User-space Process Tracing

UProcTrace: User-space Process Tracing

UProcTrace traces process executions and process ends on Linux systems.

On process starts, UProcTrace records the time, the entire command line, working directory and environment. On process end, it logs the CPU time used by the process (split by user and kernel time) and the peak memory usage.

UProcTrace is implemented in user-space, so does not reuire any special kernel modules. This means it can also be used in containers (e.g. docker) without any changes the to conteiner host. The implementation is based on the LD_PRELOAD mechanism. A shared library is injected into each process started. This libarary records trace events at begin of the process (when the preload library is initialized) and at the end of the process (when the library is de-initiazlied).


UProcTrace is developed on Debian Linux 10 "buster".

Install the dependencies:

apt-get install -y build-essential cmake gcc \
                   libprotobuf-c-dev libprotobuf-dev \
                   ninja-build \
                   protobuf-c-compiler protobuf-compiler \
                   pylint3 python3 python3-protobuf python3-tabulate

For the graphical user interface, install the additional dependencies:

apt-get install -y glade libglib2.0-dev libgtk-3-dev python3-gi

Change to the directory of this file.

Configure a build directory:

mkdir build
cd build
cmake -G Ninja -D CMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ..



Run tests:


Set up for direct usage from build directory (to be done in each shell):

source exports

Tracing Applications

To trace an application, prefix the command with upt-trace and the file name for the trace. For example, to trace the command

/usr/bin/printf "trace me"

run the following command:

upt-trace mytrace.upt /usr/bin/printf "trace me"

To show the recorded events, run:

upt-tool mytrace.upt dump

Graphical User interface

To explore a trace in the graphical user interface (GUI), run:

upt-tool mytrace.upt gui

The left half of the GUI shows the process tree with a few selected details about each process. The right half shows further details of the process selected on the left side.

By double-clicking on the entries in the right tree view, their content can be copied to the clipboard. If a row with subordinate rows is double-clicked, the contents of all the subordinate entries are copied to the clipboard, using proper shell-escaping of the individual entries. If a process row on the left side is double-clicked, a shell command for repeating the execution of the process (including working directory, environment variables and command line) is copied to the clipboard.

Example: Trace Build Process

To show the capabilities of the UProcTrace, a process that calls several child processes is required. In this example, the build of UProcTrace is used for this purpose.

Change to the build directory.

Start a new shell to be traced:

upt-trace mytrace.upt bash

Configure another build directory for this tracing example and run the build:

mkdir example_trace_build
cd example_trace_build
cmake -G Ninja -D CMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ../..

Stop tracing by ending the shell:


Show traced information:

upt-tool mytrace.upt dump

To explore the trace in the graphical user interface, run:

upt-tool mytrace.upt gui