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Date: Sun, 14 Mar 2021 17:04:34 +0100
From: Sören Tempel <>
Subject: popen needs to close streams created by previous calls


This is a follow-up to a discussion from IRC regarding a bug in popen().
The POSIX specification for popen() mandates the following [1]:

> The popen() function shall ensure that any streams from previous
> popen() calls that remain open in the parent process are closed in the
> new child process.

Currently, musl's popen() implementation does not adhere to this
requirement. When multiple popen() calls are used in an application,
newly created child processes will inherit the file descriptors for the
reading/writing end of pipes created by previous popen() calls. This can
lead to pclose() deadlocks when popen() has been used to create
multiples pipes which can be written to. As one would need to close the
writing end in all created child processes to cause an EOF on the
reading end [2].

Other implementations (e.g. glibc [3] or uclibc [4]) maintain an
internal list of pipes created by previous popen() calls and close them
in the child process created by popen(). Something similar will likely
be needed for musl as well.

On IRC, duncaen proposed the following patch to resolve this issue:

diff --git a/src/stdio/popen.c b/src/stdio/popen.c
index 92cb57ee..7233b08f 100644
--- a/src/stdio/popen.c
+++ b/src/stdio/popen.c
@@ -50,6 +50,12 @@ FILE *popen(const char *cmd, const char *mode)

 	e = ENOMEM;
 	if (!posix_spawn_file_actions_init(&fa)) {
+		for (FILE *f=*__ofl_lock(); f; f=f->next)
+			if (f->pipe_pid && posix_spawn_file_actions_addclose(&fa, f->fd)) {
+				__ofl_unlock();
+				goto fail;
+			}
+		__ofl_unlock();
 		if (!posix_spawn_file_actions_adddup2(&fa, p[1-op], 1-op)) {
 			if (!(e = posix_spawn(&pid, "/bin/sh", &fa, 0,
 			    (char *[]){ "sh", "-c", (char *)cmd, 0 }, __environ))) {

Further changes to the proposed patch could be discussed in this thread.



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