7.2. Solving SPEX problems

In case you encounter a problem with SPEX, like a command does not do what you want, you get unexpected results or in the worst case the program crashes, then you arrived at the right page. Here we provide a checklist which may either allow you to solve the problem yourself or provide us with enough information to help you.

  1. Does SPEX give you an error message? Although not all error messages clearly identify the problem, they do contain information about what is wrong. If the error message is not obvious, then entering the error message in Google or any other search engine may reveal solutions for your problem found by other people.

  2. If there is no clear error message, then it is important to know at which step in the process the problem appears to occur. Are you unable to start a program, or does the program quit after reading in files? The exact moment can give important hints about what may go wrong. If the problem occurs in SPEX, you could create a .com file with the commands that cause the issue and see at which command the error occurs.

    SPEX can also provide information about which subroutine SPEX is running. With the command watch sub true, SPEX will print out the subroutines for all following commands. Putting this line in the top of your .com file will make it easier to identify where the program fails.

  3. Check the Find known issues page how to search our Github page for similar problems. There may be very recent problems reported that are not indexed by search machines yet.

  4. When the points above do not lead you to a solution, please submit an issue to our issue tracker on Github. The Report issues page contains instructions on how to do that.

7.2.1. Advanced debugging

If SPEX crashes with a segmentation fault, then it may help to run a debugger on the SPEX program. We do not expect you to do this for each problem, but we may ask you to run SPEX trough a debugger if you submitted an issue.

A very general debugger is the GDB program, which is available on most platforms. On the command line, you can enter:

linux:~/spex> gdb $SPEX90/bin/spex

GNU gdb (Debian 7.12-6)
Copyright (C) 2016 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
License GPLv3+: GNU GPL version 3 or later <http://gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html>
This is free software: you are free to change and redistribute it.
There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law.  Type "show copying"
and "show warranty" for details.
This GDB was configured as "x86_64-linux-gnu".
Type "show configuration" for configuration details.
For bug reporting instructions, please see:
Find the GDB manual and other documentation resources online at:
For help, type "help".
Type "apropos word" to search for commands related to "word"...
Reading symbols from /spex/bin/spex...done.

When GDB is started, you can type run to start SPEX:

(gdb) run
Starting program: /spex/bin/spex
[Thread debugging using libthread_db enabled]
Using host libthread_db library "/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libthread_db.so.1".
 Welcome user to SPEX version 3.05.00

 NEW in this version of SPEX:
11-06-2018 Added Ext_Rate column to new spo files
18-12-2018 SPEX is now using the GPL license

 Currently using SPEXACT version 2.07.00. Type `help var calc` for details.


In the next step, you can enter the SPEX commands that lead to the problem. Having the commands in a .com file would be most practical:

SPEX> log exe bug

The GDB program will run slower than usual. When the error occurs, GDB will show more detailed error messages related to the crash. If you want even more information, you can give the bt command to backtrace where the error occurs:

(gdb) bt

This output can be a bit intimidating, but it should show in which line of the code things go wrong. This kind of information is very helpful to us in solving programming errors.