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Secure Programming Cookbook for C and C++ by Matt Messier, John Viega

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2.9. Synchronizing Resource Access Across Processes on Unix

Problem

You want to ensure that two processes cannot simultaneously access the same resource, such as a segment of shared memory.

Solution

Use a lock file to signal that you are accessing the resource.

Discussion

Using a lock file to synchronize access to shared resources is not as simple as it sounds. Suppose that your program creates a lock file and then crashes. If this happens, the lock file will remain, and your program (as well as any other program that attempted to obtain the lock) will fail until someone manually removes the lock file. Obviously, this is undesirable. The solution is to store the process ID of the process holding the lock in the lock file. Other processes attempting to obtain the lock can then test to see whether the process holding the lock still exists. If it does not, the lock file is stale, it is safe to remove, and you can make another attempt to obtain the lock.

Unfortunately, this solution is still not a perfect one. What happens if another process is assigned the same ID as the one stored in the stale lock file? The answer to this question is simply that no process can obtain the lock until the process with the stale ID terminates or someone manually removes the lock file. Fortunately, this case should not be encountered frequently.

As a result of solving the stale lock problem, a new problem arises: there is now a race condition between the time the check for the existence of the process holding ...

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