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PERLFORK(1)			 Perl Programmers Reference Guide		      PERLFORK(1)

NAME
       perlfork - Perl's fork() emulation

SYNOPSIS
	   NOTE:  As of the 5.8.0 release, fork() emulation has considerably
	   matured.  However, there are still a few known bugs and differences
	   from real fork() that might affect you.  See the "BUGS" and
	   "CAVEATS AND LIMITATIONS" sections below.

       Perl provides a fork() keyword that corresponds to the Unix system call of the same name.
       On most Unix-like platforms where the fork() system call is available, Perl's fork() sim-
       ply calls it.

       On some platforms such as Windows where the fork() system call is not available, Perl can
       be built to emulate fork() at the interpreter level.  While the emulation is designed to
       be as compatible as possible with the real fork() at the level of the Perl program, there
       are certain important differences that stem from the fact that all the pseudo child "pro-
       cesses" created this way live in the same real process as far as the operating system is
       concerned.

       This document provides a general overview of the capabilities and limitations of the
       fork() emulation.  Note that the issues discussed here are not applicable to platforms
       where a real fork() is available and Perl has been configured to use it.

DESCRIPTION
       The fork() emulation is implemented at the level of the Perl interpreter.  What this means
       in general is that running fork() will actually clone the running interpreter and all its
       state, and run the cloned interpreter in a separate thread, beginning execution in the new
       thread just after the point where the fork() was called in the parent.  We will refer to
       the thread that implements this child "process" as the pseudo-process.

       To the Perl program that called fork(), all this is designed to be transparent.	The par-
       ent returns from the fork() with a pseudo-process ID that can be subsequently used in any
       process manipulation functions; the child returns from the fork() with a value of 0 to
       signify that it is the child pseudo-process.

       Behavior of other Perl features in forked pseudo-processes

       Most Perl features behave in a natural way within pseudo-processes.

       $$ or $PROCESS_ID
	       This special variable is correctly set to the pseudo-process ID.  It can be used
	       to identify pseudo-processes within a particular session.  Note that this value is
	       subject to recycling if any pseudo-processes are launched after others have been
	       wait()-ed on.

       %ENV    Each pseudo-process maintains its own virtual environment.  Modifications to %ENV
	       affect the virtual environment, and are only visible within that pseudo-process,
	       and in any processes (or pseudo-processes) launched from it.

       chdir() and all other builtins that accept filenames
	       Each pseudo-process maintains its own virtual idea of the current directory.  Mod-
	       ifications to the current directory using chdir() are only visible within that
	       pseudo-process, and in any processes (or pseudo-processes) launched from it.  All
	       file and directory accesses from the pseudo-process will correctly map the virtual
	       working directory to the real working directory appropriately.

       wait() and waitpid()
	       wait() and waitpid() can be passed a pseudo-process ID returned by fork().  These
	       calls will properly wait for the termination of the pseudo-process and return its
	       status.

       kill()  kill() can be used to terminate a pseudo-process by passing it the ID returned by
	       fork().	This should not be used except under dire circumstances, because the
	       operating system may not guarantee integrity of the process resources when a run-
	       ning thread is terminated.  Note that using kill() on a pseudo-process() may typi-
	       cally cause memory leaks, because the thread that implements the pseudo-process
	       does not get a chance to clean up its resources.

       exec()  Calling exec() within a pseudo-process actually spawns the requested executable in
	       a separate process and waits for it to complete before exiting with the same exit
	       status as that process.	This means that the process ID reported within the run-
	       ning executable will be different from what the earlier Perl fork() might have
	       returned.  Similarly, any process manipulation functions applied to the ID
	       returned by fork() will affect the waiting pseudo-process that called exec(), not
	       the real process it is waiting for after the exec().

	       When exec() is called inside a pseudo-process then DESTROY methods and END blocks
	       will still be called after the external process returns.

       exit()  exit() always exits just the executing pseudo-process, after automatically
	       wait()-ing for any outstanding child pseudo-processes.  Note that this means that
	       the process as a whole will not exit unless all running pseudo-processes have
	       exited.	See below for some limitations with open filehandles.

       Open handles to files, directories and network sockets
	       All open handles are dup()-ed in pseudo-processes, so that closing any handles in
	       one process does not affect the others.	See below for some limitations.

       Resource limits

       In the eyes of the operating system, pseudo-processes created via the fork() emulation are
       simply threads in the same process.  This means that any process-level limits imposed by
       the operating system apply to all pseudo-processes taken together.  This includes any lim-
       its imposed by the operating system on the number of open file, directory and socket han-
       dles, limits on disk space usage, limits on memory size, limits on CPU utilization etc.

       Killing the parent process

       If the parent process is killed (either using Perl's kill() builtin, or using some exter-
       nal means) all the pseudo-processes are killed as well, and the whole process exits.

       Lifetime of the parent process and pseudo-processes

       During the normal course of events, the parent process and every pseudo-process started by
       it will wait for their respective pseudo-children to complete before they exit.	This
       means that the parent and every pseudo-child created by it that is also a pseudo-parent
       will only exit after their pseudo-children have exited.

       A way to mark a pseudo-processes as running detached from their parent (so that the parent
       would not have to wait() for them if it doesn't want to) will be provided in future.

       CAVEATS AND LIMITATIONS

       BEGIN blocks
	       The fork() emulation will not work entirely correctly when called from within a
	       BEGIN block.  The forked copy will run the contents of the BEGIN block, but will
	       not continue parsing the source stream after the BEGIN block.  For example, con-
	       sider the following code:

		   BEGIN {
		       fork and exit;	       # fork child and exit the parent
		       print "inner\n";
		   }
		   print "outer\n";

	       This will print:

		   inner

	       rather than the expected:

		   inner
		   outer

	       This limitation arises from fundamental technical difficulties in cloning and
	       restarting the stacks used by the Perl parser in the middle of a parse.

       Open filehandles
	       Any filehandles open at the time of the fork() will be dup()-ed.  Thus, the files
	       can be closed independently in the parent and child, but beware that the dup()-ed
	       handles will still share the same seek pointer.	Changing the seek position in the
	       parent will change it in the child and vice-versa.  One can avoid this by opening
	       files that need distinct seek pointers separately in the child.

	       On some operating systems, notably Solaris and Unixware, calling "exit()" from a
	       child process will flush and close open filehandles in the parent, thereby cor-
	       rupting the filehandles.  On these systems, calling "_exit()" is suggested
	       instead.  "_exit()" is available in Perl through the "POSIX" module.  Please con-
	       sult your systems manpages for more information on this.

       Forking pipe open() not yet implemented
	       The "open(FOO, "|-")" and "open(BAR, "-|")" constructs are not yet implemented.
	       This limitation can be easily worked around in new code by creating a pipe explic-
	       itly.  The following example shows how to write to a forked child:

		   # simulate open(FOO, "|-")
		   sub pipe_to_fork ($) {
		       my $parent = shift;
		       pipe my $child, $parent or die;
		       my $pid = fork();
		       die "fork() failed: $!" unless defined $pid;
		       if ($pid) {
			   close $child;
		       }
		       else {
			   close $parent;
			   open(STDIN, "<&=" . fileno($child)) or die;
		       }
		       $pid;
		   }

		   if (pipe_to_fork('FOO')) {
		       # parent
		       print FOO "pipe_to_fork\n";
		       close FOO;
		   }
		   else {
		       # child
		       while (<STDIN>) { print; }
		       exit(0);
		   }

	       And this one reads from the child:

		   # simulate open(FOO, "-|")
		   sub pipe_from_fork ($) {
		       my $parent = shift;
		       pipe $parent, my $child or die;
		       my $pid = fork();
		       die "fork() failed: $!" unless defined $pid;
		       if ($pid) {
			   close $child;
		       }
		       else {
			   close $parent;
			   open(STDOUT, ">&=" . fileno($child)) or die;
		       }
		       $pid;
		   }

		   if (pipe_from_fork('BAR')) {
		       # parent
		       while (<BAR>) { print; }
		       close BAR;
		   }
		   else {
		       # child
		       print "pipe_from_fork\n";
		       exit(0);
		   }

	       Forking pipe open() constructs will be supported in future.

       Global state maintained by XSUBs
	       External subroutines (XSUBs) that maintain their own global state may not work
	       correctly.  Such XSUBs will either need to maintain locks to protect simultaneous
	       access to global data from different pseudo-processes, or maintain all their state
	       on the Perl symbol table, which is copied naturally when fork() is called.  A
	       callback mechanism that provides extensions an opportunity to clone their state
	       will be provided in the near future.

       Interpreter embedded in larger application
	       The fork() emulation may not behave as expected when it is executed in an applica-
	       tion which embeds a Perl interpreter and calls Perl APIs that can evaluate bits of
	       Perl code.  This stems from the fact that the emulation only has knowledge about
	       the Perl interpreter's own data structures and knows nothing about the containing
	       application's state.  For example, any state carried on the application's own call
	       stack is out of reach.

       Thread-safety of extensions
	       Since the fork() emulation runs code in multiple threads, extensions calling into
	       non-thread-safe libraries may not work reliably when calling fork().  As Perl's
	       threading support gradually becomes more widely adopted even on platforms with a
	       native fork(), such extensions are expected to be fixed for thread-safety.

BUGS
       o       Having pseudo-process IDs be negative integers breaks down for the integer "-1"
	       because the wait() and waitpid() functions treat this number as being special.
	       The tacit assumption in the current implementation is that the system never allo-
	       cates a thread ID of 1 for user threads.  A better representation for pseudo-
	       process IDs will be implemented in future.

       o       In certain cases, the OS-level handles created by the pipe(), socket(), and
	       accept() operators are apparently not duplicated accurately in pseudo-processes.
	       This only happens in some situations, but where it does happen, it may result in
	       deadlocks between the read and write ends of pipe handles, or inability to send or
	       receive data across socket handles.

       o       This document may be incomplete in some respects.

AUTHOR
       Support for concurrent interpreters and the fork() emulation was implemented by ActiveS-
       tate, with funding from Microsoft Corporation.

       This document is authored and maintained by Gurusamy Sarathy <gsar@activestate.com>.

SEE ALSO
       "fork" in perlfunc, perlipc

perl v5.8.9				    2007-11-17				      PERLFORK(1)
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