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operf: Fix 'Permission denied' error on early perf_events kernels

The new operf tool available with OProfile 0.9.8 uses the perf_event_open
syscall to obtain access to the performance monitor counters and registers.
This syscall is implemented by the Linux Kernel Performance Events Subsystem
(aka "perf_events"). This perf_events subsystem was introduced in kernel
version 2.6.31, and it underwent a lot of changes in the first several versions
thereafter. Apparently, the operf tool, as currently written and operating today,
relies on certain kernel functionaility that was introduced later than some
kernels provided with some Linux distributions that supported perf_events in the
very early stages (e.g.,SLES 11 SP1). When attempting to profile with operf
(e.g., 'operf ls'), it fails with the message:

Unexpected error running operf: Permission denied
Please use the opcontrol command instead of operf.

The fix for this problem is to pass '-1' for the cpu arg on the
perf_event_open syscall when running on an early perf_events kernel.
Passing '-1' for the cpu arg was a requirement (in most circumstances)
on early perf_events kernels. Later kernels removed this requirement
so perf_event_open could be called for each cpu, even for single-app
profiling by non-root users. This is the standard usage model employed
by operf, which allows us to mmap kernel data space for each cpu, thus
giving a lot more memory for the kernel to record sample data.

Signed-off-by: Maynard Johnson <>

Maynard Johnson Maynard Johnson 2013-02-05

changed libperf_events/operf_counter.cpp
changed pe_profiling/operf.cpp
libperf_events/operf_counter.cpp Diff Switch to side-by-side view
pe_profiling/operf.cpp Diff Switch to side-by-side view

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