Threads overview




Threads Overview

 A thread is a basic unit of CPU utilization; it comprises a thread ID, a program counter, a register set, and a stack. It shares with other threads belonging to the same process its code section, data section, and other operating-system resources, such as open files and signals. A traditional (or heavyweight) process has a single thread of control.If a process has multiple threads of control, it can perform more than one task at a time.

Motivation

 Many software packages that run on modern desktop PCs are multithreaded. An application typically is implemented as a separate process with several threads of control. A web browser might have one thread display images or text while another thread retrieves data from the network, for example. A word processor may have a thread for displaying graphics, another thread for responding to keystrokes from the user, and a third thread for performing spelling and grammar checking in the background.

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 In certain situations, a single application may be required to perform several similar tasks. For example, a web server accepts client requests for web pages, images, sound, and so forth. A busy web server may have several (perhaps thousands) of clients concurrently accessing it. If the web server ran as a traditional single-threaded process, it would be able to service only one client at a time. The amount of time that a client might have to wait for its request to be serviced could be enormous.

One solution is to have the server run as a single process that accepts requests. When the server receives a request, it creates a separate process to service that request. In fact, this process-creation method was in common use before threads became popular. Process creation is time consuming and resource intensive, as was shown in the previous chapter. If the new process will perform the same tasks as the existing process, why incur all that overhead? It is generally more efficient to use one process that contains multiple threads. This approach would multithread the web-server process. The server would create a separate thread that would listen for client requests; when a request was made, rather than creating another process, the server would create another thread to service the request.

Threads also play a vital role in remote procedure call (RPC) systems. RPCs allow interprocess communication by providing a communication mechanism similar to ordinary function or procedure calls. Typically, RPC servers are multithreaded. When a server receives a message, it services the message using a separate thread. This allows the server to service several concurrent requests. Java's RMI systems work similarly. Finally, many operating system kernels are now multithreaded; several threads operate in the kernel, and each thread performs a specific task, such as managing devices or interrupt handling. For example, Solaris creates a set of threads in the kernel specifically for interrupt handling; Linux uses a kernel thread for managing the amount of free memory in the system.

 Benefits

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The benefits of multithreaded programming can be broken down into four major categories:

 1. Responsiveness. Multithreading an interactive application may allow a program to continue running even if part of it is blocked or is performing a lengthy operation, thereby increasing responsiveness to the user. For instance, a multithreaded web browser could still allow user interaction in one thread while an image was being loaded in another thread.

2. Resource sharing. By default, threads share the memory and the resources of the process to which they belong. The benefit of sharing code and data is that it allows an application to have several different threads of activity within the same address space.

3. Economy. Allocating memory and resources for process creation is costly. Because threads share resources of the process to which they belong, it is more economical to create and context-switch threads. Empirically gauging the difference in overhead can be difficult, but in general it is much more time consuming to create and manage processes than threads. In Solaris, for example, creating a process is about thirty times slower than is creating a thread, and context switching is about five times slower.

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4. Utilization of multiprocessor architectures. The benefits of multithreading can be greatly increased in a multiprocessor architecture, where threads may be running in parallel on different processors. A singlethreaded process can only run on one CPU, no matter how many are available. Multithreading on a multi-CPU machine increases concurrency.



Frequently Asked Questions

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Ans: The processes in most systems can execute concurrently, and they may be created and deleted dynamically. Thus, these systems must provide a mechanism for process creation and termination. we explore the mechanisms involved in creating processes and illustrate process creation on UNIX and Windows systems view more..
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Ans: An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware and software resources and provides common services for computer programs. view more..
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Ans: A question that arises in discussing operating systems involves what to call all the CPU activities. A batch system executes jobs, whereas a time-shared system has user programs, or tasks. Even on a single-user system such as Microsoft Windows, a user may be able to run several programs at one time: a word processor, a web browser, and an e-mail package. Even if the user can execute only one program at a time, the operating system may need to support its own internal programmed activities, such as memory management. In many respects, all these activities are similar, so we call all of them processes. The terms job and process are used almost interchangeably in this text. Although we personally prefer the term process, much of operating-system theory and terminology was developed during a time when the major activity of operating systems was job processing. It would be misleading to avoid the use of commonly accepted terms that include the word job (such as job scheduling) simply because process has superseded job. view more..
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Ans: A thread is a basic unit of CPU utilization; it comprises a thread ID, a program counter, a register set, and a stack. It shares with other threads belonging to the same process its code section, data section, and other operating-system resources, such as open files and signals. A traditional (or heavyweight) process has a single thread of control.If a process has multiple threads of control, it can perform more than one task at a time view more..
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Ans: Our discussion so far has treated threads in a generic sense. However, support for threads may be provided either at the user level, for user threads, or by the kernel, for kernel threads. User threads are supported above the kernel and are managed without kernel support, whereas kernel threads are supported and managed directly by the operating system. Virtually all contemporary operating systems—including Windows XP, Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris, and Tru64 UNIX (formerly Digital UNIX)—support kernel threads. Ultimately, there must exist a relationship between user threads and kernel threads. In this section, we look at three common ways of establishing this relationship. view more..
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Ans: The critical-section problem is to design a protocol that the processes can use to cooperate. Each process must request permission to enter its critical section. The section of code implementing this request is the entry section. The critical section may be followed by an exit section. The remaining code is the remainder section. The general structure of a typical process P. The entry section and exit section are enclosed in boxes to highlight these important segments of code. view more..
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Ans: The various hardware-based solutions to the critical-section problem (using the TestAndSetC) and SwapO instructions) are complicated for application programmers to use. To overcome this difficulty, we can use a synchronization tool called a semaphore. A semaphore S is an integer variable that, apart from initialization, is accessed only through two standard atomic operations: wait () and signal (). view more..
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Ans: The main memory must accommodate both the operating system and the various user processes. We therefore need to allocate the parts of the main memory in the most efficient way possible. This section explains one common method, contiguous memory allocation. view more..
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Ans: Although semaphores provide a convenient and effective mechanism for process synchronization, using them incorrectly can result in timing errors that are difficult to detect, since these errors happen only if some particular execution sequences take place and these sequences do not always occur. We have seen an example of such errors in the use of counters in our solution to the producer-consumer problem view more..
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Ans: An important aspect of memory management that became unavoidable with paging is the separation of the user's view of memory and the actual physical memory. As we have already seen, the user's view of memory is not the same as the actual physical memory. The user's view is mapped onto physical memory. This mapping allows differentiation between logical memory and. physical memory. view more..
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Ans: Paging is a memory-management scheme that permits the physical address space of a process to be noncontiguous. Paging avoids the considerable problem of fitting memory chunks of varying sizes onto the backing store; most memory-management schemes used before the introduction of paging suffered from this problem. The problem arises because, when some code fragments or data residing in main memory need to be swapped out, space must be found on the backing store. view more..
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Ans: Demand Paging Consider how an executable program might be loaded from disk into memory. One option is to load the entire program in physical memory at program execution time. However, a problem with this approach, is that we may not initially need the entire program in memory. Consider a program that starts with a list of available options from which the user is to select. Loading the entire program into memory results in loading the executable code for all options, regardless of whether an option is ultimately selected by the user or not. An alternative strategy is to initially load pages only as they are needed. This technique is known as demand paging and is commonly used in virtual memory systems. view more..
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Ans: Thrashing If the number of frames allocated to a low-priority process falls below the minimum number required by the computer architecture, we must suspend, that process's execution. We should then page out its remaining pages, freeing all its allocated frames. This provision introduces a swap-in, swap-out level of intermediate CPU scheduling. In fact, look at any process that does not have ''enough" frames. If the process does not have the number of frames it needs to support pages in active use, it will quickly page-fault. At this point, it must replace some page. However, since all its pages are in active use, it must replace a page that will be needed again right away. Consequently, it quickly faults again, and again, and again, replacing pages that it must bring back in immediately. This high paging activity is called thrashing. A process is thrashing if it is spending more time paging than executing. view more..
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Ans: When a process running in user mode requests additional memory, pages are allocated from the list of free page frames maintained by the kernel. This list is typically populated using a page-replacement algorithm such as those discussed in Section 9.4 and most likely contains free pages scattered throughout physical memory, as explained earlier. Remember, too, that if a user process requests a single byte of memory, internal fragmentation will result, as the process will be granted, an entire page frame. Kernel memory, however, is often allocated from a free-memory pool different from the list used to satisfy ordinary user-mode processes. view more..
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Ans: We turn next to a description of the scheduling policies of the Solaris, Windows XP, and Linux operating systems. It is important to remember that we are describing the scheduling of kernel threads with Solaris and Linux. Recall that Linux does not distinguish between processes and threads; thus, we use the term task when discussing the Linux scheduler. view more..
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Ans: Overview of Mass-Storage Structure In this section we present a general overview of the physical structure of secondary and tertiary storage devices view more..
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Ans: Allocation of Frames We turn next to the issue of allocation. How do we allocate the fixed amount of free memory among the various processes? If we have 93 free frames and two processes, how many frames does each process get? The simplest case is the single-user system. Consider a single-user system with 128 KB of memory composed of pages 1 KB in size. This system has 128 frames. The operating system may take 35 KB, leaving 93 frames for the user process. Under pure demand paging, all 93 frames would initially be put on the free-frame list. When a user process started execution, it would generate a sequence of page faults. The first 93 page faults would all get free frames from the free-frame list. view more..
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Ans: The direct-access nature of disks allows us flexibility in the implementation of files, in almost every case, many files are stored on the same disk. The main problem is how to allocate space to these files so that disk space is utilized effectively and files can be accessed quickly. Three major methods of allocating disk space are in wide use: contiguous, linked, and indexed. Each method has advantages and disadvantages. Some systems (such as Data General's RDOS for its Nova line of computers) support all three. view more..




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