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Debugging

“I still remember my early days of Z80 assembly language programming: a couple of times, just to get a reaction, I bragged that I could write bug free code the first time. Just write, assemble, link and voila, a perfectly working program! I was scoffed at and justifiably so—truthfully, in over 30 years of experience, I've never achieved that and probably never will.”

Will Arthur, reflecting while writing this chapter

It is possible that somebody somewhere has written a significant program that ran without bugs the first time, but if so, it's in the noise, statistically speaking. Because the process of programming seems to also be the process of inserting bugs, the need for debugging is an inexorable law of the programming world.

This chapter aims to educate you about some specific tools and methods for debugging TPM 2.0 programs as well as debugging common bug areas. We will discuss two major areas of debugging: lower-level applications that communicate with the TPM and higher-level applications that use the Feature API to communicate with the TPM. Lower-level applications include applications that use the ESAPI and SAPI, as well as implementations of specialized TSS layers such as the SAPI library, TPM Access Broker (TAB) and Resource Manager (RM). Most of the text for the lower-level applications flows directly from the experience of that section's author in developing the System API, TAB, RM, and TPM 2.0 device driver, all very low-level pieces of software. Because of the current lack of implementations for the Feature API and Enhanced System API layers of

the TSS stack, no TSS 2.0–specific tribal knowledge is available for debugging those areas. For this reason, the chapter relies on debugging experiences from TSS 1.2, because we expect that many of the issues are similar.

Low-Level Application Debugging

Because low-level applications are the only ones we have actual experience debugging for TPM 2.0, we discuss them first.

The Problem

When a TPM command has an error, an error code is returned. The TPM 2.0 specification writers worked very hard to design error codes that facilitate debugging. Many times, the error code tells you exactly what's wrong, but due to lack of familiarity with the specification, you're left scratching your head. And in a few cases, the error code only indicates an area to look for the error, without the granularity needed to identify the exact cause. Either way, whether due to knowledge or specification deficiencies, you, the poor programmer, are left wondering what to do.

This section describes a few different error conditions and illustrates a hierarchy of techniques used to debug these types of problems, from simplest to more complex:

Error code analysis: Many simple errors can be completely debugged this way.

Debug trace analysis: This requires instrumenting the low-level driver to spit out the command byte stream being sent to the TPM and the response byte stream received from the TPM. Quite often, comparing known good debug trace data to bad data quickly highlights the problem.

More complicated errors: These take more work to debug.

An HMAC authorization error is quickly spotted by the error code, but debugging it requires detailed examination of all the steps that were used to generate the HMAC.

The hardest errors to debug: These require stepping through the TPM 2.0 simulator with a debugger in order to understand

what the TPM is unhappy about. Often, after debugging through the simulator code, the answer becomes obvious. A better understanding of the specification would have uncovered the problem. Human nature being what it is, we often get distracted by the forest and fail to see the particular tree that needs to be eradicated. Hence, this technique is often needed. The author of this section has debugged many errors this way both for himself and for others within Intel developing TPM 2.0 code.

 
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