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Variants and Patches

Several other Valgrind tools have been created. Some of these can plug directly into an existing Valgrind installation, but some require downloading a whole Valgrind distribution which contains a specially modified core. Please note that some of these are experimental, and may not work 100%.


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Nick Nethercote's Tools

Bounds Checker: valgrind-annelid (tar.bz2) [722Kb] - Jan 31 2005

A version of the Valgrind distribution containing an extra tool, Annelid, that detects some kinds of pointer misuse. Valgrind's default tool, Memcheck, can find a lot of memory errors. In particular, it can find small overruns/underruns of heap blocks thanks to the redzones with which it pads heap blocks. But if you overrun by a larger amount, your access may unluckily fall into a different heap block, which Memcheck can't detect. It also can't detect static or stack variable overruns.

Annelid is a tool designed to detect these cases. It tracks the bounds of every heap block, and pointers to heap blocks are associated with a particular block. If a pointer is used to access memory outside of its assigned block, a warning is given. Like Memcheck, it also warns if a freed heap block is accessed, but it can detect long-delayed accesses to freed blocks that Memcheck can't. Also, because Annelid tracks pointers, it can also find some type errors, such as if you add or multiply two heap pointers.

I hope to eventually take advantage of debug information to extend the bounds-checking to static arrays and structs, stack frames, and possibly stack-allocated arrays and structs. This would increase the range of errors that Annelid can detect that Memcheck cannot.

Thanks to Jeremy Fitzhardinge for the original idea and advice.

Signal Handler Checker: valgrind-crocus (tar.bz2) [673Kb] - Jan 31 2005

A version of the Valgrind distribution containing an extra tool, Crocus, that searches for problems in signal handlers. Because signal handlers can be called at any time, they shouldn't call any functions that are non-reentrant, ie. functions that will screw up if they are interrupted by another call to themselves, usually because some shared or global data structure could be corrupted or overwritten. Many functions are non-reentrant, including lots of common ones like printf() (most standard I/O functions, in fact) and malloc(). You also aren't supposed to call any pthread functions from signal handlers, as this can cause deadlock.

Lots of programs don't get this right; Vim, for example -- look here at all the non-reentrant functions it calls when you send it a USR1 signal. Naughty naughty. This kind of problem can persist for a long time because most programs don't receive many signals. Some programs, such as daemons, do receive many signals so this sort of thing is more critical.

Crocus identifies when a program's signal handler calls one of a number of common non-reentrant functions. It also identifies when a signal handler doesn't preserve errno as it should. To run this tool, use the --tool=crocus option. It's a little bit experimental, but has been tested reasonably well.

Thanks to Steve Grubb for the original idea and testing it on a variety of programs.

Data Flow Tracer: valgrind-redux (tar.bz2) [836Kb] - Jan 31 2005

This (quite old) Valgrind distribution includes the data flow tracing tool, Redux. Redux is in a very prototypical state, ie. it crashes frequently. I've heard that using static linking can help avoid some of the crashes.

I make this code available because a number of people have asked for it. It is not good quality code, and please don't ask me for help with it. But it may be instructive if you want to build a Valgrind tool that does something similar.

Interactive Mode: valgrind-interactive (tar.bz2) [640Kb] - Jan 31 2005

A version of the distribution that adds support for a GDB-like debugging interface that lets you set breakpoints, inspect values, and so on. Run with the --interactive=yes option at startup. Note that it's quite experimental.



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