Bug 63850 - How does one set variables in a piped to 'while' statement
How does one set variables in a piped to 'while' statement
Product: Red Hat Linux
Classification: Retired
Component: bash (Show other bugs)
i686 Linux
medium Severity medium
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Assigned To: wdovlrrw
Ben Levenson
Depends On:
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Reported: 2002-04-19 11:24 EDT by Need Real Name
Modified: 2007-04-18 12:42 EDT (History)
0 users

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Doc Type: Bug Fix
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Last Closed: 2002-04-19 11:24:37 EDT
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Description Need Real Name 2002-04-19 11:24:31 EDT
From Bugzilla Helper:
User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.01; Windows 95)

Description of problem:
After reading bug 42282, I realize this isn't considered a bug but I'm puzzled 
as to the usefullness of bash. In my case, I'm extracting information from a 
file and sending this to a "while" construct. Any variables set in the while 
are lost on the way out. This is unexpected and undocumented behaviour, 
inconsistent with shells such as Korn (which is what I'm porting scripts from). 
Example script:

echo "xx" | while [ 1 ]; do
xxx=123; break; done
echo $xxx

Version-Release number of selected component (if applicable):

How reproducible:

Steps to Reproduce:
1. write any script which pipes information to "while"
2. set an environment variable within the "while"
3. try to use the varilable outside of the "while"

Actual Results:  The variable takes on the value (or is unset) as it was before 
entry to the while. In my case, I'm using a read statement within the while but 
I don't think that's significant based on bug# 42282.

Expected Results:  In literally any other enviroment I've seen, any variable 
set within a while loop remains set outside of the while loop. The addition of 
the pipe (ex: echo "a" | while ...) apparently causes the while loop to be run 
as a sub-process and everything done to the environment is lost. These results 
are completely different if a pipe is not used.

The  major issues are that the difference results are inconsistent, not 
expected, not intuitive, and NOT documented anywhere; nor is there any 
suggested work-around for this. Took me hours to figure this out. Based on the 
amount of bug-reports I've seen, this seems to be at least worthy of a 
documentation note under 'read/while/until/for' stating that "if used at the 
end of a pipe sequence, any variables set will be lost due as intended by the 

I'm classifying this as a normal bug; fully expecting this to be closed. I 
would have put it as "low" but any workarounds I've found are often more 
complex that the original code. Since I'm converting "ksh" scripts, I consider 
this to be a "loss of function"; enough to make me consider scrapping bash 
(well, I'd leave it for the system to use - it apparently doesn't do anything 

Incidentally, one use of a "piped while read" statement is to get around 
problems when using "for" with a list produced by "grep" when there are lots of 
elements (overflowing the command buffer). When people start implementing big 
Linux systems, then scripts such as rc.sysinit will malfunction (see loop 
around line 475 and other places) and switching the "overflowed for" to a "pipe 
while read loop" (which handles unlimited data) won't update "rc" as expected 
so the subsequent "did we have problems" check will always say 'no 
problems'. 'twill be interesting to see how this is handled. Of course, this 
won't be a problem if Linux is only targetted at small systems.

I may have to convert back to "ksh".

Additional info:
Comment 1 Bernhard Rosenkraenzer 2002-08-29 21:11:50 EDT
This is actually the intended and POSIX compliant behavior (pipes run in a
different process space -> don't share environment).

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