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I admit, I’ve been experimenting more with awk lately. Generally, my opinion has always been, “If it’s not simple enough for #!/bin/bash, I’d rather use python/perl/ruby.” Figured I’d simplify my life by having one less flavor of syntax/regexps to worry about.

What a silly idea! While Python may be great for “enterprise-class”[1] log analysis, nothing beats awk for one-liners. Take a few examples off the top of my head…

Who’s trying to hack me?

$ zcat /var/log/auth.log.*.gz  | awk '$6 == "Invalid" { print $8 }' | sort | uniq -c | sort -n -r | head -n 30
     79 admin
     71 test
     52 user
     43 michael
     40 alex
     39 guest
     32 oracle
     30 www
     30 dave
     28 info
     26 sales
     25 web
     25 ben
     23 victoria
     23 paul
     23 httpd
     23 adam
     22 john
     21 shop
     21 mike
     21 ftp
     21 david
     21 caroline
     21 amanda
     20 toor
     20 server
     20 samba
     20 linux
     20 danny
     20 claire

Most interesting… Nobody bothers to try root, but apparently someone’s used toor before. Also, I see a mix of common first names as well as known linux service names (httpd, ftp, etc). My question is… are there that many sysadmins named caroline?

Where are the Bastards Coming From?

$ zcat /var/log/auth.log.*.gz | awk '$6 == "Invalid" { print $10 }' | sort | uniq -c | sort -n -r

Wow, is a really persistent little bugger. Upon looking closer, I see all of the attempts were on a single day. Let’s see the latency between attempts:

$ zcat /var/log/auth.log.*.gz  | awk '
$6 == "Invalid" && $10 == "" {
    oldsec = sec;
    split($3, time, ":");
    sec = time[3] + 60 * (time[2] + 60 * time[1]);
    if (oldsec > 0) {
        print sec - oldsec;
}' | sort -n | uniq -c
    267 2
   3366 3
   1457 4
     23 5
     19 6
     15 7
      1 8
      4 9
      1 10
      5 11
      1 13
      3 14
      2 15
      2 16
      2 24
      1 44

So basically, throughout the day, every 3 seconds someone was trying to log in.

Anyways, I thought I would have something more interesting from awk, but this’ll have to suffice.

Footnote [1] Whatever that means


I spent about two hours today trying to debug a race condition in a multi-threaded C++ app today… definitely not a fun thing to do. The worst part? The runtime diagnostics weren’t giving me anything useful to work with! Sometimes things just worked, sometimes I got segmentation faults inside old, well-tested parts of the application. At one point, I saw this error pop up:

pure virtual method called
terminate called without an active exception

What? I know I can’t instantiate a class that has any pure-virtual methods, so how did this error show up? To debug it, I decided to replace all of the potentially-erroneous pure virtuals with stub functions that printed warnings to stderr. Lo and behold, I confirmed that polymorphism wasn’t working in my application. I had a bunch of Deriveds sitting in memory, and yet, the Base methods were being called.

Why was this happening? Because I was deleting objects while they were still in use. I don’t know if this is GCC-specific or not, but something very curious happens inside of destructors. Because the object hierarchy’s destructors get called from most-derived to least-derived, the object’s vtable switches up through parent classes. As a result, at some point in time (nondeterministic from a separate thread), my Derived objects were all really Bases. Calling a virtual member function on them in this mid-destruction state is what caused this situation.

Here’s about the simplest example I can think of that reproduces this situation:

#include <pthread.h>
#include <unistd.h>
struct base
    virtual ~base() { sleep(1); }
    virtual void func() = 0;
struct derived : public base
    virtual ~derived() { }
    virtual void func() { return; }
static void *thread_func(void* v)
    base *b = reinterpret_cast<base*>(v);
    while (true) b->func();
    return 0;
int main()
    pthread_t t;
    base *b = new derived();
    pthread_create(&t, 0, thread_func, b);
    delete b;
    return 0;

So what’s the moral of the story? If you ever see the error message pure virtual method called / terminate called without an active exception, check your object lifetimes! You may be trying to call members on a destructing (and thus incomplete) object. Don’t waste as much time as I did.


This looks like a title

and i bet this text will display on my main page. If i had a theme song, I would write the lyrics here.