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Learning Perl, Second Edition by Randal L. Schwartz, Tom Christiansen

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14.6. Sending and Receiving Signals

One method of interprocess communication is to send and receive signals. A signal is a one-bit message (meaning "this signal happened") sent to a process from another process or from the kernel. Signals are numbered, usually from one to some small number like 15 or 31. Some signals have predefined meanings and are sent automatically to a process under certain conditions (such as memory faults or floating-point exceptions); others are strictly user-generated from other processes. Those processes must have permission to send such a signal. Only if you are the superuser or if the sending process has the same user ID as the receiving process is the signal permitted.

The response to a signal is called the signal's action. Predefined signals have certain useful default actions, such as aborting the process or suspending it. Other signals are completely ignored by default. Nearly all signals can have their default action overridden, to either be ignored or else caught (invoking a user-specified section of code automatically).

So far, this is all standard stuff; here's where it gets Perl-specific. When a Perl process catches a signal, a subroutine of your choosing gets invoked asynchronously and automatically, momentarily interrupting whatever was executing. When the subroutine exits, whatever was executing resumes as if nothing had happened (except for the actions performed by the subroutine, if any).

Typically, the signal-catching subroutine will ...

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