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bug#53801: [PATCH] tests: have printf(1) use octal numbers for POSIX con

From: Kerin Millar
Subject: bug#53801: [PATCH] tests: have printf(1) use octal numbers for POSIX conformance
Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2022 18:11:19 +0000

Hi Brian,

On Mon, 7 Feb 2022 08:52:29 -0800
"Brian C. Lane" <bcl@redhat.com> wrote:

> On Sat, Feb 05, 2022 at 10:44:29AM +0000, Kerin Millar wrote:
> > Hello,
> > 
> > The attached patch rectifies some test failures that were reported at 
> > https://bugs.gentoo.org/774363. Whether it be a builtin of sh(1) or not, 
> > POSIX does not require for the printf utility to support hexadecimal 
> > notation.
> > 
> > -- 
> > Kerin Millar
> Thanks for the patch. I'll have to ponder this for a bit. So the issue
> is showing up in Gentoo because it uses dash, right? The issue I have
> with the change is that it then obscures what's being written. Everyone
> knows what 0x55aa is :) I'd prefer a solution that continues to use hex
> so that future users don't have to figure out what's going on.

In fact, Gentoo provides bash as a default sh(1) implementation, by which I 
mean that /bin/sh begins life as being a symlink to bash. Still, that's neither 
here nor there. The policy of the distro is that the user may select another 
sh(1) provider, as long as it is POSIX-conforming. Dash is merely one such 
example of a shell that implements the Shell Command Language specification 
correctly and in full. Should an issue arise as a consequence of /bin/sh being 
any conforming implementation other than bash, it is rightly treated as a bug. 
Often, patches are proposed and the more responsible contributors try to get 
them upstreamed so that everyone benefits. Of course, there exists other 
distributions where /bin/sh is some other implementation by default.

Essentially, this is one of those cases where one cannot have one's cake and 
eat it. By beginning a script with a shebang that reads #!/bin/sh, it is 
implied - in no uncertain terms - that the entirety of the script should run 
correctly in any conforming implementation of the Shell Command Language. In 
almost all modern implementations, the printf utility is implemented as a 
builtin and their authors are in no way obligated to implement anything above 
and beyond the syntax described by 
https://pubs.opengroup.org/onlinepubs/9699919799/utilities/printf.html. While 
bash is - at heart - a valid implementation of the Shell Command Language, it 
supports a great many extensions and does not suppress them, even when running 
in its "posix" mode. In fact, this is not the first time this issue has come 
up; see "t0100-print.sh" and "t0251-gpt-unicode.sh".

I understand that most developers will find hex notation easier to read, which 
is why my patch also adjusts the surrounding commentary to that end. In my 
view, the alternatives are worse:-

a) changing the shebangs to #!/bin/bash, rendering bash a hard requirement for 
running the affected tests (merely for a printf)
b) combining arithmetic expansion with printf

Regarding (b), below is an example.

# Write the two magic bytes
magic=$(printf '\\%03o' $(( 0x55 )) $(( 0x0A )))
printf "$magic" | ...

Not only is this more expensive, one might then need to be cautious as to the 
potential matter of unintentionally injecting the results of expansions into 
the format string, owing to the double-quoted context. I certainly wouldn't 
consider it to be any easier to digest than the following.

# Write the two magic bytes, 0x55 0xAA.
printf '\125\252' | ...

Incidentally, octal is trivial to convert to peruse as hex using only standard 

$ printf '\125\252' | od -An -t x1
 55 aa


Kerin Millar

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