# Daemonizing Processes - Part 1

Published on March 23, 2014 by
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A special category of processes in Linux is that formed by daemon processes.

### What is a daemon?

A daemon is a program that runs as a background process, forever, without being directly affected by any user. Let’s run a command to see examples of some daemons.

We need to run a command which will tell us what processes are started by the init process (they must have a PPID of 1):

ps -ef | awk '$3 == 1' The trimmed result will be the following: $ ps -ef | awk '$3 == 1' root 367 1 0 Mar08 ? 00:00:00 upstart-udev-bridge --daemon root 398 1 0 Mar08 ? 00:00:00 /sbin/udevd --daemon syslog 521 1 0 Mar08 ? 00:00:03 rsyslogd -c5 102 525 1 0 Mar08 ? 00:00:15 dbus-daemon --system --fork --activation=upstart avahi 816 1 0 Mar08 ? 00:00:00 avahi-daemon: running [matei-Satellite-C660.local] In Linux, the parent process of a daemon is often the init process. To create a daemon, we need to fork() a child process and then exit (after that the process will be an orphan process), causing init to adopt the it as a child. A daemon is often started at boot time having the task of handling network requests or hardware activity. ### Let’s code a Daemon In this article we will show how one can write a simple daemon process. First, we will show the long path of using fork() and setsid(). First step (see this FAQ for reference) is to fork and exit such that the process is no longer a process leader: /* * Fork the parent process */ pid = fork(); /* On failure, -1 is returned in the parent * No child process is created */ if (pid < 0) { perror("fork"); exit(EXIT_FAILURE); } /* We are now killing the parent process * parent exits -> init "takes the lead" */ if (pid > 0) exit(EXIT_SUCCESS); Because we want to have a completely new controlling terminal we need to make our process be a session leader using setsid(). The above fork was needed just to allow this to succeed: sessionID=setsid(); if (sessionID < 0) { perror("setsid"); exit(EXIT_FAILURE); } Next step is to fork()/exit() again. Since the session leader is now dead our process can never get access to a controlling terminal: pid = fork(); if (pid < 0) { perror("fork"); exit(EXIT_FAILURE); } if (pid > 0) exit(EXIT_SUCCESS); Now, we will switch to the directory which contains the files needed for this daemon to run (for example in case of dovecot we would switch to /run/dovectot which contains the sockets for different mail queues). Or, we could switch to / (like apache2 and sshd do for example) if we don’t want to change to a specific directory. Anyway, it is essential to change the current running directory to prevent cases where if the program was started in a cwd from a different partition that partition could no longer be umounted. change_dir = chdir("/"); if (change_dir < 0 ) { perror("chdir"); exit(EXIT_FAILURE); } Though the following steps are optional, it is better to do them too to ensure a reproducible behaviour of our executable, no matter what state the system was when we started it. Because a child process inherits file descriptors and file descriptors from his parent, we need to close them. We use sysconf to get the maximum number of opened file descriptors in order to close all of them and prevent leaks. Then, we will set umask to 0 to gain complete permissions over anything we write. maxfd = sysconf(_SC_OPEN_MAX); if (maxfd < 0) { perror("sysconf _SC_OPEN_MAX"); exit(EXIT_FAILURE); } for (fd = 0; fd < maxfd; fd++) /* note that we ignore return code here */ close(fd); umask(0); Now we should reopen the 3 standard file descriptors. We can point them to /dev/null or to specific log files. Here we open all of them to /dev/null: fd = open("/dev/null", 0); if (fd < 0) { perror("open /dev/null"); exit(EXIT_FAILURE); } status = dup2(fd, 0); if (status < 0) { perror("dup 0"); exit(EXIT_FAILURE); } status = dup2(fd, 1); if (status < 0) { perror("dup 1"); exit(EXIT_FAILURE); } status = dup2(fd, 2); if (status < 0) { perror("dup 2"); exit(EXIT_FAILURE); } We now, have a fully working daemon, created by us. However, certain considerations must be taken: 1. First, if our code is to be launched by inetd then only the chdir and umask steps are useful. No fork and setsid should be called (otherwise inetd will get confused) and all other steps are already done by inetd. 2. Second, all of the above code is already implemented in the daemon function call with slightly less control over the end-result. It might be easier to use it instead of all of the above steps. All is good and nice but what if we want to daemonize a normal process? Well, we can use nohup, disown or start-stop-daemon. Or we could resort to special services to start our daemons like inetd and upstart. ### Using nohup for daemonizing processes nohup is a command which is used to run a command which ignores the HUP (hangup) signal. The HUP signal is used by a terminal to warn dependent processes of logout. Thus, processes started with nohup won’t be killed after the tty is destroyed. $ nohup sleep 10000 &
[1] 5470
nohup: ignoring input and appending output to ‘nohup.out’
$exit Now open a new terminal and $ pgrep sleep
5470

We can simulate nohup inside our C code too. Let’s configure signal handlers:

memset (&sig_act, 0 , sizeof(sig_act));
/* Ignore SIGHUP signal */
if (signal(SIGHUP, SIG_IGN) == SIG_ERR){
perror("signal");
exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
}

Now, if stdout is a terminal we have to redirect output to a file, just like the original command does:

if(isatty(fileno(stdout))) {
rc = open ("nohup.out", O_WRONLY | O_CREAT, 0644);
if (rc < 0) {
perror("open");
exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
}
rc = dup2(rc, STDOUT_FILENO);
if (rc < 0) {
perror("dup2");
exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
}
}

Then we can fork and exec to get to our new process.

Let’s test it now (./a.out is our test binary, it receives as arguments the command line to execute in exec):

$./a.out gedit & [1] 22727 After we close the terminal and open a new one, we clearly see that the process will be adopted by init: $ ps -ef | grep gedit
matei    22727     1  2 18:25 ?        00:00:01 gedit

### Disowning a process

What if we already started the process and forgot to use nohup? We can use disown to remove the process from the current session hierarchy, thus making it able to survive when the tty is closed.

Our first job is to use ^Z to stop/pause the program and to go back to terminal. Then we have to use bg to run it in the background.

$gedit ^Z [1]+ Stopped gedit$ bg
[1]+ gedit &

Now, we use disown with the -h option, to mark the process so that SIGHUP is not gonna be received. If we don’t use the -h option the process is also removed from the current jobs table, which is something we like to do anyway:

$disown If we go to another terminal, we should see that the process has been adopted by init: $ ps -ef | grep gedit
matei    23087 22921  8 18:38 pts/6    00:00:01 gedit

What happened? Our gedit process is not adopted by init. This is because we haven’t yet closed the terminal in which we have launched it. After closing it we have

\$ ps -ef | grep gedit
matei    12490     1  1 07:07 ?        00:00:00 gedit

To conclude:

• we need to use daemons for autonomous tasks
• we have multiple ways for creating daemons
• we can control daemons using signals and config files

All other methods will be presented in a second part article.