GStreamer WebKit debugging by using external tools (1/2)

In this new post series, I’ll show you how both existing and ad-hoc tools can be helpful to find the root cause of some problems. Here are also the older posts of this series in case you find them useful:

Use strace to know which config/library files are used by a program

If you’re becoming crazy supposing that the program should use some config and it seems to ignore it, just use strace to check what config files, libraries or other kind of files is the program actually using. Use the grep rules you need to refine the search:

$ strace -f -e trace=%file nano 2> >(grep 'nanorc')
access("/etc/nanorc", R_OK)             = 0
access("/usr/share/nano/javascript.nanorc", R_OK) = 0
access("/usr/share/nano/gentoo.nanorc", R_OK) = 0

Know which process is killing another one

First, try to strace -e trace=signal -p 1234 the killed process.

If that doesn’t work (eg: because it’s being killed with the uncatchable SIGKILL signal), then you can resort to modifying the kernel source code (signal.c) to log the calls to kill():

SYSCALL_DEFINE2(kill, pid_t, pid, int, sig)
    struct task_struct *tsk_p;
    /* Log SIGKILL */
    if (sig & 0x1F == 9) {
        tsk_p = find_task_by_vpid(pid);

        if (tsk_p) {
            printk(KERN_DEBUG "Sig: %d from pid: %d (%s) to pid: %d (%s)\n",
                sig, current->pid, current->comm, pid, tsk_p->comm);
        } else {
            printk(KERN_DEBUG "Sig: %d from pid: %d (%s) to pid: %d\n",
                sig, current->pid, current->comm, pid);

Wrap gcc/ld/make to tweak build parameters

If you ever find yourself with little time in front of a stubborn build system and, no matter what you try, you can’t get the right flags to the compiler, think about putting something (a wrapper) between the build system and the compiler. Example for g++:

main() {
    # Build up arg[] array with all options to be passed
    # to subcommand.
    for opt in "$@"; do
        case "$opt" in
        -O2) ;; # Removes this option
            arg[i]="$opt" # Keeps the others
    EXTRA_FLAGS="-O0" # Adds extra option
    echo "g++ ${EXTRA_FLAGS} ${arg[@]}" # >> /tmp/build.log # Logs the command
    /usr/bin/ccache g++ ${EXTRA_FLAGS} "${arg[@]}" # Runs the command
main "$@"

Make sure that the wrappers appear earlier than the real commands in your PATH.

The make wrapper can also call remake instead. Remake is fully compatible with make but has features to help debugging compilation and makefile errors.

Analyze the structure of MP4 data

The ISOBMFF Box Structure Viewer online tool allows you to upload an MP4 file and explore its structure.

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