Remote debugging a device running DBus

05 Jun 2014 by David Corvoysier

D-Bus is the application Bus used on Linux desktop, and is sometimes used on other devices running Linux due to the lack of good alternatives (Android is a good example of D-Bus being adopted by chance).

One of the key benefits of using DBus is that you can issue D-Bus requests from the command-line or from very simple python scripts, which is great for testing.

Trouble is: what if you don’t have python on the device, or even worse, if you don’t have access to the command-line ?

The solution is simply to configure D-Bus for remote access.


It is assumed that you have access to the D-Bus system and/or session configuration (typically contained in /etc/dbus-1/system.conf and /etc/dbus-1/session.conf respectively).

If you don’t, but are nevertheless able to add commands to the system init, then you might consider creating your own bus:

export DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS=$(dbus-daemon                       \
            --fork                                                  \
            --print-address                                         \

With a <listen> directive similar to this one:


#Insert a secondary <listen> directive

In the D-Bus configuration file, look for the <listen> tag that declares the local port on which the D-Bus deamon listens for incoming requests.

For the system bus, it would be something like:


And for the session bus:


Now, insert the following three lines BEFORE the original <listen> tag:


Then, start/restart the D-Bus.

#Remote requests using dbus-send

Once your device has been properly configured, you can send D-Bus requests from the command line on your host just by specifying the target IP address and port for the D-Bus deamon:

export DBUS_SESSION_ADDRESS="tcp:host=localhost,bind=*,port=55555,family=ipv4"

Note that it doesn’t matter if you want to address the system or session bus: just use the same variable.

then use dbus-send just like you would do when targeting your host.

For instance, the following command will list all services declared on the remote bus:

dbus-send --session           \
  --dest=org.freedesktop.DBus \
  --type=method_call          \
  --print-reply               \
  /org/freedesktop/DBus       \

And the same goes for python scripts you would want to run.

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