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A.2. Wake-ups

Many applications scan configuration files for changes. In many cases, the scan is performed at a fixed interval, for example, every minute. This can be a problem, because it forces a disk to wake up from spindowns. The best solution is to find a good interval, a good checking mechanism, or to check for changes with inotify and react to events. Inotify can check variety of changes on a file or a directory.
For example:
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <sys/time.h>
#include <sys/types.h>
#include <sys/inotify.h>
#include <unistd.h>

int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {
  int fd;
  int wd;
  int retval;
  struct timeval tv;

  fd = inotify_init();

  /* checking modification of a file - writing into */
  wd = inotify_add_watch(fd, "./myConfig", IN_MODIFY);
  if (wd < 0) {
    printf("inotify cannot be used\n");
    /* switch back to previous checking */

  fd_set rfds;
  FD_SET(fd, &rfds);
  tv.tv_sec = 5;
  tv.tv_usec = 0;
  retval = select(fd + 1, &rfds, NULL, NULL, &tv);
  if (retval == -1)
  else if (retval) {
    printf("file was modified\n");

  return EXIT_SUCCESS;
The advantage of this approach is the variety of checks that you can perform.
The main limitation is that only a limited number of watches are available on a system. The number can be obtained from /proc/sys/fs/inotify/max_user_watches and although it can be changed, this is not recommended. Furthermore, in case inotify fails, the code has to fall back to a different check method, which usually means many occurrences of #if #define in the source code.
For more information on inotify, see the inotify(7) man page.