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13 Tracepoints

In some applications, it is not feasible for the debugger to interrupt the program's execution long enough for the developer to learn anything helpful about its behavior. If the program's correctness depends on its real-time behavior, delays introduced by a debugger might cause the program to change its behavior drastically, or perhaps fail, even when the code itself is correct. It is useful to be able to observe the program's behavior without interrupting it.

Using gdb's trace and collect commands, you can specify locations in the program, called tracepoints, and arbitrary expressions to evaluate when those tracepoints are reached. Later, using the tfind command, you can examine the values those expressions had when the program hit the tracepoints. The expressions may also denote objects in memory—structures or arrays, for example—whose values gdb should record; while visiting a particular tracepoint, you may inspect those objects as if they were in memory at that moment. However, because gdb records these values without interacting with you, it can do so quickly and unobtrusively, hopefully not disturbing the program's behavior.

The tracepoint facility is currently available only for remote targets. See Targets. In addition, your remote target must know how to collect trace data. This functionality is implemented in the remote stub; however, none of the stubs distributed with gdb support tracepoints as of this writing. The format of the remote packets used to implement tracepoints are described in Tracepoint Packets.

It is also possible to get trace data from a file, in a manner reminiscent of corefiles; you specify the filename, and use tfind to search through the file. See Trace Files, for more details.

This chapter describes the tracepoint commands and features.