pipe question

I am writing a program that needs to spawn off a program, wait for it to
finish, and then continue executing while still refreshing itself.
I was thinking:

popen the program,
have a timeout function that checks to see if the program has closed,
continue when the program is done.

One problem.
I need a function similar to pclose in that it checks to see if the pipe is
closed, but does not wait for the program to close if the pipe is not


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