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What is different about the old KDB vs the merged KDB?

In April 2009 KDB 4.4 (found at: ftp://oss.sgi.com/projects/kdb/download/v4.4/) had significant chunks of the code base removed and hooked it up to the same debug core and polled I/O drivers used by kgdb.

At a really high level, the only difference is how you configure and connect. The kdb disassembler was the main causality of the merger. Architecturally the merged kdb is 99% platform independent and actually gained new features via the debug core API.

Here is a list of the key differences between the out of tree KDB 4.4 and the new merged kdb & kgdb.

The kdb command shell differences

  • There are fewer commands in the merged kdb & kgdb.
    • The kdump / kexec analysis modules tools were removed in the process of merging the code bases.
  • The bt command does uses the kernel's backtracer and not a disassembly engine which shows you function arguments
  • In the merged kdb & kgdb, presently there is no disassembler (known as the "id" command)
  • In the merged kdb & kgdb, when using a non-vga style connection you can transition into kgdb mode and attach gdb, by using the kgdb command.
  • The ability to reference elements of a structures was removed. This may get implemented a different way in the future.


  • Activating kdb is different. NOTE that kbd is short for keyboard.
    • If you want the kernel to stop as soon as possible such that you can install a breakpoint or execute a memory write, you need to add the kgdbwait argument at the end of your kernel boot arguments.
    • Configure kdb for early debugging: earlyprintk=vga ekgdboc=kbd
    • Configure kdb for normal keyboard debugging:
      • Kernel boot arg: kgdboc=kbd
      • At run time: echo kbd > /sys/module/kgboc/parameters/kgdboc
    • Configure kdb for a serial port at 115200 baud:
      • Kernel boot arg: kgdboc=ttyS0,115200
      • At run time: echo ttyS0,115200 > /sys/module/kgboc/parameters/kgdboc
    • Configure kdb for a keyboard and the serial port at the same time:
      • Kernel boot arg: kgdboc=kbd,ttyS0,115200
      • At run time: echo kbd,ttyS0,115200 > /sys/module/kgboc/parameters/kgdboc
  • In order to break into the kdb you must use sysrq-g
    • Press and hold the Alt key, and the press and release the SysRq. While still holding alt, press the g key, then release all the keys.
    • OR, use "echo g > /proc/sysrq-trigger"
    • OR, If you are using a serial line send the serial break via your terminal emulator and press g

Number of architectures supported

  • KDB 4.4 supported only ia64, x86_64 and i386
  • The merged kdb & kgdb supports arm, blackfin, mips, x86_64, i386, sh, powerpc, and sparc.

Internal differences

  • The capability to debug before the kernel memory allocator required an 2 stage initialization because the dynamically added commands require the kernel memory allocator.
  • The kdb pager was redesigned so as not to rely upon in kernel versions of setjmp() longjmp().
  • The kernel's printk can be redirected to a kdb command result.
  • kdb command results can be passed to gdb with by using gdb's monitor command. You can try "monitor help" in gdb while connected to kgdb.
  • The kdb keyboard driver was refactored to conform to the kgdb I/O driver model and to allow for sending key up events on kernel resume for any keys that were depressed at the time the kernel entered the debugger.
  • The kdb breakpoint code was completely overhauled to connect to work in conjunction with the debug core API.
  • The debug core gained the ability to change CPU cores without exiting the kernel debug context
  • Hardware breakpoint work correctly and are system wide (all cores).
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