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From: "Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)" <>
To: "Eric W. Biederman" <>
Cc:, "Philipp Wendler" <>,
	"Serge E. Hallyn" <>,
	"Christian Brauner" <>,
	"Aleksa Sarai" <>,
	"Reid Priedhorsky" <>,
	"Andy Lutomirski" <>,
	"Yang Bo" <>, "Jakub Wilk" <>,
	"Joseph Sible" <>,
	"Al Viro" <>,, linux-man <>,
	lkml <>,
	Containers <>,
	"Stéphane Graber" <>
Subject: Re: For review: rewritten pivot_root(2) manual page
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2019 09:42:38 +0200
Message-ID: <> (raw)
In-Reply-To: <>

Hello Eric,

I think I just understood something. See below.

On 10/9/19 11:01 PM, Michael Kerrisk (man-pages) wrote:
> Hello Eric,
> On 10/9/19 6:00 PM, Eric W. Biederman wrote:
>> "Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)" <> writes:
>>> Hello Eric,
>>> Thank you. I was hoping you might jump in on this thread.
>>> Please see below.
>>> On 10/9/19 10:46 AM, Eric W. Biederman wrote:
>>>> "Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)" <> writes:
>>>>> Hello Philipp,
>>>>> My apologies that it has taken a while to reply. (I had been hoping
>>>>> and waiting that a few more people might weigh in on this thread.)
>>>>> On 9/23/19 3:42 PM, Philipp Wendler wrote:
>>>>>> Hello Michael,
>>>>>> Am 23.09.19 um 14:04 schrieb Michael Kerrisk (man-pages):
>>>>>>> I'm considering to rewrite these pieces to exactly
>>>>>>> describe what the system call does (which I already
>>>>>>> do in the third paragraph) and remove the "may or may not"
>>>>>>> pieces in the second paragraph. I'd welcome comments
>>>>>>> on making that change.
>>> What did you think about my proposal above? To put it in context,
>>> this was my initial comment in the mail:
>>> [[
>>> One area of the page that I'm still not really happy with
>>> is the "vague" wording in the second paragraph and the note
>>> in the third paragraph about the system call possibly
>>> changing. These pieces survive (in somewhat modified form)
>>> from the original page, which was written before the
>>> system call was released, and it seems there was some
>>> question about whether the system call might still change
>>> its behavior with respect to the root directory and current
>>> working directory of other processes. However, after 19
>>> years, nothing has changed, and surely it will not in the
>>> future, since that would constitute an ABI breakage.
>>> I'm considering to rewrite these pieces to exactly
>>> describe what the system call does (which I already
>>> do in the third paragraph) and remove the "may or may not"
>>> pieces in the second paragraph. I'd welcome comments
>>> on making that change.
>>> ]]
>>> And the second and third paragraphs of the manual page currently
>>> read:
>>> [[
>>>        pivot_root()  may  or may not change the current root and the cur‐
>>>        rent working directory of any processes or threads  that  use  the
>>>        old  root  directory  and which are in the same mount namespace as
>>>        the caller of pivot_root().  The  caller  of  pivot_root()  should
>>>        ensure  that  processes  with root or current working directory at
>>>        the old root operate correctly in either case.   An  easy  way  to
>>>        ensure  this is to change their root and current working directory
>>>        to  new_root  before  invoking  pivot_root().   Note   also   that
>>>        pivot_root()  may  or may not affect the calling process's current
>>>        working directory.  It is therefore recommended to call chdir("/")
>>>        immediately after pivot_root().
>>>        The  paragraph  above  is  intentionally vague because at the time
>>>        when pivot_root() was first implemented, it  was  unclear  whether
>>>        its  affect  on  other process's root and current working directo‐
>>>        ries—and the caller's current working  directory—might  change  in
>>>        the  future.   However, the behavior has remained consistent since
>>>        this system call was first implemented: pivot_root()  changes  the
>>>        root  directory  and the current working directory of each process
>>>        or thread in the same mount namespace to new_root if they point to
>>>        the  old  root  directory.   (See also NOTES.)  On the other hand,
>>>        pivot_root() does not change the caller's current  working  direc‐
>>>        tory  (unless it is on the old root directory), and thus it should
>>>        be followed by a chdir("/") call.
>>> ]]
>> Apologies I saw that concern I didn't realize it was a questio
>> I think it is very reasonable to remove warning the behavior might
>> change.  We have pivot_root(8) in common use that to use it requires
>> the semantic of changing processes other than the current process.
>> Which means any attempt to noticably change the behavior of
>> pivot_root(2) will break userspace.
> Thanks for the confirmation that this change would be okay.
> I will make this change soon, unless I hear a counterargument.
>> Now the documented semantics in behavior above are not quite what
>> pivot_root(2) does.  It walks all processes on the system and if the
>> working directory or the root directory refer to the root mount that is
>> being replaced, then pivot_root(2) will update them.
>> In practice the above is limited to a mount namespace.  But something as
>> simple as "cd /proc/<somepid>/root" can allow a process to have a
>> working directory in a different mount namespace.
> So, I'm not quite clear. Do you mean that something in the existing
> manual page text should change? If so, could you describe the
> needed change please?

Okay, I had to sleep on this one. I think what you are saying is
that is some process, pidX, in mountns X does a "cd /proc/<pidY>/root"
where pidY is a process in mountns Y, and then some
process in mountns Y does a pivot_root(), the the CWD of pidX will
be changed, even though it is in a different mountns. Right?



Michael Kerrisk
Linux man-pages maintainer;
Linux/UNIX System Programming Training:

      reply index

Thread overview: 9+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
2019-09-23 12:04 Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2019-09-23 13:42 ` Philipp Wendler
2019-10-09  7:41   ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2019-10-09  8:18     ` G. Branden Robinson
2019-10-09  8:46     ` ebiederm
2019-10-09 10:22       ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2019-10-09 16:00         ` ebiederm
2019-10-09 21:01           ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2019-10-10  7:42             ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages) [this message]

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