Inter Process Communication (Ipc) Essay

2495 words - 10 pages

1. Inter-process Communication (IPC)
Inter-Process Communication, which in short is known as IPC, deals mainly with the techniques and mechanisms that facilitate communication between processes. Now, why do we need special separate mechanisms or techniques for communicating between processes? Why isn't it possible to have information shared between two processes without using such special mechanisms?
Let us start from something primitive. Imagine you have two glasses completely filled with water. One glass contains hot water and the other contains cold water. What can you do to make the temperature of water in both the glasses equal? The simplest answer will be to mix the ...view middle of the document...

Similar to our earlier example, where the glass with hot water is one process address space, the glass with cold water is another, and the glass with the larger capacity is the kernel address space, so that we pour both hot water and cold water into the glass with larger capacity.
What next? There are different IPC mechanisms which come into use based on the different requirements. In terms of our water glasses, we can determine the specifics of both pouring the water into the larger glass and how it will be used after begin poured.
The IPC mechanisms can be classified into the following categories as given below:
a. pipes
b. fifos
c. message queues
d. Semaphores

A. Pipes
Pipes were evolved in the most primitive forms of the Unix operating system. They provide unidirectional flow of communication between processes within the same system. In other words, they are half-duplex, that is, data flows in only one direction. A pipe is created by invoking the pipe system call, which creates a pair of file descriptors. These descriptors point to a pipe inode and the file descriptors are returned through the filedes argument. In the file descriptor pair, filedes[0] is used for reading whereas filedes[1] is used for writing.
Let me explain a scenario where we can use the pipe system call: consider a keyboard-reader program which simply exits after any alpha-numeric character is pressed on the keyboard. We will create two processes; one of them will read characters from the keyboard, and the other will continuously check for alpha-numeric characters. Let us see how the filedes returned by pipe can be of use in this scenario:

int filedes[2];

void *read_char()
char c;
printf("Entering routine to read character.........\n");
while(1) {
/* Get a character in 'c' except '\n'. */
c = getchar();
if(c == '\n')
c = getchar();
write(filedes[1], &c, 1);
if(isalnum(c)) {

void *check_hit()
char c;
printf("Entering routine to check hit.........\n");
while(1) {
read(filedes[0], &c, 1);
if(isalnum(c)) {
printf("The key hit is %c\n", c);
} else {
printf("key hit is %c\n", c);

int main()
int i;
pthread_t tid1, tid2;
/* Create thread for reading characters. */
i = pthread_create(&tid1, NULL, read_char, NULL);
/* Create thread for checking hitting of any keyboard key. */
i = pthread_create(&tid2, NULL, check_hit, NULL);
if(i == 0) while(1);
return 0;
The read_char function simply reads a character other than '\n' from the keyboard and writes it to filedes[1]. We have the thread check_hit, which continuously checks for the character in filedes[0]. If the character in filedes[0] is an alpha-numeric character, then the character is printed and the program terminates.
One major feature of pipe is that the data flowing through...

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