The current default D-BUS configuration (at least on Ubuntu) disallows monitoring method calls on the system D-BUS (dbus-monitor --system), which makes debugging rather cumbersome; this has worked years ago, but apparently got changed for security reasons. It took me a half an hour to figure out how to enable this for debugging, and as this has annoyingly little Google juice (I didn’t find any solution), let’s add some.

The trick seems to be to set a global policy to be able to eavesdrop any method call after the individual /etc/dbus-1/system.d/*.conf files applied their restrictions, for which there is already a convenient facility. Create a file /etc/dbus-1/system-local.conf with

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<!DOCTYPE busconfig PUBLIC
  "-//freedesktop//DTD D-BUS Bus Configuration 1.0//EN"
  "http://www.freedesktop.org/standards/dbus/1.0/busconfig.dtd">

<busconfig>
  <policy user="root">
    <!-- Allow everything to be sent -->
    <allow send_destination="*" eavesdrop="true"/>
    <!-- Allow everything to be received -->
    <allow eavesdrop="true"/>
    <allow send_type="method_call"/>
  </policy>
</busconfig>

Then sudo dbus-monitor --system displays everything. Needless to say that you don’t want this file on any production system!

Does anyone know an easier way? My first naive stab was to run dbus-monitor as root, but that doesn’t make any difference at all.

Update: Turns out this is already described in a better way at https://wiki.ubuntu.com/DebuggingDBus. Yay me for not finding that.. I updated above recipe to limit access to root, which is much better indeed.