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Improved version of David Elliott's SerialKDPProxy
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<html> <head> </head> <body> <h1>README for SerialKDPProxy</h1> <p>Copyright 2009 David Elliott. All Rights Reserved.</p> <h2>About SerialKDPProxy</h2> <p>The SerialKDPProxy is used for KDP debugging over RS-232. This is a debugger of <em>last resort</em>. If at all possible, use KDP over FireWire or KDP over Ethernet. As far as I can tell, KDP over FireWire can be made to work with both builtin (the default) and add-on (there is a kernel command-line option) FireWire ports. Be aware that if not on a Mac your FireWire port might physically be located on the motherboard but the manufacturer of your board did not list it as being a built-in device in the ACPI tables. Exhaust all possibilities of getting the FireWire KDP kext to work on your target before attempting to use this.</p> <p>Now, that said, the huge advantage to serial KDP is that you can attach to the kernel before IOKit has started. If you have a machine that fails before the ACPI PE has enumerated the PCI devices then this is going to be your only option for examining the kernel state aside from predetermined debug print statements present in the code.</p> <h2>Using SerialKDPProxy</h2> <h3>Configuring the kernel on the target</h3> <p>See osfmk/kern/debug.h for the DB_* series of flags. See osfmk/kdp/kdp_udp.h for how kdp_match_name is used.</p> <p>First of all, to use the serial debugger you need kdp_match_name=serial in the boot args. This causes the code in kdp_init() to initialize the serial debugger.</p> <p>Second, for effective use you probably want to set DB_HALT (0x1) so the kernel will halt very early in startup, before even IOKit is attached. Without this you won't be able to attach to the kernel until after something has called the debug break function. By setting DB_HALT the kernel will call debug break and thus allow you to attach early. <p>Third, you may want some other flags like DB_KPRT (0x8) and DB_ARP (0x40). As of now there is no way to send an ARP although if you format it correctly and push it down the serial port (e.g. cat a file into the same /dev/tty* from another terminal) then the reply should be logged to stderr as a non-UDP packet. So for instance, debug=0x49 gives you DB_HALT, DB_KPRT and DB_ARP.</p> <p>Lastly, you may or may not want serial=3 depending on whether or not you want to enable the serial console. Obviously there are many more options like -v and io=XXX (see iokit/IOKit/IOKitDebug.h) that you may want depending on what you are trying to do. All of these are documented in various places by Apple and you can google most of the flags to find out what they do (usually you'll find a page on Apple's site).</p> <h3>Linking the machines together</h3> <p>You will need a null modem cable. Often these can be bought DB-9 female to DB-9 female with the null modem circuitry integrated into the cable. Other times you have a DB-9 female to DB-9 male cable with a null modem adapter and a DB-9 female to female gender changer. It is very rare these days to see DB-25 serial ports on any machines these days although technically, DB-25 is the official RS-232 standard port.</p> <p>On the target (machine whose kernel is being debugged) you must attach one end of your null-modem cable to COM1. The kernel has legacy COM1 0x3f8 IO base address hardcoded in it. This is how the kernel is able to provide kprintf and KDP over serial long before the IOKit has started. Very recent motherboards are excluding a DB-9 port on the ATX backplane but they almost always provide a 10-pin header (actually 9-pin because 1 is missing for key) corresponding to COM1 (0x3f8). The cables for these are not hard to come by and if you have been around long enough and were smart enough to strip them off an older machine (e.g. 486 era) before sending it to the trash heap then you probably have one. All Xserve (as far as I'm aware) also provide serial on COM1 at the legacy IO base address and the standard DB-9 male port is present on the exterior of the machine.</p> <p>The other end of the null modem cable will ideally go to your host machine, that is the one you are going to be running GDB on. However, this does not have to be the case. Theoretically you can perfectly well use a USB to Serial adapter on the host side but in practice many of the OS X drivers for these seem to be absolute crap or power cycling the target machine on the other end of the cable sends enough electrical noise down the serial line that it just locks up.</p> <p>As a workaround for these problems, SerialKDPProxy should build and run on Linux and hopefully other UNIX-like operating systems. Patches are encouraged if this is not the case. If you do run SerialKDPProxy on a Linux machine then instead of attaching GDB to localhost you'll attach GDB to the name or IP of your linux box. In all cases GDB itself runs on a Mac OS X machine you use as the debugger host</p> <h3>Running SerialKDPProxy</h3> <p>The SerialKDPProxy must be run on the machine with the serial port. If on an OS X machine with a hardware serial port then this will be /dev/tty.serial1. If using a USB adapter then the name will be something else but it should always be of the form /dev/tty.* like /dev/tty.usbserial1. If you decide to run it on a Linux machine with a hardware serial port then /dev/ttyS0 will usually be COM1 and /dev/ttyS1 will usually be COM2.</p> <h3>Using GDB</h3> <p>Your host machine (the machine you run GDB on) must be an OS X machine unless you have somehow managed to build a cross-GDB (not for the faint of heart). If the proxy is also running on the same machine then you will use the command kdp-reattach localhost to attach to it. If the proxy is running on a linux machine named "linuxbox" then you'll want to kdp-reattach linuxbox.</p> <p>For optimum debugging you want to download the OS X kernel debug kit (you can get this from ADC even with a free ADC account). You can basically follow the included instructions. That is, cd /Volumes/KernelDebugKit. Then gdb ./mach_kernel. Then from gdb source kgmacros. Then kdp-reattach <hostname or IP of proxy> as described above.</p> <h3>Observations</h3> <p>One thing to be aware of is that GDB has a tendency to basically lock up when it doesn't get the return packets it wants from the kernel. So you may run into situations where Ctrl+C does not work and you must kill your GDB process. This typically tends to happen when something has caused the kernel to fully lock up to the point where it won't even properly panic itself.</p> <p>One other thing to be aware of is that RS-232 isn't exactly an ideal communication medium. Using the kgmacros functions that dump various structures (e.g. things in the IORegistry) may very well take several minutes to complete and there will be plenty of cases where GDB will send a packet and not receive a reply. In general it will resend the packet and the second time it will receive a reply. I don't believe this is a problem with SerialKDPProxy but I could be wrong.</p> <p>Part of the reason for this is that the target kernel will only communicate with the host when it is stopped. There is no facility for stopping a running kernel and this is a general limitation of KDP, not specific to running it over RS-232. In general kernel debugging is only useful if you know what things you'd like to break on. Once the kernel has stopped on your breakpoint and has sent the machine state over to GDB you will be able to examine kernel memory from this point.</p> </body> </html>