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Re: Race condition during file saving

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  • Adam Osuchowski
    ... I try different settings of this variables and there was always the same situation: open( testfile , O_WRONLY|O_CREAT|O_TRUNC, 0600) = 3 write(3, test
    Message 1 of 19 , Jan 3, 2009
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      Tony Mechelynck wrote:
      > See
      > :help backup
      > :help 'backup'
      > :help 'writebackup'
      > :help 'backupcopy'
      > :help timestamp

      I try different settings of this variables and there was always the same
      situation:

      open("testfile", O_WRONLY|O_CREAT|O_TRUNC, 0600) = 3
      write(3, "test test test\n"..., 15) = 15

      So, still there are points in time when file could be empty (after opening
      with O_TRUNC) or partially written (between multiple write syscalls).
      Could you give me a concrete example of values of these settings, which
      could prevent such situations?

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    • Tony Mechelynck
      ... I don t know. There re only one keyboard and one display on this machine, and I try to avoid having several programs modify a single file simultaneously
      Message 2 of 19 , Jan 3, 2009
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        On 04/01/09 04:19, Adam Osuchowski wrote:
        > Tony Mechelynck wrote:
        >> See
        >> :help backup
        >> :help 'backup'
        >> :help 'writebackup'
        >> :help 'backupcopy'
        >> :help timestamp
        >
        > I try different settings of this variables and there was always the same
        > situation:
        >
        > open("testfile", O_WRONLY|O_CREAT|O_TRUNC, 0600) = 3
        > write(3, "test test test\n"..., 15) = 15
        >
        > So, still there are points in time when file could be empty (after opening
        > with O_TRUNC) or partially written (between multiple write syscalls).
        > Could you give me a concrete example of values of these settings, which
        > could prevent such situations?

        I don't know. There're only one keyboard and one display on this
        machine, and I try to avoid having several programs modify a single file
        simultaneously outside each other's knowledge. The rare case is
        /var/spool/mail/root which is appended to by my cron jobs, and truncated
        by SeaMonkey after "downloading" the mail to its own mailbox in its
        profile. Vim doesn't intervene there.

        Vim will try to detect when its editfile has been modified by another
        program, but it is not meant to be used in an environment where anything
        can be modified simultaneously by any number of actors. If something
        goes wrong, you can try to |recover|.


        Best regards,
        Tony.
        --
        "The National Association of Theater Concessionaires reported that in
        1986, 60% of all candy sold in movie theaters was sold to Roger Ebert."
        -- D. Letterman

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      • Adam Osuchowski
        ... Cases like mbox files are not so rare. There are many examples of simultaneously access to single file, but problem exists even without concurrent
        Message 3 of 19 , Jan 3, 2009
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          Tony Mechelynck wrote:
          > I don't know. There're only one keyboard and one display on this
          > machine, and I try to avoid having several programs modify a single file
          > simultaneously outside each other's knowledge. The rare case is
          > /var/spool/mail/root which is appended to by my cron jobs, and truncated
          > by SeaMonkey after "downloading" the mail to its own mailbox in its
          > profile. Vim doesn't intervene there.
          >
          > Vim will try to detect when its editfile has been modified by another
          > program, but it is not meant to be used in an environment where anything
          > can be modified simultaneously by any number of actors. If something
          > goes wrong, you can try to |recover|.

          Cases like mbox files are not so rare. There are many examples of
          simultaneously access to single file, but problem exists even without
          concurrent modification.

          A simple example: editing config file for some daemon. When vim
          truncates this file and program read it at the same time (because,
          for example, it will be restarted by cron, other administrator or even
          by itself) it will be problematic situation. The same matter is if
          a program will be run from cron or other program (for example, procmail
          from sendmail). Recover option in vim does not help here. Do you suggest
          turn off all processes during editing config files?

          Vim is used on multiuser and multiprocess systems, so limiting the working
          users or simultaneously processes to single one is misunderstanding.
          Why do you disrespect problem, especially if there is solution in the
          form of proper use of rename(2) syscall, which I mentioned about?

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        • Matt Wozniski
          ... rename(2) doesn t do everything needed. What if the file being written is a symlink, or a hard link? rename() would break the link, which probably isn t
          Message 4 of 19 , Jan 4, 2009
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            On Sat, Jan 3, 2009 at 11:27 PM, Adam Osuchowski wrote:
            >
            > Cases like mbox files are not so rare. There are many examples of
            > simultaneously access to single file, but problem exists even without
            > concurrent modification.
            >
            > A simple example: editing config file for some daemon. When vim
            > truncates this file and program read it at the same time (because,
            > for example, it will be restarted by cron, other administrator or even
            > by itself) it will be problematic situation. The same matter is if
            > a program will be run from cron or other program (for example, procmail
            > from sendmail). Recover option in vim does not help here. Do you suggest
            > turn off all processes during editing config files?
            >
            > Vim is used on multiuser and multiprocess systems, so limiting the working
            > users or simultaneously processes to single one is misunderstanding.
            > Why do you disrespect problem, especially if there is solution in the
            > form of proper use of rename(2) syscall, which I mentioned about?

            rename(2) doesn't do everything needed. What if the file being
            written is a symlink, or a hard link? rename() would break the link,
            which probably isn't what you want an editor to do...

            ~Matt

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          • Bram Moolenaar
            ... That s all taken care of when backupcopy is auto . If you want the original file to always exist set backupcopy to yes . Saving files will be
            Message 5 of 19 , Jan 4, 2009
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              Matt Wozniski wrote:

              > On Sat, Jan 3, 2009 at 11:27 PM, Adam Osuchowski wrote:
              > >
              > > Cases like mbox files are not so rare. There are many examples of
              > > simultaneously access to single file, but problem exists even without
              > > concurrent modification.
              > >
              > > A simple example: editing config file for some daemon. When vim
              > > truncates this file and program read it at the same time (because,
              > > for example, it will be restarted by cron, other administrator or even
              > > by itself) it will be problematic situation. The same matter is if
              > > a program will be run from cron or other program (for example, procmail
              > > from sendmail). Recover option in vim does not help here. Do you suggest
              > > turn off all processes during editing config files?
              > >
              > > Vim is used on multiuser and multiprocess systems, so limiting the working
              > > users or simultaneously processes to single one is misunderstanding.
              > > Why do you disrespect problem, especially if there is solution in the
              > > form of proper use of rename(2) syscall, which I mentioned about?
              >
              > rename(2) doesn't do everything needed. What if the file being
              > written is a symlink, or a hard link? rename() would break the link,
              > which probably isn't what you want an editor to do...

              That's all taken care of when 'backupcopy' is "auto". If you want the
              original file to always exist set 'backupcopy' to "yes". Saving files
              will be slower then, since Vim needs to both write a copy and write the
              actual file.

              Since you are overwriting the file there always is a moment it's empty.

              --
              If you don't get everything you want, think of
              everything you didn't get and don't want.

              /// Bram Moolenaar -- Bram@... -- http://www.Moolenaar.net \\\
              /// sponsor Vim, vote for features -- http://www.Vim.org/sponsor/ \\\
              \\\ download, build and distribute -- http://www.A-A-P.org ///
              \\\ help me help AIDS victims -- http://ICCF-Holland.org ///

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            • Adam Osuchowski
              ... Right, but current behaviour is even worse. We can t protect if somebody create file while vim saves it due to system limitations, but we can protect
              Message 6 of 19 , Jan 4, 2009
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                Matt Wozniski wrote:
                > rename(2) doesn't do everything needed.

                Right, but current behaviour is even worse. We can't protect if somebody
                create file while vim saves it due to system limitations, but we can
                protect against completely lack of file or situation when it is partially
                written.

                > rename() would break the link, which probably isn't what you want an
                > editor to do...

                Right, but definitely there are fewer multi hard linked files than singles.
                Again, we can't protect against such situation because of POSIX syscalls
                nature, so maybe vim should identify if there is hard link and unless,
                it will do atomic file replacement. I know, there is another race
                condition (between stat() and rename()) but it is more unlikely case.

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              • Adam Osuchowski
                ... Not quite. Of course, with backupcopy set to yes , there are not moment when another process find file missing, but still file may be empty or not
                Message 7 of 19 , Jan 4, 2009
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                  Bram Moolenaar wrote:
                  > That's all taken care of when 'backupcopy' is "auto". If you want the
                  > original file to always exist set 'backupcopy' to "yes". Saving files
                  > will be slower then, since Vim needs to both write a copy and write the
                  > actual file.

                  Not quite. Of course, with 'backupcopy' set to "yes", there are not
                  moment when another process find file missing, but still file may be empty
                  or not completely written:

                  open("testfile", O_WRONLY|O_CREAT|O_TRUNC, 0600) = 3
                  write(3, "test test test\n"..., 15) = 15
                  fsync(3) = 0
                  close(3) = 0

                  > Since you are overwriting the file there always is a moment it's empty.

                  Unless use of rename() syscall, which replace it atomically (with exact
                  to hard link cases).

                  I know, that these problems result from flawed POSIX file system syscalls
                  behaviour, but IMHO it may be made better than it is done now.

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                • Nikolai Weibull
                  ... I haven t really understood what the problem is (I don t believe that there actually is one), but would opening the file exclusively solve the problem?
                  Message 8 of 19 , Jan 4, 2009
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                    On Sun, Jan 4, 2009 at 15:57, Adam Osuchowski <adwol@...> wrote:

                    > open("testfile", O_WRONLY|O_CREAT|O_TRUNC, 0600) = 3

                    I haven't really understood what the problem is (I don't believe that
                    there actually is one), but would opening the file exclusively solve
                    the problem?

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                  • Adam Osuchowski
                    ... There is a non-zero time period between open file and write complete content. Because vim truncate file while opening (O_TRUNC), another process which
                    Message 9 of 19 , Jan 4, 2009
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                      Nikolai Weibull wrote:
                      > I haven't really understood what the problem is (I don't believe that
                      > there actually is one),

                      There is a non-zero time period between open file and write complete
                      content. Because vim truncate file while opening (O_TRUNC), another
                      process which would like to read it can hit in the moment when file will
                      be empty.

                      > but would opening the file exclusively solve the problem?

                      Do you mean O_EXCL flag to open syscall? It doesn't protect against
                      such a situation. It only guarantee that file doesn't exist prior to
                      call open in atomic manner.

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                    • Nikolai Weibull
                      ... Yeah, so? That s not a bug. File systems are, generally, not databases with ACID properties. They don t provide transactions (at the level we re
                      Message 10 of 19 , Jan 4, 2009
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                        On Sun, Jan 4, 2009 at 16:26, Adam Osuchowski <adwol@...> wrote:

                        > Nikolai Weibull wrote:

                        >> I haven't really understood what the problem is (I don't believe that
                        >> there actually is one),

                        > There is a non-zero time period between open file and write complete
                        > content. Because vim truncate file while opening (O_TRUNC), another
                        > process which would like to read it can hit in the moment when file will
                        > be empty.

                        Yeah, so? That's not a bug. File systems are, generally, not
                        databases with ACID properties. They don't provide transactions (at
                        the level we're discussing).

                        >> but would opening the file exclusively solve the problem?

                        > Do you mean O_EXCL flag to open syscall? It doesn't protect against
                        > such a situation. It only guarantee that file doesn't exist prior to
                        > call open in atomic manner.

                        No, I mean both O_EXCL (so that a file hasn't been created in between
                        the time the original file has been renamed and the new one opened - a
                        case so far not mentioned (or?)) and flock:ing it (but, as I
                        understand from the man page, this doesn't seem to be very interesting
                        either).

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                      • Charles E. Campbell, Jr.
                        ... If you re talking Unix/Linux/etc -- flock is a cooperative file locking mechanism, and processes which ignore it are not impeded. Look into mandatory file
                        Message 11 of 19 , Jan 4, 2009
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                          Nikolai Weibull wrote:
                          > On Sun, Jan 4, 2009 at 16:26, Adam Osuchowski <adwol@...> wrote:
                          >
                          >
                          >> Nikolai Weibull wrote:
                          >>
                          >
                          >
                          >>> I haven't really understood what the problem is (I don't believe that
                          >>> there actually is one),
                          >>>
                          >
                          >
                          >> There is a non-zero time period between open file and write complete
                          >> content. Because vim truncate file while opening (O_TRUNC), another
                          >> process which would like to read it can hit in the moment when file will
                          >> be empty.
                          >>
                          >
                          > Yeah, so? That's not a bug. File systems are, generally, not
                          > databases with ACID properties. They don't provide transactions (at
                          > the level we're discussing).
                          >
                          >
                          >>> but would opening the file exclusively solve the problem?
                          >>>
                          >
                          >
                          >> Do you mean O_EXCL flag to open syscall? It doesn't protect against
                          >> such a situation. It only guarantee that file doesn't exist prior to
                          >> call open in atomic manner.
                          >>
                          >
                          > No, I mean both O_EXCL (so that a file hasn't been created in between
                          > the time the original file has been renamed and the new one opened - a
                          > case so far not mentioned (or?)) and flock:ing it (but, as I
                          > understand from the man page, this doesn't seem to be very interesting
                          > either).
                          >
                          If you're talking Unix/Linux/etc -- flock is a cooperative file locking
                          mechanism, and processes which ignore it are not impeded.
                          Look into mandatory file locking (the mand option to mount). Mandatory
                          file locking is kernel enforced, and not even root apparently
                          can force its way through.

                          Mandatory file locking by vim would not be practical, as it generally
                          requires root access to set up, and only involves files on the
                          mandatory-filelocking mounted device.

                          Regards,
                          Chip Campbell


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                        • Nikolai Weibull
                          On Sun, Jan 4, 2009 at 23:19, Charles E. Campbell, Jr. ... Just to make sure, did you read the part where I wrote [flock] doesn t seem to be very interesting
                          Message 12 of 19 , Jan 4, 2009
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                            On Sun, Jan 4, 2009 at 23:19, Charles E. Campbell, Jr.
                            <drchip@...> wrote:

                            > Nikolai Weibull wrote:

                            >> No, I mean both O_EXCL (so that a file hasn't been created in between
                            >> the time the original file has been renamed and the new one opened - a
                            >> case so far not mentioned (or?)) and flock:ing it (but, as I
                            >> understand from the man page, this doesn't seem to be very interesting
                            >> either).

                            > If you're talking Unix/Linux/etc -- flock is a cooperative file locking
                            > mechanism, and processes which ignore it are not impeded.

                            Just to make sure, did you read the part where I wrote "[flock]
                            doesn't seem to be very interesting either"?

                            I just want to know what your intentions were.

                            Was it simply to fill in extra information about why I wrote that?

                            Or did it seem like I didn't know what I was talking about and you
                            wrote this reply to correct me?

                            I'm finding that I get a lot of replys, especially at work, where I
                            get the feeling that my mail hasn't really been read through. A
                            classic is where you ask someone two questions and you get a reply
                            with an answer for the first one. Or where you answer two questions
                            and they restate the second one in their reply.

                            Either way, I really don't think we have a problem to fix. I /want/
                            to be able to read what a program is writing to a file, mid-write.
                            Generally, when a long process is executing I want to be able to tell
                            what's being written. If you're writing to a file that another
                            program critically needs /that's/ your problem. Not whether you made
                            sure to set up some intricate locking mechanism or not.

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                          • Charles E. Campbell, Jr.
                            ... Nikolai -- you re getting a bit sensitive here -- it was simply to fill in extra information... , as you hadn t explained why flock wasn t interesting.
                            Message 13 of 19 , Jan 4, 2009
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                              Nikolai Weibull wrote:
                              > On Sun, Jan 4, 2009 at 23:19, Charles E. Campbell, Jr.
                              > <drchip@...> wrote:
                              >
                              >
                              >> Nikolai Weibull wrote:
                              >>
                              >
                              >
                              >>> No, I mean both O_EXCL (so that a file hasn't been created in between
                              >>> the time the original file has been renamed and the new one opened - a
                              >>> case so far not mentioned (or?)) and flock:ing it (but, as I
                              >>> understand from the man page, this doesn't seem to be very interesting
                              >>> either).
                              >>>
                              >
                              >
                              >> If you're talking Unix/Linux/etc -- flock is a cooperative file locking
                              >> mechanism, and processes which ignore it are not impeded.
                              >>
                              >
                              > Just to make sure, did you read the part where I wrote "[flock]
                              > doesn't seem to be very interesting either"?
                              >
                              > I just want to know what your intentions were.
                              >
                              > Was it simply to fill in extra information about why I wrote that?
                              >
                              > Or did it seem like I didn't know what I was talking about and you
                              > wrote this reply to correct me?
                              >
                              > I'm finding that I get a lot of replys, especially at work, where I
                              > get the feeling that my mail hasn't really been read through. A
                              > classic is where you ask someone two questions and you get a reply
                              > with an answer for the first one. Or where you answer two questions
                              > and they restate the second one in their reply.
                              >
                              > Either way, I really don't think we have a problem to fix. I /want/
                              > to be able to read what a program is writing to a file, mid-write.
                              > Generally, when a long process is executing I want to be able to tell
                              > what's being written. If you're writing to a file that another
                              > program critically needs /that's/ your problem. Not whether you made
                              > sure to set up some intricate locking mechanism or not.
                              >
                              Nikolai -- you're getting a bit sensitive here -- it was "simply to fill
                              in extra information...", as you hadn't explained why flock "wasn't
                              interesting."
                              Plus I added the mandatory kernel-enforced locking information.

                              Likely areas for problems like this concern cooperative editing (ie.
                              multiple people editing the same file) and editing log files (or other
                              files which are potentially being written to by some other program).
                              Vim isn't designed for cooperative editing; I seem to recall it being on
                              a wishlist, though. Editing log files is problematic because they
                              generally aren't using mandatory file locking.

                              Personally, I agree with you that there's not a problem to fix; at most,
                              there's new behavior (that wishlist stuff) that someone may want. To
                              avoid the need for cooperative editing, use cvs/git/etc and use separate
                              copies and repositories. Editing log files is likely to remain
                              problematic and requires more than just vim to change (unless the
                              logging process already uses flock, perhaps I'll look into it sometime).

                              Regards,
                              Chip Campbell


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                            • Adam Osuchowski
                              ... So what is your advice? Ignore it? It s very comfortable to call flows features, we have perfect situation and don t need to worry about consequences. ...
                              Message 14 of 19 , Jan 4, 2009
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                                Nikolai Weibull wrote:
                                > Either way, I really don't think we have a problem to fix.

                                So what is your advice? Ignore it? It's very comfortable to call flows
                                features, we have perfect situation and don't need to worry about
                                consequences.

                                > If you're writing to a file that another program critically needs
                                > /that's/ your problem.

                                Configuration file, for example, is critically for almost every daemon.
                                Do you think that it is only my problem? No, it is very real scenario
                                which could happen to everyone who use vim.

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                              • Adam Osuchowski
                                ... I didn t tell about multiple people editing the same file or editing log files. I told about _ONE_ person editing file which could be read by another
                                Message 15 of 19 , Jan 4, 2009
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                                  Charles E. Campbell, Jr. wrote:
                                  > Likely areas for problems like this concern cooperative editing (ie.
                                  > multiple people editing the same file) and editing log files (or other
                                  > files which are potentially being written to by some other program).
                                  > Vim isn't designed for cooperative editing; I seem to recall it being on
                                  > a wishlist, though. Editing log files is problematic because they
                                  > generally aren't using mandatory file locking.

                                  I didn't tell about multiple people editing the same file or editing log
                                  files. I told about _ONE_ person editing file which could be read by another
                                  process at the same time. Isn't vim designed for it too? Don't think so.

                                  > To avoid the need for cooperative editing, use cvs/git/etc and use separate
                                  > copies and repositories.

                                  And keep all /etc files in cvs repo? It's only pinning the blame on another
                                  application (cvs, in this case).

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                                • Nikolai Weibull
                                  ... ? ... That s what crontab -e is for, among other things. --~--~---------~--~----~------------~-------~--~----~ You received this message from the vim_dev
                                  Message 16 of 19 , Jan 4, 2009
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                                    On Mon, Jan 5, 2009 at 00:06, Adam Osuchowski <adwol@...> wrote:

                                    > Nikolai Weibull wrote:

                                    >> Either way, I really don't think we have a problem to fix.

                                    > So what is your advice? Ignore it? It's very comfortable to call flows
                                    > features, we have perfect situation and don't need to worry about
                                    > consequences.

                                    ?

                                    >> If you're writing to a file that another program critically needs
                                    >> /that's/ your problem.

                                    > Configuration file, for example, is critically for almost every daemon.
                                    > Do you think that it is only my problem? No, it is very real scenario
                                    > which could happen to everyone who use vim.

                                    That's what crontab -e is for, among other things.

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                                  • Ben Schmidt
                                    ... He didn t mean it s your problem personally and that no other user would experience it. He meant it s your problem as the user, not the editor s problem.
                                    Message 17 of 19 , Jan 4, 2009
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                                      >> If you're writing to a file that another program critically needs
                                      >> /that's/ your problem.
                                      >
                                      > Configuration file, for example, is critically for almost every daemon.
                                      > Do you think that it is only my problem? No, it is very real scenario
                                      > which could happen to everyone who use vim.

                                      He didn't mean it's your problem personally and that no other user would
                                      experience it. He meant it's your problem as the user, not the editor's
                                      problem.

                                      If you edit your config files, most likely you need to SIGHUP the daemon
                                      to reread it anyway. And if you don't, most likely the daemon is aware
                                      of the somewhat dumb practice of reading its config files at
                                      unpredictable intervals, and provides a device, such as crontab -e, to
                                      avoid problems, as has already been mentioned. Playing games moving
                                      temporary files around for the purpose of keeping daemons happy is not
                                      an editor's job, but the user's, or a utility such as crontab's.

                                      Having the editor write to a temporary file and move it into place has
                                      other worse effects as have already been mentioned (breaking of links,
                                      use of file descriptors by calling processes such as crontab -e, etc.).
                                      Indeed, other software sometimes expects the editor to overwrite the
                                      original file, which implies a time with an empty or partially written
                                      file.

                                      So although the current behaviour isn't really ideal, neither are the
                                      alternatives, and in fact, the alternatives are probably worse.

                                      It could be another option, I suppose, or incorporated into an existing
                                      one (it is only possible if writebackup and backup are unset or
                                      copybackup is yes, or there is a time of nonexistence of the file, which
                                      is just as bad), but is it worth the bother? How often are people
                                      actually bitten by this? Very rarely, I think, and the consequences are
                                      far from catastrophic when it happens. It couldn't be the default due to
                                      the other negative side effects of the method, too, so would have to be
                                      set when appropriate, which means you might as well use some other tool
                                      to do the job.

                                      Ben.




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