EBC Exercise 14 gdb Debugging

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As the code becomes more complex, more powerful debugging tools are needed. The GNU Project debugger (gdb) is the granddaddy of all debuggers. In this exercise you will learn how to install and use it on the Beagle. In a later exercise you will learn how to install it on your host and debug the Beagle remotely.


gdb, the GNU Project debugger, allows you to see what is going on inside another program while it executes -- or what another program was doing at the moment it crashed.

gdb can do four main kinds of things to help you catch bugs in the act:

  • Start your program, specifying anything that might affect its behavior.
  • Make your program stop on specified conditions.
  • Examine what has happened, when your program has stopped.
  • Change things in your program, so you can experiment with correcting the effects of one bug and go on to learn about another.

The program being debugged can be written in Ada, C, C++, Objective-C, Pascal (and many other languages). Those programs might be executing on the same machine as GDB (native) or on another machine (remote). GDB can run on most popular UNIX and Microsoft Windows variants.

For our lab we'll be using a C program and do local execution on the Beagle.

Installing gdb

On your Beagle run:

beagle$ opkg update
beagle$ opkg install gdb

A gdb Tutorial

There are a number of gdb tutorials out there. I like Using GNU's GDB Debugger By Peter Jay Salzman. Read Chapter 1, the Intro. Do the examples in Chapters 2 and 3. Look over Breakpoints in Chapter 4.

(This may be another good reference.)

Chapter 2 has you download a Makefile that will fail because it can't find ctags. Either comment out that line, or follow the directions below to install ctags.

ctags on the host

Here's what I did to get ctags running in gedit on the host.

host$ sudo apt-get install exuberant-ctags

gedit has a ctags plugin. Details are here. Download from here. Installation details are here.

You also need to load libgnomeprintui. Go to System:Administration:Synaptic Package Manager and search for libgnomeprintui and select it. Click Apply.

Now you can use ctags. Go a directory with some .c and .h files and run:

host$ ctags *.c *.h
host$ gedit *.c *.h

This will create a file called tags that tells where each symbol is defined. Enable the ctags plugin by going to Edit:Preferences. Click the Plugins tag and scroll down to Symbol Browser and check it. You can click the Configure Plugin button to apply some options.

To make the symbols visible, select View:Side Pane in gedit. Click the symbol SymbolBrowser.png at the bottom of the side pane. You will now see all the symbols. Click on one to go to its definition.

Eclipse, gdb and remote debuging

Eclipse is an integrated development environment (IDE) that runs on many platforms, OSes, and supports many languages. You can run Eclipse on your host computer and do debugging on your Beagle (bone or xM). Here is a video that shows how to use Eclipse for remote debugging.

Have the following loaded on your host and beagle before watching the video.

Here is where you get the RSE-runtime.

host$ sudo apt-get update
host$ sudo apt-get install eclipse
host$ sudo apt-get install gcc-arm-linux-gnueabi
host$ sudo apt-get install g++-arm-linux-gnueabi
host$ sudo apt-get install gdb
host$ sudo apt-get install gdb-multiarch
beagle$ opkg update
beagle$ opkg install gdbserver