Re: ftrig pipe naming convention

From: Laurent Bercot <>
Date: Tue, 04 Oct 2022 11:54:08 +0000

  (I was on vacation, sorry for the delayed answer.)

>Could you please elaborate on the possible race condition? This is simply for curiosity and educational purposes. It feels like a
>lot of thought was put into s6 codebase, and a lot of ideas are not
>immediatedly obvious for people not intimately familiar with OS

  When you want to listen to notifications, one of the first questions
that come to mind is: what happens if a notification comes before I
start listening to it? How do I make sure I don't miss anything?

  That's the primary race condition for notifications, and the reason
why a simple tool such as s6-ftrig-wait can only be used in the simplest
of settings: when you run s6-ftrig-wait, what you get is notifications
from the moment you run it, and you don't know what happened before.

  The answer is synchronization between the listener and the sender.
In order to make sure the listener misses nothing, *first* the listener
starts listening, *then* the sender is run and can notify the listener.
That's how s6-ftrig-listen1 works: the rest of its command line is
spawned *after* it has made sure there's a fifo listening in the
fifodir, and that command line is supposed to be something that tells
the sender that it's okay to start sending notifications now.

  ftrigr_subscribe() is the primitive that makes a program listen to
notifications in a fifodir, and returns control to the client. It is
important because it is asynchronous: notifications will be read and
processed as soon as ftrigr_subscribe() returns, and the client can do
whatever it needs to do, such as read a state or prime the notification
sender, and then handle the notifications in its own time by calling
ftrigr_update(). The fact that you can do something between subscribing
and handling the notifications is fundamental, and what makes the
model strictly more powerful than "cat < $fifo".

  Internally, it's the s6-ftrigrd helper program, spawned by the
ftrigr_startf() primitive, that performs the system calls in the
fifodirs the client is subscribed to, filters notifications according
to regexps, and sends the relevant notifications to the client; it
is necessary to have an external program doing that, in order to save
a lot of menial work from the client and avoid forcing it into a given
asynchronous programmation model. s6-ftrigrd hides all the low-level
details from the client and allows the ftrigr library to remain usable
in a variety of programming models.

  ftrigr_subscribe() simply tells s6-ftrigrd to open a new fifo in a
fifodir, and waits for an answer code. If it gets a successful answer
from s6-ftrigrd, it means the fifo is open and from now on every
notification will be correctly received and processed. The client can
then proceed to the operation that can cause notifications to be sent.
s6-ftrig-listen1 runs ftrigr_subscribe(), *then* spawns the rest of
its command line - that's how race conditions are avoided.

  In the case of supervision, this is used to track the state of a
service. When a command such as s6-svwait wants to wait until a
service is in a given state, *first* it runs ftrigr_subscribe(),
*then* it looks at the current registered service state (in the
supervise/status file), and then it computes the new service state
according to the data it receives from s6-ftrigrd. There is no race
window during which s6-svwait would have read the status file but not
be reading notifications yet, which would risk missing state changes.

  That is the main race condition that the ftrigr library solves.

  Now, additionally to that, there is another, less serious race
condition that is more directly related to what you were asking about,
with directly creating fifos in fifodirs.

  The "send a notification" primitive is ftrigw_notify() (with its close
family members for various details). It will open all fifos in a fifodir
that match the hardcoded name pattern in succession, and write a byte
to them. Normally, this write succeeds: there's a s6-ftrigrd reader
behind each one of these fifos - and anything else means there's a
problem. Most likely, it's a benign problem, such as a stale fifo:
s6-ftrigrd was killed before it had the chance to clean up, so there's
a useless, unused fifo lying around.
  ftrigw_notify() will then report, via its return code, that there was
a problem; and just in case it has the rights to do so (which is most
of the time), it tries and unlink the stale fifo, which cleans things
up for the next notification, and makes a manual invocation of
s6-cleanfifodir unnecessary. Simple and efficient.

  The Unix mkfifo() (or mknod()) system call just creates the fifo in
the filesystem. It does not open it. In order to open a fifo to read
on, you need to mkfifo() then open(). See where I'm going here?
If you "mkfifo $fifo" then "cat < $fifo", and a notification just
happens to arrive in between the two, ftrigw_notify() will see a fifo
that has been created but is without a reader, and assume it's stale.
Best case it will only report that something was wrong, which doesn't
really matter (for instance, s6-supervise ignores the return code);
but worst case, it will yoink that fifo from under your feet, your cat
will fail and you'll have no idea why.

  s6-ftrigrd avoids that by creating its fifo under a name that does
*not* match the pattern (starting with a dot, just to be sure), *then*
opening it, *then* renaming it to its final name. So when the fifo
becomes visible to ftrigw_notify(), it already has a reader.

  There you go, a small dive into the design and bowels of libftrig. :)

Received on Tue Oct 04 2022 - 13:54:08 CEST

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