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I'm trying to understand how/why some of the processes that are running on my phone (DroidX, stock 2.2 ROM).

It's obvious that 2 likely reasons for a process to start are:

  • A direct action by the user/another program to start it (e.g. click on the icon of an app, or another process launches the .apk explicitly)

  • An Intent is registered by the app, and the event associated with that intent happens.

The question is, are there other reasons/causes/mechanisms by which a process could be started in Android? (aside from Intents or direct launch).

P.S. As a plausible theory, something could be started off of init.rc (being how Android is based off of Linux) but I don't know enough about Android internals to judge if it launches any apps via init.rc

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Possibly helpful: You can use the Autostarts app to see all the different system events and what apps register for them. – Matthew Read May 18 '11 at 17:55
@Matthew - I'm going to post a separate question about Autostarts, as a matter of fact, but just as a response to your comment, doesn't Autostarts merely list all registered Intent receivers? – DVK May 18 '11 at 17:57

A raw native process can be created by any of the usual unix-like mechanisms.

An android activity or service is usually forked off by zygote (in response to an intent), but I think there's an obscure way to start a vm by hand using app_process.

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"usual unix-like mechanisms" - could you please clarify? I'm interested specifically in what would trigger the start of the process (e.g. some crontab entry? process scheduler respawning recently dead processes? etc...) – DVK May 18 '11 at 18:24
Well there isn't a cron daemon on there right now, but anyone could make an unprivileged one with an ordinary app, or root and install a real one. Ditto inetd (at least for unprivileged ports). And yes, the framework does respawn things it doesn't think should have died. There's really very little restriction on process creation; security is more in terms of it being quite hard to start a process as a userid that's able to do more than be obnoxious with shared resources. – Chris Stratton May 18 '11 at 20:42
could you please clarify in greater detail "the framework does re-spawn things it doesn't think should have died"? That sounds significantly closer to what I was looking for as a plausible reason why some processes keep popping up on my phone. – DVK May 19 '11 at 2:07
@DVK: in some cases background services are terminated prematurely since the foreground application needs more memory, Android may restart the service later to finish the operation. – Lie Ryan May 19 '11 at 2:33

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