A (mostly) useful debugger on z/OS

One item that has eluded me in my continuing quest to dive deeply into z Systems architecture is finding a native (IBM-supplied) assembler debugger/disassembler** on the platform that is fully functional, user-friendly and versatile.

Quickly I gave up on user-friendly and versatile and settled on trying to find one that was fully functional; simply stated – can execute and sustain integrity through any command in the POP manual. Of the 4 debuggers on the system, or as part of an add-on package, all have major out-of-the box ‘features’ that prevent them from being a worthwhile tool to anyone who has used a modern debugger (Like Immunity, Olly, or even GNU’s gdb).*

For this platform, my criteria for fully functional was this:

  1. Be able to debug programs which are link-edited APF-authorized and live in APF authorized libraries.
  2. Debug programs that switch into and out of supervisor state, and also switch PSW key mask values.
  3. Allow execution of commands that switch address space control (ASC) modes and manipulate storage in any of the 3 modes.
  4. Do the rest of the actions a basic debugger would do: set breakpoints, single step, watch variables / registers, examine and change memory, and so on.

The first 3 are functions unique to the z/Architecture platform, and I would expect at least the 3 z/OS based debuggers to handle (and possibly the one OMVS/USS based one also).   None do.  At least out of the box.  A quick list of the debuggers tried, and their limitations is at the end of this post.

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