Named Pipes

A named pipe (often referred to as a FIFO) is an old Unix IPC mechanism for processes communicating on the same machine. It works just like a regular, connected anonymous pipes, except that the processes rendezvous using a filename and don't have to be related.

To create a named pipe, use the Unix command mknod(1) or on some systems, mkfifo(1). These may not be in your normal path.

# system return val is backwards, so && not || # $ENV{PATH} .= ":/etc:/usr/etc"; if ( system('mknod', $path, 'p') && system('mkfifo', $path) ) { die "mk{nod,fifo} $path failed; }

A fifo is convenient when you want to connect a process to an unrelated one. When you open a fifo, the program will block until there's something on the other end.

For example, let's say you'd like to have your .signature file be a named pipe that has a Perl program on the other end. Now every time any program (like a mailer, newsreader, finger program, etc.) tries to read from that file, the reading program will block and your program will supply the the new signature. We'll use the pipe-checking file test -p to find out whether anyone (or anything) has accidentally removed our fifo.

chdir; # go home $FIFO = '.signature'; $ENV{PATH} .= ":/etc:/usr/games"; while (1) { unless (-p $FIFO) { unlink $FIFO; system('mknod', $FIFO, 'p') && die "can't mknod $FIFO: $!"; } # next line blocks until there's a reader open (FIFO, "> $FIFO") || die "can't write $FIFO: $!"; print FIFO "John Smith (smith\\n", `fortune -s`; close FIFO; sleep 2; # to avoid dup sigs }

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