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Probe tool switches to embedded Linux

Jun 30, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

A vendor of instrumentation probe software has released a new version that adds embedded Linux support. OC Systems' Aprobe version 5 enables embedded software engineers to instrument software applications after they have been developed, isolating, diagnosing, and resolving complex problems that can't be solved by other debugging tools, says the company.

Aprobe 5.0 enables any device that runs embedded Linux or VxWorks to be debugged, performance-tuned, and remotely diagnosed and repaired, says OC Systems. The software is said to support a wide variety of embedded devices, including mobile phones, set-top boxes, networking equipment, and industrial devices.

OC Systems cites three main types of customers for the new version of Aprobe: enterprises and projects running their own version of Linux, embedded Linux vendors, and ISVs. Prior to its newly added Linux and VxWorks compatibility, Aprobe previously supported AIX, Windows, Solaris, and OS/390, and the company says it will continue to support these platforms with Aprobe version 4.

Major OC Systems customers are said to include Lockheed Martin, IBM, Northrop Grumman, SAS, Intel, SAIC, and the U.S. Army. Aprobe version 5 offers a much smaller footprint than earlier versions, and adds the ability to add and remove probes without restarting the application, says the company.

Earlier versions allowed engineers to add, remove, and modify probes while the application was running, but only if Aprobe was already in place. With the new version, the probes can be attached to a running application the first time the application runs with Aprobe, without requiring a restart.

Probing the Linux kernel

Another major new Aprobe feature is the ability to insert probes into the Linux kernel. The probes can be added and removed without restarting the kernel, says the company. The feature is said to enable embedded Linux engineers to probe code as they add it to a live kernel that is handling interrupts and performing other privileged functions.

Aprobe and its "patented instrumentation technology" enable the following capabilities, says OC Systems:

  • Instrument applications without modifying source code, rebuilding or redeploying applications, reflashing boards, or rebooting
  • Add, remove, or modify probes dynamically, as the application runs
  • Add probes to the OS and user-mode applications
  • Enable probes written in C or Java to "do anything that can be done in C or Java"
  • Simulate faults and error conditions that would be difficult to reproduce in any other way.
  • Stub out routines or force the execution of conditional code paths
  • Insert debug code, including logs and printfs, into a running system
  • Insert patches, repairing software until a new build is available
  • Create a library of probes that address issues specific to a particular application
  • Collect data in real-time, including time-of-failure, application-specific logs, and performance metrics
  • Ensure thread-safe logging

Stated Oliver Cole, president and CEO of OC Systems, "Aprobe has always been a lightweight instrumentation technology. Its footprint was already quite small. But with this new version we have made it even smaller."


Aprobe 5 is shipping now for Linux, embedded Linux, and VxWorks. More information may be found here.

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