Development Tips

Here you will find various tips useful while development and debugging.

Printing to a console

Sometimes you just want to peek at some variables to see whats going on in your code, without the need for a heavy duty debugger session. In these cases printf can be your best friend. To get this working you need:

$ tshark --log-level=noisy --log-domain=main,capture --log-file=/tmp/wsdebug -r some.pcap

If you have your eye on some condition, so you can add the following to your code:

if (condition) {
  g_print("Kilroy was here\n");

Notice that printf/g_print doesn't work for dumpcap (e.g. capture_loop.c) since stdio is used for communication with Wiresharks capture engine. Use g_log or `g_printerr` instead.

Don't forget to remove these statements later, after you've found your bug. These printf like statements should not remain active in production code as they are often annoy the uninterested user.

Breakpoint on a specific packet number

Often you know, that you have a bug/problem in your dissector, which can be found only in a specific packet.

Let's say you know packet number 1234 has a bug, so you can add the following to your code:

if (pinfo->fd->num == 1234) {
  g_print("Here is my bug\n");

and simply set a breakpoint to the g_print call.

Of course you will need access to pinfo, but this should be the case in any dissector.

Don't forget to remove this later, after you've found your bug ūüėÉ

Some debuggers, such as gdb and MSVC, also let you make breakpoints conditional; you could set a breakpoint at some point in a routine, and make the condition for the breakpoint be pinfo->fd->num == 1234.

Using GDB for debugging

Extracted from

If you want to debug your own build of Wireshark on UNIX before you install the application you have to run GDB through libtool, like so:

user@host:~/src/wireshark$ libtool --mode=execute gdb wireshark

Using DDD for debugging

DDD is GNU's graphical front-end for the GDB command-line debugger (among others).

To help DDD locate your source files while debugging, "cd" into the directory where those source files exist and then start DDD through libtool (just like GDB), or look in the DDD menu "Edit" -> "GDB Settings..." -> "Search path for source files" and explicitly add the path there.

Debugging without Optimization

If you are debugging and optimization is a problem (for example, the line numbers displayed when stepping through the code don't appear to line up with what's actually being executed), set the CMAKE_BUILD_TYPE to Debug to disable optimizations when building by following steps like the ones below:

mkdir build
cd build
cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Debug ..
gdb run/tshark

Reducing libtool verbosity

Typing libtool --mode=execute over and over can get old quickly. In most shells you can create a shortcut to reduce typing.

Bourne-style shells:

function lx
    glibtool --mode=execute $*

C-style shells:

alias lx 'glibtool --mode=execute'

Using this shortcut the GDB example above can be shortened to:

user@host:~/src/wireshark$ lx gdb wireshark

Debugging using Valgrind

Valgrind dynamically analyzes programs and is great at catching memory-related errors. However, it won't catch bugs in Wireshark's memory management framework (wmem, implemented inside wsutil/wmem/) when using the default block memory allocators. Fortunately, you can tell Wireshark at runtime to use wmem's "simple" allocator instead, which uses malloc and a hash table and is friendly to Valgrind:


Similarly, GLib's GSlice memory allocator (used by some Wireshark code that does not use wmem) can be made to use malloc with another environment variable:

export G_SLICE=always-malloc

Assuming you have the lx shortcut defined (above) you and check for memory problems like so:

lx valgrind --tool=memcheck tshark -nVxr /path/to/capture.pcap > /dev/null

Debugging using AddressSanitizer

AddressSanitizer (ASAN) can catch memory-safety issues at runtime, including use-after-free, double-free, buffer overflow and memory leaks. It requires GCC or Clang and works on Linux and macOS. MSVC on Windows is not supported.

To get started, build Wireshark with cmake -DENABLE_ASAN=1.

Note: ASAN slows things down by a factor of 2 (or more), so having a separate build directory for a ASAN build is useful.

A variety of environment variables are useful for debugging with ASAN.

The block allocators used by wmem can prevent ASAN from catching some errors. To detect errors, either use the malloc based allocators as with Valgrind, or set the memory allocators for wmem and GSlice to the allocators that track memory usage with canaries and inspecting freed memory (ASAN handles these better than Valgrind does):

export G_SLICE=debug-blocks

For investigating memory leaks, the following options can be useful:

# This slows down a lot more but results in more precise backtraces,
# especially when calling C++ standard library functions.
export ASAN_OPTIONS=fast_unwind_on_malloc=0
# This causes LeakSanitizer to print the addresses of leaked objects
# for inspection in a debugger.
export LSAN_OPTIONS=report_objects=1

If you are just interested in memory safety checks, but not memory leak debugging, simply disable the latter with:

export ASAN_OPTIONS=detect_leaks=0

These ASAN options and others are documented at

Running dumpcap on Linux as unprivileged user

dumpcap requires privileges for capturing packets. To test it from the build directory, the reasonably safe options are:

Under no circumstances should you run it as (setuid) root, unless you do not care about the environment (for example, a virtual machine).

In either case, adding capabilities will prevent gdb/strace from attaching. To solve that, use ambient capabilities with cap_sys_ptrace before starting GDB. Note that this will permit debugging any process, including those owned by root.

Debugging GLib warnings

GLib calls by applications, like Wireshark, can cause warnings. To debug these you can set environment variables influencing how GLib reacts to these warnings. In combination with a debugger you can look at the call stack leading to this warning. See Running GLib Applications

Using MSVC++ for debugging

Extracted from [Ethereal-dev] How to trace Ethereal on WinXP using MSVC++?

If you are just wanting to debug Wireshark then the Win32 binaries should already include the debug symbols by default. You can look at the file config.nmake and ensure that the debug switch is enabled...

# Linker flags
# /DEBUG generate debug info

Once you have a valid binary with debug symbols you can easily debug Wireshark by opening up the binary from within MSVC.

So from within Visual Studio just click on the File ! Open ! Project/Solution menu and then browse to the installed location of the Wireshark .exe. Typically: c:\program files\wireshark\wireshark-gtk2. Once you have it open you should see wireshark.exe listed in the far left window of Visual Studio. To execute Wireshark just press the F5 key. If you want to break within some location within Wireshark then just open a source file and set a break point. The execution of Wireshark.exe will halt at the specific location. You can then step through the source code to isolate/debug your issue.

Note: For Visual Studio 6, use File ! Open, change the file extension type to be all files, and then proceed as above.

**Obsolete** Using the MSVC6 "source browser" capability

It is sometimes quite useful to be able to use the "Tools/Source Browser" capability of MSVC6 to find the definitions and references for Wireshark functions and variables.

To build and use the required "Browse Information File" (.bsc) file:

  1. Change config.nmake to add the /Fr switch to the compiler flags (in addition to making the linker flags /DEBUG change described above).
# Compiler flags
# /W3  warning level 3 (0 less - 4 most, 1 default)
# /Zi  create .pdb file for debugging
# /Fr  create .sbr files used by BSCMAKE to create a "Browse Information File"
  1. Build wireshark using nmake as usual
  2. Create the .bsc file as follows:
 user@host:~/src/wireshark$ nmake -f Makefile.nmake wireshark.bsc
  1. Open the Wireshark binary from within Visual Studio as described above; Select Tools/Source_Browser from the Toolbar; (If an error message appears, it may be necessary to specify the location of the .bsc file under Project/Settings). Enter a valid identifier and select OK to get a list of the source locations (file names and line numbers) of the definitions and references for the identifier.

By using the keyboard shortcuts associated with the source browser it is possible to quite easily navigate through source files. (See MSVC Help for "Browse Information Files").

For example: If the cursor is located at the beginning of an identifier, entering F12 will go immediately to the source file location of the definition of the identifier. Entering <Ctrl Num *> will then move the cursor back to the previous location.

Imported from on 2020-08-11 23:13:12 UTC