GNU bug report logs - #34488
Add sort --limit, or document workarounds for sort|head error messages

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Package: coreutils; Reported by: 積丹尼 Dan Jacobson <jidanni@HIDDEN>; dated Fri, 15 Feb 2019 14:53:01 UTC; Maintainer for coreutils is bug-coreutils@HIDDEN.

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From: =?utf-8?B?56mN5Li55bC8?= Dan Jacobson <jidanni@HIDDEN>
To: Eric Blake <eblake@HIDDEN>
Subject: Re: bug#34488: Add sort --limit,
 or document workarounds for sort|head error messages
References: <87mumxf6xn.fsf@HIDDEN>
 <49916778-4758-d040-5fcc-6e277a2dc183@HIDDEN>
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>>>>> "EB" == Eric Blake <eblake@HIDDEN> writes:

>> And no fair saying "just save the output" (could be big) "into a file
>> first, and do head(1) or sed(1) on that."

EB> If you have an app that exits noisily on write failures to an early-exit
EB> pipe, your solutions are to quit ignoring SIGPIPE, or to change the
EB> pipeline to consume all of the output instead of exiting early and
EB> causing write failure.

OK, it seems that indeed it would then be best to document:

     If you want to make sure no such errors occur on large output,
     instead of
     $ sort | head
     use
     $ sort > file; head file

as an _easy to remember_ alternative amongst the many.

And OK put this in some general place, and have the sort, etc. pages
link to it. Thanks.




Information forwarded to bug-coreutils@HIDDEN:
bug#34488; Package coreutils. Full text available.

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From: =?utf-8?B?56mN5Li55bC8?= Dan Jacobson <jidanni@HIDDEN>
To: Assaf Gordon <assafgordon@HIDDEN>
Subject: Re: bug#34488: Add sort --limit,
 or document workarounds for sort|head error messages
References: <87mumxf6xn.fsf@HIDDEN>
 <a1d75efb-2b11-35dc-98e8-b7e1fe723abb@HIDDEN>
Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2019 23:49:38 +0800
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>>>>> "AG" == Assaf Gordon <assafgordon@HIDDEN> writes:
AG> The errors are not "random" - they happen because you explicitly
AG> cut short the output of a program.

Well the user thinks "hey I cut short 5 lines, 45 lines, 495 lines, and
then one I got a job at a big company and cut short 4995 lines and got
this error message just when the boss was looking."

So be sure to mention it. Thanks.




Information forwarded to bug-coreutils@HIDDEN:
bug#34488; Package coreutils. Full text available.

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Subject: Re: bug#34488: Add sort --limit, or document workarounds for
 sort|head error messages
To: =?UTF-8?B?56mN5Li55bC8IERhbiBKYWNvYnNvbg==?= <jidanni@HIDDEN>,
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severity 34488 wishlist
retitle 34488 doc: sort: expand on "broken pipe" (SIGPIPE) behavior
stop

Hello,

On 2019-02-15 7:43 a.m., 積丹尼 Dan Jacobson wrote:
> Things start out cheery, but quickly get ugly,
> 
> $ for i in 9 99 999 9999 99999; do seq $i|sort -n|sed 5q|wc -l; done
> 5
> 5
> 5
> 5
> sort: write failed: 'standard output': Broken pipe
> sort: write error
> 5
> sort: write failed: 'standard output': Broken pipe
> sort: write error
> 
> Therefore, kindly add a sort --limit=n,

I don't think this is wise, as "head -n5" does exactly that in much more
generic way.

> and/or on (info "(coreutils) sort invocation")
> admit the problem, and give some workarounds, lest
> our scripts occasionally spew error messages seemingly randomly,
> just when the boss is looking.

Just to clarify: why do you think this a "problem" ?

This is the intended behavior of most proper programs:
Upon receiving SIGPIPE they should terminal with an error,
unless SIGPIPE is explicitly ignored.
The errors are not "random" - they happen because you explicitly
cut short the output of a program.

It is an important indication about how your pipe works,
and sort is not to blame, e.g.:

     $ seq 100000 | head -n1
     1
     seq: write error: Broken pipe

     $ seq 1000000| cat | head -n1
     1
     cat: write error: Broken pipe
     seq: write error: Broken pipe

This is a good indication that the entire output was not consumed,
and is very useful and important in some cases, e.g. when a program
crashes before consuming all input.

Here's a contrived example:

    $ seq 1000000 | sort -S 200 -T /foo/bar
    sort: cannot create temporary file in '/foo/bar': No such file or 
directory
    seq: write error: Broken pipe

I force "sort" to fail (limiting it's memory usage and pointing it to
non-existing temporarily directory).
It is then good to know that seq's output was cut short and not consumed.

If you know in advance you will trim the output of a program,
either hide the stderr with "2>/dev/null",
or use the shell's "trap PIPE" mechanism.

> And no fair saying "just save the output" (could be big) "into a file
> first, and do head(1) or sed(1) on that."

If you want to consume all input and just print the first 5 lines,
you can use "sed -n 1,5p" instead of "sed 5q" - no need for a temporary
file.


I'm marking this as a documentation "wishlist" item,
and patches are always welcomed.

regards,
  - assaf





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bug#34488; Package coreutils. Full text available.

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Subject: Re: bug#34488: Add sort --limit, or document workarounds for
 sort|head error messages
To: =?UTF-8?B?56mN5Li55bC8IERhbiBKYWNvYnNvbg==?= <jidanni@HIDDEN>,
 34488 <at> debbugs.gnu.org
References: <87mumxf6xn.fsf@HIDDEN>
From: Eric Blake <eblake@HIDDEN>
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From: Eric Blake <eblake@HIDDEN>
To: =?UTF-8?B?56mN5Li55bC8IERhbiBKYWNvYnNvbg==?= <jidanni@HIDDEN>,
 34488 <at> debbugs.gnu.org
Message-ID: <49916778-4758-d040-5fcc-6e277a2dc183@HIDDEN>
Subject: Re: bug#34488: Add sort --limit, or document workarounds for
 sort|head error messages
References: <87mumxf6xn.fsf@HIDDEN>
In-Reply-To: <87mumxf6xn.fsf@HIDDEN>

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On 2/15/19 8:43 AM, =E7=A9=8D=E4=B8=B9=E5=B0=BC Dan Jacobson wrote:
> Things start out cheery, but quickly get ugly,
>=20
> $ for i in 9 99 999 9999 99999; do seq $i|sort -n|sed 5q|wc -l; done
> 5
> 5
> 5
> 5
> sort: write failed: 'standard output': Broken pipe
> sort: write error
> 5
> sort: write failed: 'standard output': Broken pipe
> sort: write error

Your code is demonstrating what happens when sed ends processing without
consuming all of sort's output, to the point that sort is producing more
output than what stdio can buffer, and thus with enough pending output
will trigger a situation of SIGPIPE - but when SIGPIPE is ignored, that
instead turns into an EPIPE failure to write(), and sort treats all
write() failures as worthy of error reporting.  If you want sort to die
silently, then don't ignore SIGPIPE, so that sort won't see EPIPE and
thus won't be noisy.

$ (trap '' PIPE; seq 9999 | sort -n | sed 5q | wc -l)
5
sort: write failed: 'standard output': Broken pipe
sort: write error
$ (trap - PIPE; seq 9999 | sort -n | sed 5q | wc -l)
5

Except that POSIX has the nasty requirement that sh started with an
inherited ignored SIGPIPE must silently ignore all attempts from within
the shell to restore SIGPIPE handling to child processes of the shell:

$ (trap '' PIPE; bash -c 'trap - PIPE; \
   seq 9999 | sort -n | sed 5q | wc -l')
5
sort: write failed: 'standard output': Broken pipe
sort: write error

And unfortunately, there are several common cases of badly-behaved
environment setups that leave SIGPIPE ignored in the child (for example,
a quick google search found this:
https://blog.nelhage.com/2010/02/a-very-subtle-bug/)

You HAVE to use some other intermediate program if you want to override
an inherited ignored SIGPIPE in sh into an inherited default-behavior
SIGPIPE in sort.

Perhaps coreutils should teach 'env' a command-line option to forcefully
reset SIGPIPE back to default behavior (or add a new coreutil that does
the same idea), as a way to work around POSIX' requirement on sh.  If we
did that, then even if your sh is started with SIGPIPE ignored (so that
the shell itself can't restore default behavior), you could do this
theoretical invocation:

$ seq 9999 | env --default-signal PIPE sort -n | sed 5q | wc -l
5

and avoid the EPIPE failures because sort is forced to start with
SIGPIPE handling rather than ignored.

>=20
> Therefore, kindly add a sort --limit=3Dn,

Not scalable.  The problem you encountered is NOT the fault of sort, but
is common to ALL utilities which dutifully report write() failures on
EPIPE errors, which in turn happens when SIGPIPE is ignored.  Adding an
option to every such utility that produces outtput is not a good use of
time.  If you want to change things universally, perhaps you should
petition POSIX to change the requirements to allow applications the
option to silently exit without an error message on EPIPE failures to
write(), instead of the current wording that all write() errors must be
diagnosed.

> and/or on (info "(coreutils) sort invocation")
> admit the problem, and give some workarounds, lest
> our scripts occasionally spew error messages seemingly randomly,
> just when the boss is looking.

The problem is not in sort, but in the fact that your environment is
ignoring SIGPIPE. Documenting something in sort doesn't scale, but
perhaps the documentation could mention SIGPIPE considerations in a more
global chapter covering all of the coreutils.

>=20
> And no fair saying "just save the output" (could be big) "into a file
> first, and do head(1) or sed(1) on that."
>=20

If you have an app that exits noisily on write failures to an early-exit
pipe, your solutions are to quit ignoring SIGPIPE, or to change the
pipeline to consume all of the output instead of exiting early and
causing write failure.

--=20
Eric Blake, Principal Software Engineer
Red Hat, Inc.           +1-919-301-3226
Virtualization:  qemu.org | libvirt.org


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Information forwarded to bug-coreutils@HIDDEN:
bug#34488; Package coreutils. Full text available.

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From: =?utf-8?B?56mN5Li55bC8?= Dan Jacobson <jidanni@HIDDEN>
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Subject: Add sort --limit, or document workarounds for sort|head error messages
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Things start out cheery, but quickly get ugly,

$ for i in 9 99 999 9999 99999; do seq $i|sort -n|sed 5q|wc -l; done
5
5
5
5
sort: write failed: 'standard output': Broken pipe
sort: write error
5
sort: write failed: 'standard output': Broken pipe
sort: write error

Therefore, kindly add a sort --limit=n,
and/or on (info "(coreutils) sort invocation")
admit the problem, and give some workarounds, lest
our scripts occasionally spew error messages seemingly randomly,
just when the boss is looking.

And no fair saying "just save the output" (could be big) "into a file
first, and do head(1) or sed(1) on that."




Acknowledgement sent to 積丹尼 Dan Jacobson <jidanni@HIDDEN>:
New bug report received and forwarded. Copy sent to bug-coreutils@HIDDEN. Full text available.
Report forwarded to bug-coreutils@HIDDEN:
bug#34488; Package coreutils. Full text available.
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