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24.8.3 Using sigsuspend

The clean and reliable way to wait for a signal to arrive is to block it and then use sigsuspend. By using sigsuspend in a loop, you can wait for certain kinds of signals, while letting other kinds of signals be handled by their handlers.

— Function: int sigsuspend (const sigset_t *set)

Preliminary: | MT-Unsafe race:sigprocmask/!bsd!linux | AS-Unsafe lock/hurd | AC-Unsafe lock/hurd | See POSIX Safety Concepts.

This function replaces the process's signal mask with set and then suspends the process until a signal is delivered whose action is either to terminate the process or invoke a signal handling function. In other words, the program is effectively suspended until one of the signals that is not a member of set arrives.

If the process is woken up by delivery of a signal that invokes a handler function, and the handler function returns, then sigsuspend also returns.

The mask remains set only as long as sigsuspend is waiting. The function sigsuspend always restores the previous signal mask when it returns.

The return value and error conditions are the same as for pause.

With sigsuspend, you can replace the pause or sleep loop in the previous section with something completely reliable:

     sigset_t mask, oldmask;
     
     ...
     
     /* Set up the mask of signals to temporarily block. */
     sigemptyset (&mask);
     sigaddset (&mask, SIGUSR1);
     
     ...
     
     /* Wait for a signal to arrive. */
     sigprocmask (SIG_BLOCK, &mask, &oldmask);
     while (!usr_interrupt)
       sigsuspend (&oldmask);
     sigprocmask (SIG_UNBLOCK, &mask, NULL);

This last piece of code is a little tricky. The key point to remember here is that when sigsuspend returns, it resets the process's signal mask to the original value, the value from before the call to sigsuspend—in this case, the SIGUSR1 signal is once again blocked. The second call to sigprocmask is necessary to explicitly unblock this signal.

One other point: you may be wondering why the while loop is necessary at all, since the program is apparently only waiting for one SIGUSR1 signal. The answer is that the mask passed to sigsuspend permits the process to be woken up by the delivery of other kinds of signals, as well—for example, job control signals. If the process is woken up by a signal that doesn't set usr_interrupt, it just suspends itself again until the “right” kind of signal eventually arrives.

This technique takes a few more lines of preparation, but that is needed just once for each kind of wait criterion you want to use. The code that actually waits is just four lines.