Someone asked on a mailing list how to redirect output from a running process. They had a program which had been running for a long period of time without having stdout redirected to a file. They wanted to logout (to move the laptop that was used for the ssh session) but not kill the process (or lose output).
Most responses were of the form “you should have used screen or nohup” which is all very well if you had planned to logout and leave it running (or even planned to have it run for a long time).
Fortunately it is quite possible to redirect output of a running process. I will use cat as a trivial example but the same technique will work for most programs that do simple IO (of course programs that do terminal IO may be more tricky – but you could always redirect from the tty device of a ssh session to the tty device of a screen session).
Firstly I run the command “cat > foo1” in one session and test that data from stdin is copied to the file. Then in another session I redirect the output:
Firstly find the PID of the process:
$ ps aux|grep cat
rjc 6760 0.0 0.0 1580 376 pts/5 S+ 15:31 0:00 cat
Now check the file handles it has open:
$ ls -l /proc/6760/fd
lrwx—— 1 rjc rjc 64 Feb 27 15:32 0 -> /dev/pts/5
l-wx—— 1 rjc rjc 64 Feb 27 15:32 1 -> /tmp/foo1
lrwx—— 1 rjc rjc 64 Feb 27 15:32 2 -> /dev/pts/5
Now run GDB:
$ gdb -p 6760 /bin/cat
GNU gdb 6.4.90-debian
Copyright (C) 2006 Free Software Foundation, Inc
[lots more license stuff snipped]
Attaching to program: /bin/cat, process 6760
[snip other stuff that’s not interesting now]
(gdb) p close(1)
$1 = 0
(gdb) p creat(“/tmp/foo3”, 0600)
$2 = 1
The program is running. Quit anyway (and detach it)? (y or n) y
Detaching from program: /bin/cat, process 6760
The “p” command in GDB will print the value of an expression, an expression can be a function to call, it can be a system call… So I execute a close() system call and pass file handle 1, then I execute a creat() system call to open a new file. The result of the creat() was 1 which means that it replaced the previous file handle. If I wanted to use the same file for stdout and stderr or if I wanted to replace a file handle with some other number then I would need to call the dup2() system call to achieve that result.
For this example I chose to use creat() instead of open() because there are fewer parameter. The C macros for the flags are not usable from GDB (it doesn’t use C headers) so I would have to read header files to discover this – it’s not that hard to do so but would take more time. Note that 0600 is the octal permission for the owner having read/write access and the group and others having no access. It would also work to use 0 for that parameter and run chmod on the file later on.
After that I verify the result:
ls -l /proc/6760/fd/
lrwx—— 1 rjc rjc 64 2008-02-27 15:32 0 -> /dev/pts/5
l-wx—— 1 rjc rjc 64 2008-02-27 15:32 1 -> /tmp/foo3 <====
lrwx—— 1 rjc rjc 64 2008-02-27 15:32 2 -> /dev/pts/5
Typing more data in to cat results in the file /tmp/foo3 being appended to.
Update: If you want to close the original session you need to close all file handles for it, open a new device that can be the controlling tty, and then call setsid().