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SCRIPT(7)              Miscellaneous Information Manual              SCRIPT(7)

     script - interpreter script execution

     The system is capable of treating a text file containing commands
     intended for an interpreter, such as sh(1) or awk(1), as an executable

     An "interpreter script" is a file which has been set executable (see
     chmod(2)) and which has a first line of the form:

           #! pathname [argument]

     The "#!" must appear as the first two characters of the file.  A space
     between the "#!" and pathname is optional.  At most one argument may
     follow pathname, and the length of the entire line is limited (see

     If such a file is executed (such as via the execve(2) system call), the
     interpreter specified by the pathname is executed by the system.  (The
     pathname is executed without regard to the PATH variable, so in general
     pathname should be an absolute path.)

     The arguments passed to the interpreter will be as follows.  argv[0] will
     be the path to the interpreter itself, as specified on the first line of
     the script.  If there is an argument following pathname on the first line
     of the script, it will be passed as argv[1].  The subsequent elements of
     argv will be the path to the interpreter script file itself (i.e. the
     original argv[0]) followed by any further arguments passed when execve(2)
     was invoked to execute the script file.

     By convention, it is expected that an interpreter will open the script
     file passed as an argument and process the commands within it.  Typical
     interpreters treat `#' as a comment character, and thus will ignore the
     initial line of the script because it begins "#!", but there is no
     requirement for this per se.

     On NetBSD, the length of the "#!" line, excluding the "#!" itself, is
     limited to PATH_MAX (as defined in <limits.h>).  Other operating systems
     impose much smaller limits on the length of the "#!" line (see below).

     Note that the interpreter may not itself be an interpreter script.  If
     pathname does not point to an executable binary, execution of the
     interpreter script will fail.

   Trampolines and Portable Scripts
     Different operating systems often have interpreters located in different
     locations, and the kernel executes the passed interpreter without regard
     to the setting of environment variables such as PATH.  This makes it
     somewhat challenging to set the "#!" line of a script so that it will run
     identically on different systems.

     Since the env(1) utility executes a command passed to it on its command
     line, it is often used as a "trampoline" to render scripts portable.  If
     the leading line of a script reads
           #! /usr/bin/env interp
     then the env(1) command will execute the "interp" command it finds in its
     PATH, passing on to it all subsequent arguments with which it itself was
     called.  Since /usr/bin/env is found on almost all POSIX style systems,
     this trick is frequently exploited by authors who need a script to
     execute without change on multiple systems.

   Historical Note: Scripts without "#!"
     Shell scripts predate the invention of the "#!" convention, which is
     implemented in the kernel.  In the days of Version 7 AT&T UNIX, there was
     only one interpreter used on the system, /bin/sh, and the shell treated
     any file that failed to execute with an ENOEXEC error (see intro(2)) as a
     shell script.

     Most shells (such as sh(1)) and certain other facilities (including
     execlp(3) and execvp(3) but not other types of exec(3) calls) still pass
     interpreter scripts that do not include the "#!" (and thus fail to
     execute with ENOEXEC) to /bin/sh.

     As this behavior is implemented outside the kernel, there is no mechanism
     that forces it to be respected by all programs that execute other
     programs.  It is thus not completely reliable.  It is therefore important
     to always include
     in front of Bourne shell scripts, and to treat the traditional behavior
     as obsolete.

     Suppose that an executable binary exists in /bin/interp and that the file
     /tmp/script contains:

           #!/bin/interp -arg


     and that /tmp/script is set mode 755.


           $ /tmp/script one two three

     at the shell will result in /bin/interp being executed, receiving the
     following arguments in argv (numbered from 0):

           "/bin/interp", "-arg", "/tmp/script", "one", "two", "three"

   Portability Note: Multiple arguments
     The behavior of multiple arguments on the "#!" line is highly non-
     portable between different systems.  In general, only one argument can be
     assumed to work consistently.

     Consider the following variation on the previous example.  Suppose that
     an executable binary exists in /bin/interp and that the file /tmp/script

           #!/bin/interp -x -y


     and that /tmp/script is set mode 755.


           $ /tmp/script one two three

     at the shell will result in /bin/interp being executed, receiving the
     following arguments in argv (numbered from 0):

           "/bin/interp", "-x -y", "/tmp/script", "one", "two", "three"

     Note that "-x -y" will be passed on NetBSD as a single argument.

     Although most POSIX style operating systems will pass only one argument,
     the behavior when multiple arguments are included is not consistent
     between platforms.  Some, such as current releases of NetBSD, will
     concatenate multiple arguments into a single argument (as above), some
     will truncate them, and at least one will pass them as multiple

     The NetBSD behavior is common but not universal.  Sun's Solaris would
     present the above argument as "-x", dropping the " -y" entirely.  Perhaps
     uniquely, recent versions of Apple's OS X will actually pass multiple
     arguments properly, i.e.:

           "/bin/interp", "-x", "-y", "/tmp/script", "one", "two", "three"

     The behavior of the system in the face of multiple arguments is thus not
     currently standardized, should not be relied on, and may be changed in
     future releases.  In general, pass at most one argument, and do not rely
     on multiple arguments being concatenated.

     awk(1), csh(1), ksh(1), sh(1), chmod(2), execve(2), intro(2), execlp(3),
     execvp(3), fd(4), options(4), setuid(7)

     The behavior of interpreter scripts is obliquely referred to, but never
     actually described in, IEEE Std 1003.1-2004 ("POSIX.1").

     The behavior is partially (but not completely) described in the System V
     Interface Definition, Fourth Edition ("SVID4").

     Although it has never been formally standardized, the behavior described
     is largely portable across POSIX style systems, with two significant
     exceptions: the maximum length of the "#!" line, and the behavior if
     multiple arguments are passed.  Please be aware that some operating
     systems limit the line to 32 or 64 characters, and that (as described
     above) the behavior in the face of multiple arguments is not consistent
     across systems.

     The behavior of the kernel when encountering scripts that start in "#!"
     was not present in Version 7 AT&T UNIX.  A Usenet posting to net.unix by
     Guy Harris on October 16, 1984 claims that the idea for the "#!" behavior
     was first proposed by Dennis Ritchie but that the first implementation
     was on BSD.

     Historical manuals (specifically the exec man page) indicate that the
     behavior was present in 4BSD at least as early as April, 1981.
     Information on precisely when it was first implemented, and in which
     version of UNIX, is solicited.

     Numerous security problems are associated with setuid interpreter

     In addition to the fact that many interpreters (and scripts) are simply
     not designed to be robust in a setuid context, a race condition exists
     between the moment that the kernel examines the interpreter script file
     and the moment that the newly invoked interpreter opens the file itself.

     Because of these security issues, NetBSD does not allow setuid
     interpreter scripts by default.  In order to turn on setuid interpreter
           options SETUIDSCRIPTS
     must be set in the configuration of the running kernel.  Setting this
     option implies the FDSCRIPTS option, which causes the kernel to open the
     script file on behalf of the interpreter and pass it in argv as
     /dev/fd/[fdnum].  (See fd(4) for an explanation of the /dev/fd/[fdnum]
     devices.)  This design avoids the race condition, at the cost of denying
     the interpreter the actual name of the script file.  See options(4) for
     more information.

     However, the FDSCRIPTS mechanism is not a cure-all for security issues in
     setuid interpreters and scripts.  Subtle techniques can be used to
     subvert even seemingly well written scripts.  Scripts executed by Bourne
     type shells can be subverted in numerous ways, such as by setting the IFS
     variable before executing the script.  Other interpreters possess their
     own vulnerabilities.  Turning on SETUIDSCRIPTS is therefore very
     dangerous, and should not be done lightly if at all.

NetBSD 9.99                       May 6, 2005                      NetBSD 9.99