ProcessReaper: single thread reaper

roger riggs roger.riggs at
Mon Apr 14 13:50:53 UTC 2014

Hi Peter,

The new API to handle process trees and processes not spawned by the 
Java process
also will need a way to wait for exit status and destroy children so I'm 
not sure the
issue goes away.  It too will need to co-exist with non-JDK libraries 
that spawn and handle
their own children.

A selectable implementation may a way to accommodate the needed backward 


On 4/14/2014 5:02 AM, Peter Levart wrote:
> Hi Martin, Roger,
> Just a thought. Would it be feasible to have two (ore more) built-in 
> strategies, selectable by system property? A backwards compatible 
> tread per child, using waitpid(pid, ...), a single reaper thread using 
> waitpid(-1, ...), maybe also single threaded strategy accessible only 
> on Linux/Solaris using waitid(-1, ..., WNOWAIT)... All packed nicely 
> in a package-private interface (ProcessReaper) with multiple 
> implementations?
> Regards, Peter
> On 04/12/2014 01:37 AM, Martin Buchholz wrote:
>> Let's step back again and try to check our goals...
>> We could try to optimize the one-reaper-thread-per-subprocess thing. 
>>  But that is risky, and the cost of what we're doing today is not 
>> that high.
>> We could try to implement the feature of killing off an entire 
>> subprocess tree.  But historically, any kind of behavior change like 
>> that has been vetoed.  I have tried and failed to make less 
>> incompatible changes.  We would have to add a new API.
>> The reality is that Java does not give you real access to the 
>> underlying OS, and unless there's a seriously heterodox attempt to 
>> provide OS-specific extensions, people will have to continue to 
>> either write native code or delegate to an OS-savvy subprocess like a 
>> perl script.
>> On Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 7:52 AM, Peter Levart <peter.levart at 
>> <mailto:peter.levart at>> wrote:
>>     On 04/09/2014 07:02 PM, Martin Buchholz wrote:
>>>     On Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 11:08 PM, Peter Levart
>>>     <peter.levart at <mailto:peter.levart at>> wrote:
>>>         Hi Martin,
>>>         As you might have seen in my later reply to Roger, there's
>>>         still hope on that front: setpgid() + wait(-pgid, ...) might
>>>         be the answer. I'm exploring in that direction. Shells are
>>>         doing it, so why can't JDK?
>>>         It's a little trickier for Process API, since I imagine that
>>>         shells form a group of processes from a pipeline which is
>>>         known in-advance while Process API will have to add
>>>         processes to the live group dynamically. So some races will
>>>         have to be resolved, but I think it's doable.
>>>     This is a clever idea, and it's arguably better to design
>>>     subprocesses so they live in separate process groups (emacs does
>>>     that), but:
>>>     Every time you create a process group, you change the effect of
>>>     a user signal like Ctrl-C, since it's sent to only one group.
>>>     Maybe propagate signals to the subprocess group?  It's starting
>>>     to get complicated...
>>     Hi Martin,
>>     Yes, shells send Ctrl-C (SIGINT) and other signals initiated by
>>     terminal to a (foreground) process group. A process group is
>>     formed from a pipeline of interconnected processes. Each pipeline
>>     is considered to be a separate "job", hence shells call this
>>     feature "job-control". Child processes by default inherit process
>>     group from it's parent, so children born with Process API (and
>>     their children) inherit the process group from the JVM process.
>>     Considering the intentions of shell job-controll, is propagating
>>     SIGTERM/SIGINT/SIGTSTP/SIGCONT signals to children spawned by
>>     Process API desirable? If so, then yes, handling those signals in
>>     JVM and propagating them to current process group that contains
>>     all children spawned by Process API and their descendants would
>>     have to be performed by JVM. That problem would certainly have to
>>     be addressed. But let's first see what I found out about
>>     sigaction(SIGCHLD, ...), setpgid(pid, pgid), waitpid(-pgid, ...),
>>     etc...
>>     waitpid(-pgid, ...) alone seems to not be enough for our task.
>>     Mainly because a process can re-assign it's group and join some
>>     other group. I don't know if this is a situation that occurs in
>>     real world, but imagine if we have one live child process in a
>>     process group pgid1 and no unwaited exited children. If we issue:
>>         waitpid(-pgid1, &status, 0);
>>     Then this call blocks, because at the time it was given, there
>>     were >0 child processes in the pgid1 group and none of them has
>>     exited yet. Now if this one child process changes it's process
>>     group with:
>>         setpgid(0, pgid2);
>>     Then the waitpid call in the parent does not return (maybe this
>>     is a bug in Linux?) although there are no more live child
>>     processes in the pgid1 group any more. Even when this child
>>     exits, the call to waitpid does not return, since this child is
>>     not in the group we are waiting for when it exits. If all our
>>     children "escape" the group in such way, the tread doing waiting
>>     will never unblock. To solve this, we can employ signal handlers.
>>     In a signal handler for SIGCHLD signal we can invoke:
>>         waitpid(-pgid1, &status, WNOHANG); // non-blocking call
>> loop until it either returns (0) which means that there're
>>     no more unwaited exited children in the group at the momen or
>>     (-1) with errno == ECHILD, which means that there're no more
>>     children in the queried group any more - the group does not exist
>>     any more. Since signal handler is invoked whith SIGCHLD being
>>     masked and there is one bit of pending signal state in the
>>     kernel, no child exit can be "skipped" this way. Unless the child
>>     "escapes" by changing it's group. I don't know of a plausible
>>     reason for a program to change it's process group. If a program
>>     executing as JVM child wants to become a background daemon it
>>     usually behaves as follows:
>>     - fork()s a grand-child and then exit()s (so we get notified via
>>     signal and waitpid(-pgid, ...) successfully for it's exitstatus)
>>     - the grand-child then changes it's session and group (becomes
>>     session and group leader), closes file descriptors, etc. The
>>     responsibility for waiting on the grand-child daemon is
>>     transferred to the init process (pid=1) since the grand-child
>>     becomes an orphan (has no parent).
>>     Ignoring this still unsolved problem of possible ill-behaved
>>     child program that changes it's process group, I started
>>     constructing a proof-of-concept prototype. What I will do in the
>>     prototype is start throwing IllegalStateException from the
>>     methods of the Process API that pertain to such children. I think
>>     this is reasonable.
>>     Stay tuned,
>>     Peter

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