Start Lecture #2
In addition to the disks and tapes just mentioned, I/O devices include monitors (and graphics controllers), NICs (Network Interface Controllers), Modems, Keyboards, Mice, etc.
The OS communicates with the device controller, not with the device itself. For each different controller, a corresponding device driver is included in the OS. Note that, for example, many graphics controllers are capable of controlling a standard monitor, and hence the OS needs many graphics device drivers.
In theory any SCSI (Small Computer System Interconnect) controller can control any SCSI disk. In practice this is not true as SCSI gets inproved to wide scsi, ultra scsi, etc. The newer controllers can still control the older disks and often the newer disks can run in degraded mode with an older controller.
Three methods are employed.
We discuss these alternatives more in chapter 5. In particular, we explain the last point about halving bus accesses.
On the right is a figure showing the specifications for an Intel chip set introduced in 2000. Many different names are used, e.g., hubs are often called bridges. Most likely due to their location on the diagram to the right, the Memory Controller Hub is often called the Northbridge and the I/O Controller Hub the Southbridge.
As shown on the right this chip set has two different width PCI buses. The figure below, which includes some devices themselves, does not show the two different PCI buses. This particular chip set supplies USB, but others do not. In the latter case, a PCI USB controller may be used.
The use of ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) is decreasing but is still found on most southbridges.
Note that the diagram below, which is close to figure 1-12 of the 3e differs from the figure to the right in at least two respects. The connection between the bridges is a proprietary bus and the PCI bus is generated by the Northbridge. The figure on the right is definitely correct for the specific chip set described and is very similar to the Wikipedia article.
Remark: In January 2008, I received an email reply from Tanenbaum stating that he will try to fix the diagram in the book in the next printing.
When the power button is pressed control starts at the BIOS a
(typically flash) ROM in the system.
Control is then passed to (the tiny program stored in) the MBR
(Master Boot Record), which is the first 512-byte block on the
Control then proceeds to the first block in the
partition and from there the OS (normally via an OS loader) is
The above assumes that the boot medium selected by the bios was the hard disk. Other possibilities include: floppy, CD-ROM, NIC.
There is not much difference between mainframe, server, multiprocessor, and PC OS's. Indeed the 3e has considerably softened the differences given in the 2e. For example Unix/Linux and Windows runs on all of them.
This course covers these four classes (or one class).
Used in data centers, these systems ofter tremendous I/O capabilities and extensive fault tolerance.
Perhaps the most important servers today are web servers. Again I/O (and network) performance are critical.
A multiprocessor (as opposed to a multi-computer or multiple computers or computer network or grid) means multiple processors sharing memory and controlled by a single instance of the OS, which typically can run on any of the processors. Often it can run on several simultaneously.
These existed almost from the beginning of the computer age, but now are not exotic. Indeed even my laptop is a multiprocessor.
The operating system(s) controlling a system of multiple computers often are classified as either a Network OS, which is basically a collection of ordinary PCs on a LAN that use the network facilities available on PC operating systems. Some extra utilities are often present to ease running jobs on other processors.
A more sophisticated Distributed OS is a
seamless version of the above where the boundaries
between the processors are made nearly invisible to users (except
This subject is not part of our course (but often is covered G22.2251).
In the recent past some OS systems (e.g., ME) were claimed to be tailored to client operation. Others felt that they were restricted to client operation. This seems to be gone now; a modern PC OS is fully functional. I guess for marketing reasons some of the functionality can be disabled.
This includes PDAs and phones, which are rapidly merging.
The only real difference between this class and the above is the
restriction to very modest memory.
very modest keeps getting bigger and some phones now
include a stripped-down linux.
The OS is
part of the device, e.g., microwave ovens,
and cardiac monitors.
The OS is on a ROM so is not changed.
Since no user code is run, protection is not as important. In that respect the OS is similar to the very earliest computers. Embedded OS are very important commercially, but not covered much in this course.
Embedded systems that also contain sensors and communication devices so that the systems in an area can cooperate.
As the name suggests, time (more accurately timeliness) is an important consideration. There are two classes: Soft vs hard real time. In the latter missing a deadline is a fatal error—sometimes literally. Very important commercially, but not covered much in this course.
Very limited in power (both meanings of the word).
This will be very brief.
Much of the rest of the course will consist of
filling in the details.
A process is 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 of a process—its
address space (roughly its memory image), open files,
etc.—from the thread of control.
If one has many threads running in the same task,
the result is a
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 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 always blocks the parent until the child finishes, the
tree is quite simple, just a line.
However, in modern OSes, the parent is free to continue executing and in particular is free to fork again, thereby producing another child.
A process can send a signal to another process to
cause the latter to execute a predefined function (the signal
It can be tricky to write a program with a signal handler since the
programmer does not know when in the
mainline program the
signal handler will be invoked.
Each user is assigned a User IDentification (UID) and all processes created by that user have this UID. 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. One UID is special (the superuser or administrator) and has extra privileges.
Access to files and devices can be limited to a given UID or GID.
A set of processes is deadlocked if each of the processes is blocked by a process in the set. The automotive equivalent, shown below, is called gridlock. (The photograph below was sent to me by Laurent Laor.)
Clearly, each process requires memory, but there are other issues as well. For example, your linkers (will) produce a load module that assumes the process is loaded at location 0. The result would be that every load module has the same (virtual) address space. The operating system must ensure that the address spaces of concurrently executing processes are assigned disjoint real memory.
For another example note that current operating systems permit each process to be given more (virtual) memory than the total amount of (real) memory on the machine.
Modern systems have a hierarchy of files. A file system tree.
My Computeris the parent of a:\ and c:\.
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 Unix, one file system can be mounted on (attached to) another. When this is done, access to an existing directory on the second filesystem is temporarily replaced by the entire first file system. Most often the directory chosen is empty before the mount so no files become (temporarily) invisible.
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/mouseand then move the mouse. You kill the cat (sorry) by typing cntl-C. I tried this on my linux box (using a text console) 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 interpreters is a pipe or pipeline. The pipeline
dir | wcwhich pipes the output of dir into a character/word/line counter, will give the number of files in the directory (plus other info).
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 (really each controller) as well as device-independent I/O code.
Files and directories have associated permissions.
attributesas well. For example the linux ext2 and ext3 file systems support a
dattribute that is a hint to the dump program not to backup this file.
Memory assigned to a process, i.e., an address space, must also be protected.
Security has of course sadly become a very serious concern. The topic is quite deep 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.
The command line interface to the operating system. The shell permits the user to
dir | wc).
Instead of a shell, one can have a more graphical interface.
Some concepts become obsolete and then reemerge due in both cases to technology changes. Several examples follow. Perhaps the cycle will repeat with smart card OS.
The use of assembly languages greatly decreases when memories get larger. When minicomputers and microcomputers (early PCs) were first introduced, they each had small memories and for a while assembly language again became popular.
Multiprogramming requires protection hardware. Once the hardware becomes available monoprogramming becomes obsolete. Again when minicomputers and microcomputers were introduced, they had no such hardware so monoprogramming revived.
When disks are small, they hold few files and a flat (single directory) file system is adequate. Once disks get large a hierarchical file system is necessary. When mini and microcomputer were introduced, they had tiny disks and the corresponding file systems were flat.
Virtual memory, among other advantages, permits dynamically linked libraries so as VM hardware appears so does dynamic linking.
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 to the appropriate component of the OS. 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 (at the bottom) asynchronously sends interrupts and the user (at the top) 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
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).
A major complication is that the system call handler may block. Indeed, the read system call handler is likely to block. In that case a context switch is likely to occur to another process. This is far from trivial and is discussed later in the course.
|Fork||CreateProcess||Clone current process|
|exec(ve)||Replace current process|
|waid(pid)||WaitForSingleObject||Wait for a child to terminate.|
|exit||ExitProcess||Terminate process & return status|
|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|
|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|
|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|
We describe the unix (Posix) system calls. A short description of the Windows interface is in the book.
To show how the four process management calls enable much of process management, consider the following highly simplified shell. The fork() system call duplicates the process (so parent and child are each executing fork()); fork() returns true in the parent and false in the child.)
while (true) display_prompt() read_command(command) if (fork() != 0) waitpid(...) else execve(command) endif endwhile
Simply removing the waitpid(...) gives background jobs.
Most files are accessed sequentially from beginning to end. In this case the operations performed are
For non-sequential access, lseek is used to move
File Pointer, which is the location in the file where the
next read or write will take place.
Directories are created and destroyed by mkdir and rmdir. Directories are changed by the creation and deletion of files. As mentioned, open creates files. Files can have several names link is used to give another name and unlink to remove a name. When the last name is gone (and the file is no longer open by any process), the file data is destroyed. This description is approximate, we give the details later in the course where we explain Unix i-nodes.
The transfer of control between user processes and the operating system kernel can be quite complicated, especially in the case of blocking system calls, hardware interrupts, and page faults. Before tackling these issues later, we begin with the familiar example of a procedure call within a user-mode process.
An important OS objective is that, even in the more complicated cases of page faults and blocking system calls requiring device interrupts, simple procedure call semantics are observed from a user process viewpoint. The complexity is hidden inside the kernel itself, yet another example of the operating system providing a more abstract, i.e., simpler, virtual machine to the user processes.
More details will be added when we study memory management (and know officially about page faults) and more again when we study I/O (and know officially about device interrupts).
A number of the points below are far from standardized.
Such items as where to place parameters, which routine saves the
registers, exact semantics of trap, etc, vary as one changes
Indeed some of these are referred to as
i.e. their implementation is a matter of convention rather than
The presentation below is, we hope, reasonable, but must be viewed as
a generic description of what could happen instead of an exact
description of what does happen with, say, C compiled by the Microsoft
compiler running on Windows XP.
Procedure f calls g(a,b,c) in process P. An example is above where a user program calls read(fd,buffer,nbytes).
stack-likestructure of control transfer: we can be sure that control will return to this f when this call to g exits. The above statement holds even if, via recursion, g calls f. (We are ignoring language features such as
catchingexceptions, and the use of unstructured assembly coding. In the latter case all bets are off.)
We mean one procedure running in kernel mode calling another procedure, which will also be run in kernel mode. Later, we will discuss switching from user to kernel mode and back.
There is not much difference between the actions taken during a kernel-mode procedure call and during a user-mode procedure call. The procedures executing in kernel-mode are permitted to issue privileged instructions, but the instructions used for transferring control are all unprivileged so there is no change in that respect.
One difference is that often a different stack is used in kernel mode, but that simply means that the stack pointer must be set to the kernel stack when switching from user to kernel mode. But we are not switching modes in this section; the stack pointer already points to the kernel stack. Often there are two stack pointers one for kernel mode and one for user mode.
The trap instruction, like a procedure call, is a synchronous transfer of control: We can see where, and hence when, it is executed. In this respect, there are no surprises. Although not surprising, the trap instruction does have an unusual effect: processor execution is switched from user-mode to kernel-mode. That is, the trap instruction normally itself is executed in user-mode (it is naturally an UNprivileged instruction), but the next instruction executed (which is NOT the instruction written after the trap) is executed in kernel-mode.
Process P, running in unprivileged (user) mode, executes a trap.
The code being executed is written in assembler since there are no
high level languages that generate a trap instruction.
There is no need to name the function that is executing.
Compare the following example to the explanation of
f calls g
nameof the code-sequence to which the processor will jump rather than as an argument to trap.
interruptappears because an RTI is also used when the kernel is returning from an interrupt as well as the present case when it is returning from an trap.
Remark: A good way to use the material in the addendum is to compare the first case (user-mode f calls user-mode g) to the TRAP/RTI case line by line so that you can see the similarities and differences.