The GNU GDB Debugger and NetBSD (Part 5)

October 07, 2020 posted by Kamil Rytarowski

The NetBSD developers maintain two copies of GDB:
  • One in the base-system that includes a significant set of local patches.
  • Another one in pkgsrc whose patching is limited to mostly build fixes.

The base-system version of GDB (GPLv3) still relies on local patching to work. I have set a goal to reduce the number of custom patches to bare minimum, ideally achieving the state of GDB working without any local modifications at all.

GDB changes

Last month, the NetBSD/amd64 support was merged into gdbserver. This month, the gdbserver target support was extended to NetBSD/i386 and NetBSD/aarch64. The gdbserver and gdb code was cleaned up, refactored and made capable of introducing even more NetBSD targets.

Meanwhile, the NetBSD/i386 build of GDB was fixed. The missing include of x86-bsd-nat.h as a common header was added to i386-bsd-nat.h. The i386 GDB code for BSD contained a runtime assert that verified whether the locally hardcoded struct sigcontext is compatible with the system headers. In reality, the system headers are no longer using this structure since 2003, after the switch to ucontext_t, and the validating code was no longer effective. After the switch to newer GCC, this was reported as a unused local variable by the compiler. I have decided to remove the check on NetBSD entirely. This was followed up by a small build fix.

The NetBSD team has noticed that the GDB's code contains a portability bug and prepared a local fix. The traditional behavior of the BSD kernel is that passing random values of sun_len (part of sockaddr_un) can cause failures. In order to prevent the problems, the sockaddr_un structure is now zeroed before use. I've reimplemented the fix and successfully upstreamed it.

In order to easily resolve the issue with environment hardening enforced by PaX MPROTECT, I've introduced a runtime warning whenever byte transfers betweeen the debugee and debugger occur with the EACCES errno code.

binutils changes

I've added support for NetBSD/aarch64 upstream, in GNU BFD and GNU GAS. NetBSD still carries local patches for the GNU binutils components, and GNU ld does not build out of the box on NetBSD/aarch64.


The NetBSD support in GNU binutils and GDB is improving promptly, and the most popular platforms of amd64, i386 and aarch64 are getting proper support out of the box, without downstream patches. The remaining patches for these CPUs include: streamlining kgdb support, adding native GDB support for aarch64, upstreaming local modifications from the GNU binutils components (especially BFD and ld) and introducing portability enhancements in the dependent projects like libiberty and gnulib. Then, the remaining work is to streamline support for the remaining CPUs (Alpha, VAX, MIPS, HPPA, IA64, SH3, PPC, etc.), to develop the missing generic features (such as listing open file descriptors for the specified process) and to fix failures in the regression test-suite. [0 comments]


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