Crashing OS X with DTrace’s speculations

A few months ago I was struggling to work around DTrace’s «no-printfs-in-conditions» limitation. One can easily stumble across this by trying to conditionally print something:

this->flag == 1
    ? (void)printf("Yep, the flag is set to 1")
    : (void)0;

This code will trigger the following error in the D compiler:

dtrace: failed to compile script foo.d: line 5: tracing function printf( ) may not be called from a D expression (D program context required)

A perfect solution that isn't

Long story short, there's «Speculative Tracing» in DTrace:

Speculative tracing is the ability to tentatively trace data and decide whether to commit the data to a tracing buffer or discard it. The primary mechanism to filter out uninteresting events is the predicate mechanism. Predicates are useful when you know at the time that a probe fires whether or not the probe event is of interest. Predicates are not well suited to dealing with situations where you do not know if a given probe event is of interest or not until after the probe fires.

Here's the little demo so you can see how powerful this feature is for printing data conditionally:

    self->spec = speculation();
    // this printf() won't happen until the speculation is
    // committed (see below)
    printf("open(%s)\n", copyinstr(arg0));

/self->spec && errno != 0/
    // let the printf() happen when errno is not OK
    self->spec = 0;

/self->spec && errno == 0/
    // or simply discard the speculation when open() succeeded,
    // so no data will be printed
    self->spec = 0;

Looks pretty, yeah? But don't even try to run this script on your Mac — it will make your kernel panic and crash the whole OS1 . ಠ_ಠ

I filed a radar on this matter: rdar://22229825, but haven't had any response for three months now…

November 3, 2015

  1. as of OS X 10.9.x, 10.10.x and 10.11 (with SIP disabled)