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    Subject[ANNOUNCE] pahole and other DWARF2 utilities

    I've been working on some DWARF2 utilities and thought that it
    is about time I announce it to the community, so that what is already
    available can be used by people interested in reducing structure sizes
    and otherwise taking advantage of the information available in the elf
    sections of files compiled with 'gcc -g' or in the case of the kernel
    with CONFIG_DEBUG_INFO enabled, so here it goes the description of said

    pahole: Poke-a-Hole is a tool to find out holes in structures, holes
    being defined as the space between members of functions due to alignemnt
    rules that could be used for new struct entries or to reorganize
    existing structures to reduce its size, without more ado lets see what
    that means:

    [acme@newtoy net-2.6]$ pahole kernel/sched.o task_struct
    /* include2/asm/system.h:11 */
    struct task_struct {
    volatile long int state; /* 0 4 */
    struct thread_info * thread_info; /* 4 4 */
    atomic_t usage; /* 8 4 */
    long unsigned int flags; /* 12 4 */


    short unsigned int ioprio; /* 52 2 */

    /* XXX 2 bytes hole, try to pack */

    long unsigned int sleep_avg; /* 56 4 */ */
    unsigned char fpu_counter; /* 388 1 */

    /* XXX 3 bytes hole, try to pack */

    int oomkilladj; /* 392 4 */


    }; /* size: 1312, sum members: 1287, holes: 3, sum holes: 13, padding: 12 */

    It doesn't uses any source code files, just the DWARF2
    information in ELF sections, inserted by 'gcc -g', to print out the
    above information, current goodies being just to show where are holes
    that can be used to reduce the struct size, which is even more useful as
    we transition to 64bit architectures, where such holes are more
    frequent, as we can see in this example:

    [acme@newtoy ~]$ file kdump.debug
    kdump.debug: ELF 64-bit LSB executable, AMD x86-64, version 1 (SYSV),
    dynamically linked (uses shared libs), not stripped
    [acme@newtoy ~]$ pahole kdump.debug _IO_FILE | head -7
    /* /usr/include/stdio.h:46 */
    struct _IO_FILE {
    int _flags; /* 0 4 */

    /* XXX 4 bytes hole, try to pack */

    char *_IO_read_ptr; /* 8 8 */
    [acme@newtoy ~]$

    The columns in the comments are (offset, sizeof(member).

    Tons more information is available in the DWARF2 ELF sections,
    making it possible to use it for other purposes, and thats where the
    next dwarf comes in, pfunct:

    [acme@newtoy net-2.6]$ pfunct net/ipv4/tcp_ipv4.o tcp_v4_rcv
    /* /pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/acme/net-2.6/net/ipv4/tcp_ipv4.c:1054 */
    int tcp_v4_rcv(struct sk_buff * skb);
    /* size: 2175 */

    pfunct uses the DWARF2 information to get function details, such
    as its full prototype and function size, that allows us to do some more
    interesting queries, such as:

    [acme@newtoy net-2.6]$ pfunct --size net/ipv4/netfilter/ip_conntrack.ko
    | sort -k 2 -nr | head -10
    tcp_packet: 3349
    ip_conntrack_in: 1146
    icmp_error: 874
    ip_conntrack_expect_related: 804
    __ip_conntrack_confirm: 586
    tcp_new: 527
    ip_conntrack_init: 525
    tcp_error: 508
    ip_conntrack_helper_unregister: 482
    ip_conntrack_alloc: 469
    [acme@newtoy net-2.6]$

    The top ten functions by size (in bytes) in any ELF file with
    debugging information!

    The code is available in a git repository at:


    Just for browsing the cset comments that may well provide hints
    on how this thingy can be useful:;a=summary

    Further ideas on how to use the DWARF2 information include tools
    that will show where inlines are being used, how much code is added by
    inline functions, possibly rewriting asm-offsets.c, converting ostra
    (callgraph tool) to use this information, correlate valgrind's
    cachegrind information to suggest struct member reorganization to
    exploit cacheline locality and more.

    Documentation is very much a disaster, but I guess the current
    state of things is useful for interested hackers, so that I thought it
    was time got announce this.

    Ideas for additional tools are more than welcome!

    - Arnaldo
    Mandriva Labs
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      Last update: 2006-10-30 23:39    [W:0.025 / U:35.880 seconds]
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