Friday, March 22, 2019

Visualizing Postgres page images within GDB

It's straightforward to set up GDB to quickly invoke pg_hexedit on a page image, without going through the filesystem. The page image can even come from a local temp buffer.
A user-defined GDB command can be created that shows an arbitrary page image in pg_hexedit from an interactive GDB session.

This is a good way to understand what's really going on when debugging access method code. It also works well with core dumps. I found this valuable during a recent project to improve the Postgres B-Tree code.

An example of how to make this work is available from a newly added section of the pg_hexedit README file:

Friday, May 18, 2018

Visualizing a column's space overhead using pg_hexedit

pg_hexedit recently gained the ability to annotate the space taken up by each individual column/attribute within each individual tuple. This works with tables, and with B-Tree indexes.

I had to come up with a way of passing the pg_hexedit frontend utility the relevant pg_attribute metadata to make this work. This metadata describes the "shape" of individual tuples in a relation (backend code uses a closely related structure called a "tuple descriptor"). My approach works seamlessly in simple cases, but can still be used when manually running the pg_hexedit command line tool.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Decoding files with pg_filenodemapdata

From time to time, you may need to figure out which file in a PostgreSQL data directory corresponds to a particular table or index in the database. For example, pg_hexedit users sometimes need this information, since pg_hexedit is a frontend utility that works by reading relation files from the filesystem. In practice, a pg_hexedit convenience script can usually be used instead. Users need only give the name of the table or index that is to be examined. The convenience scripts call the built-in function pg_relation_filepath() via an SQL query.

This approach won't always work, though. pg_hexedit is a tool for investigating corruption, and sometimes corruption can affect system catalogs in a way that makes it impossible to even establish a connection to the database. You may find that you're greeted with an arcane error any time you attempt to connect to the database. The error may look something like this:

ERROR:  catalog is missing 3 attribute(s) for relid 827