Leonard Lausen edited this page Jan 29, 2019 · 24 revisions

This page explains some concepts needed to debug Spacemacs and to report issues in an useful way.

Table of contents

How to make a great bug report

A great bug report :metal: should contain:

This is a template you can use for reporting issues on Spacemacs:

Note: Triple backquotes are not showing up because of some wiki parsing issues. Don’t forget to add them around the backtrace.

#### Description

#### Reproduction guide
- Start Emacs

*Observed behaviour:*

*Expected behaviour:*

#### System Info

#### Backtrace

You can see an example of it at the end of this page.

Get the description of your installation

The versions of software your are using can be obtained by pressing SPC h d s or M-m h d s (bind to spacemacs/describe-system-info). This will copy to the system clipboard some important information, such as your activated layers, or the Spacemacs and Emacs versions you are using.

The copied text is in markdown format, so you can paste it directly in gitter or in issues, without quoting it.

Make a step-by-step reproduction guide

Spacemacs contributors are more efficient if they have a way to reproduce the bugs on their side. For this, nothing is better than a detailed step-by-step reproduction guide. It should describe a minimal workflow that make the problem appears. It should look like a bullet-points list, beginning with “Start emacs”.

This is a good example:

  • Start Emacs
  • Open the `.spacemacs` file with SPC f e d
  • Search for the “dotspacemacs” with / dotspacemacs RET
  • Notice n and N are not working

On `develop` you can also activate the command-log layer. That will offer you the possibility to toggle this mode with SPC a L or M-m a L. All the key you will press will be recorded with their associated functions on a side buffer. You can then use the content of this buffer as a starting point of a reproduction guide.

Enable debug

To turn on the debug-on-error mode, what will give a backtrace of an error popping up at run-time, you can use SPC t D or M-m t D. This keybinding toggle the mode, so it can also be used to deactivate it.

After having enabled the debug-on-error mode, you can redo the action making the error to appear, then read the Get the backtrace section on how to get and report the problematic backtrace.

Enable debug at initialization

In order to get a backtrace of an error appearing at initialization time, you need to run emacs with the --debug-init flag, as in:

emacs --debug-init

The debug-on-error mode stays activated after the initialization, so no need to use SPC t D afterward to debug errors.

If load time is a problem

If part of the issue is the amount of time spacemacs takes to load, you can launch emacs with the command

emacs --debug-init --timed-requires

which will add a timer to all require and load statements. Any file that takes longer than 150ms (not configurable at the moment) to load will be logged in a buffer called *load-times*, which may help you narrow down the cause of the slow startup.

Debug a freezing instance

When an instance of emacs is freezing, it is difficult to debug and to get a backtrace. Sometimes, even pressing `C-g` is not enough to escape the problematic behaviour.

Emacs handle the system SIGUSR2 signal for such cases. This tries, by acting at a lower level, to stop the problematic behaviour and enable the debugger.

According to this mailing list thread, here is what this does:

When we receive it, we set debug-on-quit to t, inhibit-quit to nil, and quit-flag to t. These operations will force Emacs to stop at the next possible opportunity and display a backtrace. From here, users can save their work, and developers can figure out what caused the hang.

Here are the general steps to debug a freeze:

  1. Start emacs.
  2. In a terminal, find the PID of the emacs process: ps aux | grep emacs | grep -v grep
  3. Go to emacs and trigger the freeze.
  4. Return to the terminal and execute kill -USR2 12345 where 12345 must be replaced with the PID of the emacs process from step 2.
  5. Retrun to emacs, you should see a window open with a backtrace.
  6. Copy the backtrace in an issue, between two lines that contain: ``` to display it as a block or in a bug report to the emacs mailing list.

NOTE: The backtrace might contain null characters (seen as ^@ in emacs). In that case you might not be able to copy paste it entirely. Save the backtrace in a file and upload it in the issue or email.

Get the backtrace

After having enabled the debug-on-error mode, if an error occurs its backtrace will be accessible in the *Backtrace* buffer. This buffer shows-up after an error. If it is not the case you can access it with SPC b b or M-m b b.

In order to get this buffer content, you can use M-m b Y, what will copy the buffers content in the system clipboard. You can paste it directly on Github issues between triple backquotes ```. If the content is too long, or for sharing it on gitter, it’s recommended to use a pastebin service.

Note: If you have the `github` layer enabled, you can use M-m g g b to directly send the content of the buffer to a gist and get back it’s URL. The URL is copied to the system clipboard so you can directly use it.

Debugging segmentation faults with gdb

Here are the general steps to debug segfaults:

  1. Start emacs.
  2. In a terminal, find the PID of the emacs process: ps aux | grep emacs | grep -v grep
  3. Start gdb with: gdb attach 12345 where 12345 must be replaced with the PID of the emacs process from step 2. You might need to use sudo if gdb complains about ptrace.
  4. While inside gdb press c (short from continue) and then enter (RET).
  5. Go to emacs and trigger the crash.
  6. Return to the gdb terminal and it should tell you that it received SIGSEGV. Type bt (short from backtrace) and copy paste it in an issue, between two lines that contain: ``` to display it as a block or in a bug report to the emacs mailing list.

You might get a backtrace that looks like this:

#0  0x00000000004ae1f0 in  ()
#1  0x00000000004b2472 in  ()
#2  0x000000000041cd3a in  ()

This is not really usefull since it does not contain function names. You can get them by installing emacs from source:

git clone ~/emacs
cd ~/emacs
git checkout emacs-25.2
# The `--program-transform-name` flag ensures you don't screw your current ctags package.
CFLAGS='-O2 -g3' ./configure --program-transform-name='s/^ctags$/ctags.emacs/'
sudo make install

You might also need a few extra packages installed, like gcc, autoconf, and texinfo. The ./ and make commands will give you hints about what is missing in their output.

Make sure you do a git checkout with the same emacs version you currently have. You can also try to building master and check if the problems is reproducible there, maybe a fix was comitted but not released.

The interesting part is: “CFLAGS=’-O2 -g3’”. You need the -g3 flag for the debug symbols. The -O2 flag is for performance, you can try compiling with -O0 if you want to make your life easier while inspecting variable contents in gdb but emacs will move slowly.

Dummy example of a good bug report

Note: Triple backquotes are not showing up because of some wiki parsing issues. Don’t forget to add them around the backtrace.

#### Description
Searching next/previous elements in vim-mode with `n` and `N` are not working.

#### Reproduction guide
- Start Emacs
- Be sure to use `vim` editing mode
- Open the `.spacemacs` file with `SPC f e d`
- Search for the "dotspacemacs" expression with `/ dotspacemacs RET`

*Observed behaviour:*
I observe `n` and `N` are not having any effect.

*Expected behaviour:*
I expect `n` to search the next occurence of an expression, and `N` to search the previous one.

#### System Info
- OS: gnu/linux
- Emacs: 24.5.1
- Spacemacs: 0.105.0
- Spacemacs branch: contrib/bepo (rev. cc4b324)
- Distribution: spacemacs
- Layers:
(asciidoc auto-completion better-defaults c-c++ clojure colors command-log deft dockerfile
              (elfeed :variables rmh-elfeed-org-files
                      (list "~/org/"))
              emacs-lisp emoji erc ess evil-cleverparens extra-langs finance git github haskell html ipython-notebook javascript latex markdown mu4e no-dots ocaml org pandoc python ranger restclient ruby semantic shell shell-scripts speed-reading
              (spell-checking :variables spell-checking-enable-auto-dictionary t)
              syntax-checking themes-megapack theming typography
              (version-control :variables version-control-diff-tool 'diff-hl)

#### Backtrace
Debugger entered--Lisp error: (error "Don't know where `evil-lisp-state-major-mode-map-prefix' is defined")
  signal(error ("Don't know where `evil-lisp-state-major-mode-map-prefix' is defined"))
  error("Don't know where `%s' is defined" evil-lisp-state-major-mode-map-prefix)
  find-function-search-for-symbol(evil-lisp-state-major-mode-map-prefix nil nil)
  find-definition-noselect(evil-lisp-state-major-mode-map-prefix nil)
  find-function-do-it(evil-lisp-state-major-mode-map-prefix nil switch-to-buffer)
  helm-descbinds-action:find-func(("SPC k" . evil-lisp-state-major-mode-map-prefix))
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