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Perl Cookbook by Nathan Torkington, Tom Christiansen

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Writing a Signal Handler

Problem

You want to write a subroutine that will be called whenever your program receives a signal.

Solution

A signal handler is just a subroutine. With some risk, you can do anything in a signal handler you’d do in any Perl subroutine, but the more you do, the riskier it gets.

Some systems require you to reinstall your signal handler after each signal:

$SIG{INT} = \&got_int;
sub got_int {
    $SIG{INT} = \&got_int;          # but not for SIGCHLD!
    # ...
}

Some systems restart blocking operations, such as reading data. In such cases, you must call die within the handler and trap it with eval:

my $interrupted = 0;

sub got_int {
    $interrupted = 1;
    $SIG{INT} = 'DEFAULT';          # or 'IGNORE'
    die;
}

eval {
    $SIG{INT} = \&got_int;
    # ... long-running code that you don't want to restart
};

if ($interrupted) {
    # deal with the signal
}

Discussion

Installing a custom signal handling subroutine is a lot like playing with fire. It may seem like a lot of fun, but, sooner or later, you’re going to get burned unless you’re exceedingly careful. By installing Perl code to deal with signals, you’re exposing yourself to two dangers. First, few system library functions are re-entrant. If the signal interrupts while Perl is executing one function (like malloc (3) or printf (3)), and your signal handler then calls the same function again, you could get unpredictable behavior—often, a core dump. Second, Perl isn’t itself re-entrant at the lowest levels. (Release 5.005 of Perl supports lightweight processes ...

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