Operating System Operations- Dual-Mode Operation, Timer



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Operating – System Operations

Modern operating systems are interrupt driven.

  • If there are no processes to execute,
  • no I/O devices to service, and no users to whom to respond,

an operating system will sit quietly, waiting for something to happen. Events are almost always signaled by the occurrence of an interrupt or a trap.

Wondering!! what is trap ?

A trap (or an exception) is a software-generated interrupt caused either by an error (for example, division by zero or invalid memory access) or by a specific request from a user program that an operating-system service be performed.

  • The interrupt-driven nature of an operating system defines that system's general structure. For each type of interrupt, separate segments of code in the operating system determine what action should be taken.
  • An interrupt service routine is provided that is responsible for dealing with the interrupt. Since the operating system and the users share the hardware and software resources of the computer system, we need to make sure that an error in a user program could cause problems only for the one program that was running. With sharing, many processes could be adversely affected by a bug in one program. For example, if a process gets stuck in an infinite loop, this loop could prevent the correct operation of many other processes.
  • More subtle errors can occur in a multiprogramming system, where one erroneous program might modify another program, the data of another program, or even the operating system itself. Without protection against these sorts of errors, either the computer must execute only one process at a time or all output must be suspect. A properly designed operating system must ensure that an incorrect (or malicious) program cannot cause other programs to execute incorrectly.

Operating-System Operations

Dual-Mode Operation

In order to ensure the proper execution of the operating system, we must be able to distinguish between the execution of operating-system code and user defined code. The approach taken by most computer systems is to provide hardware support that allows us to differentiate among various modes of execution. At the very least, we need two separate modes of operation: user mode and kernel mode (also called supervisor mode, system mode, or privileged mode). A bit, called the mode bit, is added to the hardware of the computer to indicate the current mode: kernel (0) or user (1). With the mode bit, we are able to distinguish between a task that is executed on behalf of the operating system and one that is executed on behalf of the user.

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  • When the computer system is executing on behalf of a user application, the system is in user mode.
  • However, when a user application requests a service from the operating system (via a system call), it must transition from user to kernel mode to fulfill the request. As we shall see, this architectural enhancement is useful for many other aspects of system operation as well.
  • At system boot time, the hardware starts in kernel mode.
  • The operating system is then loaded and starts user applications in user mode.
  • Whenever a trap or interrupt occurs, the hardware switches from user mode to kernel mode (that is, changes the state of the mode bit to 0).
  • Thus, whenever the operating system gains control of the computer, it is in kernel mode.
  • The system always switches to user mode (by setting the mode bit to 1) before passing control to a user program.

The dual mode of operation provides us with the means for protecting the operating system from errant users—and errant users from one another. We accomplish this protection by designating some of the machine instructions that may cause harm as privileged instructions. The hardware allows privileged instructions to be executed only in kernel mode. If an attempt is made to execute a privileged instruction in user mode, the hardware does not execute the instruction but rather treats it as illegal and traps it to the operating system. The instruction to switch to user mode is an example of a privileged instruction. Some other examples include I/O control, timer management, and interrupt management. As we shall see throughout the text, there are many additional privileged instructions.

We can now see the life cycle of instruction execution in a computer system. Initial control is within the operating system, where instructions are executed in kernel mode. When control is given to a user application, the mode is set to user mode. Eventually, control is switched back to the operating system via an interrupt, a trap, or a system call. System calls provide the means for a user program to ask the operating system to perform tasks reserved for the operating system on the user program's behalf. A system call is invoked in a variety of ways, depending on the functionality provided by the underlying processor. In all forms, it is the method used by a process to request action by the operating system. A system call usually takes the form of a trap to a specific location in the interrupt vector. This trap can be executed by a generic trap instruction, although some systems (such as the MIPS R2000 family) have a specific syscall instruction.

dual mode operation

 When a system call is executed, it is treated by the hardware as a software interrupt. Control passes through the interrupt vector to a service routine in the operating system, and the mode bit is set to kernel mode. The system call service routine is a part of the operating system. The kernel examines the interrupting instruction to determine what system call has occurred; a parameter indicates what type of service the user program is requesting. Additional information needed for the request may be passed in registers, on the stack, or in memory (with pointers to the memory locations passed in registers). The kernel verifies that the parameters are correct and legal, executes the request, and returns control to the instruction following the system call. The lack of a hardware-supported dual mode can cause serious shortcomings in an operating system.

For instance, MS-DOS was written for the Intel 8088 architecture, which has no mode bit and therefore no dual mode. A user program running awry can wipe out the operating system by writing over it with data; and multiple programs are able to write to a device at the same time, with possibly disastrous results. Recent versions of the Intel CPU, such is the Pentium, do provide dual-mode operation. Accordingly, most contemporary operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows XP, and Linux and Solaris for x86 systems, take advantage of this feature and provide greater protection for the operating system. Once hardware protection is in place, errors violating modes are detected by the hardware. These errors are normally handled by the operating system. If a user program fails in some way—such as by making an attempt either to execute an illegal instruction or to access memory that is not in the user's address space—then the hardware will trap to the operating system. The trap transfers control through the interrupt vector to the operating system, just as an interrupt does.

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When a program error occurs, the operating system must terminate the program abnormally. This situation is handled by the same code as is a user-requested abnormal termination. An appropriate error message is given, and the memory of the program may be dumped. The memory dump is usually written to a file so that the user or programmer can examine it and perhaps correct it and restart the program.

Timer

We must ensure that the operating system maintains control over the CPU. We must prevent a user program from getting stuck in an infinite loop or not calling system services and never returning control to the operating system. To accomplish this goal, we can use a timer. A timer can be set to interrupt the computer after a specified period. The period may be fixed (for example, 1/60 second) or variable (for example, from 1 millisecond to 1 second). A variable timer is generally implemented by a fixed-rate clock and a counter.

The operating system sets the counter. Every time the clock ticks, the counter is decremented. When the counter reaches 0, an interrupt occurs. For instance, a 10-bit counter with a 1-millisecond clock allows interrupts at intervals from 1 millisecond to 1,024 milliseconds, in steps of 1 millisecond. Before turning over control to the user, the operating system ensures that the timer is set to interrupt. If the timer interrupts, control transfers automatically to the operating system, which may treat the interrupt as a fatal error or may give the program more time. Clearly, instructions that modify the content of the timer are privileged. Thus, we can use the timer to prevent a user program from running too long. A simple technique is to initialize a counter with the amount of time that a program is allowed to run. A program with a 7-minute time limit, for example, would have its counter initialized to 420.

 Every second, the timer interrupts and the counter is decremented by 1. As long as the counter is positive, control is returned to the user program. When the counter becomes negative, the operating system terminates the program for exceeding the assigned time limit.


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