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Understanding the behaviour of waitpid(-1, NULL, WNOHANG)

Posted on 2004-04-29
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Last Modified: 2010-08-05
As far as I understand from waitpid's man page, when calling waitpid with WNOHANG, the function should return 0 if there are no child processes to wait for.
When running the following program -

===
#include <errno.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <sys/types.h>
#include <sys/wait.h>
#include <unistd.h>

#define N 5

void error_exit(char *str)
{
      perror(str);
      exit(1);
}

void sigchld_handler(int sig)
{
      pid_t      pid;
      do {
            pid = waitpid(-1, NULL, WNOHANG);
            printf("child %d\n",pid);
      } while ( pid > 0 );
      
      if ( errno == ECHILD )
            puts("errno=ECHILD");
      if ( pid < 0 )
            error_exit("waitpid");

      if ( signal(SIGCHLD, sigchld_handler) == SIG_ERR )
            error_exit("signal");
}

int main()
{
      int       i;
      pid_t       pid;
      
      if ( signal(SIGCHLD, sigchld_handler) == SIG_ERR )
            error_exit("signal");
      
      for ( i = 0; i < N; i += 1 ) {
            pid = fork();
            if ( pid < 0 )
                  // fork error
                  error_exit("fork");
            else if ( pid == 0 ) {
                  // child process - sleep
                  sleep(N-i+1);
                  exit(0);
            }
      }
      while(1);
      
      return 0;
}
===

I get this output -

===
child 5398
child 0
child 5397
child 0
child 5396
child 0
child 5395
child 0
child 5394
child -1
errno=ECHILD
waitpid: No child processes
===

As you can see, after all child processes have been "collected", waitpid returns -1 (which means an error occured) and sets errno to ECHILD. I'd like to know why do I get this error, and what is the problem with my code.

TIA

Edit:
My kernel version is 2.6.4 (also tried 2.4.22), and my GCC version is 3.3.3 (also tried 3.2.3).
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Question by:zagzag
3 Comments
 
LVL 44

Expert Comment

by:Karl Heinz Kremer
ID: 10954723
Your interpretation of the man page is not quite right:

      WNOHANG
              which  means  to return immediately if no child has
              exited.

If you start a bunch of child processes, but none of them has exited, waitpid will return right away if you specify WNOHANG. Your system is therefore doing the right thing by reporting "no child process".
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LVL 45

Accepted Solution

by:
sunnycoder earned 125 total points
ID: 10957142
In your signal handler you have

     do {
          pid = waitpid(-1, NULL, WNOHANG);
          printf("child %d\n",pid);
     } while ( pid > 0 );


As long as there is a child, waitpid can get something (even if not at the current instant) so it keeps returning 0 ... When it collects the last child, the loop makes it execute waitpid again and this time there are no children left to collect ... So it produces error ECHILD

Also the way you have added error checking is inaccurate ...

Instead of

     if ( errno == ECHILD )
          puts("errno=ECHILD");
     if ( pid < 0 )
          error_exit("waitpid");

It should have been

if  ( pid < 0 )
{
     if ( errno == ECHILD )
          puts("errno=ECHILD");
     error_exit("waitpid");
}

you should not check only the error number ... It could have been set by some other program ... It is necessary to check the return value
0
 

Author Comment

by:zagzag
ID: 10958618
Thanks :)
0

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