Introduction To Operating System



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A computer system has many resources such as the processor (CPU), main memory, I/O devices, and files. The operating system acts as the manager of these resources and allocates them to specific programs and uses them as and when necessary for the tasks. An operating system may be defined as a system software which acts as an intermediary between the user and the hardware, an interface which isolates the user from the details of the hardware implementation. It consists of a set of specialized software modules that makes computing resources (hardware and software) available to users. Thus, the computer system is easier to use with the operating system in place than without it. Some of the operating systems used nowadays are Mac, MS Windows, Linux, Solaris, etc. The common functions of an operating system includes –

Process(or) management The process abstraction is a fundamental mechanism implemented by the operating system for management of the execution of programs. A process is basically a program in execution. The operating system decides which process gets to run, for how long and perhaps at what priority or level of importance.

Memory management Operating system is responsible for keeping track of which parts of the memory are currently being used and by whom. It organizes and addresses memory; handle requests to allocate memory, frees up memory no longer being used, and rearranges memory to maximize the useful amount. Often several programs may be in memory at the same time. The operating system selects processes that  are to be placed in memory, where they are to be placed, and how much memory is to be given to each.

Device management The operating system allocates the various devices to the processes and initiates the I/O operation. It also controls and schedules accesses to the input/output devices among the processes.

File management A file is just a sequence of bytes. Files are storage areas for programs, source codes, data, documents etc. The operating system keeps track of every file in the system, including data files, program files, compilers, and applications. The file system is an operating system module that allows users and programs to create, delete, modify, open, close, and apply other operations to various types of files. It also allows users to give names to files, to organize the files hierarchically into directories, to protect files, and to access those files using the various file operations. Apart from these functions, an operating system must provide the facilities for controlling the access of programs, processes, memory segments, and other resources. The kernel is that part of operating system that interacts with the hardware directly. The kernel represents only a small portion of the code of the entire OS but it is intensively used and so remains in primary storage while other portions may be transferred in and out of secondary storage as required.

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When a computer boots up, it goes through some initialization functions, such as checking the memory. It then loads the kernel and switches control to it. The kernel then starts up all the processes needed to communicate with the user and the rest of the environment. The user interface is the portion of the operating system that users interact with directly. Operating systems such as MS-DOS and early versions of UNIX accepted only typed-in text commands. Now most operating systems provide users a graphical user interface for their interactions with the system. Operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Solaris and Linux allow the user to interact with the operating system through icons, menus, keyboard and mouse movements. The user interface and way of interactions vary widely from one operating system to another.

1. L oading an Operating System

In some digital devices like controllers of small appliances, hand-held devices and videogame console, the operating system is relatively simple and small and is stored in ROM (Read-Only Memory). The operating system is also present in a ROM for systems such as industrial controllers and petrol-filling equipment. In such a system, it gains immediate control of the processor, the moment it is turned on. In personal computer, the operating system is usually stored on hard disk. Because size of the operating system is large enough, it cannot be placed entirely in RAM. The kernel, the core part of the operating system, is loaded into RAM at start-up and is always present in memory. Other parts of the operating system are loaded into RAM as and when required. It is to be noted that there is no operating system resident in a new computer. The operating system is usually sold on a CD or DVD media and has to be permanently transferred from a CD or DVD media to the hard disk by expanding compressed files and initializing the whole system for use.

Booting is the general term for the process that a computer or other digital device follows from the instant it is turned on until the operating system is finally loaded and ready for use. The Basic Input Output System (BIOS) is a small set of instructions stored on a PROM that is executed when the computer is turned on. When the computer is switched on, the ROM circuitry receives power and begins the boot process. At first, an address is automatically loaded into the Program Counter (PC) register. This is done by hardware circuitry. The address given is the location of the first executable instruction of the BIOS. The code in the BIOS runs a series of tests called the POST (Power On Self Test) to make sure that system devices such as main memory, monitor, keyboard, the input/output devices are connected and functional. During POST, the BIOS compares the system configuration data obtained from POST with the system information stored on a Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) memory chip located on the motherboard. The BIOS also sets various parameters such as the organization of the disk drive, using information stored in a CMOS chip. This CMOS chip gets updated whenever new system components are added and contains the latest information about system components. The BIOS then loads only one block of data, called the Master Boot Record, from a specific and fixed place (the very first sector at cylinder 0, head 0, and sector 1) of the bootable device and is placed at a specific and fixed place of main memory. The master boot record is of 512 bytes in size and contains machine code instructions, called a bootstrap loader. Then the boot loader program starts the process of loading the OS and transfers control to the OS itself which completes the process.

Note:

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  •  Cold boot describes the process of starting the computer and loading its operating system by turning the power on. If the computer is running, one can carry out cold boot by first switching it off and then back on.
  • Warm boot describes the process of restarting the computer and loading its operating system again without switching it off after it has already been running.

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