Tag Archives: tracing
The “Debugging” interview – a few pointers

The long interview day is nearing its end. Googamazbook got the best and the worst out of you (well, neither of those, but I’m trying to put some literature in here); the last interviewer comes in, smiles condescendently and greets you with:

Time for the easy interview, heh?

Yes, you have all the reasons to be concerned and feel you’re just one step away from failure (yes, why didn’t you spend the day by the pool in the basement of the many stars hotel they got you a room in for the interview?). But without further ado, the questions start pouring in:

Question 1

How do you figure out if a process is CPU bound or I/O bound?

Tricky! Let’s not jump to the conclusion. There are 2 variables here, this means we have 4 possibilities:

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The “Systems” interview; some pointers

Note: this text is about Systems Programming on Linux platforms.

This type of interview is focused on finding out what do you know about what happens below the “command line” surface. Down there things can get messier, as processes get created, terminated, the output gets collected, system calls are performed. Things get complicated really fast for the unaware or the unprepared.

Let’s take for example a single command that is being run:

$ ls

This is a classical interview question, asked for more than 15 years now. I’m not sure if anyone still asks it in 2016, but it’s still interesting to see the answer. So, what happens when this is being run? (No, not the file list display).

From the beginning:

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Linux performance monitoring (an introduction)

1. Classification

Before getting into action, let’s split the “performance” problem in a couple of boxes, as the concept itself is quite general. First, deciding what we want to monitor (an entire system? a particular application?) – and second, deciding on what type of performance monitoring do we require (stats collection by the kernel? in-depth analysis?). Based on this particular classification, we may end up with 4 categories, each with its particular software selection:


Stats (Counters)

Tracing / Profiling / Debugging

 System Wide

 Per Process


  • netstat offers much more info beyond statistics on interface / protocol and may also be used to monitor individual connections.

  • dtrace and SystemTap can also trace individual applications.

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