strace can be seen as a light weight debugger. It allows a programmer / user to quickly find out how a program is interacting with the OS. It does this by monitoring system calls and signals.
Good for when you don’t have source code or don’t want to be bothered to really go through it.
Also, useful for your own code if you don’t feel like opening up GDB, but are just interested in understanding external interaction.
A good little introduction
I ran into this into to strace use just the other day: strace hello world
Let’s say your program is /usr/local/bin/cough. Simply use:
strace /usr/local/bin/cough <any required argument for cough here>
All strace output will go to stderr (beware, the sheer volume of it often asks for a redirection to a file). In the simplest cases, your program will abort with an error and you’ll be able to see what where its last interactions with the OS in strace output.
Run strace against /bin/foo and capture its output to a text file in output.txt:
$ strace -o output.txt /bin/foo
You can strace the webserver process and see what it’s doing. For example, strace php5 fastcgi process, enter:
$ strace -p 22254 -s 80 -o /tmp/debug.lighttpd.txt
To see only a trace of the open, read system calls, enter :
$ strace -e trace=open,read -p 22254 -s 80 -o debug.webserver.txt
- -o filename : Write the trace output to the file filename rather than to screen (stderr).
- -p PID : Attach to the process with the process ID pid and begin tracing. The trace may be terminated at any time by a keyboard interrupt signal (hit CTRL-C). strace will respond by detaching itself from the traced process(es) leaving it (them) to continue running. Multiple -p options can be used to attach to up to 32 processes in addition to command (which is optional if at least one -p option is given).
- -s SIZE : Specify the maximum string size to print (the default is 32).