I meant to write about this a while ago, but I forgot, and it just popped into my head for some reason.

If you’re ever using POSIX signals as a means of primitive IPC, and SIGUSR1 and SIGUSR2 aren’t enough for you, never, ever, EVER make use of SIGRTMIN and/or SIGRTMIN plus some offset. Always use SIGRTMAX and SIGRTMAX minus some offset.


(Disclaimer: this might only be a problem on Linux, but if you want your app to be portable, blah blah blah…) Depending on what C library you’re using, and what pthreads implementation you’re using, the actual numerical value of SIGRTMIN may not be the same in different applications, depending on – get this – whether or not the app links with libpthread. In my case, the pthread impl makes use of the first 3 SIGRT slots, and so when you use the SIGRTMIN macro, you actually call __libc_current_sigrtmin(), and you get a number that’s 3 higher than what you get when you use SIGRTMIN in an app that doesn’t link against libpthread.

Fortunately, SIGRTMAX (which actually expands to a call to __libc_current_sigrtmax()) seems to be a bit more stable. That is, even if SIGRTMIN gets shifted up 3 slots, SIGRTMAX is still the same.

So, the moral of the story is: I never want to see the SIGRTMIN macro ever appear in your code, unless you really know what you’re doing. Instead, use things like SIGRTMAX, SIGRTMAX-4, etc. It may just save you 4 hours of debugging.