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Maintaining GNU Findutils

This manual explains how GNU findutils is maintained, how changes should
be made and tested, and what resources exist to help developers.

   This is edition 4.7.0-git, for findutils version 4.7.0-git.

   Copyright (C) 2007-2008, 2010-2016 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

   Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or
any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no
Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.  A
copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free
Documentation License".

* Menu:

* Introduction::
* Maintaining GNU Programs::
* Design Issues::
* Coding Conventions::
* Tools::
* Using the GNU Portability Library::
* Documentation::
* Testing::
* Bugs::
* Distributions::
* Internationalisation::
* Security::
* Making Releases::
* GNU Free Documentation License::

File:,  Node: Introduction,  Next: Maintaining GNU Programs,  Up: Top

1 Introduction

This document explains how to contribute to and maintain GNU Findutils.
It concentrates on developer-specific issues.  For information about how
to use the software please refer to *Note Introduction:

   This manual aims to be useful without necessarily being verbose.
It's also a recent document, so there will be a many areas in which
improvements can be made.  If you find that the document misses out
important information or any part of the document is be so terse as to
be unuseful, please ask for help on the <bug-findutils AT> mailing
list.  We'll try to improve this document too.

File:,  Node: Maintaining GNU Programs,  Next: Design Issues,  Prev: Introduction,  Up: Top

2 Maintaining GNU Programs

GNU Findutils is part of the GNU Project and so there are a number of
documents which set out standards for the maintenance of GNU software.

     GNU Project Coding Standards.  All changes to findutils should
     comply with these standards.  In some areas we go somewhat beyond
     the requirements of the standards, but these cases are explained in
     this manual.
     Information for Maintainers of GNU Software.  This document
     provides guidance for GNU maintainers.  Everybody with commit
     access should read this document.  Everybody else is welcome to do
     so too, of course.

File:,  Node: Design Issues,  Next: Coding Conventions,  Prev: Maintaining GNU Programs,  Up: Top

3 Design Issues

The findutils package is installed on many many systems, usually as a
fundamental component.  The programs in the package are often used in
order to successfully boot or fix the system.

   This fact means that for findutils we bear in mind considerations
that may not apply so much as for other packages.  For example, the fact
that findutils is often a base component motivates us to
   * Limit dependencies on libraries
   * Avoid dependencies on other large packages (for example,
   * Be conservative when making changes to the 'stable' release branch

   All those considerations come before functionality.  Functional
enhancements are still made to findutils, but these are almost
exclusively introduced in the 'development' release branch, to allow
extensive testing and proving.

   Sometimes it is useful to have a priority list to provide guidance
when making design trade-offs.  For findutils, that priority list is:

  1. Correctness
  2. Standards compliance
  3. Security
  4. Backward compatibility
  5. Performance
  6. Functionality

   For example, we support the '-exec' action because POSIX compliance
requires this, even though there are security problems with it and we
would otherwise prefer people to use '-execdir'.  There are also cases
where some performance is sacrificed in the name of security.  For
example, the sanity checks that 'find' performs while traversing a
directory tree may slow it down.  We adopt functional changes, and
functional changes are allowed to make 'find' slower, but only if there
is no detectable impact on users who don't use the feature.

   Backward-incompatible changes do get made in order to comply with
standards (for example the behaviour of '-perm -...' changed in order to
comply with POSIX). However, they don't get made in order to provide
better ease of use; for example the semantics of '-size -2G' are almost
always unexpected by users, but we retain the current behaviour because
of backward compatibility and for its similarity to the block-rounding
behaviour of '-size -30'.  We might introduce a change which does not
have the unfortunate rounding behaviour, but we would choose another
syntax (for example '-size '<2G'') for this.

   In a general sense, we try to do test-driven development of the
findutils code; that is, we try to implement test cases for new features
and bug fixes before modifying the code to make the test pass.  Some
features of the code are tested well, but the test coverage for other
features is less good.  If you are about to modify the code for a
predicate and aren't sure about the test coverage, use 'grep' on the
test directories and measure the coverage with 'lcov' or another test
coverage tool.

   You should be able to use the 'coverage' Makefile target (it's
defined in '' to generate a test coverage report for findutils.
Due to limitations in 'lcov', this only works if your build directory is
the same asthe source directory (that is, you're not using a VPATH build

   Lastly, we try not to depend on having a "working system".  The
findutils suite is used for diagnosis of problems, and this applies
especially to 'find'.  We should ensure that 'find' still works on
relatively broken systems, for example systems with damaged
'/etc/passwd' or '/etc/fstab' files.  Another interesting example is the
case where a system is a client of one or more unresponsive NFS servers.
On such a system, if you try to stat all mount points, your program will
hang indefinitely, waiting for the remote NFS server to respond.

   Another interesting but unusual case is broken NFS servers and
corrupt filesystems; sometimes they return 'impossible' file modes.
It's important that find does not entirely fail when encountering such a

File:,  Node: Coding Conventions,  Next: Tools,  Prev: Design Issues,  Up: Top

4 Coding Conventions

Coding style documents which set out to establish a uniform look and
feel to source code have worthy goals, for example greater ease of
maintenance and readability.  However, I do not believe that in general
coding style guide authors can envisage every situation, and it is
always possible that it might on occasion be necessary to break the
letter of the style guide in order to honour its spirit, or to better
achieve the style guide's goals.

   I've certainly seen many style guides outside the free software world
which make bald statements such as "functions shall have exactly one
return statement".  The desire to ensure consistency and obviousness of
control flow is laudable, but it is all too common for such bald
requirements to be followed unthinkingly.  Certainly I've seen such
coding standards result in unmaintainable code with terrible
infelicities such as functions containing 'if' statements nested nine
levels deep.  I suppose such coding standards don't survive in free
software projects because they tend to drive away potential contributors
or tend to generate heated discussions on mailing lists.  Equally, a
nine-level-deep function in a free software program would quickly get
refactored, assuming it is obvious what the function is supposed to

   Be that as it may, the approach I will take for this document is to
explain some idioms and practices in use in the findutils source code,
and leave it up to the reader's engineering judgement to decide which
considerations apply to the code they are working on, and whether or not
there is sufficient reason to ignore the guidance in current

* Menu:

* Make the Compiler Find the Bugs::
* Factor Out Repeated Code::
* Debugging is For Users Too::
* Don't Trust the File System Contents::
* The File System Is Being Modified::

File:,  Node: Make the Compiler Find the Bugs,  Next: Factor Out Repeated Code,  Up: Coding Conventions

4.1 Make the Compiler Find the Bugs

Finding bugs is tedious.  If I have a filesystem containing two million
files, and a find command line should print one million of them, but in
fact it misses out 1%, you can tell the program is printing the wrong
result only if you know the right answer for that filesystem at that
time.  If you don't know this, you may just not find out about that bug.
For this reason it is important to have a comprehensive test suite.

   The test suite is of course not the only way to find the bugs.  The
findutils source code makes liberal use of the assert macro.  While on
the one hand these might be a performance drain, the performance impact
of most of these is negligible compared to the time taken to fetch even
one sector from a disk drive.

   Assertions should not be used to check the results of operations
which may be affected by the program's external environment.  For
example, never assert that a file could be opened successfully.  Errors
relating to problems with the program's execution environment should be
diagnosed with a user-oriented error message.  An assertion failure
should always denote a bug in the program.

   Don't use 'assert' to catch not-fuly-implemented features of your
code.  Finish the implementation, disable the code, or leave the
unfinished version on a local branch.

   Several programs in the findutils suite perform self-checks.  See for
example the function 'pred_sanity_check' in 'find/pred.c'.  This is
generally desirable.

   There are also a number of small ways in which we can help the
compiler to find the bugs for us.

4.1.1 Constants in Equality Testing

It's a common error to write '=' when '==' is meant.  Sometimes this
happens in new code and is simply due to finger trouble.  Sometimes it
is the result of the inadvertent deletion of a character.  In any case,
there is a subset of cases where we can persuade the compiler to
generate an error message when we make this mistake; this is where the
equality test is with a constant.

   This is an example of a vulnerable piece of code.

     if (x == 2)

   A simple typo converts the above into

     if (x = 2)

   We've introduced a bug; the condition is always true, and the value
of 'x' has been changed.  However, a simple change to our practice would
have made us immune to this problem:

     if (2 == x)

   Usually, the Emacs keystroke 'M-t' can be used to swap the operands.

4.1.2 Spelling of ASCII NUL

Strings in C are just sequences of characters terminated by a NUL. The
ASCII NUL character has the numerical value zero.  It is normally
represented in C code as '\0'.  Here is a typical piece of C code:

     *p = '\0';

   Consider what happens if there is an unfortunate typo:

     *p = '0';

   We have changed the meaning of our program and the compiler cannot
diagnose this as an error.  Our string is no longer terminated.  Bad
things will probably happen.  It would be better if the compiler could
help us diagnose this problem.

   In C, the type of ''\0'' is in fact int, not char.  This provides us
with a simple way to avoid this error.  The constant '0' has the same
value and type as the constant ''\0''.  However, it is not as vulnerable
to typos.  For this reason I normally prefer to use this code:

     *p = 0;

File:,  Node: Factor Out Repeated Code,  Next: Debugging is For Users Too,  Prev: Make the Compiler Find the Bugs,  Up: Coding Conventions

4.2 Factor Out Repeated Code

Repeated code imposes a greater maintenance burden and increases the
exposure to bugs.  For example, if you discover that something you want
to implement has some similarity with an existing piece of code, don't
cut and paste it.  Instead, factor the code out.  The risk of cutting
and pasting the code, particularly if you do this several times, is that
you end up with several copies of the same code.

   If the original code had a bug, you now have N places where this
needs to be fixed.  It's all to easy to miss some out when trying to fix
the bug.  Equally, it's quite possible that when pasting the code into
some function, the pasted code was not quite adapted correctly to its
new environment.  To pick a contrived example, perhaps it modifies a
global variable which it that code shouldn't be touching in its new
home.  Worse, perhaps it makes some unstated assumption about the nature
of the input arguments which is in fact not true for the context of the
now duplicated code.

   A good example of the use of refactoring in findutils is the
'collect_arg' function in 'find/parser.c'.  A less clear-cut but larger
example is the factoring out of code which would otherwise have been
duplicated between 'find/oldfind.c' and 'find/ftsfind.c'.

   The findutils test suite is comprehensive enough that refactoring
code should not generally be a daunting prospect from a testing point of
view.  Nevertheless there are some areas which are only lightly-tested:

  1. Tests on the ages of files
  2. Code which deals with the values returned by operating system calls
     (for example handling of ENOENT)
  3. Code dealing with OS limits (for example, limits on path length or
     exec arguments)
  4. Code relating to features not all systems have (for example Solaris

   Please exercise caution when working in those areas.

File:,  Node: Debugging is For Users Too,  Next: Don't Trust the File System Contents,  Prev: Factor Out Repeated Code,  Up: Coding Conventions

4.3 Debugging is For Users Too

Debug and diagnostic code is often used to verify that a program is
working in the way its author thinks it should be.  But users are often
uncertain about what a program is doing, too.  Exposing them a little
more diagnostic information can help.  Much of the diagnostic code in
'find', for example, is controlled by the '-D' flag, as opposed to C
preprocessor directives.

   Making diagnostic messages available to users also means that the
phrasing of the diagnostic messages becomes important, too.

File:,  Node: Don't Trust the File System Contents,  Next: The File System Is Being Modified,  Prev: Debugging is For Users Too,  Up: Coding Conventions

4.4 Don't Trust the File System Contents

People use 'find' to search in directories created by other people.
Sometimes they do this to check to suspicious activity (for example to
look for new setuid binaries).  This means that it would be bad if
'find' were vulnerable to, say, a security problem exploitable by
constructing a specially-crafted filename.  The same consideration would
apply to 'locate' and 'updatedb'.

   Henry Spencer said this well in his fifth commandment:
     Thou shalt check the array bounds of all strings (indeed, all
     arrays), for surely where thou typest 'foo' someone someday shall
     type 'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious'.

   Symbolic links can often be a problem.  If 'find' calls 'lstat' on
something and discovers that it is a directory, it's normal for 'find'
to recurse into it.  Even if the 'chdir' system call is used
immediately, there is still a window of opportunity between the 'lstat'
and the 'chdir' in which a malicious person could rename the directory
and substitute a symbolic link to some other directory.

File:,  Node: The File System Is Being Modified,  Prev: Don't Trust the File System Contents,  Up: Coding Conventions

4.5 The File System Is Being Modified

The filesystem gets modified while you are traversing it.  For, example,
it's normal for files to get deleted while 'find' is traversing a
directory.  Issuing an error message seems helpful when a file is
deleted from the one directory you are interested in, but if 'find' is
searching 15000 directories, such a message becomes less helpful.

   Bear in mind also that it is possible for the directory 'find' is
currently searching could be moved to another point in the filesystem,
and that the directory in which 'find' was started could be deleted.

   Henry Spencer's sixth commandment is also apposite here:
     If a function be advertised to return an error code in the event of
     difficulties, thou shalt check for that code, yea, even though the
     checks triple the size of thy code and produce aches in thy typing
     fingers, for if thou thinkest "it cannot happen to me", the gods
     shall surely punish thee for thy arrogance.

   There are a lot of files out there.  They come in all dates and
sizes.  There is a condition out there in the real world to exercise
every bit of the code base.  So we try to test that code base before
someone falls over a bug.

File:,  Node: Tools,  Next: Using the GNU Portability Library,  Prev: Coding Conventions,  Up: Top

5 Tools

Most of the tools required to build findutils are mentioned in the file
'README-hacking'.  We also use some other tools:

System call traces
     Much of the execution time of find is spent waiting for filesystem
     operations.  A system call trace (for example, that provided by
     'strace') shows what system calls are being made.  Using this
     information we can work to remove unnecessary file system

     Valgrind is a tool which dynamically verifies the memory accesses a
     program makes to ensure that they are valid (for example, that the
     behaviour of the program does not in any way depend on the contents
     of uninitialized memory).

     DejaGnu is the test framework used to run the findutils test suite
     (the 'runtest' program is part of DejaGnu).  It would be ideal if
     everybody building 'findutils' also ran the test suite, but many
     people don't have DejaGnu installed.  When changes are made to
     findutils, DejaGnu is invoked a lot.  *Note Testing::, for more

File:,  Node: Using the GNU Portability Library,  Next: Documentation,  Prev: Tools,  Up: Top

6 Using the GNU Portability Library

The Gnulib library (<>) makes a
variety of systems look more like a GNU/Linux system and also applies a
bunch of automatic bug fixes and workarounds.  Some of these also apply
to GNU/Linux systems too.  For example, the Gnulib regex implementation
is used when we determine that we are building on a GNU libc system with
a bug in the regex implementation.

6.1 How and Why we Import the Gnulib Code

Gnulib does not have a release process which results in a source tarball
you can download.  Instead, the code is simply made available by GIT, so
we import gnulib via the submodule feature.  The bootstrap script
performs the necessary steps.

   Findutils does not use all the Gnulib code.  The modules we need are
listed in the file 'bootstrap.conf'.

   The upshot of all this is that we can use the findutils git
repository to track which version of Gnulib every findutils release

   A small number of files are installed by automake and will therefore
vary according to which version of automake was used to generate a
release.  This includes for example boiler-plate GNU files such as

6.2 How We Fix Gnulib Bugs

Gnulib is used by quite a number of GNU projects, and this means that it
gets plenty of testing.  Therefore there are relatively few bugs in the
Gnulib code, but it does happen from time to time.

   However, since there is no waiting around for a Gnulib source release
tarball, Gnulib bugs are generally fixed quickly.  Here is an outline of
the way we would contribute a fix to Gnulib (assuming you know it is not
already fixed in the current Gnulib git tree):

Check you already completed a copyright assignment for Gnulib
Begin with a vanilla git tree
     Download the Findutils source code from git (or use the tree you
     have already)
Run the bootstrap script
Run configure
Build findutils
     Build findutils and run the test suite, which should pass.  In our
     example we assume you have just noticed a bug in Gnulib, not that
     recent Gnulib changes broke the findutils regression tests.
Write a test case
     If in fact Gnulib did break the findutils regression tests, you can
     probably skip this step, since you already have a test case
     demonstrating the problem.  Otherwise, write a findutils test case
     for the bug and/or a Gnulib test case.
Fix the Gnulib bug
     Make sure your editor follows symbolic links so that your changes
     to 'gnulib/...' actually affect the files in the git working
     directory you checked out earlier.  Observe that your test now
Prepare a Gnulib patch
     In the gnulib subdirectory, use 'git format-patch' to prepare the
     patch.  Follow the normal usage for checkin comments (take a look
     at the output of 'git log').  Check that the patch conforms with
     the GNU coding standards, and email it to the Gnulib mailing list.
Wait for the patch to be applied
     Once your bug fix has been applied, you can update your gnulib
     directory from git, and then check in the change to the submodule
     as normal (you can check 'git help submodule' for details).

   There is an alternative to the method above; it is possible to store
local diffs to be patched into gnulib beneath the 'gnulib-local'.
Normally however, there is no need for this, since gnulib updates are
very prompt.

File:,  Node: Documentation,  Next: Testing,  Prev: Using the GNU Portability Library,  Up: Top

7 Documentation

The findutils git tree includes several different types of

7.1 git change log

The git change log for the source tree contains check-in messages which
describe each check-in.  These have a standard format:

     Summary of the change.

     (ChangeLog-style detail)

   Here, the format of the detail part follows the standard GNU
ChangeLog style, but without whitespace in the left margin and without
author/date headers.  Take a look at the output of 'git log' to see some
examples.  The README-hacking file also contains an example with an

7.2 User Documentation

User-oriented documentation is provided as manual pages and in Texinfo.
See *note Introduction: (find)Introduction.

   Please make sure both sets of documentation are updated if you make a
change to the code.  The GNU coding standards do not normally call for
maintaining manual pages on the grounds of effort duplication.  However,
the manual page format is more convenient for quick reference, and so
it's worth maintaining both types of documentation.  However, the manual
pages are normally rather more terse than the Texinfo documentation.
The manual pages are suitable for reference use, but the Texinfo manual
should also include introductory and tutorial material.

7.3 Build Guidance

     Describes the Free Translation Project, the translation status of
     various GNU projects, and how to participate by translating an
     Lists the authors of findutils.
     The copyright license covering findutils; currently, the GNU GPL,
     version 3.
     Generic installation instructions for installing GNU programs.
     Information about how to compile findutils in particular
     Describes how to build findutils from the code in git.
     Thanks for people who contributed to findutils.  Generally, if
     someone's contribution was significant enough to need a copyright
     assignment, their name should go in here.
     Mainly obsolete.  Please add bugs to the Savannah bug tracker
     instead of adding entries to this file.

7.4 Release Information

     Enumerates the user-visible change in each release.  Typical
     changes are fixed bugs, functionality changes and documentation
     changes.  Include the date when a release is made.
     This file enumerates all changes to the findutils source code (with
     the possible exception of '.cvsignore' and '.gitignore' changes).
     The level of detail used for this file should be sufficient to
     answer the questions "what changed?"  and "why was it changed?".
     The file is generated from the git commit messages during 'make
     dist'.  If a change fixes a bug, always give the bug reference
     number in the 'NEWS' file and of course also in the checkin
     message.  In general, it should be possible to enumerate all
     material changes to a function by searching for its name in
     'ChangeLog'.  Mention when each release is made.

File:,  Node: Testing,  Next: Bugs,  Prev: Documentation,  Up: Top

8 Testing

This chapter will explain the general procedures for adding tests to the
test suite, and the functions defined in the findutils-specific DejaGnu
configuration.  Where appropriate references will be made to the DejaGnu

File:,  Node: Bugs,  Next: Distributions,  Prev: Testing,  Up: Top

9 Bugs

Bugs are logged in the Savannah bug tracker
<>.  The tracker offers
several fields but their use is largely obvious.  The life-cycle of a
bug is like this:

     Someone, usually a maintainer, a distribution maintainer or a user,
     creates a bug by filling in the form.  They fill in field values as
     they see fit.  This will generate an email to
     <bug-findutils AT>.

     The bug hangs around with 'Status=None' until someone begins to
     work on it.  At that point they set the "Assigned To" field and
     will sometimes set the status to 'In Progress', especially if the
     bug will take a while to fix.

     Quite a lot of reports are not actually bugs; for these the usual
     procedure is to explain why the problem is not a bug, set the
     status to 'Invalid' and close the bug.  Make sure you set the
     'Assigned to' field to yourself before closing the bug.

     When you commit a bug fix into git (or in the case of a contributed
     patch, commit the change), mark the bug as 'Fixed'.  Make sure you
     include a new test case where this is relevant.  If you can figure
     out which releases are affected, please also set the 'Release'
     field to the earliest release which is affected by the bug.
     Indicate which source branch the fix is included in (for example,
     4.2.x or 4.3.x).  Don't close the bug yet.

     When a release is made which includes the bug fix, make sure the
     bug is listed in the NEWS file.  Once the release is made, fill in
     the 'Fixed Release' field and close the bug.

File:,  Node: Distributions,  Next: Internationalisation,  Prev: Bugs,  Up: Top

10 Distributions

Almost all GNU/Linux distributions include findutils, but only some of
them have a package maintainer who is a member of the mailing list.
Distributions don't often feed back patches to the
<bug-findutils AT> list, but on the other hand many of their
patches relate only to standards for file locations and so forth, and
are therefore distribution specific.  On an irregular basis I check the
current patches being used by one or two distributions, but the total
number of GNU/Linux distributions is large enough that we could not hope
to cover them all.

   Often, bugs are raised against a distribution's bug tracker instead
of GNU's.  Periodically (about every six months) I take a look at some
of the more accessible bug trackers to indicate which bugs have been
fixed upstream.

   Many distributions include both findutils and the slocate package,
which provides a replacement 'locate'.

File:,  Node: Internationalisation,  Next: Security,  Prev: Distributions,  Up: Top

11 Internationalisation

Translation is essentially automated from the maintainer's point of
view.  The TP mails the maintainer when a new PO file is available, and
we just download it and check it in.  We copy the '.po' files into the
git repository.  For more information, please see

File:,  Node: Security,  Next: Making Releases,  Prev: Internationalisation,  Up: Top

12 Security

See *note Security Considerations: (find)Security Considerations, for a
full description of the findutils approach to security considerations
and discussion of particular tools.

   If someone reports a security bug publicly, we should fix this as
rapidly as possible.  If necessary, this can mean issuing a fixed
release containing just the one bug fix.  We try to avoid issuing
releases which include both significant security fixes and functional

   Where someone reports a security problem privately, we generally try
to construct and test a patch without pushing the intermediate code to
the public repository.

   Once everything has been tested, this allows us to make a release and
push the patch.  The advantage of doing things this way is that we avoid
situations where people watching for git commits can figure out and
exploit a security problem before a fixed release is available.

   It's important that security problems be fixed promptly, but don't
rush so much that things go wrong.  Make sure the new release really
fixes the problem.  It's usually best not to include functional changes
in your security-fix release.

   If the security problem is serious, send an alert to
<vendor-sec AT>.  The members of the list include most GNU/Linux
distributions.  The point of doing this is to allow them to prepare to
release your security fix to their customers, once the fix becomes
available.  Here is an example alert:-

     GNU findutils heap buffer overrun (potential privilege escalation)


     GNU findutils is a set of programs which search for files on Unix-like
     systems.  It is maintained by the GNU Project of the Free Software
     Foundation.  For more information, see


     When GNU locate reads filenames from an old-format locate database,
     they are read into a fixed-length buffer allocated on the heap.
     Filenames longer than the 1026-byte buffer can cause a buffer overrun.
     The overrunning data can be chosen by any person able to control the
     names of filenames created on the local system.  This will normally
     include all local users, but in many cases also remote users (for
     example in the case of FTP servers allowing uploads).


     Findutils supports three different formats of locate database, its
     native format "LOCATE02", the slocate variant of LOCATE02, and a
     traditional ("old") format that locate uses on other Unix systems.

     When locate reads filenames from a LOCATE02 database (the default
     format), the buffer into which data is read is automatically extended
     to accommodate the length of the filenames.

     This automatic buffer extension does not happen for old-format
     databases.  Instead a 1026-byte buffer is used.  When a longer
     pathname appears in the locate database, the end of this buffer is
     overrun.  The buffer is allocated on the heap (not the stack).

     If the locate database is in the default LOCATE02 format, the locate
     program does perform automatic buffer extension, and the program is
     not vulnerable to this problem.  The software used to build the
     old-format locate database is not itself vulnerable to the same

     Most installations of GNU findutils do not use the old database
     format, and so will not be vulnerable.


     All existing releases of findutils are affected.


     To discover the longest path name on a given system, you can use the
     following command (requires GNU findutils and GNU coreutils):

     find / -print0 | tr -c '\0' 'x' | tr '\0' '\n' | wc -L


     This section includes a shell script which determines which of a list
     of locate binaries is vulnerable to the problem.  The shell script has
     been tested only on glibc based systems having a mktemp binary.

     NOTE: This script deliberately overruns the buffer in order to
     determine if a binary is affected.  Therefore running it on your
     system may have undesirable effects.  We recommend that you read the
     script before running it.

     #! /bin/sh
     set +m
     if vanilla_db="$(mktemp nicedb.XXXXXX)" ; then
         if updatedb --prunepaths="" --old-format --localpaths="/tmp" \
     	--output="$@{vanilla_db@}" ; then
     	rm -f "$@{vanilla_db@}"
     	echo "Failed to create old-format locate database; skipping the sanity checks" >&2

     make_overrun_db() @{
         # Start with a valid database
         cat "$@{vanilla_db@}"
         # Make the final entry really long
         dd if=/dev/zero  bs=1 count=1500 2>/dev/null | tr '\000' 'x'

     ulimit -c 0

     usage() @{ echo "usage: $0 binary [binary...]" >&2; exit $1; @}
     [ $# -eq 0 ] && usage 1

     if dbfile="$(mktemp nasty.XXXXXX)"
         make_overrun_db > "$dbfile"
         for locate ; do
           ver="$locate = $("$locate"  --version | head -1)"
           if [ -z "$vanilla_db" ] || "$locate" -d "$vanilla_db" "" >/dev/null ; then
     	  "$locate" -d "$dbfile" "" >/dev/null
     	  if [ $? -gt 128 ] ; then
     vulnerable: $ver"
     good: $ver"
     	  # the regular locate failed
     buggy, may or may not be vulnerable: $ver"
         rm -f "$@{dbfile@}" "$@{vanilla_db@}"
         # good: unaffected.  bad: affected (vulnerable).
         # ugly: doesn't even work for a normal old-format database.
         echo "$good"
         echo "$bad"
         echo "$ugly"
       exit 1


     The GNU project discovered the problem while 'locate' was being worked
     on; this is the first public announcement of the problem.

     The GNU findutils mantainer has issued a patch as p[art of this
     announcement.  The patch appears below.

     A source release of findutils-4.2.31 will be issued on 2007-05-30.
     That release will of course include the patch.  The patch will be
     committed to the public CVS repository at the same time.  Public
     announcements of the release, including a description of the bug, will
     be made at the same time as the release.

     A release of findutils-4.3.x will follow and will also include the


     This patch should apply to findutils-4.2.23 and later.
     Findutils-4.2.23 was released almost two years ago.
     Index: locate/locate.c
     RCS file: /cvsroot/findutils/findutils/locate/locate.c,v
     retrieving revision
     diff -u -p -r1.58.2.2 locate.c
     --- locate/locate.c	22 Apr 2007 16:57:42 -0000
     +++ locate/locate.c	28 May 2007 10:18:16 -0000
     @@@@ -124,9 +124,9 @@@@ extern int errno;

      #include "locatedb.h"
      #include <getline.h>
     -#include "../gnulib/lib/xalloc.h"
     -#include "../gnulib/lib/error.h"
     -#include "../gnulib/lib/human.h"
     +#include "xalloc.h"
     +#include "error.h"
     +#include "human.h"
      #include "dirname.h"
      #include "closeout.h"
      #include "nextelem.h"
     @@@@ -468,10 +468,36 @@@@ visit_justprint_unquoted(struct process_
        return VISIT_CONTINUE;

     +static void
     +toolong (struct process_data *procdata)
     +  error (EXIT_FAILURE, 0,
     +	 _("locate database %s contains a "
     +	   "filename longer than locate can handle"),
     +	 procdata->dbfile);
     +static void
     +extend (struct process_data *procdata, size_t siz1, size_t siz2)
     +  /* Figure out if the addition operation is safe before performing it. */
     +  if (SIZE_MAX - siz1 < siz2)
     +    @{
     +      toolong (procdata);
     +    @}
     +  else if (procdata->pathsize < (siz1+siz2))
     +    @{
     +      procdata->pathsize = siz1+siz2;
     +      procdata->original_filename = x2nrealloc (procdata->original_filename,
     +						&procdata->pathsize,
     +						1);
     +    @}
      static int
      visit_old_format(struct process_data *procdata, void *context)
     -  register char *s;
     +  register size_t i;
        (void) context;

        /* Get the offset in the path where this path info starts.  */
     @@@@ -479,20 +505,35 @@@@ visit_old_format(struct process_data *pr
          procdata->count += getw (procdata->fp) - LOCATEDB_OLD_OFFSET;
          procdata->count += procdata->c - LOCATEDB_OLD_OFFSET;
     +  assert(procdata->count > 0);

     -  /* Overlay the old path with the remainder of the new.  */
     -  for (s = procdata->original_filename + procdata->count;
     +  /* Overlay the old path with the remainder of the new.  Read
     +   * more data until we get to the next filename.
     +   */
     +  for (i=procdata->count;
             (procdata->c = getc (procdata->fp)) > LOCATEDB_OLD_ESCAPE;)
     -    if (procdata->c < 0200)
     -      *s++ = procdata->c;		/* An ordinary character.  */
     -    else
     -      @{
     -	/* Bigram markers have the high bit set. */
     -	procdata->c &= 0177;
     -	*s++ = procdata->bigram1[procdata->c];
     -	*s++ = procdata->bigram2[procdata->c];
     -      @}
     -  *s-- = '\0';
     +    @{
     +      if (procdata->c < 0200)
     +	@{
     +	  /* An ordinary character. */
     +	  extend (procdata, i, 1u);
     +	  procdata->original_filename[i++] = procdata->c;
     +	@}
     +      else
     +	@{
     +	  /* Bigram markers have the high bit set. */
     +	  extend (procdata, i, 2u);
     +	  procdata->c &= 0177;
     +	  procdata->original_filename[i++] = procdata->bigram1[procdata->c];
     +	  procdata->original_filename[i++] = procdata->bigram2[procdata->c];
     +	@}
     +    @}
     +  /* Consider the case where we executed the loop body zero times; we
     +   * still need space for the terminating null byte.
     +   */
     +  extend (procdata, i, 1u);
     +  procdata->original_filename[i] = 0;

        procdata->munged_filename = procdata->original_filename;


     Thanks to Rob Holland <rob AT> and Tavis Ormandy.


     No CVE candidate number has yet been assigned for this vulnerability.
     If someone provides one, I will include it in the public announcement
     and change logs.

   The original announcement above was sent out with a cleartext PGP
signature, of course, but that has been omitted from the example.

   Once a fixed release is available, announce the new release using the
normal channels.  Any CVE number assigned for the problem should be
included in the 'ChangeLog' and 'NEWS' entries.  See
<> for an explanation of CVE numbers.

File:,  Node: Making Releases,  Next: GNU Free Documentation License,  Prev: Security,  Up: Top

13 Making Releases

This section will explain how to make a findutils release.  For the time
being here is a terse description of the main steps:

  1. Commit changes; make sure your working directory has no uncommitted
  2. Test; make sure that all changes you have made have tests, and that
     the tests pass.  Verify this with 'make distcheck'.
  3. Bugs; make sure all Savannah bug entries fixed in this release are
  4. NEWS; make sure that the NEWS and file are updated
     with the new release number (and checked in).
  5. Build the release tarball; do this with 'make distcheck'.  Copy the
     tarball somewhere safe.
  6. Tag the release; findutils releases are tagged like this for
     example: v4.5.5.  Previously a different format was in use:
     FINDUTILS_4_3_8-1.  You can create a tag with the a command like
     this: 'git tag -s -m "Findutils release v4.5.7" v4.5.7'.
  7. Prepare the upload and upload it.  *Note Automated FTP Uploads:
     (maintain)Automated FTP Uploads, for detailed upload instructions.
  8. Make a release announcement; include an extract from the NEWS file
     which explains what's changed.  Announcements for test releases
     should just go to <bug-findutils AT>.  Announcements for
     stable releases should go to <info-gnu AT> as well.
  9. Bump the release numbers in git; edit the '' and 'NEWS'
     files to advance the release numbers.  For example, if you have
     just released '4.6.2', bump the release number to '4.6.3-git'.  The
     point of the '-git' suffix here is that a findutils binary built
     from git will bear a release number indicating it's not built from
     the "official" source release.
  10. Close bugs; any bugs recorded on Savannah which were fixed in this
     release should now be marked as closed.  Update the 'Fixed Release'
     field of these bugs appropriately and make sure the 'Assigned to'
     field is populated.

File:,  Node: GNU Free Documentation License,  Prev: Making Releases,  Up: Top

Appendix A GNU Free Documentation License

                     Version 1.3, 3 November 2008

     Copyright (C) 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

     Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies
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       E. Add an appropriate copyright notice for your modifications
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     site under CC-BY-SA on the same site at any time before August 1,
     2009, provided the MMC is eligible for relicensing.

ADDENDUM: How to use this License for your documents

To use this License in a document you have written, include a copy of
the License in the document and put the following copyright and license
notices just after the title page:

       Copyright (C)  YEAR  YOUR NAME.
       Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
       under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3
       or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
       with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover
       Texts.  A copy of the license is included in the section entitled ``GNU
       Free Documentation License''.

   If you have Invariant Sections, Front-Cover Texts and Back-Cover
Texts, replace the "with...Texts." line with this:

         with the Invariant Sections being LIST THEIR TITLES, with
         the Front-Cover Texts being LIST, and with the Back-Cover Texts
         being LIST.

   If you have Invariant Sections without Cover Texts, or some other
combination of the three, merge those two alternatives to suit the

   If your document contains nontrivial examples of program code, we
recommend releasing these examples in parallel under your choice of free
software license, such as the GNU General Public License, to permit
their use in free software.

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