25 Years of Free Software

When did I start writing Free Software, now called Open Source? That’s a tricky question. Does the time start with the first file edited, the first time it compiles or perhaps even some proto-program you use to work out a concept for the real program formed later on.

So using the date you start writing, especially in a era before decent version control systems, is problematic. That is why I use the date of the first release of the first package as the start date. For me, that was Monday 24th July 1995.

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Sending data in a signal

The well-known kill system call has been around for decades and is used to send a signal to another process. The most common use is to terminate or kill another process by sending the KILL or TERM signal but it can be used for a form of IPC, usually around giving the other process a “kick” to do something.

One thing that isn’t as well known is besides sending a signal to a process, you can send some data to it. This can either be an integer or a pointer and uses similar semantics to the known kill and signal handler. I came across this when there was a merge request for procps. The main changes are using sigqueue instead of kill in the sender and using a signal action not a signal handler in the receiver.

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procps-ng 3.3.16

procps-ng version 3.3.16 was released today. Besides some documentation and library updates, there were a few incremental changes.

Zombie Hunting with pgrep

Ever wanted to find zombies? Perhaps processes with other states? pgrep has a shiny new runstate flag to help you which will match process against the runstate. I’m curious to see the use-cases for this flag; it certainly will get used (e.g. find my zombies) but as some processes bounce in and out of states (think Run to Sleep and back) it might add some confusion.

Snice plays nice with PIDs

Speaking of ancient corpses, snice was not matching against PIDs. The best use for snice is to not use it (as the man page says) but some people do and some people noticed it never matched against PIDs.
The issue was reading the process state up to 128 bytes, but process state lines are always longer than 128 bytes so a bounds check failed and it skipped that PID (and every other PID too).

Top Enhancements

Top got a bunch of love again in this release. If you ever wanted your processes to be shown in fuchsia? Perhaps goldenrod? With some earlier versions of top, you could by directly editing the toprc file but now everyone can have more than the standard 8 colours!

If you use the other filters parameter for some fancy process filtering in top, it now will save that configuration.

Collapsed children (process names are weird) get some help. If you are in tree view, you can collapse or fold the children processes under the parent. Their CPU is also added to the parent so there are no “missing” CPU ticks.

For people who use the One True Editor (which is, of course, VIM) you can use the vim navigation keys to move through the process list.

Where to find it?

You’ll find the latest version of procps either at our git repository or download a tarball.

The sudo tty bug and procps

There have been recent reports of a security bug in sudo (CVE-2017-1000367) where you can fool sudo into thinking what controlling terminal it is running on to bypass its security checks.  One of the first things I thought of was, is procps vulnerable to the same bug? Sure, it wouldn’t be a security bypass, but it would be a normal sort of bug. A lot of programs  in procps have a concept of a controlling terminal, or the TTY field for either viewing or filtering, could they be fooled into thinking the process had a different controlling terminal?

Was I going to be in the same pickle as the sudo maintainers? The meat between the stat parsing sandwich? Can I find any more puns related somehow to the XKCD comic?


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