[erlang-questions] [erlang-bugs] Strange behaviour of exit(kill)

Loïc Hoguin <>
Thu Oct 8 14:37:19 CEST 2015


On 10/07/2015 02:27 PM, Francesco Lattanzio wrote:
> I always thought that when a process dies because it was sent a 'kill'
> message it would broadcast to the linked processes a 'killed' EXIT
> message (see Concurrent Programming in Erlang - Part I, D.3 Exit
> signals, p. 193 ).
> However for some reason recent implementations of the VM broadcasts a
> 'kill' EXIT message (I could only test it on Erlang VMs as old as
> R13B04).

1> Pid = spawn_link(fun() -> receive after infinity -> ok end end).
<0.36.0>
2> exit(Pid, kill).
** exception exit: killed
3> f().
ok
4> Pid = spawn_link(fun() -> receive after infinity -> ok end end).
<0.41.0>
5> process_flag(trap_exit, true).
false
6> exit(Pid, kill).
true
7> flush().
Shell got {'EXIT',<0.41.0>,killed}
ok

Cheers,

> I'm not asking to revert this behaviour (I bet such a change would
> impact a lot of code), however it would be nice to know why it was
> chosen a two-semantics kill message instead of more obvious two
> one-semantic kill and killed message (if someone knows).
>
> On Wed, Oct 07, 2015 at 03:27:24AM -0700, Robert Virding wrote:
>> I still find that extremely inconsistent, there are actually 2 'kill' signals: one that is sent with exit(Pid, kill) and the other
>> which sent when you do exit(kill). So I can trap 'kill' and I can't trap 'kill', great.
>>
>> I would personally go the other way and say that kill is kill however it is sent. But I agree with you, I'm not holding my breath
>> waiting for it to be fixed.
>>
>> Robert
>>
>> P.S. I am not even going to mention the terribly inconsistent handling of errors in link/1.
>>
>>
>> On 7 October 2015 at 00:51, Håkan Huss <> wrote:
>>
>>      2015-10-07 3:46 GMT+02:00 Robert Virding <>:
>>
>>          It's all about signals and not messages. Sending a message to a process should *NEVER* by default kill it even if it has
>>          the same format as an 'EXIT' message. NEVER!. A signal is converted to a message when it arrives at a process which is
>>          trapping exits unless it is the 'kill' which is untrappable and the process always dies.
>>
>>
>>      Yes, but the 'kill' signal is not an exit signal with reason kill. The 'kill' signal can only be sent by calling exit/2 with
>>      Reason = kill, which is documented to have the effect that "an untrappable exit signal is sent to Pid which will
>>      unconditionally exit with exit reason killed." There is no mention of how the exit reason in that exit signal, and since it is
>>      not trappable there is no way to observe it.
>>
>>
>>          Explicitly sending the SIGNAL with exit(Pid, kill) should unconditionally kill the process
>>
>>      Yes.
>>
>>
>>          as should dying with the reason 'kill' in exit(kill) which also sends the SIGNAL 'kill'.
>>
>>      No, this sends an exit signal with reason kill, but that is not the same ass the signal sent using exit(Pid, kill).
>>
>>
>>          In both cases the process receives the SIGNAL 'kill', as shown in my example, but in one case it is trappable and in the
>>          other it is untrappable.
>>
>>      No, in one case it receives an exit signal with reason kill, in the other case it receives the special untrappable exit signal
>>      which causes unconditional termination.
>>
>>
>>          My point is that the *same* signal results in different behaviour depending on how it was sent. That's incocnsistent.
>>
>>      I agree that it is inconsistent. I would have preferred that the exit(Pid, kill) was a separate function, e.g., kill(Pid) and
>>      that exit(Pid, kill) would be handled as any other exit/2 call. But I won't hold my breath in anticipation of that being
>>      changed...
>>
>>      /Håkan
>>
>>
>>          Robert
>>
>>
>>          On 6 October 2015 at 18:33, zxq9 <> wrote:
>>
>>              On Wednesday 07 October 2015 10:25:38 zxq9 wrote:
>>
>>              > or maybe it is that {'EXIT', Pid = self(), kill} *is* specifically untrappable by way of matching on self()?
>>
>>              That was too much to hope for:
>>
>>              1> P = spawn(fun Loop() -> receive M -> io:format("Got ~p~n", [M]), Loop() end end).
>>              <0.1889.0>
>>              2> P ! {'EXIT', P, kill}.
>>              Got {'EXIT',<0.1889.0>,kill}
>>              {'EXIT',<0.1889.0>,kill}
>>              3> P ! {'EXIT', P, blam}.
>>              Got {'EXIT',<0.1889.0>,blam}
>>              {'EXIT',<0.1889.0>,blam}
>>              4> exit(P, kill).
>>              true
>>              5> P ! {'EXIT', P, blam}.
>>              {'EXIT',<0.1889.0>,blam}
>>
>>              If it *did* turn out that matching {'EXIT', self(), kill} was untrappable I would just say "ah, that makes sense -- now
>>              I can understand the mechanism behind this without thinking about VM details". Instead it appears to be a case of
>>              mysterious activity underlying a message form that is semantically overloaded. And that stinks.
>>
>>              -Craig
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-- 
Loïc Hoguin
http://ninenines.eu
Author of The Erlanger Playbook,
A book about software development using Erlang


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