Operating Systems

================ Start Lecture #3 ================

1.4.4: Buses

I don't care very much about the names of the buses, but the diagram given in the book doesn't show a modern design. The one below does. On the right is a figure showing the specifications for a modern chip set (introduced in 2000). The chip set has two different width PCI busses, which is not shown below. Instead of having the chip set supply USB, a PCI USB controller may be used. Finally, the use of ISA is decreasing. Indeed my last desktop didn't have an ISA bus and I had to replace my ISA sound card with a PCI version.

1.5: Operating System Concepts

This will be very brief. Much of the rest of the course will consist in “filling in the details”.

1.5.1: Processes

A program in execution. If you run the same program twice, you have created two processes. For example if you have two editors running in two windows, each instance of the editor is a separate process.

Often one distinguishes the state or context (memory image, open files) from the thread of control. Then if one has many threads running in the same task, the result is a “multithreaded processes”.

The OS keeps information about all processes in the process table. Indeed, the OS views the process as the entry. This is an example of an active entity being viewed as a data structure (cf. discrete event simulations). An observation made by Finkel in his (out of print) OS textbook.

The Process Tree

The set of processes forms a tree via the fork system call. The forker is the parent of the forkee, which is called a child. If the system blocks the parent until the child finishes, the “tree” is quite simple, just a line. But the parent (in many OSes) is free to continue executing and in particular is free to fork again producing another child.

A process can send a signal to another process to cause the latter to execute a predefined function (the signal handler). This can be tricky to program since the programmer does not know when in his “main” program the signal handler will be invoked.

Each user is assigned User IDentification (UID) and all processes created by that user have this UID. One UID is special (the superuser or administrator) and has extra privileges. A child has the same UID as its parent. It is sometimes possible to change the UID of a running process. A group of users can be formed and given a Group IDentification, GID.

Access to files and devices can be limited to a given UID or GID.






1.5.2: Deadlocks

A set of processes each of which is blocked by a process in the set. The automotive equivalent, shown at right, is gridlock.

1.5.3: Memory Management

Each process requires memory. The linker produces a load module that assumes the process is loaded at location 0. The operating system ensures that the processes are actually given disjoint memory. Current operating systems permit each process to be given more (virtual) memory than the total amount of (real) memory on the machine.

1.5.4: Input/Output

There are a wide variety of I/O devices that the OS must manage. For example, if two processes are printing at the same time, the OS must not interleave the output. The OS contains device specific code (drivers) for each device as well as device-independent I/O code.

1.5.5: Files

Modern systems have a hierarchy of files. A file system tree.

You can name a file via an absolute path starting at the root directory or via a relative path starting at the current working directory.

In addition to regular files and directories, Unix also uses the file system namespace for devices (called special files, which are typically found in the /dev directory. Often utilities that are normally applied to (ordinary) files can be applied as well to some special files. For example, when you are accessing a unix system using a mouse and do not have anything serious going on (e.g., right after you log in), type the following command

    cat /dev/mouse
and then move the mouse. You kill the cat by typing cntl-C. I tried this on my linux box and no damage occurred. Your mileage may vary.

Before a file can be accessed, it must be opened and a file descriptor obtained. Subsequent I/O system calls (e.g., read and write) use the file descriptor rather that the file name. This is an optimization that enables the OS to find the file once and save the information in a file table accessed by the file descriptor. Many systems have standard files that are automatically made available to a process upon startup. These (initial) file descriptors are fixed.

A convenience offered by some command interpretors is a pipe or pipeline. The pipeline

  dir | wc
which pipes the output dir into a character/word/line counter, will give the number of files in the directory (plus other info).

1.5.6: Security

Files and directories have associated permissions.

Security has of course sadly become a very serious concern. The topic is very serious and I do not feel that the necessarily superficial coverage that time would permit is useful so we are not covering the topic at all.

1.5.7: The Shell or Command Interpreter (DOS Prompt)

The command line interface to the operating system. The shell permits the user to

1.6: System Calls

System calls are the way a user (i.e., a program) directly interfaces with the OS. Some textbooks use the term envelope for the component of the OS responsible for fielding system calls and dispatching them. On the right is a picture showing some of the OS components and the external events for which they are the interface.

Note that the OS serves two masters. The hardware (below) asynchronously sends interrupts and the user synchronously invokes system calls and generates page faults.


What happens when a user executes a system call such as read()? We show a more detailed picture below, but at a high level what happens is

  1. Normal function call (in C, Ada, Pascal, Java, etc.).
  2. Library routine (probably in C).
  3. Small assembler routine.
    1. Move arguments to predefined place (perhaps registers).
    2. Poof (a trap instruction) and then the OS proper runs in supervisor mode.
    3. Fix up result (move to correct place).

The following actions occur when the user executes the (Unix) system call

count = read(fd,buffer,nbytes)
which reads up to nbytes from the file described by fd into buffer. The actual number of bytes read is returned (it might be less than nbytes if, for example, an eof was encountered).

  1. Push third parameter on to the stack.
  2. Push second parameter on to the stack.
  3. Push first parameter on to the stack.
  4. Call the library routine, which involves pushing the return address on to the stack and jumping to the routine.
  5. Machine/OS dependent actions. One is to put the system call number for read in a well defined place, e.g., a specific register. This requires assembly language.
  6. Trap to the kernel (assembly language). This enters the operating system proper and shifts the computer to privileged mode. Assembly language is again used.
  7. The envelope uses the system call number to access a table of pointers to find the handler for this system call.
  8. The read system call handler processes the request (see below).
  9. Some magic instruction returns to user mode and jumps to the location right after the trap.
  10. The library routine returns (there is more; e.g., the count must be returned).
  11. The stack is popped (ending the function call read).

A major complication is that the system call handler may block. Indeed for read it is likely that a block will occur. In that case a switch occurs to another process. This is far from trivial and is discussed later in the course.

Process Management
Posix Win32 Description
Fork CreateProcess Clone current process
exec(ve) Replace current process
waid(pid) WaitForSingleObject Wait for a child to terminate.
exit ExitProcess Terminate current process & return status
File Management
Posix Win32 Description
open CreateFile Open a file & return descriptor
close CloseHandle Close an open file
read ReadFile Read from file to buffer
write WriteFile Write from buffer to file
lseek SetFilePointer Move file pointer
stat GetFileAttributesEx Get status info
Directory and File System Management
Posix Win32 Description
mkdir CreateDirectory Create new directory
rmdir RemoveDirectory Remove empty directory
link (none) Create a directory entry
unlink DeleteFile Remove a directory entry
mount (none) Mount a file system
umount (none) Unmount a file system
Miscellaneous
Posix Win32 Description
chdir SetCurrentDirectory Change the current working directory
chmod (none) Change permissions on a file
kill (none) Send a signal to a process
time GetLocalTime Elapsed time since 1 jan 1970