Saturday, 1 December 2018

New features in Forkstat

Forkstat is a simple utility I wrote a while ago that can trace process activity using the rather useful Linux NETLINK_CONNECTOR API.   Recently I have added two extra features that may be of interest:

1.  Improved output using some UTF-8 glyphs.  These are used to show process parent/child relationships and various process events, such as termination, core dumping and renaming.   Use the new -g (glyph) option to enable this mode. For example:

In the above example, the program "wobble" was started and forks off a child process.  The parent then renames itself to wibble (indicated by a turning arrow). The child then segfaults and generates a core dump (indicated by a skull and crossbones), triggering apport to investigate the crash.  After this, we observe NetworkManager creating a thread that runs for a very short period of time.   This kind of activity is normally impossible to spot while running conventions tools such as ps or top.

2. By default, forkstat will show the process name using the contents of /proc/$PID/cmdline.  The new -c option allows one to instead use the 16 character task "comm" field, and this can be helpful for spotting process name changes on PROC_EVENT_COMM events.

These are small changes, but I think they make forkstat more useful.  The updated forkstat will be available in Ubuntu 19.04 "Disco Dingo".

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