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Perl Language Reference Manual
by Larry Wall and others
Paperback (6"x9"), 724 pages
ISBN 9781906966027
RRP £29.95 ($39.95)

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21 perlfork: Perl's fork() emulation

NOTE: As of the 5.8.0 release, fork() emulation has considerably matured. However, there are still a few known bugs and differences from real fork() that might affect you. See the "BUGS" and "CAVEATS AND LIMITATIONS" sections below.

Perl provides a fork() keyword that corresponds to the Unix system call of the same name. On most Unix-like platforms where the fork() system call is available, Perl's fork() simply calls it.

On some platforms such as Windows where the fork() system call is not available, Perl can be built to emulate fork() at the interpreter level. While the emulation is designed to be as compatible as possible with the real fork() at the level of the Perl program, there are certain important differences that stem from the fact that all the pseudo child "processes" created this way live in the same real process as far as the operating system is concerned.

This document provides a general overview of the capabilities and limitations of the fork() emulation. Note that the issues discussed here are not applicable to platforms where a real fork() is available and Perl has been configured to use it.

The fork() emulation is implemented at the level of the Perl interpreter. What this means in general is that running fork() will actually clone the running interpreter and all its state, and run the cloned interpreter in a separate thread, beginning execution in the new thread just after the point where the fork() was called in the parent. We will refer to the thread that implements this child "process" as the pseudo-process.

To the Perl program that called fork(), all this is designed to be transparent. The parent returns from the fork() with a pseudo-process ID that can be subsequently used in any process manipulation functions; the child returns from the fork() with a value of 0 to signify that it is the child pseudo-process.

ISBN 9781906966027Perl Language Reference ManualSee the print edition