Background process of subshell strange behaviour

I wonder why some similar bash commands behave the way they do.

I have a bash script foo:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

while true
    echo "reading"
    read data
    echo $data
    echo "stderr msg" >&2
    sleep 1

It’s an infinite loop which reads one line at a time from stdin and outputs that same line. I also have a bash script bar:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

./foo &

The following commands were run in bash (v. 4.4.19) in a terminal on Ubuntu 18.04 (let’s assume the scripts reside in the working directory):

  1. ./foo &
    • Stops when it tries to read from stdin, in accordance with this answer.
    • Killed when controlling terminal is killed, as expected.
  2. (./foo &)
    • Appears to be automagically continuously fed with new input from stdin. Shouldn’t it too stop when attempting to read from stdin? Whatever it’s getting it doesn’t show when echoed, thus I’m guessing it’s EOF characters.
    • Continues running even after the controlling terminal is killed. Looking at the output of ps, the controlling terminal changes from pts/x to ?. How did this happen without the use of either disown or nohup? (However, after killing the originally controlling terminal, it yields a “write error: Input/output error” on every write, which I suppose is because its stdout was tied to the now closed terminal. Correct?)
  3. bash -c "./foo &"

    Appears to behave exactly like 2).

  4. ./bar

    Appears to behave exactly like 2) and 3).

  5. Adding bash -c "~/foo" (no &) as a startup application

    Behaves similarly to 2), 3) and 4), with the differences:

    • Its controlling terminal is the desktop ttyx.
    • You can’t (can you?) kill its controlling terminal.

    None of those differences seem odd to me, just the fact that it’s continuously fed with new input.

My guess is that 2) – 5) all use a subshell of sorts whose stdin is redirected to something like /dev/null, though I’m very unsure and seek a more exact answer.


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Method 1

commands run with & in a shell without the job control enabled (eg. in a script or a (...) subshell) have their stdin redirected from /dev/null and SIGINT and SIGQUIT set to SIG_IGN. From the susv4 standard:

If job control is disabled (see set, -m), the standard input for an
asynchronous list, before any explicit redirections are performed,
shall be considered to be assigned to a file that has the same
properties as /dev/null. This shall not happen if job control is
enabled. In all cases, explicit redirection of standard input shall
override this activity.

See also this and this.

It’s not true that your ./foo script is “continuously fed” data — it’s getting an EOF when trying to read from /dev/null — you should check the exit status of read.

Method 2

Your sub shells are non-interactive; only interactive shells are automatically killed.

All methods was sourced from or, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5, cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0

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