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Recipe 16.15 Installing a Signal Handler

16.15.1 Problem

You want to control how your program responds to signals. You need to do this if you want to catch Ctrl-C, avoid accumulating finished subprocesses, or prevent your process from dying when it writes to a child that has gone away.

16.15.2 Solution

Use the %SIG hash to install your own handler by name or by code reference:

$SIG{QUIT} = \&got_sig_quit;     # call &got_sig_quit for every SIGQUIT 
$SIG{PIPE} = 'got_sig_pipe';     # call main::got_sig_pipe for every SIGPIPE 
$SIG{INT}  = sub { $ouch++ };    # increment $ouch for every SIGINT

%SIG also lets you ignore a signal:

$SIG{INT} = 'IGNORE';            # ignore the signal INT

It also restores handling for that signal to the default:

$SIG{STOP} = 'DEFAULT';          # restore default STOP signal handling

16.15.3 Discussion

Perl uses the %SIG hash to control what happens when signals are received. Each key in %SIG corresponds to a signal. Each value is the action to take when Perl receives the corresponding signal. Perl provides two special behaviors: "IGNORE" to take no action when a particular signal is received, and "DEFAULT" to perform the default Unix action for that signal.

Although a C programmer might think of a signal as SIGINT, Perl uses just INT. Perl figures you only use signal names in functions that deal with signals, so the SIG prefix is redundant. This means that you'll assign to $SIG{CHLD} to change what your process does when it gets a SIGCHLD.

If you want to run your own code when a given signal is received, you have two choices of what to put in the hash: either a code reference or a subroutine name. (This means you can't name a signal handler IGNORE or DEFAULT if you store the string, but they'd be mighty strange names for signal handlers anyway.) If you use a subroutine name that isn't qualified by a package, Perl will interpret this name to be a function in the main:: package, not one in the package in which the handler was installed. A code reference refers to a subroutine in a particular package, so it is a better choice.

Perl calls your handler code with a single argument: the name of the signal that triggered it, such as "INT" or "USR1". Returning from a signal handler takes you back to whatever you were doing when the signal hit.

Perl defines two special signals, _ _DIE_ _ and _ _WARN_ _, whose handlers are called whenever a Perl program emits warnings through warn or dies through die. This lets you catch such warnings, and selectively trap or propagate them. The die and warn handlers are disabled while they run, so you can safely die from a _ _DIE_ _ handler or warn from a _ _WARN_ _ handler without fear of recursion.

16.15.4 See Also

The "Signals" sections in Chapter 16 of Programming Perl and in perlipc(1); your system's sigaction(2), signal(3), and kill(2) manpages (if you have them)

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