We provide a build of LLDB that is known to work under Darling. It is built from vanilla sources, i.e. without any modifications.

That doesn't mean it works reliably. Fully supporting a debugger is a complex task, so LLDB is known to be buggy under Darling.

Troubleshooting LLDB

If you want to troubleshoot a problem with how LLDB runs under Darling, you need to make debugserver produce a log file.

If running debugserver separately, add -l targetfile. If using LLDB directly (which spawns debugserver as a subprocess automatically), pass an additional environment variable to LLDB:


External DebugServer

If you're having trouble using LLDB normally, you may get luckier by running the debugserver separately.

In one terminal, start the debugserver:

./debugserver /bin/bash

In another terminal, connect to the server in LLDB:

(lldb) platform select remote-macosx
Platform: remote-macosx
Connected: no
(lldb) process connect connect://

Please note that environment variables may be missing by default, if used like this.

Debug with core dump

If you are unable to start your application through lldb, you can generate a core dump and load it through lldb. You will need to enable some options on the Linux side before you are able to generate a core dump. You will to tell Linux that you want to generate a core dump, and that there is no size limit for the core dump.

sudo sysctl -w kernel.core_pattern=core_dump
ulimit -c unlimited

Option #1: Grab Core Dump From Current Working Directory

Note that the core dump will be stored into the current working directory that Linux (not Darling) is pointing to. So you should cd into the directory you want the core dump to be stored in before you execute darling shell. From there, you can execute the application.

cd /path/you/want/to/store/core/dump/in
darling shell

If everything was set up properly, you should find a file called core_dump. It will be located in the current working directory that Linux is pointing to.

Option #2: Using coredumpctl To Get The Core Dump.

If your distro uses SystemD, you can use coredumpctl utility as an alternative to grab the code dump.

To generate the core dump, run the application as normal (ex: darling shell /path/to/application/executable). Once the program crashes, you should see a (core dumped) message appear. For example:

Illegal instruction: 4 (core dumped)

After a core dump is generated, you will need to locate the core dump. coredumpctl list -r will give you a list of core dumps (where the newest entries are listed first).

coredumpctl list -r
TIME                            PID  UID  GID SIG     COREFILE  EXE
Sat 2022-08-13 23:43:20 PDT  812790 1000 1000 SIGILL  present   /usr/local/libexec/darling/usr/libexec/darling/mldr

Once you figure out the process' core_dump that you want save, you can use the coredumpctl dump command to dump it, like so:

# 812790 is the PID that you want to dump
coredumpctl dump -o core_dump 812790

For the time being, you will need to use the darling-coredump command to convert the ELF formatted core dump into a Mach-O core dump.

darling-coredump /path/to/core/dump/file

After the program has finished executing, you should see a darlingcore-core_dump file. This file will be in the same folder as the core_dump file. Once you found the file, you can load it up on lldb.

lldb --core /path/to/darlingcore/core/dump/file

Built-in debugging utilities


libmalloc (the default library that implements malloc(), free() and friends) supports many debug features that can be turned on via environment, among them:

  • MallocScribble (fill freed memory with 0x55)
  • MallocPreScribble (fill allocated memory with 0xaa)
  • MallocGuardEdges (guard edges of large allocations)

When this is not enough, you can use libgmalloc, which is (for the most part) a drop-in replacement for libmalloc. This is how you use it:

DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES=/usr/lib/libgmalloc.dylib DYLD_FORCE_FLAT_NAMESPACE=1 ./test`

libgmalloc catches memory issues such as use-after-free and buffer overflows, and attempts to do this the moment they occur, rather than wait for them to mess up some internal state and manifest elsewhere. It does that by placing each allocation on its own memory page(s), and adding a guard page next to it (like MallocGuardEdges on steroids) — by default, after the allocated buffer (to catch buffer overruns), or with MALLOC_PROTECT_BEFORE, before it (to catch buffer underruns). You're likely want to try it both ways, with and without MALLOC_PROTECT_BEFORE. Another useful option is MALLOC_FILL_SPACE (similar to MallocPreScribble from above). See libgmalloc(3) for more details.

Objective-C and Cocoa

In Objective-C land, you can set NSZombieEnabled=YES in order to detect use-after-free of Objective-C objects. This replaces -[NSObject dealloc] with a different implementation that does not deallocate the memory, but instead turns the object into a "zombie". Upon receiving any message (which indicates a use-after-free), the zombie will log the message and abort the process.

Another useful option is NSObjCMessageLoggingEnabled=YES, which will instruct the Objective-C runtime to log all the sent messages to a file in /tmp.

In AppKit, you can set the NSShowAllViews default (e.g. with -NSShowAllViews 1 on the command line) to cause it to draw a colorful border around each view.

You can find more tips (not all of which work under Darling) here.


You can use xtrace to trace Darwin syscalls a program makes, a lot like using strace on Linux:

xtrace vm_stat
[139] fstat64(1, 0x7fffffdfe340) -> 0
[139] host_self_trap() -> port right 2563
[139] mach_msg_trap(0x7fffffdfdfc0, MACH_SEND_MSG|MACH_RCV_MSG, 40, 1072, port 1543, 0, port 0)
[139]         {remote = copy send 2563, local = make send-once 1543, id = 219}, 16 bytes of inline data
[139]         mach_host::host_statistics64(copy send 2563, 4, 38)
[139]     mach_msg_trap() -> KERN_SUCCESS
[139]         {local = move send-once 1543, id = 319}, 168 bytes of inline data
[139]         mach_host::host_statistics64() -> [75212, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1024, 4159955152, 720014745, 503911965, 0, 4160737656, 2563, 4292863152, 4160733284, 4160733071, 0], 38 
[139] write_nocancel(1, 0x7fd456800600, 58)Mach Virtual Memory Statistics: (page size of 4096 bytes)
-> 58
[139] write_nocancel(1, 0x7fd456800600, 49)Pages free:                               75212.
-> 49

xtrace can trace both BSD syscalls and Mach traps. For mach_msg() in particular, xtrace additionally displays the message being sent or received, as well as tries to decode it as a MIG routine call or reply.

Note that xtrace only traces emulated Darwin syscalls, so any native Linux syscalls made (usually by native ELF libraries) will not be displayed, which means information and open file descriptors may appear to come from nowhere in those cases.

Darlingserver log file

Darlingserver generates a log file called dserver.log. This file contains useful information on any potentional issue that could of occured in darlingserver.

By default, darlingserver only logs errors. You can change this behavior by setting the enviroment vaiable DSERVER_LOG_LEVEL, like so:

export DSERVER_LOG_LEVEL=debug

You can find this file at ${DARLING_PREFIX}/private/var/log/dserver.log.

When Darling Is Not Able To Start Up Properly

In some situations, Darling is not able to access the bash shell. Normally, you should never run into this situation if you are building off of master. However, if you are doing any major changes to the source code (ex: updating Apple's open-source code to a new release), it may cause core applications to break in unexpected ways.

If you ever run into this situation, here are some tricks that can help you find the root cause.

Logging When An Executable is Loading.

In src/kernel/emulation/linux/mach/lkm.c, you can add the following print statements to the mach_driver_init method, like so:

	if (applep != NULL)
		__simple_printf("applep is not NULL\n");
		int i;
		for (i = 0; applep[i] != NULL; i++)
			__simple_printf("applep[%d] = %s\n", i, applep[i]);
			if (strncmp(applep[i], "elf_calls=", 10) == 0)
				uintptr_t table = (uintptr_t) __simple_atoi16(applep[i] + 10, NULL);
				_elfcalls = (struct elf_calls*) table;
				__simple_printf("_elfcalls = %d\n", _elfcalls);

This will print out values stored in applep. One benefit of this is that you get to see which programs are being executed.

darling shell
Bootstrapping the container with launchd...
applep is not NULL
applep[0] = executable_path=/usr/libexec/darling/vchroot
applep[1] = kernfd=4
applep[2] = elf_calls=428390
_elfcalls = 4359056
applep is not NULL
applep[0] = executable_path=/sbin/launchd
applep[1] = kernfd=4
applep[2] = elf_calls=428390
_elfcalls = 4359056
applep is not NULL
applep[0] = executable_path=/usr/sbin/memberd
applep[1] = kernfd=4
applep[2] = elf_calls=428390
_elfcalls = 4359056
applep is not NULL

Just keep in mind that some scripts can break with this change.