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Debugging C/C++ libraries called by Python

I've been debugging a C++ library that I wrote and am calling from Python via a CFFI interface. After an hour or two of debugging with print-statements without resolution, I decided to figure out how to use a proper debugger. I'm very comfortable on the command-line and have used gdb in this way often in the past, so am happy I found an easy solution. The instructions that follow should work for any C/C++ library built with debug flags enabled (i.e. the -g compiler flag) that is called from Python. While I am using CFFI, it should also work for ctypes or SWIG interfaces. Also the commands below are specific to the lldb debugger, but could be easily translated to gdb.

First, in two separate terminal windows, launch ipython and lldb. At the IPython prompt, type:

In [1]: !ps aux | grep -i ipython

and look for the process ID (pid) of the IPython session. Let's assume the process ID in our case is 1234. Go to the lldb command prompt and attach to the IPython session with

(lldb) attach --pid 1234

followed by

(lldb) continue

to release the process. Now your ready to set breakpoints, etc. For example, to set a breakpoint on line 400 of a myfile.cpp we would type

(lldb) breakpoint set -f myfile.cpp -l 400

Assuming myfile.cpp is compiled into a library that is called by the Python script/module, we can now run the Python code in the IPython terminal

In [2]: run

Back in the lldb terminal we should see our code stopped on line 400. Debug away...

P.S. I found the bug after 5 minutes in a proper debugger...


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