Devel::STrace - strace-like runtime call trace for Perl applications


    #    setup environment variables to control
    #    configuration of Devel::RingBuffer's mmap'ed
    #    memory
    export DEVEL_RINGBUF_FILE=''
    #    run the script under STrace
    perl -d:STrace somescript
    #    use another terminal to view the
    #    contents of the ringbuffers
    # -f $DEVEL_RINGBUF_FILE -s 10 -d 100


Provides a strace/truss-like runtime call monitor for Perl applications. Note that, while strace/truss only dumps system calls, Devel::STrace dumps all calls to Perl subs on the application's stack. Also note that Devel::STrace cannot trace non-Perl calls (e.g., calls inside XS/C modules), so an additional external strace/truss monitor may be needed to fully diagnose a misbehaving Perl script.

Devel::STrace captures each subroutine call (via DB::sub()) using ring buffers in a memory mapped file using Devel::RingBuffer and IPC::Mmap. Refer to Devel::RingBuffer for configuration details.

As each subroutine is entered (ie, when DB::sub() is called), the next available ring buffer slot is allocated (possibly overwriting the oldest in-use slot) and $DB::sub is written to the slot - possibly suffixed by the $AUTOLOAD value if the call is an AUTOLOAD - and the line number and timestamp (as returned by Time::HiRes) are set to -1, 0, respectively. The line number and timestamp are filled in by DB::DB() as each Perl statement is executed.

Note that no explicit locks are used during the slot updates, in order to minimize the profiling overhead,

Also note that exit timings are not provided, as this tool is intended for debugging, rather than profiling, purposes.

The Devel::STrace::Monitor module provides a minimal set of functions for external applications to

  • open the mmap()'d ringbuffer file

  • monitor the runtime Perl call stack, including package, routine name, statement linenumber and timestamp of the monitored script

  • set or clear the single, trace, or signal flags

  • submit commands to either a single thread, all threads of a single process, or globally

  • wait for and collect responses to such commands

The included script implements a simple command line monitoring view using Devel::STrace::Monitor. More feature rich debugging applications (esp. GUI based) are planned.

Application Notes

Implements DB::DB and DB::sub. The ringbuffer is created by the Devel::RingBuffer class, which also acts as a factory for individual Devel::RingBuffer::Ring objects (representing a single ring buffer).

On POSIX-based systems, a file must be physically created to be mmap()'ed and read by a separate monitoring process. While this possibly permits post-mortem analysis of the execution when things die (though not guaranteed due to file flushing issues), it is possible to accumulate trace files in the /tmp directory if a trace file is not explicitly defined via DEVEL_RINGBUF_FILE, as Devel::STrace doesn't currently know when to safely unlink such files.


  • Rewrite in XS/C to further minimize its impact on the monitored application.

  • A better solution might work just like the real strace, i.e., open the /proc/<pid> pseudofile (or the Win32 equivalent), and chase pointers to find the the real stacks of the threads. But thats soooo haaarrrd....

  • Provide an interface to turn $DB::single on/off, so that more general, lower overhead tracing can be performed (ie, just logs subroutine entry/exit, no per-statement logging).

  • Extend with a profiler capability ala Devel::Dprof.

  • Provide an area to map the ::{_<$file} hashes, so an external app can locate the files being used.






strace(1) (or truss(1))


Dean Arnold

Copyright(C) 2006, Dean Arnold, Presicient Corp., USA. All rights reserved.

Permission is granted to use this software under the same terms as Perl itself. Refer to the Perl Artistic License for details.