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2.3. Running SystemTap Scripts

SystemTap scripts are run through the command stap. stap can run SystemTap scripts from standard input or from file.
Running stap and staprun requires elevated privileges to the system. However, not all users can be granted root access just to run SystemTap. In some cases, for instance, you may want to allow a non-privileged user to run SystemTap instrumentation on his machine.
To allow ordinary users to run SystemTap without root access, add them to one of these user groups:
stapdev
Members of this group can use stap to run SystemTap scripts, or staprun to run SystemTap instrumentation modules.
Running stap involves compiling SystemTap scripts into kernel modules and loading them into the kernel. This requires elevated privileges to the system, which are granted to stapdev members. Unfortunately, such privileges also grant effective root access to stapdev members. As such, you should only grant stapdev group membership to users whom you can trust root access.
stapusr
Members of this group can only run staprun to run SystemTap instrumentation modules. In addition, they can only run those modules from /lib/modules/kernel_version/systemtap/. Note that this directory must be owned only by the root user, and must only be writable by the root user.
Below is a list of commonly used stap options:
-v
Makes the output of the SystemTap session more verbose. You can repeat this option (for example, stap -vvv script.stp) to provide more details on the script's execution. This option is particularly useful if you encounter any errors in running the script.
For more information about common SystemTap script errors, refer to Chapter 6, Understanding SystemTap Errors.
-o filename
Sends the standard output to file (filename).
-S size,count
Limit files to size megabytes and limit the the number of files kept around to count. The file names will have a sequence number suffix. This option implements logrotate operations for SystemTap.
-x process ID
Sets the SystemTap handler function target() to the specified process ID. For more information about target(), refer to SystemTap Functions.
-c 'command'
Sets the SystemTap handler function target() to the specified command and runs the SystemTap instrumentation for the duration of the specified command. For more information about target(), refer to SystemTap Functions.
-e 'script'
Use script string rather than a file as input for systemtap translator.
-F
Use SystemTap's Flight recorder mode and make the script a background process. For more information about flight recorder mode, refer to Section 2.3.1, “SystemTap Flight Recorder Mode”.
You can also instruct stap to run scripts from standard input using the switch -. To illustrate:
Example 2.1. Running Scripts From Standard Input
echo "probe timer.s(1) {exit()}" | stap -

Example 2.1, “Running Scripts From Standard Input” instructs stap to run the script passed by echo to standard input. Any stap options you wish to use should be inserted before the - switch; for instance, to make the example in Example 2.1, “Running Scripts From Standard Input” more verbose, the command would be:
echo "probe timer.s(1) {exit()}" | stap -v -
For more information about stap, refer to man stap.
To run SystemTap instrumentation (i.e. the kernel module built from SystemTap scripts during a cross-instrumentation), use staprun instead. For more information about staprun and cross-instrumentation, refer to Section 2.2, “Generating Instrumentation for Other Computers”.

Note

The stap options -v and -o also work for staprun. For more information about staprun, refer to man staprun.

2.3.1. SystemTap Flight Recorder Mode

SystemTap's flight recorder mode allows you to run a SystemTap script run for long periods and just focus on recent output. The flight recorder mode (the -F option) limits the amount of output generated. There are two variations of the flight recorder mode: in-memory and file mode. In both cases the SystemTap script runs as a background process.

2.3.1.1. In-memory Flight Recorder

When flight recorder mode (the -F option) is used without a file name SystemTap uses a buffer in kernel memory to store the output of the script. The SystemTap instrumentation module will load and the probes start running, the instrumentation will then detach and be put in the background. When the interesting event occurs, you can reattach to the instrumentation and see the recent output in the memory buffer and any continuing output. The following command starts a script using the flight recorder in-memory mode:
stap -F iotime.stp
Once the script starts, you will see a message like the following that provides the command to reconnect to the running script:
Disconnecting from systemtap module.
To reconnect, type "staprun -A stap_5dd0073edcb1f13f7565d8c343063e68_19556"
When the interesting event occurs, you reattach to the currently running script and output the recent data in the memory buffer and get continuing output with the following command:
staprun -A stap_5dd0073edcb1f13f7565d8c343063e68_19556
By default the kernel buffer is 1MB in size and it can be increased with the -s option specifying the size in megabytes (rounded up to the next power over 2) for the buffer. For example -s2 on the SystemTap command line would specify 2MB for the buffer.

2.3.1.2. File Flight Recorder

The flight recorder mode can also store data to files. The number and size of the files kept is controlled by the -S option followed by two numerical arguments separated by a comma. The first argument is the maximum size in megabytes for the each output file. The second argument is the number of recent files to keep. The file name is specified by the -o option followed by the name. SystemTap will add a number suffix to the file name to indicate the order of the files. The following will start SystemTap in file flight recorder mode with the output going to files named /tmp/iotime.log.[0-9]+ and each file 1MB or smaller and keeping latest two files:
stap -F -o /tmp/pfaults.log -S 1,2  pfaults.stp
The number printed by the command is the process ID. Sending a SIGTERM to the process will shutdown the SystemTap script and stop the data collection. For example if the previous command listed the 7590 as the process ID, the following command whould shutdown the systemtap script:
kill -s SIGTERM 7590
Only the most recent two file generated by the script are kept and the older files are been removed. Thus, ls -sh /tmp/pfaults.log.* shows the only two files:
1020K /tmp/pfaults.log.5    44K /tmp/pfaults.log.6
One can look at the highest number file for the latest data, in this case /tmp/pfaults.log.6.