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Eben Freeman


Eben is a software engineer based in San Francisco. He's used Python to do math research and build email infrastructure, among other things. He likes pie, and rock climbing.

Python tracing superpowers with systems tools

Performant Python, Intermediate


Modern system tracers like SystemTap or Dtrace are incredibly powerful. If they're not part of your arsenal of techniques for analyzing Python code, you might be missing out. In this talk, we'll explore how these tools work, and how they can be used for dynamic, low-overhead analysis of unmodified Python programs.


Maybe you want to profile your program, but it's running lots of C extension code and conventional profilers can't help you. Or maybe you're tracking down an emergent problem in a production system, but the logs are barren.

Advanced tracing toolkits like SystemTap can help you analyze your program in real time, without modifying or restarting it. But they can also seem dauntingly unfriendly, especially when applied to interpreted languages like Python.

Fear not! We'll talk about how kernel tracing actually works, what tools are available, and what we need to know about the Python interpreter's internals to use them effectively. We'll see how to do mixed-mode profiling, and how to trace specific events, like memory allocations or network calls. We'll discuss some of the pros and cons of these techniques, and how they can be applied to debugging systems in other languages too.

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