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SubjectRe: Top 10 kernel oopses for the week ending January 5th, 2008

On Mon, 7 Jan 2008, Kevin Winchester wrote:

> J. Bruce Fields wrote:
> >
> > Is there any good basic documentation on this to point people at?
> I would second this question. I see people "decode" oops on lkml often
> enough, but I've never been entirely sure how its done. Is it somewhere
> in Documentation?

It's actually not necessarily at all that trivial, unless you have a deep
understanding of the code generated for the architecture in question (and
even then, some oopses take more time to figure out than others, thanks
to inlining and tailcalls etc).

If the oops happened with a kernel you generated yourself, it's usually
rather easy. Especially if you said "y" to the "generate debugging info"
question at configuration time. Because, in that case, you really just do
a simple

gdb vmlinux

and then you can do (for example) something like setting a breakpoint at
the EIP that was reported for the oops, and it will tell you what line it
came from.

However, if you don't have the exact binary - which is the common case for
random oopses reported on lkml - you will generally have to disassemble
the hex sequence given in the oops (the "Code:" line), and try to match it
up against the source code to try to figure out what is going on.

Even just the disassembly is not entirely trivial, since the oops will
give you the eip that it happened at, but you often want to also
disassemble *backwards* in order to get more of a context (the "Code:"
line will mark the particular EIP that starts the oopsing instruction by
enclosing it in <xx>, but with non-constant instruction lengths, you need
to use a bit of trial-and-error to figure it out.

I usually just compile a small program like

const char array[]="\xnn\xnn\xnn...";

int main(int argc, char **argv)
printf("%p\n", array);
*(int *)0=0;

and run it under gdb, and then when it gets the SIGSEGV (due to the
obvious NULL pointer dereference), I can just ask gdb to disassemble
around the array that contains the code[] stuff. Try a few offsets, to see
when the disassembly makes sense (and gives the reported EIP as the
beginning of one of the disassembled instructions).

(You can do it other and smarter ways too, I'm not claiming that's a
particularly good way to do it, and the old "ksymoops" program used to do
a pretty good job of this, but I'm used to that particular idiotic way
myself, since it's how I've basically always done it)

After that, you still need to try to match up the assembly code with the
source code and figure out what variables the register contents actually
are all about. You can often try to do a

make the/affected/file.s

to generate the asm file in your own tree - the register allocation can be
totally different due to different compilers and different options (and
things like the fact that maybe the source tree you do this on doesn't
match the oops report exactly), but it's usually a good starting point to
compare the disassembly from gdb with the *.s file output from the

Quite often, it's all very obvious (you see some constant or other simple
pattern). But if you're not used to the assembly format, you'll spend a
lot of brainpower just trying to figure that part out even for the obvious
stuff, which is why it's a good thing if you are very comfortable indeed
with the assembly language of that particular platform.

It's not really all that hard. But the first few times you see those
oopses, it all looks mostly like just line noise. So it definitely takes
some practice to do it well.

Anyway, let's take an example, from

where the most obviously relevant parts are:

BUG: unable to handle kernel paging request at virtual address 00100100
EIP: 0060:[<f8819668>]
EIP is at evdev_disconnect+0x65/0x9e

eax: 00000000 ebx: 000ffcf0 ecx: c1926760 edx: 00000033
esi: f7415600 edi: f741564c ebp: f7415654 esp: c1967e68
Call Trace:
[<c03454b2>] input_unregister_device+0x6f/0xff
[<c03c6eb6>] klist_release+0x27/0x30
[<c029178a>] kref_put+0x5f/0x6c
Code: 5e 4c 81 eb 10 04 00 00 eb 21 8d 83 08 04 00 00 b9 06 00 02
00 ba 1d 00 00 00 e8 6a 93 95 c7 8b 9b 10 04 00 00 81 eb 10
04 00 00 <8b> 83 10 04 00 00 0f 18 00 90 8d 83 10 04 00 00
39 f8 75 cb 8d

so here let's do the above silly C program:

const char array[]="\x5e\x4c\x81\xeb\x10\x04\x00\x00\xeb\x21..

and running it under gdb gives:


Program received signal SIGSEGV, Segmentation fault.
0x080483f7 in main () at test.c:14
14 *(int*)0=0;

and now I can just try

x/20i 0x8048500

and it turns out that already gives a reasonable disassembly. The first
few instructions are bogus: they're really part of the previous
instruction, but it looks pretty sane around the actual problem spot,
which is "array+43" (there are 42 bytes of code before the EIP one, and 20
bytes after):

0x8048500 <array>: pop %esi
0x8048501 <array+1>: dec %esp
0x8048502 <array+2>: sub $0x410,%ebx
0x8048508 <array+8>: jmp 0x804852b <array+43>
0x804850a <array+10>: lea 0x408(%ebx),%eax
0x8048510 <array+16>: mov $0x20006,%ecx
0x8048515 <array+21>: mov $0x1d,%edx
0x804851a <array+26>: call 0xcf9a1889
0x804851f <array+31>: mov 0x410(%ebx),%ebx
0x8048525 <array+37>: sub $0x410,%ebx
0x804852b <array+43>: mov 0x410(%ebx),%eax
0x8048531 <array+49>: prefetchnta (%eax)
0x8048534 <array+52>: nop
0x8048535 <array+53>: lea 0x410(%ebx),%eax
0x804853b <array+59>: cmp %edi,%eax
0x804853d <array+61>: jne 0x804850a <array+10>
0x804853f <array+63>: lea (%eax),%eax

so now we know that the faulting instruction was that

mov 0x410(%ebx),%eax

and we can also see that this also matches the address that caused the
oops (ebx=000ffcf0, so 0x410(%ebx) is 00100100, which matches the "unable
to handle kernel paging request" message).

(Now, people used to kernel oopses will also recognize 00100100 as the
LIST_POISON1, so this is all about dereferencing the ->next pointer of a
list entry that has been removed from the list, but that's a whole
separate level of kernel knowledge).

Anyway, you can now do

make drivers/input/evdev.s

and see if you can find that kind of code sequence in there. You can use
the "EIP: evdev_disconnect+0x65/0x9e" thing as a hint: if your compiler
setup isn't too different, it's likely to be roughly two thirds into that
evdev_disconnect function (but inlining really can mean that it's
somewhere else entirely in the source tree!)

The rest left as an exercise for the reader.


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