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Non-blocking input

Could someone explain how a file or device can be configured for
non-blocking input, so that when reading characters from the file when no
more characters are available the read call returns instead of blocking
until characters become available.

Mario Becroft                        Auckland, New Zealand
mb@tos.pl.net                    http://www.pl.net/~mario/      |\__/,|   (`\
Tariland, Atari Support in New Zealand                        _.|o o  |_   ) )
tariland@tos.pl.net     http://www.pl.net/~mario/tariland/ --(((---(((--------