fifo-listen — open the read end of a FIFO and chain


fifo-listen [--uid number] [--gid number] [--mode number] [--systemd-compatibility] {path} {next-prog}


fifo-listen is a chain-loading utility that opens the read end of the FIFO at path, sets the FIFO to file descriptor 3+n (where n is the number of already-opened listening file descriptors), closing whatever that descriptor was, and then chain loads to next-prog with the execvp(3) function.

next-prog may contain its own command line options, which fifo-listen will ignore.

After opening it, using the permissions specified with the --mode command line argument (if supplied), fifo-listen changes the owner UID of the FIFO to that specified with the --uid command line argument (if supplied), and changes the GID of the FIFO to that specified with the --gid command line argument (if supplied). The normal conventions for numbers apply, so for octal permissions use a leading zero. Symbolic permissions and account names are not supported.

The --systemd-compatibility option is for compatibility with dæmons that expect to be run under systemd(1). It causes fifo-listen to set the LISTEN_FDS environment variable to the number of listening file descriptors, and the LISTEN_PID environment variable to its own process ID. If the command is started up with the LISTEN_FDS and the LISTEN_PID environment variables already appropriately set, the number of listening file descriptors is taken from them and increased by one, otherwise the number of file descriptors is 1. Thus a list of listening file descriptors can be built up with multiple commands, as long as they all use the --systemd-compatibility option.

For compatibility with dæmons that expect to be run under inetd(1), inheriting the listening socket as their standard input, simply use fdmove 0 3 in next-prog. See fdmove(1).


The POSIX standard does not specify that FIFOs can be opened in read-write mode, only specifying that they can be opened in either write-only or read-only modes. Some operating systems, however, provide the ability to open FIFOs in read-write mode as an extension. Doing so has the advantage of not terminating the listening server whenever individual clients disconnect. fifo-listen attempts to open the FIFO in read-write mode on such operating systems, using read-only mode on the others.


fifo-listen will successfully open, change ownership of, and change permissions of path even if it is not a FIFO. This is to allow its use with non-FIFO files such as /dev/kmsg, /proc/kmsgi, and /dev/klog.


Jonathan de Boyne Pollard