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BSD::Process - Information about running processes on BSD platforms


This document describes version 0.07 of BSD::Process, released 2013-06-22.


  use BSD::Process;

  my $proc = BSD::Process->new;
  print $proc->rssize, " resident set size\n"; # as a method
  print "This process has made $proc->{minflt} page reclaims\n";

  print $proc->time, " seconds spent on the CPU (user+system)\n";
  print "And now $proc->{time} seconds\n"; # as an attribute

  # oneliner shortcut
  perl -MBSD::Process=P -le 'print P->ppid, " is my parent"';


BSD::Process creates Perl objects that render the information the BSD kernel maintains about current processes. These may then be queried, extracted and reported upon. This allows a more natural style of programming (as opposed to scraping the output of ps(1)).

The information is retrieved via the kvm subsystem, and will thus work even if the /proc filesystem is not mounted.



Creates a new BSD::Process object. Takes an optional numeric value to specify the pid of the target process, otherwise the current process is assumed.

A second optional parameter, a reference to a hash, supplies additional information governing the creation of the object.

Currently, one key is available:

resolve - indicates whether uids and gids should be resolved to their symbolic equivalents (for instance, 0 becomes "root").

Passing the hash reference as the only parameter works as may be expected: the pid of the current process will be used implicitly.

  my $init = BSD::Process->new(1); # get info about init
  print "children of init have taken $init->{childtime} seconds\n";

  # get process info of process's parent, resolving ids
  my $parent = BSD::Process->new(
    {resolve => 1},

Once the object has been created, the various process attributes can be examined via method calls or as hash keys, see below.

At the current time new is implemented in terms of info (see below), but may in the future be implemented in terms of lazy fetching.


Stashes a global BSD::Process variable, for use in one-liners. By default, the current process is referenced, but any process may be specified via its process id.

  print P->rssize, "\n"; # resident set size of running process
  P(P->ppid);            # now refer to parent
  print P->rssize, "\n"; # rss of parent
  P(1);                  # talking about init(8)

But more likely:

  perl -MBSD::Process=P -le 'print P->rssize';

As this function is implemented in terms of a global private variable, it is adequate for oneliners. It should not be used in a threaded program, use objects instead.

info, process_info

Returns the entire set of process attributes and their values, as specified by a process identifier (or pid).

The input value is numified. Thus, if a some random string is passed in, it will be coerced to 0, and you will receive the process information of process 0 (the swapper). If no parameter is passed, the pid of the running process is assumed.

A hash reference may be passed as an optional second parameter, see new for a list of what is available.

  my $proc = BSD::Process::info( $$, {resolve => 1} );
  print $proc->{uid};
  # on my system, prints 'david', rather than 1001

A reference to a hash is returned, which is basically a BSD::Process object, without all the object-oriented fluff around it. The keys are documented below in the METHODS section, however, only the short names are available, the longer descriptive names are not defined.

If the pid does not (or does no longer) correspond to process, undef is returned.

The routine info is not exportable (since many programs will no doubt already have a routine named info). Instead, it is exportable under the name process_info.

list, process_list

Returns an (unsorted) array of pids of all the running processes on the system. Note: fleet-footed processes may have disappeared between the time the snapshot is taken and the time the code subsequently gets around to asking for more information about them. On the other hand, getting this list is very fast. If you want the set of current processes on the system decoded as BSD::Process objects, you should be looking at the all meta-constructor.

The routine list is not exportable. It may be exported under the name process_info.

  my @pid = BSD::Process::list;
  for my $p (@pid) {
    my $proc =  BSD::Process::info($p);
    print "$p $proc->{ppid}\n"; # print each pid and its parent pid

The set of processes may be restricted by specifying a condition, defined as a key/value pair to list(). The following restrictions are available:

uid, effective_user_id

Return the list of pids that are owned by the specified effective user id. The uid may be specified in the symbolic or numeric form.

  my @uid_pid  = BSD::Process::list(uid => 1001);
  my @root_pid = BSD::Process::list(uid => 'root');
pgid, process_group_id

Return the processes that belong to the specified process group.

  my @pgid_pid = BSD::Process::list(process_group_id => 378);
sid, process_session_id

Return the processes that belong to the specified process session.


Return a references to a hash of BSD::Process objects representing the current running processes. The hash keys are the process pids. The following program prints out the 10 processes that consume the most physical memory.

  use BSD::Process;

  my $all = BSD::Process::all;
  my $want = 10;
  for my $pid (
    sort {$all->{$b}{rssize} <=> $all->{$a}{rssize}}
    keys %$all
  ) {
    my $proc = $all->{$pid};
    print $proc->command_name, ' ',  $proc->resident_set_size,
      "Kb owned by $proc->{login}\n";
    last unless --$want;

This routine runs more slowly than list(), since it has to instantiate the process objects. It may help to think of all() as a meta-new constructor, since it creates many new BSD::Process objects in one fell swoop.

This routine accepts the same parameters as list(). Thus, one is able to restrict the set of objects returned. In addition, it also accepts the resolve parameter, to indicate that uids and gids should be represented as symbolic names rather than numeric values.

  my @own = BSD::Process::all(uid => 1000);

  my @session = BSD::Process::all(sid => 632, resolve => 1);

Returns the list of available attributes of a BSD::Process object. You can use this to pretty-print an object:

  my $self = BSD::Process->new;
  for my $attr (BSD::Process::attr) {
    printf "%11s %s\n", $attr, $self->{$attr};

The problem with the above program is that on different platforms and operating system versions, the length of the longest attribute might not be 11. In this case, one may employ attr_len to obtain the length of the longest attribute name. The above program then becomes:

  my $len = BSD::Process::attr_len;
  my $self = BSD::Process->new;
  for my $attr (BSD::Process::attr) {
    printf "%*s %s\n", $len, $attr, $self->{$attr};

Returns the list of long aliases of the attributes.


Returns the maximum number of groups to which a process may belong. This is probably not of direct importance to the average Perl programmer, but it eases calculating the number of regression tests to be run in a cross-platform manner.



Refreshes the information of a BSD::Process object. For instance, the following snippet shows a very accurate way of measuring elapsed CPU time:

  my $proc  = BSD::Process->new;
  my $begin = $proc->runtime; # microseconds

  my $elapsed = $proc->runtime - $begin;
  print "that took $elapsed microseconds of CPU time\n";

The method may be chained:

  my $runtime = $proc->refresh->runtime;

It may also be used with the P shortcut.

  P; # to initialise

Switches symbolic resolution on or off.

  my $proc = BSD::Process->new;
  print "$proc->{uid}\n";
  print "$proc->{uid}\n";

Note that changing the resolve setting will result in the object being refreshed.


The following methods may be called on a BSD::Process object. Each process attribute may be accessed via two methods, a longer, more descriptive name, or a terse name (following the member name in the underlying kinfo_proc C struct).

Furthermore, you may also interpolate the attribute (equivalent to the terse method name) directly into a string. This can lead to simpler code. The following three statements are equivalent:

  print "rss=", $p->resident_set_size;
  print "rss=", $p->rssize;
  print "rss=$p->{rssize};

A modification of a value in the underlying hash of the object has no corresponding effect on the system process it represents.

Older kernels do not track as many process attributes as more modern kernels. In these cases, the value -1 will be returned.

In the following list, the key F5+ means that the method returns something useful in FreeBSD 5.x or better. The key F6 means the method returns something useful for FreeBSD 6.x and beyond.

process_args, args

The command with all its arguments as a string. When the process args are unavailable, the name of the executable in brackets is returned (same as in the ps program). This may happen when the length of the arguments exceeds the kernel limit set with the kern.ps_arg_cache_limit kernel setting. This is usually 256, for more information check the manual page for the sysctl program.

If you have the companion BSD::Sysctl module installed, you can check this with print sysctl("kern.ps_arg_cache_limit"); or else with the sysctl(8) command.

process_pid, pid

The identifier that identifies a process in a unique manner. No two process share the same pid (process id).

parent_pid, ppid

The pid of the parent process that spawned the current process. Many processes may share the same parent pid. Processes whose parents exit before they do are reparented to init (pid 1).

process_group_id, pgid

A number of processes may belong to the same group (for instance, all the processes in a shell pipeline). In this case they share the same pgid.

tty_process_group_id, tpgid

Similarly, a number of processes belong to the same tty process group. This means that they were all originated from the same console login session or terminal window. F5+

process_session_id, sid

Processes also belong to a session, identified by the process session id. F5+

terminal_session_id, tsid

A process that has belongs to a tty process group will also have a terminal session id.

job_control_counter, jobc

The job control counter of a process. (purpose?) F5+

effective_user_id, uid

The user id under which the process is running. A program with the setuid bit set can be launched by any user, and the effective user id will be that of the program itself, rather than that of the user.

The symbolic name of the uid will be returned if the constructor had the resolve attribute set. F5+

real_user_id, ruid

The user id of the user that launched the process. F5+

saved_effective_user_id, svuid

The saved effective user id of the process. (purpose?) F5+

real_group_id, rgid

The primary group id of the user that launched the process.

The symbolic name of the gid will be returned if the constructor had the resolve attribute set. F5+

saved_effective_group_id, svgid

The saved effective group id of the process. (purpose?) F5+

number_of_groups, ngroups

The number of groups to which the process belongs. F5+

group_list, groups

A reference to an array of group ids (gids) to which the process belongs. F5+

virtual_size, size

The size (in bytes) of virtual memory occupied by the process. F5+

resident_set_size, rssize

The size (in kilobytes) of physical memory occupied by the process.

rssize_before_swap, swrss

The resident set size of the process before the last swap.

text_size, tsize

Text size (in pages) of the process.

data_size, dsize

Data size (in pages) of the process. F5+

stack_size, ssize

Stack size (in pages) of the process. F5+

exit_status, xstat

Exit status of the process (usually zero).

accounting_flags, acflag

Process accounting flags (TODO: decode them).

percent_cpu, pctcpu

Percentage of CPU time used by the process (for the duration of swtime, see below).

estimated_cpu, estcpu

Time averaged value of ki_cpticks. (as per the comment in user.h, purpose?)

sleep_time, slptime

Number of seconds since the process was last blocked.

time_last_swap, swtime

Number of seconds since the process was last swapped in or out.

elapsed_time, runtime

Real time used by the process, in microseconds.

start_time, start

Epoch time of the creation of the process. F5+

children_time, childtime

Amount of real time used by the children processes (if any) of the process. F5+

process_flags, flag

A bitmap of process flags (decoded in the following methods as 0 or 1).

posix_advisory_lock, advlock

Flag indicating whether the process holds a POSIX advisory lock. F5+

has_controlling_terminal, controlt

Flag indicating whether the process has a controlling terminal (if true, the terminal session id is stored in the tsid attribute). F5+

is_kernel_thread, kthread

Flag indicating whether the process is a kernel thread. F5+

no_loadavg_calc, noload

Flag indicating whether the process contributes to the load average calculations of the system. F5+

parent_waiting, ppwait

Flag indicating whether the parent is waiting for the process to exit. F5+

started_profiling, profil

Flag indicating whether the process has started profiling. F5+

stopped_profiling, stopprof

Flag indicating whether the process has a thread that has requesting profiling to stop. F5+

process_had_threads, hadthreads

Flag indicating whether the process has had thresds. F6+

id_privs_set, sugid

Flag indicating whether the process has set id privileges since last exec. F5+

system_process, system

Flag indicating whether the process is a system process. F5+

single_exit_not_wait, single_exit

Flag indicating that threads that are suspended should exit, not wait. F5+

traced_by_debugger, traced

Flag indicating that the process is being traced by a debugger. F5+

waited_on_by_other, waited

Flag indicating that another process is waiting for the process. F5+

working_on_exiting, wexit

Flag indicating that the process is working on exiting. F5+

process_called_exec, exec

Flag indicating that the process has called exec. F5+

kernel_session_flag, kiflag

A bitmap described kernel session status of the process, described via the following attributes. F5+

is_locked, locked

Flag indicating that the process is waiting on a lock (whose name may be obtained from the lock attribute). F5+

  if ($p->is_locked) {
    print "$p->{comm} is waiting on lock $p->{lockname}\n";
  else {
    print "not waiting on a lock\n";
controlling_tty_active, isctty

Flag indicating that the vnode of the controlling tty is active. F5+

is_session_leader, issleader

Flag indicating that the process is a session leader. F5+

process_status, stat

Numeric value indicating the status of the process, decoded via the following attibutes. F5+

is_being_forked, stat_1

Status indicates that the process is being forked. F5+

is_runnable, stat_2

Status indicates the process is runnable. F5+

is_sleeping_on_addr, stat_3

Status indicates the process is sleeping on an address. F5+

is_stopped, stat_4

Status indicates the process is stopped, either suspended or in a debugger. F5+

is_a_zombie, stat_5

Status indicates the process is a zombie. It is waiting for its parent to collect its exit code. F5+

is_waiting_on_intr, stat_6

Status indicates the process is waiting for an interrupt. F5+

is_blocked, stat_7

Status indicates the process is blocked by a lock. F5+

nice_priority, nice

The nice value of the process. The more positive the value, the nicer the process (that is, the less it seeks to sit on the CPU).

process_lock_count, lock

Process lock count. If locked, swapping is prevented.

run_queue_index, rqindex

When multiple processes are runnable, the run queue index shows the order in which the processes will be scheduled to run on the CPU.

current_cpu, oncpu

Identifies which CPU the process is running on.

last_cpu, lastcpu

Identifies the last CPU on which the process was running.

old_command_name, ocomm

The old command name. F5+

wchan_message, wmesg

wchan message. (purpose?)

setlogin_name, login

Name of the user login process that launched the command.

name_of_lock, lockname

Name of the lock that the process is waiting on (if the process is waiting on a lock). F5+

command_name, comm

Name of the command.

emulation_name, emul

Name of the emulation. F6+

process_jail_id, jid

The process jail identifier F6+

number_of_threads, numthreads

Number of threads in the process. F6+

priority_scheduling_class, pri_class
priority_level, pri_level
priority_native, pri_native
priority_user, pri_user

The parameters pertaining to the scheduling of the process. F6+

user_time, utime

Process resource usage information. The amount of time spent by the process in userland. F5+

system_time, stime

Process resource usage information. The amount of time spent by the process in the kernel (system calls). F5+

total_time, time

The sum of the user and system times of the process.

Process resource usage information. The amount of time spent by the process in the kernel (system calls). F5+

max_resident_set_size, maxrss

Process resource usage information. The maximum resident set size (the high-water mark of physical memory used) of the process. F5+

shared_memory_size, ixrss

Process resource usage information. The size of shared memory. F5+

unshared_data_size, idrss

Process resource usage information. The size of unshared memory. F5+

unshared_stack_size, isrss

Process resource usage information. The size of unshared stack. F5+

page_reclaims, minflt

Process resource usage information. Minor page faults, the number of page reclaims. F5+

page_faults, majflt

Process resource usage information. Major page faults, the number of page faults. F5+

number_of_swaps, nswap

Process resource usage information. The number of swaps the process has undergone. F5+

block_input_ops, inblock

Process resource usage information. Total number of input block operations performed by the process. F5+

block_output_ops, oublock

Process resource usage information. Total number of output block operations performed by the process. F5+

messages_sent, msgsnd

Process resource usage information. Number of messages sent by the process. F5+

messages_received, msgrcv

Process resource usage information. Number of messages received by the process. F5+

signals_received, nsignals

Process resource usage information. Number of signals received by the process. F5+

voluntary_context_switch, nvcsw

Process resource usage information. Number of voluntary context switches performed by the process. F5+

involuntary_context_switch, nivcsw

Process resource usage information. Number of involuntary context switches performed by the process. F5+

user_time_ch, utime_ch
system_time_ch, stime_ch
total_time_ch, time_ch
max_resident_set_size_ch, maxrss_ch
shared_memory_size_ch, ixrss_ch
unshared_data_size_ch, idrss_ch
unshared_stack_size_ch, isrss_ch
page_reclaims_ch, minflt_ch
page_faults_ch, majflt_ch
number_of_swaps_ch, nswap_ch
block_input_ops_ch, inblock_ch
block_output_ops_ch, oublock_ch
messages_sent_ch, msgsnd_ch
messages_received_ch, msgrcv_ch
signals_received_ch, nsignals_ch
voluntary_context_switch_ch, nvcsw_ch
involuntary_context_switch_ch => nivcsw_ch

These attributes (only available in FreeBSD 6.x) store the resource usage of the child processes spawned by this process. Currently, the kernel only fills in the information for the the utime_ch and stime_ch fields (and hence the time_ch value is derived from them).

In theory (and in practice as far as I can tell) time_ch is equal to childtime.

DIAGNOSTICS ^ is corrupt: a "can't happen" error when attempting to retrieve the information of a process. If this occurs, I'd like to know how you managed it.

kvm error in all()/list(): another "can't happen" error when asking the system to return the information about a process.

kvm error in list(): proc size mismatch (nnn total, nnn chunks): you have upgraded a system across major versions, for instance 4.x to 5.x, but the published system header files belong to the previous version.


Currently, FreeBSD versions 4 through 8 are supported. Support for NetBSD and OpenBSD may be added in future versions.



Read and write kernel variables. With these two modules, there should be much less need for writing shell scripts that scrape the output of ps(1) and sysctl(8).


Seems to be a fairly wide cross-platform module. Goes into a fair amount of depth, but not as much as BSD::Process does in its own particular niche. Also, FreeBSD has moved away from the /proc filesystem.

Definitely the module to use if you need to go multi-platform.


Information about processes on the Solaris platform. The documentation indicates that it is not finished, however, it does not appear to have been updated since 2003.


Information about current processes on the Win32 platform.


Not all of the ps(1) keywords are implemented. At the worst, this (currently) means that you could not rewrite it in Perl. This may be addressed in a future release.

Please report all bugs at|

Make sure you include the output from the following two commands:

  perl -MBSD::Process -le 'print $BSD::Process::VERSION'
  perl -V

I also accept pull requests on Github. See


The FreeBSD Ports team, for their work on keeping this module up to date on the ports tree. Their efforts are greatly appreciated.

Thanks also to az5112 on Github (I've lost their name), who implemented the args method.


David Landgren, copyright (C) 2006-2013. All rights reserved.

If you (find a) use this module, I'd love to hear about it. If you want to be informed of updates, send me a note. You know my first name, you know my domain. Can you guess my e-mail address?


This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.

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