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String-Valued Parameters

POSIX.2 defines a way to get string-valued parameters from the operating system with the function confstr:

Function: size_t confstr (int parameter, char *buf, size_t len)
This function reads the value of a string-valued system parameter, storing the string into len bytes of memory space starting at buf. The parameter argument should be one of the `_CS_' symbols listed below.

The normal return value from confstr is the length of the string value that you asked for. If you supply a null pointer for buf, then confstr does not try to store the string; it just returns its length. A value of 0 indicates an error.

If the string you asked for is too long for the buffer (that is, longer than len - 1), then confstr stores just that much (leaving room for the terminating null character). You can tell that this has happened because confstr returns a value greater than or equal to len.

The following errno error conditions are defined for this function:

The value of the parameter is invalid.

Currently there is just one parameter you can read with confstr:

This parameter's value is the recommended default path for searching for executable files. This is the path that a user has by default just after logging in.

The way to use confstr without any arbitrary limit on string size is to call it twice: first call it to get the length, allocate the buffer accordingly, and then call confstr again to fill the buffer, like this:

char *
get_default_path (void)
  size_t len = confstr (_CS_PATH, NULL, 0);
  char *buffer = (char *) xmalloc (len);

  if (confstr (_CS_PATH, buf, len + 1) == 0)
      free (buffer);
      return NULL;

  return buffer;

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