HP OpenVMS Systems Documentation

Content starts here

OpenVMS VAX System Dump Analyzer Utility Manual

Previous Contents Index

7 SDA Command Format

The following sections describe the format of SDA commands and the expressions you can use with SDA commands.

7.1 General Command Format

SDA uses a command format similar to that used by the DCL interpreter. You issue commands in this general format:

command-name[/qualifier...] [parameter][/qualifier...] [!comment]


command-name Is an SDA command. Each command tells the utility to perform a function. Commands can consist of one or more words, and can be abbreviated to the number of characters that make the command unique. For example, SH stands for SHOW and SE stands for SET.
/qualifier Modifies the action of an SDA command. A qualifier is always preceded by a slash (/). Several qualifiers can follow a single parameter or command name, but a slash must precede each. You can abbreviate qualifiers to the shortest string of characters that uniquely identifies the qualifier.
parameter Is the target of the command. For example, SHOW PROCESS RUSKIN tells SDA to display the context of the process RUSKIN. The command EXAMINE 80104CD0;40 displays the contents of 40 bytes of memory, beginning with location 80104CD0.

When you supply part of a file specification as a parameter, SDA assumes default values for the omitted portions of the specification. The default device SYS$DISK and default directory are those specified in your most recent SET DEFAULT command. See the OpenVMS DCL Dictionary for a description of the DCL command SET DEFAULT.

!comment Consists of text that describes the command, but this text is not actually part of the command. Comments are useful for documenting SDA command procedures. When executing a command, SDA ignores the exclamation point (!) and all characters that follow it on the same line.

7.2 Expressions

You can use expressions as parameters for some SDA commands, such as SEARCH and EXAMINE. To create expressions, you can use any of the following elements:

  • Numerals
  • Radix operators
  • Arithmetic and logical operators
  • Precedence operators
  • Symbols

The following sections describe elements other than numerals.

7.2.1 Radix Operators

Radix operators determine which numeric base SDA uses to evaluate expressions. You can use one of three radix operators to specify the radix of the numeric expression that follows the operator:

  • ^X (hexadecimal)
  • ^O (octal)
  • ^D (decimal)

The default radix is hexadecimal. SDA displays hexadecimal numbers with leading zeros and decimal numbers with leading spaces.

7.2.2 Arithmetic and Logical Operators

There are two types of arithmetic and logical operators, both of which are listed in Table SDA-8.

  • Unary operators affect the value of the expression that follows them.
  • Binary operators combine the operands that precede and follow them.

In evaluating expressions containing binary operators, SDA performs logical AND, OR, and XOR operations, and multiplication, division, and arithmetic shifting before addition and subtraction. Note that the SDA arithmetic operators perform integer arithmetic on 32-bit operands.

Table SDA-8 SDA Operators
Operator Action
Unary Operators
# Performs a logical NOT of the expression
+ Makes the value of the expression positive
-- Makes the value of the expression negative
@ Evaluates the following expression as a virtual address, then uses the contents of that address as value
G Adds 80000000 16 to the value of the expression 1
H Adds 7FFE0000 16 to the value of the expression 2
Binary Operators
+ Addition
-- Subtraction
* Multiplication
& Logical AND
| Logical OR
\ Logical XOR
/ Division 3
@ Arithmetic shifting

1The unary operator G corresponds to the first virtual address in system space. For example, the expression GD40 can be used to represent the address 80000D4016.
2The unary operator H corresponds to a convenient base address in the control region of a process (7FFE000016). You can therefore refer to an address such as 7FFE2A6416 as H2A64.
3In division, SDA truncates the quotient to an integer, if necessary, and does not retain a remainder.

7.2.3 Precedence Operators

SDA uses parentheses as precedence operators. Expressions enclosed in parentheses are evaluated first. SDA evaluates nested parenthetical expressions from the innermost to the outermost pairs of parentheses.

7.2.4 Symbols

Names of symbols can contain from 1 to 31 alphanumeric characters and can include the dollar sign ($) and underscore (_) characters. Symbols can take values from --7FFFFFFF16 to 7FFFFFFF16.

By default, SDA copies symbols into its symbol table from the files SYS$SYSTEM:SYS.STB and SYS$SYSTEM:REQSYSDEF.STB. To add more symbols to the symbol table, you can use the following SDA commands:

  • READ---to add symbols from other symbol tables or object modules
  • DEFINE---to create symbols and add them to the symbol table

In addition, SDA provides the symbols described in Table SDA-9.

Table SDA-9 SDA Symbols
Symbol Meaning
. (period) Current location
2P_CDDB Address of alternate CDDB for MSCP-served device 1
2P_UCB Address of alternate UCB for dual-pathed device 1
AMB Associated mailbox UCB pointer 1
AP Argument pointer 2
CDDB Address of class driver descriptor block for MSCP-served device 1
CLUSTRLOA Base address of loadable VAXcluster code
CRB Address of channel request block 1
DDB Address of device data block 1
DDT Address of driver dispatch table 1
nnDRIVER Base address of a driver prologue table (DPT); such a symbol exists for each loaded device driver in the system 3
ESP Executive stack pointer 2
FP Frame pointer 2
FPEMUL Base address of the code that emulates floating-point instructions
G 80000000 16, the base address of system space
H 7FFE0000 16
IRP Address of I/O request packet 1
JIB Job information block
KSP Kernel stack pointer 2
LNM Address of logical name block for mailbox 1
MCHK Address within loadable CPU-specific routines
MSCP Address of loadable MSCP server code
ORB Address of object rights block 1
P0BR Base register for the program region (P0) 2
P0LR Length register for the program region (P0) 2
P1BR Base register for the control region (P1) 2
P1LR Length register for the control region (P1) 2
PC Program counter 2
PCB Process control block
PDT Address of port descriptor table 1
PHD Process header
PSL Processor status longword 2
R0 through R11 General registers 2
RMS Base address of the RMS image
RWAITCNT Resource wait count for MSCP-served device 1
SB Address of system block 1
SCSLOA Base address of loadable common SCS services
SP Current stack pointer of a process 2
SSP Supervisor stack pointer 2
SYSLOA Base address of loadable processor-specific system code
TMSCP Address of loadable TMSCP server code
UCB Address of unit control block 1
USP User stack pointer 2
VCB Address of volume control block for mounted device 1

1The SHOW DEVICE command defines this symbol, if appropriate, to represent information pertinent to the last displayed device unit. See the description of the SHOW DEVICE command for additional information.
2The value of those symbols representing the current SDA process context changes whenever you issue a command that changes the context (see Section 4). These symbols include the general-purpose registers (R0 through R11, AP, FP, PC, and SP); the per-process stack pointers (USP, SSP, KSP); the page table base and length registers (P0BR, P0LR, P1BR, and P1LR); and the processor status longword (PSL).
3The notation nn within the symbol nnDRIVER represents a 2-letter, generic device/controller name (for example, LPDRIVER).

When SDA displays an address, it displays that address both in hexadecimal and as a symbol, if possible. If the address is within FFF16 of the value of a symbol, SDA displays the symbol plus the offset from the value of that symbol to the address. If more than one symbol's value is within FFF16 of the address, SDA displays the symbol whose value is the closest. If no symbols have values within FFF16 of the address, SDA displays no symbol. (For an example, see the description of the SHOW STACK command.)

8 Investigating System Failures

This section discusses how the operating system handles internal errors and suggests procedures that can aid you in determining the causes of these errors. To conclude, it illustrates, through detailed analysis of a sample system failure, how SDA helps you find the causes of operating system problems.

For a complete description of the commands discussed in the sections that follow, refer to the SDA Commands section.

8.1 General Procedure for Analyzing System Failures

When the operating system detects an internal error so severe that normal operation cannot continue, it signals a condition known as a fatal bugcheck and shuts itself down. A specific bugcheck code describes each such error.

To resolve the problem, you must find the reason for the bugcheck. Most failures are caused by errors in user-written device drivers or other privileged code not supplied by Compaq. To identify and correct these errors, you need a listing of the code in question.

Occasionally, a system failure is the result of a hardware failure or an error in code supplied by Compaq. A hardware failure requires the attention of Compaq Services. To diagnose an error in code supplied by Compaq, you need listings of that code, which are available from Compaq on CDROM.

Following are the steps you can take to diagnose an error:

  1. Start the search for the error by locating the line of code that signaled the bugcheck. Invoke SDA and use the SHOW CRASH command to display the contents of the program counter (PC). The PC contains the address of the instruction immediately following the instruction that signaled the bugcheck.
  2. Use the SHOW STACK command to display the contents of the stack. The PC often contains an address in the exception handler. This address is the address of the instruction that signaled the bugcheck, but not the address of the instruction that caused it. In this case, the address of the instruction that caused the bugcheck is located on the stack. See Section 8.2 for information about how to proceed for several types of bugchecks.
  3. Once you have found the address of the instruction that caused the bugcheck, you need to find the module in which the failing instruction resides. Use the SHOW DEVICE command to determine whether the instruction is part of a device driver.
    • If the module is not part of a driver, examine the linker's map of the module or modules you are debugging to determine whether the instruction that caused the bugcheck is in your programs.
    • If the module is not within a driver or other code supplied by Compaq, perform the following steps:
      1. Issue the following SDA command:


        This command shows the location and size of each of the loadable images that make up the executive.
      2. Compare the suspected address with the addresses of the system images.
      3. If the address is within one of the images, issue the following command:


        This command loads the symbols that define locations within the loadable portion of the executive. (READ/EXECUTIVE is the default display.)
      4. Examine the failing address by issuing the following command:

        SDA> EXAMINE @PC

        SDA then displays the address in the PC as an offset from the nearest global symbol. This symbol might be the module's starting address, although it is possible that the code you are examining might not be in the module whose name is displayed.
  4. To determine the general cause of the system failure, examine the code that signaled the bugcheck.

8.2 Fatal Bugcheck Conditions

Several conditions result in a bugcheck. Normally, these occasions are rare. When they do occur, it is likely that they are in the nature of a fatal exception or an illegal page fault occurring within privileged code. This section describes the symptoms of these bugchecks. A discussion of other exceptions and condition handling in general appears in the OpenVMS System Services Reference Manual.

8.2.1 Fatal Exceptions

An exception is fatal when it occurs while the following conditions exist:

  • The process is using the interrupt stack.
  • The process is executing above IPL 2 (IPL$_ASTDEL).
  • The process is executing in a privileged (kernel or executive) processor access mode and has not declared a condition handler to deal with the exception.

When the system fails, the operating system reports the approximate cause of the failure on the console terminal. SDA displays a similar message when you issue a SHOW CRASH command. For instance, for a fatal exception, SDA can display one of these messages:

FATALEXCPT, Fatal executive or kernel mode exception

INVEXCEPTN, Exception while above ASTDEL or on interrupt stack

SSRVEXCEPT, Unexpected system service exception

Although several exception conditions are possible, access violations are the most common. When the hardware detects an access violation, information useful in finding the cause of the violation is pushed onto either the kernel stack or the interrupt stack. If the access violation occurs when the hardware is using the interrupt stack, this information appears on the interrupt stack.

The INVEXCEPTN, SSRVEXCEPT, and FATALEXCPT bugchecks place two argument lists, known as the mechanism and signal arrays, on the stack.

The SSRVEXCEPT and FATALEXCPT bugchecks push an additional argument list onto the stack above these arrays; INVEXCEPTN does not. This pointer array (see Figure SDA-1) contains the number 2 in its first longword, indicating that the following two longwords complete the array. The second longword contains the stack address of the signal array; the third contains the stack address of the mechanism array.

Figure SDA-1 Pointer Argument List on the Stack

The first longword of the mechanism array (see Figure SDA-2) contains a 4, indicating that the four subsequent longwords complete the array. These four longwords are used by the procedures that search for a condition handler and report exceptions.

Figure SDA-2 Mechanism Array

The values in the mechanism array are the following:

Value Meaning
00000004 Number of longwords that follow. In a mechanism array, this value is always 4.
Frame Address of the FP (frame pointer) of the establisher's call frame.
Depth Depth of the search for a condition handler.
R0 Contents of R0 at the time of the exception.
R1 Contents of R1 at the time of the exception.

The signal array (see Figure SDA-3) appears somewhat further down the stack. A signal array contains the exception code, zero or more exception parameters, the PC, and the PSL. The size of a signal array can thus vary from exception to exception.

Figure SDA-3 Signal Array

For access violations, the signal array is set up as follows:

Value Meaning
00000005 Number of longwords that follow. For access violations, this value is always 5.
0000000C Exception code. The value 0C 16 represents an access violation. You can identify the exception code by using the SDA command EVALUATE/CONDITION.
Reason mask Longword mask. If bit 0 of this longword is set, the failing instruction (at the PC saved below) caused a length violation. If bit 1 is set, it referred to a location whose page table entry is in a "no access" page. Bit 2 indicates the type of access used by the failing instruction: it is set for write and modify operations and clear for read operations.
Virtual address Virtual address that the failing instruction tried to reference.
PC PC whose execution resulted in the exception.
PSL PSL at the time of the exception.

In the case of a fatal exception, you can find the code that signaled it by examining the PC in the signal array. Use the SHOW STACK command to display the stack in use when the failure occurred and then locate the mechanism and signal arrays. Once you obtain the PC, which points to the instruction that signaled the exception, you can identify the module where the instruction is located by following the instructions in Section 9.3.

Previous Next Contents Index