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13.2 syslogd Daemon

Unix systems normally start a daemon named syslogd from one of the system initializations scripts, and it runs as long as the system is up. Berkeley-derived implementations of syslogd perform the following actions on startup:

  1. The configuration file, normally /etc/syslog.conf, is read, specifying what to do with each type of log message that the daemon can receive. These messages can be appended to a file (a special case of which is the file /dev/console, which writes the message to the console), written to a specific user (if that user is logged in), or forwarded to the syslogd daemon on another host.

  2. A Unix domain socket is created and bound to the pathname /var/run/log (/dev/log on some systems).

  3. A UDP socket is created and bound to port 514 (the syslog service).

  4. The pathname /dev/klog is opened. Any error messages from within the kernel appear as input on this device.

The syslogd daemon runs in an infinite loop that calls select, waiting for any one of its three descriptors (from Steps 2, 3, and 4) to be readable; it reads the log message and does what the configuration file says to do with that message. If the daemon receives the SIGHUP signal, it rereads its configuration file.

We could send log messages to the syslogd daemon from our daemons by creating a Unix domain datagram socket and sending our messages to the pathname that the daemon has bound, but an easier interface is the syslog function that we will describe in the next section. Alternately, we could create a UDP socket and send our log messages to the loopback address and port 514.

Newer implementations disable the creation of the UDP socket, unless specified by the administrator, as allowing anyone to send UDP datagrams to this port opens the system up to denial-of-service attacks, where someone could fill up the filesystem (e.g., by filling up log files) or cause log messages to be dropped (e.g., by overflowing syslog's socket receive buffer).

Differences exist between the various implementations of syslogd. For example, Unix domain sockets are used by Berkeley-derived implementations, but System V implementations use a STREAMS log driver. Different Berkeley-derived implementations use different pathnames for the Unix domain socket. We can ignore all these details if we use the syslog function.

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