanitizer clean. This means that users may end up with false positives from HPX itself when using sanitizers for their applications.

To use sanitizers with HPX, turn on HPX_WITH_SANITIZERS and turn off HPX_WITH_STACKOVERFLOW_DETECTION during CMake configuration. It’s recommended to also build Boost with the same sanitizers that will be used for HPX. The appropriate sanitizers can then be enabled using CMake by appending -fsanitize=address -fno-omit-frame-pointer to CMAKE_CXX_FLAGS and -fsanitize=address to CMAKE_EXE_LINKER_FLAGS. Replace address with the sanitizer that you want to use.

Debugging applications using core files#

For HPX to generate useful core files, HPX has to be compiled without signal and exception handlers HPX_WITH_DISABLED_SIGNAL_EXCEPTION_HANDLERS:BOOL. If this option is not specified, the signal handlers change the application state. For example, after a segmentation fault the stack trace will show the signal handler. Similarly, unhandled exceptions are also caught by these handlers and the stack trace will not point to the location where the unhandled exception was thrown.

In general, core files are a helpful tool to inspect the state of the application at the moment of the crash (post-mortem debugging), without the need of attaching a debugger beforehand. This approach to debugging is especially useful if the error cannot be reliably reproduced, as only a single crashed application run is required to gain potentially helpful information like a stacktrace.

To debug with core files, the operating system first has to be told to actually write them. On most Unix systems this can be done by calling:

$ ulimit -c unlimited

in the shell. Now the debugger can be started up with:

$ gdb <application> <core file name>

The debugger should now display the last state of the application. The default file name for core files is core.