no error thrown with exit(0) in the child process of vfork()

Valdis.Kletnieks at Valdis.Kletnieks at
Fri Jan 18 16:49:05 EST 2013

On Fri, 18 Jan 2013 19:59:38 +0530, Niroj Pokhrel said:

> I have been trying to create a process using vfork(). And both of the child
> and the parent process execute it in the same address space. So, if I
> execute exit(0) in the child process, it should throw some error right.

Why do you think it should throw an error?

> Since the execution is happening in child process first and if I release
> all the resources by using exit(0) in the child process then parent should
> be deprived of the resources and should throw some errors right ??

No, because those resources that were shared across a fork() or vfork() were in
general *multiple references* to the same resource.

As an example - imagine a flagpole.  You grab it with your hand, you're
now holding it.  You invite your friend to come over and grab it with
his hand - now he's holding it too.

But either one of you can let go of the flagpole - and the other one is
still holding the flagpole until *they* let go.  And the order you let
go doesn't matter in this case - which is important because your example
code has a race condition....

Note that there are other cases where the order people let go *does* matter.
This is when you start having to worry about "locking order" and things like

> In the following code, however the process ran fine even though I have
> exit(0) in the child process ........

> #include<stdio.h>
> #include<stdlib.h>
> #include<sys/types.h>
> #include<unistd.h>
> int main()
> {
>     int val,i=0;
>     val=vfork();
>     if(val==0)
>     {
>         printf("\nI am a child process.\n");

Note that printf() gets interesting due to stdio buffering.  You probably
want to call setbuf() and guarantee line-buffering of the output if you're
playing these sorts of games - the buffering can totally mask a real race
condition or other bug.

>         printf(" %d ",i++);
>         exit(0);
>     }
>     else
>     {

/* race condition here - may want wait() or waitpid() to synchronize? */

>         printf("\nI am a parent process.\n");
>         printf(" %d ",i);
>     }
>     return 0;
> }
> // The program is running fine .....
> But as I have read it should throw some error right ?? I don't know what I
> am missing . Please point out the point I'm missing. Thanking you in
> advance.

You're also missing the fact that after the vfork(), there's no real
guarantee of which will run first - which means that the parent can race
and output the 'printf("%d",i)" *before* the child process gets a chance
to do the i++.

(Aside - for a while, there was a patch in place that ensured that the
child would run first, on the theory that the child would often do something
short that the parent was waiting on, so scheduling parent-first would just
result in the parent running, blocking to wait, and we end up running the
child anyhow before the parent could continue.  It broke an *amazing* amount
of stuff in userspace because often the child would exit() before the parent was
ready to deal with the child process's termination. Usual failure mode was
the parent would set a SIGCHLD handler, and wait for the signal which never
happened because the SIGCHLD actually fired *before* the handler was set up).

(And on non-cache-coherent systems, it's even possible that the i++ happens
on a different CPU first, and the CPU running the parent process never becomes
aware of it.  See 'Documentation/memory-barriers.txt' in the Linux source
for more info on how this works for data inside the kernel.  This example
is out in userspace, so other techniques are required instead to do cross-CPU
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