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Using DarkConsole
Phabricator User Documentation (Field Manuals)

Enabling and using the built-in debugging and performance console.


DarkConsole is a debugging console built into Phabricator which exposes configuration, performance and error information. It can help you detect, understand and resolve bugs and performance problems in Phabricator applications.

Security Warning

WARNING: Because DarkConsole exposes some configuration and debugging information, it is disabled by default and you should be cautious about enabling it in production.

Particularly, DarkConsole may expose some information about your session details or other private material. It has some crude safeguards against this, but does not completely sanitize output.

This is mostly a risk if you take screenshots or copy/paste output and share it with others.

Enabling DarkConsole

You enable DarkConsole in your configuration, by setting darkconsole.enabled to true, and then turning it on in SettingsDeveloper Settings.

Once DarkConsole is enabled, you can show or hide it by pressing ` on your keyboard.

Since the setting is not available to logged-out users, you can also set darkconsole.always-on if you need to access DarkConsole on logged-out pages.

DarkConsole has a number of tabs, each of which is powered by a "plugin". You can use them to access different debugging and performance features.

Plugin: Error Log

The "Error Log" plugin shows errors that occurred while generating the page, similar to the httpd error.log. You can send information to the error log explicitly with the phlog() function.

If errors occurred, a red dot will appear on the plugin tab.

Plugin: Request

The "Request" plugin shows information about the HTTP request the server received, and the server itself.

Plugin: Services

The "Services" plugin lists calls a page made to external services, like MySQL and subprocesses.

The Services tab can help you understand and debug issues related to page behavior: for example, you can use it to see exactly what queries or commands a page is running. In some cases, you can re-run those queries or commands yourself to examine their output and look for problems.

This tab can also be particularly useful in understanding page performance, because many performance problems are caused by inefficient queries (queries with bad query plans or which take too long) or repeated queries (queries which could be better structured or benefit from caching).

When analyzing performance problems, the major things to look for are:

Summary: In the summary table at the top of the tab, are any categories of events dominating the performance cost? For normal pages, the costs should be roughly along these lines:

Event TypeApproximate Cost
All Services10%-75%
Entire Page100ms - 1000ms

These ranges are rough, but should usually be what you expect from a page summary. If any of these numbers are way off (for example, "Event" is taking 50% of runtime), that points toward a possible problem in that section of the code, and can guide you to examining the related service calls more carefully.

Duration: In the Duration column, look for service calls that take a long time. Sometimes these calls are just what the page is doing, but sometimes they may indicate a problem.

Some questions that may help understanding this column are: are there a small number of calls which account for a majority of the total page generation time? Do these calls seem fundamental to the behavior of the page, or is it not clear why they need to be made? Do some of them seem like they could be cached?

If there are queries which look slow, using the "Analyze Query Plans" button may help reveal poor query plans.

Generally, this column can help pinpoint these kinds of problems:

  • Queries or other service calls which are huge and inefficient.
  • Work the page is doing which it could cache instead.
  • Problems with network services.
  • Missing keys or poor query plans.

Repeated Calls: In the "Details" column, look for service calls that are being made over and over again. Sometimes this is normal, but usually it indicates a call that can be batched or cached.

Some things to look for are: are similar calls being made over and over again? Do calls mostly make sense given what the page is doing? Could any calls be cached? Could multiple small calls be collected into one larger call? Are any of the service calls clearly goofy nonsense that shouldn't be happening?

Generally, this column can help pinpoint these kinds of problems:

  • Unbatched queries which should be batched (see Performance: N+1 Query Problem).
  • Opportunities to improve performance with caching.
  • General goofiness in how service calls are working.

If the services tab looks fine, and particularly if a page is slow but the "All Services" cost is small, that may indicate a problem in PHP. The best tool to understand problems in PHP is XHProf.

Plugin: Startup

The "Startup" plugin shows information about startup phases. This information can provide insight about performance problems which occur before the profiler can start.

Normally, the profiler is the best tool for understanding runtime performance, but some work is performed before the profiler starts (for example, loading libraries and configuration). If there is a substantial difference between the wall time reported by the profiler and the "Entire Page" cost reported by the Services tab, the Startup tab can help account for that time.

It is normal for starting the profiler to increase the cost of the page somewhat: the profiler itself adds overhead while it is running, and the page must do some work after the profiler is stopped to save the profile and complete other shutdown operations.

Plugin: XHProf

The "XHProf" plugin gives you access to the XHProf profiler. To use it, you need to install the corresponding PHP plugin.

Once it is installed, you can use XHProf to profile the runtime performance of a page. This will show you a detailed breakdown of where PHP spent time. This can help find slow or inefficient application code, and is the most powerful general-purpose performance tool available.

For instructions on installing and using XHProf, see Using XHProf.

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